Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Man Trouble

We're just coming out of a big bad cold and this time, by the word 'we', I do mean all of us, not just 'we' the baby. When you have a baby, you know at some point he's going to get ill (because in this blog, all babies are 'he'). In my head, this first cold was going to be the size of the Empire State building with a volume of snot to rival Lake Victoria and would be held by a frail, wan little baby flopping about being pathetic and totally unable to breathe. I imagined myself using various implements to hoover liquid out of his ickle nose and fanning him gently while his fever abated.

I don't know where I got that impression. Perhaps it's from watching various other males under the influence of colds. You know. Men obviously get bigger, stronger and more dangerous colds than women do and since Charlie is a man in waiting, perhaps I thought he would have a Man In Waiting sized cold and need a full time day-and-night nurse.

In truth, while he was miserable and woke up several times each night in a bit of a panic either from coughing or congestion, in general the only way one could tell he was ill was when he sneezed, or on the occasions when his breathing got a bit thick. In fact, he seemed mostly unaware of the fact that he had a cold and instead continued to concentrate on those things which are his current obsessions, such as lying on his front and twisting his hind-quarters into various shapes which still don't make him go forwards, such as trying to pick up the pattern from the carpet (babies don't do 2 dimensions, apparently) and, more importantly, such as trying to spot and then press anything that resembles a button.

What gets me about this last is... well... how does he know? How does he know that knobs turn and buttons push? The only buttons he's seen work are the big colourful plastic ones on his mobile. Yes, he's figured out how to press those, but at what point, exactly, did he intuit that the DVD player has buttons which Do Something? When? When we were putting in that Teletubbies DVD? I mean, the thing is remote controlled. We never press the buttons. And, in the middle of suffering from his very first horrible cold, why was it so important for him to contort, roll and wiggle his way across the living room floor to the DVD player simply so he could spend a good, happy fifteen minutes stabbing at these buttons???? Although I have to interject here that for fifteen quiet minutes, he can have the DVD player installed right there in his cot if he wants.

What this tells me is that while some male behaviour, such as over-reacting to the sniffles in order to get more sympathy/not have to nurse one's sick wife is learned, some, such as being obsessed with remote controls and fiddling with buttons, is clearly hard-wired into their DNA. This makes me wonder what other male behaviour is learned and what is hard-wired - and whether or not I can subtley turn and prod little Charlie into not learning some of the more obnoxious traits of his species - although some of the worst, such as fiddling with his bollocks on public transport and compulsively looking at women's breasts seem at current evidence to be hard-wired.

Firstly I have to rid him of this urge to fiddle with electronics before he blows every speaker in the house or starts sticking things into electrical outlets. There are multitudinous packs of things on the market designed to protect our offspring from just such eventualities and it's clear that we're going to have to invest in box loads of these much sooner than we thought - because obviously, we thought he would be a baby until the day he magically stole the car keys and left home.

Following that, it's going to be interesting watching to see what things he picks up that are going to need to be nipped gently in the bud. I'm not going to turn into some ball-busting Wagnerian harpy here or start messing with his gender identification and making him play with baby dolls and fairy costumes however equally, I'm loathe to raise a beer-swilling chauvinist.

Back at team Charlie however, watching his instincts work is proving as, or possibly more interesting than watching him breathe has been in the past week. How, exactly, the urge to push buttons and twist knobs helped prehistoric man get one-up on his rivals is a mystery to me, however there it is - technology has, after all, beaten the common cold.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Keeping the lid on...

I may be a bad mother. I have to accept this. I know all mothers probably think the same thing at some point but I do have a reason behind this thought and that reason is partly to do with this blog and partly to do with a video of C I posted on YouTube which suddenly has had 1900 views and rising - clearly more than I have readers of this blog, friends and family all combined. Now, in the wonderful world of YouTube where videos get millions of views, this is hardly anything to write home about however it does beg the questions: Am I pimping my son? Why am I putting him out here in the great wide web? What exactly are my motives?

Overtly, of course, they are so friends and family can keep up with every little motion Charlie makes (and for those of you agog to know the next thing, he is now trying very hard to drink from a beaker). Covertly, there are Bad Mother Motives and chief amongst these is the retention of my sanity. Somehow, after a day full of shouting and poo and brocolli on the walls, writing about it helps to put it all back in it's box and stops me from doing something absolutely heinous to my darling boy such as, oh, say, letting him crawl backwards into the dust bunnies under the sofa or putting him out in the garden to eat dirt or... well perhaps I should make up something that I haven't already written down in my book of Bad Mothering.

There is more, I accept, to being a Bad Mother then posting one's day up online or letting one's offspring play with the dimmer switch on the floor lamp (given that he has yet to develop bunny teeth and an urge to chew through electical cables) however I wonder if these things are the Thin End of the Wedge and whether or not I will find myself in a few weeks time taking him to the park wearing nothing but a wet nappy and one sock or leaving him to roll off the bed alone while I slip out to get a manicure.

Sometimes when all I have to do is run to the corner for milk I wonder for a split second while dressing him, unfolding the push-chair, finding his shoes, strapping him in and putting on the rain cover if perhaps he would be just fine playing in his cot for that three minutes - after all, by the time I get him out of the door I could have been out and back. But then reality hits with all the 'what-if's?' - What if he chokes? What if I'm hit by a car? What if I lose my keys? What if??? But, for that split second I have seen into the tabloid world of the mother who went to Spain for a week leaving her baby in the care of her 10 year old, or those parents who slip to the pub for an hour leaving the baby alone in the house. I reckon it all started slowly for them, too. First they ignored the nappy cry and realised the baby would be ok, then they left it alone in the livingroom and it was ok, then they slipped out to the garden and it was ok... suddenly they've bought the plane tickets and forgotten the baby.

Ultimately, I think that writing it down and trying to make it amusing takes the sting out of the pooey days and perhaps saves poor little Charlie from a life of eating worms and so I am not going to be overly paranoid about the number of strangers watching him laugh at a fart cushion. I am not however going to let either of us do anything more ridiculous than that. Hopefully.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Keeping up with the Mumses

Well, we're back on to food, following some handy advice... by which I mean I let him put his hands in it, which appears to make it more tasty - this following a recommendation from a friend as well as a kindly comment on this blog. He's eating really well in fact. Favourites are stewed pear, sweetcorn and butternut squash. Separately, you understand. He also wolfs down broccolli and carrots. I am taking photographs for when he's 5 and refusing to eat his veg.

My goal now is to get him onto three regular meals a day and some sort of routine in time for his first venture into the wild world of child-minding so that I in turn can venture back into the wild world of work two days a week. Apart from the fact that this is causing me several different kinds of worry ranging from 'what if he hates it' to 'what if he loves her more than me' to 'what if she kills him?', it's also meant that I have to provide the child-minder with an outline of his schedule plus all his needs for the day. This, in turn has given me two new kinds of stress. Firstly, that of bringing him onto a schedule and then the additional stress of trying, obviously, to be a better Mum than the Mum of the other baby she looks after on alternate days.

It doesn't help that this Mum delivers the baby to the minder every day complete with two 6oz bottles of expressed milk. TWO six ounce bottles of expressed milk EVERY DAY and the baby is nine months old!!! OK, so perhaps on the days where he is with the minder I may be able to moo out enough to keep up but now I am agog with curiosity to know what else this Supermum packs her baby off with. Only the knowledge that I have a freezer full of hand-made organic veggie purees (I took a workshop)(god that's so middle class) makes me feel I can even step into this game of keepy-uppy-Mummy.

The extra work involved in packing my darling off to the minder every day is another mind-bender. Today I kept track of everything he ate, wore or weed into between 8 and 6 and it looks as though I'm going to be sending him off with 2 wardrobes, 4 nappies plus one for luck, 4 bottles (2 boob, 2 formula) and 6 portions of food. This means that I have to have a nice bag to pack it all into which every night I have to unpack and clean and every morning I have to repack. Given that I am a morning brinksman and have never in my life had a spare moment in the time between waking and leaving the house, I am quailing ever-so-slightly in my slippers.

Ultimately, it's only two days a week and I'm sure we'll both be fine. I know it doesn't matter a toot what I send him off with so long as it's enough and I don't really give a toot what the other Mum does either, it's just that it's a step into the blue and rather than think sensibly about it, I am once again indulging in diversion tactics to take my mind off what is actually about to happen, to whit, that I am going to be separated from Charlie for two days a week and I know that it's going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt him. It's like him moving into his own room, only this time I won't have a monitor or the option of whisking him back on the spur of the moment and he's too young for me to be able to ring him every five minutes to ask him how he's doing. And the child-minder would probably quit if I rang her that often.

The consolation prize is that my other baby is now sitting under it's tarp in the motorcycle parking bay across the street, ready to ferry me to work at a moment's notice - and I don't have to pump anything except petrol to keep it happy.

Thursday, March 15, 2007's what you do with it that counts

We have an issue. Like so many issues between males and females, it's a body issue. Specifically, it's about boobs. In this case, it's not about whether they are too small, or too big, or round or pointy or droopy or... well it's not about that. And, while this issue is definitely subjective, the opinion in question is not that of my husband and this is not an issue between us, or an issue of attraction or anything related to the human sexual game. No, as you have no doubt guessed, this is a Mother-Baby boob issue.

I visited a friend yesterday whose baby is nearly the same age as Charlie and her baby also has a boob issue, however the two are polar opposites. While her baby has take boobs off the menu on what appears to be a permanent basis, Charlie has decided that while rice, pear, squash and carrot are lovely, actually he's made his decision thank you and he's not interested, in fact he's going to go back to the boob full time and that's that.

What this means is that our hungry baby who was eager to eat everything on the spoon is now clenching his jaw with it's two little teeth so that nothing plastic can get in and, eventually, screaming until he's removed from his high-chair at which point he shuts up and beams like the sun has come out. The worse thing is that this non-boob ban is extended to bottles and so every feeding time where I am not there or where he has already had both boobs and is still hungry (he is, after all, nearly 7 months old and can hold rather a lot) there is a situation involving screaming and more jaw clenching and, more distressingly, we are heading slowly back to non-solid nappies.

Now. Part of this is making me feel very special indeed - and that way, madness lies. It's tempting, I admit, in some ancient, primeval part of my Motherly-love brain, very tempting indeed to think that all my baby needs is me, that I can solve his problems, that I can make him feel good and that I can make him sleep and... well, all sorts of related thoughts that would mean that Charlie is forever tied to my apron strings and that I would never have a life of my own or be able to have a drink or wear normal bras or go out without him until eventually child-services stepped in to suggest that perhaps he should be bringing something else to school for lunch... So, this has got to be nipped in the bud. So to speak.

Clearly we just have to keep on as we are with the spoons and the jaw-clenching and hope that eventually Charlie forgets about this moment of madness, however, for an infant he has an elephantine memory and it may take a few weeks. In the meantime my baby and I are keeping our issues... er... close to the chest.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Spring loaded

Spring has leaped in London and suddenly it feels like a wonderful place to live. Saturday night I went to a party (actually out of the house, on my own, in heels, to a real party, roll press) which was in a bar in the city. For those of you who don't know London, once Saturday rolls around, the actual City of London becomes a ghost town at night. The closest tube was St. Pauls and the route to the bar took me from the station right past the floodlights and the masonry and the dome pasted whitely against London's velvet sky. It was warm and bright and the streets were empty and between the heels and the floodlights and the 12 pounds I've lost recently, well I felt like someone should have been following me around with a string orchestra playing some gay, swelling melody with perhaps some dodgy tenor launching into a chorus of 'What a wonderful world'. Or maybe it was just that I was out and about to consume cocktails. Who knows?

Today, I had an actual latte in an actual coffee shop and I didn't have to whip out a boob in the middle of it, even though Charlie was there, awake and hadn't eaten for ages. Apparently, if I feed him enough rice and pear in the morning, boobs lose their mid-day appeal - and he is eating two or three times as much as the nice books suggest. I even tried on some shoes. Anyway, it was glorious and the daffodils are up, crocus blooms are everywhere, the magnolias are out, the man in the Brixton shoe repair shop was funny, the park smells heavenly and I could hear that chorus fiddling away behind me.

You can tell, possibly, if you've read this blog before, that this is a somewhat more cheery post than usual and I can give a simple explanation which has nothing to do with shoe repair men or cathedrals or daffodils. This explanation is two words: Teething Over. Yes, we have teeth, two of them, bottom front and centre thank you very much. With these teeth have come happy days, a laughing baby and, temporarily at least, a sense of calm. The fact that this coincides with the first days of true spring is just the aria on top of the concerto. Do concertos have arias? I digress.

The problem of course is that a baby's mouth grows 20 teeth and so we have 18 more of those sharp little ivories loaded up under the gums, ready to make our lives miserable whenever they want. But for now, all is well and even the fact that the skin under my nipples is being gradually eroded, much like the cliffs of Dover only more pink, means nothing. Charlie is happy, eating, sleeping and, a side benefit of all that rice, creating nice, tidy nappies.

Bring on the strings.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Moving target

I have mentioned before in this blog that the minute one becomes a parent, one is targeted immediately by all sort of companies trying to sell The Stuff, by which I mean vast amounts of overpriced baby stuff which is 90% unecessary. I'll refrain from re-listing it in this post but just type 'Baby Stuff' into a search engine and you'll see what I mean. Or, if you are experienced in the wonderful world of catalogue shopping, turn to the baby pages. Or check out eBay where parents try to recoup some of the cash out of which they have been fleeced and at the same time try to buy more Stuff without having to coax their credit cards out from under the bed with handfuls of 0% interest offers.

It has become clear to me that parents are not only targeted blindly by shops and websites and banks and mail-outs, we are also targeted visually. This week, I was twice targeted by charity workers hoping to sign me up for a regular direct-debit to their charity with lines such as 'you look like a caring Mummy' and the more direct 'you care for children don't you?'.

Now, normally I am a bit of a sucker for these charity direct debits and I've treated them a bit like little magic spells. If I'm in need or if I've got something to be thankful for and I'm approached by a charity, I'll sign up as a sort of thank you/luck bringing request to the universe. So, I have 6 fairly random charity direct debits going out of my account each month. Now, I'm not saying I'm Mother Theresa here, they're fairly small amounts however I do want to point up that I'm not normally so Scroogy. But this week, something in me rebelled at being targeted simply because I am pushing a baby in a stroller. And (breaking all the rules my English teacher ever set) I was targeted so quickly and smoothly and with such similar lines that I believe that somewhere there's a charity sellers handbook that says 'target Mothers pushing babies'. And, finally, I am sick of being a target.

Being a parent is the most amazing thing. It rips the surface off the world to reveal a whole new and amazing world below it; however while it's extremely personal, it's also extremely public. You can't keep your parenting stuff in a shed at the bottom of the garden or only parent in the cellar or at an after-hours parenting club in some dingy hall. No, if you're a parent, unless you're a particularly nasty and psychotic one, you have to do it full time and often in full view of the world. As soon as you leave the house with your child, anyone can see you're a parent, they can see how old your child is and they can successfully intuit maybe 50% of your life. They can guess how you're feeling, what you're buying, what you're going to need in the next few weeks, where you might be going and what you might want to read and then from there, work out how to sell you Stuff.

Now THAT's something they don't point out in parenting books. Perhaps because so many of them fit neatly into the Stuff category themselves.

The worst part is that it's easy to be suckered into buying Stuff because of the inference that one may be a bad parent if one doesn't buy it. The benchmark for me is normally to ask myself 'Did this exist when I was a baby? Have I turned out ok without it?' and much of The Stuff is revealed for the flim-flam that it is.

Being cornered by a charity worker with the assumption that as a mother I should care enough to donate money just seemed to blatantly capitalise on this inferred guilt and considering the gamut of obstacles that exist for the average parent out with a stroller (curbs and people and buses and other strollers and stairs and narrow aisles and crowded pavements) I just don't think it's fair to be targeted by all and sundry even if they do have the best of motives.

The fact that I am now wracked with guilt for giving them the brush off (even if ever so nicely) sums up the very reasons they cornered me in the first place and makes me feel manipulated, however not in a nice 'I've just had a massage and oooh, look at my toenails' way but in a guilty, wretched sort of way and now I can't decide whether or not to cave in to the next charity worker who targets me or to turn into a screaming harpy while my baby cowers in his buggy.

Lucky dip I guess!

I think the main thing, if one is to be a target, is to move as quickly as possible. Buggy allowing.