As you know, I live in Cambodia. Since the birth of my nephew, anytime I visit the UK, I’ve taken to spending a couple of weeks at my sister’s and hanging out with my nephew (and my sister and brother-in-law). This time at 18 months old, it was an absolute delight to see more of his wee personality coming out. Thoughtful, inclusive, at times ever so sweet, commanding, wanting to be helpful and involved, he made us laugh A LOT. So I wrote this poem to capture this moment in his development.
I’m 18 months and I can do that too
I can do that too,
I’m 18 months old.
I can feed myself.
I have my own bowl, plate and hands.
“HhUM”, I say, when I want something you offer me.
“Kh-heese” is my favourite.
You’ve given me a fork and spoon?
I know what they are.
Mess makers on my face and floor.
“No.” I don’t need your help for that.
Nor when I compose on the keyboard
with my knees and palms.
I’m being post structuralist.
Stay 2 feet away from me.
I can get my shoes and bring your trainers too,
So that we can all go outside.
And I know which direction our walk should take.
We’ll walk past “mee-Ow”
Climb up ‘big step’. “o-Oh” and gingerly go
down them. Walk over black and white stripes.
‘run run run run run’
On our way to the
“Ddu- Ddu-” that go “wak-wak”.
“Ball” is my favourite game.
When I wake up, “ball” is where I run to.
I have three officially.
But a tangerine or a stacking up cup works too.
If you throw “ball” to me, I will like you.
But when you throw it on your head,
I’ll scrunch up my eyes and laugh
when it hits my head too.
I love to play with “ball” so much.
Going outside to play,
Wrapped up in my thick coat and wellies makes me happy.
I’m a good kicker. Everyone tells me,
‘Good job.’ ‘Well done.’ when I send the ball to them.
I get upset when –
I don’t understand why – “ball” runs away,
like it doesn’t want to play with me.
Uh huh uh huh HUH HUH HUH.
I make my ee-mo* run and kick it back to me.
“Der” I point to the big screen.
Why watch it on your small phone
When it’s better bigger?
Cast it “Der!”
The music makes my legs
jump and arms wave.
I love it more when we dance together.
I’ve been watching you.
How you do it.
And I can do that too.
*ee-mo: 이모 in Korean. Translates as aunt in English. This is the basic form for what you call your mother’s sisters. Your father’s sisters are addressed as 고모 (go-mo). Ah, *rueful smile* – the specificity of korean titles. For a more detailed overview on the Korean family and kinship terms, check out this blog post on the talking cupboard.