Some friends of ours recently gave birth to a healthy, baby (good job as giving birth to a toddler would chafe a bit) and they have that rabbit-caught-in-the-headlights look about about them that makes them appear as if they have recently been abducted by aliens and had the, you know, probe. Their boy is about the size of a bunch of bananas, sleeps all the time and has that crinkled up, new-born Yoda look about him and they are just getting to grips with it all; in fact, they seem to be doing great. I had to mentally lash myself to the ramparts to stop myself from imparting more advice than they’d ever remember and to smugly intone: he’s sleeping all the time? Just you wait…
Anyway, a good friend of mine called Tizer (you know who you are) is about to have a baby…well not him (because that really would chafe) but his missus, Mrs Tizer. Ages ago, another friend asked me for a bit of a heads up on what to expect, so I thought – just for Tizer – that I’d put them down before I forgot. (These are the absolute essentials for keeping them alive and stuff like entertainment, childcare and all that I’ll leave to you, mate.)
I remember being utterly destroyed with lack of sleep in those first few months with sick in my hair and baby-shite under my fingernails (or was it the other way around?) thinking: this can’t be right.
Sorry, but that’s the breaks, my friend. Kids don’t sleep (oh, if you’re going to smugly comment that your little ones slept through the night since birth and now bring you a cup of tea in the morning after giving you a lie-in then put a sock in it? Okay?). In my humble opinion, you have to read your kid, find out what approach works and go for it 100%. We used Gina Ford which worked wonders with our son but not our daughter. Gina Ford should release a ‘lite’ version of her book without all her crap advice on how to settle kids to sleep and what to do if they wake in the night; just a pamphlet with the timetables because it really worked for out son. I got to a stage when I was so tired I’d be willing to dress up as Big Bird and sing Take That songs if that would get the little mite asleep – so most of the advice contained within her book is pretty worthless, in my opinion. It kinda reads like an Edwardian Haynes manual on how to grow roses rather than how to raise, you know, kids. So, do what you need to do but ultimately stick to her timings, they’re spot on.
Oh, and you think it gets better when they’re toddlers? Dream on, fool. My 5yr old still wakes up randomly, comes to our bedroom and will hit me over the head continually until I am responsive and then say: ‘I woke up.’ FFS.
When they’re very wee, they drink breast-milk all the time BUT if t’missus cannot produce enough milk or doesn’t want to breastfeed or you want to use it as a tool to get them to sleep for longer (as formula takes longer to digest). Making formula is easy (follow instructions on the side of the box) or you can pre-measure it and put it into teeny tupperwares and just plop it into a pre-boiled bottle of water. Boil lots of water at the same time rather than per bottle as this saves time and then you can heat up the water in the microwave (some people think that the cosmic rays from a microwave will instill the water with extra head growing properties – and if you feel the same then turn off your wifi, get rid of your mobile phones, baby monitors and TomToms). Use Avent bottles as everybody else has them and you can borrow / steal other people’s kit.
Once you get to real food I suggest making your own as it’s really easy and really cheap and you’re going to have to cook their meals at some point, so why not start now? Put it in rubber ice-cube trays and then you can defrost it as and when. Be very aware of mixing hot and cold food and meats and stuff (basic germ control), but you don’t need to work in a sterile environment. However, all this leads to…
Ah, shite. The first poo your baby does is called a meconium. Imagine if you mixed melted mozzerella and honey together and tried to clean it off a leather sofa…that’s what that’s like. But it doesn’t smell. In fact, most baby poos don’t smell too bad but the second they start eating rusks and pureed carrot, baby poo starts to smell and then it starts to resemble real poo and before you know it they’ll be leaving floaters in the bath so large you’d be tempted to crack a bottle of champagne against them and fire a four gun salvo.
You can choose to get washable nappies and spend your entire life with the washing machine using more water than the fire brigade and leaving a carbon footprint of Godzilla…or you can get disposable nappies and leave a carbon footprint of Godzilla…or you can get ‘eco’ nappies that bio-degrade and put them into the trash, that goes into a landfil that leaves a carbon footprint the size of Godzilla. In my experience if you don’t want poo on your sofa then get yourself some Huggies.
Oh, if you don’t fancy changing nappies: man up.
Oh, and baby boys (and some baby girls) can pee nearly a metre in the air which although initially impressive really uses up your wetwipes stockpile.
When they’re teeny tiny lug ’em around in a Baby Bjorn (which is a harness, not a toddler Abba tribute band). But at some point you’re going to have to buy some wheels, dawg.
You could spend £600-700 of real English currency on a Bugaboo. They are nice but they weigh about the same as a transit which is, coincidently, the only vehicle they’ll fit in. The smart money is spent on a Maclaren Classic. Light, cheap and virtually indestructible. You can take them on planes and they’ll fold up and fit into the back of a VW Golf easily.
Finally, you’ll need to sell that 3-door run-around you’ve got yourself because putting a car-seat into a 3-door is a major arse ache..unless it’s a convertible. Buy a proper motor with 4 doors. That doesn’t mean you need an 4WD behemoth that you could attack Stalingrad in. Seriously, save your cash because before long buying plane tickets is going to get very expensive indeed. So, get over your one-up-manship complex, think rationally and buy a car with the biggest boot ever…because you are going to be lugging so much shit around…
The truth of the matter is that children, until a certain age, don’t give a shite what they wear. You could dress them up as characters from SuperMario and they wouldn’t blink. The only people who care are you. You want your kid to look cool and trendy – a reflection of yourself, if you will. But when you think about it, that is kind of creepy. When we used to live in Chelsea (the rough end – which I know is extremely relative) I would frequently see guys wearing those really disturbing…quilt jackets…like Barbour jackets…but quilted. They would then dress their kids exactly the same as themselves in the wierd quilt jackets (which I imagine cost £500 a pop) and it’s just….odd. My son has a style of his own – to a certain extent – and my daughter…well, she dresses like some kind of deranged Barbie, Boho, peacenik.
So, my advice is: asda…H&M…John Lewis. Keep it cheap cos when they’re young they’ll just vomit, piss and shite over them anyway. Buy one ‘for best’ outfit (that you use 5mins before ‘for best’ occasion)…and that’s it. You’ll get hand-me-downs and other clothes from other kids so just chill out trying to dress them up like some kind of mini Hollyoaks cast member.
Kids get sick a lot. The difference is is that when babies get sick things go south pretty quickly so always, always err on the side of caution. If you think something is wrong then get it checked out. If you are worried about them – their sleep, eating habits or behaviour – get it checked out. If they cry all the time – or not at all – get it checked out. Babies are pretty robust and respond to treatment rapidly so being overly cautious or protective is never a bad thing – after all, this is your job now and these new instincts that you have? They’re normally spot on.
But, aside from that, when they get a bit older they do fall over a lot, they do bump into things and they continually do really stupid stuff. They’re like drunken 17yr olds on a stag night. You can child proof you house for the obvious things (plug sockets, fires, samurai swords etc) but they’ll find something totally random and previously benign to injure themselves with. You just have to accept that anything which is not at least a metre off the floor or up a wall is going to get trashed, used as a cudgel or will hurt them in some way.
Babies are like worms: stuff goes in one end…and then appears out the other virtually the same (I have found a part of a Lego At-At in Darling Daughter’s milky poo one day…), they don’t do much and are not much cop at conversation. They can’t really regulate their own temperature, are shit at sleeping and have a stomach the size of a Hacky Sack. They also have the attention span of an ant, wildly varying appetites of a pop-diva and a complete disregard of how much stuff costs. They also spontaneously vomit, play with themselves in public and sometimes steal stuff. They will happily smear poo over themselves (or their siblings…or your iPad….or wallet), chuck food at complete strangers and endanger themselves just for fun.
Sound like fun? Well, that’s the mad thing: it is! The first time you make them laugh is almost as good as the the first time they make you laugh. You end up doing things you never thought you would do. You overcome your own fears so that you don’t appear a wuss in front of your own kids. You dance like a nutter again. You sing because it’s fun. You get into fart gags again (I know, Tizer, you never forgot your fart gags so you should be well prepared…). You make biscuits and cakes. You play with Lego again and spend more time in a swimming pool that the average Olympic swimmer. You climb, skateboard and fingerpaint. You have tea parties with bears and robots and re-read books that you loved as a child and have the pleasure of seeing the wonder unfold upon their faces.
Welcome to the journey, mate. S’awesome.