As the ambient mists of infancy slowly fade and the red mire of the terrible twos descends upon us, I felt it might assist nobody in particular if I provided the following guide to an infant’s first precious words. Enjoy.
|Baa baa||An ovine mammal or rendering thereof is within my line of sight.|
|Chan Choo||See Peas.|
|Chichi||I am unable to recall or pronounce your name, but you amuse me.|
|Daddee||Finally, someone sensible has come home.|
|Henwee||You bore me. I’d rather speak to the labrador.|
|Lok||I thirst. Please pass the milk.|
|Mama||Woman, hear me.|
|Mermer||Woman, you do not appear to be attending to my needs with sufficient urgency. Hear me.|
|More||Please increase my nutritional input.|
|MORE||I really must insist that you increase my nutritional input.|
|MORE!||Ideally with some of that Green & Blacks chocolate which you appear to eating in lieu of this processed rubbish.|
|Nerner||You appear to be doing something interesting and/or important. Please allow me to interrupt.|
|NOOOO||I decline your kind invitation to change my nappy.|
|Oh!||Please be silent. In the Night Garden is on.|
|One, two, nine||I am putting these squirty bath toys in their correct place. Please observe the proper protocol next time.|
|Peas||I am feeling amiable and am therefore prepared to succumb to your bourgeois insistence on manners on this particular occasion, purely in order to have my needs met.|
|Raaa||I am communing with the animal part of my nature and/or I have placed a basket on my head.|
|Three, two, three, go||I am putting this toy car in its proper place. Please observe the proper protocol next time.|
|Twee||I am communing with nature and/or I wish to change the subject.|
|Yah||Affirmative. I am a clever boy.|
This evening, the Nipper (ensconced in pram), the Dog and I took a stroll down the Sett Valley trail. This is a disused railway line converted into a pleasant flat path between Hayfield and New Mills, very pram friendly (though watch out for cyclists if your dog, like ours, insists on walking at an angle of 45 degrees and crossing the path of every other living being on the same route). We walked from Hayfield to Birch Vale and back, which is about 2 miles/40 minutes, and very pleasant it was too, with lovely views of Lantern Pike, Middle Moor, Twenty Trees and Birch Vale reservoir in the evening sun. The Nipper didn’t even shout until we got home. Bliss, apart from rabid jealousy of people sitting outside the Royal in Hayfield having an evening pint.
…here’s what I’d tell her to get for the new royal arrival. Obvs., what with the entourage and royalness and all, she’s unlikely to want or need any of these things, but if I can’t have an imaginary holding forth with the Duchess of Cambridge in the privacy of my own blog pages, then where can I?
1. A poddle pod. I fear this is something of which our not inconsiderably terrifying health visitor would disapprove, but who gives; since we got it, the Nipper sleeps for about 8 hours at night, enabling me to do the same (or, in truth, to stay up drinking whiskey and writing ineffectual blog posts).
2. A jumperoo. Every fibre in my being screams “wrong wrong wrong” as I slide the Nipper into this ghastly, flashing, whirring, beeping, cacophonous monstrosity that takes up half of our living room floor. Shouldn’t I be providing him with eco-vegan-organic-wooden educational toys instead? I am totally defeated on this. He loves it. (H calls it his office).
3. A moby wrap. Yes, yes, babywearing is awesome and creates a deep, nuturing bond between mother and baby, accelerating the baby’s social, mental and emotional development, etc. etc. Also, a woman needs to make a cup of tea and a slice of toast once in a while. And the moby designs are cute.
4. A baby gate. Not for the new arrival – yet – but invaluable for keeping dogs out of the room whilst you’re simultaneously trying to remove child from car seat, wipe up sick from child’s face/own hair, answer phone, put away shopping, deal with obnoxious email, and so on.
5. A dummy. Just do it, Kate.
No real northern angle here, just a little exposition on my general babyrearing ignorance and what I have learnt in the first six weeks.
1. Epidurals aren’t 100% effective. Sure, I had lots of earth mother ideas about labouring in a spa-like birthing pool, with dim lighting and atmospheric music and aromatherapy oils, effortlessly delivering the Nipper whilst barely breaking into a sweat. Since I couldn’t, and since I was hooked up to various IV drips and bells and whistles anyway, I thought I may as well go with the flow and enjoy the ride with an epidural. Fact for the day: an epidural that only works on one side offers little relief from a syntocinon-induced labour. Painful.
2. Babies neigh. And shout, and grunt, and snort. Not so much angelic cooing; the Nipper sounds mostly like a combination between a tiny pony and Father Jack Hackett.
3. Forget the toys. The various luxurious soft toys, playgyms and educational games that we purchased to encourage the Nipper’s early route to prodigiousness seem, largely, to have been a waste. What the Nipper actually likes: curtains; the demo function on our electric piano; kitchen roll; pulling my hair; picture rails; the inside of his pram. And Matthew Kelly being interviewed on breakfast television about his upcoming stage role in The History Boys, apparently.
4. Babies’ breathing makes you neurotic. When the Nipper is sleeping, instead of following the oft-bleated advice of “sleeping when baby sleeps”, it is obviously very important that every two minutes one of us goes to the pram/cot to check that the Nipper is breathing. Owing to the irregularity of infant respiration, this usually involves the following neurotic mental process: “Hm, the baby isn’t neighing/shouting/grunting/snorting, I’d better check him… hm, the baby is very still, I’d better check his breathing… OH MY GOD HE’S NOT BREATHING… OH MY GOD PLEASE BREATHE…OH NO OH NO OH MY GOD…Oh, there you go.”
(That reminds me: any neurotic thought that you have as a new parent? Google it and you can guarantee a Daily Mail article will come up that will make you feel worse).
5. Babies grow really quickly. The Nipper was quite tiny when he arrived, so we wisely immediately stocked up on tiny baby vests and babygros. He outgrew them in a fortnight.
6. Babies fart. Really, really loudly. Usually with perfect comic timing just as you’ve informed him how adorable he is.
7. Motor skills development. Yours, not the baby’s. Suddenly, there is a whole host of new skills you need to learn: e.g. how to type emails without being able to see the keyboard, make dinner in under three minutes, wash up with one hand, execute a perfect plié so as to remove something from the lowest shelf of the fridge without dropping the baby, and so forth. And looking after a baby is like being some surreal action movie; sprinting from the bathroom back to the living room to catch the Nipper before he goes into total meltdown, or watching the weird egg thing on the dressing table turns an alarming shade of fluorescent red when the temperature goes over 20 degrees, it’s hard not to feel like a shit Keanu Reeves trying to stop Dennis Hopper from blowing up the house.
8. The tit police will get (to) you. I assumed that, having decided to breastfeed, it would be simple; if the Nipper was hungry I would pop him on and off we’d go. No one told me that breastfeeding is hard. It doesn’t come naturally; it’s awkward and uncomfortable; it bloody hurts when you’re trying to get it right; it takes ages, especially during growth spurts; and it’s impossible to do in public whilst retaining a shred of dignity. And the tit police are everywhere; the health visitor, the doctor’s surgery, the midwife, other mums, and the women who weirdly turn up unannounced at your house just after you’ve got home from hospital to watch you incompetently try and get your screaming two day old to feed for more than thirty seconds. Yes, yes, I know it’s worth it and important and blah blah blah, but sometimes I wish those serenely smug NCT types would just sod off and not make me feel like I’m poisoning my child just because I top up with half a carton of formula every evening.
9. Mother & baby sessions. Having clearly been identified as a potential post-natal psychosis risk by the health visitor, who doesn’t realise it’s in fact perfectly normal for you to walk around wide-eyed with your hair unbrushed and no make up and dog hair all over your clothes, you finally succumb to weeks of pressure and take your six week old infant to the mother and baby group session at 9am on a Monday morning, where you bemusedly watch a dozen other much older babies and their mothers playing with wooden spoons and singing “If You’re Happy And You Know It”, whilst your infant screams blue murder and you realise all other six week old infants and their mothers are very sensibly at home in bed.
10. It’s all worth it. Oh, I know it’s a cliché, but none of it matters when he smiles. Seeing his little face light up makes every terrifying, exhausting, anxious, frustrating second worthwhile. Even though he only smiles at the cat.
First, a confession: this blog is entirely self-serving. I am slightly concerned that the transition, albeit temporary, from fourteen hour days at work dealing with relentless emails, phonecalls and, er, lunches, to what appear to be twenty four hour days at home changing nappies, watching endless repeats of Friends and eating toast, might cause me to completely lose my already tenuous grasp on reality without something vaguely intellectual and constructive to do when the Nipper is sleeping and H is at work. I have therefore done what it seems all sensible parents do, according to Mumsnet, and started a blog, to keep the grey matter fresh and to maintain a healthy interest in things going on outside these four walls. (I should clarify that in doing so I do not harbour any delusions of being offered a publishing deal, or taken on as a columnist for the Independent). (What am I saying? Of course I do).
Having said all that, I do appreciate that writing about the day to day minutiae of my maternity leave might cause me, or indeed anyone else foolish enough to read it, to gnaw off an arm out of boredom, unless I make at least a vague attempt to shoehorn it all into some form of niche. So: the plan is that I will blog about things I like, and on occasion things I don’t like, all from a northern perspective. This is in part for the unremarkable reason that I am northern, and I live in the North. The concept of this blog has also evolved from my perennial frustration at what I perceive, rightly or wrongly, to be the ubiquitous southern bias in the lifestyle sections of the weekend broadsheets and the national media generally. I do understand, thank you so much, that this reflects the demographics of the nation, but I am increasingly wildly irritated by the lifestyle divide that is perpetuated in the printed press and the reluctance of, for example, BBC Breakfast News to acknowledge the existence of a landscape north of Milton Keynes (examples to follow in subsequent posts to avoid a premature descent into relentless ranting).
What this blog is not (I hope):
So if you, like me, are an older, professional, working parent, perhaps daunted as I am by the changes parenthood brings to your professional identity – or even if you are none of these things – think of me as your northern correspondent, idly rambling on about things in the hope that a snippet or two might distract you. And if you like what you read, or even if you don’t like what you read, please do comment; I always love to hear that I’m awesome/a twat etc.