"My baby sister's thirsty. She wants her bottle." (Alarmingly, she has taken to pronouncing it "boddel," like a good American. This is just the sort of thing I wanted to avoid by having Irish children.)
"What about giving her some mumeet, Mabel?" I ask. I find it fascinating that she is so enamoured of giving bottles to her babies. Shouldn't she be lifting her shirt and latching baby on, as so many photos of breastfed toddlers depict. Where did I go wrong?
"She's my baby sister."
Oh, yes. Good point. "Well, shouldn't you bring her to her mummy and get her to give her some mumeet?" Pronouns getting the better of me, but she knows what I mean.
"No, she's thirsty. She wants baby milk."
I try to explain how milk from the mother is much better for a baby than formula. Then, overthinking a little, I decide that I shouldn't prejudice her against bottles. Sometimes bottles have breastmilk in them, after all.
"But," I continue, "sometimes the mummy can take out the mumeet and put it in a bottle so that another person can give the baby mumeet when the mummy is somewhere else." Even as I said it, I knew how this would sound.
"Mummy, that doesn't make any sense."
How right she is. Because mumeet, to her, is so much more than a drink. It's her word for the comfort of being close to me, for snuggling up and getting what she needs, for how to feel better when you're frustrated with the world and how to fall asleep at the end of a long day. How could anyone put that in a bottle?
I think she loves giving her babies bottles because they're part of the mysterious baby trappings that she's so fond of. Mumeet is not something she associates with babies, because she's not a baby, and mumeet is still her right and her privilege every day.
I don't think I've gone too wrong there.