I was recently asked by someone representing a big name toy and baby supplies company (yes I am totally bragging!! My first PR contact!) if I would like to contribute to a booklet for new parents on the essential items all parents need in preparation for the birth of their first baby.
And this got me thinking (and of course going yes! yes! yes! where do I sign!)
What DO you need when you’re having a baby?
And my answer came as something of a surprise.
Not much. In fact I struggled to think of many ‘must haves’ at all.
Now don’t get me wrong. I like stuff as much as the next person. But if you’d asked me that question before Kai was born I’d have been able to list off REAMS of items that I was sure were an absolute necessity to raising a healthy child and, most importantly, being a good mother. In fact, I was rather obsessed with having the right stuff.
I spent a long time before getting pregnant fantasising about having a baby. I’d imagine what it would be like to have a enormous bump, spending entire mornings with pillows stuffed up my jumper, admiring myself in the mirror and going ‘Oooh’ when I bent over (and eating lots of chocolate – oh wait, I did that anyway). Of course, in hindsight, I would have had a more realistic experience had I strapped a wriggling 8lb puppy to my tummy that liked to use my ribs as a kick board and head-butt my bladder, and stuffed a water balloon down my kegs that would leak slowly and at embarrassing moments, like when I laughed and sneezed. Oh and then just to REALLY get in the right frame of mind I would have to eat enough cheese to give me raging heartburn and come down off some hard drugs to give me that whole crazed mood-swing psychotic edge. I was a delight when I was pregnant I can tell you.
Anyway. When I did get pregnant I was beyond excited. This was it! Everything I had ever dreamed of! But what I hadn’t realised was that inbetween the getting pregnant bit (which was fun!) and the having your baby bit (not so fun!) there are 40 long weeks. 40 weeks!! That’s a long time. Once I had done with the puking stage (which lasted a good half of it) when I was too busy doing anything apart from trying to sit upright without hurling, I began to get a bit bored. Well, not bored so much. Antsy. I was fed up sitting around on my rapidly expanding ass. I wanted action.
So in typical Josie fashion I bought a file and some index dividers and some pretty paper. And then proceeded to read every baby magazine/book/online guide I could get my chicken-greased fingers on (the chicken is a GREAT pregnancy story – I’ll save that one for another day). And I made notes, and cut out pictures.
I planned god damn it. I planned my giant ass off.
Because I was determined to be a good mother. And reading all these magazines I quickly learned that good parenting = getting the right baby equipment. Obviously! Because bringing a baby into the world without a ready prepared co-ordinating nursery, room thermometer and ergonomic bath support? Well, that’s nothing short of neglect.
And then, after 40 long weeks and one day, Kai arrived. Beautiful, demanding, wide-awake Kai. Who from day one had very fixed views of the world and what he wanted from it. And that was a world in which fancy gadgets had very little place.
Here are the things that were especially useless:
1. The beautifully co-ordinated nursery – he still hasn’t slept in it for any length of time. It is currently surving a far more useful purpose as a place where we shove a lot of crap storage room and place to keep the ever increasing mountain of laundry.
2. The changing bag (that matched the pushchair of course!) – it survived 9 months before being ripped apart by Kai and having various baby-led weaning food-stuffs leak all over it whilst in transit. It was also far too small once I started needing to transport said foodstuffs and toys and sippy cups and spare clothes and sun cream and my bottle of gin (joking) and everything else. My advice? Go to TK Max and get a big, cheap messenger bag or a rucksack and throw everything in there. You’ll cry less when it gets wrecked.
3. The baby swing. Bought in desperation for our power-screaming colicy baby. It was very expensive. It had four speeds AND music. Of course he just screamed all the louder when you put him in it. Only, to music with a kind of rhythmic WAAaah WAAaah. It was quickly retired to the attic.
4. The bath support. We used it, oooh, three times? Then realised it was far less fiddly to just dunk him in there.
5. The Bumbo – Kai HATED it. And at four months old worked out how to catapult himself out over the back. Attic!
6. The very firm and unmouldable (and expensive) breastfeeding support pillow. Probably self-explanatory. When I lay Kai on it it put his mouth about four inches higher than my nipples. So when my back gave in I just used a pillow. A normal household multi-functional pillow. There’s a novel idea for you. Get this – it even comes with removable covers! That don’t cost extra!
And MOST importantly:
7. The baby books. None of them were written about Kai or seemed to bare any relation to the knowing, determined child I gave birth to. And worse, not only were they useless, they made ME feel useless. Life got a lot better once I relegated them to a high shelf and the charity shop.
So the lesson from this tale? Your baby really needs nothing but you. Your arms, your patience, your love. And most of all your permission to be as unique and unpredictible as they like. Yes it’s a soppy ending but it’s true, and a lesson I have learnt every day many times over.
Next time we’re just getting a new baby sling and that’s it. Oh and a vibrating baby bouncer (that one WAS a life saver), and we’ll re-use the co-sleeper crib but OF COURSE we’ll need a new mattress. And I want an electric breast pump next time.
Actually pass me that Mothercare catalogue? Oh and them post it notes, thanks.
So over to you (cause I’m loving the comment love) - what was the most useless item that you purchased or were given for your first baby?
Why Twitter is better than Crack
Two things have saved me from the brink of insanity these last six months. OK, three things if you count my husband giving me five minutes to have a wee in peace without a small monster trying to ‘post’ his plastic Wonderpets Hamster between my clenched legs.
1. Blogging (self-explanatory – it rocks)
For some reason I’ve found the last six months especially hard. I mean, I found the first eight pretty horrendous too at times, but the last six? Man alive.
Maybe it’s because most of my friends went back to work and seemed to be coping so much better than me, being brilliant mummys AND having careers. Maybe it’s because Kai developed the ability to move. And move. And move some more. At high speed. Towards everything likely to kill him. Maybe it’s because in combination with the moving about he additionally developed the art of the apocalyptic temper tantrum which he proceeded to unleash every half an hour, or every time I dared to look away from him or try and disattach him from my leg (whichever came soonest). Or maybe it’s simply because the months of no sleep and forgetting to eat and running on adrenaline alone finally caught up with me.
In any case, whatever it was, it’s been tough.
It was during a particularly bad couple of weeks that I discovered Twitter. Mostly (as I think it begins for most people) as a way of spying on Stephen Fry and Jonathon Ross and the like. After a couple of weeks I started to get a bit bored. I had a grand total of 15 followers and was fed up of stupid Stephen blanking me, despite my persistent and frankly hilarious tweets to him, and following Ashton and Demi’s very sub-standard and yawn inducing conversations. And there I think it would have ended.
That is, had it not been for a life changing discovery.
There were people on Twitter. I mean REAL people. And if you happened across them and sent them a tweet, then chances are they’d tweet you back. You could have CONVERSATIONS!
Now as you know, I like talking. But at the same time I’m not so good at the ‘face to face’ type talking. Suddenly on Twitter I could become the wise-quipping, super confident, articulate superstar that dwells deep under the cover of my socially problematic exterior. It was wonderful.
I loved the randomness of my encounters and my experiences. One day I chanced upon an emerging tweeting trend on the subject of the TV show LOST and ended up spear-heading attempts to uncover the mystery behind a fan-made artificial reality game (ARG) running online and through Twitter itself, writing a blog chronicling the exciting events. In the 4 weeks it ran, my blog got nearly 30,000 hits. Yes I know, it was geek stuff and was short lived. But it got me totally hooked on blogging as a writing medium and equally importantly it fuelled my Twitter obsession, opening up hundreds of new random encounters and conversations.
Blogging led to British Mummy Bloggers and the vast network of blogging mums and dads both here and all over the world, ALL of which seem to be on twitter and tweeting about their equally mundane and extraordinary lives. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Yes I am hooked. No I am not ashamed of the fact. It beats a drug addiction or alcoholism which I think are probably less appealing ways of surviving motherhood.
And it really has been remarkably therapeutic. When I’m at home, especially on those days where I just can’t face going out, or it’s raining (again) or I’m tired, I tend to have the laptop running as I go about my daily business, pausing ever so often when I get a chance to respond to the ‘buzz’ of my Tweetdeck or the ‘ping’ of an email. And taking ten minutes to check my messages and have a quick chat can sometimes be the one thing that gets me through an otherwise lonely, stressful day. It revives me, gives me the boost I need to get me through that day’s particular meltdown, or the energy to go to up to re-settle Kai for the umpteenth time that evening, or the sense of humour to laugh at the fact that I just burnt the tea and the front room looks like a bomb went off in Toys R Us (during closing time though – don’t worry. No icky bits of harassed parents. Just Toys N Wee). It’s a time-out for me. And a much needed one.
Now I know most of you reading this use Twitter already (hell I’m probably multi-tasking and talking to you right now!). But just in case you’ve never tried it, or have and didn’t ‘get it’ (yes that’s you Ms Kendall) then here are some top tips:
- I’ve learnt that you need to put yourself out there a bit. And be prepared to respond and chat about pretty much anything. In the past 24 hours alone I’ve tweeted about breastfeeding, self-build house cleaning robots, growing a giant handlebar moustache, monkeys, and taking over the world via the medium of catchy bass beats (dunnah dunnah clap). Oh and I chatted to the devil! That was fun…
- Celebs are a fun novelty. But if they are the only people you follow it’s going to get very boring, very fast. You need real life people. Compete strangers who tweet regularly work best.
- Follow a few interesting people, then see who they’re following and follow them. Then talk to everyone. If you sit there on your todd, tweeting the odd fact about your lunch and expect hoards of people to spontaneously start following you, then the Twitter magic isn’t going to happen for you. If people are boring you can always unfollow them again.
- Don’t just tweet about your lunch. Unless it’s about toast. Cause for some reason that got me about 20 new followers last week.
- Prepare to get some interesting followers. And by ‘interesting’ I mean naked and probably sucking something disgusting in their profile picture. Don’t be scared – that’s what the ‘block’ button’s for. They’ll probably try to tempt you with their “Sexy New Vid! Click Here!” (don’t), or their promise of hundreds of new followers for just $1, or instant teeth whitening products. Block block block. Or, alternatively, try tweeting them and see what happens! You’ll soon start to love them in a kind of “I’d miss you if you weren’t here” kinda way. If only because their numbers in your Followers count will make you feel more popular.
- Read Scary Mommy’s fab posts on Twitter Etiquette and The Best Twitter Applications. Both essential reading material for any aspiring tweeter.
- Follow MEEEE!! You really should.
And since it’s ‘Follow Friday’ and just to get your started – here’s my top pick of people to follow on Twitter. Some are bloggers, some just make me laugh, some are generally just fabulous. And some are all three. Follow them all and collect the set. And if I miss you off it don’t take it personally - just would be here all night if I listed everyone!
and, last but not least, my hubby @legobloke who doesn’t tweet much but posts great pictures of Kai!
Oh… and of course!
*DISCLAIMER* Despite the title of this post I do not advocate Crack or drug use in any way shape or form. Just say no people. Unless it’s to Milky Way Stars. Then you’re fine.
Right! Now it’s your turn (cause that worked so well last time). The topic is… Twitter! Love it? Loathe it? Tell me why…
Reader Anthroponomastics (don’t worry, you can keep your shoes on)
I am told that when blogging it is a nice, sociable thing to invite people to respond to your blog in the form of a question. Kinda makes them feel ‘heard’ and valued, you know?
*empathic head tilt and earnest nodding*
As we all know social niceties aren’t really my forte but hell, let’s give it a go. I talk far too much and need to learn to listen – given my tendency to ask something then be so busy worrying that what I said sounded really stupid that I forget to pay attention to the answer. If I forever refer to your child as ‘munchkin’ or ‘gorgeous girl’ this is probably why. When I fist met you I was probably too busy worrying about the fact that I just made an alarming sqeaking noise when introducing myself that I didn’t listen to you telling me what your baby was called. Or if I suddenly burst out with “Tarquin!!” half-way through a conversation, this is me finally remembering that name after spending most of our conversation not listening and trying to remember what the hell you named your slightly odd looking baby so I’m not forced to call him ‘little guy’ again.
So yes. Better listening is needed. Granted, I will probably talk far too much to begin with (and have done already), but stick with me!! Opportunities for reader participation will be following shortly!
I’ve been thinking about names. Like Tarquin. Or Percival. Or Guinevere. Or any of the other weird and wonderful names that parent seem to delight in giving these offspring these days. I had a conversation with an old lady this morning who asked after Kai’s name - she repeated it over and over again with a look on her face as if the sound of it in her mouth tasted funny. “Well”, she said “THAT’S unusual” and looked very sympathetically towards Kai for being afflicted with such daft, hippy parents.
I guess it is a bit of a hippy name . But believe me, it’s tame in comparison to some of the things we considered.
Naming our baby was a HUGE decision for us. It really consumed me the last few weeks of my pregnancy. We knew we were having a boy, (thus eliminating 50% of the options), but we still were faced with the awesome responsibility of labelling said baby boy (who we called ’jellybean’ up until birth – cute but not really suitable for outer-womb living) with the name he would carry for the rest of his life.
A good name is important. It will play a huge role in the future life of a child. It will (and I quote from Kai’s naming ceremony)…
…be part of his perception of who he is. It stands for his individuality and uniqueness. It will be spoken, whispered, shouted, cried, sung and written thousands of times in his lifetime. It will define his identity.
Like I said. HUGE decision.
But not only did the name we chose need to reflect the child, it needed to reflect us as parents. We certainly weren’t a ‘Average Joe’ kinda people (sorry Joes out there). And we really struggled to come up with a name that felt ‘right’. We wrote shortlists. We wrote shortlists upon shortlists. We wanted something unusual but not TOO unusual, something that had a character and strength about it. We’d spend long evenings pouring over the baby book discussing and dismissing ideas. Just as we thought we’d found one we’d realise it had a horrible meaning (like “mother’s despair” or “fungal nail infection” or something or other), or sound stupid with our surname, and then we’d be right back at square one. And don’t even get me started on middle names and the whole added minefield of not having your child’s initials spell something stupid or embarrassing.
Here’s some of the better ones that didn’t make the cut:
- Geronimo (because you just know that Geronimo George would go places)
- Adolf (bringing it back people, bringing it back)
We really did consider Geronimo. Really.
In the end, of course, we settled on Kai. Which I loved and still love. Kai was actually going to be a Kai or a Dylan but the moment we laid eyes on him he was so obviously a Kai that Dylan was soon forgotten. And within a couple of weeks the thought of him being called anything different was just weird. Of course he’s a Kai. He’s Kai!!
(ok now I’ve typed Kai so many times it’s starting to look a bit weird… maybe we should have stuck with Geronimo)
We liked the sound. We liked the funky kicking K. We liked the fact that it couldn’t be shortened to anything annoying (like ‘Jos’. I HATE ‘Jos’). Plus we loved the multi-cultural meanings.
- Sea (in Hawaiian)
- Earth (in Scandinavian)
- Forgiveness (in Japanese)
- Willow Tree (in Native American)
(well, that is, according to our baby book. If you actually come from any of these places and this is not actuallly true and Kai actually means “pond scum” then please tell me).
So there we go.
And now…. it’s over to you!
What made YOU choose your child’s names? Or if you refer to them by nicknames, what made you pick them? (my friend refers to her little girl as “poopy poopy” which is quite possibly the best nickname in the entire history of the world). Do you think you got your children’s names ‘right’? Or (be honest) did you sucumb to pressure to name them after your great-Aunt and are now seriously regretting the decision. Any names you wish you’d chosen instead? Or are saving up for the next baby?
And you facebook fans – (yes I know you read this, all 85 of you at last count!), join in why don’t you! You’ve no excuses – commenting is easy peasy. Just a name and an email address and you’re away!
Go for it! I’m listening!
A Meme for Me Me
I”ll be honest. I’m having a bit of crud day. A crud couple of days actually. I started a great long moany post about how horribly hard life seems to insist on being at the moment but began to bore even myself so I stopped and took great pleasure in deleting all my self pitying nonsense.
Think yourself lucky you were spared. It was REALLY whiny and annoying – even for me.
Because truth is I should STFU and count my blessings. Yes, I seem to have been given the privilege of bringing up the World’s Most Difficult Child (well, I think he’d at least make the top 100, maybe top 20 on a bad day) but despite seriously making me question the wisdom of EVER deciding to have children and inflicting upon the world someone with my own horribly flawed genetic make-up, he is healthy, bright and, when not being the demon child from hell, actually rather lovely.
My huge great big kick up the rear came in the end from Sally over at Who’s The Mummy who has awarded SIFTW with this fab ‘Great Read’ award – how nice is that?!
Originally this meant I then had to tell you ten things about me, but Sally with her wonderful creative license tweaked it slightly to list ten happy memories. And because I need, NEED to remind myself of the positives tonight, I am going to follow her example and instigate a little tweak of my own.
So here we go.
10 reasons to be grateful that Kai is mine
1. No he doesn’t sleep. But the progressive sleep-deprivation training he has blessed me with over the last 14 months has made me mentally stronger and more resilient than I ever thought I could be. Need someone to hold up under torture? I’m your gal…
2. All that holding, carrying, rocking, and endless trips up and down the stairs every evening have given me biceps and calf muscles of steel. And I am thinner and fitter than I have been in as long as I can remember.
3. If it wasn’t for Kai I never would have discovered the very real joys that are extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby wearing, attachment parenting and baby-led weaning. Without any of which my life, and my experience of motherhood would be far the lesser. By pushing me to my very limits, by constantly making me re-evaluate what I thought about babies and motherhood, Kai has forced me to adapt and find new ways to be a better parent. And I AM a better parent as a result. I don’t feel it most days, but I deep down I really believe that.
4. Kai gives the best cuddles in whole world. FACT. When not beating seven bells out of us he is probably the most affectionate, caring child you could ever hope to meet.
5. I used to be pretty lazy. It’s true. And self-absorbed and selfish. After having Kai I am now only slightly lazy, self-absorbed and selfish. That’s progress.
6. Watching Kai eat pasta bolognaise, laugh hysterically at random events until he falls down, dance and sing to everything even vaguely musical, crawl round with a farm animal in each hand and my bra around his neck, and try to whisper, makes up for all the crying, screaming, temper tantrums and abject refusal to anything he doesn’t want to do ten million times over.
7. His potential. Sometimes I look at him and I see the toddler, the boy, the man he will become and I shiver with excitement and anticipation (and a little fear). I wouldn’t want to miss that ride. Not for all the strong-black-tea-with-two-sugars in China.
8. For the joy and healing Kai’s arrival has brought to my family. He’s unified us in a way I never thought would have been possible, brought me closer to those I love the most, and the smile and the twinkle he brings to his very frail and elderly great-grandmother is worth every moment of heart-ache on it’s own.
9. I’m not a great believer in that ‘everything happens for a reason’ crap but I do sometimes wonder whether my experiences with Kai are preparing me for a time in my future when I’m going to need every ounce of my new found patience, tolerance, and finely honed sense of humour. Ant and I are just really, REALLY hoping it isn’t twins…
10. Yes Kai seems to need me a lot. A LOT a lot. In fact he seems to need me for something pretty much every minute of every day. But he also needs me. I will probably never be needed so much again in my entire life and I know I will miss that one day, very soon, when he is far too busy planning world domination, writing jokes about hilarious bodily functions and coming up with new and interesting things to do with dirt. I am grateful for this time of being so utterly, completely and unconditionally loved and needed. And will treasure that feeling forever.
So there we go, my Kai-ranasaurus, my little monster, my kling-on koala, my little bear. I love you. I love you a lot – just the way the you are.
Now for the love of god sleep you crazy child.
I’m now supposed to nominate some other blogs to pass on this lovely award to. For the purists amoung you feel free to revert to the whole ‘ten things about me’ clause. For the rest of you that are more ‘piss in the wind’ types then go nuts – 10 of anything is fine by me.
The following are deemed really, REALLY, great reads by me, the official authority on everything, so if you haven’t discovered them already I suggest you start clicking:
Linguistic Mysteries and Practical Storage Solutions
If you were to press your ear against the front door of our house at the moment (which I hope you wouldn’t by the way, I have quite enough stalkers already thanks, but if you were figuratively speaking to press your ear against my front door…), you would probably be greeted by one sound and one sound only:
“Bakkum bakkum bakkum bakkum”
Don’t ask me what it means. I have no idea. But it obviously means something to Kai because he says it A LOT.
I have often wondered at the true nationality of Kai. Given his tendency to babble incoherent yet strangely consistent words and phrases and shun normal words I doubt he is English. To be honest, most days I doubt that he is even human. If two white parents can have a black child because of random contributions from their combined genetic history then I find it perfectly feasible that I can have given birth to a child who is not the same nationality, race or perhaps even species as his parents. I swear his ears grow more pointy by the week so my bets were on troublesome fairie folk.
Anyway, his dad and I have listened on in bemused (and slightly concerned) amusement to Kai’s constant and earnest attempts at communication for the last couple of weeks with absolutely no idea what “Bakkum” or “Grunbar” or all the other weird and wonderful words he comes out with might mean until a family day out last weekend brought some unexpected insight on what he might have been trying to tell us all along.
We were off to visit my brother’s brand new flat in Coventry, city of grey and the famous ring road of doom. Feckin’ nightmare that ring round. We went round it twice, in both directions, before we figured out where we supposed to get off (and that was only after we’d shouted at each other, pulled over and waved Ant’s phone with it’s GPS out the window a few dozen times to try and calculate our position, and then finally relented and phoned for directions). Turns out we needed to get off, then drive as if we were getting back on and then pull a Lewis Hamilton type hard left to screech off down a side road at the last minute. Who knew? Not google maps that’s for sure.
Anyway. It’s a gorgeous flat, very ‘young executive’, and with TWO balconies and TWO toilets (which seems quite execessive for one a one bedroom flat but there you go). But that’s not the exciting bit. No. The exciting bit is that it is within 3 minutes walk of Coventy Ikea.
“It’s WHAT??! You mean you can WALK there???!”, I screech down the phone at my brother a couple of weeks earlier.
Dave: “Ummm yes. But anyway… did I tell you about the balconies? And the under-ground car park? And the concierge”
Me: “SCREW the balconies! Ikea baby!! Oh my god… you could go there for breakfast!!”
Dave: “I fear you’re rather missing the point…”
So of course, on our visit there I insisted we have a day trip out to the blue and yellowed halls of delight (Dave: “Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer to do something else? See the Cathedral…?” Me: “IKEA BABY!!!”) I mean, come on, where else can you indulge your need to by useless yet beautiful kitchen implements AND eat your body weight in meatballs and chips?
And it was while we wandering round, marvelling at the LEKSVICKs and the SKUBBs and EKTORPs that it dawned on us.
Kai is Ikean.
Now they are an elusive race the Ikeans. By night they revel in their homeland paradise of practical yet stylish storage solutions and simple, common sense design. Perhaps sitting and reading one of those books you see on the shelves in an incomprehensible language (it’s not Swedish, it’s Ikean), or working in one of the ergonomicallydesigned office spaces, their children running gayly amidst the labyrinth of sofas and TV cabinets, before being tucked up under their stripy, whimsical duvets with their strange giraffe-esque cuddly toys. But as dawn breaks, our mysterious friends scuttle out of their sanctuary in preparation for the mass public invasion and disappear off into the early morning light to be forced to design new and exciting additions to next year’s catalogue. The only clues of their existence being a half-eaten hot dog, a crumbled looking bed, and their shining faces with just a hint of sadness peering out from photo frames in their abandoned living rooms. A displaced people they are. Waiting for the day they will be allowed the freedom to conduct their lives undisturbed.
To them LIATORP isn’t merely a strange name for a coffee table – it means “place to put your cuppa”. Their native tongue bastardised for novel marketing purposes.
Somewhere in my distant ancestry, I reckon we must have Ikean relatives and Kai is the genetic throwback.
If only I could find an Ikean to translate and tell us what “Bakkum” really means…
Maybe I’ll ask Sandy Toksvig (whose family name translates as “She of the Interesting Shoe-rack”)
I bet she’s one of them…
The Ordinary Child and a Mashed Potato Moment
First of all, a HUGE thank you to Potty Mummy for naming me the British Mummy Bloggers’ Blogger of the Week – what an honour! Welcome to new folks joining the sleep deprivation party here at SIFTW (acronyms mean I’ve totally made it!) This does of course now put me under immense pressure now to come up with something vaguely entertaining for you all. Which no doubt means, according to the ‘rules’ that I will end up being dull and weird. Oh well. Popularity was nice while it lasted!
There seems to be a bit of a theme running through my blogging at the moment. First we had a post about my average accomplishments, then it was my average blog, and today, well, today I want to talk about average babies.
You see, now Kai has hit the big 1 the inevitable baby race seems to have taken on new and infuriatingly pervasive proportions. Of course, it’s always been something. Can he smile yet? Can he roll? Sit up? Stand on one leg while singing ‘I’m a little tea-pot’? (ok, not the last one. At least… not yet)
Right now it’s walking and talking. It’s all anyone seems to care about.
And as Kai is doing neither (apart from the odd random word and strange animal impersonation) nor, in fact, showing the slightest interest in doing so, I find myself once again the recipient of a multitude of wonderfully reassuring and self-affirming comments such as “Well, I’m sure he’ll get it EVENTUALLY *sympathetic look*”, and (my current favourite of the week) “It’s ok, some babies just have more ‘physical’ intelligence than others” (what does that even MEAN??! If you’re reading, person who said that – FOR SHAME!!)
I’ve talked about the infuriating affliction that is competitive mum syndrome before on here. It’s something I try very, very hard to avoid. Mostly because I think it’s a huge big pile of bull crap.
But I’m going to admit it. A teeny tiny part of me cries as I watch Kai’s peers confidently run around reciting the alphabet backwards while Kai himself sits in a corner randomly pointing and laughing at inanimate objects and trying to bark like a dog. I am forced to face the fact that, despite my best efforts at parenting, my child hasn’t been gifted with supernaturally advanced powers of development.
Yes Josie, it’s bad news I’m afraid. Your child is *gulp*… average.
Why does it bother us so much? Cause I know it’s not just me, I bet you, mummy readers, have all had such moments of fleeting disappointment and vague feelings of failure which seem to rise, unbidden into our minds, every time your child’s friend does yet another extraordinary thing.
Saying that, I think this is mostly a first-born thing. Parents with two or three, or even (as in the case of some friends) , five or SIX probably don’t give a damn at what age their child decides to do something, or what anyone else thinks about it, too busy as they are trying to end the day with as many children alive as when they started. So parents of multiples – you have permission to take a smug position of superiority here – no doubt you learned these lessons long ago.
Anyway. Where was I? Oh yes…
Common sense tells us that obviously the rate of our child’s development has nothing whatsoever to do with our relative merits or failures as parents, or is, in fact, any indication of their future intelligence or success but far more likely down to random genetics, personality and well, chance. Despite what the competitive mums seem to infer, the fact that my baby is not walking and talking at the grand old age of thirteen months old, does NOT mean he is destined to become that man that walks around our town with a robe made of a sacking, sandals, and a straw hat shouting at the pigeons.
So why do we take it all so personally? Why DOES it bother us, if only a little?
I think the reason it seems to strike a nerve is due, in part, to a journey that began back in our teenage years. When we were forced to come to terms with the fact that no, we probably weren’t going to be a model, and that we weren’t going to ‘grow into’ our noses and magically wake-up looking like Angelina Jolie. Or that we were going to randomly bump into Robbie Williams in Starbucks one day and, looking mysterious and alluring (as, of course, we would), and being given his skinny cappuccino with extra foam in a hilarious coffee shop- misundertanding, cause him to fall head over heels in love with us because we ‘got him’ and didn’t care about the fame thing.
I’ve STILL not quite got over that one.
And guess what. Our children probably aren’t going to be space men either, or prime minister, or nobel peace prize winners, or pirate ninjas, or a horse, or any of the of the things we ourselves dreamed of becoming as children. Unconciously we long for them to live extraordinary lives, the lives we did not lead, the lives we had to let go of.
Ok I’ll admit this is all sounding rather depressing in a kind of let me take your dreams and stamp all over them kind of way.
But the sooner we realise this as parents the better. The sooner we can let go of our need for our children to be so damn extraordinary, the sooner we are freed to see just how incredible they already are. Maybe if we can just stop worrying about the big stuff, the stupid milestones and the whole ‘my baby should’s, we’ll be less likley to miss all those teeny tiny subtle moments of everyday extraordinariness that our children show us just be being alive. Those moments that show us that sometimes it’s the ordinary and unremarkable that can be the most beautiful and precious of all.
Like eating mash potato with their hands. Or how watching a dog running round the garden can be the single most hilarious experience of their little life. Or they way their head seems to fit so perfectly nestled into your shoulder.
Not clever. Not exceptional. But just magic.
So let go Competititve Mums. Please. Because I can’t take this crap anymore.
Stop asking me if Kai’s walking yet and let us get back to rubbing mashed potato in our hair. Cause it’s ten million times more fun.
Why I'm finding blogging a little like highschool
I wasn’t particularly popular at school (it’s ok ex-school mate readers, you can nod in agreement).
I was also clever, but not THAT clever. Average clever. (More nods).
But I wanted to be both. Desperately.
I existed on the periphery of the more elitist social groups. Kind of cool by association but obviously not cool, especially when trying to be cool (emphatic nods – ok you can stop now, I get the point). Occasionally one of the more charismatic members would notice I was there and grant me the privilege of their company for a while. Probably mostly out of pity.
I’m finding blogging a bit like this.
There are the popular blogs. They are shiny and polished. Their followers are dedicated, leaving scores of adoring comments. And there are the clever blogs. With their witty and flawless sentence construction; their outstanding use of metaphor and impressive vocabulary. They entertain us with the flare of (insert clever metaphor #1 here). Some are, quite annoyingly, both popular AND clever.
My blog is neither.
But I find myself wishing it was.
Once again I find myself back in the high school mind-set, that awkward teenager with braces on my teeth and milk-bottle bottom lenses in my glasses. Wondering just what it is that makes these shining beacons of blogginess naturally so much better than me? What makes people flock to them like (insert clever metaphor #2 here)?
But then I remember I’m not in high school anymore. I grew up (well, kind of). The braces are gone. The specs are gone. Ok I’m still awkward and gangly but that’s endearing, or so my husband tells me.
So I’ve decided. I’m not going to try to be popular or clever. Because if the same rules apply as when I was a teenager that will only inevitably mean I end up saying something weird and inappropriate and laughing too loud and everyone will look at me funny.
And I’m going to try not to care.
So I hope you like un-popular and un-clever. Because that’s all you’re going find here. But hopefully I’ll be endearingly awkward and socially inept and you’ll love me in that ‘I’d miss you if you weren’t here to bask in my light’ kinda way. And if you want to invite me to your party, or share some of your chips over lunch and tell me a secret you haven’t told anyone else? Well that would be good too…
…and by the way I think your shoes are the coolest thing I have ever seen and that boy you like has TOTALLY been looking at you all through Maths.
Possible clever metaphors
#1 a) a thousand glittering iphones.
b) a jewel beetle’s bum.
c) David Cameron
#2 a) a fat kid to cake.
b) Kai to dangerous electrical equipment.
c) Boy racers in pimped-out Renault Clios to a McDonald’s drive-through
Oh I give up.
The (Wide-Awake) Elephant In the Room
It’s probably about time I tackled a theme that underpins a lot of what I talk about on this blog, but that so far I’ve managed to avoid talking about too much.
Yep, you’ve guessed it. It’s the big fat horrible Sleep Monster.
Those of you that know me well will have had to listen to me drivel on about most of what follows for the last 12 months so can be politely excused to go and do something more interesting. Those of you that don’t know me quite so well but have often wondered why it is I look like an ageing zombie with a slight hysterical edge to my voice when you bump into me in the street, you’re about to find out. And those of you that don’t know me at all? Well then I guess this is all going to be a treasure trove of new delights and excitement.
You see, Kai is a bit of a problem sleeper. And when I say a bit, I mean a rather extraordinary large bit. Continent sized. Small orbiting moon sized.
Now before we continue I don’t want you to hold it against him. He is probably the loveliest (albeit slightly odd and hyperactive) child, you could ever have the pleasure of meeting. He does lots and lots of things very, very well.
It’s just that sleeping isn’t one of them.
It has been from day one, which is my one small comfort that I haven’t done something horribly wrong to make him this way. It started out with colic – 12 weeks of screaming punctuated only by marathon breastfeeds, with any little sleep achieved solely through repetitive motion and/or holding and copius amounts of Infacol suspension. Once the crying stopped, the sleep battles continued for long months during which I desperately tried to find a way that Kai would fall asleep without a great deal of assistance and failing miserably. At it’s worst, Kai would wake every three quarters of an hour (the length of one sleep cycle) all through the night. On average it was every one to two hours, at best maybe three or four (and I can still count on two hands the number of times he’s slept longer than a four hour stretch). Each time he woke he would need a great deal of help getting back to sleep, no matter how hard I tried to encourage him otherwise, and even with help, would find it almost impossibly difficult.
Just for the record (and because if you mention the fact that your child is a poor sleeper, people feel compelled, no, OBLIGATED to bombard you with advice and I’m sure you’re eagerly waiting for you opportunity suggest one or more of the following), here’s what we’ve tried that hasn’t made a blind bit of difference:
- Not feeding Kai to sleep
- Feeding Kai to sleep (well, works to GET him to sleep, just not to keep him asleep)
- Putting Kai down awake and encouraging him to fall asleep on his own. Featuring the torturous ‘pick-up-put down’ technique. I’m not kidding I stuck at this one religiously for months and all it did was give me a bad back and made me ill to the point of collapse.
- Putting Kai down only once he was in a deep sleep (thanks Dr Sears for that one)
- Music (featuring every bad pun of a baby album known to man – Baroque a-by Baby was my fave)
- A hammock cot (seemed to be working for a month till Kai steadfastedly refused to go in it again)
- Leaving an item of my clothing with him
- Dream feeding (that’s when the baby’s asleep right? It doesn’t count if he just wakes up wanting milk)
- Introducing a comforter (just becomes another thing to play with or throw in the middle of the night)
- Sleeping in his own room (no improvement in sleep, in fact it got WORSE! and quadruple the work for me)
- Black-out curtains
- A variety of assorted sleep wear and coverings
- Changing his nappy half way through the night
- Not changing his nappy and instead padding him out like the Michelin Man
- Starting solids (they told me this was the key when he was 4 months old. Guess what…it wasn’t. The boy eats like a horse and it STILL hasn’t made a difference)
- Giving him more milk during the day (seriously? Have you seen how often this boy feeds?)
- Cutting down breastfeeds in the night
- Working on his day time naps
- Wearing himself out more during the day. Learning to crawl made no difference. Long sessions in the pool made no difference. In fact you’ve probably never met a more active baby than Kai. He just doesn’t do still.
And before you say it….
- a bedtime routine. I could win awards for my bedtime routine. It is flawless. It includes a long wind-down time and all the right sleep cues. It just doesn’t work.
Two things I haven’t done:
- Forced him to night-wean.
- Left him to cry.
Yes I know, you’re now all sitting back with an air of smugness thinking “well, what does she expect!”. Don’t judge me for it. Maybe it worked for you and your child. But it’s not for me. Because Kai doesn’t just moan for a bit. He sobs. And he sobs. To the point of hysteria. For hours and hours. Till he chokes and is sick.
I can’t do it. Not to him and not to me. And the night feeds? Well I think he’s the best person to decide what amount of milk he does and doesn’t need. And I’m convinced that the night feeds are what have allowed me to carry on producing milk for so long and grow such an incredibly healthy chunky boy. So we’ll leave those two things alone thank you very much.
So why does he have so much trouble staying asleep? It’s a mystery to be honest. On any one night half a dozen or more things seem to be the culprit (and wanting to feed is by far in the minority here for reasons why he wakes up). Separation anxiety is a biggy, teething another (this boy teethes like you wouldn’t believe). He gets tummy ache. He gets nightmares. He sleep crawls and climbs about his cot. He gets distracted by the tiny line of light from between the curtains or from the digital clock and decides that must mean it’s time to get up. He thinks 3am is a very good time to be wide awake and practice singing and jumping about on mummy and daddy. And sometimes, yes, he seems to get genuinely hungry and need to down gallons of milk before being able to go back to sleep. But not by any means every time he wakes up.
In short, he’s just hopeless.
In short, it’s been a complete and utter nightmare.
A turning point came when I gave in. When I threw all the sleep books out the window, bought a co-sleeper crib that allowed me to deal with Kai without getting out of bed, and stopped trying to fix it. Because by the looks of things I was going to burn out loooong before Kai got the hang of things. I HAD burned out, in fact. I’d lost weight, I was exhausted, I was making myself ill.
Enough was enough.
We’re now a few months down the line of the ‘No Try Sleep Solution’ (haha that was a sleep training joke – you won’t get it unless your name is Elizabeth Pantley) and do you know what? Giving up was the best thing we could of done.
Because at the end of this long dark tunnel there is emerging a tiny little glimmering light of hope. Since I’ve given in and just gone with it, there have been some improvements, small ones but significant ones none the less. Kai’s waking up less. He’s feeding less. He’s even falling asleep on his own and re-settling himself when he stirs (well… sometimes). Twice this week I’ve managed to have an entirely uninterupted evening.
Yep. He’s actually getting better.
Ok we’re rather a long way off him sleeping through the night but we are definitely moving towards maybe only 2 or 3 wake-ups a night, at least on a good night anway.
And that my friends, is MORE than good enough for me right now.
Thanks for listening. And if you see me in the street looking slightly frayed? Well now you’ll know why.
And buy me cake.
Did I mention that I was an appalling sleeper as a child? that I didn’t sleep through the night till I was three? That my poor mother resorted to drugging me so she could get some shut-eye?
Yep. Karmic payback is a bitch. At least it proves that the Universe has sense of humour I suppose.