Sunday, 25 November 2012

Week 64- Sinead O'Connor, bucking donkeys and prison hunger strikes

How did Nancy learn to make herself cry proper tears on demand?

She gets herself in a flap about something, and then it's like watching in slow motion as her face crumples, she has a little think about it, then literally squeezes out a tear, Sinead O'Connor style.

One of the main causes of the complete meltdown is lunch.

Breakfast is OK. Nancy will eat a few spoonfuls of porridge. Or, if she doesn't, then she'll happily wash her hands in the milk in my bowl of cereal, like at the end of a Chinese meal. And pick out the odd bit of fruit 'n' fibre to chew on.

But come midday, something changes.

Like she's wised up to what's going on.

I try and get her into the high chair but she literally goes rigid. And the best I can do is get one leg in so she's kind of half straddling the table. She arches her back and throws her head back. It's like wrestling with a bucking donkey.

This normally takes the best part of ten minutes.

And it's a daily gamble as to who's will is going to break first. If I win, she refuses food sitting in the high chair, if she wins, she refuses food sitting on the kitchen floor.

I don't want to panic, because she's no smaller than other children her age, and she's full of energy. But seriously, how can she not be hungry when she just eats individual peas and then swipes the rest of her food onto the floor?

And then the tears start.

It's just noise to start with. But as she gets into her stride. She balls her fists up, screws up her face, you can almost hear, 'I went to the doctor's and guess what he told me, guess what he told me,' as one solitary tear rolls down her cheek.

I find myself looking enviously at other children of a similar age eating, when  we're out. That sounds awful, because I wouldn't wish this on other mums, but if I see a little person eating a sandwich, or sucking on a pouch of something that often looks and smells like it's gone round once already, I want to stop the parent and hysterically ask, 'How did you make them do that? HOW DID YOU MAKE THEM DO THAT??'

Nancy can hold cucumber in her cheeks for hours, then regurgitate it when you'd forgotten she's even eaten it.

There's a very small number of things she might eat. Unsurprisingly, nothing I've made for her. It's mainly super expensive ready made stuff. Or food off my plate.

I worry that I just project food anxiety onto her every time I open the fridge.

My voice is saying 'come on darling, open up,' whereas my face is saying,'please don't be weird about food. Please don't have a bad relationship with it like me and virtually every woman I know.'

But then her resistance goes beyond food.

Nancy used to love going in the bath, and I'd say 'kick kick kick' to her and she'd splash the water around. But over the last few days, she's stood up and literally tried to climb out. Or gripped my arm and balanced on one leg, Mr Miyagi style.

It sometimes feels a bit like a baby protest Groundhog Day. Nancy's having a great time, running in between the sofa and the armchair opposite, throwing herself at them head first.

Then I open the fridge or turn on the tap in the bathroom, and everything goes nuclear.

Someone told me when Nancy was very small, not to panic about things, because it's all just a phase.

And nothing lasts more than three xx.

And I can't remember what the xx was, as I was probably panicking my face off at the time because she wouldn't breast feed, or sleep, or her poo was a weird colour.

And I'm hoping that xx was weeks, not months.

Because weeks of food refusal is not great, but we'll get through it.

Months is more like some kind of prison hunger strike.

And it's going to be me crying my face off if that's what we're looking at.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Week 63- Daily Mail readers, massive dogs and smiling at strangers

I used to love travelling on the train.

Get a window seat and a Boots meal deal. Maybe a miniature bottle of Chardonnay from the trolley if it was a special occasion. Flick through Grazia, skimming over the more heavy articles, then read Chat cover to cover.

It was a good opportunity to catch up on a snooze or have a text off with mates I haven’t spoken to for yonks.
Just as the lie in is a thing of the past. So, it turns out, is the relaxing train journey.
Nancy and I were taking a solo trip up north to see my folks. This is the first time we’ve travelled any distance since she’s become mobile.
And it has to be up with an afternoon of non-stop spin classes on the knackering scale.
The way up was OK.
We were in a virtually empty carriage, except for a middle aged Daily Mail reading, McEwans drinking man, who chose to sit right behind us, and tut loudly at Nancy every time she tried to engage him in peek a boo over the top of the seat. I kept wondering why if you hated children so much, you’d decide to sit so close instead of choosing one of the other two hundred empty seats?
But Nancy isn’t happy with just looking out of the window like she used to last time we went any distance on the train. Instead she wants to walk up and down the aisle.
For about four hours.

But after three days of an average of 5 hours sleep a night at my mum’s, due to Nancy waking herself coughing, and only settling if she was in bed with me, wedged right into my armpit, I wasn’t really looking forward to the two trains/ tube/ bus combo for six hours to get back to Brighton.
I’d also done myself a mischief on the Friday by taking full advantage of a babysitting opportunity, downing a bottle of wine with an old friend and miming to Rage Against the Machine until gone midnight. Ace fun at the time, but the recovery period was still in operation two days later.  
The first train was like a childcare dream, overall. With a party of trainee nursery nurses sat around us, and a woman with a bloody big child loving dog - I felt like the responsibility was kind of shared between about ten adults. Nancy cruised up and down the train, smiling at strangers and gripping their knees for support. Which was met with mixed reactions.
But by the second train, Nancy had rightly had enough. I’d totally pushed my luck with her by stopping off to meet a friend for a coffee in Kings Cross.
You could see the look on the faces of the other passengers when she started to grumble. But seriously, what do people want me to do? She’s one. She’s poorly, tired, and to be honest, I’d probably kick off if I was strapped in virtually horizontal to a chair when everyone round me looked like they were having a much better time.
I’d used all my tricks up too early. She’d had two bottles of milk, we’d sang all the songs I could think off, much to the absolute disapproval of the gang of 15 year olds who were sat near us, and as a desperate plea, taken her shoes and socks off as a treat, even though it was absolutely freezing.
A little girl came down the train to show Nancy her equestrian book, rosette and catalogue of show jumps, which Nancy enthusiastically ripped.
And when the girl started to cry, Nancy went nuclear.
The 15 year olds whispered loudly about ‘keeping the fucking noise down,’ and the equestrian’s mother disapprovingly hugged her crying daughter.
And I decided then that there is no good way to travel with a one year old.
Unless you’ve got back up.
There’s obviously no guarantee of a party of childcare workers and a massive dog on every journey, so next time we either take eight pints of full fat milk.
Or wait for people to visit us.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Week 62- first words, David Gray and strong-willed women

Nancy has started to speak.


According to the childminder, her vocab is now up to three words. Shoe. Spoon. And no. The first word she uttered being no. I don't think I'm going to put that one in the baby book.

Thing is, I haven't heard her say any of them.

The other morning she said something that sounded a bit like 'yes boy', in a Jamaican accent.

And then as I asked her what she thought of her tea the other day, and she said what I thought was 'shit.' But maybe I was looking out for that one, as it was crumpets and cucumber. Which, lets be frank, is a shit tea.

She babbles all the time. And I think she might understand what I say a bit.

'No' has definitely gone in. Not that she takes any notice of me. And when I say 'nose' she sticks a finger up her nostril.

But I don't understand what she's saying to me.

I was in a cafe the other day, and a couple were sat on a table behind me with their daughter, who I reckon was about Nancy's age. She was making a right racket, screaming and squirming around. And her mum, instead of getting stressed out, spoke to her softly, her daughter calmed immediately, started babbling away, and the mum said to the dad, 'she just wants some bread.'

When he came back with it, the little girl was happy and laughing. The dad commented how he wished he could understand his daughter like she did.

And I was thinking, how did you get that from what she just said? Seriously? At what point did she say bread?

I instinctively know when Nancy wants something. But that's just being her mum. And knowing her. But I can't decipher words. Actual words. We haven't developed some kind of language that only we understand.

We blow raspberries at each other. Which is kind of like chatting.

And Ben, Nancy and I sometimes all shake our heads at the same time, David Gray style. But that's more for a laugh than because we're discussing our days.

I'm desperate to find out what she's saying. What's going on in her head. Because I suspect she's going to be a really strong willed person. I can't wait to find out what she thinks about stuff. To have a proper conversation with her. And I think I'm going to have the mother of all cries the first time she tells me she loves me.

But to be honest, right now, I'd just be happy to hear her say spoon.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Week 61- asymmetrical fringes, police warnings and Of Mice and Men

Nancy's had her first haircut. And it's not great.
I now realise why my sister and I looked a bit simple in early pictures. It's because we had matching home-styled 'Lennie from Of Mice and Men' barnets.

It's virtually impossible to keep a one year old still for long enough to trust yourself with a razor-sharp implement right next to their eyes.

After attempt three of her thrashing around and trying to make a grab for the scissors, I bribed her with milk and set to with what turned out to be completely blunt implements that would probably only bend paper.
So, having tried another pair on my own hair, and cutting a chunk off which will definitely be missed as it's getting thinner and duller by the day, we went in for round four.

I've got a bit of a history of cutting my friends' hair.
And not in a good way.
It started at school when I cut my mates' shoulder-length hair into a bob, when the brief was very specifically only a trim. I'd started at one end and kept going round and up, until it was a centimetre shorter on the left, and half a foot less on the right.

This was followed by a period of self-employed hair braiding, or 'twat wrapping' as it became known, wrapping embroidery thread around thinly plaited hair, while sitting off on a tie-dye throw outside the Happy Hippy Hut in Lincoln. This vocation was cut short when the police informed me that I'd be arrested for tax evasion if I didn't stop trading.
Which was a bit harsh seeing as I only made about seven pounds a day.

But university was when I really came into my own as far as hairdressing went. I would cut and colour badly. From ginger that was intended to be blonde to green that was meant to be ginger. And fringes so short they'd take months and months to grow out.

But my best worst cut was an attempted crop, which went so disasterously wrong that my friend had to take matters into her own hands and visit the professionals. The hairdresser was so appalled at what had happened, and the cut took so long to rectify, that by the end they had arranged to go out for a drink.

Several years and two children later, they are now happily married. I'm not taking credit for any of it, but I suspect the dodge haircut may have helped in a very tiny way.

So as I confidently took to Nancy's hair, it was no surprise that she ended up with an asymmetrical fringe, making her look a tad like Marcus from About a Boy.

Never mind. It'll grow back. (A phrase very familiar to anyone who's had the pleasure of one of my haircuts.)

And if history is anything to go by, it could be the start of something beautiful.