When you have 2 children – and I can only speak from my experience of a three year age gap – the more subtle developmental leaps of your eldest sometimes go unnoticed amongst the chaos a toddler creates on a daily basis.
Last weekend I finally got a chance to have a bit of a mummy-son bonding experience with my four year old.
We were on one of our routine weekend stays with my parents. In the past, when the youngest has had his nap I have taken the opportunity of a quick jaunt into Kingston, which is just a short walk across the Thames, making the prospect of a Saturday shop too tempting to ignore!
I absolutely love a bit of (non-food) shopping but it became almost impossible when I had JJ. Even as a baby he seemed ridiculously unhappy the second I wheeled his pram into the clothing aisle of any kind of boutique, so I pretty much gave up this little pleasure. Recently, however, he has actually expressed an interest in accompanying me into this mecca of consumerism – he does, after all, have a small wish-list of his own and likes the idea of spending a little pocket money on a new car, train or bus for his ever-growing collection.
On Saturday, after a pretty dry, sunny week, the heavens opened on our drive over to my parents at which point I realised that I’d forgotten to pack not only the boys raincoats but also any kind of jumper or cardy for JJ (who tends to feel the cold even on warm days if there’s even the hint of a breeze). The uneasiness I felt in this knowledge gave me reason enough to suggest that he accompany me on a little spree, and, with the promise of some money to buy himself a ‘racing car’, we were off – umbrellas at the ready!
To cut a long story short we ended up with a hoody for him plus a t-shirt each for the boys from Primarni (bargain £8 the lot!), a hoody for EJ and shorts for JJ from H&M and then a Routemaster bus for JJ and an open-top sightseeing bus for EJ (hand picked for his brother – I told you he liked buses!).
As a treat (and because I am a member of the John Lewis marketing campaign, meaning I get a free coffee and cake each month!) I took JJ to the John Lewis cafe where we pigged out on fresh cream Victoria sponge and a chocolate muffin (off pops another button!). On the way out I spotted a really cute little asymmetrical striped tunic top on sale from Phase Eight and JJ happily accompanied me to the fitting room so I could try it on, offering his opinion and generally being really sweet.
I have to say he was really good company, really well behaved, held my hand, chatted, never once expressed boredom or made any unreasonable demands, and this made me realise how far we’ve come on this developmental journey. I realise this is a bit different to saying “I’m so proud of my child for writing a sentence or counting up to 100, or mastering a musical intrument” but what this says to me is that my little boy is excelling at sociability (which has also been highlighted to me by his preschool), and that is, in my book, a pretty key life skill. So whilst this all sounds pretty mundane and ordinary, it makes me feel proud of him.
Taught skills – the three Rs – he’ll master them in his own time and with people far more gifted at education than me – but learning how to be good company, away from the softplay and out in the wider world – that takes a bit of maturity, and I do believe I captured a glimpse of that last weekend and these ordinary moments have marked a subtle change in my big boy.