A few weeks ago when Izzie really started interacting with us and the world around her, my brother said, ‘Now’s the time they start to get interesting.’ I totally disagree. She was always interesting, but now’s the time she’s starting to get fun.
That’s not to say the first twelve weeks or so didn’t have their moments. All those firsts – first smile, first tears, first proper sad face, first time she grabbed my glasses and threw them on the floor – were exciting and revelatory. But the past few weeks she’s understood enough to be consistent in her behaviour – she’s discovered cause and effect, that a string of sounds can be funny and not just single weird noises, and she’s interested in everything. Consequently, whereas before she could be soothed by simple rocking or muttering, now she wants a whole song and dance routine.
I said a few weeks back that after colic, teething would be a breeze. Well I’m sorry to tell anyone with the same desperate hope that it’s anything but.
Colic hits in the evenings. True, the crying doesn’t stop and goes on for hours, but you can prepare for it by doing what you need to do during the day. Teething lasts all bloomin’ day, hour after hour, a constant procession of whining, grizzling, crying, chewing on everything within reach, and more crying. You have to change her outfit three times a day because she’s soaked with drool from her neck to her belly button, and that’s with the dribble bib in place. Feeding becomes a nightmare because she just wants to chew on the teat instead of suck, and getting her to sleep is impossible without teething gel, dummy and plenty of rocking.
But unlike colic, with teething you can sort of distract them from it. And that’s where the fun comes in.
If, every time she cries, you think, ‘Sheesh, not again,’ then it’s going to be a very long teething time. I made that mistake. Six hours is a killer with a baby that won’t settle, won’t rest, won’t sleep, won’t soothe. So you have to change your thinking. A lot of books tell you to embrace your silly side, and they’re right – when else are we going to have a legitimate excuse to act like a hyperactive eight-year-old?
Crying is not the enemy, just your reaction to it. Instead of thinking it a chore every time she cries and you have to comfort her, you have to think of it as an opportunity. ‘Yes! I get to act like a lunatic again!’ And how far you take it is up to you.
The past few days, in order to soothe Izzie I’ve been a human beat box – ‘wickedy, wickedy, wah, wickedy, zoop zoop, pow’ – turned her into an aeroplane, a spaceship and a pterosaur, reenacted the ‘Hot Stuff’ dole queue scene from the Full Monty, used more funny voices than Seth MacFarlane, sung a million-and-one half-remembered nursery rhymes, dusted off my guitar, made up all kinds of pretend languages, jumped around doing my Gollum impression, done peekaboo by holding up the muslin, my T-shirt and the dog, blown raspberries on her belly, read to her from a geology textbook (which she strangely enjoyed) and changed the lyrics to around two-dozen popular songs. For example, her afternoon lullaby, to the tune of In the Bleak Midwinter, goes:
Sleepy time, my baby,
Sleepy time for you,
Sleepy time, my baby,
Time to have a snooze.
Why oh why won’t you just sleep?
You’ve been up for hours,
So sleepy time, my baby,
Dad’s mood is turning sour.
She loves it, and it keeps her quiet. It doesn’t actually send her to sleep, but it stops her crying, and changing the words to the second four lines is always fun:
Come on baby, go to sleep,
The hour is getting late,
If you don’t close your eyes right now
I’ll roll you out the gate.
That sort of thing.
She also enjoyed this morning’s rendition of Voodoo Child by Jimi Hendrix – a duet that alternated between Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. Admittedly, a passive-aggressive amphibian and his physically-abusive spouse might not be ideal role models, but right now she has no idea who they are, so all’s good.
Unfortunately, acting like Jim Carrey all day is incredibly draining – not even Jim Carrey likes to be himself. I’m not going to lie to you – looking after a baby of this age is bloody hard work. But it can also be surprisingly fun, and kind of therapeutic, if you allow yourself to be a little silly. And the rewards – your child’s laughter, smiles and bemused silence instead of tears, tantrums and burst eardrums – are well worth the effort.