Alexis sat on the sofa with Michael, watching a film. She often spoke over them, but I let her for now.
I did the nasty job of cleaning the bathrooms and the kitchen, but I'd been doing it for years so it wasn't anything new.
Quite often, Michael had to tell Alexis to sit down or be quiet, and his voice was starting to raise. Whatever mood she was in today wasn't pleasant.
I went downstairs and saw her stood by the tv, Michael covering his face.
"Alexis, are you behaving?"
"I don't think you are. I'm upstairs and I can hear the noise, and Uncle Mikey is getting upset by you not behaving,"
"But I am," she whined.
"He keeps having to tell you to sit down and to be quiet. I trust his word, and the film will go off if you don't behave,"
"Uncle Mikey and I are going to do some cleaning upstairs for a little bit now, but please don't make a mess,"
She nodded and ran to her toys, Michael following me upstairs.
"It's okay, she's got a lot more energy than we do, that's all,"
"She's been like it all day,
"It's nearly her birthday Cal, and she's gone shopping which always gets her excited,"
I hit my head on my pillow, Michael letting me have a moment.
"I'm so glad I'm not on my own to do this anymore,"
"You could do it, but you might as well take my help if it's here. What I suggest is that we make a sticker chart, and she gets a sticker each day if she matches a little criteria. After a month she gets a small treat,"
I nodded and sat up, watching him make a new note page.
"What should we say though?"
"Well what do you want? Not too many, but enough,"
"I guess to pick a book and calm down before bed, to tidy up her toys and use manners to be respectful,"
"That sounds like a good start, she's pretty much got manners down so we can change that in the next month or two,"
"It'll be okay, I think we just need to use more direct instructions rather than behave, because she might not be processing exactly what that means,"
"I forget she's so little sometimes because she can be so bright,"
"I'll draw it out and find stickers somewhere, you go and calm her down. I can see that she tries to listen and make you happy, so don't get too mad,"
"I'm not mad at her, that's the thing. I'm upset and exhausted, but I'm not mad. I don't think shouting gets anyone anywhere anyway,"
I stood up and went downstairs, Alexis running up to me.
"Dad," she whined, "I have a cut,"
"On my toe,"
"Right," I chuckled, "Do you need a plaster?"
I went to the downstairs bathroom and got them out, sitting her on the sofa. There was a small cut so I put the plaster on, then sat her on my knee.
"Are you going to be good for grandma tomorrow?"
"Yeah, and wear my new dress,"
"No, that's for Saturday, it's your party dress,"
"And when you were running around and shouting, even though Uncle Mikey told you to stop, was that the right thing to do?"
"So what will you do next time?"
"Are you mad?"
"I'm not mad, why do you keep worrying about that?"
She shrugged and curled into my body, grabbing her purple dinosaur from the sofa.
"You can talk to me Alexis, yeah? You can always tell me anything,"
"Because I'm your dad, and I will always love you. Your uncles and I always try our best to understand you, and if we don't then we will find someone who does,"
"For my whole life?"
"Even while I'm at school?"
"Of course silly, and I'll try to change my shifts so I can pick you up every day,"
"I'm going to be good at school,"
"Not long now, only a couple of weeks. We can get your uniform,"
"Am I already in?"
"I had to apply when you were a little baby,"
"Was I cute?"
"Yeah, you still are though," I smiled, squishing her cheeks, "and you had a smile on your face most of the time,"
"What about the other times?"
"Well, without your mum you were a bit upset, but grandma helped,"
"Because mummy would feed me,"
"Yeah, and you knew her voice and heartbeat, but then it wasn't there. Being born can be confusing for a baby,"
"Well they live in a tummy for months and months, and when they're born they have all this space!"
"I was taken out by doctors though,"
"You were, but it was still confusing. You recognised my voice though, and I think that helped,"
"You spoke through mummy's tummy?" she giggled, "that's funny,"
I tickled her and she laughed more, the smile on her face warming my heart.
"I know it makes you sad, but I love learning about what mummy loved, and what she was like,"
"That was really mature to say, and when you're a little bit older, I can tell you it all. Right now, it's still hard for dad, okay?"
"I love you, you're so beautiful aswell, and make me really happy,"
"You're my best friend," she said quietly, "thankyou,"
"We'll always be a team ay?"
"No, that's you and Auntie Mali,"
"Oh right. We can all be one big team,"
"Okay. Yeah, we are all a big team ,"