Thursday 20 September 2012

Junior and the Meerkat


Readers in the UK will see the word 'meerkat' with my photo, and say 'simples!'

For the benefit of readers elsewhere, allow me to give some background.

There is a comparison website, imaginatively called Their television ads feature a family of meerkats, speaking in fake Russian/Eastern European accents, who are famous for bemoaning the confusion of customers who are looking for 'Compare the Market dot com; Compare the Meerkat dot com. Simples!'

In December, just before Junior was born, S used to renew our insurance. As a thank you/promotion, they sent him this Vassily plush toy. One of my work colleagues had sold his Aleksandr plush toy for £60 on ebay, so S saved it, thinking he could make a bit of cash. As it turned out, the market for Vassily meerkats was not as lucrative, so poor old V has been sitting on our table for nine months now.

Junior can see the meerkat over my shoulder when I am holding him on the sofa; he can see it when S is holding him at the table; he can see it when he is sitting in his high chair; he can see it from across the room when he is playing on the floor.

He has been fascinated with the meerkat, almost from Day One.

Since it is not exactly a baby-friendly toy (and S was trying to sell it on ebay), we never took it out of its packaging, and Junior has not been able to play with it.

Yesterday, Junior was fussing in his high chair while I tried to give him breakfast. I noticed that he was looking at the meerkat, so I reached over, moved its head like a puppet, and started talking to him in the fake accent.

'Junior, why do you no eat your breakfast? Mummy has made nice food for you. Eat. Simples!'

Junior started laughing, so I kept doing it.

'You eat breakfast, you grow up big and strong. Is most important meal of day. You must eat. Simples!'

This went on for a few minutes, but he was too busy laughing to eat at that point. I took him out of the high chair, brought the dishes to the kitchen, and started cleaning up. Then I noticed that he was pulling up on the table, trying to get closer.


I abandoned the dishes, and brought the meerkat down to him. 'Hello, Junior. I touch your nose with my nose. Beep!'

He flinched, and his laughter changed. I did it again. He moved back. Then he started to cry. And laugh. And cry. He held out a tentative hand to stroke the meerkat, but pulled back at the point of contact. He started crying harder.

Finally, I gave up and went to change his nappy. Out of nowhere, he started howling. The most hysterical, frightened cry I have ever heard him make. I managed to change him, then brought him back to the living room. As soon as he saw it, he started crying again. I had to breastfeed him to calm him down. It happened again at dinner.

We don't know how or why, but the meerkat has affected him. We moved it to the hallway (where he has little chance of ever seeing it), and I didn't bother feeding him breakfast in his high chair this morning. We still don't know if he likes it or fears it, but he has not reacted like this to anything else in his short life. Knowing my lifelong phobia of snakes, I am inclined not to push it.


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