I don’t mind, so long as they’re happy. And an Olympic Athlete of course.

I often hear pregnant women and expectant fathers discussing what their new arrival might be like in personality and appearance. The conversation always seems to end the same way. “Of course, all I care about is that they are happy and healthy.”

I used to say the same thing myself for the most part, and to be honest, I think it’s time for all us parents to admit to the world that we are lying. I don’t deny that without our medical well being, we have nothing, and that the most important thing for us all is that our children are healthy. I can’t imagine for one minute what parents with truly sick children must be going through, and not for one second do I mean to belittle that in any way.

But even when my baby couldn’t see, and we were concerned about the possibility of fairly serious issues behind his lack of vision, I would not say that “all I cared about” was his health.

Because even if I am only speaking for myself, I want my son to be happy and healthy-sure. But I also wan’t him to be clever. And funny. And popular, and to find love. And to say that the only important thing which contributes to happiness is our health is frankly naive at best.

Perhaps you could say that it’s the happiness part that is the main thing then. All I care about is that my children are happy. After all, plenty of people live with medical issues and health problems and live long happy fulfilled lives as well.

Also nonsense. If someone told me that my son would grow up happily, but unmarried, not interested in Judiasm, and living off unemployment benefits, perfectly content with his lot in life, you would have to peel me off the bathroom floor. I would be entirely miserable, despite his happiness. Because we all want certain things for our offspring. This is the same issue as arguing that you don’t care about your child’s gender. Because you do care. You’re allowed to have an opinion. We all care and we all have expectations about what our children will do or will not do. The best we can do is to manage these expectations and be honest about them.

There is a rumour going around that all parents think their children are beautiful, and clever, and hilarious. I’m yet to find out if this is the case, (as my son really is clever and beautiful and hilarious ;)) but if as I suspect, that when honest we can see our own kids flaws as well as the annoying neighbours ones, I think we could all benefit from being honest about our fears and expressing them as positively as possible.

I am not going to deny that I’ve always worried that I will find it difficult if my children were to end up unintelligent. It’s not something a mother is supposed to admit, that they worry about spawning a dunce, but there we go. I don’t see it as the worst thing in the world. I suppose I feel that the responsibility lies mainly with me. Everything being equal, most children have talents and abilities. Most kids shine at something, as long as they are given the tools. Bringing your kids up with confidence and independence gives them the ability to find their own intelligence. After all, it’s not like I’m dictating that I will be devastated unless they becomes one exact thing, a Brain Surgeon or a Professor of the Fine Arts. After all, I believe it is just as damaging to tell your children “I don’t care about how clever you are” as it is to say “you must get all A’s.” I see so many people, adults and children alike, who are stifled by the wrong expectations, either high or low from their parents, and who I’m sure under a different upbringing could have been just as ‘clever’ or ‘capable’ as someone at the top of their field.

I can’t pretend I don’t want R to be happy in my way as well as his. I can’t tell him I’d be over the moon if he married out of our religion, or decided his vocation was to be a starving artist. Maybe that will change as I watch him grow into his own person not just our baby. But while he is young, all I can do is try to give him the space and encouragement to find out what I’m sure is there. What makes him clever, or funny, or socially capable, and then help him shine. And brag about it of course. After all, I am still his mother.

As an added treat, here’s Rachel and Ross on this issue, 🙂

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It’s a … Baby!

When I was pregnant with R, a million moons ago, it is no secret that C and I had a slight difference of opinion about whether we wanted a pink or a blue bundle.

Yes yes, I know, every baby is a blessing, and the main thing is that our precious bump was born healthy, but once you’re past that obvious wish that strikes your heart unawares when holding the pregnancy test and feeling like an omnipotent being for actually creating the potential of a person, you have 9 months left where the last thing you want to be thinking about is all the things that may cause your baby not to be healthy. A far less frightening conversation, is the prospect of football vs barbie dolls.

Somewhat unusually given the self centred nature of humankind, and in fact reproduction itself, I was desperate for a boy, and my better half had his heart set on a girl.

In order not to go into the delivery room with this split, and so that I never had to ask my husband the frankly awkward question of whether he was happy or not on the arrival of our firstborn child, we agreed to find out the only secret of pregnancy at our midway scan.

This didn’t bother either of us, as we are both of the opinion that having a ‘surprise’ to end off the pregnancy is a bit odd to begin with. Let’s put it this way, if and when they have the ability of telling you any other information about your child, I’m sure we all wouldn’t treat the data as anywhere near as sacred. Height? Weight? Hair Colour? GSOH? -shrugs- It just doesn’t really matter either way does it? We personally feel the same way about gender. Whichever way, we’re happy. Yes, we both have a preference, so why not find out, and then we can stop wondering and get down to the intricacies of the more important Big Naming Conversation.

Just as a side point, there is nothing more annoying than people who say “Oh no, we don’t want to find out, we just care that the baby is healthy.” I’m sorry, do you know something that we don’t? There is absolutely no correlation between finding out your baby’s sex and its current health. It will not make your baby either more or less healthy if you keep the gender a secret between God and the sonographer until it’s appearance. It doesn’t make you care about your unborn child more than those of us who choose to find out. It’s just a preference! By all means, enjoy having less information for 4 months more than we did, but please just say “We wanted a surprise” or “We didnt want to find out.”  Gesundheit.

Anyway, so as I was saying, we decided to put the mystery to an end at our 20 week scan, and were told in no uncertain terms that we were bringing a tiny man into the world. One look at my emotional husband and I knew I never would have had to ask the awkward question in the first place. We were both excited and overjoyed.

20 months later, and it looks like the joke was on me. My son is about as masculine as a pink fluffy pillow. He has the thickest curliest fastest growing hair of any child I know, he can only sit happily if he knows that all his toys have been tidied away and put in their right place. He hates mud, sand, or any form of stickiness or dirt, and he simply stands and looks terribly sad when faced with any form of provocation or bullying. He loves cuddles, he adores his baby doll and its pushchair, and to be honest? We just wouldn’t have him any other way.

Hey Rhod Gilbert, keep your hands to yourself..

Everyone knows the whole ‘British aloof’ thing. We get on the train in the morning and are greeted by absolute silence. We walk down the street briskly, looking ahead, the only permissible sentences, “excuse me” and possibly a quick and apologetic request for the time, or in dire straits, directions.

So what changes when we have kids? From the minute our bump is noticeable, we become public property. During my pregnancy, despite having what has been referred to as a “moody default face” (by one of my best friends believe it or not), I was talked to, prodded, poked and lectured multiple times. I had countless people who I’ve never had physical contact with before touch my stomach, I had a total stranger attract my attention  and wait for me to remove my headphones, only to kindly mention “That’s a boy in there, and don’t think it will be an easy labour!” (The fact that she was right on both counts gives me less joy than you may think.) I even had Rhod Gilbert address a crowded television studio with a microphone pointed bump-ward and his hand ‘wondering if he would be able to feel it kicking.’ Is that normal in Wales Rhodri?

I had thought it may be typical of the ‘bun in the oven’ experience, and true, I have many friends who have equally shocking and violating stories of their own time as an incubator. But it didnt stop just because he’s now out here with the rest of us.

I have done extensive research into the subject, and I am definitely asked more questions and engaged in more chit chat than the childless strangers around me. It is always me that finds myself informing people when the last bus came, or being forced to listen to some old dear’s plans for the weekend. I dont mind if you want to tell me how cute my boy is, but do I need to hear about how difficult it was for you to cut your own firstborn’s locks? Or how now, 30 years on, he never calls and you’re not that fond of his wife? Truly, I sometimes feel I could legitimately charge at the end of a conversation.

I’m not sure whether having a baby makes me look more approachable, or gives people an easy ‘in’ to a conversation. If that’s the case, maybe there is a clever answer I could give to the obvious first questions, that would get me out of being engaged in pointless chatter.

“Oh, isn’t he precious?”
“Thank you. The doctor said I should keep him in another few days, but he cant be THAT contagious”

“Oh, look at that hair!”
“Yep, nearly no lice at all this morning”

I’m reminded of a great Michael Mcintyre joke I could use to my advantage. When I see the pointed smile towards R which I know will lead to the opener, all I need to do is smile at my baby, and say…
“Look at the nice lady smiling at you.. Can you say hello? Come on Adolf, don’t be shy.”

I may try it.

Perhaps it’s just that without a child it is so easy to hide ourselves from communication. We walk around with headphones in, or with our mobile phones glued to our ears. We find friends to take walks with, ignoring everyone around us in case they turn out to be ‘chuggers’ or want to God forbid hand us a leaflet. If someone smiles at us in a public place, we either think they are crazy or spend the rest of the day frustratedly trying to work out if we know them from somewhere.

With a kid however, we let out more of ourselves. By smiling in their direction, we show the world we have a human side. By showcasing our choice of more human products like buggies and nappy bags and baby food, we provide topics of conversation on a platter for hungry conversationalists. Parading around with the most important and most precious part of our lives on display, truly wearing our hearts on our sleeves, surely shows a vulnerability in ourselves which trumps even the most heavily armoured of defences.

My 1st birthday party

Tips for those of you hosting a 1 year old’s birthday party.

  • Do not assume just cause his name is on the cake that he will in fact want to be there. A seperate play area is great for when all the attention just gets too much.
  • Do not assume that just because he doesnt want to be there, that means he will have an afternoon nap when he can hear all he’s missing out on.
  • Guarantee that the tooth that has been hiding below the surface for almost a month will start cutting through that morning. Have the nurofen on hand.
  • As cute as you thought the pics of him ‘opening’ his presents would be, never underestimate a baby’s fear of irrational things. Serves us right for buying such terrifying wrapping paper I suppose.
  • Assume that regardless of the time span put on the party, everyone can and will arrive at once. Until this point, predict extreme awkwardess for the 2 guests that showed up on time. Once everyone arrives, predict bedlam until end of show.
  • Why would family members be on their best behaviour just because you’re throwing a party?

After all that, I’m so glad I followed my own advice not to overdo it for his first birthday. A small gathering of close friends and family was more than enough for both him and us. As I’ve said before, this party was 99% for me, and 1% for him to see pictures in the future and see how loved he was even when he was teeny tiny. The decorations, the food, the guests, the planning, even mostly the presents.. all for me. Therefore I’m okay with the fact that he didnt really enjoy much of it. Having said that, after all the crying, needing to be left alone, whinging, looking overwhelmed and being given far too much attention, I’m slightly worried that we’ve given our son a phobia of birthdays, (although watching him play with his new toys this morning has calmed those fears a little!) I also have many many cake related treats left over (come get if you want)!

An extremely tired household slept in until 8.30 this morning, and are all kind of sleepy and grouchy. Especially the littlest member. (Although whether that’s due to the overstimulation, or the shards of glass I found him munching on this morning I do not know….) Note to Self: Do not rush the balsamic vinegar and bottle cleanup just because you have a room full of guests next door.

One year ago today, was 10/10/10. A perfect day to have a baby. Equally perfect? 20/10/2010, ten days time. But I didnt have high hopes for my bump, as everyone told me that first babies definitely do not come on time, let alone 17 days early. I was not allowed to be upset at missing out on those perfect birthday dates

However, I think I am justified in being slightly irritated when on the morning of 11/10/10 (a non auspicious date) my waters broke. Oh Cookie, couldnt you have done that a day earlier? However, I will always be eternally grateful to my son, that once he started arriving, he settled on the 12th, and didnt hold out for 20/10/2010. 36 hours was long enough thank you.

A year ago today, C and I got all dressed up and went out for what would be our last date without a pre-arranged babysitter. As I squeezed myself into the chair in 86, and attempted to have as romantic a meal as possible when you’re getting up to pee every 7 minutes and struggling to adjust maternity clothes that no longer fit, I cant believe that we hadn’t met our little boy, and we didnt even know he was on his way. (If you can call two days away ‘on his way’.

(Oh dear, get ready for a week of overemotional blogging folks…)