Silent Sunday

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Freedom!

My children are good at many things. Sleeping, however, is not one of them. Both of them drove me to the point of desperation before sleeping through the night (at 12 months in The Boy’s case, and nine months for The Baby – but only after hourly wakings led me to consult a sleep expert, the wonderful Hannah at Yummy Baby Group). Even now, an average night will see me confiscating books and bedside lights from The Boy at gone 9pm (he’s six) and waking up with The Baby somewhere between 5am and 6am.

Despite their night-time sleep evasion, both The Boy and The Baby became good little nappers in time. Once they’d dropped their morning naps, at around the 12-month mark, they could be relied on to have a solid two hours, maybe even three, in the middle of the day.

As long as they were in their cot. Put them in their pram or car seat to nap? Forget it!

While I’m entirely thankful to have a baby who has a decent daytime nap at home, I can’t help being envious of people whose children will nod off within seconds of being installed in the car or buggy. Because they have their freedom. Freedom to go out for a whole day without worrying about when or where their baby will sleep. Freedom to go on long car journeys knowing that they won’t be whinged/screamed at the whole time. Freedom to go to weddings, on holidays, to friends’ houses… You get the picture.

As soon as he hit six months, The Boy decided that he would not, repeat *not*, sleep in a pushchair. And from that point on, until he dropped his nap at approaching three, we were housebound every day between noon and 2.30pm. Vast chunks of holidays were spent sitting in silence in a darkened hotel room. And I remember one particular car journey where, despite setting off in the dark, at bedtime, with The Boy in a travel Grobag and surrounded by his regular collection of comforters, he was still awake at midnight.

The Baby has followed in his footsteps, and has refused to nap on the run since she was six months old. She’ll sleep in the car – briefly, and usually only at the point where I’m tearing my hair out – but never in the pram. And second time round, this is more of a problem. With a six-year-old to entertain, it’s simply not fair that outings have to be limited to a couple of hours max, either before or after The Baby’s nap. It’s not fair that he’s spent two hours of almost every day of his Easter holiday watching DVDs while his sister slept.

So, today, I did an experiment. I decided I’d take both children to Whipsnade Zoo, on my own, for the entire day. The Baby would *have* to nap in her pushchair – wouldn’t she?

The day didn’t get off to a good start. I was woken at 5.41am by The Baby, who then fought against sleep – and against me – for the next hour. As I lay there pinning her to the mattress, it occurred to me that if she didn’t nap after her early awakening, she was going to be seriously ratty by 2pm, and our day out would be over.

Sure enough, come 11am, she was rubbing her eyes and yawning expansively. Fortunately, the sea lion show revived her, as did the sight of the meerkats (‘Cat! Cat! Cat!’).

I knew there was no point trying to settle her for a sleep until well past her usual 12 noon naptime, so we had our picnic first. By the time we were done, it was 1pm. So out came the dummy (in public… ugh, the shame!), out came the comfort muslin, back went the pram… And believe it or not, within five minutes, this had happened:

Success! No, more than success; a miracle.

Okay, so it didn’t last long – an hour, rather than her usual two-and-a-half – but it was enough to get The Baby through to bedtime in good spirits. More importantly, it gave me an hour of quality time to spend with The Boy, without my attention being taken up by his sister. And most importantly of all, the discovery that The Baby *can* actually sleep in her pushchair means we can have a life again, without being restricted by her naptimes. Day trips, meals out, visits to friends who don’t have cots… Suddenly, the world is our oyster.

Right, where shall we go next weekend, then…?

No milk there, poppet

I’ve blogged before about how lucky I am to have had two babies who have taken well to breastfeeding, continued well beyond the recommended six months, and not caused me a moment’s pain in the process. And I do know how fortunate I am, really.

But 13 months into breastfeeding The Baby, I’m in uncharted territory. Not because this is the longest I’ve breastfed for; The Boy kept going until 20 months. But whereas he, right to the end, treated the boob purely functionally, The Baby seems to think it’s a plaything, comforter and self-service snack bar all in one.

Take the morning feed, for example. Or should I say feeds. On a typical morning, The Baby will yank down my top, latch herself on, have a few mouthfuls of milk, unlatch, climb off the bed, whimper to come back up, pull my top down on the other side, have a few mouthfuls from there, while batting me in the face, unlatch again… You get the picture.

She also quite likes to feed standing up. This is not particularly comfortable, although it must be quite comical to watch.

The second feed of the day is after her nap. Truth be told, she doesn’t need this one any more, but she always wakes in a monumental grump, and a bit of boob helps to ease her into an afternoon of wakefulness. She generally behaves better at this feed, but is still prone to finishing, crawling off, and then having second thoughts 10 minutes later.

And then there’s bedtime. I can’t remember the last time The Baby fed to sleep, but I really wish she still would. Instead, we have a good half-hour of silliness. More latching and unlatching, a fair bit of falling off the breast and having uncontrollable giggling fits (what is she thinking? I’d love to know), and, lately, repeated pointing out of the bedroom door, demanding to be taken to The Boy or her daddy for a night-night kiss. If I don’t oblige, she just wriggles off my lap and crawls out of the room to find them, Grobag and all.

I’m getting the distinct impression that for The Baby, breastfeeding is less about nutrition and more about entertainment. I wish I knew how many ounces she’s taking each day; I bet it’s not many. And while I don’t intend to stop breastfeeding any time soon, I’d prefer it if she wouldn’t shove her hands down my cleavage in polite company.

Still, at least I have milk to give her. Unlike her big brother, who had the unusual experience of his baby sister trying to latch onto his six-year-old nipple in the bath this evening. Fortunately, he saw the funny side – so much so that he nearly stopped breathing. But to me, it suggests that The Baby is maybe just a tiny bit breast-obsessed. And that stopping breastfeeding, whenever that might happen, is going to be her call, not mine.

Bitty, anyone?

Smitten

The Boy is in love.

The object of his affections is about two feet tall, with strawberry blonde hair and blue-grey eyes. She’s also 13 months old. Yes, he’s smitten by his baby sister.

The Boy and The Baby have been close since day one. Five and a quarter years as an only child didn’t appear to have affected The Boy’s ability to bond with his new sibling.

As The Baby started to become more aware of what was going on around her, her fascination with her big brother grew by the day. But it’s over the past few months that they’ve really fallen in love with each other. And I can’t tell you how happy it makes me. Because when we decided to go for a second baby, we knew there was a possibility that, with a larger than average age gap, there wouldn’t be much of a bond between them. Once we found out that we were having a girl, it seemed almost inevitable that they’d grow up poles apart. After all, I could envisage an eight-year-old Boy playing trains with his three-year-old brother, but playing dollies with a little sister? No chance.

What I didn’t account for was the chance that The Baby would turn out to be a proper tomboy. I should have expected it, I suppose, what with the house being full of boys’ toys. But at 13 months old, she steadfastly refuses to play with dolls, and instead is obsessed with balls, Lego, and brrm-brrm-brrmming cars around the floor.

It’s not just about the toys, though. The pair of them just adore each other. No one makes The Baby laugh like The Boy does – and, for that matter, the reverse is also true. Mealtimes frequently descend into chaos with the two of them screeching with laughter at each other. The Easter holiday has been lovely for The Baby, as her brother has been around all the time, but equally, it’s been a nightmare for me, as every time The Boy disappears upstairs to play in his room, The Baby stands there rattling the stair gate, whinging until he comes back down. They’ve even started to play together properly; The Boy will crawl around the house squeaking like a mouse, with The Baby following him, miaowing all the way.

As well as warming my heart, the closeness between The Boy and The Baby has definite advantages for me. This morning, after a (very) late night in with friends, I was magnetically attracted to my bed, but it didn’t matter; my children spent a good hour playing in The Boy’s bedroom while I fought a losing battle with my eyelids.

It’s early days, I know, in terms of their relationship with each other, but so far, all my worries about them not having anything in common have proved unfounded. And while I’m sure that at some point, The Baby will morph into Annoying Little Sister, I hope some of the closeness remains, especially when she starts school; it’s immensely reassuring to think that in a few years’ time, my little nursery-starter will have her Year 5 brother looking out for her (even if it does mean I still have 11 more years of school runs to do).

Perhaps this sounds like slushy mummy gloating. Perhaps it is. But take it straight from the horse’s mouth. The other day, when the husband was overseeing The Boy’s bathtime, they had a bit of a heart-to-heart. ‘Mummy told me she thought I wouldn’t like having a baby,’ The Boy apparently said. ‘But do you know, I really love The Baby?’

Just how sweet is that?

The Gallery: Easter

It was a weird one for us, this Easter.

Actually, no. It was a weird one for me. Because as a Christian, Easter is a pretty big deal. Usually, I go to our church’s open-air service on Good Friday, and then on Easter morning, there’s a family breakfast at church, followed by a wonderful, uplifting morning service. But this year, for a variety of reasons (a spot of free childcare, a visit from the other half’s 91-year-old grandmother), we spent the Easter weekend not at home, but staying with my parents, and spending time with them and with the in-laws, who live a few miles apart. It wasn’t weird at all for the husband, who never willingly sets foot in a church, but it felt odd to me.

Of course, I went to church on Sunday morning; there is no way on earth that I’d miss the Easter service. But my mum’s church (mean age approximately 75) is a very different beast from my own, where the congregation encompasses everyone from newborn to 90+. I spent the whole service anxiously trying to hush one child or another, while my toes curled involuntarily at the massacre of yet another hymn. And I utterly confused the minister by refusing to let my six-year-old take communion…

Anyway. My heart tells me that a Gallery post bearing the Easter label should allude to the real meaning of Easter, and it feels a bit wrong to post bunnies and chocolate instead. But bunnies and chocolate are all I have.

Oh… Unless you count a small girl chuffed to within an inch of her life at her new-found walking ability (even if it does involve a tractor for support).

Happy Easter, everyone.

***

This is my entry for this week’s Gallery at http://stickyfingers1.blogspot.co.uk/

Baby steps

Right from the start, The Baby appeared to be a total pudding. She was early to sit, at five and a half months, but move? Forget it. For months, she was contented to sit there looking pretty while babies much younger than her rolled and crawled around her. Seriously, she didn’t roll over until a week shy of her first birthday, and even then, the effort it required was hilarious.

It’s a good job she’s my second child. Had she been my first, I’d have been paranoid that something was wrong. But no. She’s just lazy.

Or at least, she *was* lazy. Given her complete lack of mobility, I was convinced she’d be late to crawl and walk. But actually, she was an only-slightly-later-than-average 10.5 months when she got crawling sussed, on Christmas eve, spurred on by the sight of an open tin of Roses. And now, at 13.5 months – spot on average – she’s starting to walk. I wouldn’t say she’s walking yet; to me, that accolade is only earned when a child swaps crawling for walking as her primary mode of transport. But she’s taking lots of steps on her own, walking pretty solidly when holding my hand, and showing a lot more desire to stay on her feet, rather than dropping to her knees as soon as her support is removed.

Watching The Baby learn to move has been fascinating for me, and has highlighted the differences between her and her big brother. The Boy was her complete opposite, very active from a young age. He rolled his way from object to object at four months, crawled at six months, and was up and cruising at eight months. And while he didn’t walk until 13 months either, he went from first steps to walking full-time within a few days.

The Boy’s desire to move was always so powerful that technique didn’t matter to him. He commando-crawled for a good six weeks before finally getting up onto all fours, and started walking before he could stand unsupported; he had to crawl to the sofa and pull himself up before he could step away. It also meant that he was permanently covered in bumps and bruises.

The Baby, however, is much more thoughtful about how she moves. She didn’t commando-crawl at all, but waited until she knew how to do it ‘properly.’ Likewise, she’s been getting herself up to standing in the middle of the room for weeks now. She’d stand for minutes, bend down, pick something up, bend down to put it down again, clap her hands, all without falling over, but take a step? No chance. Even now she’s gaining confidence with walking, she’d much rather have a finger to hang onto, whereas The Boy was unstoppable (if somewhat kamikaze) as soon as he realised he could walk.

Girl/boy difference, or just the difference between children? Who knows?

Although her cautiousness has made The Baby slower to get going, it’s made the process of learning to move a lot less hair-raising for me. Unlike when The Boy was newly toddling, I feel relatively confident that she’s not likely to throw herself down the stairs, try to scale the kitchen table, or run headlong into the patio doors. Of course, I’ve probably jinxed it now…

The Baby still has a way to go before she’s walking full-time, but once term starts again next week (and assuming this infernal rain stops), I know she’ll be desperate to be on her feet toddling round the park with her brother after collecting him from school – albeit with my hand to cling onto. So on the to-do list this week is a trip to the shoe shop to get her feet measured and buy her a pair of cruisers. No doubt it’ll be the start of a lifelong obsession with shoes. And it’ll also be the start of a new era, as I’m forced to accept that my baby is becoming a toddler.

I said ‘becoming,’ though. She’s not there yet; she’ll still be a baby for a while. And that suits this sentimental mummy just fine.