A warm Sunday gave us the chance to take E out to enjoy the natural world. (Before we set out we put some sugar water down next to an exhausted looking bee – help your bees, folks.) We drove to our nearest nature reserve – a mere six mile drive where we passed five hand car wash places, why? – and, armed with a bag of duck seed, suncream, water bottles and E’s new binoculars (homemade from two cardboard tubes, a piece of paper and some raffia) we set out.
E has been on walks before but she’s only recently started to get interested in lots more than just the ducks. There were lots of questions about grasses and plants by the wayside so we picked some for her to look at (clover, sweet cicely, buttercups, various grasses with different seeds) and found a broken willow branch covered in furry seeds to wave around. This was all fine until she found some stinging nettles. Rather like the time I told her not to touch the toaster because it would hurt her and she promptly burnt herself, I told her not to touch then because she would hurt herself and she promptly got stung. Until she knows what a stinging nettle is and what it can do, you can’t really warn her properly. Anyway, this plant that bit her was a surprise so I showed her a Dock leaf (“called a Doc leaf because it’s like a doctor,” I said – absolute nonsense but she liked it and carried it about with her for a bit.)
This morning in the garden we examined a woodlouse and she allowed him to walk on her hand, and then a tiny spider. Now each creature she sees she wants to go on her hand. This resulted in her chasing a small blue damselfly back and forth across the path.
Aside from a wholly predictable apple juice spilling accident, a short period of barefoot walking by E (horrifying some passers-by) and S’s legs being on show for the first time this year and blinding everyone with their paleness, we had a really nice time. We saw many ducks, and fed six small furry cygnets. I have saved the flowers we picked in a dictionary to press them and paste them into her scrapbook.
One of the things I like most about parenthood (and another thing no one tells you about) is that the memorable and tender moments come at unexpected times and places. Before we left I took her to the toilets. She doesn’t like public toilets because of the hand dryers and the flushing worries her. I have to reassure her if we go into one and so I did again today, kneeling down before a frankly-not-very-clean toilet bowl. “It’s a big toilet,” she said. “Yes,” I said. “You look after me,” she said and laid her head on my shoulder, arms around my neck.