Snug as a Bug in a Rug

Not sure if it’s going to help the night-time issues… but R recieved the best present ever from us yesterday. A duvet and a pillow! I figured I sure wouldn’t want to be in my bed without mine, so who says he feels any differently? Making his cot a more comfortable/fun place to be in couldn’t hurt anyway.

I took the pic before I left him in bed, feeling very fuzzy and emotional at the idea of my little boy all tucked in for the first time. Of course by the time I checked on him a couple hours later, he had discarded them both entirely, and was curled up in a ball in his own baby-made duvet free spot. He did sleep all night though, so who am I to complain?

Now to find some boy friendly Peppa Pig sheets… He will never want to get out!

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The arrival of Desh and Nah.

My son can say Yes and No!

Well, more accurately, he can say Desh and Nah. But as I am his mother, I can understand what he means perfectly. Also, they are accompanied by head nodding and shaking respectively, which was a bit of a clue if I’m honest.

It’s amazing! Firstly, the gloat-y mother bit you all abhor. Feel free to skim. Most parents tell me their kids learn the word no and its uses months before yes. Some parents of teenagers still seem to be unsure if their kids have mastered the positive response to questions. Not my baby. He only seems to say no if the suggestion is truly awful, (ie: bedtime) and nods happily to most other questions, (breadsticks, grapes, crackers, raisins- he isn’t fussy.) Seriously though, he really thinks about his response rather than going straight to ‘Nahhhh.”

Which is really what I am celebrating. The arrival of Yes and No means that he is comprehending what I am saying well enough to have his own response. How cool is that? And pretty complex if you think about it.  Ima is saying something that I can either agree or disagree with, and then I can let her know which response I’m having. The only problem is that he hasn’t quite mastered whether I’m going to agree with his response to my response yet.

Yes sweetheart, I know you said you don’t want a nappy on, but we are in fact on our way to rhyme time in the buggy, so I think we’l keep in on.
I know baby, I can see that you are bringing me the shaving cream and nodding at me chanting desh desh desh.. but it isn’t technically edible, so I’m not going to unscrew it for you to drink ok?

At the moment I’m still in that giddy excited phase where my son is ACTUALLY communicating with me, so I really don’t mind what the outcome of our conversation is. I just spend most of my time with him offering stuff. If there’s nothing child-friendly around, I improvise. R? Do you want my watch? This tissue? A hug? (That last one is guaranteed to get me a fierce Nah.) If I’m really strapped for questions I just ask every five minutes if he wants to go to sleep. I’m pretty sure he now thinks nap time is a game that he can avoid with the magic word No.

What’s amazing is that he can really express himself with those two words and one or two other useless ones. (Yes, I can see that’s a ball without you telling me.) It’s opened up a whole world for us both. I don’t have to listen to him crying at me and helplessly try any number of options, I can just ask. He doesn’t get surprised that it is suddenly sleep time, or that I’ve given him a snack he didn’t fancy, or any other aspect of his day hasn’t gone as he anticipated. He can have a tiny bit of control over his choices, and I love it. I love knowing that however minor they seem to me, his choices are what his life is made up of, and I am giving him some input for the first time.

And even though it’s been less than a week, I can see that he is happier for it. Adult or baby, don’t we all want the chance to make decisions for ourselves?

Can you say…?

The Mealtime Blues

Each stage with a kid comes with its own challenges. When they are immobile, you have a constant bad back from dragging them everywhere; when they start moving, you cant keep them out of your cupboards. When they cant talk, you are filled with frustration that they cant tell you what they want; once they start chattering, they can shout and tantrum oh so much more effectively.

I would say that right now, at about 18 months, is a great stage for me and my son. He is walking confidently, which makes going out and about so much easier, and as the walking is still a novelty, it is almost a form of entertainment for him in itself. While he is still to say any real words, (this weeks addition is “Uhbul” -prizes for those who correctly guess the meaning) his understanding has sky-rocketed, and he can now fetch a large number of items, and understands enough of my tone to stop before he does himself any injury. Basically he now has the comprehension of a well trained Labrador.

But as we approach the aptly named “terrible twos” I feel my son testing me in new areas that we’ve never really  encountered problems with before. Lately, it has been food. Since about 8 months, my baby has always been a great eater, and like so many mums who opt for BLW (Baby led weaning) I am proud to say he has always had a varied palate and a great appetite. But lately, it is one trial after another. Being quite a baby led parent in general, I try to listen to what he is telling me, after all, babies are just tiny adults (gasp) and normally what they want is quite sensible.

When he was 8 months, I realised he wasnt interested in being spoonfed, and started the BLW process, giving him regular food for him to hold and try, and he took to it immediately. About 2 months ago, he stopped eating in his highchair, struggling against the straps and arching his body in anger. We duly stored the highchair in the loft, and spent an afternoon perusing table and chair sets, misting over at the idea that our little boy was old enough to sit in a big person little chair. Success, he loved it, playing merrily at the table with playdough, lego, books and toys galore. Eating? Another story altogether.

Thus begun the I enjoy walking around with my food stage. Sigh. This one was more my fault than his, as I never should have let it begin. But like most bad eating habits, it started with me being so happy he was eating, that why should it matter him wandering around the house with his bowl of chicken and potatoes?

After a week of looking the other way, I started enforcing the table rule for mealtimes, and we had moderate success. He now understands that we sit at the table if we want to eat. Great. Only thing is, he now decides he doesn’t actually want to eat.

In summary, we now have no highchair, but a table and chair which he loves, but wont eat at. And thus begins the current stage we are in now, which I affectionately dub living hell mealtimes. For those of you that remember those old Loreal adverts, Here comes the science. 20% of mealtimes are a pleasure. My son eats nicely, often feeds himself neatly and happily, and is a treat to be with throughout. The other 80% of mealtimes begin with ten minutes of rigorous shaking head and crying, and refusal to try the food, all of which I know he likes. Of that 80%, in around 50% of those cases, we have some foolproof tricks of the trade to encourage eating, which result in the entire plate being wiped clean. These are (in no particular order):

  • The Teddy Ruse. Grabbing a nearby cuddly toy, I proceed to feed the teddy with the spoon/fork while making delicious yum yum noises in uncanny impersonation of the character in question. R has a go himself, feeding the ted, and then proceeds to feed himself. Well, if teddy likes it, it cant be that bad.
    Pros: Easy, and lets face it, quite cute.
    Cons: Not one for when youre out and about, or in front of people you dont want to look like a complete muppet in front of.
  • The Gruffalo Adventure. An old favourite, simply reading this story out loud is sometimes enough of a distraction to get the mouth opening and closing and swallowing.
    Pros: As our entire family knows this one by heart, it is a pretty easy on the go solution.
    Cons: I’m not sure he knows he is eating, so it’s not exactly teaching him anything. Plus I now hate that book which I once loved.
  • The Brave Explorer. This food is horrible with that spoon, but not bad if I shove my fist in it, is the logic behind this technique. I agree that kids shouldn’t be expected to just open their mouths to food when the whole experience is quite new and unusual for them. So I’m quite liberal with the whole using fingers part of mealtime. And it does happen quite regularly that the meal is scarfed down happily with hands, when it was refused point blank with cutlery.
    Just a shame when that meal is weetabix.
    Pros: er.. they eat something.
    Cons: Not for public, and as all BLW mums know, invest in a good splash mat.
  • The Noise Attack. Just. Dont. Stop. Talking.
    Sing, dance, chat, praise.. Try not to even stop for breath. If they are opening and chewing, thats all you need to focus on. Doesn’t matter if what you’re saying makes sense or not, just let them concentrate on the drivel you’re spouting out, and not on the protein you’re spooning in.
    Pros: Public friendly, needs no props.
    Cons: A sore throat.

These mealtimes, while exhausting, are at least a success. However, whateverIhaveleft%  of meals are spent doing all these things and more, but to no avail. They are still a huge disaster and no food at all is eaten, no matter what we try. In the worst cases, the food ends up on the floor or in my lap, and I have to go scream into a pillow. (Sound familiar parents?)

The general consensus is that “Its just a phase” and that he will revert back to his happy eating, and that he wont starve himself. But it is beyond tiring having to do a song and dance 3 times a day for a coin toss of a chance of him eating a meal. So if anyone has any ideas of how to break the tantrum cycle, I am all ears and open to suggestions!

The Generation Game

If my baby were an adult, this week I would call him callous. If he were a grown up, aware of how tired both this parents are from an emotionally and physically exhausting week, I would probably be furious at him for his behaviour towards us.

Our family have suffered a great loss in the last few days, and I’m feeling drained, contemplative, emotional, and in need of some serious me-time. My son however, is just as he always is. Eager to be entertained, wide awake (as we all would be if we were allowed 15 hours sleep a day), somewhat whingy, and constantly in need of our full attention. What is usually part of the job, and at worst, moderately frustrating, has this week become almost impossible.

I got home on Tuesday morning at about 6am. My son woke up with his usual vigour at around 7. I sleepwalked into his room, muttered the morning prayer of Modeh Ani to him, with none of my usual halfhearted bounce, (half is good for me-I am the opposite of a morning person.) and lifted him out of his cot. He grinned at me, and started pressing my nose, the cue for a cheery rendition of “The wheels on the bus.”

Washed out. Devastated. Exhausted. Lost. A few of the words that described how I felt at that moment, having only hours before watched a man I loved leave this world. How could I play with my baby, smile and sing and laugh with him, when I cant even explain to him yet, “Ima doesnt feel too good today” or “A sad thing has happened.” For R, the world was exactly the same place it was when I said goodnight twelve hours previously. For me, everything had changed, and I was overcome with a desire to put him down on the floor, leave him the open box of cheerios, and climb back under my waiting duvet.

And then I had a moment of utmost clarity. I was holding in my arms, a baby. My baby. Entirely innocent, and thank God, entirely without hurt or pain over this or any other incident in the world. (Lack of breadsticks exempting.) That’s the way of the world, and that’s the way it should be. As heartbroken as I am, he doesnt even know how to feel that emotion, let alone recognise it in my own eyes. And I’m so glad. He has plenty of time to learn how to sympathise with other people’s pain, and discover the right platitudes to say. For now, he is completely and totally selfish, and nothing could be better for him.

And perhaps for me too. Coming home, and seeing my son, playing with him, being forced to smile and laugh, only reinforces the nature of our lives. As we say goodbye to the older generation, we step into the shoes of the middle. This week, I truly feel like I’ve grown in countless ways, but not least out of being a child, in a very real way. Taking on responsibilities that may have rightly been my own late fathers, accepting that life is finite and precious in a way I’ve never embraced before, and stepping up into a more adult and mature role in our family. All of these things have changed me.

Looking at my baby boy, who has years and years to explore the ways of the world and struggle with the beauty and hardship of all these emotions, I know that he is truly blessed in his self-centredness, and that there is enough time in the future where he will no doubt be deprived of that without me taking it away from him now, in his babyhood.

And so I kissed his tiny forehead, gave him an extra little squeeze, and began at his favourite part, the middle of the song. “The horn on the bus goes.. beep beep beep!”

After all, why should he have to wait?

 

Language creates reality.

I went out on a playdate this week with a friend and her son. Although they are a few months apart, they are at similar stages, and it was really cute to watch them playing together. By together, I mean in the same room, as babies of this age seem to entirely ignore each other as much as possible. But still, cute.

Our boys are on different sides of a year and a half, and until recently, neither had shown any interest in walking. Given that this is not late and not early, certainly for me the difficulty of a still crawling child was more in how heavy he is to lug everywhere, and the necessity to take a buggy or a husband with for even the quickest and easiest of trips.

However, while we were out, another mother, standing nearby and observing our lightning fast crawlers, asked how old our kids were. Upon hearing our answer, she replied “Gosh, all these late walkers!”

Er.. Do you want a slap?

At the time, I settled for walking away, mentally adding another face to my “Wow I don’t like you” list. Today, it’s progressed to annoyance and the need to vent. Ok, so your kid walked at 13 months, well done you. It doesnt make you a better mother, and it doesnt make your kid any cleverer. It doesnt mean anything at all in fact.

A statement like that, however innocently meant, can only serve to make another parent worried about their own childs development, and especially in a situation like ours, entirely pointlessly. 18 months give or take, is not a ‘late walker.’ We all worry enough about our kids and the milestones they are hitting. Is this too early? Is this too late? Are they doing things well enough or quickly enough? What we need from other mums, is support. And often sympathy.

How strange that if she had said “Gosh, he must be getting heavy!” The same message would have come across but I would not be annoyed at all. Rather than hear a self-congratulatory jibe at my son, (who is clearly wearing glasses, so clearly would have some delay anyway) I would have heard another mother empathising with me and engaging me in normal mummy chit-chat.

In any area of life, the things we say to one another are so important. Language creates reality. What we say to others gives them a new outlook on what is actually happening and what they are dealing with. You comfort a person, things actually become better for them in their eyes. You argue and lash out, and a new truth settles in a friends mind. If this is true of any situation, then how much more so when we are talking about our children-the most precious things in our lives, and possibly where we need the most reassurance? Yesterday, R became for that second a “late walker”, a baby who wasnt as quick as another, or as capable. I dismissed it, and chose to instead focus on disliking the speaker, but a different person could have walked away worried and concerned.

When I became a mother, I automatically joined this special group made up of parents.Even without an introduction, we can smile at each other across a coffee shop, strike up conversation on a bus ride, and give advice to each other about all manner of topics. Without being in this club, and enjoying the support it brings, the last 16 months would have been nearly impossible. Being a part of this group is therefore a priviledge. Why abuse it?

Standing Man!