An awful lot has happened in the few months since my last blog. But such is childhood. For the first six months, the milestones are small and few, treasured by eagle-eyed parents but barely noticed by outsiders. But from weaning onwards, change come thick and fast, and visible to all. The sweet babe who laid in the Moses basket, gurgling placidly, becomes a charging bull on a mission to find the nearest china shop.
Daughter had her yearly development check at just past 11 months. I tried not to feel nervous, but it is a little like presenting for a driving test or an exam. Is she doing all the right things, or is she – horror – behind her peers? Of course, each baby develops at his or her own speed, and I already knew that younger babies were “cruising” while mine was struggling to crawl. Or so I thought.
As mentioned previously, during our holidays Daughter had developed an interesting style of crawling, crossing the room on her knees and elbows in the manner of a thirsty man seeking water in the desert, with accompanying grunts and moans. The oasis she was trying to reach was usually me.”Almost crawling,” we said. But no – this is “commando crawling”, said the health visitor, with a big tick. I could certainly see the likeness to a camouflaged soldier scrambling under a net. She’s certainly picked up some speed, especially during nappy changing, when the sight of her retreating bare bottom is increasingly familiar.
Babbling scored another goal; Daughter is now happily (and endearingly) “reading” to herself from books, which are usually held upside down. We have yet to hear the prized words “mama” or “dada” uttered to the appropriate adult, although Granny is convinced that she is addressed consistently as “Eh!”
For her first birthday, we enjoyed a family celebration in the garden, followed by a full-on party with “Jo Jingles” and 10 baby friends (plus parents and siblings). An afternoon of music, action, bubbles and cake, it was blissful bedlam, with babies crawling in all directions, and older children happily leading the way with familiar rhymes.
An unusual first birthday present was a settling in session at nursery. I’d taken accrued leave, and was able to go back to work the following week – a lovely way to round off the year. While the three short sessions were easy enough for my hardened heart – got to be done, she’ll have a great time etc. – the real deal proved harder to stomach. On my first day back at the office, I walked out of the nursery front door to the sound of Daughter’s distraught screams out the back, and felt the all-too-familiar pang of guilt at choosing to go back to work, even part-time.
This lasted all of five minutes, once I got back to my desk and found myself fully enjoying the mental stimulation. It felt like I’d never been away, so much so that I had to keep reminding myself I had a child to collect from nursery before 6pm. Would they call me to say: “We’re leaving her on the doorstep”? I set my alarm.
Six weeks later, at 13 months, Daughter is crying less and less when I leave her at nursery. I swing between relief that she is settled, mild umbrage that she no longer misses me, and outrage that they manage to get three hour naps out of her, when she manages a maximum of 30 minutes with me.
She is now standing against anything that will take her weight (and a few things that won’t), and cruising, so today saw us buy her first real pair of shoes. She has room to grow in the very tiniest size, and hates having her feet encased in these strange paw-prisons, but hopefully this will pass. The staff at Jones were very helpful and the ambiance was relaxing; in contrast, at nearby Clarks we found a seething mass of mums and youngsters waiting with tickets to buy “back to school” footwear, a sign of things to come for us.
But for now, we were able to leave it all behind and wallow in the joy of lingering babyhood. I intend to enjoy it as much as possible, wringing every hug and nuzzle out of it before the years whizz by and Daughter becomes a grunting Goth teenager. Wish me luck.