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Everything is Harder Nowadays

Yes, yes….it’s been too long.  I was trying to work out why my blog posts…which had started at an admittedly optimistically paced twice a week, before slowing to once, then trickling to monthly, before drying up completely around 8 weeks ago…had become so much harder to complete.  And as I thought about it, I was rudely interrupted by a crying baby who wanted my undivided attention. Until given it of course, when what she actually wanted to do, was to chew on the end of an old bit of newspaper she’d uncovered from some neglected area of reachability. But there was the answer nevertheless. Everything is harder now that Grace nears one, and my free time (ha!!) has dwindled to dust.

Something they don’t tell you up front when you have a baby, is that actually, the first few months are a piece of cake.  A walk in the park. A breeze.  Probably because it’s not exactly true.  Except that relatively…relative to the later months….it bloomin’ well is! In my opinion of course…I sense this may not be the universally held view in the house, let alone in the wider community.

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Idyllic

In those first few, idyllic months, your baby will basically be doing one of just four things: Sleeping. Eating. Pooing. Crying. Albeit, it may be doing more than one of these at any one time. Indeed, more than likely it is.  And these four activities will be taking place in one place…specifically the last place you left the baby. Or of course, the place you happen to be standing, holding the baby. Introduce a new activity, such as bathing…and the baby will just do as it is told.  Approximately.

This is all good you think. Probably best of all is the sleeping.  They may not sleep throughout the night (some of them…and I’m thinking here of one very close to me as I type this….may never achieve this), but for the first few months they will be sleeping a lot, giving ample opportunities to do the dishes, laundry dusting…blogging…although after uploading the latest batch of photos up to Facebook you may not have quite as much time as you think.  Or as your wife may expect.

Lulled into the security of being on top of this daddy daycare malarkey, you selflessly sign up for another 6 months of it, sending your wife back to the grindstone full time, as you plan to swan around, leisurely taking in the next song and rhyme time, or mums’ picnic.  Then it hits….You are no longer the master of this tiny little innocent and helpless life.  You are now the slave to this tiny little demanding and mischievous life.

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Believe me, this is normal. This is the end of every meal. When it’s really messy, the gadgets stay out of harms way.

Eating
Then:- Grace would eat everything put in front of her and drink everything stuck in her mouth unquestioningly, gratefully and without pause to consider the digestive consequences.
Now:- Everything needs to be variously squashed, dropped repeatedly on the floor, placed on the head, rubbed in the face, thrown at daddy. The food can be loved and wolfed down one day, the next, completely ignored, cried over, shouted at or spat out.

 

 

 

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If we’re lucky, sleeping can be caught up on at some points during the day, on any handy mattress like object…

Sleeping
Then:- Long sleeps throughout the day, and even when waking in the night, Grace would get the hint and fall asleep again reasonably quickly.

 

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Of course, by 11am she’s a little sleeping angel. Daddy is a walking zombie.

 

 

Now:- I read that most babies by this age sleep through the night.  Grace is not most babies. You can probably expect at least two awakenings between midnight and 6am.  If you’re lucky, these will result in around half an hour of calming to return to sleep.  Often you are unlucky.  Unlucky will mean spending up to two hours in the depths of the earliest of morning trying to convince an alternating crying, wriggling, manic baby that actually, it is still legally time for sleeping.

 

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Nostalgia – fun time, bath time… If only it was still like this!

Bathing
Then:- The one thing Grace loved most in the world was lying in the bath splashing around, having her hair washed.

Now:- The one thing Grace hates most in the world is lying in the bath splashing around, and in particular, having her hair washed.  It is now a daily battle of wills between daddy and daughter to ensure that the days foodstuffs are adequately washed out of an increasingly thick mop of hair. Sometimes daddy loses this battle.  Often. The battle is usually ended by Grace standing up, crying and trying to get her little leg over the edge of the bath, whilst at the same time pushing daddy away. One line of thought has it, that me tipping a jug of water over her head a few weeks ago, has permanently damaged my bathing credentials.

Moving
Then: There was no moving. Grace stayed put. You could leave the room, make a cup of tea, check Twitter…and there would Grace stay, happily sucking a toe, sleeping … or presumably just twiddling her little thumbs wondering where daddy has gone.

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The stair gate’s shut. I’m sure of it…. COME BACK GRACE!

Now: Yes, Grace is moving on all fours, rapidly around the house…or more accurately 3 and a halves, with this odd little crawl she has.  Leave the room and Grace behind, and before you know it…often with no audible signal…Grace will be there behind you, at your feet, ready to cause some major trippage.  This is not the worst of it.

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Grace goes for the dictionary to look up the word “naughty” that daddy keeps using

 

 

The worst is that Grace can also scale objects…chairs, tables…ovens…  Try as you might to take all items out of her reach, and ensure full child safety compliance, there will always be one thing…several things…that she is found playing with that she shouldn’t be when you are more than a short distance away.  Cue much running around, picking her up, and depositing her somewhere safer. For as long as it takes her to catch breath and set off again after the wifi router; ornamental flowers; television ….her three current favourite targets.

 

Nappies
Then: I’d always regarded myself as a bit of a dab hand at nappies.  My nappy pit stops were of Red Bull-like speed and efficiency. What helped was Grace’s docile nature on the changing mat, paying no heed to being picked up one legged after another to have her bottom cleaned and changed in record time.

Now: I am coming to dread nappy changes. I can barely even begin to write about the wriggling, the twisting, the turning of half changed babies, poo still hanging off them, on their little feet….on your carpet as you hold one handed onto whatever bit you can find (usually the pooiest bit) as the other hand attempts to reach something…anything that will be able to help clean the mess up. Or maybe just distract the baby long enough to trap it in a corner and reset it back on the mat.  For the fifteenth time.

Notwithstanding any of the above, of course, I wouldn’t change a thing and the greater challenges are simply a sign that my little girl is gaining her independence, character and growing up (albeit all too soon).  And I’m sure as you’ll all tell me…it gets no easier as they get older.

On a more serious point, Grace is not difficult in any way, shape or form. There are many families who really do have a difficult time looking after their kids, for many, many reasons and I don’t know how they cope or understand the sacrifices they must make.  Friends within our NCT group have a little boy who suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a devastating form of epilepsy – if you’re short of a charity to support, please consider this: https://www.justgiving.com/dravetsyndromeuk

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All good fun!

 

 

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Danger: Daddy at Play

Let it not be said that I’m a thrill seeker, or risk taker. Not for me the desire to jump off bridges with an elastic band the difference between life and death. And in my current, post Grace, non exercised state, the balance would be more to the latter end I feel. Neither am I a boy racer, laying down rubber as I screech from the lights to take on some souped up Corsa or Clio. I have an Astra after all. No, I think it’s fair to say I like to play life pretty safely.

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Grace grips on for dear life in the extreme sport of swinging quite high….

This is doubly…triply…the case for Grace; after all, she is totally reliant on me to keep her safe and sound, and with my record on keeping alive house plants, I do need to be careful. From day 1 I had this irrational fear of dropping Grace…again, with my history on plates, this maybe a rational fear. I would check, check and check again satraps were in place on everything that Grace was place into. I followed to the absolute letter, every instruction around crib safety. I think three moves ahead, and remove from Grace’s reach anything which should not be reachable. On this, I think I need to up this to ten moves!!

But at the end of a week that has seen Grace sporting two marks and a mouthful of water as a result of Daddy Day “Care”, am I being careful enough? Was it just bad luck? Correction: Grace’s bad luck?

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Surfing before she can walk is likely to end in tears…if daddy let’s go!

Mark 1: Grace is up on her feet every second she can be. She can’t actually walk yet, or even balance unaided but that doesn’t stop her. Woe betide you try and leave her on her back for even a minute. So I have to spend large chunks of time bent double, holding Grace’s arms as she shows off her stepping skills around the house. She is getting pretty hot at this now, and I’m sure it can only be a matter of weeks before she strikes off alone. But for now I am there to support her…or not as the case was this week. I was gently testing her limits with limited holding when she decided to suddenly execute a beautifully crafted pirouette. I was only holding one arm, but as she turned I didn’t want to break it off, so went with the move…as it spiralled down into a nose dive into the carpet…

 

 

 

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Grace seeking out the handles for a safer ride…

Mark 2: Grace loves being up on my back now I’ve got the new back pack carrier. I think she enjoys being at a height above everyone else, looking down on them – a position I worry she already seems very comfortable with. This had already led to a couple of brushes with various parts of the house and it’s low lying ceilings and beams. But I think my…both of our…automatic reflexes have now mastered this. The problem came surprisingly perhaps, not indoors but in the wide open outdoors. I thought I’d try putting Grace on my shoulders and run around the garden (not mine). She loved this, and was giggling and laughing at the bumpy ride. Until she wasn’t. Not being my garden, and not being 7 foot tall, I hadn’t even noticed, let alone appreciated, the risk posed by the overhead washing line. Grace was now explaining this too me I  screams and sobs of one syllable. Needless to say I felt very guilty about this at the time, 24 hours later, and still do as I, writing this five days on.

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Bathing in happier times…

Water: being the careful and risk averse sort as I explained above, the daily baths are always carried out strictly by the book. Not very deep, 37 degrees exactly, and fully supervised throughout. Most of the time Grace is content just to sit in the middle of the bath, playing with eating her plastic duck, as she is soaped up and sponged down. Indeed, try and lie her down and she lets you know in no uncertain terms, that this is not what is wanted. At one point she lost the duck behind her and was reaching around for it. Despite the non slip mat (careful, see), soapy Grace had slipped my hands, turned herself over and got her face immersed before either of us knew what had happened. No damage done, and with a quick splutter, a spectrum of looks spanning confusion,shock and despair, and sobs that suggested she had just found out the world was five minutes from ending, Grace had been helped up and was quickly chewing the duck once more, and giggling as she did it.

So there you have it. My confessional for all to see, and possibly get me reported to Child Line I don’t doubt. However, thinking about it with hindsight, all of these things happened as Grace starts to want to experience the world for herself. I can’t carry her gingerly around forever like some swaddled, unexploded bomb like I did I the first few weeks of her life. These wont be the last bumps and bruises she gets, and I need to be more relaxed about that….I would just like not to be the cause of so many of them in future! So yes to continued rough and tumble daddy play, but yes to also being a tad more careful of those who look to me to keep them safe!

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Cousin Edward adds to the education in the school of hard knocks

On The Move

All major developmental milestones of Gracie go something like this:

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Grace eschewing the crawling stage and going straight to advanced tottering

Me (running into whichever room my wife is busying herself in): Wow…quick, come and see…Grace just did x for the first time!  Is that ahead of schedule??

Wife (sighing – her usual response to my utterances) : She’s been doing that for days / weeks / since birth.

Last week, I put Grace down on the changing mat on the floor and wandered back to another room to pick up something I’d left behind, secure in the knowledge that wherever I lay my Grace, that’s her home for as long as it takes me to get back to her.  I was literally out of sight for a minute, but upon coming back into the room, she’d turned from her back to her front, and was now tugging at some interesting, probably baby unsafe thing, that was now handily in reach. Cue a scenario similar to the one at the outset of this post.

In this case however, I was aware that Grace was behind schedule a little – other babies I know of a similar age have already been crawling, sliding, rolling for a while…in some cases for weeks.  But by now, despite my inner competitive nature I realise comparing baby to baby, or baby to developmental charts means nothing, as long as progress is being made.

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Grace decides playing catch up with 10 week older cousin Edward is too much like hard work.

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Oi you!!! Get out the way!! Grace is forced to practice advanced development skills.

Grace has focussed most of her effort on balancing on her two legs since the day she realised she actually had legs.  This means she loves being held and tottering around the place. but doesn’t care at all for lying on her tummy and crawling.  She has completely ignored the Stage 1, 2 and 3 of packet and jar purees and mush, preferring instead morsels of curry, avocado, and all things whole fruit. Grace has decided that trying to make word like noises is a complete waste of time until she is able to speak properly, so for now just smiles, blows bubbles and giggles like a loon.

 

 

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Grace decides development is not for her, and regresses back to babyhood

All will come in good time when Grace is good and ready, so I have stopped reading about what she should and shouldn’t be doing by now, and am enjoying the sight of her doing everything for the first time at first hand.  Or maybe the fifth time, and at second hand if you listen to my wife.

Besides which, development has it’s own downsides.  I am now having to adjust to a life where I need to have five sets of eyes, and think ten move forwards in being able to anticipate what a mischevious, inquisitive…..mobile…baby will try to do next!

 

 

5 Things Evolution Should Address in Babies
After millions of years of mankind, you would have thought babies would have evolved certain attributes that would make their rearing a whole lot easier, thereby encouraging more people to have more of them.  In case evolution is reading, I propose the following five minor enhancements for starters:

1) An innate understanding of the word No.

2) Until their lives are stressful enough to need to chew nails, or grown up enough to paint nails, the growth rate of babies finger and toenails should be reduced to needing attention no more than once a year.

3) The ability to point to whatever it is that is the current source of their distress.

4) Instead of crying/wailing/screaming, babies should adopt noises along the lines of those issued by birds.

5) The removal of the inner spirit level/mercury switch that currently means a babe sleeping in arms becomes a babe awake and crying in the cot in less time than it takes to say “time for bed”.

I don’t feel any of the above changes require major DNA mutation, and am a little surprised that at least one of them hasn’t taken hold in the general population by now. It’s too late for me, but if Grace should ever choose to have some bundles of joy herself, it would be good if we made an evolutionary start now.