‘I don’t want to have babies,’ Nell announces, pretty regularly.
She’s only four, and it makes me smile that, although she’s quite happy to swaddle her stuffed baby elephant, she has no inclination for a human baby – plastic or real – to play mother to. At least not yet.
She’s an enigma. A little girl with a penchant for pink, and sparkles and unicorns. But one who thinks nothing of picking up woodlice, or cradling earthworms as they writhe around in her very small hands. She’s the child who will always be first to hold the tarantula at the petting zoo.
She frequently leaves me wondering: Who are you little, fierce one? Where did you get your fire? Who will you be when you’re grown?
With Sidney it’s different. I feel like I have always known him. I can see into his heart and second guess what or how he’s going to feel.
But with Nell, there’s often something unexpected – a behaviour, an opinion, a talent, an emotion – that stops me in my tracks and leaves me gaping in wonder.
‘She’s just like you were,’ says my mum. But if that’s true, it’s not a me I can remember.
Because she’s terribly brave. Brave to the point of being fearless. Turn your back at the beach and, before you know it, she’ll be scaling a cliff face. In her rainbow wellies.
‘Oh god! Nell, stop where you are! I’m coming!’ I holler.
And then I clamber up after her. Scared of slipping, and falling, in a way I hope she’ll never know. Gingerly testing the way with my feet, clinging on to wet rock with bleached knuckles.
And once I’ve reached her, safely parked my bum on the cliff next to her, and worried a little bit about how we’ll ever get down, I wonder, with yet another jolt of surprise – how did you get to be so brave, little one?
May you always be this brave.