Newborn has started to walk, at the moment it is towards me, my husband, his brother, anyone who is holding something he wants. Walking has been an interesting difference between my lads, the first wanted to stand and jump and walk. Many hours were spent holding him up my thumb encircled by fat fingers, my lap a trampoline and launch pad. My husband and I used to compare aching arms after days spent holding him on our knees, looking like an old-school acrobat in a babygro learning to control his knees, desperate to get going.
Newborn is different. He’s super speedy with crawling and a nightmarishly adept and fearless climber. Walking? Meh. He’s just as happy to crawl, watch, think. He doesn’t mind walking, and enjoys the sensation and novelty of me holding his hands and guiding him through the house as he combines heavy footfalls with his feather-light frame to both stomp and tiptoe at the same time. But he doesn’t demand that. Doesn’t seek it out as his brother did. And though he will walk to something we are holding out as a temptation, if we misjudge the distance, expect three steps not two, he will smile and slide down, and make up the ground between us far faster on all fours. But I can wait. Not least because it makes my heart go funny and my eyes go hot to think of the moment when his lightweight lumbering will reach the real destination – the moment when he realises he can walk away from me, just as he can lurch towards me.
I can’t decide how much of the difference between Newborn and his brother is just his personality, his physical aptitude, his desire, his will, and how much is my attitude to mothering now. I find myself far less keen to leap from milestone to milestone with Newborn, or at least far less concerned if we see shifts and changes stop and start.
With Spider-boy I think I craved the momentum, his forward motion part of the great appeal and celebration of life that was him and our relationship. I wanted to see him fly, move on, do new stuff, learn, enjoy – like a forever skimming stone picking up skills (clapping, waving, crawling, kissing, walking, laughing, jumping, smiling, talking, counting, chatting, bossing). Not competitive with his peers, but eager to find the new chapter and see a positive in the momentum.
Perhaps it was because that time in my life was so terrifying, and stuck. I felt paralysed and furious and desolate because I could never catch up and restart, reboot (and therefore get birth, recovery, early days ‘right’). And I felt so guilty for that, for not having gotten anything ‘right’ for Spider-boy, both by being depressed and upset and not-good-enough, but also by being trapped and haunted and unable to ‘move on’. I wonder if it is one of my many moments of incredible luck, that in a fogged up brain there was a chink of light which allowed me, if confused and confounded by my own experience of time not working in my favour, to at least embrace the speeding time exemplified by him as being a journey worth engaging with. And so I ran with it, and the changes.
With his brother I find it slightly different. The last few weeks have been so captivating with him. I feel awful typing this, but it is like having the most gorgeous baby-puppy following me around. He responds to simple commands and entreaties. It is all about physical love, about sharing and forging connections. He laps at my feet and grabs my ankles, climbs to my lap, nips at my food. He gives and fetches, brings me ‘gifts’ – a sock, an old ball, a shoe, (usually) an over-sucked biscuit. (The gifts are brief, of course, he wants the biscuit back so he can offer it to someone else, share his soggy treasure, but the simple basic exchange, the offer, the connexion, they are a treasure far greater than diamonds or even apple rice cakes). He’s always at my heels, a huge comfort and an obstacle; this stage is not without a perilous edge, I trip over him several times most mornings.
I say ‘always’, he’s at my heels when I’m not away or at work. And I miss him, how I miss him on those days when I can stride and stomp unimpeded, when my socks are nice and dry and my dress and tights aren’t snotty or snagged. When I look down and can see my work boots not my on all fours shadow, pooled at my feet like the train on my wedding dress, curled like a kitten, sucking my socks. What I would give then for a snotty rice cake.