Things they don’t tell you at Parent School – sleeping babies are a myth, and still then they “regress”

….Ok so I admit there isn’t a Parent a School. I’ve reached the conclusion that this is because it isn’t until you actually have a kid that all the privations and difficulties would seem worthwhile – a school that told you about them beforehand would simply mean no-one in their right mind would actually have children, and so the world would be populated solely as the result of drunken one-night stands. Nothing wrong with this method of conception, it just isn’t going to keep the chimneys swept!

The latest thing we’ve found out about after it happened is the “Nine Month Sleep Regression”. As noted a couple of posts ago, Junior’s consistently poor record of sleep actually succeeded in getting worse, with him returning to his neonatal levels of waking every 1-2 hours (at best). Ideal with Mum having gone back to work.

According to the reassuringly comprehensive blog Baby Sleep Science this is perfectly normal. At various times in their development, because of the huge amount of changes going on in their brains, their sleep patterns “regress” to earlier ones. Nine months is one of those, as with the mobility changes and social development that we’re currently seeing. Junior being the lack-of-sleeper he is, this means he did completely regress, not just a bit, so we’re currently back to square one of trying to teach him to sleep again. Which we hadn’t really succeeded in doing, but were at least getting the odd 4-5 hour stretch out of him.

Apparently the same thing happens again at 18 months too. Looking forward to that already…

 

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Time to myself – the other type of #Dadtime

My (very) good lady gave me the time last night to go meet up with my friends in Clapham – something that obviously doesn’t happen as much as it used to, but I’m lucky enjoy that she wants to make sure I don’t cut ties with people who are important to me, and perform an incredibly useful grounding function. For anyone who is going to become a parent (because this applies to Mum and Dad), I think it is vital to maintain some sense of connection to who you previously were. As at least part of this will feed into who your baby becomes.

As I was sat there, having arrived slightly early, I was reflecting on a couple of things. Mundanely, that I hadn’t blogged yet this week – mostly because so far this has been a “standard” week of Dads Club, Gymboree and yoga so far, so nothing interesting to report.

And more meaningfully actually how nice it is to just sit somewhere quietly on my own. It was only the train journey and about 5 minutes in the pub before my mates started arriving (The Merchant on Battersea Rise, ok recent refurbishment, giant yet relatively discreet TV screen, good if limited ale selection), but actually something that it is very hard to get when on APL. Because you’re either spending time with Junior, or in the short period when he’s asleep we’re trying to spend time together as a couple.

And both those things are really important, and you never get enough of the latter – but sometimes so is a bit of down time from it all. Recently I’ve been really enjoying train journeys to rugby matches on a Saturday, because it is exactly that, enforced down time when you can’t do very much. (Although I live in Wimbledon I play rugby in SE London/Kent, so some of the train journeys are quite long…)

Added to this is the fact Junior fits into the characterisation by “What to Expect” of an Active Baby, something we identified at about 2 weeks and is still revealing its full meaning. Unusually Junior is very tired and is right now completely sparked out on the bed beside me – allowing me free hands to write this – more usually he is almost constantly in motion when awake, and prefers sleeping on or next to us. Which is cute and lovely and completely understandable (who wouldn’t prefer to spend as much time as possible cuddled up to mum and dad?) but means managing yourself can be quite challenging…this being what I’m learning from my time at home – Mum did much better at getting other stuff than childcare done!

In summary then, my tip of the day – and as the best bit of advice I received before Junior was “don’t listen to any of the advice” a bit of a hypocritical one – is remember to factor some “Just Dad Time” into life. You don’t need as much as you used to have, as cuddles frankly are better, but a small amount just occasionally is important.

Toys for the Boy(s) – backpack carrier first use

One of the areas of babying that is traditionally reserved for Men is the transport of the dear infant. I’m not going to dwell on pushchairs, as frankly you spend as much as you can, new or second hand, and there is no such thing as the ideal pushchair. For reasons I don’t fully understand no pushchair excels in the three main areas of practicality, manoeuvrability and collapsibility so you have to compromise. Pick your preferred features and go.

The latest method of transportation we are trying is a backpack carrier. After an extensive 15 minutes Internet review and deciding I liked the look of it this is what I went for – a secondhand LittleLife Cross Country S2:

It has more straps than a bondage club (I’m still figuring out what they all do – found a flap that revealed a whole new set earlier), but they do all seem quite sensible and mean you can adapt both for carrier and baby – up to 20 kg of baby apparently, although not sure I’d want to carry that much wriggling Junior!

We went for a lovely stroll up a sunny Wimbledon Common as a test run today – and it worked really well. It isn’t as complicated as some of its feature-endowed competitors, but I like this. I’m used to the one from the late ’70s that my parents used that was a metal frame and some probably highly flammable material, so although this is more comfortable than that, I don’t think I need the integrated stand, water pack and endless pockets of the others. I do need to play with some of the straps as it wasn’t sitting quite right. When I figure out which ones.

Our plan is to start using it on a regular basis as a substitute for the pushchair – it is more manoeuvrable, and for things like tran journeys where there will be car seats and not too-excessive walking at the other end, it is much more practical.

Importantly Junior seemed to like it – he didn’t go to sleep like he probably would’ve in the pushchair, but he was definitely happy – and fascinated by the ducks (and the pigeon that interloped – like an Englishman at a party, I thought!).

 

 

Not-just-for-mums Mother and Baby Yoga @jivahealth

A couple of years before Junior arrived I started to struggle with a really bad back – so bad that I thought I was going to have to give up playing rugby. Then I started going to yoga. And it was a revelation as far as my back and fitness was concerned. I even found a style (Iyengar) that suits someone like me with absolutely no natural aptitude for yoga at all. Despite having all the flexibility commonly associated with a plank of wood, I was able to get into (some of) the poses.

I've decided to use Junior as an excuse to start going again (time is much more precious with him around, and l haven't been able to find a class that fits our schedule) yet my trepidation at attending a “Mother and Baby” yoga class was less to do with it being “mothers” (rooms full of women are baby-standard) it was more how I'd combine trying to make my body do things in many cases I firmly believe it wasn't designed to do with managing a mobile infant.

Fortunately, Jiva Health were very accommodating and friendly – never mind Dads, apparently mobile infants aren't really the norm, as mothers get worried about them being too disruptive from the crawling stage. I was told this as we were about to go into the class, so wasn't sure quite what to make of it…

The yoga itself was good (teacher was calm and helpful) if understandably simple, and interspersed with songs for the little ones. Junior was the only independently mobile child, yet actually stayed away from the other babies. Mostly! However he hasn't had quite such a good week this week as last, and was quite grumpy and clingy for the second half – unfortunate as this was the set of poses I can actually do…and relaxation involved me and him playing with the blinds as opposed to contemplating our inner peace. In fairness to him, we had done Gymboree earlier in the morning and it wasn't the usual level of stimulation or attention he prefers.

However I felt it was worth it – everyone was a bit surprised to see a Dad, but were very welcoming, and I'll defintely be going back. If only so I can try to remember the theoretical feeling of relaxation, if not the actual feeling!

 

Great Playtime for Dads – at Wimbledon Dads and Littluns

Week 2 of APL started today and as Junior hasn’t left home in protest yet, we went along to the local Dads playgroup – the brilliant Dads and Littluns which has a group in Wimbledon Park.

I guess I was a little unsure what to expect – my fears were either that this would be some seriously Organised Fun, or it would just be me and the priest of the church in whose hall the meeting was held. Fortunately it was exactly what I hoped a Dads playgroup would be – a room full of toys, and some welcoming fellow full-time Dads. Josh and Andrew seem to be the leaders of the group, and were very pleased to see Junior and I – both either had a child there, or had before they went to school, and quickly made us feel at home.

For Junior there were a lot (I mean a lot) of toys, of all shapes and sizes, which kept him amused until he got “New Toy Overload Syndrome”, a self-explanatory condition that last affected him on Xmas Day… For me there was the chance to meet some guys in the same situation as me (as well as one lady who is obviously a regular) with no-one thinking it’s in any way an unusual situation. As I said in my reasons for taking Additinonal Parental Leave, society as a whole hasn’t quite got its head round stay-at-home Dads yet, but it should.

The group meets twice a week, 10-12 Monday and Friday – Josh said they keep going through the holidays as well, which is good, and also means they often see their alumni. Those attending were drawn quite widely across SW London, indicating how rare this type of group is if nothing else. There were other dads in exactly the same boat as me, being a week further in to APL than me. I will definitely be going back next week, as it was just, well, nice!

Special shout must go out to the little lad who is expecting a little sibling to arrive later in the year, who took a real shine to Junior, and gave him some very sweet hugs and kisses, as he wants to practice playing nicely with little babies. Awwww!

To balance out this rather blokey beginning to the week, I’m going to try some Mother and Baby Yoga tomorrow. Assuming Junior/they’ll let me!

Changes in Parenthood 1: Gymboree

Gymboree. A word that to most non-parents means nothing. And to those parents that aren't near one it still might not – but the concept will be familiar. A soft-play room, some toys, and a musically talented teacher. What more can a child need?

A year ago it would have sounded like my idea of hell. A room full of babies and parents (almost entirely mums, obviously), being cajoled into singing, clapping and venerating a large stuffed mannequin (Gymbo, a slightly cuddlier version of Ronald McDonald, below) who is used by said teacher to demonstrate.

Yet the look on Junior's face when Gymbo comes out, coupled with his obvious delight in banging the various instruments and watching the other babies is a joy to see.

My conclusion is that Gymboree is alright. It is a bit cringey (obviously there's a “Gymboree School” somewhere that teaches the acceptable way to sing as the North American drawl to some of the songs is unmistakable) but is surprisingly good fun. The pricing structure is a more to their benefit than yours, but not the most you spend on your child. It is so popular in Wimbledon that they actually have 2 venues.

And the singing is liberating, especially when yours is as bad as mine. Because you're clearly only doing it for your child no-one can complain…

 

Waiting for the adventure to start!

I’m Ewan, a first time dad. My son was born nearly 9 months ago. And incredible things have happened in those months. It has been an adventure like no other in my life. And now I’m about to do 3 further things I never thought I’d do:

  1. Take 3 months off work (assumed I’d die on the job, frankly)
  2. Look after the most amazing little boy ever as full time carer (yes, biased, but have you seen the photo?!)
  3. Blog about it all!

I’m lucky. Not only did the government introduce Additional Parental Leave about 4 years ago, I also have a partner who is happy to give up some of her maternity leave to allow me to do this.

Although I’ll not sure right now that this isn’t a cunning ploy on her behalf to go back to work for a rest! All she’s been saying for weeks is that I can expect to be more tired than I’ve ever been after spending entire weeks flying solo with E Jr.

Why am I starting this blog? Well, mostly because I want a record of what Jr. and I do to prove to Mum that I coped. And if I don’t cope as a way to help me cope!

But also I know that only 1.4% of new fathers are supposed to have taken up the offer of Additional Parental Leave since it was launched. And frankly I don’t even believe that tiny figure, as I am the only Dad I have ever met who is taking this amazing opportunity up (although like Yetis, I’ve heard rumours of others…). And with the system changing into Shared Parental Leave soon, if I can encourage a few more Dads (and Mums) that this is a good idea, then I’ll count that as a proper Boy Scout Good Deed.

I hope you enjoy the adventure as much as I think I will!