After being woken up four times by the Littlest Cat, I have no patience for Daddy Cool coughing, chewing his tongue and wanting to lie all over me. Get off and shut up! That is all.
Friday, 28 December 2012
I haven't forgotten about this blog. I'm just low on time, energy and inclination at the moment. It comes in waves, so I will be back when the Littlest Cat remembers about sleeping all night and how nice it was.
To jog my memory when I do come back, I want to write about baby brain, routines (and why I'm scared to mention them), Facebook and going back to work. Also, if I'm brave enough, sex (stop sniggering).
Saturday, 1 December 2012
Now, I will fully admit that I'm a control freak, which probably doesn't help. However, while I'm dreaming the modest mum dreams of a shower on my own, maybe a leg shave and a luxurious hair wash in my properly cleaned house with its empty laundry basket, the other occupants of the house are conspiring against me.
Take the hair washing, for example. I put Dom down for a nap two hours after he gets up. He only likes sleeping in his pram during the day, which is fine by me. I keep his pram in the living room until after his afternoon nap, and he gets popped in there at the appropriate times and rocked to sleep (I know, I know, rod for my own back etc etc, but we'll sort out the nights first, then deal with the days. I'm only human). Once I'm sure he's asleep, I tell Daddy Cool, who is sprawled on the couch watching Discovery Max, to keep an eye on him and rock him back asleep if he stirs. I tell him that this nap lasts anything from half an hour to 3 hours depending on how he slept the night before, but on no account is the baby to be allowed to wake up fully unless he has slept for at least 30 minutes. Any less and he turns into a ball of whinge who cannot and will not be placated NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO. I go and get a lovely shower, wash my hair and emerge from the bathroom 20 minutes later with grandiose ideas of maybe even breaking out the GHDs and straightening it once it's been dried. The first thing I hear is Daddy Cool chatting. "Oh, please no," I mutter to myself, before opening our bedroom door to find a giggling baby and a happy daddy, whose smiling face instantly shows a brief covering of guilt before he manages to cover it up.
"He woke up and wouldn't go back asleep," he says sheepishly.
"How long ago?" I ask, already knowing the answer.
"Ah, about 10 - 15 minutes..."
Great. The baby slept for 5 minutes. Is there some sort of secret way that I rock the pram that only I know about? Does he have radar? This never happens through the week! Maybe it's because I use naptime to do productive things Monday - Friday, like dishes and washing. Maybe he's been sent from an alien planet to make sure I never enjoy a pamper session again.
"But look! He's in a lovely mood!" says Mat, anxiously checking to see if this is still the case. Of course, it's not. Thunderclouds are beginning to loom on the tiny brow as Littlest Cat realises that 5 minutes of sleep only feels like a proper nap for - well, about 5 minutes. Now there is something wrong with him and he doesn't know what, but he would like the issue to be resolved, please. Immediately if not sooner. What he doesn't realise is that the problem is tiredness. He's still tired - but definitely not tired enough to sleep again, oh no. That would be far too easy. I attempt distraction, blowing raspberries and hoping to stave off the faceache for just a few more minutes. He's got just enough energy to vocalise his displeasure, and grizzles for the next two hours until his body clock tells him he's allowed to close his gorgeous eyes again. Littlest Cat is a creature of habit.
Daddy Cool, his job done, lies back on the bed and closes his eyes - his subtle reminder that he is in work in a few hours and, having been awake for 60 minutes and spent a third of that time looking after the baby, has earned his own sleep. I pretend not to notice and tell Dom that it's time for a nappy change, knowing that Mat can't resist the urge to offer to do things I'm already doing. He thinks it gives him the same brownie points as actually doing things, without any of the pesky effort involved (more on that later). I call his bluff.
"Go on, then, I'll dry my hair," I say, and leg it to the bathroom, hoping to make it in time to salvage something from the slowly frizzing mop on my head. Too late - my fringe has already set itself in an odd shape that would not be achievable with a top stylist and 6 cans of Extra-Hold hairspray, there to remain until the next time I wash my hair. This, of course, will be next weekend. Thank Christ for thick, non-oily hair (actually,dry and straw-like, but let's count our blessings - it's not greasy) and bobbles.
Onto the cleaning. I've already brushed and mopped before LC got up, so Daddy Cool takes great pleasure in scattering crumbs from his sandwich all over the living room. Our Rach is 21, so is legally required to leave a trail of belongings behind her like a particularly well-dressed hurricane. All thoughts of maybe doing the big jobs, like sorting out Littlest Cat's wardrobe (how can he have grown out of everything AGAIN?) or putting away my summer clothes, maybe clearing out the kitchen cupboards, are abandoned as I realise that everything I do during the week needs doing countless times at weekends, because having three adults in the house means that two people are thinking "I'll put it away in a minute," then forgetting to, and one (me) is silently fuming along, tutting and huffing and generally being a narky arse as rooms that were tidyish are slowly buried under mountains of stuff.
Littlest Cat's grizzling reaches dangerous levels, so after a feed, he's back in his pram and I'm rocking and soothing, trying to get him to sleep. This is when Daddy Cool starts to get ready for work. This involves leaving the living room and bedroom doors open a lot, so that I consider just taping myself saying "Doooor" and leaving it playing in the hall which, apparently, we enjoy paying to heat with the energy that was meant for the living room (Spanish houses are built for summer, conveniently forgetting that other seasons happen. This combined with no central heating means high electricity bills to run a portable heater that is dragged around the house by the cable like a reluctant puppy). It is necessary to his well-being that he only ever pushes a door handle down halfway, so every time he enters or leaves a room (approximately 8,000 times over a 20 minute period), his arrival or departure is announced with a loud click and Dom's eyes ping open. He's running late, which means all pretence at being quiet is abandoned and my pleas to just keep it down a little elicit a stream of grumbles and grouches. Finally, he leaves. Littlest Cat is asleep, our Rach and her hangover are snoring on the couch, and I can start restoring my world to order. Or, I can sit down and have a good old moan in Blogville.
I realise I sound like a right old grouch. In fact - terrifying thought - I sound like my mum. Like everyone's mum. Every time I think "Am I the only one who can see things that need doing?" I'm transported back to when I was younger and lived with my mum and, later, with my aunty. I thought I was being helpful by doing whatever was asked of me. I'm sorry, ladies. I now realise that the Holy Grail of motherhood is for other people to do things without being asked. Otherwise, I'm just a nag. What have I become?
Anyway. I digress. The adolescence I'm referring to is a state of mind I've come across in myself where I started out with the kinds of lofty and inflexible ideals usually found in teenagers, only to find that in the real world, they don't quite work. (I don't mean to be patronising to teenagers there, I'm drawing solely on my own experience of being a bit of an insufferable know-it-all between the ages of 12 and about....well, it started when I was a teenager or as good as, so let's blame that. When it stops, I'll let you know). You might be familiar with the type - from speaking to and observing others I find that I was by no means as unique as I thought I was during those years. You know - "I'll never work for a big corporation/all possession is theft/meat is murder" etc etc. I know there are many admirable people who do define their principles as teenagers and manage to unswervingly stick to them throughout life, and I have respect for their tenacity (though I do think that sometimes a bit of flexibility shows a commitment to personal growth and adapting to your environment isn't necessarily a bad thing, but again, I digress. Please bear with me, this is going somewhere - it's just that it's 4:16 am and I'm not really sure where. How did I get here, again?)
Ah yes - adolescent parenting. Even before I was pregnant or planning to be (to be honest, I never planned to be, but there's a story for another day), I held very firm beliefs on how I would raise my child(ren). These beliefs were as set in stone as some of the beliefs I held as a teenager, and, I now know, just as incompatible with my own life and character.
An example. When I was about 22, I worked in a restaurant. There was a family who used to come in every Sunday lunchtime at 1 o'clock - mum, dad and The World's Best-Behaved Baby. I swear, they would walk through the door, TWBBB would smilingly greet his adoring public (mainly consisting of me and my boss), they would be seated, order some wine, wave a magic wand and the baby would fall asleep for two hours. EVERY WEEK FOR 6 MONTHS. At first, I thought it was a coincidence, but it went on and on happening. After ascertaining that they weren't drugging him, I enquired as to what witchcraft was this that they were so casually employing in public. Their reply? "Gina Ford."
I was fascinated, and swore to myself that, were I ever to reproduce, I would buy that book and do whatever that woman said. I was sold before they started in on the "he sleeps from 6pm - 8am every night, has 3 naps a day, is a developmental genius and his dirty nappies contain golden eggs" speech. My children were going to be Gina Ford-ed to within an inch of their lives.
Fast forward 6 or 7 years. I'm in the slightly surprising situation of being pregnant and happy about it. I duly get myself onto Amazon, order the baby bible, and wait with bated breath for it to arrive. When it does, I dive into it and emerge some time later, fearful and shaken. I don't like it. I don't think it will work for me. I find myself focusing on the reviews that bemoan the rigidity and lack of freedom for both mother and child, rather than the "laying golden eggs" ones. But I'm far from home, living in a different country to my family, and unsure how to be a mum without the book to tell me what to do. I resolve to see what happens when the baby is born.
The baby is duly born, as they tend to be. I haven't looked at Gina since.
I realise that I'm leaning a bit more towards attachment parenting. We don't co-sleep (Daddy Cool still smokes and is too much of a deep yet fidgety sleeper to risk it), though the Littlest Cat is still in our room. We don't use a sling, purely because the Littlest Cat very vocally eschews any form of carrying that doesn't require both hands and a genuine effort to be made on the part of his willing servants. But I'm breastfeeding, I'm reading up on baby-led weaning, I'm telling myself that Cry It Out and Controlled Crying is torture, I'm generally into the whole idea.
My return to work date looms. My angel baby suddenly stops sleeping through the night and starts refusing to go to bed after his bath. His long-established bedtime ritual of bath at 7:30, feed, cuddle, chat until sleep takes him, usually between 9pm and half past, stops working. One night, Daddy Cool is working a rare weeknight late shift, and LC just will not lie down without screaming. He falls asleep in my arms countless times, only to wake in full voice every time I lay him on the bed of nails that his bed has become. This goes on for four hours.
In desperation, I put him down and leave him in the Moses basket while I eat some chocolate and despair of ever sleeping again. I post a status on Facebook about wishing I still smoked, just to calm my shredded nerves. A couple of people comment, telling me to do the controlled crying method of waiting 5 minutes, soothing, waiting 10, soothing, etc. I argue. 5 minute pass while I disagree and explain my views on CIO. I go back in, soothe my baby and realise I'm still not calm. I quiet him and leave again to try to gather my thoughts. A minute after leaving for the second time, he is asleep.
Now I'm in a quandary. I don't like controlled crying! Is that what I just did? But all of these people, people that I respect as parents and as human beings, are telling me to give it a go. What to do?
That's when it hits me. There is no right or wrong answer. Do what works - for me, for him, for us as a family. So I tried it again tonight. It worked. There was no full voice screaming, because I wouldn't have been able to handle that. It was more "Grumble and Whinge For A Few Minutes" than anything so dramatic as "Cry It Out", really. It appears that my son actually prefers to be put down while drowsy and left to drift off to sleep on his own, rather than sung and swung and shushed to sleep. How can he be growing up already?!
It may be coincidence. It may be a one off. Tomorrow, all the rules may change again, as they have constantly throughout this terrifying, exhilarating journey of parenthood. And that's OK. I'm learning that that's OK. As a person with very strong opinions, it is difficult for me to realise that a) I don't know everything and b) Adapting and being flexible is not failure - it's survival. It's evolution. It's OK.
I don't need to be ashamed of changing my mind.
What a revelation.