Ben is a precious little soul. He is as happy as Larry – whoever Larry might be – as long as everything is going his way. But if things aren’t quite perfect, then woe betide whoever is within moaning distance. Their ears will take a battering of unprecedented proportions.
Take food, for example. If food is in the offing, you had better make damn sure it is also in the baby. Not when it is convenient, not when it is ready. Now. Right now. In fact, ideally five minutes ago. Otherwise you will be subjected to an oscar-worthy performance as he does his best impression of a baby on its last legs. He will lie face down on the floor, writhing and wailing, with snot running from his nose, just to emphasise how utterly miserable you have made him. The misery will miraculously evaporate the second he is placed in front of a plate of food, only to return in full force if you don’t get pudding into him quick enough. The pudding-trauma generally involves collapsing slowly over the table and clutching his head in anguish or beating the table with frantic little fists.
The food-drama isn’t actually too trying. At least it generally happens while no-one in the house is trying to sleep. But unfortunately, food isn’t the only thing that sends him into a frenzy of misery. He also has rather strong views about sleep.
And strong views about whose job it is to make sure that he gets to sleep.
That would be me.
If he is really, really tired he will occasionally deign to simply lie down on his back and go to sleep. If he isn’t particularly tired he might even accept the suggestion that he lies down in his cot to see how things pan out.
The problem comes when is pretty tired, but not quite at the really, really tired point. In these situations it would obviously be entirely unreasonable to expect a poor, exhausted baby to actually get himself to sleep. Oh no. He requires assistance.
The difficulty he faces is that if he is quite tired, he can only go to sleep if he lies on his tummy. But the problem with lying on your tummy is that it is extraordinarily difficult to avoid getting up onto your hands and knees and shouting “dadadadbababoooofner!” He tries his hardest – that is apparent from the wailing and panting that goes on in between the unfortunate hands-and-knees moments – but, despite his best efforts, he just keeps popping back up again.
At these moments, what a baby really needs is a little assistance to return to his preferred cartoon-splat position, with all four limbs splayed out like a squished starfish. Providing this assistance is obviously the least I can do, he informs me regularly by means of loud squawks as soon as I try to leave the room.
I have to say, this little ritual is wearing a little thin. Particularly since he has perfected the art of timing his hands-and-knees moments for just when I have sat down with my dinner. I swear he has decoded the series of squeaks and cracks from the stairs in order to interpret exactly when I have reached the bottom.
It has occurred to me that what I really, really need is an Acme Splatting Device. You know the sort of thing I mean – something that a cartoon villain might have used to ambush Bugs Bunny or the Roadrunner, or that Jerry might have set up for Tom. I visualise it as a big white hand attached to a spring-loaded mechanism, triggered by a sensor under his mattress. As soon as he finds himself overcome with “dadadabababoofner” and starts to lift up onto his hands and knees, the mechanism will explode into action, returning him to splat-mode in a fraction of a second.
He’ll thank me for it in the end.