Fear Afloat

I’ve never been so scared in my life.

And let me put that in perspective. I’ve been shot at, had a knife held at my throat by someone who wanted me dead and been in riots. I’ve jumped out of planes, off towers and into misadventure frequently. I’ve often chased my curiosity passed the point most would. But never have I ever felt as sick to the stomach as the moment I couldn’t find one of my children.

We were on a cruise liner on holidays. Twin A broke right, Twin B broke left. I chased the quicker one but the other had rounded a corner by the time I swooped up the first. I wasn’t concerned at this point, just irritated by their behaviour of the previous hour and this seemingly co-ordinated escape plan.

I set off down the corridor, but no Gypsy. Rounding corner number three, still no sign, so I picked up the pace. Around the fourth corner and about to complete a rectangular journey, I stopped cold. There in the middle of the corridor was the stuffed turtle she carries everywhere. Everywhere. The one she wouldn’t even allow to go in her luggage.

I feel a chill down my spine. I scoop it up but my fast walk has become a run now. I complete the circuit to no avail and check into the lounge in the middle where the rest of the family is but she’s not there. I dump Rhapsody with grandma while I take off at a sprint: me one way, grand-dad the other. We meet without toddler.

I’m very calm in a crisis but I’m aware my heart-rate is higher than normal. The wife has checked in with a staff member who shows little concern, with an offhand: “It’s a ship – it’s not as if she can go far”. I widen the search doing the entire level at a sprint. By the 15-minute mark I’m checking toilets as I pass them trying not to think about the why of my actions. One level of 14 searched. Corridors and toilets anyway. By 25 minutes I’m almost frantic. In the face of gunfire calm, but here? I’m aware I’m starting to lose it. It’s at this point that I peer over the mezzanine and, luckily, spot my wandering daughter – perhaps determined to live up to her name – walking purposefully through the
crowds two floors below.

I fly down two flights of stairs quicker than Usain Bolt and sweep her up in my arms. Surprisingly, I have no anger in my system. Just relief and, oddly, I’m on the verge of tears.

Unlike her daddy, she is relatively calm and tells me she couldn’t find me so she was heading back to our cabin. She is almost there too (later I would marvel this was quite a feat for a three-year-old).

Later I would also wonder at how quickly my mind went to a bad place where I assumed the worst.

When did I go from fearless liver of life to vulnerable? The day I became a parent.


What?!! Crawling through the McDonald’s drive-thru Rhaps suddenly said “what’s that?” pointing towards the playground we were next to. I couldn’t see anything but she persisted “the grey thing in the pink dress”. I strained to see and asked where. She pointed to one ‘cubicle’ and suddenly Gypsy joined in. “She’s wearing a funny hat.”

They then took turns describing little details (not at all contradicting each other). Just chuckled to myself as I was finally sure there wasn’t anything there and that they were not only using their imaginations well but doing it co-operatively.

Then suddenly they both yelled – in unison and very excitedly – “SHE’S POKING HER TONGUE OUT!” No way they could have collaborated.

I’m a little freaked out right now.

Daddy’s girl

This morning Rhapsody jumped into our bed for early kisses and cuddles before, rather oddly, deciding to smell us.

*sniff sniff*
“Mummy you stink!”

*sniff sniff*
“Daddy you smell like flowers”


Dispensing with the baby talk

A doctor’s surgery is a clinical place; professional, clean. A monument to science and learning. So I was a bit shocked during a recent visit when the new GP – a learned man of many years of education and practice – started talking in sing-song baby talk.

Granted it was to one of my three-year-old girls but does that really make it any better? Baby talk has always bugged me a little for some reason and I briefly considered saying something.

Turns out I didn’t need to. When he declared he was going to use his “magic listening thingy”, Gypsy looked at him and shook her head.

“It’s called a stethoscope,” she said helpfully. Politely. No hint of sarcasm or patronising which I probably wouldn’t have been able to keep out of my voice. he was surprised to say the least.

I’ve never really used baby talk. I can’t say it was a fully conscious decision but it never really occurred to me. Make no mistake – I talk to them with tremendous affection and playful tones: it’s just that I’ve never dumbed down my speech to them.

Why do so many people talk that way to our kids? It’s a bit like when people talk slowly and loudly to people who don’t speak their language. I’ve never been sure how repeating a message with a different speed and volume is expected to work but it’s a ritual that persists the world ‘round.

So is it genetically ingrained that – when faced with a baby – we exaggerate and put strange emphasis on words?

Well there are some studies that actually say yes. I recently read a paper that demonstrated mothers exaggerated the words “shooooooe”, “shaaaaaaark” and “sheeeeeep” with their babies but not to their pets with the same toys and words. This is apparently important and may explain why dogs and cats are yet to get their own radio drive show, but the paper’s authors instead chose to conclude that mothers shouldn’t feel bad about baby talk.

Strangely, all the research I found (in a whole 20 minute period) merely dealt with mothers, so maybe there’s an unrecognised gender divide at work here?

having said that, we’ve already had the tale of an extremely well-educated doctor doing his best kids- presenter impersonation so maybe it’s just me that’s weird?

I’ve also always answered their questions openly and honestly and – if I’m completely truthful – probably a little too scientifically at times. No “just because” or “it’s magic” (magic tricks excepted). Just breakdowns of the what and why.

Sometimes they get it, sometimes they don’t. over the years I’ve explained relativity, force lift, file transfers, the laws of physics, space travel and a slew of other topics. All instigated by them, not me. They retain some information, discard other data and often mix them up in confusing but entertaining ways.

I don’t think I’ve held back their development with this matter-of-fact approach. I certainly hope not. But if one day they come to me accusingly, at least I can explain the realistic likelihood of time travel and how we can’t change the past.

And they should understand.