Beaten to it

On Monday night I watched my now seven month old daughter lie on the bed flailing her arms.

She's waving at me; she has for a few months juddered an arm in response to a wave. I smile and wave back, I gather up the changing gear.

But as I pause to watch it becomes clear that this is not a wave. It is not a juddery arm swipe. It's two arms trying to come together, trying to connect, missing, trying again, and again, suddenly two tiny hands crash into each other. Then again. And again. And again. And I know that this is not a random thing.

My daughter and I are ecstatic. Both amazed at this sudden display of co-ordination. I clap back, my smile telling her all she needs to know of my joy at this achievement and I repeat over and over and over in the way that parents do: "Clap!"

And she claps, and I clap and we both clap in celebration of her clapping.

This is another big step. This is amazing. This is her growing, right there in front of me. This is fucking amazing. I have experienced this moment of change, watched her clamber over another developmental milestone.

I change my daughter's nappy and bring her downstairs. I can't wait to tell my wife.

"Baby's just done something really cool! She's…"

"Oh, is she clapping? I meant to tell you she'd done that earlier."

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Time stand still

It’s been almost two years.

It doesn’t feel like it.

That means there are old friends I haven’t seen in almost a year, let alone spoken to.

It doesn’t feel like it.

When you’re waiting on baby to arrive all the other parents tell you how quickly the time goes.

They lied.

It goes way fucking faster than that.

There’s an old(ish) Rush song I’ve always loved. There’s a moment towards the end where Geddy Lee’s voice seems really urgent and full of emotion and I heard it again today for the first time in a while and it kinda broke me for a bit.

Summer’s going fast, nights growing colder

Children growing up, old friends growing older

Freeze this moment a little bit longer

Make each sensation a little bit stronger

 

Of course if you don’t like Rush then I just come across as being an over-emotional idiot with dodgy prog-rock leanings. I agree with the first bit…

Love those old 80s videos, never realised it was Aimee Mann who provided the backing vocals

Parenting is a full contact sport for both sides

Please don’t bodyslam mummy

Please don’t headbut mummy

Please don’t kick daddy in the balls

Please don’t throw daddy’s phone

Please don’t poke mummy in the eye

Please don’t throw mummy’s glasses on the floor

Please don’t throw your toys over the railing

Please don’t hit the little boy

Please don’t push that little girl over

No, we can’t climb that¬†tree

Just be careful on that log

Can we not climb in that rabbit hole please

No, don’t walk into the nettles

If you do that you’ll fall down the stairs

Look, wait, stop, arrrgghhhh

You can’t just walk off the edge of a bench you know

Don’t poke the dog’s nose

Well if you wave a stick like that of course it’s going to hit you in the face

Not the face, not the face, not the face

How the fuck did you get in there

You are not riding your stroller off the edge of the sofa

Please don’t pull mummy’s hair

Please don’t yank mummy’s nipples

 

All these and variations on them have been uttered by me in the last seven days.

Failure may not be an option but there’s no shame in quitting

We abandoned our attempts to potty train our toddler halfway through day two.

Had the weather not been so good and our only prospect been a week indoors, we might have persisted. He might have got it. He didn’t seem to be rushing to get it, at least not that morning as he happily sprayed every corner of our living room like he was marking his territory. He certainly seemed quite content to be peeing every fifteen to twenty minutes or so, often as soon as he’d manouvered himself out of view or sat down.

Excited paternal cries of “wee wee” when the deed had been spotted served only to stop his pee mid flow after which he happily toddled off to the potty, sat down and waited for nothing to happen.

Only to get up a few moments later and carry on peeing again the moment I blinked or lost my focus for just that second.

I mopped up a lot of pee on Monday morning.

So what we had was a toddler who knew wee wee happened on the potty but wasn’t quite up for associating wee wee with his own peeing. I’m not sure where we stood with the poo. Thankfully we never made it that far but I’ve heard some sicky stories of trying to get the poo in the potty and not trapped in the pants.

It’s entirely possible we may have done him a disservice. As he happily emptied another one over the rug and the sun shone through the window bathing us all in it’s late autumnal warmth, we decided we’d be better off spending the week outdoors with him, making the most of a rare week together as a family.

A day away from returning to work, we’re both agreed we made the right decision. It’ll cost us in the price of another three months worth of nappies before we try again but the time we spent was priceless for us all. One way and another it’s been a pretty tough year and this week off has turned out to have been the most relaxing so far. Will it be that much harder to do next time? I have no idea. We’re going to keep the potty out and keep the associations going. We’ll keep giving him a chance to sit on the potty and keep letting him watch us both pee so he can see and make the associations himself. Potty training is not a job for the reserved. Plonking your arse on the pan and encouraging your toddler to “look, wee wee” whilst your wife stands guard at the door so he doesn’t head off down the stairs unguarded is all part of the parenting guide to fun.

You pay a price for the convenience of nappies. Baby loses the ability to associate gthe action of oing for a poo or a pee with what it is. Nappies strip them of the experience and understanding. You have to train them back up, reacquaint them with the feelings of going through their motions. And whether you sheet your home up like a gangster’s hit pad or let them run free to fertilise your furniture, one way or the other you’re getting your hands dirty once again!

All misses no hits

We’re all on holiday this week. We’ve decided much to the scepticism of our child minder to potty train our little boy. We could have gone away or taken a break.

The plan is a simple one. Toddler spends the day without pants or nappies. As soon as he pees or poos you go wee wee or poo and plonk him on the potty which you have reinforced with telling him it’s for wee wee and poo. Eventually he associates the feeling of a wee or poo with the word and action and toddles off to the potty announcing his intention before he does anything.

This we have read could take about three days. You give it a few more days in clothes without nappies to make sure no accidents and then move on to night time because he’s back in nappies for sleep and naps until you’re ready.

Simple. We are energised by successful tales of potty training eighteen-montholds and stories of how being ‘ready later’ is a fallacy created by nappy manufacturers which I’m quite prepared to believe.

Day one has nothing to do with baby and is all about parental acclimatisation. Our first major lesson is that it is extremely important not to scream “NO!!!!!!”, the moment you see baby pee all over your furniture. Remember you are aiming (if you’ll pardon the pun) for a gentle “wee wee” or “poo”, not to make your baby burst into tears. You do not want baby to feel naughty or bad or ashamed or in any way frightened of the potty.

Apparently, however, our gut reaction is not as tolerant as we would like it to be nor mindful of the process we are following.

Furthermore; no matter how prepared you are it is quite unnerving to realise you’re staring at a nice new shiny poo on your living room floor. And it does take a moment to realise that’s what you are staring at. It’s the first time I’ve ever found a poo on my living room floor and no matter how much I felt I was prepared for the very likely possibility there would be poo on the floor, I still found myself momentarily perplexed as to how this poo has got there followed by a split second of thanks that a) the poo was firm not sploshy and b) it was on the floor boards not the rug.

I was also extremely annoyed that for the third time in a row baby had picked their moment just as I was looking away. You have to blink,  even turn your head at some point but I thought a poo might have taken a while, been preceded by a poo face if nothing else. Nope that poo just fell soft and soundless to earth.

Third lesson; if this is going to work tomorrow it’s going to have to be eyes on for the entire time he’s up. I have visions of myself creeping ninja behind his every step, potty ready to fall in place with the whisper and swiftness of a katana dividing rice paper.

And if we are locked to baby’s every move then we need more bottles of water around the house because it’s cold and we need the heating on and now we’re both dried out.

Still, at least we have a few new clean patches on the floors.