Sunday, February 3, 2013

The end

Well the time has come, the end is nigh. It's been 8 months since I took on the title of full time parent, but tomorrow I can no longer call myself that as I have to re-enter the 'real' world. To say I'm unhappy about that is an understatement.

The last 8 months have been the best, most fulfilling, rewarding and wonderful period in my entire life. I don't think I can articulate exactly how special a time it has been. Being solely responsible (in the daylight hours anyway) for a baby, and then watching her grow to be a 16 month old toddler and sharing that experience with her is something I'll cherish forever. And I know she and I will share a special bond because of it.

Of course only time will tell whether I did a good job. So far she's very happy, and seems to be doing all the things she's supposed to, but really its only in later years where I'll be able to see whether my influence on her was good, bad or otherwise. But then again, how much can you determine your influence in bringing up a baby? I mean each child, each person, is different, and as parents, we're really laying foundations for learning and behaviour, but she is still her own person, in the same way now that we can tell she is different to the other two kids.

As for me, I've learned an awful lot, not only about being a full time parent, and cooking, cleaning, and of course time management, but about myself. I think I've become a more rounded, less selfish individual. I've become more patient and more understanding and most definitely more appreciative of everything Lord Vader has done for so many years.

Which is a nice lead in to the experiment. Remember that, the one postulated by a good friend?Well being a full time parent was really hard, for a week or so. I didn't know what I was doing, I was hectic, unorganised, and barely getting food on the table but then I learned to manage my time, concentrate on the essentials, and not worry about being Super Dad (or more pointedly Lord Vader because I was never going to be able to live up to that). Full time parenting is about doing what you need to do, and using your time wisely. Do that, and its a sheer joy. I mean what could be better than participating in your little one's early days? Nothing that I can think of. Sure there are times when things get chaotic because kids are sick or you forgot to do this or that, but its all manageable. Is it all latte's and gossiping? Well no, but probably because I don't drink coffee, I only went out for my first hot choccy in November, and gossiping is something I've never really been interested in. But the point is that whilst there are plenty of responsibilities there is also time to do things for yourself (like coffees with friends if that is what you want to do). Once again, it's all about being organised and understanding priorities.

I mentioned earlier that I wasn't happy about rejoining the real world. Why would I be? I am going from the best job in the world to sitting behind a desk and a computer for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Look, I'm resigned to the fact that I'm about to re-enter the paid workforce (hmm resigned, good word that) and I appreciate that it's a fiscal necessity, but it doesn't mean I'm looking forward to it. Yes it will have it's own challenges, and its own rewards, but they pale into insignificance when compared to what I've been doing for last 8 months of my life. In this case the grass isn't greener on the other side, trust me. However, life will go on, the cutest one will survive and flourish without me, Lord Vader will drop to part time and be able to spend more time with the cutest one and they'll both love that (even if I'll be jealous). And in the end, I'll always have the best 8 months I've ever experienced, and I wouldn't trade those experiences and memories for anything. It is without doubt the best thing I've ever done in my life.

If you're a Dad and you're thinking about taking parental leave and being a full time parent, don't think, just do. You won't regret it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

She's all grown up

So its been a week and a half since the little one's solo orientation and I've only just now recovered to write this post (or I'm just a wee bit lazy). You may recall from my last post that I was feeling rather upset about the prospect of leaving my gorgeous toddler (she's been walking unaided for 6 1/2 months now so I don't think I can call her a baby) alone with strangers (child care professionals (CCP)). And as usual I was right (I think I can say that, now that I've been a full time parent for 8 months, so I am actually always right, and never ever wrong).

Getting together all her bits and pieces like a bottle, a couple of changes of clothes, a hat, shoes and of course the ever attached dummy, made for a frantic morning (I don't believe in preparing the night before, but apparently I do like using lots of brackets in this post), but we arrived more or less when I planned to: 9am.

In my experience childcare centres are pretty much all the same. Friendly, and often bubbly staff, who are all smiles and trying so hard with their tone and body language to reassure you that that your child will be well cared for and that you're not an absolute bastard of an uncaring parent for leaving you're bundle of joy with weirdos (see Editorial note below) who are just a wee bit unnerving, and this childcare centre was no different.

I spoke to the CCP on hand about the littlest one's eating and sleeping habits, and passed on some info about what she liked to do and what her personality was like but then after a prolonged hung and a kiss I handed her over for a cuddle. At about that point I could feel the tears welling in my eyes and a strange feeling of separation, abandonment, distress, and a great sense of wrongness washed over me. It didn't help that the cutest one started to cry, which she does to all strangers. A couple of deep breaths and a quick 'Bye little one, I'll see you later' and I was off, closing the door and wanting so much to lean against it and sob to myself; but I didn't because I'm not that melodramatic.

The little one's room at the childcare centre has a large window which parents have to walk past before leaving the centre, so I stole a glance to see if she was still upset, and this is possibly the worst bit, she had stopped crying! All because she was being shown a caged rabbit in the room, and I could tell she was fascinated. I hate rabbits!


video


Careful planning got me through that first day: I took the kids to a 9:45am movie at the cinema, so was completely distracted by that to think about how the little one was going, and afterwards, a little bit of shopping before picking up the cutest one at the end of her first half day. My one hope was that she would have cried the whole time she was at child care. At least that way I knew she would have missed me. Yes I know its completely selfish, and obviously a horrid experience for her, but I needed to feel good about myself! OK, so its not entirely true. I wanted her to be happy, to have a quick acclimatisation, but IF she had been upset the whole time, well, I wouldn't have been unhappy. 

So there I was, hand trembling on the door knob to her room, part of me wishing she had a great time the other part wishing she didn't. I turned the door knob. I peered in. I couldn't see her. What had they done to her!?!?! But as I stepped into the room I saw her, and more importantly, she saw me. She had been happily playing with a doll, but as soon as she saw me she dropped both the doll and her bottom lip and started wailing as she staggered toward me. SHE MISSED ME! Or hated me immensely for leaving her in the first place. I'll go with the former.

That first hug after leaving her in the care of strangers was priceless. It filled me with a joy and warmth and overall relief. She survived. She could do it, she actually enjoyed it. And wow, even I survived too. Surprises all round.

A week and a half later the good news: she still enjoys it. The bad news: I don't see her all the time and I miss her. Yep that's it.  OK so there is some sadness, everytime I drop her off, especially because she cries when handed over for a cuddle to one of the CCP but really, thankfully, the other two kids have kept me busy enough (thank god for school holidays) not to dwell on the cutest one too much.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Childcare workers are not weirdos, well most of them aren't, they're actually really lovely and do an amazing job looking after your kids. But for the sake of my own amusement, it served the post better to paint them as villains.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Let's make friends

It seems an age since I last blogged, but I guess I've been happily meandering in the bliss that is being a full time parent (no sarcasm either, this is without doubt the best job in the world). With school holidays kicking in and then Christmas my life has just been happily rolling on. Nothing overly exciting to report, which, when you have kids, is not a bad thing at all.

However, my tour of duty is coming to an end and there are certain things that must be done to prepare for our (the whole family's really) lives. One of those things is child care.

As I mentioned way back when, I've been going to the local library to socialise the cutest one, but sadly my own feelings of discomfort have prevented me doing much other baby socialising. I did go to a playgroup once though and while the little one enjoyed it, playing with all sorts of different toys, but essentially ignoring all the other children, I hated it. Whilst there were a couple of mums (one from the library group), who actively went out of there way to chat, the rest (some 8 or 9) basically treated me with some sort of rude indifference or a patronising and condescending tone, as if I had no right being there, as if I was interrupting their day. I was out of place and didn't feel particularly welcome. Needless to say I didn't go back. Burnt once I didn't bother trying any other playgroups. Afterall it was a convenient excuse for me not to put myself in uncomfortable situations where I had to talk to strangers (my own mum taught me not to talk to strangers). Oh and yes I'm completely aware that I could have made more effort and tried harder, but heck, my heart wasn't in it. I suppose with that attitude it was always destined to fail.

So the mouse's socialisation with children of a like age was limited to our weekly library visits (which in the end I quite enjoyed) and the occasional visit to friends with little ones. I admit it, it's been my biggest failure as a full time parent. And it will make the next bit of her and my lives all that more difficult.

This week she had orientation at child care. It seems a nice place with nice carers and the mouse did a lot better than I expected. We were there for an hour, together, and whilst one carer asked me stuff, and told me stuff, the mouse just wandered and explored. She picked up unusual toys (to her) and played with them. She watched the other kids, and they watched her. She even managed to be in the same space as one of the other little girls and tried to share a dolly she was holding. That moment reaffirmed to me why she needs this. She needs to make friends and learn how to play nicely with them. Her exposure has mostly been Lord Vader and I and two doting siblings who are much older than her. She needs this. It'll be good for her.

Next week she has two half days of orientation, by herself. Just anticipating what I'm going to feel when I drop the cutest one off to be left alone, with strangers, finally allows me to sympathise with Lord Vader who many years ago had to go through the same heart wrenching thing with the other two kids. I'll feel guilty at abandoning my poor defenceless child. I'll worry that these strangers won't look after her properly. I'll be frightened that something bad will happen to her because I'm not there to protect her. And most of all, I'll just miss being with her, that moment when she drifts off to sleep in my arms, or that wonderful laugh when I tickle her.

And it would be remiss of me not to mention her feelings. Because I haven't socialised her more, this is going to be traumatic for her. She'll miss ME. She needs me to be there for cuddles, and laughs, and reassurance, and to make the tears go away, and to make her feel special and I'M forcibly denying her these things that SHE NEEDS.

I'm not looking forward to it at all.

I know I'm not a BAD parent for doing this, but heck, what is wrong with irrational emotional feelings from time to time. She'll live. She'll be so happy when I pick her up and yeah, she'll learn to enjoy it too. She'll learn new things, she'll make new friends, and she'll start growing up just that bit more. Perhaps that is one of the things I hate the most. She'll grow up without me, and I'll miss it.

PS. Thank you Lord Vader for giving that up so that I could experience it. It means more than I can explain.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Lonely

For all its wonderful aspects, being a full time parent can be rather lonely at times. I originally had these feelings quite early on in my tour-of-duty, but never quite got around to writing about them; quite possibly because of the amount of self pity that these feeling evoke within me. I mean, life is all about making of it what you will. If you choose to be lonely then so be it; you don't have to be lonely, it's a choice. And that is where the self pity comes in: whoa is me, I'm so lonely because I never go out of my way to see people. Kind of pathetic really.

Yes there are absolutely things that must be done everyday (playing with baby/toddler, cleaning, cooking, feeding baby/toddler, dropping off and picking up school kids, taking aforementioned school kids to numerous after school activities etc), and a lot of those things eat into your time which in turn eats into your ability to have a social life. But in contrast Lord Vader and I have never been huge believers in allowing the kids to dictate everything in our lives. For example, if we want to go to Rutherglen to the wineries for a weekend, well we will, and we'll bring them along. OK, maybe that is an extreme example, but its the same in a normal day: I want to have lunch with friends, I take the toddler and she copes, and I meet friends. Yes its different to going sans-toddler but it still means I get to socialise.

I think one of the reasons in feeling lonely and even unliked and depressed is all about those mundane activities and the routine that I fall into. Often it feels like my days blend into one another. I do the same sorts of things everyday and its hard to get myself to break the cycle of the mundane. Essentially it becomes too much of an effort to go grab a coffee with someone or have lunch, especially if you have to invite yourself. And no I'm not looking for a flood of invitations from my friends who'll read this, I'm explaining how I feel at times of great self pity.

In fact I have a great group of friends who go out to lunch almost every day, and I have a standing invitation to join them. Partly through not getting back into the social lunching after school holidays (because I wasn't taking three kids to lunch during school holidays, that is just a pain), and partly due to the mundane necessities of my life, and quite possibly due to my own apathy, I haven't caught up with them for many months.

You know what, there are other ways to socialise too. The internet is a wonderful tool. Social media tools, email, chat, skype, they're all great ways to stay in touch. Although they can be a trap too, because you feel that you're interacting but you're probably multitasking on the computer/tablet/phone whilst waiting for a response, or you just ignore the response and get back to it in your own time. Really nothing can replace a face to face chat, mainly because there is no delay in a response, and because you're actually sharing time with someone. Oh and there's the phone too! Funny thing about phones, nowadays you use them to send texts, check social media, write emails, play games, surf the net etc, but they're not really used to talk to people any more: their prime purpose has become almost irrelevant. The other day I was chatting to a friend online and he asked 'you home?', to which I replied 'yes', then the phone rang. He just realised the ridiculousness of a long drawn out chat session when both our attentions were actually on chatting to one another and called me. We ended speaking for half an hour, it was marvellous! I strongly recommend actually calling someone. Who would have thought its a really great way to communicate.

I mentioned feeling unliked, and to touch on it, because it is an extremely negative feeling, which is also completely baseless as I have plenty of friends, it's really about me not making the effort. When you're somewhat removed from your normal environment you become very much out of sight out of mind. It's normal, it happens. People by nature best deal with the others who are often in their day to day lives (I wanted to write 'sphere of influence' but that was too wanky even for me). I made a choice which effectively took me out of other people's day to day lives. Do they like me less because of it? No, not at all. But they don't need me as much as I need them, because they have other people to socially interact with. Ultimately being lonely is about not having as much social company as you want. Again, being lonely is a choice you make. If you don't like it go out and see some friends.

So why did I choose to write this post now? Well yesterday I had my very first (yes that's right, first) coffee (well hot chocolate) with a friend. It was fantastic! We bumped into each other last week and organised a coffee for this week. It was brilliant to just chat and chew the fat. The cutest one didn't mind at all. She had a couple of biscuits and was happy just wandering around close to me and without annoying any other patrons (something I'm always worried about with her as a toddler, and possibly another reason I rarely have been to lunch with friends in the last couple of months. They are so much easier when their not mobile!). Thinking about how much I enjoyed chatting with a mate made me realise why I've been so lonely, hence the post.

And then of course you make a rod for your own back: time to watch the cricket.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I'm a toddler now!

Finally! He put me down, now I can explore! I wonder what's over here? Hey! Wow! This is so much faster than that crawling stuff. What did Dad call it? Walking! Yeah, its awesome!

Ouch! My bottom hurts. I need to get the hang of it, I can't keep falling over because when I do he comes and picks me up. Damn him! I want to walk some more. I need practice!

Ooooo, what's that? I can reach it now! The smaller people use it a lot to point at those boxes and noises happen and strange pictures appear on that really big flat square. But more importantly there are shiny lights on the boxes: oooo and buttons! I love buttons! When I press them the sounds change or stop, and sometimes the picture goes away too! This is so much fun! Damn it, he picked me up again. And he keeps repeating something. It sort of sounds like 'no' I wonder what that means? He says it a lot. Wow, these buttons are fantastic!

Cool! The back door is open! If I can just get past the furry thing with the big ton..hahaha it licked me on the face! Funny! Ow! The tail swipe afterwards was unnecessary though. What's that, the blue box? Awesome! It's full of water, just like a really small bath! I love playing with water!

Don't pick me up! I'm free! There is so much stuff to look at out here, and I've only just got started! Damn, he closed the door too.

Hey what's over there? I can grab these silvery things and pull them and, wow, they open! Ooooo look at all this cool stuff inside! I could get to some of these before (and Dad made that 'no' sound alot then too) but now I can get to so many more! There is so much stuff to look at and pull out! Cool!

I'll just put this thing down here and try those silvery things over there. Jackpot, bottles! Oh, their empty, they need milk. DAD WHERE'S THE MILK? I'M REALLY THIRSTY AND I LOVE MILK. DAAAAAAAAAD! I WANT MILK NOW!

Finally, he's got the bottle and opening that really big door where the coldness comes out. Ah! That's where the milk is. COME ON DAD, HURRY UP. I'M SO THIRSTY!

WHAT? I WANT IT NOW! Do I care if its cold? No not really. I mean, sure its better when its warm, but I WANT IT NOW! Finally! Slurp, suck. 

I'm stuffed, and really tired, and so full. What does Dad say I look like 'Buddha'? I think I'll let Dad know I'm tired. DAD I'M TIRED. GO AND GET MY BLANKY AND GIVE ME A CUDDLE. HURRY UP! Ah, that's better, so sleepy, I don't even want to fight this time, too tired, but I'll just have a little nap.

*******************************************************************************

OK I appreciate you might be asking the questions, I can picture the raised eyebrows, and even your doubting of my honesty and integrity. I mean how can I, a humble stay at home parent, actually speak to a baby? Well, recently I picked up an old baby translator developed by Herb Simpson at a garage sale, and used it to record the cutest one.


video

There were a few kinks in the translation, it works on American baby speech, not Australian, so the the dialect caused some issues, but what you read above is about as accurate a translation as I could get. Oh and if you don't believe me, well I got the Doctor to verify it.




The mouse actually started walking a few months ago, when she was about ten and a half months old. She's got the hang of it now, and is pretty much running everywhere, and she's damn quick. Life was much easier when she just lay there, but perhaps not as entertaining. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Happy Birthday

I can't believe my little girl turned one yesterday. From her traumatic entrance into the world, to her sitting in her high chair stuffing cake into her mouth yesterday, its been a wonderful 12 months; and happily, a completely normal 12 months, well perhaps expect for the finger incident.

We didn't organise a party because, well, she's 1, and its not like she cares or would remember. Some people love to have massive soirees to celebrate such a momentous occasion, but we're simple folk and as such so it was just a quiet affair with just us. It was a nice day. We did nothing out of the ordinary except for the mouse's present opening and cake scoffing.

When the little people partake in the unwrapping of gifts it's always a joy to watch. Usually they love the colours of the paper and tear into it with great gusto, however the mouse was actually more interested in what was inside than the paper itself. Perhaps she got her fill when she decided to tear apart the newspapers sport section instead. As an aside, I suspect I've already brainwashed her into following my team in the AFL. You see, my team, the Hawks, lost the Grand Final the day before and the cutest one was doing all in her power to console me, she was tearing up all the pictures of the winning team; that's my girl!

It was interesting to watch her, with the assistance of her big sister, unwrap a present and then give it a very thorough look and feel, before rudely (in her opinion it seemed) being thrust another gift to unwrap. She was actually extremely curious as to what these new things were, which goes against the wrapping-paper/box-it-came-in stereotypical behaviour.

So what happened to all that lovely paper which was begging to be torn up and played with? Well the eldest pair decided to go back to their roots and tore it to pieces; not shreds, but actual small pieces which they placed in a bucket. I might find out today what they have planned for it.

With such a low key affair, we hadn't made a cake, but Lord Vader whipped up some marvellous cupcakes, arranged them in a '1' and hey presto there was a cake fit for a one year old! And didn't she love it! I think this is the first time she has had cake, it took her a few moments, and some assistance from her brother, to work out you picked it up and ate it. But as soon as that happened it fast became a disappearing cupcake.

And there endth the first birthday, a sedate affair, but one which for me was magical in its own right. But in every tale there is a lesson (conveniently forgotten before hand), and somewhat similarly to rule 3 from theGremlins,

video

don't feed a little one sugar after dark, because they don't sleep!

And so I arrive at the halfway mark for my fulltime parenting adventure. I can't believe its been 4 months already. I can only hope the next 4 are as wonderful as the first 4.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sleep, who needs sleep?

Apologies for not having posted for a little while, I've been tired. The mouse has been exhausting Lord Vader and I. The thing is she is yet to master the whole concept of sleeping through. Of course, I don't blame her, I blame Lord Vader and I. You see whilst we have always put her in her own cot for her night time sleep, she usually wakes around 1-1:30 in the morning for a feed. I don't think she actually needs the feed any more and its more of a comfort thing but regardless she wakes. This means one of us has to get out of bed and stumble to fetch her and bring her back to bed. Inevitably I, ill equipped for the task, fall asleep quite quickly after such an event, and Lord Vader is way to comfy and snug to dream of moving to return the mouse to her cot, therefore she snuggles in with us. 

There is something wonderful about cuddling a baby in your own bed. Something blissfully peaceful as if all is right with the world, until of course she kicks you in the face....... or fights your cuddle to escape, or crawls on your head, or tries to dive off the bed, or just cries because she's tired and doesn't want to sleep. All these things, tend to make a peaceful sleep impossible. 

It reminds me of a story read by Noni Hazlehurst:


Last week the mouse slept in her own bed through to 4am. She almost made it to 'sleeping through'. A couple more hours and she would have nailed it. I'll cop waking at 6am. You see the other two kids were good sleepers, the boy in particular still is, so we have always been able to sleep through to at least 7, until now. 

It got me thinking, "I really enjoyed that whole sleeping uninterrupted thing." so I decided to do something about it.

This week we've started to not feed her at 1 am and just get her back to sleep in her own bed. So when she wakes one of us (usually me) will go to her, rewrap her, and rock her to sleep. Thankfully its usually only 15 minutes and then she is fast asleep. The first two days she also woke at 4am and couldn't be rocked back to sleep after 40 minutes of trying so, fed up, I've dumped her on Lord Vader and then collapsed into a snoring heap. But at least she's learning to get to 4am.

Last night was, I'm hoping, a revelation. The mouse slept through to 5am; a new record! I didn't even hear her this time, and Lord Vader went to get her. I'm not sure if it was out of sympathy (very doubtful), or whether the lure of the spare bedroom, being so much closer to the cutest ones bedroom than our room, was irresistible to the exhausted wife. But she never made it back to our room, so I slept very peacefully. I'm very grateful to her, trust me.

It'll be interesting to see if this actually works, and if it does, how long it will take. I'll let you know.