Having done the baby stage once, I was expecting to enjoy watching my daughter grow up, but perhaps not be quite so amazed by it as the first time around. My son at this age had my complete and undivided attention. I would sit and play with him and watch him, waiting eagerly for him to pass objects from hand to hand, swallow his first bite of finger food, pull himself up to standing, take his first step. My daughter does have an audience (her brother loves observing her and will keep me updated on her activities at the top of his voice), but life is much busier. I noticed that she was passing her spoon from her left to her right hand while in the middle of mopping up spilled milk, fielding requests for a fourth helping of Weetabix and trying to finally squeeze in a moment for a cup of tea.
“Hey!” I thought. “When did she start doing that?”
Perhaps because I don’t have the time to be watching and waiting for each milestone, she amazes me more. Every day I am startled by what she is capable of. I keep thinking: did the Toddler do this when he was her age? It seems very advanced.
She was eight months yesterday, and what I am most struck with is how well she can communicate with us. Yesterday at lunch time, the Toddler and I invented a new game to play with her. It is called Hands in the Air! We both stick our hands in the air and start waving them about, looking expectantly at the baby. She beams at us. Her breathing quickens with excitement. Then she lifts up an arm and flaps it up and down, looking from me to the Toddler. “I’m joining in!” her proud face is saying.
It occurred to me, as my son and I were sitting there with our hands in the air waiting for her to follow suit, that this is also her first experience of peer pressure.
Babies are of course well versed in expressing both displeasure and joy. When she sees her brother first thing in the morning she will screech and wave and kick her legs with excitement. If he hugs her a bit too forcefully (eg: puts her in a headlock) she will exclaim in protest. If I don’t keep her highchair tray supplied with titbits and her spoon loaded with food she will shout and cry.
But her communication is becoming more subtle as well. She is choosing what she wants to eat. A piece of banana she will fall upon with ravenous gusto. I put a piece of pepper in front of her next. She examines it. It is not yellow, therefore not a banana. She doesn’t even pick it up but turns back to me, waiting for something better. I put a piece of cheese down. It is yellow, so she picks it up and tastes it. She pulls a face. This is not banana! She throws it on the floor and turns back to me, now giving me a frustrated shout. Her little hand reaches out to the rest of the banana, which is lying in front of me.
I am constantly amazed at what she can communicate without words.
Yesterday she was sitting on the floor while I hung out the washing. She got a bit fractious, so I sat down next to her and we looked at a soft baby book together. It had a fluffy bird that you could hide away in its nest, and we played peekaboo with it for a bit. “Oh hey!” I thought as her hand went to the nest after I’d hidden the bird, “She is learning about object permanence.” When she seemed happy again I stood up, intending to go back to the washing.
From the floor I heard a friendly screech. I looked down. The Baby was beaming at me, holding up the book towards me with both hands. “That was fun!” she was saying. “Can we read it again?”