It’s been nearly two months since we decamped for the North. In tabloid headline style, we’ve realised the following, utterly shocking pieces of news in South Yorkshire:
LOCAL SHOPS SHOCK: PEOPLE CHAT TO STRANGERS
DEAF COUPLE IN COUNTRYSIDE REVELATION: “THERE ARE LITERALLY FIELDS EVERYWHERE”
YORKSHIRE VILLAGES VERY VERY PRETTY, SURVEY SHOWS
But as fun as those things have been, moving from the city to the countryside happened to occur just at the point when both our daughters were themselves changing in their never-ending quest to eventually turn into fully-fledged adults.
For a while now in these Deaf Dad columns, I’ve referred to my daughters, one of whom is now nearly four, and the other nearly two, as Toddler and Baby.
Toddler is now a small child. So I’ll (very unimaginatively) call her Child from now on. Baby shall now be called Toddler. Got that? Great.
When we moved, Child lost all her friends, so one of the most amazing things about those first few weeks was seeing Child and Toddler play together nearly all the time. They would even hug on the sofa.
At a time of change, they seemed to be looking after each other.
Even now, if you give Toddler something (a jelly baby for example), she’ll demand another one. But not for her – for Child. To Toddler, that’s how it should be. One for her, and one for me.
Meanwhile, Child has been teaching Toddler things. Like the colours, and the game Pairs. Toddler’s surprisingly good at Pairs, occasionally pairing up two identical cards without warning. Me and Child are pretty dominant right now, but Toddler’s on the way up, and it’s scary.
Moving north also meant that suddenly, after sharing a room for one and a half years, Child and Toddler could finally have their own rooms. For Toddler, arriving in our village also coincided with her transition from cot to bed.
I’m not sure if non-parents will understand this, but seeing Toddler in her own space, with her own books and toys, with us reading her own stories to her every night (previously we’d read to them both at the same time) felt like another major milestone had been passed.
For her part, Child has been enjoying setting up her dolls just how she likes them in her own room. Woe betide anyone who tries to adjust the formation of her doll’s wardrobe and scooter.
Childcare has also changed. For the last year, I looked after the girls three days a week, partly because of the crazy cost of childcare in south-west London, and partly because I really enjoyed it. They’re great, is why.
Now I’m working more, and Child’s got an afternoon place at the local school’s nursery. So Toddler’s started going to nursery two days a week, which, for her, has taken some getting used to.
The first time she went to the nursery, for a half-hour taster session, she just walked in and played with everything, not noticing us leaving her there. When we picked her up she seemed really happy. It seemed too good to be true, and it was.
The next time, she realised what was going on, and since then, she’s protested nearly every time we’ve dropped her off. Crying tears so pitiful and vulnerable by nature that they make it nearly impossible to leave her. Nearly. But we persevered.
Fortunately, she slowly started to connect with the staff and the other children, enjoying the daily activities and home-cooked food, and she’s become happier and happier. She now smiles when we leave her there, and when she’s picked up. Phew.
From the start, Child loved her childcare. She goes to a pre-school two mornings a week, and a school nursery every afternoon. She wears a uniform, which she’s deeply proud of. She looks all grown up in it, and there are times we find ourselves wondering whether it was really four years ago that she arrived into this world only about a foot long, incapable of doing anything other than cry, sleep and poo. In roughly that order.
Collecting Child and Toddler from their nurseries has the added benefit of helping us get to know local people. What starts with a nod of acknowledgment or a friendly smile soon becomes daily chatter.
For all four of us, it feels like we’ve got over the hardest hurdle in moving areas – that initial phase where you know nothing and nobody. In some way – and I wouldn’t yet say this in a complete sense, for it takes time – we are starting to feel at home. Life is starting to feel normal. I guess we’re starting to settle in.
Winter’s now approaching, and people are already telling us about the amazing Christmas celebrations in the village, with virtually everyone who resides here singing hymns at the monument in the centre of the village on Christmas Eve.
We can’t wait.
Charlie Swinbourne is the editor of Limping Chicken, as well as being a journalist and award-winning scriptwriter. He writes for the Guardian and BBC Online, and as a scriptwriter, penned My Song, Coming Out and Four Deaf Yorkshiremen.
The Limping Chicken is supported by Deaf media company Remark!, provider of sign language services Deaf Umbrella, the Deaf training and consultancy Deafworks, the RAD Deaf Law Centre, and BID’s upcoming 5th anniversary performance by Ramesh Meyyappan on 12th October – don’t miss it!