Tell her she can’t have something and straight away, she wants it. The jagged rock. The rusty tin-opener. The kitchen cleaner.
Today we’ve lurched from one potential disaster to another.
DON’T PUT YOUR FINGERS IN THE PLUG
NO, THAT’S THE CAT’S ANGRY FACE
GIVE THE KNIFE TO MUMMY
WHAT’S THAT IN YOUR MOUTH? SPIT IT OUT RUBY, SPIT IT OUT
Surrounded by stacking rings, spoons, story books, shape sorters, bubbles, blocks and balls, she wants the nails, the forks and the sewing kit.
I watch her crawl towards the blender.
“No” I say. “Because I love you, Ruby.”
She points to the boiling potatoes.
I shake my head.
She reaches for the batteries, the scissors, the carpet cleaner and the lamps.
“No” I tell her. “No” and “no” and “no” again.
Her eyes are accusing.
“All morning, I’ve been wailing for the cheese grater. Why are you holding it back? Can’t you see how much I want it? Don’t you care? If you loved me, you’d give it me.”
I take her into another room, filled with toys. “Ruby” I say, “Everything that I own is yours. But if you touch the blender, you will surely slice your fingers.”
I wipe her tears. I distract her with crocodile songs. I cuddle her and change her nappy. When she gets tired, I make her lie down in her green bedroom.
She kicks the bed frame.
“Trust me,” I whisper, “I know what’s best.”
She wakes, refreshed. We sing. I tell her about clouds and wind and why cheese and onion crisps belong in green packets. I give her lunch. As she waits for her milk to cool, her lip starts to tremble.
“I’m on it” I tell her, “I know what you need – even before you do.”
We go shopping. It’s raining, so I buckle her into her raincoat. She refuses to put it on. Later, she refuses to take it off.
I give her dinner and a bath. I make sure the water’s warm but not too hot. She yells when I put her in. Then she yells when I take her out.
I hug her. “I’ll look after you,” I say. “I’ll care for you and keep you safe.”
She pushes her hand against my face. She smiles.
I look at her, my beloved daughter, and my heart swells. I rejoice over her with gladness; I will quiet her with my love; I will exult over her with singing.
Just like my Father does for me.