One of the best things about having a second child, especially a second of the same variety, is the chance to get all the old things out again. The beautiful dresses have come out of their shrink bags for a little while; my favourite snuggly sleepsuits got a second cuddle, and the toys that Kitty and I spent hours with are back out again; jingle bell teddies, my favourite soft beeswax crayons, and chunky wooden jigsaw pieces all being loved, chewed and artfully strewn around the house again.
But Elma’s got one advantage over her sister at a similar age; Kitty’s toys. Not all of them are Elma appropriate, and there are a few things that have gone to live on slightly higher shelves for mutual safekeeping, but the Duplo and the Brio/BigJigs trains are loved by both girls.
Our play kitchen is still a firm favourite, only now more often than not there are two little chefs rattling the saucepans. At rapidly-approaching-one Elma’s no longer a passive observer in Kitty’s worlds of fantasy and make believe, even if her active involvement isn’t exactly what Kitty intended, or what Kit tells her to do. Kitty will stir up some wonderful concoction and then pop it into the oven, only for Elma to retrieve it, take out the carrot, and add a jigsaw lion and half an apple for seasoning.
And it seems that even when Kitty isn’t there to direct operations, my littlest sous chef is hard at work. We had a quiet half hour yesterday with H and Kitty out on an expedition for “5 currant buns with a cherry on the top” aka a packet of cherry bakewells, and Elma made a beeline for the saucepans.
First a carrot went in, then it came out again, and then whatever it was that she was cooking just needed a lot of vigorous stirring.
And so she pottered around the lounge with her pan and her wooden spoon, rattling the two together, then pausing to give the imaginary contents a closer inspection before resuming the stirring.
I would so love to know what’s going through her mind. She’s spent lots of time watching Kitty play kitchens, and being allowed limited involvement on the fringes, so is she copying her big sister (in which case it’s definitely carrot soup)? Or is it a copy of me, from all the times she’s kept me company in the kitchen, sat perched in her highchair while Mama pours and stirs and the steam fugs up the windows while the radio and the washing machine chatter away at each other?
It could be from nursery, who have a whole basket of wooden spoons and clattering pans to play with. Or it could just be her very own discovery; that red saucepans are nice to hold, the handle tastes good to chew, and that swirling the spatula around the edges is a lovely clunky sound.
She had a little half of apple that she would put into my open hand, giggle a little, and then reach to put it back in the saucepan with another little gurgle.
And when she decided that it was high time for a cuddle, she crawled up into my lap, bringing pot and spoon with her.
I know I shouldn’t have been surprised, I seem to remember a similarly aged Kitty sat on her great grandmother’s kitchen floor concentrating furiously on a handful of dried pasta shapes as her wooden spoon whirled them around (and over the lip of) a little bowl where they bounced and skittered off into the corner between the cabinets and the fridge, and yet I had such a feeling of “wow! I didn’t know you could do that” watching Elma.
Perhaps because she has her big sister she seems still so much more a little baby than Kitty did at a similar age; I forget that in a month I’ll have a three year old and a one year old; in my mind I think it might still be March, and so I’m not looking for milestones; they happen at Elma’s pace and in her own good time. Or it could just be that with the spotlight shared, she gets a little bit more practice in under the radar before unveiling her latest skill.
It does make me want to scoop her up in my arms and just sit and watch her to make sure I don’t miss anything, but I’m trying to control what to my mind is a perfectly rational and natural response, in favour of as many big cuddles as she wants and all the time in the world to roll around on the floor with both my lovely girls. And if I’m very lucky, they might just make me carrot and lion soup again.