Reflecting on Early Parenthoodby Gemma Campbell
My baby is most definitely a toddler now, having reached the terrible two milestone. With my first, I didn’t have such a period, although her threenager years were a little amusing. The thing was, she and I spent a little too much time apart during her toddler years – Monday’s she was with Nanna all day, Tuesday to Thursday she was at nursery 8.30 – 6 pm and then asleep in the long car journey home. Alternate weekends she was with her Daddy and Fridays she was in Manchester with Daddy or Nanna. The little time I got to spend with her was all just fun and games and I adored our little coffee dates and woodland walks. In fact, we still do these now and we still love them just as much as we did then.
My son however has had the very most of his mummy. We spent our whole maternity leave together as Mum and Baby groups just didn’t work for us and there were no Nanna days as she spent almost all of Harry’s first year looking after her own sick son. I opted for part-time on my initial return to work, meaning half days were our norm and then only a few months after returning to work full time after he had turned 1, lockdown hit.
Harry is a whirlwind. He doesn’t like being restrained in anything and never has – and sleep times are battlegrounds. He prefers nappy only to any form of clothes after the Spring heatwave of the lockdown and even just keeping a nappy on him can be the day’s challenge. There is no bedtime routine and there never has been, as he suffered from silent reflux as a baby. Even now, aged two, he determines when bedtime is and which bed he sleeps in. Mainly ours, and by 11 pm we are just too exhausted to continue the fight. He is usually scooped up and placed in his bed in his room but by 4 am comes toddling back into our room. Occasionally dragging his half-asleep sister to join the great bed swap.
His big sister had started her swimming classes by this age and was just beginning her foray into baby ballet. Lockdown and the closures of leisure centres have meant no such thing with Harry, although the return to nursery has given him some interaction with others his age and a routine during the day.
As a first time mum, I was keen on bedtime routines with stories and healthy eating and socialising with other children her age. I can’t decide if with my second I have relaxed a little or simply circumstances are so different that the focus has shifted to just keeping the little climber alive. He laughs at the word “No”, he has some kind of Danger tracker and will be there before you can blink and the counting to three method just sees him throw himself on the floor in some mimic of a headstand after watching his sister practise her gymnastics and he believes books are for ripping and so they are kept out of his way. A naughty spot and Time Out is not yet an effective deterrent and in all honesty, aged two, he isn’t always wilfully naughty. Just a little terror.
That said, as exhausted as I am with simply keeping him safe from all the dangers in the home – settees, the oven, the glass door of my display cabinet, he has been my saviour during lockdown. He has given his sister a play friend. He has also introduced her to how to be slightly cheeky. He has provided me with hours of giggles and cuddles and hair-pulling manic moments. And good old sleepless nights as he opts for starfish moves around the middle of the bed.
I miss the play dates of his big Sister’s toddler years and the soft play centre and walks around the local area. I miss 5 minutes of a hot drink in a toddler group, or 40 minutes in the car whilst baby ballet is on. I miss the seasonal craft afternoons and Halloween parties. I miss the interaction with other mums as I realise it isn’t just my child who does the most bizarre things or checking his developments against the other toddlers his age. Social media is all good and well, but most folk only post the perfect snaps these days – the happy family pumpkin carving (not a prayer with Master Harry) or fancy dress events (clothes are hard enough to wrestle him into). Not doing the baby groups has meant my Mum friends with similarly aged toddlers are really few and far between and we never get chance now to meet up, especially as here in Wales we had a much longer lockdown, then a local lockdown and now another national lockdown. It is hard, but at the same time, it has been much better than with my first. The pressure to go to places and do things is gone. I’m not packing in as many activities as possible into our limited precious days together. In fact, nowadays, we make a decision on the weather or what restrictions are in place on that day or week. And whilst I sometimes wonder if Harry is where he ought to be developmentally, I certainly don’t obsess over it like I used to with his big sister. I am a very different Mum to Harry even now compared to his big sister, who still has a bedtime routine, after school activities and a considered diet. Harry does what he wants, eats what he wants and if he wants you to read a book, whatever time of day (or night) it is, you will be reading that book to him. Thankfully, he just about finds Daddy’s voice commanding enough to occasionally consider behaving.