It seems strange to think of Jamie as a one-year-old, although as I type this it will technically be true for another fifty minutes. There’s so much difference between a child who’s just turned one and a child who’s just about to turn two. On his first birthday, Jamie was officially a toddler not just according to the baby book chapter headings, but also in the literal sense – he would, when he felt like it, lurch a few unsupported steps. But he was still very much a baby toddler, if you see what I mean. Now, he’s a little boy toddler. He’s grown up so much in a year, and all day I’ve been thinking about the differences.
His last day as a one-year-old started with him waking up twice in the early hours of the morning, which only underlined how unusual an event this is now – he has the occasional morning waking, but I can’t remember the last time he woke twice. The first time was at around 5.20 with an excessively wet nappy that had soaked through – I thought it might take a while to settle him, but as soon as I’d finished changing him he crawled back into bed and went straight back to sleep. Then he came in again around – I can’t remember exactly, but some time between 6 and 7, and I just took him back and lay down with him in his bed for half an hour.
After that, he slept until an unheard of 9.00. In fact, he was still sound asleep then, but I woke him at that point. I hated to do it (for my sake, not his – seemed a shame to throw away perfectly good blogging time), but we’d planned to take him swimming that morning and, if we were to get back in time to let the guests in, we needed to get going. So I got him up and ready and we set off.
This was Jamie’s third swimming session. His attitude’s certainly changed since the first, thanks to Barry putting in the effort to nudge him that little bit past his fears – this time, as last time, he was raring to go. The only problem was that he seemed to have forgotten about kicking when he got in the water, which meant that he couldn’t warm up, which meant that he clung to me as closely as he could to try to stay warm, which was something of a vicious circle as it made him even less willing to kick. After a short while, Barry hit on the idea of moving him towards me through the water as I moved backwards gradually so that we stayed the same distance apart, until he started kicking, whereupon I stood still so that he closed the distance between us. The idea was that this way, he’d make the association between kicking and moving closer to his goal. This seemed to work well. By the end of the quarter-hour we spent in the pool, he was a lot more willing to kick when we moved him through the water, and, after seeing me swim a few strokes, he even started making the arm movements as well.
We stopped off on our way home to buy a couple of helium balloons (I got one with Bob the Builder on, as he loves his Bob the Builder CD and musical doll, and one which lets you apply your own number stickers to say which birthday it is, because he’s fascinated by numbers) and a card for him, and then managed to get home before the others arrived. Jamie was delighted with his Bob the Builder balloon, promptly heading into my study to switch on the stereo with the CD in and grab the Bob the Builder figure to show me that it was the same as the one in the picture. Barry’s parents and brother turned up shortly, then my mother, and finally my sister with her boyfriend, and there was a short chaotic time of people running round trying to get lunch put out for the nine of us and find someplace for the piles of presents (and my mother trying to wrap the last of the presents).
Before going through to eat, we gave Jamie his first couple of presents – I wanted to spread them out a bit during the day, as we did last year. One thing that has definitely changed is that he now gets the whole idea of trying to get the paper off presents to get to what’s inside, a concept that definitely baffled him last time around. (In fact, when we left him unsupervised for two minutes in the general pre-lunch kerfuffle, we found him up on a chair on the dining room table half-way through unwrapping the present my mother had just wrapped.) This is interesting, because the last time he had any wrapped presents was at Christmas – nearly a year ago, and he wasn’t too sure what to do with them then, either, as far as I can remember. So this isn’t something he’s learned directly. It’s one of the many, many little signs of how much more he’s learned about how the world works, how you go about doing things.
The first present he opened was his Aunty Ruth’s present, which was a tractor and trailer which did lots of interesting things when the appropriate buttons were pressed (lights went on, horn blared, animals made species-appropriate noises, tractor chugged forwards, and it played a cheery little song). He was very pleased with this, and had so much fun trying out all the buttons that it took a few minutes to distract him long enough to open my mother’s present, a shape-sorting sphere. He liked that a lot, as well, but he couldn’t get the hang of finding the hole that matched each shape, so we helped him find all the right holes to post all the shapes before we went through and all crowded in round the dining table for lunch.
Jamie joined us at the main table for lunch last year as well, but then he was in his high chair, still eating with his fingers. This time, he was sitting up properly on a chair (though he did find it easier when we gave him a cushion) and even having a fair bit of success in using a fork. In fact, he was almost trying too hard with this – he hadn’t realised some foods were meant to be eaten with the fingers and was trying to eat everything with a fork. This worked quite well with the grapes, but he was rather stymied by the slice of bread and butter.
After that, I took a sleepy little boy upstairs and he settled down easily for his nap. (Another big change from last year and the baby who could only fall asleep nursing or drinking from his bottle, with someone cuddled next to him.) Then, when he woke up, Barry got the birthday jelly ready on the dining room table, illuminated by torchlight from underneath, along with the football cake we’d bought for the grown-ups of the party who didn’t like jelly. Jamie was very pleased with the jelly. He ate two bowlfuls of it, and even managed to use his spoon for some of it.
After I’d taken him upstairs for his clean-up and change of clothes, I brought him downstairs and the present-opening started again. Let’s see if I can remember everything he got:
I gave him a CD of children’s songs, and some plastic zoo animals. Barry’s brother Simon gave him Thomas the Tank Engine wellingtons that light up when he stamps his feet. Barry’s parents gave him a little gadget from the Doctor Who exhibition that lights up with lots of flashing lights when he presses a button, and Archie Mouse from Bagpuss, who sings the mice’s song when Jamie presses his tummy. And from Barry, he got Teletubbies. First a mini-Dipsy, to go with the mini-Laa-Laa we’ve already given him; then, as the grand finale to his presents, a Po which plays the Teletubby song when you squeeze its hand, complete with moving pictures on the tummy screen.
Jamie really liked all his presents, and it was hard to get him to stop playing with each one long enough to open the next. (We should really have stuck to the spreading-the-presents-out plan, but by then people were carried away with the sheer enjoyment of watching him open them.) He’s almost figured out all the shapes on the shape-sorter already, and he’s had enormous fun pressing the buttons on the various other things and looking at the flashing lights. And Po was every bit as much of a success as Barry hoped for. Jamie’s eyes got huge when he pulled the wrapping paper off and saw what it was. The evening’s activities have been conducted to a steady background of the Teletubbies theme tune as Jamie made her play over and over again, interspersed with bursts of "We will mend it, we will mend it…"
When Barry’s mother pumped up the inflatable mattress for Simon in my study, he thought this was great fun as well. He wanted to try stepping on the pump as well, alternating this with throwing himself down on the mattress, giggling, rolling over, jumping up to run back to the pump and step on that again. Dinner was a lot later than he was used to, but he dealt with this like a trouper. He sat up at the table again and ate chicken and mashed potatoes and potato wedges and carrots and sprouts, and did such a nice job of using his fork. Even though it was after his bedtime by now and he’d had a long and tiring day, he stayed in a really good mood, though I could see his eyelids drooping. When he finished his dinner, I took him upstairs for his bath and stories and bed. And, at the end of his last day as a one-year-old, he fell asleep playing his musical star and cuddled up to his little Dipsy toy.
When I tucked him into bed and talked softly to him about all the exciting things he’d been doing that day, the way I always do last thing before I kiss him goodnight, I tried to tell him how special it had been watching him that day, how special it was to have him for a son, how very much I loved him. I know he can’t understand the words yet. But he understands what I really want him to understand. He understands that when he wakes up in the middle of the night and he’s soaking wet or just a bit confused and not sure how to get back to sleep, it’s OK. He doesn’t need to cry, because he can just come and find Mummy, and Mummy will take care of him and make it all better again.