Surprise!

Surprise Blog Post - Boy or Girl Image

Be Careful What You Wish For

When I found out I was pregnant, I decided that I did not want to know baby’s gender until he or she was born. A typical conversation from about six months into my pregnancy was as follows –

  • Other person: “Do you know what you are having”
  • Me: “Yes, a baby”
  • Other person: “I mean a boy or a girl”
  • Me: “Yes, hopefully either a boy or a girl”
  • Other person: “But don’t you want to find out?”
  • Me: “I think it will be obvious when the baby is born”

Yes, I was deliberately being a bit antagonistic but I had decided that there was very little that was a surprise in the 21st century information age. Everything seems so immediate nowadays. After all, we can online shop with next day delivery, look up information on the internet and have an answer straight away, plus take a photo and not only see it but upload it in a flash.

Not many people saw my point of view and I thought it was because many of us had lost the respect of waiting for something wonderful to happen. But I was wrong. It was because most of the people I talked to were already parents. They didn’t understand my wish for surprise with the gender because life as a parent is chock-a-block full of surprises.

 

The Day One Surprise

In fact my first surprise with Dylan occurred before I found out he was a boy. Just before he was born, my midwife said to me – “Your baby is coming as I can see blonde hair”. With my brown hair and brown eyes, I never imagined that I would have a blonde haired, blue-eyed child.

Over the past three years I have encountered all sorts of surprises as a mummy. Here are a few, split into the good, bad and the ugly…

 

The Good Surprises

Most of the good surprises arise from the astonishing amount of development that occurs in the first three years of life. Dylan’s first smile at a few weeks old, his commando crawling by five months and when he first started saying ‘Mummy’ at 18 months – all of these were good surprises.

His ability to learn new things amazes me. At two he not only said “nigh nighs” to his toys but pushed them over to imitate that they were sleeping. He has learnt his manners a little too well and now when I say “time to go to bed” he says, “no thank you please”.

Seeing imagination emerge has been fascinating. Just after Dylan turned two, he was eating some cucumber in his high chair and held up the dark green crescent part that was left over and said “boat” to me. It was also an eye-opener when I realised his long-term memory had developed. When Dylan was two and a half, I pulled out a t-shirt for him to wear and he said to me “thank you Granny Trish” – my mum had given that t-shirt to him over six months earlier.

I sometimes feel like I am at most two steps in front of my child. Just the other day, Dylan pointed out a fly inside the house and asked me to move it outside. I asked him how I should do that. He said I should “blow the shoo-fly out with my hair driver” – that is, get my hair drier and use that to blow the fly out of the window.

 

The Bad Surprises

I have had my fair share of bad surprises. At seven months, I discovered my baby lying on his tummy in his cot despite being in a swaddle and a Safe-T-sleep. At eight months, I left him alone with a magazine for a few moments and then found a huge wad of paper in his mouth. And at ten months I trialled the ‘leaving him to cry method’ when he wouldn’t have his nap, only to eventually go into his room to find blood all over his face where he had cut his lip on the wooden cot rail.

The worst surprise so far was seeing how much blood could come out of one little finger shut too quickly in a door and subsequently spending a long evening at A&E.

Sometimes the bad surprises can be good. At 18 months, I left Dylan alone in the secure living area of our house for a few minutes only to come back to find that he had climbed onto his high chair then onto the kitchen bench and crawled along and got into the advent calendar chocolates. He turned to me and said “chocolate” for the first time.

 

The Ugly Surprises

Then there are the ‘ugly’ surprises. These are mostly scatological in nature, but thankfully not that common. The unexpected arc of pee when changing a nappy, the surprise number two in the bath a couple of times. When a cry wakes you in the middle of the night and you walk into your child’s bedroom to be hit by the overwhelming smell of vomit – now that is one nasty surprise you don’t forget in a hurry.

At ten months, Dylan would follow me into the toilet, pull himself up and when I flushed it, he would put his hands down into the cascading water. One day when he was just over one, he looked like he was chewing on something and when I opened his mouth I discovered a dead fly. At 18 months old, I caught him just in time after he turned on the oven, opened the door and tried to climb in.

Now he is almost three, I worry most about what he says and does in public. Recently at the supermarket, he asked me quite loudly “why has that man got a lot of chins?” And although I like the fact he is pretty much toilet trained, when he pulled down his pants at a busy picnic area to “water the forest” I didn’t know whether to run over to help or pretend that he wasn’t my child.

 

The Biggest Surprise of All

The biggest surprise of all is that my tiny baby has grown into a little man. Dylan, you are almost three years old. Happy birthday my beautiful boy and may you continue to surprise me for many, many years to come.

Surprise Blog Post - Constant Fear Three Year Old

The Parenting Paradox

Paradox Blog Post - Parenting Paradox Cartoon

Like

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posted this as her status update on Facebook:

“Equal parts love and horror today. I have the two most beautiful, frustrating, wonderful, annoying, brave, wussy and amazing children.”

I had a little giggle and pressed on ‘Like’. But why did I like it? We all know that parenting is hard work, but this little quote perfectly encapsulated why it is so hard.

Parenting is not hard work only due to there being an overwhelming responsibility for another life. And it is not difficult purely because of the breathtaking array of things that we want children to discover and learn for themselves. It is hard because between these two concepts – protecting our child and also letting them be free – there is an inherent incongruity.

This paradox, this jumbled mess of contradictions, is a tightrope that somehow we as parents have to find a balance on.

 

The Simple Part

Having a baby can be terrifying and extremely difficult at times. I am not saying it is easy, but at its core, parenting a little baby is quite simple. Think about it in terms of a mathematical equation.  Food + Sleep = Good. Any thing else = Bad.

I have decided that they start out as babies with basic biological needs so that we are eased into parenting slowly and do not get overwhelmed with what is ahead. We are not hit with the inherent contradictory nature of parenting first off.

Dylan is now almost two and I have only just started to get a glimpse of this minefield of mess and contradictions that sits at the core of parenting.

 

The Hard Part

I went to a parenting course and the tutor asked us what we wanted for our children. The usual answers got uttered: to be “happy”, “healthy”, “rich”. But these seemed so ill defined and trite. Then one smart daddy said, “ I would be happy if my kid didn’t end up in jail”. There was a gentle sprinkling of laughter from that corner of the room.

Later, I thought what a brilliant example of the parenting paradox. What do we wish for our children? We cannot even define it. It is easier to state what we don’t want.

 

The Contradictory List

So what do I want for Dylan? Here is a little sample…

Want him to strive to be the very best he can be in any situation But do not want to push him too hard at the expense of other things
Want him to not take for granted the status quo, be curious and question everything But when I tell him to do something, I do not want him to question me
Want him to hold onto a central core of self-love, develop self-confidence and stand up for himself But not in an arrogant, narcissistic or weird way (like certain high profile celebrities)
Want him to face his fears head on and embrace the many challenges life will throw at him But do not like the idea of him letting off fireworks, riding a motorcycle or taking up base-jumping as a hobby
Want him to identify and challenge when rules are inappropriate or unfair But he should follow the rules in our house, they are there for a reason
Want him to embrace diversity and accept different cultures But some cultures purposely hurt animals or discriminate against women and I personally do not find those things acceptable
Want him to dream big, reach for the stars, have big, hairy, audacious goals and make every effort to achieve them But he should also have his feet on the ground and understand that life doesn’t always give you want you want every time
Want him to not be defined by his gender But if he wanted to wear hair clips to school, I am not sure I would be too supportive
Want him to be careful with money and learn the value of saving and preparing for the future But he should learn to spend without feeling guilty and embrace being generous to others
Want him to be polite But not be a pushover

 

K.I.S.S

How do I hop through this minefield? The only way I can think of to handle the parenting paradox is to look for and embrace the moments when parenting becomes very simple again.

When Dylan was a baby I could spend ages gazing at his face and cuddling him. It seemed so much simpler back then. Now with a toddler who is always on the go, the moments may be more fleeting, but when they do occur it is important to stop and realise how wonderfully simple it all can be.

The other night when Dylan was in his highchair eating dinner, he started laughing and saying “sun sun”. He couldn’t see the actual sun from where he was sitting but what he was looking at was the sunlight dappled on the dining room wall making sparkling waves of shadows. He was delighted with this shimmering display. It was a moment of pure simple joy.

 

Happy Birthday

Dylan, you are the most sweet, challenging, delightful, exasperating, fun, naughty, cheerful and awesome child. Happy second birthday my gorgeous monster.

Paradox Blog Post - Cupcake with Two Candles

 

Letter To My Baby

Letter to My Baby - First Birthday Picture - Boy

The First Birthday Milestone

Dylan, you will be turning one very soon. My tiny quiet baby has grown into a loud, robust and wriggly almost-toddler. Nearly every parenting cliché ever voiced has come true this year. It has certainly been the steepest learning curve I have ever undertaken. The days were sometimes long, but the year was short. Children really do grow up so fast.

 

What You Have Taught Mummy – 1

Most self-help books I have read have had great concepts to improve my life but I have always found it difficult to picture their practical application. For instance they declare that you should always try new experiences and live life to the fullest. They say don’t ever give up on your goals or let failure overpower you. You need to knock obstacles out of the way and focus on what you want. Clearly define what you don’t want and eliminate it from your life. Until now, this all seemed kind of trite to me.

Dylan, you like discovering new things and you don’t give up the first time when something doesn’t work. You try and try and try and try again. You fall down and get back up. You focus on what you want and go for it. You overcome obstacles (like other toys, furniture and Daddy) to get what you want (usually my mobile phone if it has been left anywhere accessible). You don’t ask permission. And you clearly show us what you dislike (broccoli, having your face wiped) and don’t want to do (taking naps). Thanks to you, Dylan, I have come to the realisation that to get more out of life we should all be a bit more like you, curious, bold and fearless.

 

What You Have Taught Mummy – 2

When I first when to ‘Mums and Bubs’ yoga, at the end of the class the yoga teacher asked us to look at our wee babies and say to them “thank you for being my teacher”. And I have to admit, I thought this was all a bit ‘woo-woo’. But perhaps there is something to this.

When I go to get you out of your cot in the morning you give me the biggest grin and jump up and down ferociously. Every day you wake up excited and happy to be part of this world. We share a laugh constantly, often about the silliest little things. The other day you were cracking up because I was swiping at one of your toys and moving it across the floor of the lounge. It kept you amused for a good ten minutes, chuckling away. You often laugh for absolutely no reason at all. You don’t care what you wear or if there is a mess or if you have food on your face.

So now I understand what my yoga teacher and all those meditation gurus have been trying to tell us over the years. Laugh loud and often. Live in the present moment and be happy and grateful for the simple things in life that you have now. Thank you Dylan for being my teacher.

 

My Big Secret

I kept hearing about this enormous blast of love that mummies got the instant they held their newborn child for the first time. One of my friends said she forgot the pain of labour as soon as her little girl was in her arms. I was looking forward to that (the love part that is – the reduced pain part being an added bonus).

And it just didn’t happen. I felt many things when you were born – relieved for having a straightforward labour, proud of myself, grateful for having a healthy baby and awestruck by how tiny and perfect you were. But there was no overpowering feeling of falling in love.

I didn’t really mention it to anyone, just hoped that everyone assumed that I had instantly connected with you, my beautiful baby boy. But day-by-day I was wishing and hoping that a ferocious crackling love would suddenly hit me. I knew deep down that it is something that cannot be forced, an organic emotion that cannot be willed into existence. But I kept thinking there must be something I could do to bring it on.

All of a sudden you are nearly one year old and I realise although I was hoping for this fresh surge of love, I failed to appreciate that I have slowly developed a simmering kind of love that has been bubbling in the background all this time. Every day it keeps rising a little more towards boiling point. It is now a magnificent love, enormous and powerful.

I am not saying it is a better way of loving than an instant kick-start. But I am excited and happy to know that it doesn’t really matter, that I love you and it is endless and wonderful.

 

Happy Birthday

I have learnt so much from becoming your Mummy in the last year. You remind me every day of what is really important in this life. I look forward to loving you and learning from you for many, many, many years to come. Happy birthday Dylan.

Love, your mummy, Julie

Letter to My Baby - One Year Old Dylan