Tuesday 15 January 2013

The three ages of childhood


I have come to the conclusion that there are three ages of childhood and that Marty is firmly in the first epoch, the age of “What?”

For the last 6 months our breakfast routine has gone pretty much like this:

Comfortably sat in his highchair, Marty surveys the morning’s breakfast arrangements. He now picks up his spoon, waves it under my nose and asks, “what?”

“It’s a spoon.” 

He digests this for a few seconds then dips it into his porridge. “What?”


He looks at me as if he’s not sure I can be entirely trusted and then, as if to test me, points at his milk. “What?”

“It’s milk!”

Patently unconvinced that I know what I’m talking about – and who can blame him for that -  he now turns to his mother and repeats the entire exercise. This completed, he takes a few moments to ponder all this new and fascinating information. Then he sits back, pokes his porridge, sips his milk, examines his spoon... and it all starts again.

I’ve got to admit that in terms of wild excitement it’s right up there with drying paint but for some reason Marty himself finds it all totally fascinating.

It’s as if he’s thinking “But I’ve asked 15 times now and they STILL say it’s a spoon! A Spoon! Who would have thought? Wow!”

This routine continues for pretty much the entire day with breaks only for pooing and sleeping and the occasional wild stabbing at the sky and the cry of “Bane! Bane!” – which, in case you were wondering, is an aluminium cylinder with wings that is frequently found traversing the skies of the East Midlands.

I mentioned to a mate that I found all this “What, what, what?” a tad tedious and he pointed out that this stage will soon develop into the second golden age of childhood, the infamous age of “Why?”

By all accounts the age of “Why?” can last for years and years and leave a parent yearning for the halcyon days of “What?” or even for those far distant days of yore when it was just mummy, daddy and a bottle of wine.

I must admit that I'm actually looking forward to Marty asking “why?” all the time and I’m determined to at least attempt accurate and reasoned replies. Ok, in reality these good intentions will probably not even make it through the first weekend and I’ll no doubt be buying earplugs en masse before the month is out, but for at least a short time Marty will gain some erratic, and no doubt erroneous, wisdom.

I have been told that after four or five years the age of “why” gives way to a period of relative peace, until the teens arrive and the final age of childhood begins; the age of ‘Whatever!”

Strictly speaking this epoch is not just about ‘whatever’. The word ‘Urr!’ ,for example, is a popular means of expression, as is the age old cry of “I hate youuuuu!”

I can see why it all happens like this though. The age of ‘what?’ helps the child develop his language skills, the age of ‘why?’ helps develop their mind and the age of ‘whatever’ helps fray the bonds of parental love to such an extent that your child packing his bags and leaving the family home for good is now less of a nightmare and more a cause for wild celebration.

Wednesday 2 January 2013

Parenthood: The things they never told you!

As a new parent there are many things you may run out of from time to time - sleep, nappies and patience, to name but a few - but the one thing I can guarantee that you’ll never run short of is advice.

From the moment you declare to the world that a baby is on the way – and when to tell people that is often the first bit of advice you’ll get – everyone and his mate will be queuing up to offer words of wisdom.

Of course this isn’t a bad thing. Yes, 90% of the advice can be filed away under the heading “Statements of the bleeding obvious”, much can be politely ignored and some is just downright batty but in the mix are some true gems that make you feel grateful for having a close family and fine friends.

One thing I’ve noticed though is just how much of this advice seems to be geared towards making parenthood convenient. A classic example is:

“Oh don’t sleep with your baby! They’ll want you to always sleep with them!”

Of course they will, after all it’s very comforting to all concerned and is what we’d all be doing if we were living a more natural life. After all, this idea of everyone sleeping in separate rooms is astonishingly recent and, whilst having your own space is all very nice, the first thing most of us do when we leave home is to hunt down someone willing to share a bed with us.

Attachment Parenting is the ‘new thing’ to help address this slightly perverse view of baby rearing and, like most new ideas, is just taking us back to how we used to behave before work, 60’s pseudo science and Victorian morality arrived to fuck things up.

I can’t say we’ve fully embraced attachment parenting. Not because I don’t agree with it but because I’m not sure my back would be up to the job... although the fact that it seems to have more than a hint of the bobble hat brigade about it is also a bit off putting – why is it that so many people with good ideas feel the need to spoil it all by wearing daft head gear and drinking Yak’s milk?

Anyway, this blog wasn’t supposed to be about the advice you get, it was supposed to cover the advice that doesn’t rear its head above the carry cot.
So far I have come across two very important points that I wish I’d known about before Marty arrived.

The first is floorboards! Do yours creak? If so, sort them out before baby arrives, especially those in the proposed nursery. I singularly failed to do this and I very much regret that fact. Ours creak like crazy things and as a result getting Marty to sleep and then getting out of the bedroom afterwards is like a scene out of an Indiana Jones film. If the floor creaks he’s going to wake up again so I have to mark my start position, take 4 paces to the left, 3 steps forward, two to the right.... I have yet to be chased out of the room by an enormous boulder but I have also yet to get out of the room first time without Marty waking up.

Another thing that no one mentioned was glasses. Do you wear them? Did you invest in gloriously expensive ones? Oh dear!

Here is a simple test to see if your glasses are suitable for parenthood. Pick them up in both hands by the bits that go over your ears. Now, whilst holding on tight, stretch your arms out wide. Now throw the glasses on the floor and giggle in delight. Now pick them up in your fist and hurl them across the room whilst shouting ‘Daggies!’. Repeat until the guy in the opticians notices what you’re doing.

I only need glasses for reading so I have taken to buying a box of them every few months from Poundland. In our house they have the life expectancy of an asthmatic Mayfly but they are wondrously cheap and provide Marty with some exercise.