After the overwhelmingly emotional experience that was the birth of his children, Bluebottle found himself confronted with being a father. From now on there would be no time to relax, take a breath or rest. This is a miscellany of his thoughts and experiences on fatherhood so far.
In the UK there are two phrases commonly used in association with babies. The first is 'sleeping like a baby'. This is a phrase surely used only by those who have never had a baby, and who do not know in intimate detail what 12 o'clock, 1am, 2am, 3am, 3:30am, 4am, 5am and 6am feel like. Similarly I cannot imagine anyone who has ever changed a really dirty nappy would use a phrase like 'as smooth as a baby's bum'. Although this particular phrase I've always considered to be a little suspect, to be honest.
Having a baby in the house is the best alarm clock I have ever had. Every morning at 6am on the dot my son wakes up and starts screaming for breakfast and does not stop until we have got up and provided him with some. He has no snooze button, no volume control, just pure 100% waking ability that within seconds wakes you up more than the whole range of a coffee shop ever could. How he manages to know that 6am is 6am is a complete mystery to me, but he does.
First words: As far as I'm concerned, my son's first word was 'O', although my wife considers this a noise. I personally disagree - I think everyone has had a few conversations where they've not said any more than 'oh' in various tones and pitches, and used properly it is a word that can convey several different meanings. Among the first proper words that my son said include the usual Daddy, Mummy, Papa, Nana as well as 'bix', short for a make of breakfast cereal of which he is particularly fond, doggy, quack-quack (all animals were either doggy or quack-quack depending on whether they could fly or not), moon, mis (which meant balloon and no-one has been able to work out why he regularly and consistently called balloons 'mis' on numerous occasions) and 'Voyager'. There is something about the opening sequence to Star Trek: Voyager that grabbed my son's attention in ways that none of CBeebies' brightly coloured programmes aimed at children ever could.
When I was expecting my first child I did what I imagine is quite common - I looked into my own childhood to try and work out what I needed to do to help my children experience and enjoy theirs. And the first thing I noticed was that my family have lots and lots of photos of my older sister, but far fewer of me. When I asked about this my father admitted that my sister could walk, talk, jump and do things when I was born, while all I did was sleep or cry. So they photographed my sister jumping and being cute far more than photographing me not doing anything lying in my cot. And when I did do something as a toddler it was never anything that my sister hadn't already done before. Admittedly that was back in the dark days of film cameras, but it is a lesson that I try hard to remember every day. Yes, I should certainly spend as much quality time with my son, who is two and a half and constantly demands my attention, but never at the expense of spending time with my daughter, who being quiet and unable to do as much as my son because of her age, could potentially be neglected.
They say that you have to be very careful what you say around little children as they pick up things. Well, this is certainly true. There are some words that we have to avoid at all costs, otherwise my son gets extremely excited and upset until he gets what you have unwisely mentioned. Words to be avoided in our house include:
To try and avoid creating scenes we refer to these as
- Frozen confectionary
- Recreational facility
- Steam locomotive
unless we want him to know where we are going or referring to.
There is a special device that has been invented for babies that does the combined job of a Daddy and Mummy. It's called a Dummy.
Actually, I tend not to use dummies that often if it can be avoided. If by daughter is happy, there's no reason to use a dummy. If she's upset, it's either because she has a dirty nappy, in which case what I need to do is change her, rather than give her a dummy which does not actually solve the problem, or because she is hungry. If she's hungry, the last thing to do is try and give her a dummy. Although she calms down for a second while she thinks 'Oo - is this food?' her reaction a second later is 'This isn't food! THIS IS NOT WHAT I WANT - I WANT FOOD!!!' and she then proceeds to cry a lot louder than before. What I find works best to calm a crying baby while waiting for milk to be ready is singing gently to her. I sang to my 2 year old son every day when he was a baby, and now I get rewarded by him singing to us most days, which is fantastic.
The best thing about being a father is whenever I get home after a day at work, even when I have had a dull day and a wet walk home from the station, as soon as I get home everyday my son is excited to see me, and his running down stairs to meet me at the door never fails to cheer me up.
To read more about Bluebottle's baby thoughts and experiences, why not read the rest in this three-part series?