Happy Nine Months

THREE quarters of a year. It’s been that long since you came into our lives and changed everything. For the last nine months, you have made every day better and everybody close to you happier. In such a short time, you have spread so much joy.

Today, to celebrate, we took you to the zoo. Dada bought you a zoo pass, because even though we won’t be here a year, you love that place at the end of the road. It does me good too, to push you around its hills and see the animals on our walks.

You love the roosters, they’re easy to see from the buggy. The one we met today was particularly striking as its feathers were so bright. We got up close to the giraffes, or the big Sophies, and the kangaroos, a goat, and an emu caught your attention too. The big hit today though was a rather angry ostrich, who squaked away right up close to the wire between you two. He tried to get his beak through the fence. You were transfixed by this big, noisy, grumpy creature.

It tired you out, the fresh air, the adventure, the new creatures to look at with your big wide open eyes. Those eyes are taking everything in, as they always have done, but now at nine months you have a wise look about you.

You have worked out how to put your stacking rings back on their stand. You have worked out how to make the wheels turn on your toys that go places. You can get onto your hands and knees from sitting, and then rock backwards and forwards. Sometimes you leapfrog forwards. You push yourself backwards, you swivel round and round on your tummy. Just today though, the elusive forward crawling motion was suddenly a step closer. You worked out you must move one leg at a time. And then you started moving your hands too. You must only be days away.

Our days, yours and mine, are filled with smiles, tickles, laughs, toys, songs, stories and games. Your newest game is clapping your hands. At first I thought you were dancing with your arms. You thought it was hillarious and laughed and laughed and laughed. Then I realised, you were trying to clap. Except your arms moved up and down and your hands did’t always meet in the middle. You still think it’s funny, but you’ve nearly cracked it.

You’ve also figured out how to wave. If you hear the words “say bye”, you lift your hand and give a wave just like the Queen’s. Sometimes, if you want someone to leave, you’ll wave at them out of the blue. It can be a little embarrassing.

You still eat very, very little. But we still sit down at least three times a day and try. The spoon aversion has gone, and you no longer only take a metal tea spoon. You will eat pear, which I steam with cinammon, and purée. Mixed with apple or mango it’s o k. But should I try to feed you anything else you look convinced I’ve betrayed you. Anything with bits in it makes you sick. So, we’re still on purees.

I’m enjoying your new-found affection for me. In the morning when you see me after waking up, you want the biggest cuddles. When you’re trying to crawl and it gets too tiring, you want to rest your head on me for a while. When something or someone frightens or saddens you, you want to throw your arms around my neck. I feel like the luckiest person in the world when you do.

Space. Been there, done that.

GRADUATION, tick. Well, that’s the first one done anyway. The Little Mister has graduated from the Space programme at Playcentre. It was three ten-week terms, which at the start sounded like a very long time. It’s flown.

He slept through the entire first two sessions. Wrapped in his swaddle, on his blanket with his name embroidered on it, he slept on the floor in the centre of the room. The class went on around him and us new mummies sat in a circle. We sang songs, we made toys from household objects, we lamented how difficult it was to settle them, to feed them, we shared how exhausted we were. He slept.

In the third week he woke, for a little while anyway. Then he slept some more. By term two, awake, he paid more attention to the songs. We mummies, getting better at figuring this out, still shared how exhausted we were. But by now we had tricks up our sleeves, for sleeping, for feeding, for settling. We shared these too. Over cakes, teas, nursery rhymes, we learnt more about each other, our babies, and ourselves.

At the end of term three, the Little Mister is not quite crawling. But he has been watching his friends with envy. To think, this little one, rocking backwards and forwards on his hands and knees, was not so long ago a tiny sleeping bundle hardly aware of the babies who have become his friends. Sometimes, this third term, sessions were still cut short because we needed to get home for a nap. But when we were there for the songs, he loved them, his big eyes managing to grow in awe while the five little monkeys jumped on the bouncing blue lycra. He loved painting, water play, being pushed on the swing, sitting on grass for the first time, the wooden blocks with a truck that he figured out how to spin the wheels on. He wasn’t so sure about the sand pit. And when another little one got too close, the corners of his mouth turned down and the big fat tears rolled down his cheeks. He’s still figuring out, I guess, that these are his friends.

But now it’s done. Graduation. We made it together.

I remember not wanting to go to my own graduations (of the university kind). In fact, I think I erased the first from my memory and never went to the second. The first one, which I did go to, was more for mum and dad. Now I understand why it was so important to them. Of course it mattered.

I was so extra delighted by the Little Mister yesterday. Dutifully, I showed off his certificate to Tony. He graduated, I said. I’ve never before felt so proud, I thought. 

My Crying Bundle

I KNOW the Little Mister will fall over, graze his knees, cut his hands, and get some bruises. But I don’t think I’m ready for it. Today, at Junglerama again for coffee group, he got a big soft cube thrown at his head. (By an over-zealous father, in an otherwise empty play-hall, who for goodness sake should have been more careful if he was going to start throwing toys around.) It didn’t quite go bang, but it flew through the air in slow motion and hit Milin on the right side of his head while he minded his own business and played with the giant plastic bricks.

Then there was the pause. The corners of his mouth turned down, and then the Little Mister spun round to look at me with his eyebrows raised, as if to ask why I’d let it happen. And then he bawled. They were big, fat tears. He wasn’t hurt, just sad and shocked.

The tears were soon gone, and it was home time for us anyway. But my heart had skipped, jumped into my mouth, and was going a hundred miles an hour as I gathered up my crying bundle and held him close. I wished in those moments he would never know pain or sadness. 

The Ninth Percentile

CROSSING over two percentile lines on the weight chart, the Little Mister has well and truly outdone himself. I suspected he was filling out nicely with the formula, and now the scales have proved it.

Milin had his Plunket weigh in last week. 7.7 kg, which put him on the ninth percentile. This is the line he was born on, but by about ten weeks he had dropped to just above the 0.4th, where he stayed for months.

I have no doubt the weight gain has tied in with Milin accepting formula. After all the convincing he took to drink it, he now well and truly loves it. Our tins recommend four to five bottles a day. He has six to seven. The few solids he eats (quarter cups of very pureed ,very sweet fruit), he resists and resists, because he would rather have a bottle.

And since he has been taking that formula from a tin, that he can’t wait to get his hands on once he sees it being made up, he really has filled out. He sleeps better, he is calmer, he is happier to go down, and getting milk into him is no longer a frustrating experience for all concerned.

I’m sure there were many wonderful benefits from breastfeeding for the Little Mister, but there are also many others that he gets from formula. I stopped breast feeding him at seven months. Yes, I missed it at first. But I know he’s getting what he needs, and he’s not getting annoyed because it’s not quite filling him up. He still wakes me up twice a night screaming for a feed – but it’s no longer every two hours. And there he is now…

First Came Playtime

SOFT play. Three months ago I didn’t know what it was. And if you’d have asked me to guess, I would have got it very wrong. Today, the Little Mister went on his first excursion to a soft play venue. He was tucked up in bed, shattered, sound asleep, at 5.30pm. That’s pretty much the definition of success.

Junglerama. The very word has filled me with dread for the last few months. Frankly, it sounded like hell. It sounded like lots of snotty toddlers running around screaming and then crying, spreading their bugs around and fighting. Milin loved it.

With our Monday morning coffee group, we decided to give a new, local, venue a try. Junglerama it was. As it turns out, the coffee was cheap ($3.50) and not undrinkable. But that came last. First came playtime.

This massive play zone built for kiddies is about a ten minute walk from our front door. Milin and I arrived just after a decent morning nap and I couldn’t believe how big the place was. We were a small group today, but the Little Mister and his buddy spent a good bit of time in the ‘four years old and under’ corner. The manky carpet was softer than our wooden floor for trying to crawl on, the brightly coloured balls went straight to his mouth, and there were lots of bigger kids to watch and babble to as they ran around. The Little Mister was happy.

He sat, initially looking rather shell shocked, for the first few minutes. And then he realised I wasn’t leaving him, the balls were quite fun, and he could try and climb on the soft animals. He started smiling.

The more mobile kids pretty much left us alone, which was nice. And on a weekday morning, it wasn’t too bad. On the next rainy day when the swings are ruled out, and the Little Mister gets bored of me at home, we might head back there. As long as it’s not after school’s out or it’s the weekend or the school holidays.

I did get my coffee, but that was the beginning of the end. The Little Mister didn’t like the high chair (perhaps he was too small for it, and perhaps me trying to feed him lunch didn’t go down well either), and probably he just wanted to keep on playing. He made his dissent clear when I tried to pack him into the buggy to leave. We had a disagreement about this, it took a bit of time, but I won – despite his best arched back attempt.

I’m glad we won’t be here once he is older to take a little more in. (Although I can imagine I’ll face worse problems in London.) In the cafe, junk food lined the counter. Brightly coloured bags of sweets for the kids were on offer if they didn’t want hot chips, just behind a sign saying no food from outside was allowed in. What a nightmare it must be for mums with older kids. I’m glad I won’t have to try and say, ‘No Milin, you can’t have anything to eat here, wait until we get outside and I’ll give you a pear’. Goodness.

But all up, I like soft play too. I freely admit I’m struggling with the mess a small person makes. I’m fighting the clutter. There are so many toys, meal times take mess to another level, and I know this will only get worse. At least at Junglerama the mess stays behind the door when you leave. I worry sometimes that I’ll be a rubbish play companion, but at Junglerama, they’ve made it a little easier.


Dear Mama: My right of reply

Dear Mama,

I’m going through some stuff right now, and I’m not sure you understand it all that well. Sometimes this stuff gets annoying, and frustrating, and tiring. I think you’re trying your best to help – but I thought I should explain.

Things have been moving pretty fast for me recently. Long gone are the days when I just used to lie on my back staring at the ceiling and the too-bright light bulb in the lounge. Thanks for giving away my playmat by the way, I’d got really bored of looking at those toys hanging over me.

Thanks, too, for seating me upright these days. I like it. I don’t like it so much when you put me in my high chair and try and feed me pureed vegetables, but I like it when you put me on the floor and give me my stacking cups or roll the big green ball from Auntie Jane at me.

You’ve obviously realised I need to go places on my own now. I’ve seen my friends doing it, and it’s my turn now. Sometimes you help me get down onto my tummy, but sometimes you think I’m just leaning towards you for a cuddle. Actually, more often than that, I’m trying to get onto my front so I can get practising on this crawling business. I like practicising. But not for long. When I start complaining, can you please help me get up, instead of watching to see how long I last before I’m really screaming. I don’t like going backwards. My toys get too far away. I know that mostly though you are trying to help, so if you could hoover the rug a bit more often too, that would be good. All those little bits of fluff are a distraction from my stacking cups which are my real target.

You’ve noticed too that I practise crawling when I’m in my cot sometimes. That’s because you put me in there when I’m not tired. I’m not sure why you do this, by the way. If I’m not tired, I won’t sleep. Just saying.

What I will do is roll over and get on my hands, push myself up, and then try and go places. Problem is, the cot is out to get me. It traps my arms in its bars. Sometimes, it traps my head. I really hate that a lot. Thank you for rescuing me and giving me cuddles when I get stuck. But probably the best way to help me not get stuck in the first place is not to put me in my cot when I’m not tired. Just saying.

As I said before, life has been moving pretty fast for me. Soon, I’m going to be going places on my hands and knees. I’ve not quite figured out how to get up on my knees yet like my friends, but I’m close, I can feel it. Maybe you should sort out some of those loose wires now that are behind the toys on my shelf? They just look so tempting. And maybe get a fire guard?

Until I get going though, please help me when I’m stuck, and please keep helping me get up when I’ve had enough. But please stop putting me in my cot when I’m not tired. I just can’t help trying to escape from it when you do. I hope this helps.

Love and big open mouth kisses, Milin Charles x

Why sleep when you could learn to crawl?

WITH his arms pressed into the mattress, his upper back and neck arched skywards, and his legs pushing firmly down, the Little Mister is feeling frustrated. He pivots on his tummy 90 degrees and changes tack. This time it’s downward dog. His bum goes straight up in the air, his heels are flat on the mattress. He still doesn’t move forward. He collapses, tired, rests his head, and cries. He should be asleep.

Thanks to our video monitor Hal, I can watch this process in action. And I’ve been watching it for the last two days. The Little Mister still can’t crawl and it’s driving him crazy. He’s using up a lot of energy trying though, which means no-one is getting as much sleep as they should.

Apparently, time in his cot is the perfect time to try and make progress on the crawling front. For months now he has slept on his side. But now, when I put him down, he rolls onto his tummy. I’ve got tired of going in and helping him back onto his back – I can’t do it all night. So instead, for the last two nights when he’s been really tired, he has fallen asleep on his tummy. Exhausted from trying to move out of the position, he’s given up, rested his head on one side, and finally closed his eyes. When he wakes for a feed though, the screaming is something else. Not only is he (apparently) starving, but he’s stuck in tummy time hell.

During the day, the Little Mister is generally good when it comes to sleeps. He usually has two sleeps, around an hour and a half each. If the second one is shorter, which sometimes happens, I get him out in the buggy late afternoon and squeeze in a third short nap. But learning to crawl is causing havoc with the routine. Instead of going to sleep, he’s rolling over and trying to go places. Except he can’t. And then he gets angry, and upset, and so it goes on.

I wonder how much of this trying to crawl business is conscious. Why would you chose to do it when you should be sleeping? Is it because there’s nothing else to do in the cot, but when you’re up and playing you forget? Or is it a natural inclination to push boundaries and learn new skills – that just happens to take hold when you’re relaxed and not busy doing something else.

Poor Little Mister. He’ll get there soon, they all do. And hopefully when he does, his cot will once again be a place where he sleeps.