In which we try Art, Baking and Nature

It seems that Quibble is so advanced, he has managed to turn into a teenager nine years early. He is becoming whiny, argumentative and wants to watch television – CBeebies or DVDs – all the time. We had been using TV to give him ‘down time’ once he dropped his nap, but now he announces ‘I need a little sit down in the lounge’ (code for ‘I want to watch telly now’) several times a day. He is totally mesmerised by everything he watches, which makes it a temptingly easy way to keep him out of mischief while I get things done. So this month, we are having a new regime. We are going to find new ways to entertain him and get quality time together during Squeak’s lunchtime nap.

My first step was to stock up on ‘crafty’ things; I have done this the cheating way by buying a handy pre-filled box from Tesco. Last week I spread the contents out along with glue, scissors, pens and card and suggested we make something. I had, of course, forgotten that we are not a naturally arty family and without guidance we ended up with a few squiggles on a piece of card and one corner hidden beneath three or four layers of car stickers. Lesson learned: you get what you plan for.

Undeterred, I moved on to baking. I’ve made cakes a few times in the past it has never 20130512-061856.jpgseemed very difficult. Of course the discovery that I seemed to have very little flour and no eggs was a bit of a setback, but I already had my apron on, so I wasn’t about to back out now. I found a biscuits recipe for which, if I only made half, I had enough flour. We weighed out the ingredients, discussing the numbers on the scale, and I felt like a Real Mum having a proper conversation with my child. I mixed the ingredients, because Quibble thought it looked a bit messy, then he got distracted by some other toys while I finished cutting out the biscuits and put them in the oven. After snack time, they were cool enough to decorate, although Quibble got a little overexcited by the first one and tried to use all the smarties on it. And despite the difficulties, I felt we had finally achieved something that I could put a picture of in my blog.

Then I found Mama. Papa. Bubba. – a wonderful blog, although it does have two things I don’t; really good ideas for activities and a child who seems enthusiastic about them. This idea seemed pretty simple; go for a walk and collect leaves and grass and so on in a muffin tray, so I thought I’d give it a try. I should own up that I made the labels for the tray while Quibble watched a programme on CBeebies. It was hard work to get him to buy into the idea and even when he did agree to it, we had to take his batman figure too. 20130512-062140.jpgHowever, once we made it out of the door he loved it. We found all twelve things, stopped to watch some ducks playing in the brook, and even made friends with some older children who wanted to know why he was wondering around with a muffin tray. (Seems a reasonable question).

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We talked, we smiled, we enjoyed each others company. I wouldn’t ask him to chose between this and an episode of Octonauts, but he has asked to do it again another day – I’ll count that as a success.

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No worries

I was warned so many times about how once I became a parent I would spend my life weighed down by guilt. And a few people talked about the love that I would feel for my children. But I don’t remember a single person warning me about the fear.

So many things to do with a baby are potentially terrifying, it’s sometimes hard to know when to be genuinely scared. When Quibble was tiny, we used the phrase ‘danger of death!’ to refer to anything we weren’t supposed to do. It was a flippant phrase that we used to try and offset the unremitting anxiety.

Two weeks before Squeak was due to be born, I woke during the night to find I was bleeding. People later asked me if I was scared and I told them that I was mostly relieved to find I wasn’t incontinent. While this was partly true, there was a moment as I sat, having just been told by the hospital to come in immediately, by ambulance if necessary, when I allowed myself to think, ‘Please be okay,’. Just for a moment. I couldn’t articulate anything more than that, because to be really scared would have meant thinking about what the alternative might be.

Last weekend I found myself at the hospital again, this time at the Children’s Accident and Emergency department with Squeak. I had been referred by a nurse at the walk-in clinic because she had a temperature, had become lethargic and was having to put a lot of effort into breathing. The afternoon turned into evening; doctors mentioned sending us up to the ward; we were sent for an X-ray; she had a cannula for blood tests; still there were no answers. I found myself alone in the waiting area, the fresh aroma of sick on my jeans, holding a baby whose head leant pathetically against my shoulder. It was approaching ten o’clock at night and I hadn’t eaten or been to the toilet, or done anything at all since mid-afternoon except carry Squeak. I had been consoling myself that everyone was overreacting about what probably just another virus, but in a moment of weakness I began to glimpse the other possibility that she really was very ill. Exhausted as I was, I realised that if I was going to have to allow this possibility in, I wouldn’t be able to cope.

I called for Stanchion: I always feel stronger when we’re a team. He found an emergency babysitter for Quibble and drove to the hospital to bring me a bag of necessities and a hug. When the nurses came to carry out their obs on Squeak half an hour later, they found she had fallen asleep on me; her temperature, heart rate and breathing rate were all down. Happy that she was out of danger they let us finally go home.

When my friends ask about it, I will tell them about how I have now learnt how important it is to find the correct car park to avoid being sent on a ridiculously long route through the hospital. I will laugh with them about how I overheard that the boy in the next cubicle had a marble stuck up his nose. And I’ll complain that  being forced to watch so much CBeebies melted my brain. But I won’t mention how scared I got, because I’d rather not remember.

Maybe that’s why no one mentions it. If we knew how scary it was to be a parent, would anyone ever do it?