Your pace or mine?

Two months after we got married we moved house, two weeks after moving house my wife phoned me to tell me she was pregnant. I feel as if I haven’t paused for breath for almost three years.

Being a parent, being a new parent, being a first-time parent, being a working parent, trying to be a good parent, it’s exhausting. Whether they’re lying, gurgling, in their own poo, or ascending the bookcase, they demand, need, deserve 100% of your attention.

Like the man said: stop the world, I want to get off.

It’s not that I want more time to myself. I get that on a train plugged into my music four mornings a week, oblivious to my fellow travellers all doing the same.

What I really want is to slow down, is to stop. Physically, mentally, spiritually. To feel like I’m not waiting to do something, not needing to think about something or simply not to be so self aware of a world and a tiny percentage of its inhabitants that demand my attention.

The answer is, as answers occasionally are, right in front of me: running down someone else’s drive way, pulling flower heads off out of their garden, picking up gravel, stooping to look at dog poo and cigarette ends.

To move at your child’s pace, to move in your child’s time is to move in distracted wonder, unfettered by having to be anywhere whenever.

It is to take an hour, even two to complete a twenty minute journey and to wonder at the end if you had rushed things.

It is to let go of any urgency and drift aimlessly on whim and fancy, revelling in a scrap, a stick, a sound, and where any road is worth meandering down at least for now.

It is to move at a speed driven by interest and playful rhythms.

You start to feel as if this is a lost art, a muscle memory from thousands of years ago, a way for us all to reconnect…

…whilst still having to divert them from getting too close to the road or falling off bridges. I guess even when you do get to stop, you never stop being a parent.

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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.

This one’s for you George

Friend gets baby Chewbacca plush for his birthday.

Squeezing Chewie plush makes Chewie sound.

Baby ignores plush mostly for a while after trying to eat it first off.

Daddy dresses baby up as Han Solo with Chewie for photo op, baby looks grumpy, daddy despondant.

Daddy persists in squeezing plush to make Chewie sound.

Baby one day grabs Chewie on hearing Chewie sound and gives him a hug.

Baby now constantly grabs Chewie plush when it makes Chewie sound.

Mum points out Chewie on the Empire poster in the spare room.

Baby now points to Chewie plush and then Chewie on poster.

Baby starts pointing at Chewie plush and going “brrrrrr brrrrrr”.

Daddy finds random Chewie videos on You Tube.

Baby starts pointing at daddy’s phone going “brrrrrr brrrrrr”.

Baby placated by more Chewie videos.

Baby continues to demand Chewie.

Daddy has a bona fide reason now to watch Star Wars with baby.

Result!

“We must all have a poo face I suppose”

Your toddler’s poo face is a thing of beauty, a facial ballet, muscles stretching and squeezing top and bottom in perfect focused synchronicity and expungent force. 

A good poo face will quite literally stop your toddler in their tracks. A tilt of the head and a brief quizzical smile washed over with two parts utter concentration, two parts total befuddlement. If you do catch the look in your little one’s eyes you’ll see a glassy eyed WTF…

A really good poo face comes in stages: either an iterative step up through the squeezes each one more focused and intense than the next, or simple variations on a theme of confused straining, each one morphing seamlessly into the other like an expensive special effect.

Remember too you once pulled them in your infancy, and still do. No race,  religion, class,  caste or social ordering or background of any kind absolves you from the poo face. It is the leveller, the equaliser of all human kind. Take the time to love your toddler’s poo face and marvel in the beauty of our great shared experience.