A few days before his first birthday, Barnaby and I were sitting in the front room reading a story book. As he often does, Barney got a bit bored with the book and after a few attempts to eat it, he clambered down off my lap to have a crawl, and perhaps find something else to nibble like the table leg.
Keen to distract him, I started singing “Old Macdonald had a farm.” Barnaby stopped his wanderings and turned, shakily standing on his own two feet, to look at me.
“Old Macdonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-Oh!” I sang.
“And on that farm he had some pigs, E-I-E-I-Oh! With a–“
Barney, looking me right in the eyes, pouted his lips and joined in: “E-I-E-I-Oh!” Well, from him is was more like “Yeeeyeyeeeeyeyo!”, but close enough.
My jaw hit the floor, my flabber was ghasted. It’s not like that’s a song we’ve sung lots of times before, so it wasn’t something he’d learned. He simply listened and repeated. I was floored by this. It’s quite a shock, when this little person you’ve been looking after and pampering for so long suddenly shows himself able to communicate.
A few days later, on the morning of his first birthday, Barney was having a breakfast-time cuddle with his mum. He turned and pointed to me as I sat at the table with my tea and toast. “Dadda,” he said. I was so delighted by this that my tea went cold because I spent so long telling him how wonderful he was. As my brother said later, this was perhaps Barney’s birthday present to me. And I could not have asked for a better one.