Monthly Archives: February 2013

When parenting is like Metal Gear Solid

I wouldn’t call myself a gamer, but about ten years ago, I remember really getting into Playstation’s Metal Gear Solid. As the first 3D stealth game, you made your way through the different levels of the game, often through the avoidance of armed guards.

If you were detected, the alarm would go up, the guards would get anxious and start looking for you. Your only recourse was to wait out their routine sweeps, avoid the guards’ sight and stay quiet. And you could stay like this for quite a while, until the guards eventually gave up the chase. You could then breathe a little easier. I can still hear in my head the ping the game made when ‘all clear’ came and I could and carry on with the mission.

A decade later, when V. is restless and crying at night and I’m on duty with her, I try to think of this waiting game like waiting for that ‘all clear’ ping in the game. When I have picked up V. to get her to fall asleep on my shoulder, I then have a very delicate time of it slowly returning her to her cot. I have to keep her close to my chest, bend over the side of the cot, lay her down, slide my hands out from underneath her and creep over to the nursery door. All in complete silence. Sometimes there’s a noise out on the street, or the floorboards creak or one of my bones click (!) and suddenly she’s rousing herself. I freeze, and think of waiting for those guards to give up their search for me. I have to just be patient and stick with the walkthrough me and the wife have designed.

Another time, I shall think of how to compare parenting with tossing a CS cannister into a room.

Everyone has an opinion about babies

F. experienced it initially when our daughter was just a few weeks old.

Although still not entirely confident taking a newborn out and about in early October, F. thought that meeting a good friend for coffee in the local area would be a nice trip out for her and the baby. As my wife walked along the street with her friend, V. in her arms, a passing woman said to her in no uncertain terms ‘That baby ought to be wrapped up better’. The busybody continued walking on, leaving F. stunned.

Later on, F.’s response was to be more upset than shocked. And we were astonished and angry that anyone should be that presumptive. Neither of us could understand how that woman could possible justify giving that advice in such a way. Correction: criticism, not advice. We tried to brush it off. But on subsequent trips out with the baby, I could see F.’s confidence affected and doubt would flash into her mind about her decisions.

No one told us about this kind of thing happening. And I’ve certainly not read anything in any of our baby books. But as soon as you say this to other parents, the stories come out. I mentioned F.’s high street encounter to a client, a mother of three who lives in Primrose Hill. And she happily told me of an experience she’d had when out with her youngest daughter one evening. A complete stranger had said to her “You should be at home by now, you stupid cow”. Years later, this incident was now a family joke. But, for those of you who are expecting your first baby, I can tell you it’s not funny at the time. And it really is hard to believe just how prevalent this activity is.

Up until a couple of months ago, I had not directly experienced this phenomenon. I had started to think that perhaps strangers wagging fingers was a gender-issue: mum’s being seen as soft-targets for the opinionated. But one afternoon in John Lewis, I had a mild, passive-aggressive swipe taken at me whilst queuing to return a kettle.

I was waiting in the Electricals department for service. V. was strapped to my front in her baby carrier, dozing. Although we were indoors, she still had her warm coat on as it was February and I hadn’t anticipated being in a queue for quite so long. Getting served at the reception desk in front of me was a well-spoken woman in her fifties, trying to get a spare part for her fridge. As a harassed staff member made a couple of phone calls on her behalf, she turned to look at my daughter. With a smile, she nodded to V.’s coat, ‘she’ll be warm in that’.

So, basically we can’t win. The baby’s either too cold or too hot. My advice is that, should this happen to you, ignore them.

When You Realise You’re on Your Own

Sometimes we’ve had a question about raising our baby. And we just can’t find a straight answer.

Best selling books about the subject offer conflicting or insufficient advice.

Friends with children swear by a solution that worked for them. But then don’t fully explain how the solution works.

Grandparents offer little help or forget what it was they did, when you were a baby.

Online forums are filled with ‘me too’ posters but no actual useful answers.

There seems to be a deafening silence when it comes to your question.

Once in a while, you realise: You Are On Your Own.

I have two aims with this blog. Firstly it is to create a record of my time as a new dad. My second aim is to publish useful guidance for other parents that is routed in the practical and the mundane. To offer recommendations or reflections on my own experiences that would help readers to organise themselves, prepare themselves or protect themselves.

But, as with my own experience of having questions unanswered, this blog will be unsatisfactory or incomplete for some parents. I mean, I’m posting a blog every five days that tries to cover all aspects of being a new parent..? I could write a daily blog just about sleep training alone.

So to those readers, I recommend you cherry-pick what advice you find relevant. And use your intelligence, patience and common sense to work out a solution for everything else. That’s how I’m trying to work out stuff.

Weaning

Today saw a very low-key introduction to weaning for V. And to cleaning up after weaning, for me and my wife.

It started last week when we bought a high chair. F. had assembled and installed it in our small kitchen along with a little table. It had been fun to prop V. up in the chair for a photoshoot for the grandparents. But up until today, the chair remained in the kitchen, undiscussed.

It was only today, just before V.’s afternoon feed, when F. turned to me and asked “shall we try and give her some banana?”.

So into the high chair went V. and we cut up a banana. As I had read, we cut a short length of banana and left a little skin on the bottom for her to hold, like an ice cream cone.

With cameras ready, we presented V. with her banana. She immediately took it and gave it a good suck. Particularly the skin; her screwed up little face showed she didn’t care for the bitterness.

So we looked around the kitchen for something else. We cut up some apple – which went down well – and a tomato. That was a bit too soft to handle right now.

And that was that. At nearly 6 months, babies aren’t going to do anything with food except drool on it. Most of the fruit ended up smothered over V.’s onesie or on the table. Why we didn’t put a bib on her, I don’t know why. We do that a lot: focus so much on one milestone, we forget what we have previously learned.

So after about 15 minutes, we called it a day and V. went on to have her regular feed. I’m not sure what Mrs D. and me were expecting. For the record, we handed her those pieces of fruit. Does that count as baby-led? I don’t think it does.

Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’

This last week has seen V. develop a taste for rolling from her back to her front. It’s a developmental milestone you hear about and she is bang on time. But it’s still a delightful surprise to watch it during playtime.

There’s a catch, though. She has also been doing it during some daytime naps, whilst lying in her cotbed. Rolling over wakes her up and she finds herself all twisted up in her sleep sack. V. cries and we find her on her tummy, unable to roll back onto her back. Nightime sleeps have not been disrupted in this way but we think its because she’s far too tired to be so active.

All the online advice seems to agree that this perfectly natural phase is disruptive to the baby’s sleep. The usual sources also agree that the baby will learn the skill of rolling back within a couple of weeks. To speed up the process, we’re encouraging rolling during playtime. By giving V. little nudges during tummy time, we’re hoping she’ll learn the skill for herself and will self-correct during naps. The knack with rolling is to tuck one arm under near you or lay it out along the floor, lying next to your ear and roll over that. Of course one leg has to bee thrown over the hip to help momentum.

In the meantime, me or F. tuck V.’s sleep sack a little tighter under the mattress to reduce the amount of rolling. I’ve also sewed a couple of snap fasteners into her daytime sleep sack to slightly reduce the wriggle room.

FYI the title of this blog is more Rawhide than Limp Bizkit. Although other answers I would have accepted are; Rolling in the Benjamins, Roll Out The Barrel or Rolling Thunder.