Like A Duck To Water

Yesterday was my birthday and to celebrate we all went to the local
swimming pool.  Theo had been once before with his mum and her
friends, but it did not go smoothly and from all accounts he was like
Damien in The Omen when they try to take him to church.  You could
hear his screams for miles.  Consequently, we were apprehensive, but
thought that if there are two of us with him, he may remain calm.
Our preparation wasn’t the best as Theo had been full of energy all
morning and two minutes before we are due to leave, he decides to try
and sleep.  As the leisure centre runs a specific toddler/baby swim
time, we had to be there during that allotted time, which meant
putting Theo into his car-seat, preventing him from sleeping, leading
us into over-tired baby territory, which is one step away from
screaming baby land.
Changing Theo’s clothes is always a sensitive job as he likes to roll
around and hates being still.  We normally use an array of songs and
toys to distract him while he is changed, so he doesn’t get upset
during the intrusion into his day.  In a leisure centre changing
booth, this is not easy to do, however, yesterday he was so distracted
by the warning label on the fold out changing table, he didn’t care
what else was going on.  He also remained calm while we walked through
to the kid’s pool and was totally fine as we all stepped into the
water.  The centre supplied an inflated seat for Theo to sit in that
allows him to float while his legs kick freely in the water.  He
seemed a little unsure at first but soon was smiling and giggling as
me and Willy pushed him across the pool and splashed around him.  It
was a joy to see his little legs kicking under the water as he tried
to propel himself over the surface.
Not wishing to push our luck, we got out of the pool after half an
hour, of which a few minutes were spent holding Theo in the water
without the inflatable seat.  He still seemed happy enough and his
legs never seemed to stop moving.  As a joint effort, we then managed
to get Theo out of the pool, wrap him in his hooded towel, dry
ourselves enough so as not to get cold and then get back to the
changing booth with no unpleasantries.
Theo was then dried and changed, and then me and Willy did likewise.
By the time we had got back to the car and driven a few minutes, Theo
was asleep.
This led me to think how difficult it is to do things like swim with a
baby when you do it alone.  Even normal things like getting into a
changing room are suddenly almost restrictively impossible:  when you
have bags, changing bags, spare clothes, valuables, keys, your phone,
a pram and the baby, and you have to negotiate through reception,
through the changing rooms, through to the lockers and then through
doors into the pool itself, it seems like you need 8 arms.  For anyone
who manages this, they should be issued with gold medals; that is a
sport I would watch at the next Olympics.
It is something I had never considered before and always assumed that
as there are always babies being pushed around in public spaces, there
is nothing difficult in it.  For any single parents out there, I
salute you… for single parents who are good at it, I congratulate you.
 For everyone else (and that includes me), you have my sympathy.  The
thing is though, the world is more baby focused now than it ever was,
so it should be easy.  What did parents do before baby change rooms,
fold down change tables, baby friendly pubs, high chairs in
restaurants?
It is also amazing how as a parent with a pram, you approach kerbs
differently from the carefree person you were before:  in the past I
would walk along and when I reached a kerb I would step up it, if
there were 50 kerbs along my way, I would step up them all without a
second thought.  Now I am always on the look out for the dropped kerb
and I curse every approaching pavement that doesn’t have one.
You really do experience life through your own blinkered perspective
and becoming a father has totally altered my way of thinking… for the
better.

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Half A Year

Where did those six months go? It doesn’t seem like a minute since I
had sleepless nights and tear filled days. It seems like only
yesterday when our little Theo was transfixed only by our red living
room curtains and no matter how much you tried to avert his gaze from
the drapes, his focus would almost immediately return there. How our
hearts ached because he would not look into our eyes and smile. How
much pain did we feel when we couldn’t console our baby despite the
kisses and cuddles.
The journey from 0-6 months is a rollercoaster, no doubt. I have to
say now, it is a joy. Theo is a bundle of energy; rolling from back
to front and front to back, interested in everything around him and
always trying to move to the thing that fascinates him the most. He
gets frustrated beyond belief as crawling is still something that
eludes him. His legs kick out on the air as he tries to snake along
the floor, but remains rooted to his spot.
He is fascinated by our faces and as we both wear glasses always wants
to touch them and pull them off. He grabs at our noses and lips and
watches intently when we speak, when we drink and when we are eating.
We have started weaning now, which at first seemed to be a mountain to
climb as Theo was not impressed with this new style of getting
nourishment. However, after a couple of attempts, he was used to it
and enjoys every mouthful. We are trying a mix of baby led and baby
fed. This way we know he is getting food as we are spooning it in,
but also he gets used to holding a spoon and grabbing at food and his
cup. Of course this always leads to food everywhere but he is
enjoying himself, which is the main thing.
As time marches on, me and Willy also have to consider the next steps
in all our lives: meaning the day Willy’s maternity leave ends. Her
last day at work was the end of July 2012 and she is due back in June
this year, unless she can tag some holiday on to her maternity leave
and go back in July. We are both planning to reduce our hours so Theo
is only in nursery for two days, and the logistics of this are causing
headaches and sleepless nights.
The main stumbling blocks are:

1. Can we afford to live on reduced hours?
2. Does the nursery have a place on the days we want?
3. Will our employers allow us to fit around the nursery?

The nursery we want to use cannot tell us if we have a place until
early April, so we are presently in limbo. Our employers have agreed
to some kind of reduced hours for us, but there were conditions that
soured the deal slightly. Moneywise, we will also have to see.
Part of me wishes we could afford for one of us to look after Theo
full time instead of putting him into nursery, whereas the other part
thinks that being too dependent on mum and dad may have a detrimental
effect on his social skills. I just know that the first day I have to
drop him off at nursery and walk away from him, I will weep buckets.
The fact that he will only be 10 months old in July freaks me out
because he is still so small! I don’t think I left my mum’s side
until I started infant school and that felt like a big deal to me
then… maybe if I had been in nursery from an early age, it wouldn’t
have been such a big step for me as a four year old. So maybe this is
best for Theo after all; and that’s the only thing we want.

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