The other day, D and I were having a chat while our 17-month-old son, Elliot, was watching CBeebies (already I'm worried I sound like a bad parent and I'm only on the first sentence of my first column; in my defence, In The Night Garden was about to start). Suddenly, mid-sentence, D's face crumpled as though his heart had just melted and he started pointing wildly at Elliot.
I looked down to see Elliot staring up at me, doing an impression of a lion – the softest roar you've ever heard and a pair of tiny hands pawing at me. He was doing this in response to a toy lion on the screen, which by our calculations made him a genius.
It was undoubtedly the cutest thing either of us had ever seen and we couldn't have been more proud if he'd been up on stage receiving a Nobel Peace Prize.
But I'm not telling you this because I expect you to melt. The point is our own children don't have to do a great deal to blow our socks off. They are the centre of our world. We are watching them on a daily basis and every new action or sound or response is another exciting step towards discovering who they really are and who they will be (which, sources tell me, they'll do everything in their power to conceal once they hit 14).
Sometimes, I'm tempted to whip out my phone to capture the moment on video and broadcast it to everyone I've ever been acquainted with, on Facebook. Then I remember that they're not me. They don't have the same emotional attachment to Elliot that I do. Who am I to decide he's today's headline news on their Facebook page?
I'm not judging parents who do post videos on Facebook. For some, it's the easiest way of keeping grandparents up-to-date – and often they're just damn funny, in which case, bring it on.
But... okay, I'm just going to come out and say this (then regret it as I watch my FB friend list diminish before my eyes): I'm not really *that* interested in anyone's baby milestones apart from my own. Of course, there are caveats. There's some kind of formula based on how close the friend is, how big the milestone is and how often that friend feels compelled to regale me with their baby's every achievement.
I do care that in the last two weeks his vocabulary has sky rocketed because that's exciting. He can now mimic pretty much any one- or two-syllable word you throw at him and has a growing list of words that he can match up with pictures in his favourite books. I put this down to a two-week holiday at my parents' house in Spain – a fortnight of undivided attention from four adults can work wonders.
But I don't expect anyone else to care beyond "Elliot is talking a lot more now". None of my friends – mums or otherwise – need to know the comprehensive list of words he can say. That would be boring.
Before I had a baby I had no idea when children were expected to do stuff. I never knew if I was supposed to say "wow, that's amazing" or "better late than never". So now I only bother my non-parent friends with the entertaining bits like every time you say the word "naughty" Elliot wags his finger and shakes his head.
Even when talking to close mum-friends, I try to make a point of not talking too much about Elliot's everyday achievements. Apart from the 'boring' aspect, I think you can end up doing the child a disservice. Nobody likes a show-off and if you keep banging on about your high-achieving little darling, you start to project that air of smug superiority onto the poor, defenceless child.
But more importantly, I don't like the competitive culture that milestones-conversations breed. Elliot, for instance, has always been later than average with all the physical stuff – sitting up, crawling and now walking (he's still cruising at nearly 17 months). It genuinely does not bother me until I'm in a room of mums comparing notes on the subject then I start feeling anxious about it.
Admittedly, this method is not without flaws. Recently I met a friend for a coffee and realised at the end of the hour that she had spent the entire time updating me on what her daughter had learned in the past month while poor Elliot only got mentions for a bout of diarrhoea and a public meltdown - poor thing.
I suppose there's a happy medium somewhere and that's what I'm searching for. But what I will say is if you really want the world to know your child is advanced for his age, why not just keep mum? If it's true, his actions will surely do the talking for you.
Then you can be the ultimate combination of the modest mum with the 'genius' child.