Milly is the youngest baby in her Post-Natal Group, and whenever we're together I'm always conscious of how she trails behind the rest developmentally. She, for example, is only just starting weaning, while others in the group have been chomping down jam jars full of broccoli ice cubes for weeks now. "Look!" the other Mummies cry proudly, "look at how my baby sits up on his own!". Or worse, they affect nonchalance: "Oh, yeah, he's been doing that for a while now." Milly, meanwhile, spits out everything I give her and then slides cheerfully sideways. She's still more interested in her feet than anything else. The others babies are all so over their feet; 2011 is all about rolling, apparently, but no, Milly sits there, displaying an admirable resistance to peer pressure, and gazes in rapt fondness at her toes, squeaking at them happily for much, if I admit it, of the day.
I remember when I was so excited that she'd found her feet. She's the youngest of her Post-Natal friends, but the oldest in her NCT class. "Look!" I cried proudly, "look how she grabs her toes!" "Ohhhh" the others breathed, "our babies don't know about toes yet." Milly reigned supreme and I decided that everything was relative.
But, after Christmas, Simon and I answered a distress call from one of the other NCT Mums, stuck at home on her own with a distinctly bad-tempered little boy. We met at the new fancy tea place in Stratford and she asked about our Christmas. "I can't believe Milly's on solids already!" she said. I smiled proudly over my fancy tea. "I know. I mean, she's only tiny, so she barely eats anything, and most of it goes down her front, but, hey, its a start." "That's so amazing! What are you giving her?" she said. "Pear and apple and cinammon, " I reported, "and sweet potato and broccoli." "Oh, that's wonderful." she said. "I gave Thomas some mashed up banana this morning."
What? Thomas is one of the youngest babies! And bananas are, like, practically finger food! Where did this come from? I had but one hope. "Did he eat it?" I ventured. "Oh yeah! He wolfed it all down. Didn't you, hungry boy?" I smiled, my heart dashing against the rocks of bitter disappointment, and sent Simon to get me a second muffin.
Because that's it now. The other babies may be younger than Milly but they're also all bigger (she's a wee, small thing). We've passed the early developmental stages where it's all fairly well set out on a timetable for you, and we're into the uncharted worlds where all the professionals will tell you is that "every baby's different". And, let me tell you, size matters. Bigger babies are hungrier babies, and, for some reason, sittier-up babies.
So whether we're at a Post-Natal or an NCT gathering the story will now be the same. Other mothers will coo over how much their baby has come on while Milly and I will trail at the back, gazing at our toes and spitting out all our broccoli puree. Other babies will smugly nibble on breadsticks and bits of apple while Milly will continue obstinately to try fit both my nipple and her thumb into her mouth at the same time...
...Wait a minute...
...Oh My God! Look everyone! Look! My baby's multi-tasking!