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You’re So Vain

You probably think this blog is about you

Jo Swinson - Women's Minister

Jo Swinson – Women’s Minister.
Image courtesy of http://www.joswinson.org.uk/

There’s been a lot of discussion in the media this week about whether or not it’s a good thing to tell your child they’re beautiful.  It all stems from the women’s minister, Jo Swinson’s, suggestion that doing so leads children to put too much emphasis on looks to succeed in life.  So, here’s my twopenny’s-worth.

I tell my daughter she’s beautiful ever day. I also tell her she’s gorgeous and lovely. Why not? I doubt at nine months’ old she has a clue what I’m saying, although some days I do wonder if she thinks her name is actually Gorgeous. But then I think she is, so what’s the problem? I have no doubt others don’t think she’s quite as beautiful as I do, so someone might as well give her a compliment now and then (every half an hour).

You had one eye in the mirror

Granted, she does like spending quite a lot of time in front of the mirror.  You see, that’s where her best friend lives. Her friend who chats back to her, mimics her movements and always, strangely, has the same toys as she does. She does like to inspect the girl in the mirror very closely, and I always tell her how beautiful the girl in the mirror is too.

You-re so vain - using any reflective surface as a mirror

You-re so vain – using any reflective surface as a mirror

This isn’t to say that I don’t complement her on her other skills and personality traits.  After all, I do want to give her a more rounded perspective on life and her achievements.  I praise her for playing with a toy well, or learning new skills like peek-a-boo or patty-cake. I praise her for sharing a toy or stroking another child gently rather than grabbing their hair. Hell, I’ll even praise her on the size of poo she can produce.  That’s how well rounded I want her to grow up.

Clouds in my coffee

So, if Ms Swinson is to be believed, I run the risk of having the most vain daughter as she grows up.  One who places far too much emphasis on looks for success. This is probably not helped by me sitting her on our bed while I do my hair and make-up each day, potentially showing her you can’t go out without some semblance of a face on . But what’s the problem with giving your children a little bit of confidence?

As we grow up, family members become our harshest critics.  No one else can be as direct, or downright rude, and get away with it.  Who else can point out your greatest weaknesses and then brush it aside with a less acerbic comment to clear the air?  My Nan liked to take the opportunity at family get-togethers to comment on other realtives’ weight. My mother chose the supposed-bonding experience of wedding dress shopping to discount certain dress styles based on my ‘awfully long face’.  Something I’ve never quite let her live down.

And all the girls dream that they’ll be your partner

So, excuse me for taking every opportunity going to tell my daughter how beautiful I believe she is.  I’d like her to be far more self-confident in her appearance than I’ve ever been.  Even if others think this is mis-guided in the long run.  I’d rather she had the self-confidence of Olive Hoover in Little Miss Sunshine than the self-doubt and general malaise of Angela Chase in My So Called Life. An odd comparison, you might think, but surely all anyone wants for their child is for them to grow up well rounded and confident in themselves. So what’s the issue with the odd complement here and there?

What do you think? How often do you complement your child? Do you complement their looks and / or other aspects of their personality and skills?

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The Practical Gift of Knowledge

When starting out on the epic journey of parenthood, soon-to-be mums and dads try to prepare themselves in various ways.  Advice from friends and family is complemented by reading books, blogs and magazines.  Then there’s always Dr. Google who can provide practical help, advice and reassurance  (and downright panic) at the touch of a few buttons.  Alongside this, many expectant parents still sign up for good, old fashioned antenatal classes.

Pregnant and clueless

Pregnant and clueless

But is the information provided by these methods, including antenatal classes, really focused on equipping new parents with the skills and knowledge they’ll actually need?

Knowing me, Knowing you

I’ll be honest and admit that the main reason I signed us up for antenatal classes last year was to meet other local people having babies around the same time.  Pure and simple.  That’s not to say we didn’t already have a wealth of friends who had recently had babies who were poised and ready with all kinds of advice as well as many lovely hand-me downs.

We decided against the ‘local’ NCT classes, as they were held not-so-locally on the other side of the city.  Instead we plugged for those part-subsidised by our local Children’s Centre,  run by BirthPrep. (The one positive contribution our Children’s Centre has made to our daughter, but that’s for another time.)

If you don’t know me by now

I’ll admit my expectations of the classes were heavily influenced by too many TV programmes.  I was anticipating several evenings sitting on the floor, supported by my husband, practicing breathing techniques in a room full of other couples whilst being shown how a baby doll makes its way out of a knitted cervix. However, it seems things have moved on somewhat, and instead we sat around talking frankly about the process of labour and birth – on chairs – like the adults we were truly about to become.

Antenatal classes - the practical gift of knowledge

Sitting on chairs and not a knitted cervix in sight!

We were lucky enough to be ‘dropping’ around the same time as five lovely couples.  All were similarly minded and with great senses of humour that got us through even the darkest moments of discussing labour and birth.  But there’s the rub, really.  Out of the three three hour sessions, two were focussed on labour and birth and only one on the next 365+ days of caring for a baby, primarily covering feeding and bathing.

When every book on the subject confirms that each and every labour and birth is different – what’s the point of focussing so much time on something that is so far out of anyone’s control?

Now, that’s not to say that the Midwife-led approach to the BirthPrep classes should or could have been any different.  And that’s also not to take anything away from the wonderful help, assistance, advice and general goodnature of the lovely Cathy who took our classes.  But I can’t help thinking that more practical advice about the early days with a newborn would really help new parents, not to mention the poor, helpless baby depending on two clueless adults who should at least know the basics!

This time I know it’s for real

Antenatal classes - WTF?

Antenatal classes – WTF?

On being handed our little bundle of joy, I think I was awash with about 5% instinct and 95% blind panic!  The midwives in the hospital were amazing in helping and offering advice and assistance, but I felt completely under-prepared for the task ahead of us.  Advice on how to wind a baby, what to do when you’re left alone in the hospital with your new baby for the first time, when and if to use a dummy, what to do when you first bring the baby home and tried and tested plans for coping with newborn sleep deprivation might have been useful.

However, I suppose in many ways, the course we went on, did offer us this help and advice in the long run.  Largely through meeting up regularly with the lovely ladies from our antenatal classes, we have all shared experiences, tips and advice over the ensuing months.  We’ve laughed.  We’ve cried (largely with laughter). We’ve shared baby sick, nappy changes and weaning adventures. We’ve eaten a hell of a lot of cake and drunk an obscene amount of caffeine.  We’re even planning on drinking something a bit more grown-up soon!

What do you think?  Did your antenatal classes adequately equip you for the challenges ahead ?  Where else did you get help and information from?  What was the best advice you were given?

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To sleep, perchance to dream?

To quote The Smiths rather than more Shakespeare: I ‘haven’t had a dream in a long time’.  Largely because the erratic night time sleeping patterns of a certain little lady aren’t really allowing me to enter that deepest stage of sleep required to do so.

I don’t know what we’ve done wrong.  From six weeks until about seven months we had the dream child.  We could pretty much count on an unbroken stretch of eight hours’ sleep each night.  Things were rosy.  We felt human.  Things got done around the house. A website even got launched.

She slept once!

She slept once!

There is a light that never goes out

Then what happened?  I’m not really sure.  There was a cold in there somewhere which didn’t help matters.  The clocks changed.  Also, she became generally more aware of her surroundings (meaning a terrible weekend’s sleep for one and all at Easter when we went away). She began waking up a few times in the night and needing comforting back to sleep.

Then, around six weeks ago, she decided instead to wake up anywhere between 3.00am and 5.00am and take at least two hours to get back to sleep, completely messing up any semblance of normality in the day, let alone a blessed routine!

Meat is Murder

I spoke to our local health professional who said upping her snacks could help.  Poor child – I think she thinks I’m constantly stuffing her full of food, and whilst she’s not aware of the analogy, I can’t help thinking of the ‘gluttony’ part of the film Se7en. Anyway, three days on and a pot belly later, she’s still waking up.

On Sunday came the crunch-point.  A two hour session of getting up to try and get her back to sleep between 4.00 and 6.00 was the last straw.  Action had to be taken.  My husband and I had to actually discuss the problem at a time other than the wee small hours of the morning (not really a great time to discuss anything).

There’s more to life than books you know, but not much more

On Monday, having emptied our local library of anything with the words ‘baby’ and / or ‘sleep’ in the title (including one about 3-8 year olds – that’s how tired I was) I read up while she happily amused herself bashing some stacking cups together.  It turns out we have created far too many ‘sleep cues’ that she now needs to get back to sleep and she needs to learn to self-settle again.  (presumably she could do this between six weeks and seven months of age!).

Sing me to sleep

The books also suggested the controversial method of controlled crying or letting her ‘cry it out’. This is something that my head tells me is a great idea, but my heart really struggled with.  Every ounce of me wants to hug and comfort her whenever she’s upset or distressed.  But no, I had to be strong.

Except here’s the clincher.  She doesn’t wake up crying! She wakes up in the night wide awake and ready to play.  She sings.  She rolls.  She practices crawling.  She plays a merry tune on the bars of her cot.  And generally she has a lark!  It’s usually around 40 minutes to an hour of this before she even starts with crying which we can allegedly then ‘control’.  All this makes for two very sleepy parents, only one of whom can have the odd daytime nap to try and catch up!

We’re now on day three of no sleep cues and controlled crying.  Last night she didn’t even cry but self settled, albeit she was awake twice (I blame the rain for the first time.  It woke me up!). We shall see what happens on night time number three tonight.  Watch this space!

So please, please, please, let me get what I want – sleep.  Lord knows it would be the first time…..in a long time.

Do you have any suggestions that have helped get your children to sleep better?  What sleep cues do you use or have you had to abandon?

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Military adages become mummy mantras

With that rarest of phenomenon nearly upon us; a warm, sunny British Bank Holiday weekend, many of us will be heading out and about with our little ones.  Whilst I’ve probably jinxed the good weather now, going out for the day with a baby can be a military operation requiring planning, preparation and patience.

The 7Ps: Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents P*** Poor Performance

While I’m not renowned for the latter, I’m quite well known for my planning and preparation skills.  I don’t think I’m the only person to ever have an excel spreadsheet with their hospital bag list, but I know of only one other.  And, whilst it all went to pot, my birth plan was typed, printed….and probably should have been laminated.

So now that the days are getting nicer and we’re able to get out and about a lot more, the pram suit is archived, the foot muff is zipped off and the legs are out!  (hers, not mine…not just yet!)

Fail to plan, plan to fail

So, apart from the myriad pots of various food items, what will I be taking out with me this bank holiday weekend?

My Buggy Buddy Sunshade - practically perfect in every way!

My Buggy Buddy Sunshade – practically perfect in every way!

One item I have recently discovered is the My Buggy Buddy Sunshade.  With the average pram-specific umbrella shade costing in the region of £20, this universal pram shade is a steal at little under £9.  It easily clips on to any part of your pram or pushchair and blocks out the sun, providing UPF50 protection.  Like any sun shade, a sudden gust of wind, and you’re fighting it a little, but I found that the My Buggy Buddy Sunshade can be easily tucked under the canopy of the pushchair to stop the wind getting hold of it.  Because it’s so easy to clip and un-clip, the My Buggy Buddy Sunshade can also be easily moved around the pram or pushchair as the sun inevitably will do.  It also packs away into a very compact size and shae, meaning it can be easily stored in even the smallest pram basket.  I also found that the act of unfurling it kept our little one entertained for quite a while! All in all, this is the best sunshade I know of on the market, and I’m glad I got mine at the start of the summer months!

Stealth attack or full-frontal – you’ve got to have it covered

For naps on the go - the SnoozeShade Plus

For naps on the go – the SnoozeShade Plus

The other must-have pram accessory in this weather is the SnoozeShade.  There’s either the SnoozeShade Original or the SnoozeShade Plus. Both are designed with maintaining nap times in mind.  In addition, both provide UPF50 protection for your baby on the go.  As it’s effectively a black-out blind for the pram, it’s great for blocking out bright sunshine and shop lights when you’re on the got but need to get your baby or toddler to sleep.  Like many great baby products, the SnoozeShade was designed by a mum for her daughter and then developed to sell to other new parents.  For me, it’s a definite hit!

Preparing for guerrilla warfare

The Totseat - for babies who lunch

The Totseat – for babies who lunch

Another great parent-designed product is the Totseat.  Whilst it looks a bit like a harness to strap your child to a seat (which I suppose it essentially is) it’s perfect for feeding on the go.  The Totseat is incredibly lightweight and easy to fit to any size or shape of chair.  It’s perfect for grandparents and other occasional carers who may not be so confident in feeding babies when out and about.  It’s also great if you have a little one who’s fussy about various highchairs, as if you know they’ll sit well in it, you’ll be at ease when you know feeding time is fast approaching! Of course, as it’s made of (fully washable) fabric, there’s no highchair-esque tray with it, which can make finger food a trial, but there are ways to improvise to get round that!

Winging it

And yet, even the best laid plans for going out and about with a baby don’t always take into consideration the one unknown quantity: your baby.  You can pretty much guarantee that they won’t play ball when you want them to.  They won’t eat what you’ve packed, won’t sleep when you want them to, and probably won’t like the sun anyway.  And that’s when you follow the most recently over-used military adage: keep calm and carry on.

What do you enjoy most about days out with your little one?  What tips do you have to share for a stress-free trip?

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