Bugger the Bear
As you can probably imagine, having a two-year-old and a three-year-old, both of whom are utterly adored by family and friends, our house is full of toys.
The cupboards are bursting with Lego and ABC building blocks; the toy chest is chocka with Peppa Pig jigsaws and Gruffalo snap cards; and the shelves are overflowing with pig-tailed dolls, cutesy stuffed animals and fluffy teddy bears. Ruby and Ava are extremely fortunate.
We are a bit overrun, but I've always enjoyed watching the girls form bonds with their soft toys. In turn, rag dolls and teddies seem to drift in and out of favour – becoming a constant companion for a week or so, before being forgotten about and exchanged for the next floppy-legged, doe-eyed creature on the shelf.
Well, for all the love Ruby shows her toys, she has never been moved enough to actually properly name one, despite my attempts at encouraging her to do so. Her bath time alligator and killer whale (yes, I know, some people go for yellow ducks, we prefer dangerous predators) are called 'Yaygator' and 'Wayshar' and her doll is known simply as 'Baby'.
And that's fine, but when it comes to the bears – of which there are many – I have always thought it would help me enormously if, when a mislaid teddy is being sobbed over, she could actually tell me which one she was talking about. Every bear in this house has always been called 'Bear'. Until recently, that is.
Ru and I were playing with a very sweet white teddy given to her by her Grandad Martin and Grandma Jill when she was born. He was 'leaping' around the room, from the sofa to the table and on to the wooden chest, delighting Ruby with every backflip and comedy fall.
As she squeezed him to her and giggled, I said: "Ruby, what's this bear's name? What shall we call him?"
For once, she didn't hold him aloft and say "Iss Bear!" Instead, she looked at him hard and said: "Ummmm..."
"Yes?" I said, feeling hopeful. I thought that this had the potential to be a very significant moment indeed! "What's a good name for a bear, Ru?"
And her reply – particularly because she looked so delighted about it – completely floored me.
"Ummmm... Bugger!" she said.
"Er, what's that, darling?"
"Bugger!" she said again, and squeezed him.
"Ruby, are you sure you want to call him Bugger? You could call him, er..."
But she had walked off, with her bear swinging by one arm (possibly looking a bit downtrodden), saying: "Bugger Bugger Bugger."
I wasn't sure what do – and I certainly didn't know where she might have previously heard that particular combination of syllables. We don't say: "Oh, bugger!" in this house any more than we say "How ghastly!" Stubbed toes, hammered thumbnails and dropped 2kg boxes of washing powder (did that last week) tend to be met with considerably more fruity expletives (screamed under one's breath of course).
But it was the first time Ruby had named anything, and I felt a bit confused about the rightness or wrongness of telling her she couldn't call her bear Bugger when she genuinely looked like she had achieved something very creative.
I have tested her, of course. "Is this Bugbear?" I asked her several days later.
"Iss Bugger!" she said.
And a few days after that, I asked her where Bugger was – just in case it was merely the sound she liked, rather than the assignment of a particular name to a particular bear. But she went and got him immediately.
So it seems we are stuck with Bugger. Will that slightly sad looking teddy be the cause of some excruciatingly embarrassing moments outside of this house in the weeks or months to come? Oh, undoubtedly. I'll keep you posted.