Thursday, 24 July 2014


Felix turned ten months this week, yet in official terms his age is still zero. It’s a funny thing that for the first year of life, when we go through the most rapid and remarkable development we will ever experience, our age is classed as nothing. Especially if you consider that by the time a baby is born it is already over nine months old. 

I mention this as I have recently been confounded by people making variations on the same remark, with the inherent expectation that I will agree. ‘Doesn’t it fly by?’ they remark while shaking their heads with a mournful air, ‘Seems like only yesterday that Felix was born’. ‘Yesterday?’ I think in bewilderment. ‘Are you mad?’ His short life has been so packed with change, with growth, with discovery, that I feel a hundred years have passed since he entered the world. From being born helpless, nearly blind, unable to control his limbs, to being a curious, laughing, standing, sentient tiny person in ten months seems miraculous to me, and a thousand markers stand testament to every change. The day he ate his first solid food. The day he first stood up. The first time he smiled, laughed, got a joke. His first swim. His first wave. Each new skill is like the tiny dot of colour in a pointillist painting, and one of the ultimate pleasures of parenting is to stand back every now and then and see the points connecting into a painting of infinite beauty and complexity.

For me this richly layered tapestry of development gives the impression that time has slowed down; every week offers at least one remarkable change, whilst a month is time enough for complete transformation. Felix sheds skins like a hyperactive snake, and I gaze in wonderment as this tiny being takes shape before my very eyes. What I find fascinating is that although as parents we teach our children and take great satisfaction from watching them learn, a more mysterious part of development is those changes that happen independently of any guidance, that appear spontaneously as their personality begins to crystalise. In the last couple of days Felix has formed a very strong attachment to an ancient dog-shaped pillow that I have had since childhood. Its fur is matted and its eyes are droopy with age, but he loves it nonetheless, and has taken to laying his head on it with an expression of adoration. Where this passion has come from I have no idea, but this battered old blue dog has well and truly stolen his heart.

Whilst on the subject of transformation, a profound change has materialised in Felix’s sleeping habits. At long last, and after months of disruption, Felix has started sleeping through the night. Halleluiah and Praise the Lord. I have been scared to write about it, or even mention it in case there was some kind of regression, but it seems to be holding. We are now in the third week of sleeping through and it is marvelous - although with certain drawbacks - for we have entered the dreaded 5am zone. Oh rude wake up call, I hear you roar. There have been a couple of 445 wake-ups when I have peered at the time with a sense of compete denial, but thankfully these have ceased and he seems to have stablised somewhere between five and six am. 

Old habits die hard however, and the night owls have had to undergo their own sleep training. Previously bedtime in our house has been around midnight, often later. This is no longer acceptable, and thus a process of adjustment is underway with bedtime slowly shifting back around the clock. The Mediterranean style nine pm dinners have gone, as have the eleven o’clock baths. Writing till one am, my most prized quiet time when the night is still and the mind can freely process and express the thoughts of the day has been banished, replaced with morning nap writing. While Felix sleeps peacefully, exhausted from a heavy morning of play and swings and sometimes an early bike ride – more on that next time – mummy writes. Or reads. Or just sits and gazes out of the window at the verdantly green lime tree. The scales have tipped one way and then another, finding their balance once again, and I am quietly discovering the delights of morning.

I rise with the sun just peeping over the roofs of the houses opposite, and the air is fresh and clean and lovely like a crisply laundered sheet. It has been hot recently, proper midsummer hot, and by nine the freshness of dawn has long evaporated. But in the early morning, just an hour or so past dawn, the air is redolent with the scent of promise. While the sun rises warms the earth, browning the grass and heating the sea and ripening the harvest, our son rises in his cot, his smile beaming out like the rays of that huge star overhead. Felix greets each new day like a lottery winner receiving a cheque for £1,000,000. His joy at simply being awake is startling. He scrambles to his feet, chubby hands gripping the bars of the cot, and begins his morning exercises of ‘up and down’. Gritty eyed we smile through the cobwebs of sleep at his face, aglow with happiness and radiant with wakefulness. ‘Hello world’ he bugles wordlessly from the cot’ ‘It’s a beautiful day and a beautiful world and I can’t wait to get out there and start enjoying myself’. And despite my die-hard late-night habits, I find myself in thrall to his morning zest and energy. The night owl has taken a bite of the early birds worm, and might even get a taste for it...

Tuesday, 1 July 2014


I stand poised on the bridge, stick in hand. Felix stands next to me, a burble of excitement on his lips, his twig held out like a samurai sword. 'One, two, three...GO!'. We throw our sticks into the rushing river and jostle to the other side of the bridge, eyes seeking them in the fast flowing water. 

This may as yet be a dream, but the time for pooh sticks is coming soon and I can't wait. With every passing day Felix is developing, growing, becoming stronger, more agile and more able. Last week he pulled himself up to standing for the first time, now every piece of furniture is a prop in his mission. He cruises round the edge of the cot with devilish insouciance, sturdy legs ever more certain beneath him. His perambulations have rendered much of our flat a death-trap, and I spend a lot of time foiling his attempts to smash his head on the sharp corner of a coffee table or drink from the cats bowl. Things are not helped by the fact that we are still living in our one bed flat, our myriad possessions swelled by the preposterous amount of gear and toys that babies seem to require. Every surface, shelf and corner is crammed with stuff, piles of which I move around in an ultimately futile attempt to make more space. Every day is an exercise in making each room multifunctional.

Nevertheless, I am revelling in Felix's increasing mobility, and await the time for climbing trees and kicking balls with eagerness. Having Felix has made me realise just how much the child within me still thrives, and as he grows up and into childhood it is as if I can grow down and become a child again with him. I have found the bottle marked 'Drink Me' and shrunk so I can enter through the tiny door and back into the magical secret garden of childhood. The joy of motherhood is that simultaneously you have to become a real adult; forsaking selfish and stupid behaviour and keeping constantly vigilant and caring for your infant, and yet it also gives you a ticket to innocence. Already it has begun; playing hide-and-seek with Mr Squirrel, Felix's favourite soft toy, creating 'lamp mummy' to amuse him during mealtimes, creeping under lowhanging trees to undertake our 'jungle mission'. Every flower and leaf is a sensory delight; his tiny fingers reach out to feel their textures, button nose wrinking in surprise when I hold him closer to inhale the scent of a rose. Bark is particularly fascinating, its roughness both shocking and exciting, while rain seen through the eyes of a child is an exercise in wonder; the leaden downpour transformed into a thing of beauty and magic.  

Felix has now been out in the world for nine months, the same length of time he resided in the dark waters of my womb. From being a tiny collection of cells, multiplying and mutating and clinging to life, comes a fully formed and unique person. A baby who will become a boy who will become a man. A man who may pilot a spaceship to galaxies unknown, whose chance of living to 100 is more than one in three, who may unravel the mystery of consciousness. Having a child is like throwing a stick in the river of time, and watching them dance along the silver stream of life is the sweetest pleasure of all. 

“By the time it came to the edge of the Forest, the stream had grown up, so that it was almost a river, and, being grown-up, it did not run and jump and sparkle along as it used to do when it was younger, but moved more slowly. For it knew now where it was going, and it said to itself, “There is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”  A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner.