Shakes rattles and rolls

Jamie is eight months old today, so here’s the post I’ve been planning to make about him. So, if boring/gushy parental posts aren’t your cup of tea, now is the time to go and read somebody else’s blog entry for the day instead.

I thought of this title for a post about Jamie’s development back when this blog was just a twinkle in my eye, and it was too good to waste, but it’s way out of date – he mastered both those skills months ago. Now, he crawls on his belly like a reptile, as well. (Which nearly became the title, but I decided it wasn’t quite as good.) He isn’t wobbly any more when he’s sitting up, and he’s pulled himself up to standing a few times, and even took a step sideways at one point while he was holding onto the sofa. All of which is making it much easier for him to get hold of suitably dangerous/important things he can shove in his mouth. (On which subject – why is it that babies react to unfamiliar objects by trying to eat them? It really doesn’t strike me as an evolutionarily optimised survival strategy.)

He also yells ‘Ning ning ning’ a lot, which makes him sound like a related order to the Knights That Say Ni. Come to think of it, most of what he says is just about as comprehensible and reproducible as whatever it was they said after they moved on from saying Ni. Before I had a baby, I thought of baby talk as being a less developed version of adult talk (well, without all the syntax and meaning and stuff, obviously – I’m talking purely about the kinds of sounds they make). So it came as quite a revelation to me to realise that it’s an entire separate set of sounds in its own right. It’s an amazing set of trills and aspirates and hints of consonants and gurgly shrieks that my adult larynx can’t reproduce any more than he can reproduce my sounds. He does come out with the occasional transcribable sound like ‘Harrooooo!’ and ‘Hab-a-bu!’ and now ‘Ning ning ning ning ning’, but mostly he comes out with sounds you would need a completely new alphabet to record.

He loves lights. He has to be prevented from burning his eyes out staring at the little green light on the back of Barry’s laptop, but he loves staring at the front of the laptop as well, since this involves lots of flickering changing images. (The other day, Barry downloaded some photos to the laptop while he was holding Jamie, and Jamie was so astonished by seeing a photo of himself appear on the computer screen that he lunged madly towards it, unfortunately managing to hit a combination of keys that – and we are still not sure how he did this – erased the picture for good. Which was rather a shame, since apparently it was a cute one. But then, he has an inexhaustible supply of cuteness should we wish to take replacement photos.) He has a giant piano keyboard with lights that flash on and off when you hit the keys, and a baby gym thingummy which rotates and flashes on and off and plays manic electronic music when anyone moves in the immediate vicinity, and either of these will keep him happy for ages, probably melting his little brain in the process. However, he’s now decided that the new toothbrush we bought him for his first two teeth is an even better toy, and he screams his head off when we try to take it away from him. It’s good to know that he cares about his personal hygiene.

He also loves food. Before having him I was determined that I would stay laid-back over the inevitable food battles. I would be one of those mothers who wouldn’t get all stressed out about their child only eating three things one of which is chocolate. No, I would retain my calm in the face of food refusal and fads, just offering the food and not getting into any battles over him taking it. I was all genned up to do the calm-retaining, battle-avoiding thing. And, as it turned out, the only battle is whether we can spoon the food into him fast enough to meet his demands. We have yet to find anything he dislikes – he has happily eaten everything we’ve tried him with, including a wedge of lemon that my husband fed him over my strenuous protests. And he can now feed himself with baby biscuits while sitting in his chair, which is an amazing step forward from my viewpoint because it keeps him busy for long enough for us to eat supper and means that I can actually – get this – eat entire meals with both hands. I think you have to have tried being a parent of a small baby to realise just how cool this is. Well worth all the work of sponging smeary chewed-up biscuit off his entire body after dinner and then finding dried-up bits of biscuit lurking in the chair crevices the next day.

He has a smile so gorgeous I can’t think of anything to say about it that isn’t clichéd. His face lights up when he sees me at the end of the workday and he throws his arms round my neck in a massive hug. When he’s nursing, he reaches up to grab random bits of my face and neck. He’s worked out that if he sticks his fingers into my mouth and then pulls my lower lip outwards while I suck inwards, it makes a funny sucking sound, and he finds this so marvellously hilarious that I can’t even bring myself to be bothered that he thinks clawing at my lower lip is a fun pastime.

Parenthood is getting so much better as it goes along. For me, the first few months were a necessary but dull and difficult precursor to all the good bits. Sure, he was incredibly cute from the start, but cuteness takes you only so far. I used to think – enough with all this lying there and being cute, kid. Do something! Develop! Pass some milestones already! What with him not only doing interesting things, but actually taking short pauses between feeds when I can do something else, like take a shower without having to sprint, I must say that – in spite of all the hassles involved in taking care of a person who has limited communication skills, no reasoning skills, and regards it as his mission in life to shove the universe into his mouth one piece at a time – the second half of his first year is a huge improvement on the first half.

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