Now You Are One

Now you are one, my little girl, and what things can you do?

Let’s list them off and show the world so they can see them too.

Open doors all by yourself

I really wish you wouldn’t

And open cupboard doors as well

Even though you know you shouldn’t!

You can feed yourself apparently

I think your skills need work

You’re a fashion victim aged twelve-months

You’d better not learn how to twerk!

You’re discovering how keys turn locks

Though you’re too short to reach it

You watch TV as though you’re five

And we didn’t have to teach it!

You like to walk the dog sometimes

Though perhaps she’s walking you

You love all of our animals

And even the mouse I caught too!

You like to drive your pretty car

And how you slam that door!

You tried to paddle a kayak once

But only on the floor!

So here’s to all the fun we have

(Here’s you driving a digger)

I know we’ll keep on having such fun

Even when you’re bigger!

Happy birthday, sweetheart!

Never Too Young For Mischief

Before embarking on this parenting lark, I figured babies were like little balls of dribble and poop. Some were easy on the eyes, others less so. They were slaves to their needs for milk and bowel movements, demanding instant gratification or else letting out an ear-splitting howl. And they were all exactly the same. To talk of ‘personality’ in a baby was laughable.

How wrong I was.

Izzie has buckets of personality, and a talent for mischief that I wouldn’t believe in a seven-month old if I hadn’t seen it myself. Far from being a passive servant to her physiological urges, she’s an active participant in learning, laughing and game-playing – mostly at the expense of daddy.

Take what she did to my phone the other day. Since her favourite game is grabbing those things her parents deem important enough to deny her access to – mobile phones, TV controllers, cameras, tablet devices – Lizzie was using my phone as bait to encourage her to crawl. And of course, it would be unfair to take it off her once she got it.

At least, this was Lizzie’s philosophy. I was blissfully ignorant of it until I walked into the lounge and saw Izzie with one end of my phone in her mouth, her fingers tapping the touch screen like she was playing a flute.

Ah, how cute, I thought – she’s making a phone call.

I was less amused when I took it off her (unleashing a wall of tortured screaming) to see she was in some application on the internet and there were two buttons on the screen, one reading ‘confirm’ and the other ‘cancel’.

Panicked, I quickly cancelled out of whatever it was she’d been about to install, or buy, or delete, thinking I’d dodged a bullet. But that was just the start of it.

She’d turned on the wi-fi, turned on Bluetooth, turned on the GPS tracker, turned on mobile data, put it into flight mode, and changed the network from Vodafone to T-Mobile! God knows what else she might have done that I haven’t found yet – there’s an icon on the top left of the screen that wasn’t there before, and all attempts to remove it have failed. And it seems to think I have headphones plugged in all the time now.

It’s the same story with my Kindle (forgive the pun). I’ll be writing something, little ‘un on my lap seemingly engrossed in her own thing, and suddenly this little hand will swipe across the screen and exit whatever application I’m using, or delete my file, or undo changes. And she smiles and giggles, like she knows exactly what she’s done.

She has an uncanny knack for making mischief. The other day I spent a couple of hours baby-proofing the lounge, putting plastic squares on sharp corners and sticking rubber padding on the edges of furniture with double-sided tape. Then I brought Izzie into her new ‘safe’ playground.

The very first thing she did – the very first! – was to roll her way over to the sideboard, grab the bottom of the rubber padding and – riiiiippp – pull off the whole three-foot strip. Then she eyed-up the padding on the TV table, so I put her to bed.

Not that bed is safe from her shenanigans. She loves throwing her dummy down the back of the cot, perhaps because she knows it’ll force me to pull out the drawer and strain to squeeze underneath to retrieve it. The other night, she was lying peacefully in her cot, ready to sleep, so I stepped out of the room and closed the door. Within twenty seconds, I heard the dummy clatter down behind the cot and she started to make crying sounds, only to laugh the moment I stepped back in.

Having a bit of sense – only a bit – I put the second dummy in her mouth, stepped out, closed the door, and in less than ten seconds – I counted – it followed the first down the back of the cot.

After enduring five minutes of her tearful sniffling I went back in there and – lo and behold – she started laughing!

I’ve developed a new tactic in the Battle of Bedtime – I put Dummy 1 in her mouth, and as soon as she takes it out I pop in Dummy 2, so she ends up with one in each hand and a perplexed expression on her face. It’s not foolproof – she can just throw them both down the back of the cot – but she hasn’t quite figured that out yet. And long may she remain in ignorance, or else Dummy 3 will have to make an appearance on the scene.

Nothing but passive servants to their physiological urges? They’re devious, calculating monsters!

Now I’m dreading the arrival of my phone bill…


In Praise of Mothers, Part 1

This is going to sound like I’m betraying my sex, but I have to say it: I think mothers have it harder than us dads. That’s not to say that it’s easy for us, because being a parent isn’t easy for anyone, but we men have certain benefits that most women don’t.

Firstly, most men go out to work while the woman stays at home. Now, work is hardly a blast, but you get to get away from the screaming ball of snot and poop that happens to be your beloved and longed-for child. You get to have adult conversations about topics other than teething, weaning and dribble, conversations that keep you sane and allow you to acknowledge a world existing outside the insularity of child-rearing and the nuclear family. Don’t get me wrong – I love my daughter more than anything in the world – but it’s a bloody hard, unending slog, and sometimes you need a break from it. Most men get that break five days a week. Most women don’t get a break at all.

And men get to do all the cool stuff. The mum is washing clothes, changing nappies, breastfeeding or making up bottles, cleaning, sterilising, trying to soothe the screaming monkey, wiping its nose, changing every vomit-drenched outfit, and suffering under the burden of endless responsibility, every second of the day. Then dad swans in from work, to be greeted with an outlandishly huge smile from his little baby, because dad is cool and she hasn’t seen him all day and mum is boring because she’s always there. And he then bathes her (splash, splash, splash), and reads her a story, and gives her her last bottle and puts her to bed. All the pretty parts of childcare you see in TV adverts. The dad is the rock star of the parenting team; the mum’s the smelly roadie you only notice if they’re not doing their job.

At the NCT classes – that’s National Childbirth Trust, for those who don’t know – the men even said they were most looking forward to ‘daddy day care’. Because men look after their babies so rarely, and for so short a time, they can compare it to a situation in which a kid gets dropped off with a carer for a few hours before it gets picked up again. Lucky fellows.

Mothers, on the other hand, are looking after the baby all day, every day. It’s not ‘mummy day care’, it’s ‘mummy constant, oh God, where’s my time off, I’m losing my identity and my soul, care’, otherwise known as, ‘this is my freaking life’. I think there’s this idea that men go out to work and work, whereas women stay at home and don’t, so their lives must be easier. Let me tell you now, as a stay-at-home dad, it’s not easy at all.

But that doesn’t change the impression. Certainly some men come home and expect to get a couple of hours on the Xbox or watching TV, because they’ve earned some down time by working all day. Well, what do they think the mum’s been doing, putting her feet up, eating chocolate and watching morning TV while picking her nose? She has earned just as much down time, if not more. After eight hours looking after a baby by yourself, you don’t care how busy your partner’s been during the day, you just want an hour where you can switch off. It’s the constant focus that’s the killer, never letting down your guard, head in the game all the time, nothing missed. You can’t be a mum and do it half-arsed – you bring your all or not at all.

Mums can’t use work as an excuse, either. I’ve known men who think that, because they go out to work and their work is so much more important than the mother’s, they can’t do any of the night feeds – they need to earn a living, after all. Now put yourself in a mum’s shoes – get up, feed baby; change baby; dress baby; dad goes to work; entertain baby while doing chores; feed baby; change baby; take baby out; try to get baby to nap; feed baby, change baby; more chores; dad comes home and enjoys giggle time; baby’s gone to bed; go to bed yourself, exhausted; get up a couple of times in the night to change and feed baby; repeat. And how can looking after the next generation, and your own flesh and blood, ever be considered less important than anything?

I really think mums deserve a bit more credit than they’re given, don’t you?