Heather once said to me that there is no time quite as special as when you have a newborn baby, and I think she’s right. Yes, there is the seemingly never-ending cycle of feeds, nappies and sleeps in those early weeks, but those first few months when they are still small enough to hold in one arm and are able to reduce a mother – and, occasionally, a father – to tears with a smile or some obscure gurglinf sound are simple pleasures which are soon lost in and overtaken by a rapid stream of ‘firsts’: first crawl, first word, first step, first birthday and so on. Time, it seems, is always in a hurry – and so too is our baby girl, Kara.
Kara reached her half-year birthday on Monday. Six months since she casually sauntered into this world – a mere 19 days overdue – to the strains of Erma Franklin’s Piece of My Heart. Ever since then it seems she has been in an awful hurry, almost as if she is wanting to make up for lost time.
Some of this, I’m sure, is down to the fact that she has two older brothers to observe closely and imitate. Growing up with an elder sibling – let alone two – isn’t something either Heather (as an only child) or I (as the older of two boys) ever experienced ourselves. Yes, there is the downside that she is always competing for parental airtime against two vocal and, at times, demanding boys. But equally there has been no mistaking the bond between sister and brothers which has been obvious from day one. It has brought out a cuddly side in our middle child, Toby, which he had never previously exhibited. Our oldest, Isaac, has always been a ‘highly tactile’ boy – as we were told at our first parents’ evening – and has never needed the slightest excuse to show his touchy-feely side. It’s clear that Kara adores him, and it’s a feeling which is equally obviously reciprocated.
Sitting at a dinner table with two boys, both of whom have a healthy appetite, has given Kara ample opportunity to observe and develop a desire for handling ‘real’ food herself. She had barely reached four months before she decided that milk just wasn’t exciting enough and she would bypass puréed baby food and move straight onto parsnips, carrot batons, broccoli florets and – most recently but also most enthusiastically – chips. (A girl after her father’s
stomach heart, there!) Yes, I know all the books advise you not to move your infant on to solids so quickly. You try telling her. Within a couple of days she had fully grasped the mechanics of grabbing a piece of food from her high chair tray in an iron grip, taking careful aim (well, usually) and directing it straight into her then-toothless mouth to suck on.
Her manual dexterity and coordination have developed in leaps and bounds ever since. Her party trick now is to snuggle into Heather’s shoulder when she picks her up for a cuddle and then unerringly whip her glasses off with a flourish and a cackle. She’ll be whipping out a table-cloth from under a load of crockery without breaking any next.
There’s no mistaking she’s a girl either. We thought both boys had quite a pair of lungs on them when it came to them wanting to make themselves heard, but they have nothing on Kara. When she decides it’s time for a proper diva strop – or even to politely enquire where that food you promised her all of 30 seconds ago has got to – she can project her voice like a pterodactyl equivalent of Katherine Jenkins. At the kind of decibel level that would make Maria Sharapova sound like a gagged Trappist monk. With a sore throat. I’m not joking.
Six months in, I find I’m learning more about her with every passing day. With Heather still bearing the burden of feeding duties, I tend to spend more time with the boys. (Toby, to my delight, is finally starting to show some genuine enthusiasm for being read to, while Zac has taken to playing strategy board games on my iPad and casually demonstrating that he can identify a Kandinsky painting at 20 paces.) Which means that I have spent much less time with Kara during her first six months than I did with either of the boys. That’s just the way things are, but one of the loveliest things about us going away to Devon for half-term last week was that I was able to spend more quality one-to-one time with my daughter. Kara has always been quick with a smile for her dad, but by the end of the week it felt like the bond between us had moved up a couple of levels.
It’s something I need to do more of. I understand her so much better – and feel so much more comfortable with her – simply as a result of having a week with her away from the distractions of work and daily household chores. But at the rate at which she seems to want to speed on through life, it’s a constant challenge to keep up with her as she grows and changes. Never has the phrase ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ felt so appropriate. This girl’s in a hurry, and I don’t want to miss any of it. Before I know it, it will be her first birthday already …