Monday, May 3, 2010

Great Expectations

With 12 months past since Little Dude was born, I thought it would be interesting to compare what I expected of the whole being a parent situation before he was born, to what has actually transpired.

Obviously a good starting point would be my expectations BLD (Before Little Dude), but I find it quite hard to look back objectively through the haze of sleepless nights, snotty noses, teething pains and gurgling smiles. I am also slightly handicapped by the trait of being quite expectation-less about most things (except holidays- of which I always expect great things).

This trait tends to help, in most circumstances- having no expectations means being less likely to be let down. So it would probably be easier to describe things that have most surprised me over the last 12 months, not because I wasn't expecting them, but because they are things that I wouldn't have even contemplated, even if asked about BLD.

No guidance from books, words of wisdom waffle from relatives, and none of the unending and unsolicited advice ever mentioned the horror that is the sleep cycle of a baby. Why is this life upturning facet of parenthood kept such a secret? Warning me wouldn't have changed my mind about being a dad, but I might have been a bit more prepared and made use of those undisturbed halcyon nights BLD.

It isn't the lack of sleep, I can cope with life on relatively few hours for some time- it is the unbroken sleep that really gets to me. Not knowing... will I get one block of three hours or a one hour block with three wake-ups?

The unsolicited questioning and advice still continued after Little Dude was born- the main question being "Is he sleeping through yet?" (the answer by the way is still no- part of my answer would also include the question- when was the last time you slept solidly from the moment your head hit the pillow till you woke? Everyone wakes- even if only for a few seconds- it's just that babies need to learn how to get back to sleep when they do wake up)

Like most of life's experiences, words do no justice, and it is only something that can be understood by having done it yourself. At Guantanamo they tried water-boarding, pah...piece of cake. All they had to do was give each inmate a new born baby and after a couple of weeks of sleep deprivation they would happily confess to hiding behind the grassy knoll or being Miss Scarlett in the library with the lead piping. So for any prospective parents out there, get your beauty sleep in now.

With not much prior thought I would have said, breast milk followed by mushed food, leading on to more solid stuff, within some kind of time frame. How wrong I was.

Mrs Domestic Goddess Inc came across the concept of Baby Led Weaning, this has been one of the more enjoyable and exasperating experiences so far. Suffice to say it means you forgo puréed food and introduce solids as soon as your baby can sit up and grasp things. This has meant we eat our meals at the same time as Little Dude and as much as possible he eats the same things as us.

At just over one year old we are now in the position that we can place his meal in bowl and he feeds himself, uses his own tipee cup and can use a spoon to eat yogurt. It has meant much goading, laughing and celebrating, that is the enjoyable part. The exasperating part is giving him choice, because what he doesn't want gets quickly cast aside into the pit of wastefullness surrounding his high chair- which inevitable needs sweeping up after every meal.

It's endless. It never stops. It makes his grandmother reach for a hanky the moment she sees him and consequently implies that as parents Mrs DGI and I are not taking good enough care of our son (which seems to be the main aim of grandmothers). He on the other hand could not care less. A quick head shake against the nearest leg/shoulder/sofa and the majority of it is gone- job done. However, combined with night time nasal drip (which induces coughing) it does have a tendency to disturb his sleep. (see above for sleep deprivation)

Another unspoken secret. No one told me the joy I would feel from being a parent. There are moments in every day that never existed before, when I am filled with this overwhelming joy and love for my son- and it can come from something simple like his giggle, or a smile he gives when he turns round and looks up from having a bath. The world and my life have a meaning they never had before.

See Sleeping/Snot/Joy and Vanity

Time Management
Focus, Focus, Focus. 20 spare minutes BLD would have meant more time reading a book, surfing online or channel hopping. 20 spare minutes now mean time to paint a fence, put up a shelf or fix a bike. Time is now very important and spare time even more precious. My time management has not improved since BLD, what has improved is my attitude to getting 'stuff' done, whether that be home, personal or work 'stuff'. That way I have more time to spend with Mis DGI and Little Dude

As parents we are all proud of our child's achievements and want to and make comparisons and share those milestones with other parents. However, some parents are a little to vocal with their 'pride', this doesn't make me feel competitive, as a teacher I am acutely aware of how children's development can vary widely, but it does make me feel irritated that they don't understand this and frame their questions and conversations by narrow comparisons.

Anyway, I don't need to be competitive, because like all other parents I know my baby is the cutest, smartest, happiest, snotyest, contented, fittest, most consistent percentiled, best sleeping waking baby in the world.

I wonder what surprises the next little dude has in store?
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