Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Staring, Staring, Staring

Our daughter is a girl of many expressions.  For a long time it made no difference that she couldn’t speak, she managed to convey her feelings through the medium of her facial expressions.  Which I suppose is preferable to the medium of modern dance.  Anyway, she is one of those people who you would not describe as inscrutable.  In fact, scrutable, if it existed as a word, could have been coined just for her.  (It turns out that scrutable has been used and is a recognised word, although it has fallen out of the rather niche use which it once enjoyed.  It even merited a definition in Samuel Johnson’s dictionary, or to give it its full title, A Dictionary of the English Language: In which the Words are Deduced from Their Originals, Explained in Their Different Meanings, and Authorised by the Names of the Writers in Whose Works They are Found.  What a wonderful book that is.  One of these days, when I have totally run out of ideas, I’m just going to dedicate a blog post to words and definitions from that most remarkable book.  Let us all hope that day is a long way off.)

The point I am trying to make is that N could curdle milk just by looking at it if she was in that sort of a mood.  Like most little people she would not be an asset if you happened to find her on your team whilst playing Bridge.  She would not so much give the hand away with her tells as simply declare to the other team exactly what she was holding, what she wanted to play next, and the exact hand they needed to play to beat you. 

When she was younger though, along with her other many and varied expressions, she had this stare, which she would pull out while you were not expecting it, often when you had turned your back on her, and which she would hold until you turned and looked at her.  It’s the sort of expression I imagine Norman Bates would give you just before he killed you in the shower, a really murderous glare which was enough to scare you silly when you saw it.

The first time I encountered this stare was when we were in bed.  As has been previously discussed, N is not so hot on actually falling asleep and one of the methods we employed to try to convince her to bring her to bed with us and just rock her on my legs, with my legs bent and my knees pulled up so she was reclining back against them.  I would do this until she was pretty much asleep, at which point we would transfer her across.  This night I was rocking her and she was, I thought, gently drifting into the land of Nod.  I happened to turn away while I was chatting with my wife and then glanced back to check to see if it was time to transfer the child only to find that not only was she not asleep, but she had fixed me with one of these stares.  Now remember that in this position her face was only inches away from mine and I had been expecting her to be a sleep.  I will confess that I really did jump, which caused the back of my head to crack against the wall with a pretty satisfying thud.  I looked away and glanced back again to find that now her eyes had closed and she looked as though she had been asleep for hours.Once my wife had finished chortling at my surprise, and the giant lump in the back of my head we moved her across into her cot and that was that for the night (by which I mean for the three hours before she woke up again.)  But that look stayed with me.    It was just such a grown up look of intense concentration.  Like she was trying to read my mind, or, more honestly, planning how to dispose of my body.  And it had been right there, right in front of me.

It is a look that I have only seen a couple of times more, but each time it has been in situations where I have been totally shocked, and it has made me think that despite how easy it is to read their expressions, we really have no idea what our children are actually thinking.  What must it be like to be inside their brains, all these wants and desires but so limited in their means of letting anyone know. Come to think of it, it’s really no wonder she’s so grumpy all the time.


  1. Our little man has that same look! He holds the expression a little too long and it makes us feel like we should apologise for something.

    I'm not sure we'd want to know what he was thinking - I'm convinced much of it is telling Daddy and I that we are being a little too silly :)

    1. I'm glad it's not just us. It does make you feel like you're somehow being a terrible parent!

  2. Hey Matt,

    I can appreciate that stare, I'm occasionally on the end of one from my eldest boy.

    It normally comes after suggesting a nappy change and has all the chilling hallmarks of his mother with a lip that drops so far you can hear the thud as it hits the floor!

    1. N has now taken to bellowing 'Don't like it' everytime we suggest a nappy change, which I find much easier to take than the stare.

  3. I love the stare, my monster has it down to a t!

    By the way, I've nominated you for a Reader Appreciation Award, no need to join in, just thought I'd let you know!