J and I were a bit late to the whole parenting game compared to our other siblings, so by the time Miss O rocked up, she was lucky cousin number 7 (in that everyone else felt damn lucky that their child actually slept occasionally. Fun fact – did you know that giraffes only sleep for 30 minutes a day, max?? Remember a time when it seemed IMPOSSIBLE that any being could function on so little sleep? Yeah, me neither…).
Anyhoo, here are some of the definite pluses of arriving fashionably late to the procreation party (which with hindsight sounds a lot dirtier than I meant it to…)
The milestone misnomer
It’s so easy to become fixated on all the milestone charts. I’d go to baby groups and Miss O would be reclining leisurely on the playmat, whilst all around her, much younger tots seemed to be limbering up for the Baby Olympics; “Tarquin, darling, you’re going to lose valuable marks if you don’t nail that landing after the triple twist!”. My latest ‘your toddler this month’ email painted a picture of a child ‘tenderly nursing her dolls’ and rapidly expanding her vocabulary. At the time of reading, she was repeatedly running over Sally Doll with a shopping trolley and screeching ‘ehhhhhh???’ which, along with ‘ningningningning!!’ (answers on a postcard please), is pretty much all we can get out of her at the moment.
So it’s really reassuring to have seen my nieces and nephews all reach these milestones at very different stages, and know that it’s completely normal!
If you time it right, you get ALL the good stuff, for free! My fave was the maternity pillow my sister-in-law loaned me, which J also felt was excellent preparation for having a child, as it takes up most of the bed and completely prevents you from getting anywhere near your other half again…
Sometimes, all you need to turn a really rough day around is a (large) glass of wine and a ridiculous text conversation about how bloody weird your kids are…for example, here’s the message my sister sent me about her 4-year-old when she was on holiday last week:
HER: “We got X a lady toy yesterday, she speaks Russian when you press her tummy, so he’s now going around telling everyone he meets about his ‘wovely Russian lady’ – which sounds creepy as f*ck”
ME: It sounds like he’s ordered her off the internet!!
HER: “Apparently, she sleeps in his bed and he loves her…”
ME: “Oh the shame!! Do you have a picture of her?”
Which was the point at which I realised we were talking Lady and the Tramp, not some God-awful Russian Barbie doll, which was probably just as well really!! We’re clearly not watching enough Disney in this household yet…
Hands-on tiny person experience
I’m not 100% sure how valuable this was, as the babies basically cried every time I held them (to be fair, not that dissimilar to my own child’s behaviour for the first couple of months) and I was somewhat unnerved when J, given the choice between saving his nephew or a piece of cake from falling off a sofa, instinctively dived for the cake…luckily no long-term damage was done, and he’s not been faced with any such impossible dilemmas since Miss O came along…
Gross-out top trumps
When your little darling does something truly toe-curlingly disgusting, who else can you vent to without judgement but someone whose already been there, done that and hand-washed vomit out of the t-shirt?? The other night (not on my watch, I hasten to add) Miss O was playing with an old toothbrush in the bath – she stood up, unleashed a turbo-charged wee, put the toothbrush IN THE STREAM, then tried to put it back in her mouth! *shudders*. My sister then raised the ick bar even higher with her son’s adorable new habit of sticking his hands down his pants whenever he farts to double-check that he hasn’t shat himself; “It’s ok, I haven’t pooed mineself mummy!!” – which was apparently a real relief for everybody else in the supermarket…
“So, bloody embarrassing…what’s the best case scenario here if he turns out to be right??? Like we’re going to think ‘phew, thank f*ck he had the foresight to check’ when he pulls his faeces-covered hands back out of his arse crack…”
Turns out we’re all in the same, slightly crappy boat (I’m thinking of calling it the HMS ‘don’t put that in your mouth!!’) And now they’re all old enough to start playing together / ganging-up on us, who knows what level of carnage will ensue…
Hurrah for nieces and nephews, and the lovely people who made them!