It seems Martha Alexander has met her match, as baby daughter Robin can’t stop talking
This is how Robin bids me good morning from inside her cot these days. She sits holding court to assorted rabbits and bears, and a little white dog whose ear is stiff with dried saliva. They’ve usually been chatting for a good 15 minutes before I arrive.
I am no longer ‘Mummy’ either. I’m ‘Marfa’ or sometimes ‘Babe’. She’s also big on commands: ‘want it’, ‘have it’, ‘find it’, ‘do it’ and ‘get it’ are all phrases that get a lot of air time.
Robin’s an early talker. I don’t want to sound too ‘nail polish emoji’ about it but talk is big in our house – and Robin is bred for it. On both sides, she is descended from prolific chatterboxes. I never draw breath, ever. My mother could talk the hind legs off a donkey, my father loves a good gas and Robin’s late grandmother – Mikey’s mother – once talked without pause for five hours to a car full of sleeping companions.
So it was no surprise that Robin kicked off early when it came to verbal communication. ‘Cat’ was her first word, then ‘shoes’.
She is like a sponge when it comes to vocab, which is ideal when she parrots long words and sections of the alphabet but less good when you’re in the car and lose your temper with some schmuck who cuts you up on Harlesden’s one-way system and you swear and shout, and a little voice echoes your unattractive profanity from the back seat.
Robin’s early speech has only exacerbated Mikey’s belief that we are raising a child genius. However, apparently Einstein didn’t talk until he was four, so I think we can hold off on a child-sized mortar board for now. But her chattiness is just one more sign that she’s becoming a proper little person with real preferences and opinions and habits. She has idiosyncrasies: she likes her shoes to be in pairs, sorting is a big deal and she won’t wear a hair clip of any description. Her increased speech goes hand-in-hand with her confidence in general, too.
But I’ve found in motherhood, just when you become an official dab hand at whatever particular phase you’ve been enduring, it’s all over. Everything moves on so quickly that you soon have to start again at the beginning of a whole new level where there’s a fresh set of obstacles to fathom, endure and master. It’s like Super Mario World but real life, with far more avocado mash and sound effects provided by Peppa Pig.
We have made various discoveries as a family of late – London Zoo, for one. Though I realise this is hardly a niche new thing that no one’s heard of. I assumed Robin would be most taken by the stars of the show – the real-life versions of the monkeys and giraffes and tigers and lions that populate our home in fluff-stuffed, miniature form. But she didn’t care much for these kings and queens of the jungle. Instead, she made a beeline for the insect house and sat in front of a chamber of cockroaches, her mouth slack with fascination.
And then: “Cider! Cider!”
“Want it! Cider!”
This does not look good (or bode well), I thought, as other zoo-goers watched my infant daughter beg me for alcoholic beverages.
And then it became clear: through a glass door I could see a dense jungle, steamy with tropical heat so at odds with London. Dangling from seemingly every branch was – you guessed it, a spider.
We went in, even though the entire experience made me want to rip the skin from my body and run, howling, up Primrose Hill and beyond. But Robin was delighted. She wasn’t going to be scared by fat-backed, hairy-legged arachnids.
Back outside, she returned to the little glass pods. Inside one, a scorpion lazed in the sand, its tail twitching with menace.
“Hello, darlin’,” she told it, pressing her mouth against the glass. “Hello.”