I remember how, 2 years ago, I watched Max's language begin to evolve. I went to bed at night hearing his peculiar turns of phrase, it inhabited my head, his repeated demands for 'big milk' or the intriguing way in which bananas were always 'numanas'. I smiled at the sweetness of those ever so slight phonetic inaccuracies. And now it is Oli's language that rattles around in my mind, the repeated lines that he uses to make himself understood. 'You dough-way' he says, pushing me off, his independence threatened by my kisses. 'Me pee!' he cries as we rush to the pot. Then 'You read it!' as he drags a book to the sofa where I am nursing Jack. 'You read it 'den. You read it right now.' The other night he cried out in his sleep. 'Me have it. Me have it.' I walked down the corridor to his room. His hot head was on the pillow, his body curled round his sucked thumb. 'No, me have it!' It was a wail of desperation. 'It's yours' I whispered in his ear as he dreamed. And how I love the phrases he's heard, like a traffic jam which he calls a 'japping jam' or how he proudly sings 'row row row your boat' and abbreviates those final 'merrily's to a succinct no-nonsense, 'melly like deem'.
I'm all too aware that this is a brief window, it's almost impossible to hold onto his changing language and his emerging comprehension of it. He has now worked out that his name is Oli with an L rather that Oyi with a Y. He said it with a Y for the last time a few days ago. And soon enough he'll realise the small yellow beetle that hides out in Richard Scarry's strange world of bananamobiles and carrot cars is not in fact dollbug. 'Me see dollbug!' he says, stamping his little finger down on the page with an audible inhale of pure excitement, or a whine of 'Oww, me' if Max spots it first. Funny to think all this will be gone in a month or so. I'm sure he'll still tell me to 'dough-way' but he'll say it with a 'g'. And I'll be able to take it because I'll have the memory of him asking me, just today, 'hold yous hand, Mummy? Hold yous hand.'