Isabelle’s Christening was a momentous occasion for the Keeling family. Not only did it mark Jason’s 40th birthday but also his retirement from the Army after a remarkable 22 years service; all were on the same day. With this in mind, I set out to provide Jason with a birthday gift he would never forget….
The words ‘Da Da’ from a soon to be 5 month old daughter. Was this achievable? Any new parent longs to hear his or her baby’s first word? What will it be? When will this occur? Who knew at that stage, but determined to make this day truly memorable I began saying the words Da Da at any opportunity where I had Izzy’s undivided attention, primarily during nappy changing sessions, bath and meal times. As I stated in my previous post ‘Dangers and Dilemmas‘, I once read that it is imperative that a baby is spoken to throughout the day. Clearly for those who know me, they will be laughing whilst reading this as it is not as if I need an excuse for talking! So I began to talk about the mundane jobs I was carrying out around the house whilst Izzy watched attentively sat in her baby bouncer. ” I am ironing Daddy’s shirt, Da Da”……… “Daddy’s shirt is blue”…….. “Daddy’s favourite colour is blue”……..
And so it continued until the day in question. Apart from the constant babbling sounds, there was nothing remotely ‘Da Da’ sounding all day. Admittedly I was rather disappointed. I had imagined the expression on Jason’s face when Izzy said those words for the first time on an extremely special occasion. It simply wasn’t meant to be that day, just 24 little hours later! Although her timing was slightly out, it’ll be an occasion we shall never forget and one she will never really understand the significance of! And so it began. The babbles were turning into a stream of little words, many undecipherable to all but her parents, but none the less another milestone had been reached.
So onwards and upwards to the next milestone! I noticed that the stairs were perhaps the most utilised floor space in the house. As Izzy’s changing mat was in her nursery we used the stairs many times throughout each day. I began to count each step going up in English and each step coming down in Farsi (my Mother is Persian). When Izzy had started walking with assistance, she took great delight in going up and down the stairs. Eventually one day she started to mimic the sounds I was making whilst counting. A few months after this when she was walking unaided, she knew most of the numbers (1-13 as there are 13 steps!) in both languages, albeit with a little prompting. However, as we all know, babies can really differ from each other in the developmental milestones. Language and speech skills develop at different ages which is what I discovered with my son Oliver. Ollie was 2 years old when he started copying the numbers. He had shown no interest whilst walking with me, but loved to go up and down the stairs with his big sister.
Once Izzy knew the numbers verbally, I decided to teach her to be able to recognise them. As she had a fascination with the telephone I thought I would engage her in a simple daily task of phoning her Dad or Grandparents. Initially I called out and pointed to each number that needed to be dialled. Very soon, Izzy dialled the telephone numbers for me. Initially I am sure it was just from memorising which particular buttons I had been pressing and in which order. Eventually she knew what the numbers from 1-9 looked like and dialled herself to speak to her grandparents. I now call out the number I need to dial and my secretary does it for me!
Whilst Izzy did learn to dial 999 when playing Doctors and Nurses (as explained in Trials and Tribulations of the Telephone), I have stressed to her that this number must only ever be called in a real emergency. In my situation, clearly by alerting her to the fact that I was unwell and needed the telephone reminded her of the game we had been playing . She subsequently correctly dialled the Emergency Services. However there are many situations that occur within the home that may not require the Emergency Services so I decided to assign two emergency contact numbers to the speed dial facility on my phone. This meant only one number needed to be held down for a couple of seconds and it would automatically dial my husband or mum. The same applied for my mobile phone. Both contacts are stored within ‘Favourites’ which Izzy, and now Ollie, have learnt to access themselves to select either of the numbers.
Every child needs to know about calling 999 in an emergency situation. They also need to know what an emergency actually is. Explaining this to a young child comes with it’s difficulties, however I have since posed the question, “What would you do if we had a fire in our house?” or “What would you do if Mummy was poorly again?” I also gave her examples of what is an Emergency and what is not! I told her a story about attending an address where a lady had called the Police to catch a bird in her chimney! She seemed to understand that this was clearly not an emergency by responding, “That was silly, were you cross Mummy?” I did stress that if anyone dialled 999 when it was not an emergency, this could delay a response to someone who truly needed help. I also addressed who the various Emergency Service personnel are, i.e. Doctors, Nurses, Paramedics, Police Officers, Firefighters, Coastguard, what uniforms they may wear, what exactly they do and how they may assist you in an emergency. Like anything in life, training gives people the confidence they need to cope with situations so I found role playing is an especially good way of addressing various emergency scenarios, after all that is exactly how Izzy learnt to call an ambulance for me! Using the telephone is a life skill that everyone needs, with a little guidance and supervision, this skill could save someone’s life.