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I have been writing this column for a year now, which I suppose should be a reason to reflect on the changes of the past 12 months. the most obvious one is that last January 1 had a great big stomach filled with both Christmas chocolate and a baby ), andnow I've got a slightly small stomach (filled simply with chocolate). Oh yes, and a nine month old baby, who celebrated Christmas by learning to crawl.

I say crawl, but actually he is a bum-shuffler, which means that he sits on his bottom and propels himself around with his hands. It looks rather comical, but seems like a perfectly satisfactory alternative to crawling. My mother, however, is worried. She lives in America, so cannot supervise his progress personally, but she tells me on the phone that bum-shuffling is not a good thing. "It won't open up his neural pathways," she says. "You must try and encourage him to crawl." Well, I've trie d, and it doesn't work. He just refuses.

The things is, I've started fretting about it now. One of my mother's relatives, who must remain nameless, was a bum-shuffler and he came to a bad end. Feckless, irresponsible, occasionally wicked... my mother has told me all about him. Is this the fate of all bum-shufflers?

I've been reflecting on this over a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit, and I think it's not the bum-shuffling which has brought on an attack of maternal anxiety, it's simply that he's suddenly turned from a baby who couldn't mv - and was therefore safe - into a mobile one.

It's not just all those accidents waiting to happen ("oh no, he's grabbed the bleach/smashed a glass/got his fingers in a plug!") It's also his first foray (or shuffle) towards leaving me.

That probably sounds like I'm a terrible, repressive mother ("Oooh, that woman, she's asking for trouble, she'll probably end up with Norman Bates for a son".) I'm not, honestly. Like most first-time mothers, I couldn't wait for my oldest child to crawl,walk, talk, jump ... and now he's five, and I realise how quickly he turned from a baby into a boy. That's what everyone tells you when you have your first child - they grow up before you know it - but I didn't understand until it was too late. So this time, I didn't care when other babies of the same age crawled before Tom. I liked him when he was all floppy and cuddly. I like him still, enormously, but sometimes I feel sad that I'll never have a little baby again. They seem so fragile, but at least you can hold them in your arms, and protect them against the dirty outside world.

But now I've got a bum-shuffler, and where will it it all end? He'll be wanting to shuffle off around the park soon; and my oldest one will ask if he can walk to school by himself in the not too distant future, and then I'll be gripped by fears of child abductors and maniacal drunken drivers. It's an unbearable thought, it really is.

Anyway, I'm sorry if this column has ended up sounding a bit gloomy. Perhaps I have indigestion. Perhaps it's just the time of year that is making me feel unsettled, and not the bum-shuffling at all. Next week, I shall be tremendously positive, I promise. In the meantime, I"m going to eat some more chocolate biscuits to get me in the right mood, Hurrah!

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