And then we were left alone

THEY came, they entertained; he laughed, he loved; they left.The Little Mister’s nana ji and nani ji have gone. My parents have left a quieter, emptier house behind them. And there’s a little boy here who I’m sure is wondering when they’re coming back.

They left two days ago, early on Saturday morning. Our weekend was hectic, the Little Mister distracted and excited by having Tony around. And today, we’ve gone back to our little routine of me and the boy at home.

It took no time at all for the Little Mister to fall in love again with his grandparents when they arrived. He was immediately at ease with them. They were so good with him, he was so happy. They changed nappies, calmed him, fed hid, put him to bed, picked him up when he cried and woke up, looked after him alone. He loved every second.

In the morning he would look at the door, waiting for them to come in. When he heard nana ji’s voice down the hall he would look up, excited, waiting. They played silly games all day. They tired him out. That bit was great too.

It’s a wonderful bond to see up close. And the Little Mister is very, very lucky. I won’t be sad for him that they are not here now though – because we will be there soon. I wonder though, how much does he really know. Is he wondering where they are? Does he remember that they played with him so much each day? Is he waiting for them to come back? Or has he already settled back into our little routine?

I kept him busy today, afraid that otherwise I’d find out he was really missing them. He was a gem, as Tony says. He got tired towards the end of Monday coffee group, but other than that, a gem. We went to the pool – he figured out how to splash, but didn’t like the water hitting his face. We walked in the sun – he slept. Their first grandchild, busy, happy, and not on this far side of the world for too much longer.




My Best Teacher

JUST like the Little Mister, I haven’t stopped learning for the last eight months. While he has learnt everything he knows, I’ve learnt more than any books, lecturers or study sessions could have taught me. And I’ve learnt it all from him.

I’ve learnt that for my Little Mister, there’s a certain cry which means hungry, a certain look  which means tired and a certain grizzle which means bored. There is a certain jerky movement for wind and a jut of the chin to one side which means sleep is around the corner. When he was littler, Tony and I learnt (slowly) that swaddling, shushing, singing and rocking all worked when it came to settling our baby. We learnt he like to be winded on my shoulder. We learnt that tuning the radio off station and setting it at a certain volume helped him sleep.

I learnt everything about him. But I also learnt a whole heap of stuff that I wish I had known nine months ago.

I learnt that everyone will have an opinion on how best to settle/feed/clothe/bathe/generally care for your baby. I learnt that they might not always be right and to stop taking their advice so seriously/as a criticism/ to heart.

I learnt that baby books don’t have to be finished. Take what you want from them, then put them back on the shelf – forever. Then, use the spare time to sleep.

I learnt there’s no point filling the freezer with pots of home made baby mush. If the boy wants to eat food out of a squeezy pouch bought from the supermarket, it’s quicker, easier, and fine by me. Pick your battles – and this one isn’t worth fighting – if you win, it means more work for you.

I learnt that the human body can survive on very little sleep. Very little indeed.

I learnt that getting up at night, repeatedly, is only hard at the getting out of bed stage. After that, you get extra special cuddles with the little person who loves you unconditionally. And you get them while they are at their sleepiest – which is also when they are cutest.

I learnt that the world won’t end if the house doesn’t get cleaned twice a week.

I don’t like clutter. But I’ve learnt that sometimes you’ve just got to let go and put up with it. Because if the clutter involves an excersaucer in the lounge, it’s clutter which keeps the Little Mister entertained EVERY TIME he gets bored.

I learnt to always carry wipes, especially when you don’t think you’ll need them. The little person will be sick on your clothes if you don’t. Similarly, it’s not worth saving your best clothes for a special occasion. They’ll get pooed on. The same goes for baby clothes. Dress your little one up in their Sunday best as often as you can. Soon the outfit will be irreparably stained, and within two weeks it won’t fit anyway. On a similar note, only feed a baby banana while they’re in their yukkiest never to be seen in public pyjamas.

I learnt why take away outlets exist. I learnt that it doesn’t matter what toys I want Milin to like. If it’s not made in China out of cheap garishly coloured plastic with flashing lights and annoying music, he won’t love it. Similarly, it doesn’t matter how cute the outfit is, if it’s going to be difficult to take on and off – don’t buy it.

It goes on. There is so much more. He might be small, but he’s the best teacher I’ve ever had.



Roll Over, Roll Over

ALL of a sudden, the Little Mister wants to crawl. He realised this a few days ago. Maybe it was watching lots of his more mobile baby buddies that made him want to get moving. Or maybe it was getting too frustrating sitting in one place. Whatever the reason, he’s clearly not going to wait for Tony and I to baby-proof the house.

There have been signs for a while now, but there hasn’t been any progress. Until suddenly, a few days ago, the rolling started. As soon as the Little Mister is put on his back now, he rolls onto his tummy. Very, very quickly. This is making nappy changing a nightmare. It is also making nap-times tough. Unless he’s very tired, Milin rolls onto his tummy instead of putting himself to sleep. Then he tries to crawl up his cot, gets annoyed that he’s not going anywhere, and screams at me until I come and turn him over. Still awake.

Needless to say, he’s not crawling yet. What he is doing is pivoting in a circle on his tummy and occasionally inching backwards a little. The result isn’t that he really moves anywhere, or that he reaches the toys he desperately wants. No. The result is sheer frustration. He pushes himself up on his hands, but can’t quite get onto his knees. Instead, chest raised, he turns his head up to me, and pleads to be picked up and pulled off the floor and away from this mess he’s got himself into.

As of the last couple of weeks, he also has two very sharp, very little bottom front teeth. When he laughs hard and loud, with his mouth wide open, you catch a glimpse of them. It’s hard to believe that gummy smile is gone.

Excuse me while the anger subsides

HE JUST wasn’t ready. At five months, six months, or even seven months. But now he is eight months, the time has come for the Little Mister to eat. At last. Our progress over the last week and a half has been spectacular. I am almost at the point of boasting that he is eating three meals a day. Almost. And they are small ones.

I’m not going to complain about the fact that he only seems to want to eat very sweet and well-pureed fruit. I’m not going to complain about the fact that he will only be fed from a metal teaspoon, at the same time as holding another metal teaspoon himself. He’s gone from not eating any solids at all, to eating about a quarter of a cup three times a day. Success.

For months now my attitude has been that when the Little Mister is ready, he will eat. I’ve been confident that he has been putting on weight and drinking plenty of milk, so I’ve not been worried. But a conversation I had with a nurse about Milin’s eating habits last week did make me really angry.

We were at the doctor’s just over a week ago, when the doctor we don’t usually see suggested I speak to the health nurse while I was there – she was kind of the equivalent of a Plunket nurse. She weighed the Little Mister straight off and I rejoiced. She didn’t. I had an inkling he was packing on the pounds with formula and the scales showed I was right. At 7.1kg the Little Mister is no longer in the 0.4th percentile. He’s made it up to the second.

But of course, a lengthy discussion about solids ensued. How much does he eat, she asked? About two teaspoons of solids a day if I’m lucky, and up to eight bottles, I answered. I was actually quite pleased that he was eating that much – it was far more than he had been taking previously.

“He should have no more than five bottles a day and he’s not eating solids because he’s full. You must stop feeding him at night so he eats more solids in the day.” She said, or something to that effect anyway. It was a lecture.

I know one size doesn’t fit all, and I’ve stopped caring about all the advice that gets thrown at first-time mums, but this woman made me angry. It took a few days before I could again believe that I was doing the right thing with the Little Mister and following my instinct by letting him guide our pace.

As for giving up night feeds, I don’t mind getting up. He’s a little baby, and I think he’s young enough that if he wants his mum at night and the comfort of a feed, I’m going to give it to him. If I’m tired the next day, it’s not as if I can’t take a nap when he does.

Yes he drinks a lot of bottles instead of eating the prescribed amount of solids, but he is thriving. Plus, after the dramas we had trying to get him to take formula, I don’t mind if he doesn’t give it up in a rush.

I left with another copy of a colourful poster showing what foods to introduce at what age. The colours correspond to the colour of the jars at the supermarket. I also left with a leaflet questioning whether my baby was getting enough iron. It contained a whole load of recipes for beef and lamb dishes for babies – most of which took two hours to cook. Because yes, that’s what I feel like doing in my spare two hours to myself every night. Cooking shepherds pie and blending it into mush. Not surprisingly, the leaflet was from a particular lobby group with an interest in encouraging me to buy copious amounts of beef and lamb.

On another day, I wouldn’t have been angry, I would have beaten myself up about failing to feed my son well enough. I would have gone and stocked up on beef, lamb and colour-coded baby food jars. I would have tried to force feed my proudly independent Little Mister. I would have forgotten that his nutritional needs are being met, despite what meat lobby groups tell me. Nobody would have won.

For first-time mums, the industry that has grown around marketing baby products can be overwhelming. It can make you question whether what you are doing is right, and it can make you doubt yourself. Surely though, no-one knows what a baby needs better than his mother does? And surely, if a mother is trying her very best, that’s what her baby needs?


Tony’s First (NZ) Fathers’ Day

AS FAR as first fathers’ days go, I think Tony had a pretty good one. Not only did the Little Mister surprise him with a great gift (tickets for our first family holiday abroad), but he also put on his cutest, best behaviour.

We went for breakfast at the Southern Cross, which, quite frankly, would have been hell for anyone without children today. All over the place, frazzled dads were running around the bar while their brunch went cold. They were chasing after grumpy, bored kids who wanted to be outside, not watching mum and dad eat out because of some excuse known as fathers’ day.

Because the Little Mister still doesn’t run or crawl anywhere, the experience was somewhat easier for us. Once we found the right seating arrangements (he was too little for the highchair and tried to slide out), we were set. Nothing like bucket-seated sofas to keep a very small child in one place.

He loved it. He got to watch the other kids running around, and sit next to his favourite person (Dada). He watched some slot cars and won Mama a $10 voucher to spend on her next visit – which of course there will be because nowhere else is as baby friendly.

Admittedly, there were some hairy moments. Like when he tried to slide out of the high chair. And when a crawling, walking little boy without any toys of his own tried to steal Milin’s. But largely, breakfast out was a success. The Little Mister ate some apple, pear and banana puree from a pouch (it’s the only thing he eats), he drank a full bottle, he kept his clothes clean, charmed the waitress, and generally made us very happy.

While we sat there we thought back to being in that same bar a few years ago with friends who had kids. It was hell. How our lives have changed. This same afternoon, we went to a very lovely first birthday party. The Little Mister loved it. He watched the birthday girl crawling around and he wanted to join in. But he’s not there yet.

We reached meltdown when we got home. He was even too exhausted to enjoy his bath – that never happens. But after a quicker dip than usual, and more cuddles and milk, he went to sleep quickly and soundly, tired out by his  first (NZ) fathers’ day.

Tony, usually, hates any kind of celebratory day that gives large multi-nationals an excuse to convince us to part with our money on gifts and cards. Today though, he admitted that his first fathers’ day felt rather special. I think the Little Mister thought so too.

(Just at the outer edge of the Little Mister’s left eyebrow is his first bump. Toppling over while trying to crawl makes a pretty nasty thud on matai flooring.)