I've been hanging out with Tim again recently. He's two-and-a-quarter now, and is somewhat capable of talking, but is still obviously a work in progress.

I read him a bed-time story. A significant fraction of Tim's library consists of the work of Theodore Guissel under his noms-de-plume of Dr Seuss or Theo LeSieg, or the incisive narratives of Richard Scarry. Books are a good thing: there's the fact that someone is reading it to you, and is therefore giving you pretty much their exclusive attention; there's pages to turn; and pictures to look at. But there's also the distinct downside that at the end of the book, you have to go to bed. Bed is about as far from the centre of attention as you can get, and there are few toys to play with. So while Tim is quite enthusiastic at the start of the book, there is often a tendency to be distracted towards the end.

I read him "Ten Apples Up On Top", in which a lion, a dog, and a tiger compete to stack gradually more and more apples on their heads. Counting is still under development, so while Tim is familiar with some of the numbers, he's not terribly strong on the actual order that they go in; and other numbers are beyond him altogether. "One" is particularly problematic; Tim doesn't start counting until he gets to two objects. This is presumably because if you only have one of something, you don't have enough somethings to count yet. When I try to count the number of apples currently on the main character's heads, I start with, "Can you say 'one'?", and Tim uncertainly replies "saywun?". Two, three and four are a bit firmer; although if the correct number doesn't pop into his head right away, he tends to just substitute the first number that springs to mind. After four, it goes a bit grey: if he's trying, he can echo the numbers as I say them, but I can tell they aren't sticking in his head. Then we reach the home straight, and he's right with me for "eight, nine, ten!".

I visit my Mum while she is babysitting Tim. She offers me a scone. She gets out two scones, cuts them in half and puts butter and jam on them, and puts them on a plate.

This is a mistake: the plate she puts them on is one she used to give Tim food the previous night. This leads Tim to believe that all four scones are for him. He is quite annoyed when he discovers that he has to share, and that Nanna and Uncle Doug are eating "his" scones. He throws a little tantrum, and refuses to eat his half scone. It's quite obviously a fake tantrum, thrown for the sole purpose of getting his own way.

We make a couple more mistakes which compound the problem: we put the plate used to distribute the scones up on the counter where Tim can't see it, and I scoff the fourth scone half without letting Tim notice. These are the wrong things to do, because Tim's little tantrum is going to last as long as he thinks there's a chance of getting more scone. Eventually, we twig, and attempt to demonstrate to Tim that the plate is now empty. But however much trouble Tim may have with the words, he apparently has no trouble at all counting to four and doing the necessary arithmetic to figure out that there should be one scone half left. However, attention spans of two-year-olds are quite short, and so after I leave he calms down fairly rapidly.

Different tones of voice for different things is a bit challenging, too. I can't tell whether he is making a comment about something, asking about something, or asking for something. At one point, while I am driving and Tim is in the baby seat behind me, he says, "Window up!". What he means is, "Hey, we're driving along quite fast and I don't really like all this wind blowing in my face, so could you wind the electric window up for me please." (Thankfully, he hasn't yet figured out that he can operate the window himself.) But he says it in the same tone that he says everything; so I don't actually notice that he's making a request of me the first couple of times he says it. The third time he says it in a much more aggrieved tone of voice, and I actually twig that he wants me to do something for him.

Traffic lights are a bit exciting for him. At home in the small town of Karratha, there are no traffic lights, but down here in the big smoke, they're quite a common experience. The novelty hasn't worn off yet, so every time we approach a red light, he says, "Red light!". And then after we stop at the light he says, "Green light!". Again, I am unsure as to whether he is commenting that we are waiting for the light to turn green, or he is commanding the light to turn green, so we can go "Faster!".

Tim will next be down in Perth in March, and I look forward to seeing what changes a couple more months hath wrought.