T and I made our first substantial toy outlay this week, on some squirting pirates. When you have a baby, and people get you presents, the ones who have children get you something useful, such as a blanket or a six-month babygrow, and the ones who have no children, but an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, will do some research and give you something really carefully thought out, such as an item of knitwear that will begin to fit at precisely the start of October; the feckless childless buy you a cuddly toy. This will be of no interest to the child unless, for unknowable reasons, it's incredibly frightening, and then it introduces him to the concept of yelling in terror, where previously he had only yelled in hunger and/or thirst.
In a dogless house, these toys could wait in the babygrow-cupboard until the baby was older, but six months is a long time for a dog (technically, it's three and a half years). My brother sent us a puppet elephant, and when I first put my hand in it, Spot went at it with such gusto he nearly took my arm off. I couldn't work out whether he genuinely didn't know I was in there, or whether he'd been wanting to sever my arm for some time and had just been waiting for plausible deniability, as they say in American foreign policy. Anyway, the elephant - along with two monkeys, innumerable rabbits and a very branded babyGap bear (my mother lives above a babyGap) - now belongs to the dog.
He will never get his paws on T's squirting pirates, however, given that they live in the bath and he only goes in there on Valentine's day. If I manufactured toys, here is a question I'd ask about my industry - why the fascination with pirates? Whenever you're faced with a boy-or-girl pattern alternative, it goes: blue or pink? Traffic or flowers? Pirates or sea-shells? Look, I'm not going to be dogmatic about this. I am categorically not going to ruin T's childhood by insisting that he plays democratically with items from across the gender spectrum. I have eyes, for Christ's sake, I can see that boys like cars and girls like pink and, even if society is pushing them into that, you can't make them live in the society and then act as if its emotional exigencies don't exist. But why pirates? Is there seriously nothing about the sea that is macho enough for a boy to identify with, unless you introduce some marine criminality? What about sharks? I tell a lie, my pirate pack did include a squirting shark.
I cannot get enough of bath time now. The day after the toy haul I nearly gave T a pre-bath bath at 4.30, before I thought of his carbon footprint and had a word with myself. T himself has mainly noticed the change in my tempo, more than the sea-delinquents. If you want to see his eyes truly light up at the unbelievable booty he's just scored, you have to give him a mobile phone, or a remote control, or let him chew an electric cable.
I don't get it - toy companies have put, one has to assume, generations of research into what babies like. They like soft things that look like faces, bold geometry, bright colours, crinkly surfaces. They like things that jangle, they like reflectivity, beeping noises and furry bits and shine. So how come all they ever want to do is put your phone in their mouth? How is it that the remote, which is black and doesn't even have big buttons, represents joy beyond imagining? Moreover, why aren't more toys made to look like phones, so I could buy him one of those and keep mine somewhere it won't get full of spit (J advises putting your mobile in uncooked rice when it gets wet: it dries it out. Fine, except nobody can call you, and it's all getting dangerously close to the Nokia Corkscrew, which is the phone your mum keeps in her cutlery drawer in case you want to text her forks).
It's possible that T is in it for the danger; perhaps the electric shock waiting to happen when he gets a battery in his mouth is not unfortunate, it's the point. In which case, wait until he finds out how dangerous pirates really are. He'll have a ball. Fun, I mean. He's already got a ball. How bad at this do you think I am?