What a difference a year makes

When Jamie turned one, my mother gave him a "Congratulations" card instead of a birthday card.  "When I look at what he’s managed with his year," she beamed "it makes me wonder what I’ve been doing with mine!" 

It’s somehow easier to lose sight of just how much he changed in his second year as well – after all, no year is going to hold as much change as the first year, and after the first year it’s easier for further changes to blur with the ones that have already taken place and get buried under the onslaught of further growing.  So this – very belatedly – is a post I meant to write for Jamie’s birthday, recording the changes that happened his second year.

I’ve already talked about how much his verbal comprehension, and general comprehension of how the world works, have increased (even if his expressive language, alas, is one of the few things that’s hardly changed at all).  As far as motor skills go, he went from taking his first few steps just before his birthday to running everywhere.  At the age of one he could climb up and down the stairs by wriggling on his tummy – by two, he could walk up and down, slowly and carefully, holding a finger or the bannister.  (He got plenty of practice in stair climbing during that year, since he figured out how to pick the lock on the stairgate at an early stage of the year.)  He’s learned to climb all the ladders on the climbing frames at the park.  He can do proper both-feet-off-the-floor jumps.

He still loves most of the things he loved when he was one – climbing, exploring, playing with buttons, getting into everything, creating chaos – but he developed new interests this year, as well.  Books, for starters.  Well, I suppose he already liked books, but his second year was when he discovered that they’re fun for far more than just pulling off the shelves en masse or enjoying the noise the pages make when you riffle them.  It’s not a great surprise, I suppose, that my child loves books; but it’s a great joy to me to see how much he loves them.  Despite being a madly active bag of wriggles most of the time, he will sit still for ages to listen to a story.  And listen to it again.  And again and again.  (My mother did obtain a certain amount of deeply-felt satisfaction in hearing about that last.  It’s the fulfilment of the classic parental wish that your children will some day have kids just like them.)

He also developed a passionate interest in numbers.  Written numbers, that is – so far as I can tell, he doesn’t really have a concept of numbers representing a quantity.  This child actually is the child that toy manufacturers try to convince
parents they have; he is fascinated by this sort of pseudo-educational
stuff.  I really hadn’t planned on teaching him letters or numbers yet – there are so many more important things for a child this age to be learning – but since he was clearly interested, when he pointed to the numbers in his books I named them. And he learned them from that – long before he was two, he could recognise all the digits and pick them out when asked.  Then he started getting interested in letters as well, pointing to different letters on the covers of books like Goodnight Moon or Turning Thirty where they’re in large print and easy for him to see.  So I named those for him as well, and told him what sounds they made, and sometimes what the whole word he was looking at said (and, since I am a Stephen King fan, sometimes "M-O-O-N spells Moon.  Laws, yes."  One gets few such apt cue lines in this life.)  I don’t know how many letters he knew by the time he turned two, but he certainly knew some.  (I know this because he actually named a couple of letters out loud, spontaneously.  This despite his utter disinclination to learn any actual words.)

When he turned one, he was still nursing, although I was already cutting the nursing down.  I weaned him completely when he was sixteen months.  I can’t remember whether or not he’d already tried his sippy cup by his first birthday, but, even if he had, most of what he drank that wasn’t from me would have been from bottles.  Now, sippy cups are old hat – he can drink from an ordinary cup.  We discovered this not due to mealtime experiments, as we didn’t want him pouring the stuff all over the carpet, but at bathtime – while I run the bath, he climbs up to the counter to play on there, and he taught himself how to turn the tap on in the sink, fill the toothmug with water, and drink it.  (And, yes, he learned the hard way that the hot tap is crucially different from the cold tap.) 

At mealtimes, he has an intermediate cup designed for children learning to drink – it has a concave lid on with a hole, so that when he tips it up to drink the lid fills with liquid and he can drink small amounts at a time.  Barry got it for him after reading somewhere that children of his age were meant to be learning to drink from a proper non-sippy cup (come to think of it, I have no idea where he read it, since it’s normally me who reads all the child development stuff, but he did) and started to worry that Jamie would find it somewhat humiliating to get to his university interviews without having mastered proper cup etiquette.  Jamie took to the intermediate cup like a duck to water (i.e., pouring it over himself and splashing it everywhere).

There were other changes at mealtimes, as well.  He learned how to use a spoon (and worked quite hard to do so – when he couldn’t manage to scoop the food up, he would put it on the spoon with his other hand.  If need be, he held it in place on the spoon as he moved the spoon to his mouth.)  He  outgrew his high chair – after he learned how to climb out of it, we got him a small-size chair and table for him to sit at.  By the last day of his second year, he was capable of sitting on a chair and eating at table with the rest of us.

Sleep has been one of the biggest changes, and here’s where you can take heart if you have a baby that’s a poor sleeper: During his first year, Jamie was hopeless at getting to sleep on his own.  I never had any luck with that whole put-them-down-drowsy-but-awake thing that the baby books advocate.  Putting him down asleep wasn’t any better.  He could hang onto my boob for ages, nursing himself down, but no matter how long I waited for him to fall into a deep sleep and how gently I eased him into his cot he would still wake up a good proportion of the time.  When he was a year old, I took things in hand and, with a little help from Ms Hogg and Mr Ferber, started doing something about this.  The details of that are a post in themselves and one which I promise to write one day, but the effect was spectacular.  If they had sleep percentiles for toddlers, Jamie would probably be on the 99th.  We did have a hiccup when he learned to climb out of his cot, and, of course, he was cutting back on the total amount of sleep he needed anyway by the end of the year; but, for most of the year, he was going down without a peep at naptime for a two- to three-hour stretch, and then falling asleep just as uncomplainingly at bedtime for a stretch of eleven to twelve hours – a stretch that became unbroken soon after I night-weaned him at the age of sixteen months.

When he was twenty-two months old, he moved from being a cot in our room to being in his own bed in his own room.  We had originally planned to make only the latter change at first, moving the cot in there and keeping him in it for as long as possible, but, of course, he pre-empted us on that by learning to climb out of his cot just a few days before the move was supposed to take place.  (Looking back, I realise what good timing this was.  The cot needs to be dismantled and then rebuilt to get it from one room to another, and, if he’d postponed the acquisition of this particular skill a few more days and let Barry go to the trouble of rebuilding the cot only to make it obsolete straight away, then this might have caused a certain amount of annoyance.)

There’s definitely a lesson in the fact that, since his first year, I’d been worrying on and off about how our little boy would ever make the move to his own room, how he would cope, how we would cope with the hassle of having to go into another room for any night-time calls instead of being able to handle them right there on the spot… and when we finally did make the transition, it couldn’t have gone more smoothly.  We moved the furniture around in that room the day before so that his bed-to-be was a) up against a wall and b) no longer under the wall shelves, as I didn’t want him bumping his head on them or trying to climb up; this meant that when he got up on the morning of the Big Move and I took him into his room to change his nappy as usual, he could see straight away that there was something different.  I explained to him that tonight when he went to bed, he would be sleeping in this room, and I talked to him about it again once or twice during the day. 

Then, when his bedtime came, Barry and I moved all his stuff – duvet, pillow, musical star, mini-light, the stuffed animals we kept in there for want of a better place to put them despite Jamie’s complete lack of interest in stuffed toys – from the cot to the bed, with Jamie watching.  Once this was done, I tucked him up in bed and went through the two-stories-and-lights-out that composed the final part of his bedtime routine at the time.  The last thing I always do before kissing him goodnight and leaving him is to cuddle up next to him and talk softly to him for a minute or two about the things he did that day and the things he’ll do the next day, and on that evening I talked again about the fact that he was now going to go to sleep in his own bed, and Daddy and I would be right there if he needed us, and when he woke up and got out of bed in the morning he could come to the next room and get us.  Then I kissed him goodnight and headed out the door, and he went off to sleep without a peep.

And that was that.  He accepted the room without difficulty and has been perfectly happy going to bed there.  Of course, there have been plenty of nights when it hasn’t gone that smoothly and he’s got up and had to be returned to bed, but that’s not because of the room, but just because he can get up now he’s no longer confined to a cot and so he tries his luck to see whether maybe this might be the night when we’ll let him stay up and play.  Any minimal inconvenience of having to go from our room to his during the night to get him settled when he does wake up has been far more than outweighed by the convenience of being able to put a light on and talk in normal voices in our own room in the evenings.  Putting laundry away and getting my clothes ready for the next day have suddenly become easy jobs again.  I thought I’d miss looking at his little face last thing before I went to bed at night and first thing in the morning, but I still do that; I just have to creep into his room to do so.

Oh, and he has also managed very well with something we were concerned about – namely, staying in bed while he sleeps.  We go into him last thing before bed and first thing on waking to turn him back to the appropriate position on the frequent occasions when he’s wriggled round to the perpendicular (and, on one occasion, round a full 180 degrees to leave his head under the duvet and his feet sticking out on the pillow.  How he didn’t wake himself up I’ll never know.)  Since Barry goes to bed very late and I get up – on the four days a week when I’m out at work, anyway – very early, this only leaves a few hours during which there’s a risk of cumulative wriggling landing him on the floor, and, although this did happen a couple of times, it’s been months since the last time.  We started off with the mattress from his cot on the floor next to the bed and a huge stack of cushions on top of it.  After a few months, we moved the cushions. A couple of nights ago, I finally took the step of moving the mattress.  I must say, it’s good to be able to get around the room relatively unhindered once again.

I know I’m going to hit ‘Post’ on this and then remember yet another change I should have put in.  There have been so many.  His teeth – he had eight at the start of the year (a full set of front teeth) and had doubled that number by the end of the year, having all but his back molars.  (And he never showed the slightest upset with any of them, even the molars.)  His glasses and the eyepatches.  Learning to type letters and numbers on Mummy’s computer.  Moving from his baby carseat (not a minute too soon – he could barely squeeze into it by then) into a bigger one.  It was the year he first went swimming, first went to Tumbletots, first stayed with Granny while Mummy and Daddy got to go out.

And, through all this, some things have stayed the same.  At the end of his second year, he’s still the same incredibly curious, enthusiastic, active, energetic, cheerful, good-natured child as he was at the beginning of it.  It’s still a joy and a wonder to watch him grow.  And it’s still an amazing, exhausting adventure to be his mother.

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