You shall not pass

m swingWay back when I was growing up, kids didn’t need passports until they were 16. I’m not sure exactly what the procedure for taking a child out of the country was, I assume you just scribbled its name on your own passport and nodded assertively when customs asked if it was yours. At some point, someone decided that this made life far too easy for parents and that actually, children did need passports after all. I imagine that person also squeezes toothpaste from the middle, puts toilet roll on the wrong way round and forgets to scrunch down biscuit wrappers so they don’t go soft.

When you decide to get your child a passport, one of the crucial elements is a photo. The rules around passport photos are pretty prescriptive, which is great, because everyone knows how great babies are at following directions.

Normally, my child loves having her photo taken. So naturally, the second we began trying to get a simple face-on head and shoulders shot of her against a plain background, she became hysterical. First she began wailing. Not crying, just going ‘eeuuhhhhh’ at an egregious volume and pitch and contorting her face without producing tears. Clearly, this was not enough of a protest, so she simultaneously relaxed all of her limbs and slithered to the ground like a large, petulant snake. Any attempts to sit her back up were met with increased levels of wailing and flopping, interrupted by furious attempts to speed-crawl across the room and plunge her fingers into an unguarded socket.

After around 7,000 attempts to get the picture and around 7,000 blurred images which would have left CPS wondering exactly how we were torturing our child we decided to come up with a plan B. Having discounted a series or preferable options, including using a picture of a stranger’s baby from the internet and divorcing so we’d never need to go on holiday together again, we hit upon a truly genius solution, used an Iphone to YouTube episodes of Peppa Pig and dangled it in front of her.

Having managed to secure a photo of our daughter beaming, glassy-eyed and positively catatonic with delight, we got the form off so that it can go sit at the bottom of a very large pile of other hard-won baby passport forms.

The unfortunate side effect of our magnificent technique is that the baby has now realised Peppa is not confined at the TV and has taken to seizing smartphones and manically incanting ‘pahpah, pahpah’. Still worth it to end a wresting match akin to trying to dress an angry octopus into a tuxedo.


Things I have learned in my baby’s first year

mooTwelve months is a strangely flexible amount of time. It’s one fifth the amount of time I once accidentally paid for mobile phone insurance for a phone I no longer had. It’s around 24 times longer than a packet of hairgrips lasts before somehow evaporating forever. The twelve months my baby has been alive seem to have simultaneously passed in the amount of time it takes to say ‘didn’t I just buy hairgrips?’ and the amount of time it appeared to take your mum to have a conversation with a friend she met in the street when you were a small child.

Sometimes I miss the floppy, squidgy, dependent newborn stage. Always, I’m delighted by M doing something new. In the past week alone she had stood unaided, said ‘ball’ for the first time, started making kissy noises and learned to imitate monkey sounds. All extremely valuable skills which will serve her well as an adult.

I’ve learned a lot in the past year. Some I’ve retained. Most will terrify me with a fresh and vigorous terror whenever we have a second child.

Here, in a list sure to be essential reading for all new parents, are some of the things I’ve discovered since my husband and I first looked down at our freshly minted child and wondered how the fuck we were supposed to buckle it into its car seat.

*You can clean pretty much anything with baby wipes. The baby, the floor, the highchair, yourself, the packet the baby wipes come in that is somehow permanently sticky
*Someone needs to invent a range of baby toys that look like channel changers, small rocks, things that fell off the dog, carpet fluff, coal and bank statements. Because fuck the brightly coloured wooden shit you bought; this is the stuff your kid really wants to play with
*You’ll waste a lot of time worrying. But your kid will probably be fine. It was only a small rock it just swallowed after all. Really though, if you break your own ‘no sugar before two’ rule, nobody will die
*You won’t get everything right. But that’s fine. And how were you supposed to know your kid would choose the precise moment you took your eyes off it to get your iPhone to learn how to roll twice in a row and tip itself off the sofa?
*No matter how stupid you think the thing you’re googling is, enough people will have previously googled it for it to autocomplete
* Someone will always think you’re doing it wrong. That’s alright though. Because there are lots of ways to do a good job of being a parent but your way is the best way and everyone else is going to break their kid
*You might not always meet your own expectations, but your baby probably won’t explode because one time, when you were so tired you stood in front of the dishwasher for ten minutes looking for the ‘defrost’ function, you decided to give it an Ella’s Kitchen pouch and a handful of Cheerios for dinner and let it watch Peppa Pig
*Just when you think you can’t possibly love your child more, it will wrap its arms round your neck , tilt its face up for a kiss, say a new word, drift off to sleep in your arms or do something else so overwhelmingly adorable that you realise the amount you loved it up to this moment was woefully inadequate.


Whole lotta precious time

MpartyIt’s been a while since I blogged. So long, that it’s now only three days until Baby M’s first birthday, which means that I have somehow kept her alive for 162 days, despite knowing terrifyingly little about baby-rearing. This is partly because since my child developed the skill of independent movement I mainly spend my time chasing her around and removing from her hands and mouth things which have the power to kill her. Because apparently strawberries are revolting and the appropriate reaction is to throw them indignantly to the ground, but anything that falls off the dog is an unparalleled delicacy.

When I’m not yanking knives from her grasp and Googling ‘is it ok if your baby just drank a little bit of bleach’, I’m usually either at work, at Tesco, or thinking about what I need to buy from Tesco. So blogging has sort of slipped off the radar for a while. However, I realised the other day that the only creative thing I’ve done in the past six months was a fairly appalling drawing of Peppa Pig, which I sketched out absent-mindedly while the baby chewed through the wax crayons I wasn’t using.

By way of a catch-up, here is a quick rundown of some of the things that have happened since I last posted.

*I went back to work, and the baby did not forget who I was
*She had her first Christmas and ate an appropriate amount of wrapping paper, tinsel and pine needles
*We are still breastfeeding despite the fact she has five teeth, which is a clear sign I must secretly hate myself
*The baby started saying words. Mumma, dada, woof and bear were quickly followed by ‘Peppa’, which makes me glad I don’t to to baby groups any more and run the risk of having clearly flouted the ‘no screen-time before age two’ rule, making me an embarrassment to parenthood
*Real meals replaced milk, and it became clear that people were not just playing some awful joke when they said things like ‘you will miss the smell of baby poo’
*A health visitor told me my baby is too small and that I should stop breastfeeding and give her custard. It’s ok, she’s dead now
*The baby did not magically potty train herself in the night no matter how hard I wished
* I realised that the teeny, tiny blender I bought for weaning, which could hold approximately half a small carrot, was actually the most pointless thing I ever parted with money for while sober
*The baby continued to sleep 12 straight hours pretty much every night. Please nobody send me faeces in the post.

Hopefully my next update will be a bit more timely.


A guide to nappy changing, as told by a seven-month-old

changecryFor reasons nobody knows, parents really like changing nappies. They do it at least six times a day regardless of how much you protest (sidenote: actually more if you attempt a dirty protest).

These people will drop everything for the chance to take off all your nice warm clothes and leave you freezing cold and exposed on the changing mat. It doesn’t matter what they’re doing: eating, talking, playing with those weird little light-up boxes that I REALLY want, getting ready to leave the house – they will drop everything if they decide you need a clean nappy. So far, I’ve been unable to determine what set of circumstances lead to them deciding a new nappy is needed, but it seems like the more urgently they need to be somewhere, the more likely they are to want to change you. Berks.

So, anyway, I’m not saying I’m a nappy-changing expert, but in my seven months I’ve already been changed about 9,765,043,654,209,810 times. Along the way, I’ve learnt a few things which I think other babies will find pretty helpful.

Firstly, the second they put you on the changing mat, start screaming. This alerts the parent to the fact you do not wish to be changed. Mine don’t listen, but I scream anyway. Surely they will one day get the point. Ideally, the screaming should be maintained throughout the changing process. It gets a little tiring though, so make sure you save some energy for nap-time screams.

Once you’re on the mat, they will start to undress you. This is when you want to start getting in a little exercise. you’ve probably discovered your limbs by now. Maybe you’re rolling, you might even be crawling; whatever you can do, do it. Do loads of it. Thrash your tiny arms, flip yourself over, arch your back, kick them in the face. Whatever. You know you’re doing it right when they end up pinning you down with one hand, trying to wrestle off your tiny little weird-necked vests with the other, and muttering things like ‘for fucks sake’ and ‘Jesus christ, you’re like an octopus’.

The next step is grabbing. The one good thing about changing time is that it requires a shitload of stuff. All of this stuff is stuff that you cannot have but really really want. Ideally in your mouth. While your parents are distracted by trying to remove your 9,000 layers of clothing, grab whatever you can. Talc is great. Nappy cream is awesome. The nappy they just took off you is the holy grail. Try to fit whatever it is that you’ve got in your mouth.

Now, you won’t be able to keep whatever it is you grab. Your parent will notice, say something like ‘shitting fuck’ and snatch it away. However, this affords you a valuable opportunity to get your feet inside the nappy they just took off. You’ll probably have done a poo, so get some of that on your heels and just kick them about madly like someone is trying to set you on fire. The aim is to make contact with as many soft furnishings as possible.

While they try to clean up, make the most of not having a nappy on. All that padding is pretty restrictive, so it’s an ideal time to have a big giant wee all out in the open. Although be careful: if your parents are not feeling lazy, urinating all over yourself will result in a full bath. Don’t even get me started on those bizarre torture devices. Although I will quickly mention that bubbles may look delicious, but are not.

By this point, you’ll pretty much be changed (hopefully you remembered to scream uncontrollably throughout the entire process). Your parent will be sighing with relief and thinking about cramming you into your car seat so that they can go somewhere silly like ‘work’ or ‘a doctor’s appointment’ or ‘baby group’. Show them that you’re in charge by either vomiting a load of milk down your clean outfit or doing a poo. Sure, it means they have to change you again, but it’s worth it.


Little discourage

sleepsuitThere was a lot I didn’t know about babies until I had one. I have mentioned this before. One of the fundamental things I had no idea about, was that it is not ok for a baby to be small. I mean, obviously all babies are kind of small; if they weren’t, they’d be born all full-sized and creepy, like real-life Benjamin Buttons*. But it is not ok to have a baby who hangs out at the lower end of the centile chart.

M is a lower-end baby; she hangs out around the tenth centile for weight (although is around the 70th for length and head size). Her weight gain has been stable, she feeds well, loves solids and is bounding through milestones. She sleeps right through the night (unless I have jinxed this by writing it down, which is totally possible) and is an utterly content and happy baby.

To some health visitors and many strangers, this does not matter. Because M does not sport enough rolls to stock a Gregg’s, apparently I should be concerned. I myself, am 5’2″ and weigh about 118lbs. Even in pregnancy, I only gained about a stone despite eating like a pig with some kind of thyroid condition causing it to be constantly ravenous. Both my brother and I were small babies. My husband is long and lean. These are also things which do not matter.

It has been suggested I replace breastfeeds with formula, try to increase my already ample milk supply, and ‘hide’ butter and cheese in my baby’s food. I have not done these things, because having your very healthy child fit into its clothes for a little longer than other babies is not the worst thing to happen since the UK stopped manufacturing the Secret chocolate bar. I myself am still able to wear clothes from many children’s sections, and frankly, who doesn’t love to save on tax?

I can also take comfort from the fact that M will eventually level out with other kids and people will stop complaining that she is not fat enough and start complaining that I’m doing something else wrong.

*Incidentally, I found The Curious Case of Benjamin Button excessively irritating because he was not born as a full-size man. However, at the end of the film, he was a baby-sized baby, so logically he should have been born adult-sized. Also, it was very boring and actually not very curious at all.


Design for life? Not really

1395985_10152002343192674_1628056030_nIt’s become clear that the people charged with making shit for babies have a big problem. This problem, is that they’ve never seen a baby. Or if they have, they’ve seen them exclusively in those creepy renaissance paintings where babies are just ugly, quite small adults. There’s no other explanation for the number of items which actually hinder the already fraught process of keeping a baby alive.

I like lists, so here are a few of the most egregious examples:

1) The Lamaze Octotunes Octopus and other baby toys.

Now, I love the Octopus. I do. He is impregnated with the scent of vanilla, you can play chopsticks on him, and his rainbow colours delight M. Also, his tentacles are delightfully phallic. So much so that we call them ‘cocktacles’ and have named him ‘cocktopus’. The only problem is that what M really wants to do is honk his cocktacles for herself. But she can’t, because they are formed from some kind of steel/plastic composite. Seriously. You need the strength of ten creepy renaissance babies just to illicit the tiniest squeak. It’s cool, because M is happy enough just squeezing and biting him, but still. If you’re creating a noise-making toy for babies, consider creating one babies would not need to triple their bodyweight to have a hope of making noise with.

2) Bath seats

I’m pretty sure the bath seat was actually designed by a baby which wanted to make it easier to consume its fill of bathwater and bubbles. Sure, the bathseat frees your hands to clean your child without having to hold it with one hand and shampoo it with the other (a process much like I imagine applying body butter to an eel would be). But it also gives the baby added freedom, which doesn’t seem such a good thing when it is vomiting soapy water down its clean onesie and you have to put it right back in the bathseat and start the whole cycle again.

3) High chairs

Have you ever looked at a chair designed to hold a child with the hand-eye coordination of a drunk chimp and thought ‘wow. It would be so great if this thing had loads of creases and folds in the seat so that little morsels of food could get trapped and even when you’ve cleaned them out 9,000 times, somehow food remains. Also, add webbing straps, because they are fun to clean’? You probably haven’t. Well the people who make highchairs have.

4) Snow suits

If you ever wanted to experience handling limbs which are simultaneously alarmingly fragile and overwhelmingly strong, try cramming a writing six-month-old into a snowsuit. For added fun, do it in front of an audience of strangers in somewhere like a coffee shop. They will enjoy discussing how you are probably going to accidentally kill your child for a long time after you leave.

5) The grocery basket on prams

Or my pram anyway. Seriously, what is this, a grocery basket for ants? Unless you are Victoria Beckham, this basket is not large enough to carry your groceries. I tried to fit a sandwich and a can of coke in it one time and it basically exploded.

6) Anything with buttons

Initially, your child will be too floppy for buttons. They will be on the back of all its adorable little clothes and your child will scream when you lie it face down so you can do them up. Eventually, it will become strong enough to support itself while its buttons are fastened. At which point it will begin wildly rolling, squirming and thrashing around as though you were trying to light it on fire the second you try to clothe it in anything at all.

7) Mittens

Mittens perform one function: getting lost. Hypothetically, they are capable of keeping your infant’s hands warm, but nobody has ever kept a pair long enough to confirm this.

8) Hairbands

‘Oh wow, this is so useful for keeping my newborn’s really long hair off its face’, said nobody ever. The one advantage to these things is that they are slightly more tasteful than drawing a vagina on your baby to remind everyone its a girl.


The crying game


This post is inspired by another blog, which is very funny.

Everyone knows babies cry. Even if you know nothing about babies (and I knew terrifyingly little the day I incorrectly jammed ours into her carseat and drove her home the first time), you know they cry. What’s amusing about babies, in the same way the government’s decision to introduce the bedroom tax is amusing, is the enormous range of reasons they cry. It’s as though there was a conference to which all babies were invited, where they decided it was important that at least once per day they cry for long enough to convince you they might be about to die.

I’m lucky, as M isn’t really too bad when it comes to crying. She’s actually pretty upbeat. However, when she does cry it still feels a bit like a teeny tiny siren screaming ‘you’re the worst parent EVER’ over and over again.

To try and make it feel slightly less like a form of loud, slow torture, I sometimes commit to memory some of M’s sillier reasons for having a meltdown. And so, here is a list of things which have made my baby cry in the past week or so:

*I changed her nappy
*I would not let her put a used nappy in her mouth
*I dressed her in a snowsuit (because it was around two degrees outside)
*I put her in the Jumperoo
*I took her out of the Jumperoo
*I would not let her put her hands in poo
*I put her in her carseat (correctly)
*the dog barked
*She latched onto my upper arm and it did not dispense any milk
*I dressed her
*I undressed her
*I wouldn’t let her pinch her own thighs
*She needed a nap
*She did not want a nap
*She apparently just felt like a cry
*I stopped singing ‘Wind the Bobbin up’
*She finished her banana
*I wouldn’t let her tear the paper animals out of ‘Dear Zoo’
*I left her with the dog while I went to have a quiet cup of tea and watch Homes Under the Hammer
*Just kidding.