Happy

“If you’re happy and you know it” will forever have a special place in my heart. Meeting Little Chick for the first time, I sang the song we had ‘performed’ in our introductions video and made a connection. Responding to my dulcet tones, Little Chick stamped his feet. And smiled. He may have been more relieved than anything, but I was happy.

Since then we have sung the ditty most days. It is our special connection with Little Chick, but it is also a chance for us to check he is OK, to make sure he is happy. A lot has changed for Little Chick in the past month: new house, new people, new meals. We have tried to keep constancy from his foster home – same clothes, same toys, same routines – but the changes are still undeniably huge.

It is unfair of us to ask him if he is happy. But we do so, like a knee jerk reaction. Or the way you repeatedly open the same apps on your mobile but don’t really know why.

Right now, he is surviving. Happy doesn’t come into it.

But today when he humoured me and compliantly replied ‘happy’ something was different. The smile was a little more genuine, less fixed. His eyes shone (I hadn’t noticed, or even considered that they might be dull, before now).

And, my goodness, that made me happy.

Cool

I have an extensive vocabulary. That’s not a boast. I say it to emphasise why I have no excuse for repeatedly using the same small bank of words. Probably the most irritating word I overuse is ‘cool’.

I don’t use the term ironically, but I appreciate that the fact I use it as much as I do means that the description can never be applied to me. ‘Cool’ has multiple uses, but I especially employ it to indicate I am listening. If someone is telling me something and I have questions, either because I don’t understand or I want to know more, I use ‘cool’ to acknowledge that I am paying attention and as a marker to ask them when the opportunity arises. If a conversation is long, difficult, or fascinating, and the speaker barely pauses to draw breath, the number of ‘cool’s I utter can easily reach double figures in just a few minutes. This can be extremely annoying. I know, because Little Chick has been parroting it back to me.

Everything is ‘cool’. Dinner is ‘cool’. Going for a walk is ‘cool’. Playing with toys is ‘cool’. Notably, I am not.

Constantly hearing ‘cool’ is irritating now. But I saw the opportunity to teach Little Chick about words having multiple meanings, demonstrating ‘cool’ as a gauge for temperature. This was particularly helpful as he doesn’t seem to show clear understanding of hot versus cold, something we need to keep an eye on. It even gave us the chance to sing and dance, when I asked, “What’s cooler than being cool? Ice cold!” (apologies for the earworm, but ‘Hey Ya!’ by OutKast is great for boogying).

‘Cool’ is a reminder that I need to say it in my head before I say out loud. Then I need to consider 1) is this going to irritate other people? And 2) is this going to irritate me when Little Chick starts using it repeatedly. If the answer to either question is ‘yes’ then don’t say it. That just wouldn’t be cool.

Friend

Little Chick has started naming things as friends, particularly his soft toys. Seemingly, he identifies friends as safe and cuddly. So, when he started saying ‘mummy friend’ and ‘mama friend’ we were over the moon. We will never turn down cuddles. More importantly, we want Little Chick to feel safe with us and know that we will do all we can to keep him safe.

I also want to be a friend to him. Right now, he doesn’t have many friends. That’s to be expected at his age (not yet three) but circumstances have also transpired to prevent him from meeting more people. Moving from his foster carer to us he will have lost some of the first tentative friendships he forged. Then, our nesting period will have helped develop his attachment with us, but limited his interaction with his peers.

Next month he will start at his new nursery. As a sociable boy I am sure he will enjoy the company of other children and possibly build friendships. I am excited for him, but also nervous. Friendships were tough for me as a child and my best friendships were not forged until adulthood. While I do not want to project my fears onto him, I do want the best for him. And life is so much better with friends.

Oh, gosh!

Until university I barely swore. Even through the first couple of years of study I still avoided cursing. During my finals and then my teacher training my vocabulary suddenly amassed plenty of effs and jeffs. Once I began teaching, I was diligent to not swear in front of students – in any context – and rarely with colleagues. But once my NQT year was complete it was almost as though I gave a massive sigh of relief and a tirade of filth escaped. I’m still mindful of my language around young people, but I’m less concerned in every day circumstances. I don’t swear for the sake of it, but I do think that on occasion it can be big and/or clever.

But now I have a two-year-old sponge following me around, soaking up my every word. And while I don’t have a problem with swearing, I don’t want him to develop this habit. So, I’m returning to old trusted phrases that stood me in good stead in my non-sweary days. They often sound twee and antiquated, a throwback to days when people found themselves in a pickle over a lost farthing. But they are rather lovely.

They are loveliest still when they emit from Little Chick’s mouth. When he drops a drink and utters ‘oh, gosh’; when he accidentally draws on something he shouldn’t and grumbles ‘goodness’; when he trips up and exclaims ‘oh sugar’. All with a gentle sweetness that make me think how much he’s grown already and how it won’t be too long before he plays with the big boys on the schoolyard and learns slang, swear words, and a raft of rude words. For now, I will cherish Little Chick just as he is. So many of the things he says and does make me exclaim ‘oh gosh’. The words have barely escaped my lips when they are replaced by a smile, acknowledging the cuteness of a little boy that soaks up my words just as I drink in his.