Standing in the kitchen on Saturday I listened to the toddler playing in the garden. It was a lovely sunny day and I had hauled her playhouse outside and set her up with her tea-set and dollies while I went about sorting washing and cleaning as I watched her.
She sat there, like the delicate little flower she is and invited her cousins (who weren’t actually there) in for tea. “Darcy, come in for tea,” she sing -songed before inviting Ethan (pronoucned Yee-than) and granny in too. She mimicked the sound of the doorbell and declared it was a tea party and chattered on to herself clearly pleased with her gathering of her imaginary friends.
I stood and listened, wondering how on earth she had reached such a stage where she could blether on so contentedly to herself and I marvelled at her imagination.
There was no trace of a toy digger or a racing car around. This was girly heaven. A pink play house. A blanket on the ground and a pretend tea party. With her hair in bunches and her frilly party dress on she looked as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.
It was about that stage that she started singing a song - or more accurately a chant - which culminated in a loud and vociferous shout of “City!” in a voice that sounded more like a 14 year old boys than a two year girl formerly referred to as the princess.
It seems my girly-girl may be finding her inner tomboy. This is something I’m not familiar with. I wasn’t in the least bit tomboy-ish in my childhood unless you count the occasional playing with Star Wars figures, but that was more connected with my childhood crush on Luke Skywalker than anything else. (In my adult years I have learned that Luke Skywalker so wasn’t worth the love and affection I held for him. Give me a rugged Han Solo any day).
I wasn’t one for climbing trees. I didn’t kick a football about or even feign an interest in it. I was more interested in being a very stereotypical little girl and playing with doll houses and Barbies and occasionally at pretending to be a popstar.
So it was quite a shock to hear a shout, in deep, rumbling tones from the baby girl in the garden a chant of “City!”.
I know of course that the chant came from her adoration of her big brother, who had returned from the victorious Derry match the night before high as a kite and has not stopped chanting since, but it made me realise that she is going to be her own wee person. That thought fills me in equal measure with pride and fear.
I have always been prepared for the moment my son would come home from school and declare an allegiance to a football team. I think I did quite well that we got to primary 3 before the full on obsession kicked in. I had always known though that before then we were on borrowed time - and I made my peace with that.
Now I have accepted that when he isn’t playing football he is talking about it. When he isn’t talking about it, he is watching it on the TV. (Sky Sports is the bane of my life). When he isn’t watching it on TV he is playing football related games on his DS.
To get him to dress in anything other than football gear is a struggle. Special occasions which require something a little smarter to be worn have to be planned well in advance with a stealth bribing plan put into action.
My life is spent in a state of fear that my back windows will come crashing in around me as football hits them at the speed of light.
This is what comes with being the mammy of a young boy and I have made my peace with that.
I thought my payback for that would be, well, sugar and spice and all things nice when my little girl arrived. I admit, and the anti gender stereotyping people may well jump on my back for this, that I probably played up to this.
My baby girl arrived in a hail of pink. I have delighted, ecstatically so, in buying dresses and bobbles, stripey tights and numerous pairs of teeny, tiny shoes.
I have delighted in going shopping with her, in baking with her, in playing together. A week ago I spent an inordinate amount of time mock potty training a Tiny Tears. (A two year old is, it seems, enthralled by a doll that pees).
I have been as happy as I have ever been, in our wee world together. And then she became a football hooligan overnight. Alomg with the chants she has taken to carrying Peppa Pig ball around like it is the most precious thing in the world and shouting “goal” when she pelts it towards the wall at great speed.
She will stand in her brother’s nets and bob and weave like a mini keeper in the making and has even perfected her own dance for when she scores a goal. She will sit by his side as he plays his computer games and mimick his cheers and his commentary.
I am waiting for the day she shuns her frilly dresses in favour of a football kit.
It seems having a little girl is not quite as frilly and flouncy as I had imagined - but at least I can console myself with the fact she’ll be able to stand her ground firmly wherever she is.