Sunday 29 July 2012

Learning to Walk

And he's off..
The two major baby milestones are learning to walk and learning to talk. Sadly, Marty still says very little other than “Ikea” or “Aky Arr” – translation seems to depend on how keen you are on flat packed furniture stores. However, he has finally learnt to walk!

It’s been a long old slog though. I knew that it takes a baby, on average, about a year to learn to walk. What I hadn’t realised is quite how long a year can seem. A foal is up and about within minutes, yet it took Marty months just to learn to sit upright! Frankly I found it hard to regard this as a genuine success.

“Oh look he’s sitting up all by himself!”
“It’s a major breakthrough!”
“Eh? He’s sitting. Even politicians can manage that! What do you want me to do, ring Mensa?”

Marty seemed to enjoy it though, so much so that it was many more months before he felt the urge to move.

How he went about his first ventures into motion was largely determined by our flooring; downstairs all the rooms have either tiles or varnished wood flooring. This is great when Marty is throwing yoghurt around the room but it’s a far more difficult surface to learn to walk on, and far less forgiving when things go amiss.

Marty, however, soon realised that if he lay flat on the floor in his full-body romper suit he could reach out and slowly but surely drag himself over to those toys out of reach. He seemed very pleased with this development and I must admit I was impressed with his grit and determination.

From a parental point of view it changed things a little. We had got used to the idea of being able to find our baby pretty much where we’d left him. With the development of the ‘drag’ this was no longer a given. Fortunately it was a slow and laborious form of locomotion, so if he wasn’t exactly where we’d left him, he was still pretty close to exactly where we’d left him.

We’d expected that the ‘drag’ would be a brief interlude en route to the ‘crawl’ but this was not to be. Again the flooring played a part here in that Marty attempted a full crawl quite early on but forgot to move his arms at the same time as pushing forward with his legs. The end result was an unforgiving nosedive into solid pine, a painful memory that seemed to put him off the whole idea for many months.

I hadn’t realised how far behind Marty was until we went to a party and he sat there looking bemused as his slightly younger compatriots crawled around him with lightening pace. To make matters worse the host had a home fitted with wall-to-wall carpeting, a surface wholly unsuited to the intricacies of the ‘drag’.

The shame and ignominy of being out performed by children that were months younger seemed to spur us all on. That very evening we spent 30 minutes practicing movement across the bedroom carpet and within a few weeks Marty had grasped the essentials of the crawl.

Of course this was just the incentive the competition needed to learn to walk. The very next party saw Marty crawling around the room whilst the opposition teetered about the place on two feet!

Marty seemed entirely unmoved by this development; crawling got him from A to B with all the alacrity required of a 1 year old who doesn’t even own a watch. What was more it made a lovely noise on wood flooring.

There was certainly something very endearing about being greeted by a grinning, giggling bundle of fun, slapping his hands as loudly as he could on the floor as he crawled across the room towards me. Once he’d reached me he’d grab my trousers and use them to climb to his feet. Once there he’d give me a big satisfied smile and lift up his arms to be picked up. I guess there are better ways of being welcomed home but I’m struggling to think of any.

I felt I fully understood Marty’s reluctance to walk as it seemed very like my attitude to snowboarding; I’d learnt to ski, finally got good at it, and now everyone is saying I need to start all over again and learn to snowboard! Why? I like skiing, I like going down black runs as fast as I can. Why do I want to risk pain and injury trying to get down a mountain on an ironing board?

Whatever the reason, Marty reached the grand old age of 14 months before deciding that bipedalism was the future. Sadly the adage “You need to learn to walk before you run” was entirely lost on him. As far as Marty was concerned the only advantage of walking was the extra speed it offered, and so from the very beginning he combined walking with jogging and jumping.

This is all very impressive and we are immensely proud of him. The only downside is that he still tries to overcome a loss of balance by running faster. Sometimes this works, usually it doesn’t. The end result is that barely a day’s gone by when he hasn’t been sporting at least one bruise on his forehead.

Monday 2 July 2012

The day my child exploded

Marty prepares for his world famous
David Dickinson impression
Over the years I have suffered from tennis elbow and housemaid’s knee – or heroic plumber's knee as I prefer to call it. However, I am currently suffering from ‘Dad’s arm’, am extremely painful condition brought on by holding a small child at arm’s length for a protracted period of time. To be honest it’s all my own fault, a classic example of naivety followed by panic.... And here is the tale.

Once upon a time a little boy was racing across the bedroom carpet on his hands and knees, giggling away, as his idiotic father pretended to chase him. This was all prior to bedtime so his father shouldn’t have been getting him all excited in the first place. He ought also to have remembered that said child had eaten only an hour before. However, they were both thoroughly enjoying themselves, blissfully unaware of the disaster that was to befall them.

Let’s take a quick break at this point to discuss some of the fundamentals of parenthood. Yes, it is marvellous and a young child is a delicious bundle of wonder, joy and delight. However, basic biology cannot be denied and the golden rule of ‘What goes in must come out’ is rigorously applied.

Regardless of the number of roses you use to tint your glasses,  dealing with number two’s is not a pleasure; it’s unpleasant when you’re expecting it, it can be damn right terrifying when you’re not.

So, back to the unfolding disaster.... As Marty crawled between my legs I grabbed the end of his trousers and allowed him to wriggle free, listening to his squeals of excitement as he did so.

“These are a bit heavy” I thought, as Marty made his break for freedom... And then two things hit me; first the smell and then the realisation that Marty was leaving brown marks on the carpet with every crawl.

Fortunately Marty doesn’t understand Saxon vernacular of the four letter variety, which is just as well as he ears might have fallen off. I grabbed him before he could destroy any more of the carpet, held him at arms length - for fairly obvious reasons - and screamed “LEANNE!!!!” Sadly my good wife was serenely gardening at the time and didn’t hear that scream or any of the ones that followed. Marty was becoming distressed at the colour of his father’s face and my arms were beginning to give way.

Finally, after what seemed like hours but was probably only a few minutes, sense reared its head. I raced into the bathroom and with little or no ceremony dumped Marty in the bath and turned the shower on him, praying to God that the household plumbing was up to the job.

Being a typical child, finding himself covered from head to toe in crap didn't bother him one little bit. However, the moment you try to shower him down with warm water he starts bawling his head off as if he's about to melt!. Fortunately Marty's screams seemed to reach across the garden with little difficulty at all and sure enough Leanne wandered into view.

I couldn’t believe how unmoved she was by it all. I believe she actually used the sentence “Oh, come on! It’s only poo!”.

Only poo? I could be the parent of a small child for the next 100 years and I’d never reach the stage were the words ‘only’ and ‘poo’ comfortably fitted into a single sentence.

Anyway, the panic was finally over; clothes were removed and thrown in the bin, baths were sluiced down, carpets were cleaned and Marty was once more racing around the room as if nothing had ever happened. It seems I was the only casualty; I can barely lift a pint my arms hurt so much!