When Small first arrived I found myself in unknown territory, exploring the pitfalls and blast craters in NoMansLand. Rather than stumble around in confusion I needed to focus. I needed something to concentrate my efforts on: I needed targets.
Targets were safe. Targets were familiar. If I hit my targets I was doing all right. So, I looked around for targets.
The first target I set my sights on was weight gain (not mine, Smalls). The medical team had issued me with a book full of charts with lines and numbers. There were dates to be filled in, weights to be recorded, and lengths to be measured.
I could see that Small should weight x lbs/kgs by week y so I set off to the health clinic to have him weighed and measured. When I arrived a gaggle of mothers had beaten me to it and were already stripping down their Smalls. Waiting for a changing mat to become free I was feeling nervous but excited to see if I was getting things right.
The nerves didn’t help my yet to be honed and polished Small stripping skills as I fumbled with miniature poppers and buttons but soon Small was naked and bawling in the scales. A bead of sweat trickled down my nose as I anxiously awaited the results. Small had gained 1lb. First I breathed a sigh of relief that things must have been going right. Then, “Yes! In your face!! (In whose face was not important.) My Small’s the best. Na na na nah na!” All of this was of course in my head. With an air of calm I asked modestly, “Oh, that’s quite good isn’t it? Well done Small.”
Fumbling Small back into his clothes I basked in the reflected glory. The sad reality was, nobody else cared: they were all wrapped up in the closeted worlds of their own perfect Smalls.
It all become a bit obsessive [can you be a bit obsessive?]. I manically scurried back and forth from the clinic getting my fix on weights, mostly for the reassurance that I was plotting the right course in the wilderness of parenthood, but partly for the sense of achievement. It was a sad little isolated world I was living in right then.
Later there were other goals and targets to fret needlessly about:
- 1st tooth
- 2nd tooth
- 3rd tooth etc
- 1st word
- 1st solid food
- Turning over
- Sitting up
- First bruise
- First item posted in the dvd player
- First blood leakage
- 1st step
- Toilet training
I had read about when these things should happen. When they happened ahead of schedule there was quiet jubilation in the camp. If all the other Smalls reached the target first I would fret and worry. What had I done wrong?!
Nothing. I later learnt that Small will do all of these things in his own time. There was no point driving myself into a frenzy about it. Been there. Done that. I didn’t get, or deserve, a T shirt.
Food was one of the main trials. Small didn’t want to eat the amount the packet said a Small his age should. Small would shrivel and die. Small would not eat the gloop I’d lovingly cooked and then destroyed in the blender. Why did I bother? I’d eat it myself! Mmm? Well, maybe not. There was more food on Small than in Small: with his head waving to and fro in evasive manoeuvres, I plastered it on in thick layers in the hope that some of it would be ingested, either swallowed or absorbed through the skin.
Eventually I would wave the white dish cloth of defeat and clear up with one eye on the clock trying to figure out how long I had until the next scheduled battle.
Meal after meal, day after day the war continued. Other Smalls were eating. Their parents were gushing about it every time I saw them (and I couldn’t avoid seeing them because they positively glowed). Maggie was eating cheese on toast and Freddie was tucking into roast dinners!
Then one day, miraculously, as I slumped defeated over the highchair, gloop drying in clumps in my hair, Small picked up his own spoon and started shovelling the gloop down like he’d done it all his life.
Hooray! I’d done it!
No, I hadn’t. Small was just ready for it. He wasn’t before.
In evidence I can proffer the fact that when Small 1 was born it was generally accepted medical wisdom that Smalls should be weaned onto solids at 3 month. When Small 2 was born (only 15 months after Small 1) it was then accepted medical wisdom that Smalls should be weaned at 6 months. We struggled to feed Small 1 solids for 3 months, until he was 6 months old. With Small 2 (and 3) we had little difficulty. So, new medical wisdom, at least as far as our Smalls were concerned, is better.
This, ‘wait until they are ready’ knowledge was of greatest use when it came to toilet training. We ignored the pressures created when all of Small’s contemporaries seemed to be toilet trained. We reasoned that Small would not do it until he was ready and it would be even more messy and unpleasant than the food debacle if we tried to force the issue. When he was ready he went from nappies to dry pants extremely rapidly with very few accidents.
Incidentally, it turned out that the cheese on toast that Maggie was eating was really just nibbling the cheese and Freddie’s roast dinner was licking gravy off the spoon.
Not so much a parenting guide full of advice, more the reality of parenting kids and being a house husband and father, written by a stay at home dad to three children.
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