From Toddler To Teenager

Charlie and Lola (TV series)
Charlie and Lola (TV series) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My one-year old niece came to stay with us last week.

How quickly you forget, and how quickly the old man retrieved his invisibility cloak, carefully packed away since Kurt’s departure.

The Princess Spoodle won’t forget her gorgeous cousin, such was the advanced level of torture cuddling enacted on her tail – a level of love that even Kurt’s playfulness had not thus far attained.

The carpet won’t forget her visit either, although it made a valiant attempt to resist the wrath of perfectly aimed mashed banana, Weetabix and avocado that rained down on it in food missiles every mealtime.

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I’d forgotten how absolutely delicious baby cuddles are, how sticky their little hands are, and how much their whole universe is focused on the people who show them love. I must have pushed memories such as the touch of soft velvet skin, squidgeable thighs and slobbery kisses to the back of my mind since they were replaced by boy stubble, the faint, yet persistent, whiff of stale alcohol and Sports Girl perfume in our home.

The experience was much more exhausting than I remembered, mainly due to how much anxiety one little person can create for someone so out of touch – especially when she had a houseful of exciting and fragile new stuff to discover.

My legs turned to jelly on quite a few occasions, especially when she impulsively tried to throw herself off the top of the slide in the playground, when she casually placed small chess pieces in her mouth and when she prised her perfectly-sized fingers into the bath jets.

But my fear soon dissipated and my heart melted whenever she was sad.

Huge triumphs may be simple with each baby stepping stone, but they are so fulfilling. My sister and I high-fived each other whenever my niece ate something new and healthy, if she made it down the slide without shooting off at the end and when we remembered to let her push the button on the lift, thereby avoiding a massive melt-down. The only disappointments were wrapped up in trying to get her to sleep before wine-time came and passed us by.

Dressing little people is an art I had long forgotten since I exchanged them for skills required for teenagers – like lifting wet towels off the floor and removing nail varnish stains from the carpet. Pulling clothes over wobbly heads and squeezing tiny, fidgety feet into tiny socks and awkward shoes is torturous. And I’d forgotten how the prettiest, new dresses always seem to attract the worst and most indelible fruit stains.

I met Shaun The Sheep and Charlie and Lola and was reminded how to snuggle, feed with a spoon, understand gibberish and bath a wriggly, slippery bundle of love when she is cranky and ready for her bed.

Kurt is back in two days. I think I’m ready.

Having A Baby At 50 – An Act Of Selfishness Or Love?

English: A picture of a young child
English: A picture of a young child (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Personally I can’t imagine anything worse than having a baby at this time in my life, and if I could find a way to blackmail my doctor to rip out my ovaries at my next pap test, I would.

 

But each to their own.

 

I’m nearly fifty and on a good day I’m tired, cranky, exhausted for no reason and my hormones dictate my mood unless I dilute their superpowers with wine. And my body still hasn’t recovered from my last pregnancy, seventeen years ago.

 

Which is why the news that Sonia Kruger is pregnant at the age of 48 has set the cat among the pigeons among many middle-aged women.

 

Admittedly, I also can’t imagine the awfulness of having problems conceiving when you are desperate for a baby and all your peers have popped out babies as easily as rabbits. It certainly sounds as though Sonia and her partner have been through the infertility mill as far as treatments go.

 

And I’m sure that Sonia will make a fantastic mother. She is intelligent, successful, likeable, looks physically fit for her age and there is no doubt that she can provide a safe and financially secure environment for her child.

 

But she’s 48, a time when she should be thinking about flat shoes, the freedom of the elasticated waistband and armchairs with a built in footrest – not changing diapers. What’s more, nature naturally dictates that women shouldn’t bear children that close to ‘the change’, which is why our ovaries stop producing eggs to allow us to become bitter and twisted without risk to our children.

 

I know it’s not my place to decide who should and shouldn’t have a baby and usually I have a very open mind, but I can’t help thinking that this is not about me or Sonia.

 

Surely this is about whether her pregnancy is the right decision for the child too?

 

I don’t judge her for wanting a baby. It’s all I ever wanted and in spite of the challenges that parenting has thrown up, my life is complete because of my children.

 

But…

 

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I question whether Sonia and her partner have thought this through objectively? Ideally kids need more than love. They need continuity and  a future with their parents. Just because the science is out there to help us procreate from donor eggs beyond the natural age of child-rearing, does that mean we should do it?

 

There have been a lot of scientific discoveries that we have to consider the consequences of wisely before use. Nuclear warfare is one. An incredible discovery but one that if abused, we now know is not necessarily the right thing to do.

 

I am Sonia’s age and will be nearly fifty when NC turns twenty at the end of this week. But in spite of the generation between us, I am still young and fit enough to keep up with her physically and mentally, empathise with her emotions, give her boyfriend- advice, and I should still have enough years ahead of me to be around for those pivotal moments in her life such as her wedding day and the birth of her children.

 

I didn’t have my mother around for those life events and it had a devastating effect on my growth that has transmitted through to my own children.

 

Sonia will be nearly seventy when her baby turns twenty and their relationship should evolve into a friendship. Has she considered that her child’s peers may think that she is the grandmother when she accompanies them on a tour of uni or goes to the parents evening at school?

 

Of course it can be argued that as long as a child is loved, age shouldn’t matter, and I respect that opinion wholeheartedly if you don’t have a choice like many menopausal women who accidentally fall pregnant.

 

But to choose to have a baby at 48 – is that an act of selfishness or love?

 

 

Being Clucky, Parenting Newborns and Coveting Their Toys

Being Clucky, Parenting Newborns and Their Toys
No, I wasn’t breastfeeding my niece!

It was strange to travel back to the newborn stage when I visited my sister and her 8-week old baby for the first time last weekend.

 

I could cluck on an on about the complete gorgeousness and super-intelligence of my niece – understandable really considering her gene pool – but then I have been fortunate to be blessed with a wonderful tribe of nephews and nieces.

 

Many aspects of the newborn stage haven’t changed at all in that time.

 

Sleep is still a longed-for commodity and sleep deprivation is still a complete bitch – although my sister is coping with the lack of it far more gracefully than I ever did and was positively glowing, much to my sibling rivalrous disdain.

 

Babies skin still smells as mesmerising as that first drop of wine on a Friday night and their skin remains as soft as my muffin top after I’ve eaten all the pies.

 

It still takes far more time to actually GET OUT of the house than the actual time spent ‘outside’, even with four adults on hand to help.

 

Being Clucky, Parenting Newborns and Their Toys
Calm your ovaries, ladies!

And the amount of baby clobber you need to survive those outings is still overwhelming, even when you’re breastfeeding and don’t need the bottle paraphernalia. I’d forgotten about those days when your baby creates one of those explosive ‘five days worth of poo’ nappies in the middle of the shopping centre and you have to call on all five extra sets of clothes and a back room stock’s worth of baby wipes.

 

Then there are the fleeces for when it suddenly turns cold, the sun hat for when it’s hot, the dummies, the nappies, the socks and the sling. I could go on and on.

 

But it was the baby toys that entertained me the most, and I’m not talking about teddies and rattles. Sure, new mothers today have it hard in terms of trying to live up to the expectations of being perfect parents – (my sister told me about the shame of my niece being the only baby in Aldi nappies in her mothers group) – because there’s far more literature out there pointing the finger at what they’re doing wrong – but in terms of gadgets, life is a little easier.

 

Did you know that baby monitors now tell you what the room temperature is and if it’s too warm for your baby; and they’re wireless.

 

And disposable nappies have a special wee indicator down the front to tell mum when it’s wet. It’s not foolproof, as my sister reminded me, because who the fuck changes a nappy after one tiny droplet?

 

My test for a full nappy used to be if Kurt was too heavy to pick up.

 

Baby gyms have become all singing/all dancing full-time educators so school will soon be unnecessary. Gyms these days play music, flash lights, count and recount Shakespeare (probably), unlike the primitive ones my kids had where there were a few coloruful dangly shapes to bash at in anger at being abandoned on the floor.

 

Then there was my favourite – the BOOGER SUCKER! A wonderful invention for extracting whistling boogers out of the tiny newborn nose to give them (and mum) every opportunity to sleep.

 

Whatever did we do our day?Being Clucky, Parenting Newborns and Their Toys

 

 

 

 

Feeling Clucky In Middle Age

My sister is pregnant at the moment.

Mother's Love
Mother’s Love (Photo credit: Fabio Trifoni)

When I first received the news and the very special photo of ‘the bump’ that arrived in my inbox, and is soon to evolve into a new niece or nephew, they had a peculiar effect on me.

One that I wasn’t expecting.

Because I’m in parenting free fall at the moment. Close enough to taste the tantalising endpoint, where I can finally see light at the end of the tunnel of full-time parenting. For the first time in a long time I can taste the freedom that the gentle shove (that might be required) to persuade my offspring that it’s time to get out of the nest will give me; after what sometimes has felt like a life-term.

I can understand the euphoria Mandela must have felt as his freedom finally turned into a reality. The old man and I have already began surreptitiously looking at one bedroom apartments.

Which is why I thought I’d never want to see another child for at least ten years.

(There is also the added awkwardness of being nearly old enough to be the baby’s grandmother, too.)

You see, I worried that I might feel a little distanced from this new addition to the family. Because the timing of it’s arrival might coincide with the period where I get to lick my parental wounds, to reassure myself I’ve done the best job I could and then avoid contact with anything under the age of twenty-five for reasons of self-protection.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case. I’ve been feeling worryingly clucky about the whole event.

Part of the reason is that I know how much my sister wants this baby and I know that she will make a wonderful mother. A more natural mother than I ever was.

Then, of course, there is the added bonus that I can hand this one back, too. 

Nelson Mandela silhouette
Nelson Mandela silhouette (Photo credit: HelenSTB)

But I’ve found myself surfing deliriously through baby websites, stalking teddies, and only the other day I found myself scouring through rails of baby-grows when I should have been in Zara, squeezing my butt into tight leather pants.

I can’t help touching newborn clothes, either, in a very suspicious way. Then I demonstrated just how completely out of touch I am with all things ‘newborn’ when I picked an outfit for ‘the bump’, only to discover it was for a child of 3 -4 years of age.

When did they get so small?

Our sense of scale gets a bit screwed up when our children become teenagers. NC is reasonably tall but my cougar heels balance out the height difference. Kurt is a good 6” taller than me now and often leans down above me, menacingly, and says,

‘Gonna send me to my room now, Mum?’

There’s that unbeatable circle of life again.

So I seriously can’t imagine just how small this little ‘thing’ is going to be now.

Of course ‘cluckiness’ (or ‘broodiness’, as we call it in the UK) deletes all the shit about having newborns from memory and forces us to focus on their utter gorgeousness.

Remember that smell?

I can still remember how each of my baby’s skins felt and smelt next to my face; they were surprisingly very different. I can still visualise NC’s chubby little thighs, at odds with the rest of her small bird body, because she was premature. I remember those special breastfeeding moments, when the two of us would be alone together in the quiet of night and that orgasmic sensation of milk being drawn down in response to those first hungry sucks.

That feeling of giving life to life.

Baby Rubens Barrichello
Baby Rubens Barrichello (Photo credit: Kradlum)

It almost hurts to remember that psychotic feeling of protectiveness that took over my body in such a short space of time. It was frightening in its intensity.

That feeling has never diminished – if anything, it has matured and grown more threatening.

I hope that my sister is prepared.

 

 

 

 

 

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Giving Birth To Your First Literary Baby

Newborn child, seconds after birth. The umbili...
Newborn child, seconds after birth. The umbilical cord has not yet been cut. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She’s been in the womb for a while now, this gestating book of mine. Its been a long pregnancy this one, which is why her current working name is The Fucker.

But I think that (FINALLY) her due date might actually be getting closer, and now I’m getting quite nervous about the labour.

Which is why I’d like to tell you about a conversation I had with the old man about it the other day.

You see I’ve written the first draft, edited it a few million times and changed as much as I possibly can without transforming the plot completely and having to start all over again.

So I now have to take that brave step of showing my baby to someone – which is nerve-racking if I’m honest. It’s like the first time you show your real baby to the world and even though you know it’s probably quite ugly, because all newborns are, you still don’t want anyone to actually tell you that.

It took me four months before I told anyone that I’d been writing a blog, so you could say that self-confidence is not my strong point. You have to be brave to reveal your true persona publicly – which writing obviously does – to put yourself under the spotlight and allow people to judge you. And I admit that I’m as sensitive as a fucking cockroach to light when it comes to criticism.

I’ve ummed and ahhhed about who to hand my baby to for the first time. The obvious choice is the old man but he can be a harsh critic, and not as objective as I’d like. And the truth is that I’m more stung by his criticism than anyone else’s. But then again he knows me the best and secretly I would like his approval.

But there are two problems with him reading my draft. The first is that the subject matter of my material is not what I usually write about. Sure, I occasionally attempt ‘serious’ in my blog but the old man yawns impolitely when I do. There is some humor in the book but the plot has predominantly serious themes and undertones running through it, about death and relationships, dysfunctionality and all that serious shit.

All those things that the old man has never had the maturity to understand and spent a lifetime walking away from when confronted.

I bought of copy of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus recently and each time I catch him reading it furtively, I can see the signs of utter amazement on his face when he reads about Venus and women’s natural traits.

The second problem with him reading my manuscript is that he limits his choice of reading to fantasy.

So asking a philistine, who only reads fantasy books and quotes Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings to our kids when trying to discipline them, might appear foolish. Not forgetting that he has never expressed a raw emotion in twenty years of marriage and I’m beginning to suspect that John Gray actually based the inhabitants of Mars on him.

Yet there is this gnawing duty within me that won’t go away. In some bizarre, marital- harmonising way I feel that I owe it to him. He has allowed me the time to grow my baby and to try and turn my dream into a reality and if he is my soul mate he should be able to put his own ideas aside and remain objective.

‘I think I’m almost ready for you to read the first part of my book,’ I mentioned casually over the weekend.

‘What’s it about again?’

‘Relationships – there’s this tragic event that rips a family apart leading to blame, depression and the crumbling of the familial infrastructure.’

‘Is it funny?’

‘Not exactly. It has its moments…’

‘Are there any dragons in it?’

‘No, no dragons.’

‘NO DRAGONS? Well, do any of the characters have superpowers?’

‘No, I can’t think of any superpowers other than love, compassion and integrity.’

*Sigh*

‘Isn’t there anyone else you can ask to read it?’

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