Frequently asked questions

I realise that I am letting the cat out of the bag a bit early but, at the time of writing, my wife and I have just one week until our second child is due.

As we’ve gradually told people over the last few months, the reaction has been lovely, supportive and sometimes rather amusing in its own way. So, I’ve compiled all the reaction in the form of some FAQs, plus the answers I have given – or would love to give…

“Was it planned?”

Well…as much as you can plan these things. There was no spreadsheet or PRINCE2 project flow chart because the laptop would have just got in the way.

“How has M reacted to the fact that she’ll be a big sister?”

I don’t think she’s quite clocked on to the full reality of the situation yet. Then again, she’s two and a half, so I’m not expecting her to help out her mum with breathing exercises or to know the symptoms of a Braxton Hicks contraction. She does know (and likes repeating) the fact that “Mummy has a baby in her tummy” but also asks if she and I also have babies in our tummies. I’ve explained to her that I don’t want to have this discussion with her for at least another 25 years and that any ‘baby’ I have is largely made up of Oreo cookies.

“How are you going to manage with a lack of sleep?”

I guess we’ll just have to sleep when we can and manage as we go along. The situation is going to be more complicated by the fact that our new neighbours have decided to fit a new kitchen the week after the baby is due. I’m hoping it doesn’t get to the stage where, in a sleep-deprived state of delirium, I believe that a dirty nappy through their letterbox is a perfectly sane and rational response to the noise.

“Are you having a home birth?”

No. In all seriousness, we weren’t without worry when M was born, so we are definitely sticking with the local hospital this time as well. The staff in the maternity ward were absolutely fantastic and made us feel incredibly grateful for the NHS. In less seriousness, I never managed to get to the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream vending machine on the adjacent wing last time around, so that remains a goal.

“It’ll be a breeze. After all, you know what you’re doing now, right?”

*nervous laughter*  I actually feel as though I have forgotten a lot more than I learned first time round and I’m now needing to frantically remember how to put up a crib, swaddle a small baby effectively and know what a TENS machine is (disappointingly, it is not a form of hospital-based bingo). The flipside is that there is almost a level of complacency that comes with a second child. Hence this attempt at writing a birth plan for my wife…

A plan...

“Can you afford a second child?”

It will be fine once we start sending M out for coal.

“What are you going to do with M if the baby comes in the middle of the night”

In all honesty, this is the question that is mainly playing on my mind as well. Being something of a worrier, I have now convinced myself that baby will commence his/her journey in the early hours of the morning. If, in the timeless words of Will Smith, it was ‘just the two of us’, this wouldn’t be so much of an issue but, as that’s not the case, I’m therefore fretting about what we do with M. My wife thinks it would be quite traumatic for her if we were to take her, but with my mother – at a good 30 minutes away – being our closest babysitter and no neighbours that we know well enough to call upon, I’m not sure we have much choice other than to bring her with us. The flipside is that M has a doctor’s coat and toy stethoscope/thermometer in her dressing-up box, so we could just turn the situation into a really realistic role-play scenario…

“I bet you’ll be pleased if it’s a boy?”

No, actually more scared. To be honest, but I’ve found it a bit strange (not in an unkind way) that people would assume I am more excited about the prospect of a boy. I know this is entirely my issue, but I feel as though there would be a certain pressure on me to teach my son the ways of the world etc. Those who know me know that I’m not really the alpha-male type, am terrible at DIY and never really got round to properly learning how to ride a bike. In other words, I don’t think any son of mine would turn out to be the next Chris Hoy or Bear Grylls. Having said that, I did once help to bury a dead sheep. I should probably just stop there…

“So, with two of them,  you understand everything there is to know about Isofix bases by now?

See above – hell, no.

“Where will the baby sleep?”

We have a two-bedroom terraced house so space is already a bit tight (although some space will be freed up once my wife’s planet-sized birthing ball gets deflated). The baby will sleep in our room initially so we’ll probably end up creeping around our own bedroom in scenes reminiscent of Mission: Impossible.

“What names have you decided upon?”

*tongue placed firmly in cheek* If it’s a girl – ‘Aphrodite’, because she was the Greek goddess of love and there is just SO MUCH love. If it’s a boy – ‘Vernon’, because we used to like watching Family Fortunes.

“How are you going to stop next-door’s cat from climbing into the crib/M’s bed etc?”

Well, my approach is quite unique in this respect as, unlike my wife, it involves NOT FULLY OPENING THE BEDROOM WINDOW SO THAT THE CAT GETS IN. Failing that, I have two words for you: Water pistol.

“Will you have any more children after this one?”

No – and just in case you missed that, NO. Regardless of whether we have a boy or a girl, the thought of being outnumbered by children terrifies me. Mind you, so does a potential visit to the vasectomy clinic.

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Soft play politics

Just before my daughter turned 1, I came home from work one evening to find her clambering all over the littered sofa cushions as if it were her own personal soft play area. As well as being one of those “she’s not a baby anymore” moments, it also made me realise that she now needs more exercise if there’s to be any hope of getting her to sleep at anything approaching a reasonable hour.

So, the following weekend, my wife and I decided to take M to an actual soft play area. This was to be my first time experiencing this (my wife was a veteran of four visits), so I was initially a little apprehensive at the thought of somehow making a huge faux pas.

“Don’t worry, there are rules written on the wall”, my wife said, which was part witty remark and part instruction.

But, I figured that I was just being silly. After all, I was pretty sure that I could restrain myself from performing a running jump into the ball pit or re-enacting ‘The Hunger Games’ in the climbing area.

photo

Not an actual soft play safety notice

Despite the fact that we had to book a session first, we arrived to find that there were only a handful of other parents and children there. It started well enough, we found a table that would function as our base and proceeded into the ball pit. M was a bit apprehensive about this, but my wife and I joined her as reassurance, all the while trying not to think about all the dirt and encrusted bogeys that might be hidden at the bottom. We then went guided M up the mini steps next to the ball pit and down the adjoining slide. She absolutely loved this, but started to get a bit stroppy that she couldn’t climb back up the slide itself.

There’ll be more on that later.

We then noticed that, behind the ball pit and steps, there was a play area that was currently empty. In this particular section, there was a notice stating that it was ‘recommended’ that children under the age of 5 did not go in. This was presumably because it was a bit darker, there were a couple of large, exercise-style bouncy balls within and the steps were slightly bigger. However, being the determined little individual that she is, M wanted to go in and my wife seemed happy with this: “It’s fine, you’ll be with her”, she said.

So, in we went. I held M’s hand as she looked around and I helped her up one of the steps. It was at that moment we were seen by a fellow parent, with a son about the same age as M, on the other side of the netting. The little boy stared in the direction of M and I. His mum glanced over as well. “No, Callum, you can’t go in there as you’re not old enough”, she said, giving me an extremely disapproving look in the process.

With that one sentence, I had been firmly put in my place and told, in no uncertain terms, that she did not approve of my parenting. My soft play experience was only 15 minutes old.

I whisked M away to the car area (the soft play cars, that is, I didn’t take her outside and just leave her by the front wheel of a Nissan). We played there for a little while, whilst I tried to shake the feeling that my soft play ‘parenting card’ had been well and truly marked, probably with red biro.

A short while later, my wife came over and we decided to head back to the slide. One of us would escort M up the steps and place her on the slide, whilst the other would wait to catch her at the bottom. It was good fun and the smile on M’s little face as she came sliding down was lovely. However, as I mentioned before, there was a slight snag as M wanted to climb right back up the slide, clearly oblivious to the older children who were about to hurtle down towards her. So, every time I went to escort her away, she was not best pleased and made her feelings known. Sitting in the area next to the slide was the same mum as before, along with two others. As M cried, they looked over, fixing their collective gaze on my unhappy daughter and I. Feeling rather uncomfortable, I handed M over to my wife and took a bit of a breather.

Now, I can be overly sensitive sometimes and more emotionally robust people might have just ignored the other mums and got on with things, which is why I passed the baton quickly over to my wife. She’s a teacher and used to interacting with parents, therefore I figured she wouldn’t take any perceived slight as personally as me. So, she took M to play with some soft cubes and soft animals before heading back to the slide. But again, each time, M took exception to being removed from the slide once she’d reached the bottom (her mum had come down with her). A few minutes later, my wife brought M over and sat next to me, with a slightly embarrassed look on her face. “They are really judgmental, aren’t they?” she said, subtly gesturing over to the trio of seated mums, who appeared to be glancing disdainfully in our direction.

So, we just sat there for a while, looking rather awkward, like a couple of naughty schoolchildren who’d arrived late for class and neglected to do their homework.

For the remainder of our allotted time, we accompanied M around the soft play area almost apologetically. We left before the other mums had the chance to bring out the pitchforks and burning torches, although I assume that these are probably on an extensive list of items ‘not recommended’ for soft play.

Over-sensitivity and exaggerations for comic effect aside, I appreciate that my fatherly experience is limited (this blog isn’t called ‘The Experienced Dad’s Diary’), but I do know that this parenting business is hard enough without fellow parents making you feel like you are doing it all wrong. After all, each child is different and, as we all know, there is sadly no ‘one-size-fits-all’ manual.

Still, it wasn’t necessarily a bad experience. Slide removals aside, M seemed to enjoy herself and, as my wife put it when we were sat down: “There’s a blog post in this, isn’t there?”

How right she was. As our daughter gets older, it probably won’t be the last of its type either. In terms of soft play though, I might just stick to re-arranging the sofa cushions for the time being.