Does baby signing work in a blog?! Another “the only Dad” baby class moment with No.2 at @busylizzymum @tinytalksigning

While Mum has been back on maternity leave in our new home area East Surrey, she’s joined a “family club” called Busy Lizzy. While there are what I know from last time as the usual child-focused classes (what my Mum, a 1960’s trained teacher, calls “music and movement” classes, as good a description as I’ve heard) their twist is to combine these with a range of mummy-focused exercise classes, from buggy-fit to Pilates. 

In an equally familiar franchise style, this group is based at various locations around Reigate. As the Twitter handle suggests, the clear focus is mums, although <some> of the literature says “family” and “parent”. 

Junior has been going to a dance class on a Tuesday, an experience that at times has left all frustrated, as with No.2 mostly not napping when desired, Mum has had to chase after Junior while carrying No.2, who then gets grumpier as he doesn’t get enough attention, especially towards the end of the class when he’s tired and wants a cuddle himself. 

So for the period we’re both off, he’s getting Mum’s full attention at dancing while I occupy No.2. Last week this was a trip to Homebase, but rather more exciting for her, this week involved going to a baby signing class. 

I appreciate this is quite hard to describe on a blog (and not even trying on Twitter), but let me try. Baby signing is a very simple form of sign language that you can use with babies, as they can make signs long before then can talk. We tried inexpertly with Junior, and it worked for one sign, which for him meant “more”. Image of the sign below (actually means milk). 

Mostly applied to food/booby, I now realise it was an early form of nagging, something he now achieves quite well through droning “hot milk” continuously until you give in or go mad…

Today we turned up at class slightly late, so had to do the “rush in, show baby prominently to indicate I’m meant to be here, pretend to ignore fact I’m the only grown man in the entire building” routine. Which was fine, as the class it quickly became clear was mostly singing songs and moving the babies/children about, with the sign language being added to the songs. Which was quite good fun as some of the signs we learnt were suitably easy and obvious (guess what the sign for a banana is……go here to discover you’re right…). And the teacher even remembered to do the signs for Daddy as well as Mummy at requisite points. I don’t think she gets to use Daddy often. This particular flavour of baby signing is called “Tiny Talk”, although the signs appear fairly standard. 

And to say No.2 enjoyed it is something of an understatement. Not so much for the educational value, but as a social opportunity! As she is just crawling, she was quickly going to see the nearest other babies and mums, and was doing some fantastic shaking of shakers. I’m sure it was coincidence, but at one point she was doing it at exactly the right times (cue proud father moment). 

And it was a nice friendly bunch, which is good – I had more conversation in one class than I did in 3 months of Gymboree. It helps my daughter is soooo beautiful, and people can’t stop talking about her eyes…! I think Mum was a bit unsure I’d get on with it, but given how much No.2 enjoyed herself, we’ll definitely be going back. 


A frantic finish to work and a quiet beginning to parental leave – but that’s unlikely to last all of #SPL…

My latest and last adventure in parental leave  started on Thursday. Frankly it was a massive blur. 

Leaving work was not as smooth or well planned as last time. I think the fact I am more confident about the childcare (I.e. Have no illusions about how hard it is going to be…), and being a parent already simply having less time to mentally prepare. This meant that I was working 100% right up until the last second. Not aided by various new joiners to my teams in my last few weeks, but mostly my own fault. 

If I were to do this again, what I’d do differently is mostly not try to cram as much as I have into the weeks preceding the start of SPL. Coming back after Xmas was a bad idea, although I didn’t have enough leave to do anything else. Also you don’t get much control over when the baby is born! It doesn’t help that I had been covering for 2 vacant team leader jobs for about 5 months. 

There is a key contrast with maternity leave here. It becomes very obvious when a woman is about to go on maternity leave, and good ol’ (inverse?) sexism means that as a man I’m going to be very cautious of overworking a woman in such a condition, and towards the end it usually gets pretty obvious when a woman is in such a condition!
Add to this having my phone stolen while on my leaving do, and my stress levels on Thursday were pretty astronomical. It wasn’t until Friday afternoon that the whole “not going to work, chill” vibe kicked in, with some help from Mum and kids. And it properly has now while I sit watching the NFL Divisional Championships safe in the knowledge that (a) I’m not going to work, and (b) it’s my turn for a lie in! 

Buts it’s not all fun and games – my first major goal for the joint time off is to decorate No.2’s bedroom – she’s not in it yet, as her sleeping doesn’t really warrant it, but we’d like to try settling her in it before the 9 month sleep regression hits (see what happened when Junior went through this. More to follow on sleep, obviously.) Looking forward to that one, obviously. 

Two weeks to go to #dadtime: Parental Leave take two, with Number 2!

It has been a while, and I will try to fill in some of the blanks when I can, but the biggest reason for the brief interlude is that No. 2 child, a beautiful, bonnie little girl, was born in May last year. Meet No.2!

Which as well as being a fantastic and joyous event means….I’m about to go back on parental leave! 

But boy, is it going to be different. Firstly to complete the lifestyle change we’ve moved houses, and in fact now live outside London and even the M25, in a leafy corner of Surrey. Served by Bloody Southern Trains, but there’s a rant for another day…

Also different (well, sort of) is the type of parental leave – I am now taking Shared Parental Leave (SPL), not the Additional Parental Leave of last time. Apart from making a mess of all my site names, what difference does this make, I hear you ask…? Err, basically none at all to us, but I will also spend some time talking about that, as one of my goals last time was to educate people on the difference. A task I largely failed in, so I will endeavour to make amends.

As I will also hopefully be able to show, children are very different, and I do hope that I will have more time to spend blogging, as No.2 appears (thus far) to be slightly less demanding than Junior. However this is balanced against the fact that for 2 days each week I will have both children at home. An experience it’s fair to say even Mum has found taxing at times.

We have planned our time better this time around, and Mum and I will be taking 5 1/2 weeks off together at the beginning of my SPL. I’m not quite sure how to cover that in my blogging, but I hope you’ll join me again over the next few weeks and months to find out. Bring on the Dad Time!!