Johnny Ball is one of the few TV stars of the seventies to emerge with any remaining credibility, proving that Johnny Ball Reveals All was just a slightly ill-advised title rather than a manifesto. However, I feared Johnny might cause a minor storm in the East Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire area when I interviewed him in my last permanent radio job a couple of years ago.
We booked a load of celebrity parents to give me advice ahead of Elsa’s birth and Johnny was one of those gracious enough to come on air and impart his wisdom. I distinctly remember him saying that having a baby was fine, but dads only started enjoying parenting when kids become toddlers and thinking, ‘wow, that’s a crazy old fashioned view that might annoy a few people’. It didn’t, which is odd because people generally love a bout of overblown anger about stuff they hear on the radio.
I don’t completely concur with Johnny and I certainly disagree with the Aldi-Katie Hopkins, Milli Hill, who claimed this week that paternity leave was pointless, but I can sort of see what Mr. Ball meant. I loved Elsa completely from the moment she was born and involved myself as much as I could in the early days when all they do is eat, sleep and poo (often all at the same time), but now she’s fifteen months she’s become even more fun than I ever expected.
We can now have in-depth discussions, admittedly she generally babbles a stream of nonsense, but I’ve been a professional radio presenter for fifteen years so I have no grounds to criticise. Whatever she’s saying, it definitely means something to her; she gesticulates with her hands, nods and even starts laughing at herself and it is all suitably super-cute. She’s increasing her real vocabulary all the time as well, this week she added ‘elephant’ and ‘tickle’ to her armoury, the latter almost exclusively saved for when she is essentially mauling our dog Alfie. It turns out that labradors don’t really react to tickling and certainly don’t giggle but bless Elsa, she keeps trying and she’s having the time of her life.
The fact that she is constantly picking up words (she learnt “teeth” early on because she thoroughly enjoys brushing them – a fad I can’t see continuing for too long unfortunately) means that we have to be uber-careful at all times. I was listening to a Kanye West album the other day and enjoying watching Elsa dance along (she has a better sense of rhythm than her dad already) when the hip-hop nut-job launched into a stream of expletives, leading to a swift cutting of the music from me and an irritated scowl from my daughter who had found her groove had been curtailed
Well, I say I was listening to Kanye West, I’d actually put a Beck CD on but the Kanye one interrupted it and played itself instead.
It’s Elsa’s personality that we are witnessing develop that is most fascinating; the mischievous glint in her eye as she edges closer to Alfie ready to tickle, stroke or overly-enthusiastically pat him is hilarious. She’s cheeky and fun and more than happy to keep us on our toes, particularly when tearing up the stairs at heart-stopping speed.
So, I get what Johnny Ball meant – she is becoming more fun all the time and, as she learns more words and our conversations become less like when you ask for directions abroad and just nod and smile because you’ve got no idea about what the answer actually was, it can only get better. However, the newborn stage is just as special but in a different way. And, as for the dog, he would have the pre-pestering days back in a heartbeat.