It's very odd the first time one packs ones baby off to the nursery with a childminder. There are all the obvious things like worry and concern and (dare I say it) relief but, when he comes home, one realises that for the first time, one doesn't know every little thing about him and that he is beginning the first steps towards his own independence.
He came back from nursery with a collage that he had patently had nothing to do with - but then it turns out that they were giving babies all sorts of textures to feel and anything they really liked got stuck down. Apparently he was really interested in everything that they did and suddenly my Bad Mother Guilt stepped in an wondered if, despite the yoga and bouncing games and singing games and crawling games and toys and texture beads and trips to meet other babies, I have been depriving my son of the right sort of stimulation.
Independence is the name of the game at the moment. Apart from the two days a week he will now be spending with a childminder, he's spending more time alone with his Dad, including recently an entire night camping together in D's studio so I could be blind-sided by a good night's sleep. He came back beaming like the sun. He's more vocal, his gestures are more expansive, he's obviously been exploring the world and enjoying it. He's even shaken his rattle along in perfect time to music his Dad has been mixing - and apparently done it twice to prove it wasn't just chance the first time.
Clearly, being away from me has done him some good and I don't think he missed me a bit. To prove this point, after two days in which he had barely seen me, he greeted my boobs with a big happy grin and all I got was the top of his head as he rooted around trying to work out how to get underneath my jumper. I am a diner on legs.
I'm trying to get him onto bottles during the day and taking boobs off the menu until the evening. This is the equivalent of trying to get a fish to give up water. Charlie has never lived a day of his life without boobs. He had a boob in his mouth his first moments in the world, all day every day since then and on tap whenever he needs at night. Boobs, for Charlie, are a simple fact of existance. Not to have boob... well that's just silly. Never-the-less, I am spending boring amounts of time sterilising a small army of bottles, mixing up formula and then failing to get him to open his mouth to accept the bottle. Forbidding him boob doesn't work either, he just refused to drink - or even eat - anything until he is starving, hysterical and nakedly grabbing, eyeing up and mouthing at my boobs until they start leaking of their own accord, at which point shoving one in his mouth seems the obvious thing to do. You have not experienced failure until you have found yourself covered in a mix of vegetables and formula, sitting half naked in front of your son's high-chair with a boob in his mouth while he suckles contentedly, eyes closed, happily patting you with puree-covered fingers.
I know I will win this. There are, as someone pointed out to me, no eighteen-year-olds still on Mum's boob and so at some point between now and then he will have to give in. He has no compunction about taking bottles from other people and so perhaps this is the best solution. Two days a week he heads off into the blue to live his own life and drink from bottles in a preview of university life and then hopefully, on his days at home he won't see bottles as The Enemy of The Boob. Boobs will then slowly become things of the past and I will get to wear bras that don't clip together and tops that don't have Access All Areas necklines. Of course at some point boobs may once again be objects of desire for Charlie however, crucially not MY boobs. By that point of course I will be too old to care and my boobs will be safely tucked into my waistline.
In between then and now however there is a long journey away from the boob, into childhood, out of childhood and always, every step, away from me. Which is why I'm the one contorted over that high chair, holding on perhaps to what I realise now are a very scant few moments of Charlie's babyhood.