On Friday, my baby will be ten months old. I think I have spent most of that time exclaiming about how quickly time is passing, but it’s true. One minute you are holding your baby for the first time, and, what seems like just moments later, you are looking at them as they stand unaided for the first time.
Newborn babies are a bit like Morph, remember him? They’re squishy, and malleable, and they’re constantly changing. But they’re not them yet. Friends and relatives may try to impose personalities upon them “Oh, you can just see in her face she’s going to be mischievous”, but you know it’s all baseless. The vulnerable little baby you hold in your hands hasn’t yet even started thinking about developing a personality, she can barely open her eyes.
Being a new parent, is a lot like having a Tamigotchi or a Furby [please delete as appropriate for your age]. You have a list of things that must be done; feed the baby, change the baby, wash the nappies, soothe the baby, clean up the sick. You are theSisyphus of all things baby related. Day in, day out, you repeat those same activities. There isn’t time to do anything else, as soon as you work to the bottom of the list, the baby is hungry and you must start all over again. If you were less exhausted, you might even possibly maybe get slightly bored of the monotony of your new life. But then you look down at your baby and feel full of a burning pride-filled love, and you happily wipe the sick of the sofa.
Like the electronic dog on a keyring, a newborn baby lets you know when you fail to meet her needs. That croaky cry of a newborn is, at the time, one of the most offensive sounds known to man, or mother. Now though, I quite like hearing the cries of a newborn as it reminds me of those first few weeks. But at the time, it was soul destroying. It was the sound of failure; the sound of letting someone down. Not just someone though; the most important person in the world.
For the first few weeks, the baby is quick to let you know when you are failing as a parent, but there is little commendation for your efforts. You can assume you are doing an acceptable job when you hear silence, but the baby won’t thank you for your efforts.
With a Furby or a Tamigotchi, they will reward you for your five star care by playing with you. The Tamigotchi will play ball with you, and the Furby will purr. If, for the first two months, these toys offered no reward and simply continued to need relentless care, children would tire of them quite quickly.
But the newborn baby does just that. For new parents, the only reward is managing four hours of continuous sleep, and this can’t really be considered much of a reward when it was previously accepted as the norm. But, fools that we are, new parents gratefully lap it up and bask in the glory of a good sleeper.
After a month or so of being full time carers to ungrateful offspring, you are finally rewarded with a smile. The first smile is basically the gold seal of approval, this is it - you’re doing a good job! We actually missed our baby’s first smile because we just assumed she had wind. We only discovered this weeks later when the Health Visitor came round. So, our poor daughter’s first attempts at basic communicative praise went unappreciated. Worse than that even, each time she smiled at us, we laughed in her face and commented on what a “farty baby” she was. One can only imagine the ingrained damage we may have done to her developing personality at this early stage.
The smile is the start of it all. The personality begins to blossom before your eyes. If things or people make her smile, then you can safely assume she likes them. Cue hundreds of irritating comments about how “She is such a girly girl!” and “Ooh, she likes my necklace. She’s going to be into fashion.”
If, like me, you are prone to the rage, it is important you smile politely through these comments and try not to snap at distant family members who are probably talking on auto-pilot rather than deliberately assigning gender stereotyping to your daughter who CAN and WILL grow up to be whatever she bloody well wants and will not be pigeon-holed at an early age into wanting to marry a prince or OMG heart the colour pink 4evs.
But now, at ten months old, my daughter does have a personality. Not a full one of course, but the beginnings of a person are starting to take shape. She is curious and adventurous, she will happily crawl to the other end of a room to play with something new, as long as I am there when she looks back to check on me. She likes new things, they don’t have to be toys, it could be a wooden spoon or a leaf, but if it’s new it will entertain her until she has explored every inch of it. She likes to roar, especially at bigger children. I’m hoping this is something she will grow out of. She has a huge smile which makes her look completely insane. She scrunches her face up so she can’t see, and that is her big smile. She has learned to fake laugh which she does often. She likes watching older children, and people walking past. She loves seeing animals, but I think she sees them as moving toys.
I can’t believe how much she has changed in ten months. From a morph-esque little lump, to the little girl sleeping next to me now. She doesn’t seem like a baby anymore. She can’t talk but she can communicate with me. She can tell me when she is hungry, or wants to use the potty, or wants to sleep or play. She can shake her head for no. I am really proud of how much she seems to know her own mind, and I try to respect this by letting her dictate what we do as much as is practical.
She still feels like a part of me, but at the same time she now also feels like a person in her own right.
My little Ebony.