Expert Weaning for Second Babies

I felt I should really share my wisdom on this topic, having been giving Emily solids for several weeks now and thus qualifying as an expert *ahem*.

Like so many parts of having a second baby, this is nothing like the first time you did it, and can be quite a shock to your system. So sit down with a large glass of wine, I mean fresh-pressed organic orange juice sorry, and prepare for the horror. Experience, I said, experience. No horror. No siree.

To make it clearer, I’ve compared each aspect with weaning a first-born.

  • First time – you set aside the same time each day to build weaning into a calm and settled routine.

Second time around – “Oh no, I forgot to feed the baby again!”

  • First time – you carefully select a wide range of fresh fruit and vegetables, invest in a selection of food processors and special ice-cube trays and lovingly cook and freeze purees for your angel.

Second time around – you scout around the kitchen and find an assortment of fruit and veg that are probably ok still, chuck them in a pan and mash them into ice cube trays, having tipped out the ice cubes you were saving for your night-caps.

  • First time – you religiously check food safety guidelines, developmental guidelines, health visitor guidelines, GP guidelines, old-lady-across-the-street guidelines to make sure the baby is getting the right food at the right time. Finger food is cut into exactly the right size pieces.

Second time around – “Will she choke on it?” “No.” “She can have it then.”

  • First time –  you sit for hours, coaxing every little mouthful, celebrating every time the food stays in the mouth, playing all the ridiculous aeroplane games you swore you’d never catch yourself dead playing.

Second time around – “You’ve got 20 minutes. Now eat.”

Fun and games, people, fun and games. Now, where’s that drink?

Elastic Time

It’s recently been hammered home to me how elastic time can be. I’ve suspected it for a while – ever since my husband was supposed to pick me up from work 5 miles from home at 6pm and didn’t leave home until 6pm (this was about 6 years ago and he’s never going to hear the end of it). Man-time is definitely on a different scale to normal time.

But today Toddler Time really hit me. I know children have no idea of time, I knew this before having them. It’s the excuse they give for waking at all hours of the day or night (although personally I’m sure they’ve been to Parent Torture School to get it down to a fine art). The thing I wasn’t prepared for was how elastic their perception of time is.

Example: 3 year old: “I need a wee, I really need a wee. NOW!” We rush off to the toilet, abandoning work in progress, baby, pots of something vaguely home-cooked boiling over on the stove. I help child pull down trousers and pants, expecting him to leap onto the toilet and heave a sigh of relief, as he has obviously been desperate. Instead he becomes fascinated with some pattern on the floor or the way the toilet paper roll spins on the holder. Me: “Daniel? Do you not need a wee any more?” Daniel: “Oh yes I do.” And he carries on gazing around the bathroom searching for the answer to life, the universe and everything. Eventually he gets on the toilet. About 5 minutes after he desperately needed a wee, NOW.

And I won’t even mention getting out of the house for nursery. Now he’s in school nursery, not pre-school, and there’s a proper start time (although his teachers, bless ’em, are so kindly relaxed about it) and it’s almost an Olympic challenge to get both children fed, dressed and a cup of tea down my throat and into the car on time. At this point the Elastic of Time gives up the ghost completely and we move into Slow Treacle mode. Watching him is like watching one of those scenes in panto where the strobe light is on and the actors are playing to it, with exaggerated slowness.

So we’ve established that with small children, as with their fathers, time moves at at least half the speed of the real world. Except that that’s not the end of it. In some ways that would be quite nice. We’d have that cuddly stage for twice as long, he’d be cute and snuggly for longer. Clothes would last for months instead of minutes. But here, time snaps back together with a vengeance and before you’ve blinked, they’re growing out of their clothes, shoes, car seats. They’re not just speaking, they’re stringing together sentences and practically re-writing War & Peace. I keep calling Daniel a toddler, then correcting myself because he’s not anymore. I have to fill out his school application next month. Where’s that time gone? Why couldn’t that move at Toddler Time too? I hear lots of advice to make the most of this time, but it’s impossible because it snaps back and forth too randomly for me to grasp.

Never mind 42, if someone could figure out the secret of Elastic Time they’d have cracked the answer to life, the universe and everything.

A Birthday Tribute to Georgette Heyer

Well, I found out today (through reading this excellent post at Austenprose) that yesterday was Georgette Heyer’s birthday.

Georgette Heyer is probably my all-time favourite author, all things considered. She is the person whose books I can pick up at any time and enjoy, no matter how many times I’ve read them, the person whose books I would take to a desert island (probably Devil’s Cub, Venetia and Frederica, in case you’re interested), and the author I read most during my adolescence, and therefore had the greatest influence on me as both a reader and a writer. She is also the writer I would most like to emulate. Yes, even more than, say, Jane Austen. I can’t emulate her, any more than I can cook like Jamie Oliver, but boy would I love to.

Wouldn’t it be great if they adapted her books for tv? Not film, they’d have to cut out too much. But a nice, juicy adaptation of about four one hour episodes, with a lovely cast of BBC costume drama regulars (I’m thinking Richard Armitage as Sylvester or Lord Damerel for example) would see me in heaven, metaphorically speaking.

Why do I love her so much? Her language is spot on – witty (in fact downright laugh-out-loud at times), resonant, true to character. Her descriptions sing of the time and place without her ramming her research down your throat. Her plots are many and varied whilst retaining a common theme of love and marriage. Her characters spring to life on the page.

Anyway, that was my brief tribute to an inspiring author. Hopefully it will have whetted your appetite a little to try one of her books – although if you haven’t up until now, WHY ON EARTH NOT?

In other news, if you missed my little poem for Emily yesterday, here’s the link, and here’s one I tweeted for Daniel today. Again, based on life events…

Daniel Brown was feeling arty

So he thought he’d be a smarty

He took his crayons and with great flair

Drew rainbow castles everywhere…

Then proud as punch he shouted “Mummy!

Mummy, quick, come and see!”

Mum nearly fainted when she saw

He’d drawn his rainbows on the floor!

He didn’t know why mummy frowned

At the creative talent of Daniel Brown.

And a couple of questions to finish: What do you think of Heyer? And how, HOW is it possible to love a little boy so much yet spend an afternoon not-so-silently seething at him? 😉 Would love some opinions!

Are You Smarter Than A Four Month Old?

Emily began solids this week. Actually, her first taste of solids was nearly 2 weeks ago, but we put it on hold because there was a load of upheaval at home. Yes, she is young – she only turned 4 months old on Monday. And as the health visitor pointed out, “We do prefer them to wait until 6 months to start solids”. Oh, really? Not sure Emmy would agree with you. Without going into long and boring details, she is letting me know in no uncertain terms that her current level of intake is not quite doing it for her. I think if I suggested to Emily that she wait another 2 months before moving her on, she might take my arm off at the elbow. Daniel was the same.

In fact, pretty much every time we moved Daniel on, from weaning to sleeping in his own room to giving up a dummy to toilet training, he let us know that he was ready for it. When he was ready to move out of our room, his sleep worsened, improving once he was in his own space. Same again when it came to changing from a cot to a bed.

Take toilet training – I’m more than half convinced that it’s actually the child training us. We just established that Daniel was very good at using the potty and asking for it and fetching it. We were in a nice little comfort zone, and I thought I would introduce the concept of the toilet in a couple of weeks, no hurry. Daniel decided differently, and completely off his own back he started using the toilet instead of the potty.

Emily is so far following firmly in her brother’s footsteps, letting me know when it’s time to move on. I suspect most babies are the same. This is a pretty handy thing when you think about it. Most parents are completely clueless (including us by the way!), hence the market for parenting help books, the sheer abundance of forums on the net, the helpful blogs. We joke about needing an instruction manual when we bring our newborn home but inside we’re shouting “Please give us an instruction manual!” Sweating madly, convinced we’re going to end up causing untold damage to this tiny little being because WE DON’T KNOW WHAT WE’RE DOING. And we cling onto the moment that we were in 5 minutes ago because the thought of the future, of them growing up and not needing us any more, is too scary. But luckily, for them anyway, babies are smarter than us. They know what they need, and when, and they find ways of telling us. I’m not ready for Emmy to start weaning. I felt like telling the health visitor that. “Do you think I WANT to start solids? Do I want to spend hours cooking and pureeing veg and freezing it in little blocks and persuading her that peas are actually delicious? Do I want to start the process of moving my daughter away from the intense closeness that breastfeeding brings, knowing that I won’t get that again?”

But Emily, my four month old baby girl, is smarter than me, and smarter than the expert. She knows she is big and strong, and needing more. So I’ll listen to her, and not the experts, thank you so much for the advice.

Letter To My Children

Dear Daniel and Emily

At the minute you are nearly 3 years old and just over one month respectively. You are still my babies. You will always be my babies, although I will try to stop myself calling you that when your friends are round from school. Probably.

But at some point you are going to grow up. You will go to school, then secondary school. You will go to university, and/or get a job. You will make friends, fall in love, and fall out again. One day you will meet the person you are going to spend the rest of your life with; you might know this as soon as you see them, or the realisation might grow on you gradually.

And you might have children of your own. I hope you do – there is nothing like the feeling of holding your baby in your arms. It isn’t all joy; like the rest of life you have times when you think it can’t get any better but also times when you feel you can’t cope. No other experience in your life dominates your day to day existence in the same way. As I type this, I’m using one hand because you, Emily, are suffering from wind and need the comfort of being held constantly. I’m using half my attention because you, Daniel, are talking to me and expecting me to have answers. I suspect that’s the way it will be forever – some part of me, physical or mental, will always be on high alert for when you need me. (Do remember that, by the way? We will always be there when you need us.)

So, your time won’t be yours anymore. You will have many days, like today, when you feel so tired you are actually disconnected from the world, running on a very primitive auto-pilot through a thick fog. You will be exhausted and emotional, impatient and intolerant. You will have days of fondly remembering a time when you didn’t eat a cold dinner or sit up with a sick child all night. Your heart will ache when your children are ill or in pain – again, I have a feeling that will never change. You will feel dread at that first squawking cry, followed immediately by guilt for feeling the dread. You won’t want to close your eyes, because opening them again in ten minutes will feel so much worse.

You need to know these things. You need to know it’s normal to feel this way, because when you’re in the middle of it you won’t feel normal, and you’ll be afraid that you’ll never be normal again. And you need to know when you are going through it that we went through it all with both of you, and we’re waiting right there with a cuddle and a cup of tea.

But then your baby girl will give you her first smile. Your little boy will put his arms around you and tell you he loves you. You’ll look at your child and see all the aspects of your partner that you love the most. And you wouldn’t have it any other way.

With all my love
Mummy x