103 Wednesdays

We’re on the cusp again of another lull. The last one was shorter than expected. Two weeks after that post I applied for a new job. Ha! Opportunities come up when they do, and it’s all worked out well, but I tend to jump into things feet first and then get surprised at the splash. WHY DO I ALWAYS DO THAT? (Husband would just roll his eyes at me, because he knows I always do that).

But another lull is approaching. The kids have both settled in at creche fairly happily now, and we’re starting to find our footing as a two kids, two careers family. Feeling surer and surer about no #3 baby, meaning the set up we’re establishing will last until D goes to school! WOW. Scarily, that is only two years away though. Two years until school?! Bizarre! Two fairly settled years I hope. No plans to move. No plans to change childcare arrangements. These last three years have been like living in a house that is undergoing renovations. You’re living a life but you’re also building it, and sometimes the building gets in the way of living and the living gets in the way of building, yet you have to keep doing both.

I was a bit concerned about how the four-day week thing would go: getting stuff done in my hours at the office, the kids coping with four long days at creche, the potential stress for me in having one day a week with both of them all day, and the dynamic in the evenings when Mr Daddy gets home late and the kids are all tired from creche. I anticipated some issues on all four fronts. To my great relief, it’s working out well.

Especially the Wednesdays. It’s Sunday night now and I’m looking forward to going to work tomorrow, but I’m also kinda looking forward to my Wednesday with the kids. And the next. And the next. In a few months B will be walking and we’ll be able to do so many things the three of us. We’re gonna make those days really special. Because there are only 103 more and then school.

 

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A small list of things we’ve done differently with number two

I’m so glad I don’t have to re-live the first year of parenting the little dude. All the things to learn and stuff! We’ve done a few things differently this time and I thought I’d jot them down, might be of interest to other parents navigating the decision minefield of the first year.

1 – Cosleeping

We tried to follow health advice with the little dude and only coslept reluctantly, anxiously, and half-heartedly. Often, I was up with him off and on from around 2am til 4am trying to get him to sleep in his cot, before finally relenting and bringing him in with us. Lunacy! Unnecessary sleep deprivation! We coslept with B pretty much from the start. When he was teeny tiny, Mr Daddy slept on the couch because he was worried about smothering risks. Now, B joins the both of us in our bed the first time he wakes after we go to sleep, and we are getting a helluva lot more sleep.

2 – Embracing naps in the buggy

I wrote a blog when the little dude was a baby, a diary from his perspective, and in that blog I called his cot “the sleeping prison”. He wasn’t a fan of it. As a result, I held him while he napped so, so often when he was small. That’s something you can’t do so much with number two, if number one is around during the day! Buggy naps have been a fantastic trick up our sleeves. B is still happy to sleep in the buggy, even though it’s getting kinda cramped for him now, and it gives me a lot more flexibility in planning our days.

3 – Expressing milk

D was never keen on a bottle and we didn’t push it. B took to a bottle fine, and so I left him a bit more often a bit younger. I’m also expressing regularly for his creche days, which I never did with D. I’m surprised I’m still doing it, B is settled at creche now and he’s old enough that he would be ok without expressed milk for that length of time. The main reason I’m still doing it is that the new pump I have, the nifty Haakaa one, is so easy. Also if I pump at work and he has milk at creche then I don’t have to feed him immediately on pick up which makes it easier  to manage the little dude’s desire to get home quickly.

4 – Being more sanguine about the upsets

When D was a baby and he cried and I couldn’t comfort him quickly, I would get a bit distressed myself. What was a doing wrong? How did I stop him crying? I didn’t realise then that a) sometimes babies just cry because the world is strange and unfamiliar and you don’t always need to figure out the reason and b) if you’re holding them and soothing them and they still cry it’s ok, you’re doing what you need to, they will stop crying eventually. Second time round I haven’t seen crying as so much of a problem. By necessity, alone with two of them a lot of the time, B sometimes had to wait in his buggy crying while I got D into his outdoor clothes, or B had to wait on the floor of the lounge crying on a rug while I helped D go to the toilet. And my attitude was – ah, the baby alarm is going off, that means he’s still alive and he’s not presently happy! Sometimes people are upset, babies are people, and they don’t know how to swear yet so they might cry a bit more often than adults. Ok, we’re coming soon baby! I think that being more comfortable with upsets as part of babyhood has actually helped me to provide a calm and reassuring presence when he needs it. Once you realise you can’t stop the crying and it’s not your job to stop the crying, you can take on the much easier task of cuddling them while they cry. This is true for D now, too. Something flipped for me when he became a toddler and would cry for more discernible reasons, I realised that I shouldn’t be worried about trying to stop the tears, I just need to be the shoulder for them to fall on.

5 – Leaving him to his own devices more often

Classic second child. Continue your important task of taking all the books off the shelf my lad, I’m making dinner, come crawl up to me when you need me.

6 – Knowing what comes next

Knowing what comes next is so great. I love the spoilers. This time next year, B will be talking and I’ll be able to plonk both kids in front of a video together! WOW. At around 20 months, I felt like D’s rate of development slowed to a manageable pace where I didn’t have to think all the time I don’t know what he’ll be doing in a few months, how can I plan my life??????!  With the second bub, you know more or less what each phase feels like, you know the easier bits and harder bits approaching. This helps so much. The wide-openness of parenting the first child in the baby days is tough, eh. You only just find your feet and then things shift. The baby who loved the baby carrier is too heavy. The baby who had three regular naps now only wants two naps. The baby is mobile. The baby needs solids. The baby is pulling up to walk. A newborn vs a 10 month old are entirely different creatures, it’s mind-boggling. I love this phase we’re in now though. This patch where they can crawl but not yet walk. It’s one of my favourites. And knowing how quickly it’ll go this time, I can feel myself enjoying it more. Yet at the same time, knowing that the delightful phase of newly walking and starting to talk comes next, I don’t mind that it’s slipping away.

 

Dear friend

Hey, you should all go and buy Emily’s book! It’s called Rants in the Dark and it’s out now and I just read it and it’s fantastic.

I remember reading her first blog, I am Grateful, now Fuck Off. I read it late at night, of course. It was a blast of air that set me straight on my feet again and I didn’t even realise I was stumbling. I was immediately in love with this blogger. And it was kinda awkward because I knew we lived in the same city and our kids are a similar age, and Wellington is pretty little, so I devoured all the content but in this self-conscious way where part of me fretted about how we would inevitably meet one day, and when that day happened I would feel like a stalker because I would want to gush about how fantastic the writing is and how true it feels and how FUCKNG FUNNY it is and how much I admire the way love shines in every piece. I had these imagined conversations of me being the awkwardest person ever:

Emily “Hi”

Me “Hi, you don’t know me at all and this probably sounds really nuts but I think maybe we have a telepathic connection?”

Or:

Emily “Hi”

Me “Your stories about Eddie make me want him to be my son’s friend, can I borrow him?”

Or:

Emily “Hi”

Me “I love your blog. I know everyone loves your blog but I REALLY love your blog. I’m you’re biggest fan. But not in a weird stalker way. I’m a genuinely normal human being and I have friends who think I’m normal I swear but also can you be my friend too but I would like to again emphasise that I don’t mean that in a weird stalker way”

Or:

Emily “Hi”

Me “Hi”

Internal me “You can’t pretend you don’t know who she is! That’s even weirder! Fucking say something! Lead with ‘I read your blog’! Stop being weird! This is extra weird!”

 

(Don’t worry readers, when we met it was not awkward because the magic power of the internet meant we sort of knew each other by then.)

Emily is a brilliant writer, but more than that, through her writing and in other ways she’s a builder of community. It is an amazing and precious gift and we’re so lucky to have her doing this work. Her writing shapes mothers, lifts us up, and buttresses us with love and hope. This is a book that I will buy for many a pregnant friend, because in these covers, I know that they will find the words they need to get through another night. The words they need to find the small joys in a day that is a mess of snotty noses and abandoned hot beverages. When my own kids are grown, I will dip into this book again, and it will bring me back to these days – sometimes so long, sometimes so hard, sometimes overwhelming, but always drenched with love.

Thank you Emily. We are better mothers, better people, better partners, stronger families, for reading your words. Arohanui e hoa. Tino rawe tō mahi.

 

Love and light

D turns 3 tomorrow, and today was his party, and it was completely fantastic. I wrote him his birthday card just now, continuing a tradition my parents established of writing a summary of the year, to keep as a record of childhood. Oomph it’s been a bit of a year! New baby, obviously, then the worry about D’s health, then having the tonsils out and the horrible horrible weeks of recovery, then applying for a new job, getting the new job, going back to work, settling into new routines, and D moving up into the preschool room at creche. Big year! Many changes!

The party was golden. The weather came out for us just in time, and we were able to have it at the local park as planned. It was a sort of easy lovely chaos. We had decided to invite everyone, have it at the park, rather than keeping numbers down for our not-large house. Some people couldn’t make it, so it wasn’t going to be huge anyway. But yesterday it rained, eeek! Then today, it cleared, and was the sunniest bluest afternoon with barely any wind. We had a mix of D’s little friends from our antenatal group, his creche, and our playgroup. My parents and my brother were on hand to help with the host duties, and we rounded out the adult numbers with some family friends who have honorary Auntie status. The main activity was waterballoons – D’s request for his party. Hundreds and hundreds of waterballoons, that’s what he wanted, and it’s so cool that for a child this age their desires can be easily fulfilled. Waterballoons and cupcakes, those were his requests. The kids had a wonderful time throwing waterballoons at each other, throwing them on the ground, jumping on them, throwing them in the air. Three is joy, three is discovery, three is knowing the world well enough to delight in the unexpected and the special.

The party came together in a beautiful low-key way. D was in a lovely mood. B was chilled out, and at 11 months he is keen to join in, and looked so chuffed with himself when he was able to clap with the rest of us after we sang “happy birthday”. It was a perfect, no stress afternoon. Idyllic. We had lost the sunblock but I found it in time. We made it to the park with all the party gear before people arrived. We had enough iceblocks for all the children towards the end of the party when everyone was too hot. There was plenty of food and my idea of pancakes with sprinkles was a hit with the kids. All the parents seemed on board with the unstructured style of party. My brother did facepainting for the kids, and they ran around as tigers and butterflies. D wanted to be Simba but then changed his mind, so continued the party as a smudgy incomplete lion.

It felt like the start of the golden weather. The eldest child turning three, and in a short month the youngest turning one, both really big milestones! Being pregnant is more or less ugh, the first seven or eight months of a new baby is more or less ugh, and then through to a baby’s first year it’s still quite patchy and rocky, lots of stumbling points. We’re not past it just yet, but today was a gorgeous glimpse, validation that we’ve done a good job weaving a community for our boy, a relaxed celebration of being able to relax and celebrate.

The internal monologue of the mum in Alfie gets in First

Today I locked us out of the house. I didn’t tell the little dude that’s what happened because I didn’t want to freak him out, so as far as he knows, we went to the local bar at 4.30pm for a bowl of hot chips for the hell of it and then just happened to find his dad at a park near the bus stop.

He’s been reading a lot of the Alfie books, and has repeatedly watched the youtube video of Alfie Gets in First, meaning I have too, and I feel like the mum has a whole lot going on in her head that readers can only guess at? Maybe something like this…

____

Ok, shopping is done, Annie Rose isn’t asleep but she’s pretty chilled out, probably go down ok when we get home.

Come on Alfie I know you’re tired but we’re almost there, how about you run and see if you can get there first? Off you go! 

Great, that got him going.

Yay Alfie almost there! Wait on the step when you get to our house darling! 

Ah, good lad, ok now we’re just going to bring all the things in. Yep ok you go in first uh huh.

ALFIE!

Fuck fuck fuck fucksticks fuckity fuck fuck he’s shut the bloody door fuck fuck my keys are in there with him fuck fuck shitty fucking shit.

Open the door, Alfie!

Try to reach the catch and turn it!

Can you put the key through the letter box?

Ok, stay calm, um, he can’t reach but he knows how to climb up on his chair and maybe he could drag it, I’ll tell him to do that –

Oh fucking shit here comes that bloody interfering Mrs MacNally, can’t help but poke her nose in whenever she smells drama. Just what I need.

Hi Mrs MacNally, yes, Alfie’s locked in, I think it’s ok, he just needs to get his chair to reach the latch. 

Ugh, she just has to join in doesn’t she? NOT HELPFUL. She’s just confusing him, wish she’d just piss off and leave me to it. Poor boy is crying and her talking through the letter box isn’t going to help, but oh no, can’t say anything can I, because what, I’m obsessed with being polite, ugh I want to tell her to fuck off. And Annie Rose is crying and she’s overtired ARRRHHHHH.

Now here comes Maureen, well at least she’s sensible, what would be useful is if Maureen maybe took Annie Rose for a walk in the pushchair, but can’t suggest that either because Mrs MacNally doesn’t think Maureen is old enough to babysit. Or climb a drainpipe apparently, despite that being a very good suggestion.

And now here’s the milkman, bloody hell, a right bloody party now isn’t it. What do they think they’re going to achieve! PISS OFF THE LOT OF YOU SO I CAN TALK CALMLY TO ALFIE THROUGH THE DOOR.

I don’t think you really need to break the lock, thanks for the offer, but I think if everyone is just quiet for a little bit so that Alfie can hear me talking to him-

Maureen’s found a guy with a ladder, ok, well I suppose that’s better than breaking the lock.

ALFIE! You opened the door! Well done sweetheart! 

Oh and now everyone is coming in? Um… yes of course they are. Why wouldn’t they? It’s not as if my kids are tired and frazzled and stressed or anything. Fuck them all, and now I suppose I have to say thanks for helping EVEN THOUGH IT WOULD HAVE BEEN EASIER WITHOUT THEM, and make a cup of tea for everyone. Bloody hell sometimes I wish I just didn’t give a fuck what people thought. Poor Annie Rose, she is wretchedly tired, but time is marching on and maybe I should skip the afternoon nap and put her to sleep early tonight instead? Hard to say. Going to be a shitter of an evening either way. Oh thank heaven, they are finally getting up to go.

Wave goodbye, Annie Rose! Ok Alfie, are you going to shut the door? Let’s go and watch tv until Daddy gets home. You can have a tub of yoghurt and some crisps for dinner. 

 

Parental Inquiry into the Presence of Witches

The Parental Commission of Inquiry, consisting of Mummy and Daddy, has prepared the following report on the matter of “Whether a Witch will come to Our House”.

We have concluded that no witches are coming to our house, for the following reasons:

  1. Witches are not real. Witches only exist in stories. Witches are just pretend. There are no real witches.
  2. Witches cannot get out of story books. They can’t escape from videos either. There is no chance of witches becoming real.
  3. Even if witches used to be real one day a long long time ago, they are no longer real.
  4. Even if witches were real, they would not want to come to our house because they live far far far away and it’s too far for them to get here. Where? Um, they live on the moon. Yes, witches live on the moon. Yes, with Rona. Ok maybe Rona is a witch. Or not. That seems like a culturally appropriative suggestion, I take that back. Rona is not a witch.
  5. Ok, well even if witches were real and wanted to come here, they couldn’t, because… because… because we have a lamp outside our front door that is a special no witch lamp and it keeps the witches away.
  6. An acting member of the Commission, Nana, has presented an additional item for inclusion in this report. Some witches are nice! You don’t need to be scared of all witches. There is a great story about a witch named Hermione and Mummy can read it when you are bigger, and Hermione is a friendly witch! She does nice magic! Look Mummy can show you a picture of Hermione on her phone. But even Hermione is not real. Oh dear, the messages are getting a bit mixed now aren’t they? Mainly witches are not real. You don’t need to be scared of Hermione just because she is on Mummy’s phone.
  7. And Daddy is giving you a witch stick that the witches don’t like and it keeps them away and as long as you are holding that stick witches won’t come. The Commission has a split opinion on the matter of the stick. A dissenting view is recorded by Mummy, who considers that the magical properties of the stick are perhaps inferior to the magical properties of an alternative item yet to be located which is more easily portable and less liable to loss, breakage, and use as a weapon.
  8. Look Mummy found this ring in a treasure box in the cupboard, it’s from when Mummy was a little girl, and it’s a magic ring that means witches can’t come.
  9. Finally, we have prepared a witch repellent spray. We made a potion of witch hazel, eucalyptus oil, and water. If we spray this in your room it will keep all the witches away.
  10. To conclude, witches are not real, but even if they were, all precautionary measures have been taken.

________________

Meanwhile, if I wanted to scare him stiff…

Once upon a time, there was a witch who lived in a story book. The book had a blue cover and lots of writing on the inside, but the witch who lived in the pictures was bored of the writing inside, and wanted to have her own adventures. Every time the little boy opened the story book she would look out at his face and wish she was friends with him. She thought it was so exciting that he wore different clothes every day, when she wore the same things all the time. Sometimes, he left the book open and she would watch him play. She wanted to get out and play peek-a-boo with the baby, or build a block tower, or jump on the couch. One night, when everyone was asleep, she had her chance. The book had been left open and was leaning against the shelf. If she just wriggled a little tiny bit, and stretched her arm, just a bit more, she could reach the edge and pull pull pull herself off the page. Puuulllllllll! There! She was OUT. Oh how exciting! To be free of the book! She could barely believe her luck! First, she tried running – and running was FANTASTIC, she ran all about the house. But she was very small, only the size of an apple, because that’s how big she was in the story book, and the cat soon started to chase her. So she flew up on her broomstick and sailed into the kitchen cupboard. She had seen the little boy eating chocolate and longed to try it. She took one piece and then another and another and another and soon all the chocolate was gone. Then she started on the peaches in the bowl on the table. She ate so many peaches that she was covered in sticky juice, but that didn’t matter, because she could turn the tap on and make a swimming pool in the kitchen sink. Oh how she splashed and swam! When it was almost morning time, she thought she would wait and say hello to the family. But then she started to feel a bit shy. What if they didn’t like her? What if they were scared of witches, and wanted her to go back into the story book? She really didn’t want to go back into the book, she was having too much fun. So instead of saying hello, she flew carefully up to the top of the linen cupboard and settled down for sleep. Then, when everyone had gone to work and creche, she flew out through the cat door to explore the garden. And so she came and went, whenever she pleased, and the little boy never saw her – but sometimes the mother wondered where all the chocolate went at night.