Cars, dirt, and gender stereotypes

IT DOESN”T matter what I give the Little Mister to play with. He’ll find the cars, the toys with wheels, the things that spin, and the muckiest adventures will be all his. His little girlfriends, meanwhile, will sit on their mothers’ laps content to look cute and watch the action. They might put some stuff in their mouths, but generally they’ll be pretty still.

When did it happen? My Little Mister decided, all by himself, to conform almost perfectly, to the stereotype of little boy. It’s not because I dressed him in blue. It’s not because of the games I play with him (muck isn’t my style), and it’s not because of the toys we’ve bought (he has plenty of stuffed toys, including a bear who wears a dress). Yet he has sought out the trucks so he can race them round the floor making brrrrm brrrm noises. He loves bikes, cars, trains, anything that goes. He wants to be outside ALL THE TIME. How dare I bring him in when there is so much mucky dirt to eat, smear all over his face, and get beneath his fingernails.

And he is so busy exploring. Set this Little Mister on the grass and he is off. He doesn’t look back to check that I’m watching. I am. I watch as he chases birds. I watch as he finds life’s debris on the ground and inspects it. I watch as he puts soil to his mouth. I watch as he races towards the steps, or the rusting nail, or the unstable toy. Life is one big adventure for him, but sometimes, I’m right behind him ready to ruin his fun.

Maybe I’m being crass, but I do believe that looking around his playmates, all nearly a year old, the boys and girls are different. The girls sit still far more often. They aren’t wriggling to be set free as soon as they are picked up. They too like bouncy balls, but wheels they give or take. Their actions are more deliberate, their movements more agile. Am I pigeon-holing by seeing them all this way? The Little Mister does love his books and being read to is one of his favourite things. But it is also one of the few times he will sit still.

Perhaps the Little Mister is just a free-spirited, independent adventurer. I hope so.

playground Dirt Waterplay storytime


With each new second

THE COUNTDOWN is on. In two months today, we will leave Wellington. First stop, a week catching up with family in Thailand. Final stop, London.

It’s so hard to imagine what the Little Mister will be like when we get on that plane. Two months ago, he had just mastered crawling. Now, he shoots around the house so fast on his hands and knees that he wins every race. Two months ago, he was still bringing up even the tiniest lumps in food. Now, he will eat a bit of a Cruskit – and he seems to enjoy it. Two months ago, the thought of him standing up was so abstract I couldn’t picture it, let alone wonder when it would be. Now, he pulls himself up against walls, doors, the oven, the sofas, and, still holding on tight, takes a few testing steps sideways before deftly sitting back down.

Time changed when the Little Mister arrived. It started passing so incredibly quickly, and it keeps speeding up. At the end of each month, it’s amazing to look back at the progress he has made in just four, short weeks. But looking forward is harder. Will he be walking when we go? Saying some more words which sound more like real words? But, I don’t want to wish away the time between now and then, so will put those questions aside.

What the Little Mister has done has given me a new appreciation for time. It’s fine to look forward now, it’s exciting. But it’s also exciting to make the most of every second we spend together. He grows so much each day, so yes, the days pass quickly, but they are filled with discoveries too. Today, he laughed at the baboons at Wellington Zoo. They were playing at the front of their enclosure. He’s never noticed them before. Tonight, he put his big toe in his mouth. He’s never managed to reach it that far before. In the last few days, he has started tapping on the first page of his Mr Croc book. It’s because the book starts with a knock on the door and Tony always taps the book when he reads it. The Little Mister knows not to tap on any other page.

Yes, I wish time wouldn’t pass so fast. But while it speeds by, it is also filled with a richness that wasn’t there before. And as long as I’m watching for every new discovery, and treasuring the laughs or babbles or expressions that new seconds bring, it’s still a time I wouldn’t change for the world.

Look, a bird.

PROBABLY the best view in the house is from the Little Mister’s high chair. Both the window straight ahead and the one to his left look out onto our overgrown trees and creepers. He sees roses, jasmine, the karaka tree, the sky. He watches while the clouds race past, while our washing dances in the wind, and while the birds fly looking for food. I hadn’t realised how much he saw until our first morning back from Australia. We sat him down to have breakfast. Thoughtfully, he looked towards the window and pointed one finger in its direction. “Burrr”, he said in a pensive, high-pitched attempt at talking. There were birds outside.

For the last three days, there has been no end to the Little Mister practicing this new word. He looks for birds constantly through the windows and when we are out. His beady eyes search the sky and trees for movement, will he see one? In the buggy, he points repeatedly at pigeons. We chase sparrows together. “Burrr, burrr.”

I’m pretty sure he knows what he is saying. But I’m starting to wonder how discriminately ¬†or not the Little Mister might be vocalising his new found syllable. We went to the park today, and again, some pointing and “burr”. Maybe I missed the bird, but when I looked, I could only see people walking past.

Do I already have my mummy blinkers on? I’m not sure. Perhaps he does know what birds are, and he is trying to name them when he sees them. Or maybe “burrr” is the sound of the week, and about to be used for everything and everyone he wants me to look at. With my mummy blinkers firmly fixed in place, I’m going to believe for now he knows what he’s saying.

“B” seems to be the consonant of the moment anyway. We also hear attempts at ball and boo and book and blue when we say them first. And what is certain, is that the Little Mister wants to communicate. He loves pointing now that he’s cracked it. Everything he sees that interests him gets the finger. His babble is now taking on the sound of conversations, with intonation and different consonants and vowels all being strung together. One day, Little Mister, you’ll be able to tell me all about what you see, and I have a feeling we’ll be having some very long conversations.

Adventures in Oz

FOR what felt like an hour, and probably longer for the strangers around us, the Little Mister screamed. Our first family holiday had been a success, but now it was home time. He wasn’t happy. He was tired out, cooped up, over-awed by all that was going on around him, his ears probably hurt, and he just wouldn’t stop screaming. It was everything I’d been afraid of. The flightmare was underway.

Tony and I kept looking at each other with the same hopeful look in our eyes, desperate for the air to swallow us all up. I kept telling him we’d never see any of these people again. The Little Mister kept screaming. Once we realised he wasn’t going to stop, we acted fast. And, thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, he slept all the way through to border control. Success, again.

It was the only blip, and really it was a small, short one, on an otherwise wonderful practice run for our big journey next year. The Little Mister was a super traveller. Everything was new and exciting and the six days were one very big adventure.

He loved meeting his aunties, uncles and cousins. He impressed me with his easy-going attitude. As long as Tony and I were close and he wasn’t too tired, he was happy to be passed around, held, cuddled, spoiled, treated, and generally made a fuss of. He played ball. He charmed, grinned, babbled, and generally made everyone fall in love with him.

The fancy apartment was perfect – sparse and therefore very baby proof. The airport was a big, empty space ideal for crawling around and exploring. But the highlight without question was the beach. He ate bucketloads of sand. He picked it up and watched it fall back down as he opened his fists. He spied seagulls and crawled after them, making a beeline for the shoreline. He splashed his toes while we dipped him in the waves. He sucked the salt off his fingers all the way home. He crawled so far on his beach adventures he got sandburn on his little baby-soft knees. That evening, our tired Little Mister was too sore to crawl anymore.

Sadly for us, he woke at 4am each morning, still on Wellington time. But though he lacked sleep, he didn’t moan or grizzle. Everything was too much fun.

In six days, I feel like he grew up so much. He spent so much time pulling himself up, now home, he is standing up against whatever he can. Buckets that move, the back of the sofa that has no grip, the foot rest on the bar stool. And he wants to be outside all the time to keep the adventure going.

We didn’t only learn what a great explorer he was on the trip though, we learnt lessons too. We learnt that he loves other people, so why not hand him over and take a rest. Eating a meal is so much easier without the Little Mister on my lap. We learnt to take it in turns to get up with a jetlagged baby. We learnt how much the beach and the pool will tire him out. We learnt to keep the buggy with us to the gate. And, perhaps most importantly, we learnt that Calpol is magic.

Hands, Knees: Go

THE WORLD around the Little Mister suddenly became a lot more exciting this week. He mastered crawling. After weeks of rocking backwards and forwards on his hands and knees, and weeks of watching his buddies do it, he’s going places. Fast.

It happened on Tuesday morning. We woke up, went into the lounge to play toys, I sat the Little Mister on the rug, and he launched forward onto all fours and was off. Just like that. It was like he’d figured it out overnight and couldn’t wait to get started.

He’s spent the week exploring the living room, and making some observations. His favourite place to crawl to is the fireplace. We’ve stopped lighting the fire in the mornings as a result. I’m just hoping it doesn’t get cold again. Today, he figured out how to crawl up onto the hearth. Then he tried to crawl down. Bang.

He much prefers crawling on the wooden floor than on the rug. Getting into the bottom shelves of our bookshelves is fun too. But sometimes he bangs his head on the edge of the unit. Ouch.

The pantry is almost too exciting to handle. Getting into the bottom corner is activity number one. From here, he can scratch the rice bag, try to get into the egg tray, try to open the paper recycling bin, and then swivel around on his tummy and watch what I’m doing in the kitchen. From there, he heads towards the very large metal plant pot. Those yukka leaves are so tempting, but just a little too high to reach just now. (But I predict I’ll be writing a post about him pulling them off in the not too distant future.)

He’s not yet ventured in the direction of the dining table, but there’s so many wooden legs for him to bang his head on there I’m in no rush to introduce him to that particular piece of furniture.

I still put toys in the middle of the rug for us to play with. Mostly he ignores them and heads for the fireplace. I love his independence. But, I’m kind of sad too that this Little Mister can now go where he wants, when he wants. Already, he needs me a little less.

But suddenly I can’t take my eyes off him. There’s too many bangs on the head already.

He is, despite the bangs, so excited by the world. Every crawling second is an adventure. For months he has watched the scenery around him and get to know it well. Now, finally, he can go and explore it. Enjoy my Little Mister, enjoy.

Playing Footsie

So Milin made a pretty exciting discovery today. He found his feet. Not in the figurative sense, but in the ‘oh look these are mine and I can reach them’ sense.
I had him on my lap at Space when I realised he wasn’t playing with his toys anymore. I looked down, and saw he was instead grabbing at his right foot through his onesie. I’ve helped him play with his toes before, but this was the first time he had found them for himself. I couldn’t exclaim out loud what a major achievement my little boy had just made (we were listening to a visiting speaker and it wouldn’t have been quite right), so instead I helped him out a little. I undid the buttons on his legs and feet so he could really have a good play. He didn’t seem to find the game as much fun once I got involved, but he still had a good old tug at those teeny weeny perfect toes. Which, by the way, were growing whole cities of toe lint between them – where does it all come from?
For my five months and three weeks old baby, life at the moment seems full of discoveries. That he has two feet, each with five toes, and he can grab them with his hands when he chooses to, is a big one. But there are also smaller ones which still give him so much joy.

He is learning how to laugh. The first time was in the bath last week. He has always loved baths, but last week, Tony got Milin’s first laugh out of him by playing silly with the flannel. A couple of days later, I was tickling him on the sofa (which he also loves), and I heard this short, little laugh myself. Tonight, again, in the bath, another little laugh. It is indescribable. That my Little Mister can be so happy, that we made him so happy, that he can laugh – I don’t know if there are many other better feelings than this.

He loves looking at his hands. He brings them together, plays with his fingers, and stares and stares. Each night after his bath, he sits on either mine or Tony’s lap for story time. He wants to touch the pages while we read. He loves standing up on our laps – and is strong enough in his legs to take lots of his own weight. If he stands facing me, he wants to touch my face – which usually serves as a good reminder to me to cut his too sharp finger nails.

Tonight, with his cuddly bunny by his side for company, he worked out how to put himself to sleep. It was quite a discovery, and one that I hope he remembers well enough to repeat tomorrow.