The other day my 16 month-old son, Noah, was ever-so-slightly told off by my father-in-law for messing about with the TV remote control. His response – which I’ve never seen before – was to freeze, possum-like. For a good two or three minutes he just sat there, stock still, every now and then glancing at his granddad, who was looking as bemused as the rest of us. He even had his little chubby arm outstretched at the time: that, too, remained perfectly still.
Then, finally, he summoned the courage to crawl to me and burst into tears – which was good, because it meant I got a nice hug. But I also got to thinking about what must have gone through his head at the time; and this, I imagine, is how it went down.
Oh my word, what just happened.
Did he just tell me off? I think he just told me off.
What do I do? He’s never told me off before.
When mum or dad tell me off I just ignore them,
but I don’t feel I can do the same for this man.
He commands some kind of higher respect.
What do I do? Just sit still. Yeah, sit still.
Blend in with your surroundings.
You are carpet.
You are sofa.
They can’t see you.
(Glances) Damn, it’s not working!
They’re all looking at me.
What do I do?
I’ve been very still for an awfully long time.
Oh boy, I think I’m going to cry.
Hold it together, Noah, it’s not that bad.
It was only a sli- oh man, he’s still looking at me!
What do I do? I have literally never been in this situation before.
You’re going to crawl to dad.
Yeah, that’s what you’re going to do. Crawl to dad.
I can’t move! I’m paralysed with fear!
Come on Noah, man up. You can do this.
They’re all still looking at me. Now they’re laughing!
I’m definitely going to cry.
OK, just crawl to dad, and it’ll be fine. He gives nice hugs.
Do it. C’mon, DO IT!
One, two –
– oh hey, I can count! Didn’t know that.
Focus! After three. One, two, THREE!
I’m crawling! I’m doing it! It’s all too much! (Cries)
Hold me, father!