Recently, whilst my husband was out for the evening smashing a little ball around a squash court, I snuggled down in front of my log fire for a bit of what might be described as a “busman’s holiday” evening. For months I have had a documentary saved on my Watchlist called, simply, “Babies”. My husband being about as interested in this as he would be with catch-ups of Downton Abbey, I decided to wait until he was out for a suitable amount of time so that I could enjoy it without the inevitable verbal interjections from someone who would rather be watching Conan the Barbarian or the Star Trek boxed set!
Four babies named Hattie (good choice!), Bayer, Mari & Ponijao are filmed from birth until they are a year old. They grow up in very different environments, namely San Francisco, Mongolia, Tokyo and Namibia.
It was a fascinating insight into how, despite all the perceived Health & Safety issues which most parents spend every waking moment fretting about, each of these babies grow, roll, crawl, learn, topple, bump, cry, explore, laugh and … eventually … stand on their own two feet. Literally!
Concerns about swaddling (should we or shouldn’t we?) hit the hysterical forums on a regular basis in the UK, yet in Mongolia (where, let’s face it, it is pretty chilly) it is commonplace. Sophie the giraffe, reputedly the best-selling teething toy of all time, is replace in Namibia by a discarded and meatless sun-baked bone which is picked up from the ground and chomped on, whilst another baby lies on a colourful throw on a bed as the family cockerel wanders past, inches from the transfixed baby’s face. Feathers are fluffed, clucks are clucked and the baby is fascinated, not scared. Another wanders around outside the Yurt without a stitch on, sitting and patting two bored, dozing goats before clambering over them to his next adventure.
The documentary goes on to show a bigger brother (possibly 2.5-3 years old) antagonising his little baby brother by repeatedly flapping a cloth across his face resulting in short but heartfelt objections from the baby. The tormentors are not reprimanded constantly and the baby seems to make his feelings understood by having a shout!
The film moves gently and fluidly through the evolution of each child, ending in the crescendo that is equally the pride and the sorrow of every parent I know … baby’s first steps. Pride in the achievement: the leap, the effort that it has taken to learn; the sorrow as they recognise that their little one, once attached by their earth chains to the floor until this momentous point, is now growing up and off to discover their new world.
I found it immensely moving and reassuring. Beautifully and simply it shows that, despite all the gizmos and gadgets of the modern world, for all the fussing and analysing, for all the “by XX weeks/months your baby should be doing” hype, they all get there in the end. There is no rush, no schedule, no expectation that one baby will walk before the other.
In my job, I am often lucky enough to revisit some of the babies (and their lovely mums) months or even years after I have left them. I keep in touch with my ex-clients through a little on-line group so I get the news flashes about the first smiles, first roll-overs, first crawls and first words. I recently worked with twins for 7 months (from 4 weeks of age). One of them rolled over for the first time at 6 months – yet the baby bibles state that your baby should do this at 3 months. The other twin tried it at 6 months but didn’t like being on his tummy, so resigned from that activity until he was nearer 8 months. They both started crawling at about 10 months (often only backwards!) and were up on their feet just after their first birthday.
So – the moral of this babble is: please don’t be competitive with your babies. They will all learn in their own sweet way and will be running you ragged before you can say “Don’t press that button!”