Half way through. What have we created?!


Half way through this project and we have a kid who talks a lot. Today, his nursery told me he was moving up into a room with the older kids, ahead of time, because of his language skills. As much as I’d like to think it’s a sign of his genius, the cynic in me knows it’s because they’ve recognised that NO ONE – not even nursery staff – should have to listen to daily, detailed analysis of each episode in Series Four of Fireman Sam for more than six months at a time.

Does it have anything to do with the changes we’ve made? In January, we had a kid who made a LOT of noise, but very little sense. He wasn’t behind his peers, but he definitely wasn’t racing ahead. Now, well, there are moments in every day when I wish to high heaven that he couldn’t express himself quite so precociously.

But does that have ANYTHING to do with the fact that we stopped buying expensive toys? Or started eating the same food? Or left him to exercise his own imagination instead of stimulating it with toddler classes? I’d love to say yes. I’d love for this to be a smug parenting post. But the cynic in me spoils everything. Because the cynic in me is raising a (very untidy) eyebrow and – rather less eloquently than her son – saying: “Nahhhhhhhhhh.”

Kids develop at different speeds. In six months time, he’ll be back in the middle. Or perhaps he’ll be completely mute. Who knows. If I’ve learnt anything at all in the last six months it’s this: kids, without exception, are weird.

One thing I can be sure of though: I felt a little more of the weight of guilt lifting off my shoulders when they told me. Because even if none of the changes we’ve made so far this year have turned him into a mini Mozart, it’s becoming increasingly clear that they haven’t damaged him either. They fuck you up, your mum and dad. But me no more so than most. Hooray!

No matter how much research I did there was a part of me, in the early days, that really thought he might be missing out when we opted out of new toys and activities with fancy claims about developmental gains. That he might lose out on some of the developmental ‘nudges’ his friends were getting from music classes, sensory play, dance classes, snazzy toys and the rest. That they might be gaining some intangible ‘edge’ on him.

Here too, the answer’s proving to be nothing particularly revelatory or jaw dropping. In fact, it’s just another: “Nahhhhhhh.”

The truth is, I couldn’t care less how clever he is or what lessons might be learnt from the six months we’ve had. This year’s aim was never to change the world, even less to change Johnny. It was just to find a way of doing things that made us feel a little happier, a little less stressed, a little more balanced, a little less inadequate. And looking at my bright, paint-smeared, little thug as he chatted to all his nursery school friends today, I knew that we were on some decent tracks.