"I want to take my baby to the woods," she pleads.
"You can take baby but you have to carry him all the time. Mummy's not carrying him. OK?"
"Are you sure you want to carry baby? He can wait here if he wants to."
"I take him."
"You have to carry him, Celeste. All the way!" I reiterate.
"I take him."
Up we go.
To start with, our woodland walk is much less fun than it usually is: I'm not in the mood for doing very much at all today and Celeste is concentrating on not dropping her baby. She watches her step and, in her studiousness, she isn't noticing the bugs or the blackberries. At the Water Tower, I let her choose which path we will take next. She picks the one I know will be littered with muddy puddles and I think she knows this too.
I roll her jeans up. She finds a big puddle, jumps and laughs and jumps again. She washes naked baby in the puddle.
"There you go, baby. You all clean now," she tells him with authority and love. He WAS clean before he went in to the quagmire but now he is splattered in brown.
"You come in, Mummy." Ah, WhatTheHell! I glide through the rain water in my sandals and shorts. She jumps and splashes me until my legs are the colour of tree bark. Lovely. I begin to jump too and we dirty each other. This is more like it.
"I want a wee-wee."
Good. "Let's go home." She offers no resistance.
She runs on a little way ahead, carefree, unencumbered. Hold on a minute, why am I holding muddy naked baby? I thought we had an agreement! How did she manage that? Knowing I need more than ever these days to stick to my word, I ask her to take over babysitting duties.
"No, you hold him Mummy."
"Lestie, if you don't carry baby, I'll leave him here in the woods and the foxes will eat him."
Was that a bit harsh?