I can't believe how quickly Julia is growing up. I haven't seen her for a couple of weeks, but in that time she has learned to crawl, she has grown a tooth and learned to wave.
I was down in Baldock on Wednesday doing a childcare stint while Lucy finishes her dissertation. It's a bit of a frantic last-minute rush as it has to be submitted by the end of May, but she's at first-draft stage and has just a few more books to read and add to the stew.
I went down by motorcycle to make parking easier (Tom had gone to Pisa for a couple of days on a press launch for a new Piaggio scooter). He'd flown from Stansted and had ridden to the airport on his motorcycle, which meant I could nip into his vacant slot. The bike slices 15 minutes off the journey by being able to filter through queues of cars at the rush-hour roundabouts - Eye, Parnwell, Buckden, Sandy and Biggleswade - and then the queue to get into Baldock itself.
Julia was up and awake when I arrived and greeted me with a frantically waving arm. I love the enthusiasm babies put into their first waves. She waves with her left arm, not her right, and will wave to "hola" and "adios" but not yet to "hello" and "goodbye". It was time for bed because Julia had not slept well the night before as she has a bit of a cold and Lucy was keeping her up until I arrived so she didn't hear me and wake up. She went straight to sleep. Normally Lucy would go to the library to work at 10am, but this morning she had an appointment at the dentist. A filling had fallen out of her tooth a couple of weeks earlier and she had arranged for it to be filled.
So at 10.30, Julia was wakened and she and I went off to her Heartbeeps club and Lucy headed for the dentist. I think I had the better deal.
Heartbeeps is a weekly club for pre-toddler babies and mums. It's an hour of music and sensual stimulation and is a lot more "in your face" than mothers’ and toddlers’ club that our children used to attend. About 15 mums (and one grandad) sit on the floor with their babies around a large mat of fake grass. It's a session devised by yoga mums, not grandads with creaky knees and sitting cross-legged for an hour was the hardest part. We started with a big golden cloth spread on the floor and sang "You are my Sunshine" helped by a backing track with a funky beat. I sang enthusiastically, as instructed by the session leader, who acted as if she'd drunk three cans of Red Bull before starting the session.
After the sunshine sheet had been rolled up, there was a visit from two sock puppets who bit your toes (if you didn't look like crying). Julia has found a ring with tassels (for waving during the singing) and was giving that a good chew, so the sock monsters passed by with barely any acknowledgement. It was then time for a drive - the leader handed round plastic plates and we were invited to sit babies on our knees and, using the plate as a steering wheel, we were to go for a drive (cue more music). This was great as it meant I could prise myself out of the lotus position and straighten my knees. Julia grabbed the steering wheel and gave it a good chew (I think there's another tooth on the way). She chewed when we turned left, chewed when we turned right and chewed when we went over the bumpy road. The experiences come thick and fast at Heartbeeps and no sooner was the car parked than baby dolls were being handed out with nappies and feeding bottles.
The leader, with some sensitivity to middle-class, breast-feeding mums, apologised for the bottles and said someone was knitting her some breasts. Thank goodness they were not ready yet, that's one role play session I hope Tom enjoys. Julia chewed the baby and the bottle while the leader told us about some recycle-able nappies that were available to buy that could be washed and used again and again (just like we used to use). They were available in lots of different colours and it seems they now come with Velcro strips to make it easier to put them on and off. Sponsor’s message over, it was back to business: we put the nappies on, fed baby, took the nappies off, put them in the washing machine (a big sheet spread on the floor) along with the babies (plastic and real) and they were sprinkled with plastic soap suds and bubbles from the bubble machine. Cue the washing song.
It was a quick-wash cycle and then it was time to peg up the nappies on a line strung around the seated mums. Julia chewed the pegs. Everything went back in baskets, including all the plastic soap suds which were picked up by diligent mums. Time for the lights to be dimmed and the goodbye song and that was it – Heartbeeps was done.
Time had flown by. I’m not sure what Julia thought of the whole thing. There were some interesting new things to chew and she was very interested in the other babies. I found it psychedelic, like an LSD trip. We were strolling home, enjoying the sun and not in a great hurry when we met Lucy coming the other way. Julia started waving frantically and wriggling with excitement. Lucy’s face was numb and she wasn’t very happy. She’d never had an injection at the dentist before (in Ecuador, you man up when you get your teeth drilled) and she felt a bit queer.
I suggested she came home and had an early lunch, so I played with Julia while Lucy skipped down to the butcher/deli to get us a sandwich. Julia and I enjoyed our lunch, but Lucy felt too weird to eat, so she put Julia to bed and went to the library. Julia was a bit out of sorts when she woke up, she’s had a cold and is clearly not 100 per cent. She now crawls happily and likes to pull herself into a kneeling or standing position. A particular pleasure is to hold your hands and walk. She takes a stride with her left foot and then brings her right foot up to the left. This, and the waving with the left hand only, suggests to me she will be left-handed like her mum.
When Lucy was back I said I would walk up to Tesco with Julia to get her a few things while she did some jobs in the house. We had a nice walk up there and a pleasant walk around the unfamiliar store, but as I was loading items into the pram, the check-out lady said hello to Julia and she didn’t like that at all. We paid and legged it with Julia crying all the way home and making me look very bad.
It’s nice to spend time with Julia and the rate of change in her this last month has been amazing.