Category Archives: learning to walk

The Prattling Wibbler Returneth

shoes

I temporarily made this blog private last year. I did this for several reasons, the main one being a Massive Attack of The Wibblies. The Wibblies, also known as Crippling Bouts of Indecision and Fear which render one Irritatingly yet Decidedly Undecided*, are a phenomenon to which I am unfortunately prone. I read a few posts and wibbled, ‘yep, that’s quite embarrassing,’ so I made it all private for a while. But then I found myself back here, a few months down the line, to look up when Baby 1 started sleeping through the night. And then again, to see when Baby 2 began solids. And, more recently, when exactly it was that Baby 1 started walking because at the ripe old age of 15 months, Baby 3 absolutely can but very much shan’t and it is a phase which feels somewhat reminiscent. And I came to figure that if any of my strange ramblings about parenting help anyone, even if it is just an older, wearier me, then I can live with the cringing likelihood that I’m coming across as a bit of a prat. So, like any responsible prat, I will own my prattling. Even the breastfeeding poetry. I am, much like the average first-time poster on the Mumsnet AIBU board, *donning my hard hat*…

…and I thought I would re-commence my prattles with a list. Because a blog post list feels safe and familiar and less likely to incur an attack of The Wibblies over the pressing of the publish button. My list is of the things that have struck me as significant in the parenting of my three small persons over the past 15.5 months. There have been highs, there have been lows, all mostly set within the indeterminate grey, dolloping minutes where things are all just OK but there are still at least five things I could list off the top of my head that I’d rather be doing

  1. Parenting a newborn is ALWAYS hard. I don’t think anyone would argue that parenting a newborn in addition to a one and five-year-old is not extremely hard, but in some ways I found Baby 3 the easiest in terms of general newborn hellishness. Probably because it hadn’t been so long since Baby 2. Probably also because I had spent the preceding nine months fretting about just how hard it was all going to be. Also, to B3’s credit, he didn’t have colic or reflux and was an excellent, proficient feeder from the get go, so that was a massive help, as was the lack of birth trauma. Still, I am not a fan of the newborn months: the worry, the pain, the brutal exhaustion… Don’t get me wrong, having a squishy little tiny one is lovely when they fit the teeny onesies and snuggle into your neck for naps and make those cute little snuffling noises… Do you know what’s also lovely? Cuddling someone else’s teeny little snuffly one and then handing it back, going home and enjoying a full night’s sleep.
    nugget

    Baby 3 at 12 hours old: fitting into my hand all teensy-like.

    Which brings me onto point number two:

  2. Sleep. No one is obsessed with sleep quite so much as the parents (more so the breastfeeding mother in our case) of an infant under the age of whenever-it-is-they-reliably-sleep-through-the-night. With all three of mine I have reached the point at some stage during the first year where I honestly did not know if they would ever sleep through (I don’t mean the baby handbook technical definition of ‘sleeping through’, though in the early weeks this is certainly not a milestone to be sniffed at, I mean the civilised, put-them-down-at-7pm-and-don’t-see-them-again-until-after-6am nirvana that seemed so unreachable for so long). However, although Baby 3 showed all the signs of reverting back to newborn feeding patterns and sticking to them determinedly through to toddlerhood when he was about 9 months old, he was sleeping through the night quite reliably by the time he was one, just like his sisters. I think there are several reasons why, but the three predominant ones that spring to mind are age, luck and sleep training. The first two are out of anyone’s control; the third is not.

    A Little Side Bar on Sleep Training
    Sleep training helped Babies 1 and 3 in particular (Baby 2 only woke up once a night from a very early age whereas B3 regressed from one wake up to several for a long time as mentioned above, so he needed the help). The best thing about sleep training your third child is that you can learn from the mistakes of the first two. Mostly B1, who had an epic sleep-association with feeding. With number three I stopped giving him his bedtime feed upstairs when he was about 9 or 10 months old. This made absolutely no difference at all to the amount of times he woke up during the night for a feed, but once we got to the point where I knew he definitely could sleep all night without milk, it helped break the association between food and sleep. He was able to fall asleep in his cot for naps and at bedtime without breastfeeding, he just needed help to work out that he could do it during the night as well. I still went in when he cried, but once he worked out that I wasn’t going to feed him in the night anymore, he slept through. Of course, it wasn’t as simple as all that and there were the odd nights when he just wouldn’t settle, so sometimes I would revert back to feeding if all else failed, but for the most part, that was the turning point.

    Sleep training is a controversial topic and there are legions of parents who don’t agree with it. Others try it and it just doesn’t work. B2 wasn’t receptive to the same pick-up-put-down method we used with B1, so with her I used a gradual-retreat method which seemed to help. Mostly, though, sleeping through the night just comes with time. Some lucky ducks get six weekers sleeping through, some poor buggers have six-year-olds who still can’t settle.

  3. Potty training B2 was a helluva lot easier than B1. I think this is partially because we didn’t push it, partially because of lockdown and also because we knew what was in store and wanted to delay the inevitable as much as possible. One day she said she needed to go and we realised she hadn’t yet gone so we sat her on the potty, where she proceeded to do her business and look at us in some bemusement as we thrust praise and chocolate buttons upon her. Once that had happened we had no choice but to proceed. The transition to using the toilet occurred swiftly after we discovered that a potty and a crawling baby in the same room together is not a fun combination for anyone. We do still have accidents, of course. And I don’t put her in the sh!t jeans, but that’s mostly because I’m not sure where they are and, in any case, B2 is a creature of dresses and skirts who simply does not do jeans.
  4. I pick my battles. In a lot of ways I’m not as lenient as I was when there was only one opinionated small person in my life. I certainly wouldn’t drive anywhere with B2 clutching any sort of rideable vehicle across her chest. On the other hand, I have been known to utter the phrase, ‘Do what you like for Chrissake just stop bugging me!’ but usually only if I’ve been woken up unreasonably early and haven’t had any coffee yet. If they want to watch Masha and the Bear whilst eating their breakfast nicely in the living room without impaling one another with their spoons, that’s fine by me. If B2 just wants to wear dresses and skirts and is able to remember that she needs to hold them up whilst using the toilet, that’s fine too. If the girls are playing games on their tablets whilst the baby sleeps and I go for a run or attempt to get a little writing done, well at least they’re using their brains. Just as long as they’re not watching YouTube. Learned that one the hard way.

    kids playing

    Rare harmony. I take a picture because it really does last longer. And by ‘it’ I mean the second it takes to take the picture.

  5. Lockdown. I thought it would be everything I’d ever dreaded – the pressure of home-schooling, no routine, no baby/toddler classes, no playground, no distractions from the snack cupboard, no socialising… Actually, it was fine. Actually, it was almost kind of good… Home school was probably the biggest challenge. Some days were better than others. We read our prescribed e-books, we struggled through the maths worksheets. Occasionally we went a little extra and did science experiments,  collages, gardening… And then there were the days when she just was not in the mood and neither was I, and everything felt like a battle. But we got through it and both of us seem to have retained the ability to read, write, remember most of the blasted number bonds to 20 and function fairly normally. And, actually, I totally underestimated how bloody nice it would be not to have the pressure of getting three children and myself up, changed, fed, dressed correctly, teeth-brushed, hair done, out of the door and all the way to school without injury before 8.50am every morning. I don’t even get dressed before 8.50am these days. It’s almost like when I only had one baby.

    I suspect September is going to come as something of a terrible shock to the system.

Lara and Ben school

In the throes of home-schooling

And here I’m going to wrap things up, not because I’ve done much more than skim the bare bones of the past 15 months, but because B3 is trying to shove half-chewed celery in my mouth. There are many more things to say. I haven’t even begun to cover the miasma that is the first year of parenting a boy baby as opposed to a girl (spoiler: the difference is genitals) and I’ve barely touched upon the impact of the big C-word, not to mention all the new parenting stumbling blocks that have occurred this year… Wobbly teeth. Latest attempts to claw back a bit of pre-baby fitness. The time we called 999 completely unnecessarily. The continued laments of B1 now aged six and three quarters (spoiler: Mummy told her to stop playing Minecraft and go have a bath). I may still be a bit wibbly at times, but I’m not done yet… or, at least, I don’t think I am…

 

*As a lifelong sufferer of The Wibblies, I am laying claim to the phrase and its description. Mostly because I love a good oxymoron.


Your toddler is perfectly normal. Now shut up.

Is your child a budding Michaelangelo? The next Darcey Bussell? Destined for a life of OCD-like repeated rituals? Or are they just a NORMAL TODDLER?

OMG. Better start saving for art school!!!

OMG. Better start saving for art school!!

When you’re pregnant, all you want is to meet the little passenger in your belly. You’re consumed by questions to which you have no way of knowing the answers… What will they look like? What will they be like? Will they be musical? Will they grow up to solve crimes? Will they inherit your talents for baking/DIY/remembering erroneous tidbits of celebrity trivia? They are literally swathed in fleshy, protruding mystery. And then they are born and, save perhaps the question of their appearance (and that can be temporary) you still don’t really know any of the answers…

I seem to come across so many parents who seem determined to label all their children’s quirks and preferences as early as possible. Their child likes to clap their hands to a piece of music. Destined to be a conductor. Two year old likes books with rhymes: obviously a budding poet. I’m not saying it won’t happen… Sure, it’s possible a child destined to be a mechanic or race car driver might show an early interest in cars. It’s also just as possible the child might grow up to shun all forms of motorized vehicle and insist instead upon traveling everywhere in a pony and trap.

I don’t mean to rant; I’m genuinely mystified about the clues behind who toddlers are and who they will become. The other day my daughter burst into tears because I couldn’t understand her when she kept telling me to “shut the door” as she brushed her teeth in the bathroom (the door to which was firmly shut… you see my confusion.) Turns out she wanted me to close the lid of the toothpaste. Does that mean she will grow up to be fastidious about lids and germs and tidiness? (Given her genes I am inclined to think not…) Or was she just being a demanding, frustrated toddler?

If my child throws herself down when I refuse to hand over my laptop is it just her tiny toddler brain rendering her temporarily insensible due to an excess of exhaustion? Or am I preventing the next Steve Jobs from their earliest enterprising explorations? Earlier today we took a particularly muddy walk around the lake and she insisted I carry her AND her boots which she didn’t want to wear AND her scooter bike. Because it was “too muddy to walk.” Now this is probably just her being a stubborn toddler, right? RIGHT? SHE’S NOT GOING TO DO THIS WHEN SHE’S 15, RIGHT??

And then there are the times she pulls a pair of pants over her head, catches my eye and we share a laugh. I like to think at times like these that we are in-sync, bolstering an unbreakable mother-daughter bond that will see us all the way through the dreaded terrible-music-taste tween and mother-hating teenage years. I like to think it, but I don’t really, truly believe it. Because no one can predict what a person is going to truly be like from the age of two… You could possibly hazard a guess. Maybe even a good guess. But you can’t tell for sure.

Right, must be off to baby ballet class now. Because whether she is or isn’t the next Darcey Bussell (again, the genes are sadly a precursor towards the likelihood of the negative) there are only so many years I will be able to get her into a tutu.


My little pensioner

Do you ever get the needling suspicion that your toddler is hiding a dark well of wisdom behind those big, shiningly innocent eyes? I do. Frequently. For example, here is my 22-month-old eating hummus. Hummus, which I didn’t get my head around until at least my mid-twenties.

That’s not all. As well as a surprising taste for chickpeas, my elderly little offspring also has a real thing for benches. If we come across one on a walk, she has to sit on it, and woe betide any accompanying adult who tries to persuade her otherwise. Most parents may allow extra time for things like petting dogs, feeding ducks, jumping in puddles, right? I have to allow extra time for bench sitting. But maybe I’m over-reacting. I mean, when your legs are only so big and you’ve only been using them for so long, maybe sitting on a bench offers a justifiable repose every once in a while. Ok. But, see, the thing is, it isn’t just benches on walks. It’s every bench. Everywhere. Even at the playground when we’ve just spent 45 minutes in the car and her friends are all running around sliding, swinging, exploring… Not my austere little pensioner.

It’s not just about the benches though. If you’ve ever had or been around a child approaching their 2nd birthday, you’ll know about the whole language boom thing. Lara’s no exception – every day it seems she surprises me with new words and sentences. Like last Tuesday, when, during the aforementioned 45 minute road trip, I told her there were no more snacks to be had just now. “Shit!” she replied. “Erm… what did you say?” “SHIT! SHIT! SHIT!” I can’t imagine where she learnt it. Especially in the car.

 

It’s not all glares and profanities, though. The other day we went to visit a friend’s new baby and, as we peered over the edge of the crib, Lara smiled, looked at me and said, “Baby!” and then, sternly: “Mummy SHUSH!”

Despite all this, I haven’t resigned myself to shopping for orthopedic shoes and miniature tartan shopping carts just yet (though how much would she love the latter? Hello, 2nd birthday present!) That is because for every mature act which grounds me in my tracks, there are 40 still very much stapled to the age of 22 and-a-bit months. Like her penchant for putting silly things on her head. And her love of uncooked baked goods. Come to think about it, I can’t imagine where she learnt those, either…


WTF, dog owners of east Berkshire?

A month or so ago I noticed that my 3-year-old Converse trainers were looking a little worse for wear. By which I mean they had crossed, like many an elderly pair of shoe (or indeed person) over the line of general infirmity and were now disheveled, smelly husks of what they had once been. So I decided to indulge in a new pair of trainers and, when I saw a pair of slip-on, memory foam Skechers with psychedelic uppers and 30% off, I snapped them up faster than you could say, “30% off what, though?”

A day after they arrived, I took Baby 1 out to the lake down the road from our house with her trike. Inevitably, I ended up dragging the trike and carrying Baby 1 around most of the way… but, hey ho, I had my new shoes! The colourful patterns sparkled in the sun, the soles felt lovely and grippy with their deep grooves and the memory foam soles felt delightfully squishy underfoot. Alas, this was not the only squishy thing underfoot. About halfway around the lake I started to smell something. Something bad. Something disastrous. It seemed to be wafting intermittently, and at first I assumed it was coming from somewhere nearby – maybe the lake? Maybe the overflowing doggy bin we’d just passed? Sadly, no. When we arrived home I discovered the worst had happened. And it had happened all over my brand new shoe.

To say I was mildly irritated is putting it, well, irritatingly mildly. It did NOT help that when I took the shoe outside to wash off the damage the stupid, cheap hose we bought last year kept popping off the outside tap. Ten minutes later I was soaking wet, my hands were freezing, the hose had sprayed god knows what back into my face and there were still stinky oozings nestled deep within the cursedly deep, grippy grooves. But I soldiered on, and several broken twigs, curses on hose manufacturers, shoe designers and dog owners later, my shoe was finally passably clean. Or at least no longer quite so smelly.

I was angry at the time (not the least because this wasn’t the first time I’d worn in a new pair of shoes this particular way). I was – to quote a former newspaper colleague – incanfuckingdescent at the time. But once I’d cleaned myself off, changed my clothes, posted the obligatory disgruntled Facebook status and had a glass or three of wine, I forgave and forgot. Until today. Today we went back to the lake. Today I took great pains to watch exactly where my no-longer-virginal Skechers trod. Unfortunately, one cannot explain to a 22-month-old that she must stick to the path lest an errant canine bottom has hovered over that interesting patch of dry leaves she’s scurrying off to explore. And, sure enough, I tried to believe that telltale smell was coming from the bin. Or the lake. Or – gods be good – that other toddler’s shoes. I checked my own shoes several times. I didn’t check Baby 1’s until we came through the door. Until I shut the front door and could still smell the Stench of Footwear Doom. Cue curses, cue hose battle, cue outfit change.

On the plus side, her feet are so tiny the area covered by the offending substance was far less than that on my shoe. It didn’t take long to clean. And, biggest plus of all, they weren’t new shoes. And I should be grateful, I suppose, for the small mercy that this particular dog hadn’t hovered over the spot where she stumbled on a root and went face-and-hands splat in the mud. TBH, probably wouldn’t have laughed so much if it had.


Two Legs Good, Four Legs Better

It’s been a very, very long time since I wrote on this blog. Mainly because most of my pre-Christmas moments of Baby 1-free time were spent wrapping every present in sight (with the inevitable result being that all the sellotape on all the name tags failed by Christmas day and we very nearly ended up in the awkward situation of my sister’s new boyfriend unwrapping an Iggle Piggle doll.) But really mainly because I’ve been struck down with a lurgy, the likes of which find one lying on one’s side of a 3am, emitting a strangled, dying-cow like parody of breathing, not-so-silently hating the man and child hatefully sleeping so hatefully peacefully nearby. Then, of course, said child caught said lurgy and after a few nights of traipsing back and forth from her cot with water, tissues, calpol, vapour rub and anything else I could come up with which might render her unconscious once again sometime before 5am, I was far too exhausted to do anything during the day apart from lie on the sofa, sniff and work my way through all the Christmas chocolate.

But anyway, excesses of mucus and sugar aside, the latest issue in this game of parenthood has been walking. Or, as I like to put it, Baby 1 Taking Her First Steps and then Sitting On Her Arse and Refusing To Take Any More.

Baby 1 was a fairly late crawler, or so it seemed at the time. She spent a good two or three months on all fours, a look of heavy concentration on her face which would rapidly turn to despair as she would slide onto her belly and propel herself backwards, usually ending up underneath an item of furniture, dusty and displeased. She first managed that very slow and unsteady crawl forward a day before she turned 10 months. From that moment on, she was a baby on the go. In about a week she went from doddery, sideways-deviating, Cardiff-girl-on-a-hen-night crawling to a baby-shaped bullet on all fours. So, I assumed that once walking became a reality, she would be the same – master those first independent steps and then voila, walking baby.

How wrong I was.

From crawling at 10 months, Baby 1 progressed as normal to cruising on furniture, walking holding onto two hands and then, finally, walking holding onto just one finger. At 13 months she stood on her own. Just before she hit 14 months, she took her first steps – from Daddy to Mummy, a distance of about two feet but – at the time – surely the greatest two feet ever transversed by any homo sapien ever to stagger across the planet. “She’ll get the hang of it,” friends told me, that week. “Any day now she’ll get that confidence and then she’ll be off.”

Nearly two months later and it’s all we can do some days to get her to repeat those few independent feet. Her development hasn’t halted – she’s now able go from sitting to standing on her own and walk from there to a point of ‘safety’ sometimes around five or six feet away. Everything else is perfectly normal, as verified by my usefully-vocationed paediatrician sister (apart from the size of her head, which is apparently on the large size. Possessing the birth canal through which it made a memorable journey not so long ago, I find this revelation slightly redundant.) She just hasn’t turned that corner between being able to walk and actually electing to do so on a regular basis. The funny thing is, if the challenge were vertical she would have smashed it long ago. She was scaling the stairs around the time she first started crawling, and worked out how to get herself down them around a month afterwards. She can climb the steps of a slide on her own, has worked out how to put her little plastic chair next to the sofa and climb from one to the other, and can get herself down again from any height by lying on her belly and dangling her legs over the side.

Why walk when you can CLIMB?

Why walk when you can CLIMB?

It’s just the walking thing.

I’m not really worried about it. Sure, my competitive mummy instincts are perhaps somewhat ruffled as I watch her peers practically skip around her at soft play. But I know there’s nothing physically wrong… And I know that by trying too hard to encourage her to walk I could actually make her less keen to do so, so I’ve tried to back off and let nature take its course… But it is hard, especially when I have a sneaky suspicion her reluctance may be the fault of my own genes. I took her to get her feet measured the other day and she was only just a 3, which the shop assistant said was usually the size fitted to babies just starting to cruise… So she’s got tiny feet… and an enormous head. Gary has size 11 feet and always seems to find hats which fit. I, on the other hand, wear dinky size 4s and always find issue with the ‘one size’ rule for headwear. Clearly my small-footed, large-headed genes have caused a heady imbalance of stature, rendering the independent toddle a feat of terrifying magnitude for my daughter. No wonder she hugs the wall.

walkingMy bad, Baby 1.


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