Time flies, eh?
Zane is six months already! So much change in such a little space of time. I recall – what seems like an eon ago – always having to cradle a little baby to sleep, a little baby with an upset tummy who would only welcome sleep when in a very specific position in the crook of my arm. That position was “The Sleeping Leopard”: he would lay face down on my forearm, his head on the inside of my elbow, limbs dangling and he would whimper. Not only was a particular position required, I had also to be gently moving, swaying like a metronome, walking about the house at a slow and rhythmic pace. Anything else would result in incessant crying. Sitting down to rest to support my aching arm was out of the question, regardless of how slow and careful I was; he would always know when I would try to gently lower myself into our infinitely inviting couch and he would bawl his disapproval, as though he could detect when my arse came within close proximity to a comfortable surface.
It’s completely different now. Then, sleep was hard to come by when he had stomach pains, and he would only cry when in pain or hungry. Now, he just doesn’t want to sleep at all! There is far too much going on for him to sleep and miss out on ultra-important developments in the day, like what I’m having on my sandwich, or what colour socks Jas will put on. Not only that, he has learnt to cry not just to satisfy a primal need, but to get our attention, to be picked up and being given an adult view of what is happening in his little world. And he also now has hair. Not just a downy sheen, a trace of fine follicles that barely look like they are there, but the start of a blonde mane that makes him look like a little boy, no longer a baby, that makes it much more difficult to remove porridge from his head.
It’s all about food
A baby’s learning curve is steep when you think about the skills we humans have, such as being able to pick things up of various size, shape, texture and weight, but Zane is climbing that curve as though it has an escalator installed in it. Like any learning, however, there are mistakes to be made. He is getting very good at holding bottles, and we recently let him pick up his milk bottle rather than hand it to him. We put it on the table in front of him, and he launched his body forward, clumsily grabbed the bottle by the teat and gripped it tightly. The bottle comically shot a fine white stream of liquid at his head, which made Zane pause and look at us with a single milky eye, wondering what had gone wrong in his valiant and impatient effort to feed himself.
Zane seems to want to completely skip learning steps at times. I cut a piece of apple for him, a nice sized piece that he would find easy to grasp in his little fist. I put it on the table in front of him, with the rest of the apple just beyond it. He looked at me, and then leant forward and over the piece I had cut especially for him and grabbed the rest of the apple. He dragged it towards him so he could stab his fangs hungrily into it. Clearly I was taking things too slow for him.
Zane’s enjoyment of food normally equates to a great deal of mess. Unfortunately he doesn’t understand what mess is yet, only that food is fun. If he really gets into a little bowl of porridge, for example, it normally results in Zane looking as though he has bathed in a large bucket of the stuff. He gets food everywhere: we’ve cleaned bits of carrot from behind his ear, yoghurt from his eyes, cucumber that was stuck to his back, pasta from between his toes and rice from within his nappy. Not only does he get food all over himself, he’ll spread it on any clean surface within reach. If I’m holding Zane as he eats a bowl of yoghurt, he will typically pause, look at me, smile a satisfying look-what-I’m-doing kind of smile, and then casually and absent-mindedly rest his yoghurt-dripping hand on my arm, affectionately rubbing it a bit, perhaps to thank me for his meal, or perhaps just to ensure that the yoghurt gets deeply into my pores.
We try to give him as big a range of food as we can, but admittedly I shy away from feeding him some foods whenever I can (and let Jas do it). The main culprits are from the food group I call Adhesive Foods, primarily yoghurt, porridge and Weetabix, those that stick to Zane’s hair, his skin, his eyelashes and between his fingers and toes, often requiring a bath and special tools to remove all traces of it from his person. As Zane takes a while to eat a bowl of food, anything that hasn’t made it into his mouth has dried up by the time he is done. Once dried, yoghurt requires a mild paint-stripper to remove; porridge needs heavy duty sandpaper; and Weetabix – the most powerful Adhesive Food - requires a diamond cutter to remove from surfaces it has been applied to.
Then there are the Migrating Foods, those that seem to find themselves in places far flung from whence it was first given to Zane – in shoes, behind cushions, on the ceiling or on the neighbour’s dog. Prime candidates for this group are rice and couscous. We have only fed couscous to Zane once as we were still finding the little balls about the place weeks after feeding them to him. I’ll be prepared to try giving it to him again once we have a house that contains a specially built clean-room complete with special protective suits, a room secure enough that would permit radioactive materials to be handled inside it.
Zane normally lets us know what his developmental needs are: he was very clear in telling us when he was ready to eat food by launching himself at an apple I was enjoying; he simply bawled out when he was laying on his back and wanted to practice sitting up. We discovered one night – at around 3am – that he is practicing other things by stealth. We awoke to gentle grunting, a noise that sounded a bit like a thieving squirrel trying to prise open our window. We peeked down on the little man and found him on his belly. This was unusual in itself as he typically slept on his back, and occasionally on his side. It seemed that he was practicing crawling! He was spending a lot of time getting his butt in the air and then resting, with his face in his hands. He’d then lower his butt and then raise it again, grunting with effort with each elevation, and maybe attempting to propel himself forward a little when he had strength in his arms. We have no idea why he feels the need to improve his crawling as we slept, although he does have a habit of surprising us with the speed with which he advances with certain skills. It certainly explains why he always sleeps in.
Zane and I had a smiling competition. Zane smiled at me, as he often does. Yes, it is nice. I smiled back, as I do. He did it again, a little more cheesily, with both of his lower fangs visible. I did the same. He then cut loose in response, and gave a smile so big that his eyes were almost closed with the effort of pulling the corners of his mouth as high and as far apart as possible. Well, I couldn’t leave it there, and produced a sterling smile that I would have thought would have Zane reeling. But no: he pulled out his big guns. He reproduced his squinting-cheesy-toothy grin, AND tensed his arms in front of him, like a body builder showing off his pectorals, AND groaned happily at the same time. Well, I couldn’t compete with that. My sides had split in laughter.