Something terrible has happened. Our child, Mary, has started walking. I say walking, it’s kind of staggering like someone who’s been on a seven-day bender with Oliver Reed, swaying from side to side and looking like she might totter headfirst into the cat bowl at any given moment.
She seems to have no spatial awareness whatsoever and has walked into the leg on the kitchen table seven days in a row now.
Every time it happens, she falls over, rubs her head, adopts the same surprised ‘I can’t believe that just happened’ expression, then begins screaming.
The first couple of occasions I was sympathetic, scooping her up, giving her a cuddle and kissing the injured area.
But from the third time onwards I’ve rolled my eyes, shaken my head and left her to cry herself out, while worrying she might just be a bit thick. I mean as Oscar Wilde famously wrote, ‘to once walk headfirst into a solid kitchen table leg may be regarded as misfortune, to do it seven times is just bloody stupid’.
Mrs C has reacted to Mary’s walking as if we have witnessed some kind of minor miracle. ‘OH. MY. GOD,’ she screamed the first time it happened on Sunday.
I was in the bedroom doing some embroidery and sprinted downstairs, bursting breathless into the lounge, expecting to find some kind of shocking scene, possibly involving lots of blood and a large kitchen knife. Instead I found Mrs C teary-eyed, hands clasped to her mouth in astonishment.
‘Everything okay?’ I asked.
‘Mary … just … WALKED,’ she gasped, breathing so heavily she had to pause between each word. For a moment I thought she was in cardiac arrest and began to wonder which of the neighbours was most likely to have a defibrillator.
‘Oh, very good,’ I said, ‘well I’m upstairs if you need me’ – and with that turned to go. Which apparently is not the correct reaction, for Mrs C went ballistic, and not for the first time, accused me of showing a chronic lack of interest in our daughter, which is absolutely and categorically untrue; only last Friday I changed her nappy.
Of course I’m pleased that Mary is up on two feet but it’s no big deal is it. She’s a baby, it’s a natural progression.
I remarked this to Mrs C but rather than calming her, she slammed the door in my face and muttered something about the marriage being over, which is cruel of her to get my hopes up.
Since Mary’s first tentative steps, she has come on at a rapid rate and now walks everywhere – the downside of which is life will never be the same again.
Months ago, people used to say ‘make the most of the baby stage, it goes so fast’.
What I now realise they meant is, ‘how wonderful it is to be able to plonk your child in one place and go off and do something else’.
That’s what I used to do in the good old days, stick Mary on the floor in the lounge, then head to another room at the furthest side of the house to read a newspaper or play guitar for a few hours, occasionally popping in to stick her dummy back in when her distressed crying got too loud.
That’s no longer possible for now you can’t let her out of your sight.
She’s up the stairs, down the stairs, tugging at the bookcase, trying to pull the TV off its stand, fiddling with the oven, attempting to grab the cat by its tail, attempting to garrotte the cat, attempting to eat the cat’s food (sometimes I let her, it makes for much more interesting nappies).
In short, it’s a nightmare.
The one, sole remaining happy period of the day is nap time, when between the hours of about noon and 2pm we put Mary in her cot and she sleeps.
It is glorious. Apparently children stop having naps around the age of three.
When we reach that stage I intend to move out and live elsewhere.