Monday 25 April 2011


At the grand old age of ten weeks it seemed that Marty had finally got over the throes of colic and that normal volume had been resumed. Yes, he still had a bit of wind, but no more than his dad and it didn’t seem to be causing any undue discomfort.
And so peace rained upon our household, the sun came out, the birds sang at the bottom of our garden and I began to think that this parenthood lark was a bit of a breeze.... and then Marty had his first course of injections.
These are designed to protect him against those diseases that once swept this country and which still kill and main across much of the world; diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, haemophilus influenza, Pneumococcal infection and meningitis.
Surprisingly enough there are people out there who seem to think that these are all just petty childhood diseases; they’re not and you must be a complete loon if you opt to not take these free nhs vaccinations.
So I was perfectly happy to see Marty protected. Sadly Marty didn’t share my enthusiasm.
In fairness to the little lad, the needle was about the length of his hand and there were two of them. Despite this he was still grinning toothlessly as the nurse approached and I think we were all a little surprised when he took the first injection quite calmly.... then his little chin started to shake, he turned bright red, his eyes closed and all hell broke loose. He was screaming the house down as the second needle plunged into his thigh but still managed to go up a few octaves and gain at least a dozen decibels. It took about 5 minutes before his heartfelt sobs gave way to sleepy murmurs and we took the opportunity to pack him back into the car and get him home.
I assumed that would be that but later that evening he developed a slight fever, bad enough to register on the thermometer and to cause him to start crying his little eyes out. Fortunately we’d been advised to buy some Calpol.
Apparently this used to be the wonder cure for all baby ill’s; not only did it stop them crying but it also sent them to sleep! Sadly, parents started over medicating and prams throughout the world became filled with semi comatose zombie babies. So much so, that these days the somnambulant side of Calpol has been removed. Shame really, but at least the pain killing element seems to work really well. We gave a ½ teaspoon to Marty and 15 minutes later calm had been restored and he was grinning at the world once more.
The only downside to Calpol is the name; I keep getting it mixed up with Calgon. I guess there’s no real danger in this, it just means that if Marty is still crying after his medication, we’ll know he’s free of limescale.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Is my son a genius?

Genius in action
At some point or other every parent asks themselves the question "Is my child a genius?". Other popular queries are: “Is he going to be the next messiah?”, “Will he make a billion and look after his parent’s in their dotage?” and “How the hell did that come out of him?”, .
From the very moment of Marty’s birth I’ve been keeping an eye out for something ‘special’; a sudden and miraculous parting of the River Witham perhaps, or possibly the wondrous ability to turn his dad’s home-made wine into something vaguely drinkable?
Sadly, nothing so far - unless you include the entire house shaking when he farts. In fact violent seismic activity is a worrying theme of Marty’s arrival, with first Christchurch and then Japan suffering in rapid succession. Fortunately the Great Quake of Grantham has failed to materialise so I think it’s safe to say that Marty is in no way involved.
So Marty seems to be keeping his supernatural skills under wraps at the moment, but what about his brain? Is he going to be a genius? Is he going to solve the world’s energy problems with a single sheet of mathematical squiggles? Will he invent a cure for cancer? Will he be able explain the time paradox which results in the local pub’s clock being ten minutes ahead of everyone else’s?
Well apparently the way to ensure all of this is to play classical music to your child. The toy companies have got wind of this with the result that almost every baby mobile now plays something vaguely classical; ours plays a selection of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and, for some inexplicable reason, Bony-M and a reggae version of ‘Baa, baa black sheep’.
The thing is, I am sure that the benefit of classic music is derived from the fact that you’re listening to an entire orchestra; a vast array of different instruments, weaving in and around each other, rising and falling, to create a single syncopated whole. This is rather lost by these baby toys which have condensed the entire works of Mozart to a series of “Dink, dink, dink, dink...” noises... although it has to be said that this does improve the works of Bony-M.
So, following the appliance of Mozart and his mates, have we noticed any great leap forward in the brain department? Well Marty can focus his eyes, he can smile delightfully, he can wave his arms around in a fairly random fashion and he’s learnt to shout out the word “Ooo” when he’s feeling particularly pleased with himself.
This is possibly not the fastest of starts - he’s certainly still lagging behind the dog - but it’s progress... although I’m not planning on putting him in for his A levels anytime soon.

Sunday 17 April 2011

Baby clothes

The ears have it.
Dressing baby is a time for fun... and anxiety. The fun comes with watching your wriggling little worm, gurgle, grin and squeak as you work him into that morning’s outfit. The angst comes with the clothes, or rather the sleeves attached to the clothes.
Marty looked so ludicrously fragile when he was first born that I feared he’d fall apart if exposed to a stiff breeze. With this in mind, the idea of feeding his tiny fingers and skinny little arms through a 3 inch cotton tube and expecting them to emerge unscathed at the other end seemed highly improbable.
Given my own way, I’d have resolved this problem by dressing Marty exclusively in short sleeved shirts, with perhaps a shawl and a bobble hat for the colder days. Alas, “having my own way” is now a phrase from the halcyon days of my youth, a collection of words that has no meaning in these modern day's of parenthood... Sob!
As it is, babies are far more robust than they appear and Marty’s career as a pianist is still on the cards, despite my dressing skills. It’s also been helped by the “popper”, a clever little metallic device that allows clothes to be ‘flat-packed’ and then reassembled around the child, as and when the need arises. They’re astonishingly useful, so much so that you wonder why they make so few appearances in the adult clothing range. Although, on further reflection, they wouldn’t work if you had a beer belly and also enjoyed standing up and sitting down.
Anyway, I digress. What I was really trying to write about were those clothes that have cute and cuddly written all over them – often literally – but are neigh on impossible to fit a baby into without some sort of child equivalent of the shoe-horn.
We have one outfit in particular. I just know Marty will look gorgeous once I’ve managed to get him into it, so I keep on trying, and every time I end up with a screaming baby who has one arm in, one leg out and who’s face disappeared over 5 minutes ago and is probably  mid-outfit by now.
The dip-sticks who designed this suit seemed so transfixed by the design itself that they forgot completely about the poor buggers who’d have to get their babies into it. It comes with two little poppers at the neck and a few at the bottom, and that’s it!
So, you can either try to feed a nappy encased arse through the neck and work baby down that way, or you can feed the babies face up through the bottom of the outfit and see how far that gets you. I’ve tried and failed at both, which is just as well as I have no idea how I’d ever get his arms down the sleeves if I did manage to get Marty into the suit in the first place.
And while we’re talking clothes, what’s with the ears?
I get the impression that parents look down upon their little bundle of joy and have the following conversation:
       “Oh! Doesn’t he look gorgeous!”
       “Yup, as cute as a button!”
       “Yesss.... Cute but... well, you know, not REALLY cute.”
       “I know, I know. It’s the ears isn’t it?”
       “I don’t know why but they just look so ‘insufficient’ “
       “If only he had ears like a baby bear.”
       “Or big floppy ones like a rabbit.”
       “I know! Let's buy him an outfit with big ears built into it.”
       “Brilliant, no one will notice they’re ‘falsies’ and maybe someday he’ll grow some
       huge floppy ears of his very own.”

And so it is that virtually every baby hat or hood has ears built into it.
Bizarre or what!

Friday 8 April 2011

The first few months

Spot the difference
In the run up to Marty's arrival one of the joys of Leanne's life was to lie on the sofa of an evening and "Bump watch". This involved interrupting my TV viewing pleasure with constant nudges and cries of “Look, look, she’s moving” – for some inexplicable reason we had it in our head that “he” was a “she”. Only very rarely could I discern the difference between the ‘bump’ moving and Leanne passing wind, so I rapidly lost interest.

Then the big day arrived and ‘Bump’ became Marty and life became distinctly more interesting, and this was despite all my mates telling me that babies in the first six months were really boring.

To be honest I can see where they’re coming from; Marty’s conversation is at best limited, he can’t sing, he can’t dance and the less said about his social skills the better. All in all he’s an ideal candidate for X-Factor.

But there’s still a world of fascination about him. Over the last few weeks he’s learnt to go “goo, goo, goo” and generally gurgle with contentment in such as fashion as to melt the hardest of hearts.

After four weeks, if you tickled him under the chin you would be rewarded with a huge toothless grin and if you watched him when he was asleep you’d see him do the same thing; a slow, lopsided, smile slowly appear as he thought his baby thoughts – no doubt something along the lines of large breasts and milk.

In week six his eyes suddenly started to focus on me and he started to follow my face as I moved. I’ll grant you that it didn’t last for long and the ceiling would occasionally usurp me as an item of immense interest but he suddenly seemed ‘alive’. Before this he tended to just stare into space in a ‘the lights are on but nobody’s at home’ fashion. Now he seems to be engaging with the world and it makes such a huge difference.

Other little things gain enormous significance. When Marty was born he had a little chip out of his left ear and we’d put this down to the birth; after all it’s a tight squeeze at the best of times so it wouldn’t be that surprising if things had dropped off during an arduous delivery. As it turns out it’s hereditary! Yup, we popped down to Kent to see the rellies and Charlotte pointed out that she also had a chip out of her left ear, as did almost everyone in her family.

It sounds daft but it’s things like that that truly brought home to me that Marty was ours; a product of me and Leanne and everyone else in our family. Bearing in mind that I studied genetics I guess it shouldn’t have been that surprising, but there’s a huge gap between ‘knowing’ and ‘realising’; actually living the event rather than just studying it.

Of course I get told that he looks like me all the time but I think this is more of a social norm than a statement of reality: I’m much taller, he has more hair; I have wrinkles, he has skin so perfect you can’t even see the pores. There are lots and lots of telling differences between us. I’ll grant you that I have been known to lie sprawled upon a sofa with dribble running down my chin but I can’t imagine that I ever managed it with quite the natural grace of young Marty.

Just to prove our differences, Marty appears to be an adept in the martial arts - something that I never got involved with. If you make any kind of noise when he's asleep his arms will suddenly shoot into the air, fingers spread wide apart, in what is clearly a Ninja "Hands of death" stance. Quite what sort of damage an 11 pound Ninja baby could do to you is debatable, but its good to see that the attitude is there.

All in all, yes he will probably become more and more engaging as he gets older, but boring? No it’s been far from boring.