Friday, April 27, 2007

sign posts

Our little bundle of joy and bliss has figured out the last piece of the puzzle that is crawling. Rather than just walking his legs towards his hands until he falls over, he now moves his arms to match and there he goes, directly to the plugs and wire flexes and the DVD player with his little fingers grabbing and those two bottom teeth set to 'chew'.

This has had the same effect on us that every stage in Charlie's life has had since the day I peed on the stick, to whit, none at all. Our capacity to live in a state of denial is monumental and although we have had crawling for nearly a week, we have yet to discuss how we are going to child-proof our house which is full of pointy corners and electrical cables and glass and, you know, books and CDs and pots and pans all currently stored on shelves near the floor.

This is all great news for bundle boy who goes in circles trying to decide whether the DVD player, the CDs or the saucepans are his next target and when he can't decide, it's a quick sojourn to Sammy's bowl where if he's not stopped, he will proceed to decorate the floor, (which, agreed, is a bit muted), his clothing and very possibly his intestinal flora, with cat food.

To this end we are experimenting with the words 'no', 'non' and the accompanying baby-sign. Currently, just the tone of voice and the gesture are enough to make him stop what he's doing and melt into tears which makes me feel wretched. OK, great, I can stop him from doing something disgusting or dangerous (or both, like stretching his privates until they are three times as long as they should be), but I hate to think that I am undermining his sense that I love him unconditionally for everything that he does. We don't even have to raise our voices or sound moderately firm to get this effect, the sign is enough on it's own. The thing is, I don't think he actually knows what we mean, he just understands that we're somehow not 110% behind him any more and that is clearly a shock. So, to mute the effect of the big 'no' tears, I then swoop him up and make a big fuss of him which means that in about 3 days from now I am going to have a baby who will equate doing something wrong with getting a cuddle and you can tell where that will go.

The cat, on the other hand, is quite well behaved and probably does understand the word 'no' but since he is profoundly deaf, he can't hear it. This is handy for him as he has complete immunity from any sort of rules and regulations given that he can't hear them enacted. Being a deaf cat, apparently, means that you are free to walk anywhere you want because you didn't hear that person's face sleeping on that pillow. I am therefore trying to train the cat to understand the same baby sign language that we are trying to teach the blob because I think it's important that kitty learns the words for 'no', 'eat' and 'ducky'.

All this advancement in the state of our communication skills is effectively just another way to avoid baby-proofing the apartment because we clearly won't have to move those glass candle-sticks if Charlie understands they are a 'no' and so long as he knows to stay away from the cookware, we don't have to worry about him pulling the Pyrex dishes down on his head.

Actually, of course, we don't let him in the kitchen unattended however given the teensy tiny open plan nature of our bijou apartment, it's bound to happen one day and by that point we will either have had to enclose our kitchen unit or said 'no' and meant it a whole bunch of times.

Does anyone know the sign language for 'will power' and 'action'? I think I'm going to need them.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A plain pain

It's been a long time since I've had a rant about baby clothes however I suddenly feel the need.

I have trawled the stores looking for some plain, solid-coloured tops that don't have fluffy bunnies or little trains that say 'toot toot' on them and I have come up empty handed. Annoyingly, I inherited some perfect, hand-me-down t-shirt body-suits for him in the right colours which he has now grown out of and nobody at the store whose label is stitched into them seems to know or care if they still do them - however the sales girl said 'we always get asked if we sell plain ones'. I have a vision of sales girls just like her the length and breadth of Britain being asked for plain baby clothes and then right after they pop their gum, forgetting to pass it along to anyone who counts.

We parents of course have to shoulder some blame, I mean, if enough of us emailed companies demanding plain clothes for babies (to go with their gumshoes? I digress) we may get them. The trouble is that we know for certain that by the time the company responded, ordered the clothes and put them in the shops, we won't need them any more, we'll be too busy buying the latest trainers and video games and working four jobs to keep our offspring in burgers, iPods and extra sugar. The colour of their shirts will be the least of our worries. So, about thirty seconds after the gum gets popped, we walk out muttering under our breath and clutching a bag of stripey clothes with little bunnies on them.

And, where do baby clothes go once they've had their time on a baby's butt? Mine are going into a hiding place where D can't throw them out until I go through The Change or he agrees to another baby. Is that where they go? Cellars and attics and holes in the bottom of the garden Just In Case? I had a load of hand-me-downs from a mate which I have now handed on to another friend so presumably some baby clothes do the heavy lifting while others spend the majority of their time polishing their pop studs and living a life of leisure in a comfy box.

There must be an enormous un-tapped resource of baby clothes hiding out in the world, lurking in trunks and plastic storage bags, occasionally being fingered in a somewhat nauseatingly nostalgic way by Mums wishing to recapture the past when their dear little bundles of window-smashing joy could do nothing more strenuous then fall asleep with a little sigh. Perhaps there's an underground baby-clothing railroad where the good pieces get shipped off to form their own brave new world in which no baby will ever poo on their linings again.

A lot of baby clothes find their way onto eBay I've noticed, but these tend to be the more exhibitionistic clothes such as bundles of designer clothes and lots of fancy shirts with, er, stripes and trains on them. The humble, plain coloured t-shirt is clearly not exciting enough to enter the arena of online sales and so I am now seriously considering buying some cheap white ones and dying them myself.

Until then my baby will go naked but for the 50 factor sunscreen... and a few bunnies.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Making Whoopee!

I post this is lieu of actually writing something and as an illustration of our home life. Me, easy to amuse. Charlie, easy to amuse. We are related.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

sleeping like a baby

I have never wanted to sleep like a baby, given that they are up half the night, however in the wonderful world of the nursery, we have finally entered the hallowed ground of 'sleeping through'. I say this with my fingers firmly crossed behind my back because it wouldn't do to tempt the sleep fairy or she may take her magic dust elsewhere - however we have had four nights in which Charlie has slept from midnight to seven or eight in the morning.

This is good news because with no 4am feed, he's waking up hungry enough to eat an huge breakfast and that means, as all of us know who have ever tried to skip lunch after a Full English, that his stomach has been stretched to accomodate a large luncheon and then a hearty tea. This in turn makes him nice and sleepy at bedtime and while he can't quite skip that midnight snack, he can no longer be bothered to wake up before that morning poo. Sammy the new cat has in turn decided that our bed is in fact quite comfy and suddenly 4am has become very quiet around ours.

The trouble now is me. It turns out that I may be an old dog, but I have learned this new trick and at 4am I am Wide Awake. Firstly, of course, I have to pee. This is because I have gotten into the habit of drinking A Lot of fluids in order to furnish Charlie with his pre-dawn buffet. Then, because I am up anyway, it seems only rational to check on the baby. Firstly I check the monitor, because although he is a strapping horse of a baby with lungs on him like organ bellows, I have yet to be able to give up the monitor that allows me to see his breathing at any hour of the night, even though he is now mobile enough that he almost never sleeps over the sensor and most of the time it tells me he isn't breathing. This is the perfect excuse to then creep into the nursery and hover over his cot watching his pajama-clad chest go up and down. Then, I crawl back into bed strangely conflicted. Happy because I can sleep nearly a full night and oddly cheated because I no longer have my baby to myself for those few moments in the hours before dawn and instead am reduced to roaming around marking my territory like an old lion.

Still, I am getting used to it. 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep is a wonderful thing and as I need all the beauty sleep I can get at this point, I am hoping that I can adjust as fast as the baby and the cat.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

New arrival

As if life wasn't busy or full of enough stuff, we have taken the ridiculous decision to foster a cat. Our cat was killed when Charlie was 3 weeks old and we've never really gotten over him. Sammy, our temporary cat, was left homeless when his owner passed away a few months ago and we figured that we're mourning a cat, he's mourning a human, perhaps we can shuffle along together.

The effect on Charlie has been electric. You would think we had rustled up all the boobs in the world and given him free access 24/7. All Sammy has to do is to enter the room and Charlie is waving his little hands around, laughing and reaching for him. As an older cat (Sammy is 16), we figured he wouldn't want anything to do with a baby but he seems as fascinated by the baby as the baby is by the cat. Charlie has had his fingers, head and face licked and a sleepy head pressed up against his back while Sammy has had his whiskers, tail, face, back, ears and... well anything within reach... yanked, pulled and pinched. His response, thankfully, is to purr and proffer another piece of his anatomy for consideration by tiny fingers. It hardly seems a fair swap.

All rosy and gay, it seems. The problem is that old cats, like young babies, have small bladders and are easily woken. While Charlie is beginning to sleep through, Sammy has taken over where he left off by waking up at 4am and crying for attention. This is not endearing him to my ever-patient other half who has put up with small bladders, night wakings, babies in the bed and attention-seeking tantrums since... oooh... since I was about 5 weeks pregnant I guess.

He has been looking forward to sleeping an entire night without anyone or anyTHING in the bed other, hopefully, than me. The problem is that with a 16-year-old wanna-be lion prowling around in the wee hours and digging noisily in his box, Charlie, who hates to think that he might be missing a party, is now waking faithfully at 4 in hopes of a boob, the parental bed, a feel of some whiskers, or preferably (and frequently), all three.

Since I've been hoping that Charlie sleeping through will mean that he eats more which means that he will sleep more, which means that we fall into a happy cycle of good sleeps, big eats and fewer boobs and that eventually I can move back into lacey lingerie in something realistic like a 'D' cup, the advent of a high-decibel insomniac feline is a considerable set back.

This is not endearing Sammy to my frog prince and resultantly his tenure is still under discussion (Sammy's, not D's, for clarity). We've got him for another 3 weeks before we have to decide for or against him.

I'm wondering if some sort of routine will help him sleep through...


Monday, April 09, 2007

Nine to Five for babies

I was talking to friends today about routine and how much Charlie seems to need his, particularly in the evening. Break it a little - feed him in a different room, forget his massage, have his Dad come into the room while he's eating - and it can take up to an extra hour to get him to sleep. With this in mind, I have kept tags on what we do during the day. As Charlie does have a sort of schedule give or take an hour here or there, I have chosen some median times, created a schedule and given it to the child minder as a work of fact rather than the work of fiction which it patently is - and it is now Ruling My Life.

I took the tube yesterday. It was packed. People were clambering on blindly no matter that the tube was over crowded and another train was on it's way. And, without a baby or a pregnant belly it turns out that no matter what I think, I am in fact just another human and not someone deserving of special treatment. This was a shock. I wondered, briefly, if I should buy one of those shirts that says 'New Mother' or 'Baby on Board' (after all, I still have considerable weight to lose) or perhaps start leaking milk into my blouse in order to get, if not a seat, then at least breathing space as horrified Londoners move away while pretending not to notice. Realistically however, the man grinding his crotch into his girlfriend, her, the other women in early summer sandals or the 30 men in identical suits would not have noticed had I been carrying triplets and wearing a feather g-string. No, they were too involved in staring at their shoes and trying not to notice that they were touching the private parts of at least three other people. They do the same thing every day. I know this because when I was taking the tube every day, even if another one was only 1 minute behind, around 95% of people on the platform would try to stuff themselves into a packed train. The next one would be nearly empty.

These two observations are related. People, it seems, need routine, whether they know it or not, whether it's good for them or not. Following a routine is comforting. We know what's coming next when we're in a routine. No big surprises. No big changes. We can relax. Sit back. Turn on the TV. Crack open another packet of biscuits. Slowly, slowly our routines settle us, de-stress us, relax us... and turn us into over-weight spuds with no will power, no social life and a craving for cheetos.

At the moment, however Charlie's routine is turning me into a fried potato. There's no point in me setting a routine and then hoping he guesses what it might be, I clearly have to follow it. As part of this involves feeding him bottles during the day I now spend a considerable amount of time trying to get a rubber nipple past his little clenched jaw and windmilling hands and getting covered in formula in the process. Well YOU try it. Then there's breakfast, lunch time, nap times... what there isn't, anymore, is time for me to get anything done. You know, like bathing, combing my hair, the little things.

So where do I draw the line on this? Do I shoe-horn Charlie into a routine just because the child minder needs one? Or do I come out and admit that the list I gave her was made up and that in fact, she can do as she pleases with his day because that's what I do? Is that just coming out and admitting that I am a Bad Mother because I sometimes let him play on the floor in his nursery while I skip neglectfully off to wash his nappies while he should probably be lying in a darkened room with his eyes closed?

It's clear that he blossoms on routine and therefore worth trying but it is also clear that he wants to do what HE wants to do and sometimes that means lying in his cot and screaming rather than having a nice relaxing nap. Despite this, I continue to try - however I worry, does this mean we are going to end up with a massive potato baby who freaks out if we want to go for a walk when he's supposed to be relaxing with his bunny? Or will we have a chilled-out baby who treats variation as the excitement it should be?

Also, when does routine become a rut? When does calming down my little terror and giving him a sense of security become me turning him into a commuter cockroach who expects nothing but the same thing each day? If I don't put him into a routine, is he going to get cabin fever in school and end up stabbing the teacher with a pencil crayon on his first day?

All these questions. I'd like to continue this post and perhaps find some sort of answer but House has started and we watch it faithfully every week... god forbid you ask us to change.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

6 degrees of separation

It's very odd the first time one packs ones baby off to the nursery with a childminder. There are all the obvious things like worry and concern and (dare I say it) relief but, when he comes home, one realises that for the first time, one doesn't know every little thing about him and that he is beginning the first steps towards his own independence.

He came back from nursery with a collage that he had patently had nothing to do with - but then it turns out that they were giving babies all sorts of textures to feel and anything they really liked got stuck down. Apparently he was really interested in everything that they did and suddenly my Bad Mother Guilt stepped in an wondered if, despite the yoga and bouncing games and singing games and crawling games and toys and texture beads and trips to meet other babies, I have been depriving my son of the right sort of stimulation.

Independence is the name of the game at the moment. Apart from the two days a week he will now be spending with a childminder, he's spending more time alone with his Dad, including recently an entire night camping together in D's studio so I could be blind-sided by a good night's sleep. He came back beaming like the sun. He's more vocal, his gestures are more expansive, he's obviously been exploring the world and enjoying it. He's even shaken his rattle along in perfect time to music his Dad has been mixing - and apparently done it twice to prove it wasn't just chance the first time.

Clearly, being away from me has done him some good and I don't think he missed me a bit. To prove this point, after two days in which he had barely seen me, he greeted my boobs with a big happy grin and all I got was the top of his head as he rooted around trying to work out how to get underneath my jumper. I am a diner on legs.

I'm trying to get him onto bottles during the day and taking boobs off the menu until the evening. This is the equivalent of trying to get a fish to give up water. Charlie has never lived a day of his life without boobs. He had a boob in his mouth his first moments in the world, all day every day since then and on tap whenever he needs at night. Boobs, for Charlie, are a simple fact of existance. Not to have boob... well that's just silly. Never-the-less, I am spending boring amounts of time sterilising a small army of bottles, mixing up formula and then failing to get him to open his mouth to accept the bottle. Forbidding him boob doesn't work either, he just refused to drink - or even eat - anything until he is starving, hysterical and nakedly grabbing, eyeing up and mouthing at my boobs until they start leaking of their own accord, at which point shoving one in his mouth seems the obvious thing to do. You have not experienced failure until you have found yourself covered in a mix of vegetables and formula, sitting half naked in front of your son's high-chair with a boob in his mouth while he suckles contentedly, eyes closed, happily patting you with puree-covered fingers.

I know I will win this. There are, as someone pointed out to me, no eighteen-year-olds still on Mum's boob and so at some point between now and then he will have to give in. He has no compunction about taking bottles from other people and so perhaps this is the best solution. Two days a week he heads off into the blue to live his own life and drink from bottles in a preview of university life and then hopefully, on his days at home he won't see bottles as The Enemy of The Boob. Boobs will then slowly become things of the past and I will get to wear bras that don't clip together and tops that don't have Access All Areas necklines. Of course at some point boobs may once again be objects of desire for Charlie however, crucially not MY boobs. By that point of course I will be too old to care and my boobs will be safely tucked into my waistline.

In between then and now however there is a long journey away from the boob, into childhood, out of childhood and always, every step, away from me. Which is why I'm the one contorted over that high chair, holding on perhaps to what I realise now are a very scant few moments of Charlie's babyhood.