On the trail of Louis the Ad­ven­turer

I’m liv­ing with Ernest Shack­le­ton in 10-month-old baby form

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Health Family - Genevieve Car­bery Be­ing Mum

It was the bro­ken olive dish that did it. Shards of its shiny blue paint scat­tered on the floor. The crack through the yel­low word Sor­rento a re­minder of bliss­ful days on the Amalfi coast. An adult-only dish, a re­cep­ta­cle for one of few foods my kids don’t covet off my plate. Also known as “yukky grapes”. Much to my re­luc­tance, some child-proof cup­board locks have been ac­quired.

You see, I’m liv­ing with Ernest Shack­le­ton in 10-month-old baby form – an un­re­lent­ing, de­ter­mined ex­plorer with no fear of dan­ger.

Louis the Ad­ven­turer has trav­elled many lands on his way to the ul­ti­mate baby Antarc­tic.

One of his first con­quests was Tup­per­ware Ter­ri­tory. Never in my care­free pre-Mammy days did I dream I would need so many re­us­able con­tain­ers as to have their own cup­board. Daily, I sac­ri­fice the steril­ity of my food stor­age so­lu­tions for the time it gives me to make meals as they are hap­pily pulled down and banged to­gether.

Nearby, the un­ex­plored mystery Dish­washer Dis­trict taunts him daily. I’ve learned how to pack and un­pack in stealth mode. But one false clink of a plate or cup and I hear a scut­tle scut­tle of hands and feet on tiles as he races to­wards it. He ar­rives breath­less as I click the door shut, evok­ing ban­shee howls of in­jus­tice.

Louis doesn’t have a baby walker be­cause of well-aired con­cerns over their safety. But I reg­u­larly ques­tion my logic as he swings around the house. He moves stand­ing on two legs from barely hold­ing a cup­board han­dle to the fridge door to a chair to a ta­ble-top, test­ing each briefly for wob­ble-proof­ness be­fore pulling him­self along.

Ev­ery new sur­face is a chance to hunt for trea­sure as the per­cent­age of places out of his reach di­min­ishes. The lit­tle hands stretch up and fin­gers search blind into the coun­ter­top, flap­ping about un­til they find some­thing.

The best trea­sure is a) dan­ger­ous, b) dirty, c) def­i­nitely not a toy and d) be­long­ing to his brother (such finds gets an ex­tra gig­gle).

Some­times, he dis­cov­ers a bounty, grab­bing one in each hand mo­men­tar­ily stand­ing un­aided on his wob­bly legs. But like Wile E Coy­ote run­ning off a cliff, it’s not un­til he looks down and re­alises he’s stand­ing alone does he wail in fear and his chubby legs col­lapse as he plonks down on his nappy.

But much like the car­toon coy­ote, he’s never re­ally hurt. For his de­voted emer­gency res­cue squad spend much of their wak­ing time fol­low­ing him around and wait­ing to catch him.

This team is on high alert for two for­bid­den places which Louis the Ad­ven­turer would risk life and bot­tle for.

One is a grey fluffy moun­tain lead­ing to the mys­te­ri­ous land of up­stairs. So far, he’s made it up seven steps un­aided be­fore sim­ply let­ting go and fall­ing back (into Mammy’s arms). Per­haps I’ll suc­cumb to stair gates in time, but I fear this will give him an ac­tual hurdle to climb.

The sec­ond for­bid­den place is to my baby what the South Pole was to Ernest Shack­le­ton, the great white won­der of the swirling, whirling toi­let bowl. It’s the ul­ti­mate trea­sure –

The best trea­sure is a) dan­ger­ous, b) dirty, c) not a toy and d) be­long­ing to his brother

dirty, dan­ger­ous, def­i­nitely not a toy and reg­u­larly used by his brother. If there’s even a small crack left in the bath­room door, he dis­ap­pears as the res­cue squad catch him just be­fore con­tact (90 per cent of the time). For a baby who doesn’t talk yet, he can cer­tainly com­mu­ni­cate his con­tempt, arch­ing his back and throw­ing his head be­hind, as he’s forced to aban­don his mis­sion.

Per­haps this spirit of ad­ven­ture comes from be­ing the sec­ond-born. He hap­pily sits with his toys when we play to­gether and build a tower of cups, roll a ball back and forth or do a baby jig­saw. But nat­u­rally, his brother reg­u­larly comes and “joins in” (takes over). So Louis even­tu­ally moves on to find­ing his own fun. As a sec­ond child, his par­ents are, to put it mildly, busier and he is left more to ex­plore his world (not ne­glected I swear) than the first-born. Shack­le­ton was a sec­ond child too.

So watch out world, for Louis the Ad­ven­turer.

Just don’t go near my delph cup­board.

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