So it’s the start of 2012 and almost the completion of baby Fridays first year. We have decided to put him in nursery one day a week for what they call a “school” day. For those unaware, school day refers to his times of attendance, which are 9am to 3.30pm. The reasons for this are mainly developmental, as we believe it is good for him to interact with other children and get used to other environments. Also in attending nursery he will carry out activities that he just wouldn’t do at home, such as playing with sand, glove puppet shows and so on. Yes, these are activities that could be done in the home by me but REALLY? That is a very easy thing to say, but to do? It may seem like I’m trying hard to find reasons to justify his attendance at nursery, and you’re correct, I am. This is because of the previous generation to us, grandparents that is, voicing their opinions of he’s too young and poor little thing. Blaming any cough or snivel on nursery rather than the time of year is also a favourite thought to be aired by them. I have to admit though I do not like leaving him there. As I walk away from the room I subtly peer over my shoulder to make sure he isn’t staring back with those big blue pleading eyes saying where are you going? Please don’t leave me here? He hasn’t so far, in fact he hasn’t even given me a second glance. This is due partly to the excellent facilities and staff at his nursery, and partly because I believe he is an Alpha baby! A dominant force in the dynamic of his group! A natural leader amongst babies! When I return to pick him up, he doesn’t even acknowledge me. He is way too busy dealing with the trials and tribulations of his group, or posse, as he likes to refer to them. The only time he has been upset is when one of his crew tagged the wrong area of the nursery and potentially started a turf war with the toddler’s room. Luckily with the respect that baby Friday commands amongst his peers, he managed to avert any such conflict from starting. I wonder if I should send him off to the Middle East for the summer? He could work wonders there!?!
“it was Christmas eve babe, In the drunk tank! An old man said to me……” and so here it is! Baby friday’s very first Christmas. The excitement is simmering far stronger in me than it is in him. For at 10 months old I do realise that he has absolutely no idea what time of year it is. Which begs the question what to buy a 10 month old for Christmas? The temptation to go bonkers is overwhelming, inundating him with cars, trucks, soldiers and footballs feels an absolute must. However, it is certain that Baby friday will be far more interested in the packaging that these items come in then the items themselves. The build up of excited tension as he unwraps the parcels, guided totally by myself, would be almost volcanic only to be doused as you watch him sit and stare at the object in a childlike bemusement, then turn and start ripping and rolling in the paper it was wrapped in. “Here! Look!?” you say as you kick the ball around “go away you nutcase! I’m playing with this empty cardboard box!” it seems his response is. So, again, what do you buy him? Loud, banging things seems to be the answer. I would love to have thought books would have been the answer, but this dream of early academic brilliance was destroyed by baby Friday along with all the pop up and nursery rhyme books that he deemed fit for oral consumption. The only books surviving in any fit shape are the interactive ones where you have to push buttons for animal sounds or music. These books do fascinate him, as does grabbing anything, quite literally anything, and then smashing it repeatedly on the table or floor. So what present do we conclude from this? Simple, a drum kit! I believe we should harness this natural aptitude for musical percussion, and teach him to be Animal from the Muppets. What more could a father ask for at Christmas? Mummy won’t be best pleased but like I said to her “you want him to be happy at his first Christmas don’t you?”….
I am hitting crisis point now. I have real issues with baby Friday’s clothing. I want him to be a “grunge baby!” I want him to wear labels like Prada, Gucci and Ted Baker (I love Ted Baker!) but have to make do with baby Gap and Jo Jo Maman Bebe! Spiking his hair up is an absolute must, but he also has enough for a French crop a la Noel Gallagher. Footwear is not so much of a problem as he only wears socks or trousers with the foot insert at the bottom at the moment, but when he does, I feel a pair of Patrick Cox loafers coming on, and a pair of Nike air trainers for his more casual look as well as a pair of ted baker slippers for lounging around in. Is there anything wrong with this? Is there anything wrong with trying to install a fashion sense at 9 months old? Of course there is but I don’t care! And neither does baby Friday more importantly. You could dress babies in absolutely anything and they obviously would not realise, I believe this to be cruel! It is my duty as a responsible adult and parent to ensure that my child has a sense of style and shallow superficiality. When it comes to getting dressed time there are usually two or three outfits laid out. The styling process then begins. Matching colours is an absolute must. Men aren’t usually any good at this and I was no exception. I can quite comfortably state now however, that after the relevant training course provided by baby Friday’s mother following numerous failed attempts at trying to pass off my horrendous mismatches as a kind of progressive trend setting statement, that I am now the ultimate fashion stylist and should be advising on such matters on daytime television. This is all very time consuming though and requires a lot of thought, so I am not sure that I would be able to cope with styling two babies at once, and it is this thought that makes me quite pleased that baby Friday is an only child at the moment. Again this might seem a bit shallow but can you imagine that fighting that would go on over my GQ and Arena magazines? It doesn’t bear thinking about does it?
Ok, I admit it. I have a Man bag! Well it’s a bababing change bag actually. Shaped like a laptop case come DJ record bag, it allows me to wander around with nappies, wipes, nappy sacks, wallet and iPod all cunningly concealed under a piece of luggage that is the epitome of urban cool! Well, it’s not so obviously a baby change bag at least. Some people do have to ask “is that your laptop you’ve got there?” as they’re not sure quite why you would have a laptop whilst walking with your child around the supermarket. The urge to reply “yep, working on a huge project! Worth millions! Can’t be offline for second!” is incredibly tempting. But the reply with a timid chuckle is usually “no, no laptop! Just nappies!” and off I wander down the pet food aisle. It’s all about the image. Whilst I would love to think that carrying this man bag would alter people’s view of me as a full time Dad, baby, cuddles, cotton wool, feeding, dirty nappies etc, into, full time Dad, cool, stylish, sleek, changes nappies with a click of the finger, it sadly does not. At a recent family get together where a particularly blunt speaking Uncle of mine was in attendance, the question of the use of the bag was raised. After explaining the REAL use of the bababing to my Uncle with relevant demonstrations, he just stared straight at me over the top of his glasses, face like he was trying to turn me to stone and said “you f*%*ing tart!” Now I know the world is not full of my uncle’s, however, this did highlight for me in one foul mouthed phrase, that I seem have a need to try and somehow hide the fact that I carry a change bag for Baby friday, something which is really not optional. “Embrace the change bag for what it is!” is my new mantra! This does stop at me casting off my bababing and using Baby Friday’s Mum’s bag though, for that is pink, and I dread to think what my Uncle’s response to that would be!?….
I ran a marathon at the weekend, you know, as you do. It was my first and I went to Amsterdam with my running club to do it. I thought Amsterdam would be perfect for my first marathon as it is generally flat, and on that point, and that point alone, I was perfectly correct. As for thinking that this flatness would help me in achieving a finish time of less than four hours, I was very wrong. To be fair to myself, I did sustain an injury to my back during the peak of my training which had put the marathon in doubt. A fantastic effort by the osteopath I was referred to led to me being ready, well my back was ready at least, the week before we were due to go. I had not run for nearly 4 weeks and was sceptical about my fitness for it. After a couple of runs to test my general fitness I decided to go for it and booked my hotel. Upon arriving in Amsterdam I had to attend an Expo in order to pick up my race number and timing chip. It was here I realised that I was actually going to run a marathon. Swerving around the various groups posing for photos with their race number in hand, I picked mine up, returned to my hotel, and, well s”%t myself basically! Not literally of course, but I did become very nervous about it all.
The club I was out there with were having a pre race dinner, about 28 people were there and NONE of them were drinking! Not even a glass of wine with dinner. How was I supposed to consume a pre race nerve steadier amongst that lot? If I did order a drink I might as well of asked them for any spare change as well! I resigned myself to sneaking a couple of the old ‘Dutch courage’ back at my hotel. This I did, sleep I did not. I wound myself up good and proper, in fact I did not really calm down until I had actually started the marathon itself. The first 25k went really well. I’m not talking in Kilometres instead of miles because I think I’m all European, it’s because that’s how the markers were laid out, and believe me, you will remember them. 15k to go! 10k to go! Only 5k to go! And so on. At around 25k my back started to play up. At 26k I thought it had gone totally and I stopped running and started walking. For the next 3 or 4 kilometres I ‘power walked’ resigning myself to stopping as this would be the most sensible thing to do. I was looking for a metro station en route, but the desire to finish completely overwhelmed any thoughts of quitting. That and the thought of sitting on a metro with race number et al being accused of cheating OR sniggered at by Local residents. All this drove me to limp, walk, trot, jog and hobble my way to the finish in a time of 4 hours and 48 minutes. The feeling you experience when you finish is hard to put into words but it is quite simply amazing. That feeling is totally enhanced when you realise you have finished ahead of the OAP’s and Elvis’s that seemed to pass you by…….just.
Medal received, burger and chips eaten and beer in hand, we swapped stories later that night in a Bar in Amsterdam, my euphoria dropping slightly as I realised I was last out of the group. Would I do another one? Oh yes, I have already entered for Berlin next year. I had an excuse this time as I was carrying a back injury. If next year, fully fit, I end up running with the Jugglers, clowns and roman soldiers again, then yes, it will be my last.
So I recently found myself singing to baby Friday. I’m sure he enjoyed it, he was smiling back at me as I was warbling away. The tune was Ernie, fastest milkman in the west by the late, and some would say great, Comedian, Benny Hill. I am a little unsure as to whether this smile of baby Friday was in a fact grimace or not? You couldn’t blame him if it was, it is an awful song really, typical of that 1970’s slapstick humour, where shows like Benny Hill and the Two Ronnie’s always had a musical interlude of comical tunes consisting usually of sexual innuendo. Everyone thought they were great and clever at the time, but now it seems not. Well unless you’re from Albania that is? Or is that Norman Wisdom?
Anyway, as baby Friday grimaced/smiled back at me and my singing, it got me wondering as to what kind of songs are acceptable to sing to him? Particularly as a Dad (I very nearly put as a male Dad then!) Nursery rhymes are acceptable, especially the punchy, slightly violent ones like Humpty Dumpty and the grand old duke of York. I’m not very comfortable with Mary Mary Quite Contrary that is definitely Mums territory, although I dispute whether it should be sung to him at all? The nursery rhyme I like the most is Hey diddle diddle. This little ditty does however contain very hallucinogenic lyrics so sing with caution.
Research, probably by a University at some place or another, has shown that playing classical music to babies can enhance their development as it is complicated and they have to work it out. You can’t really sing classical music to your baby, unless it is Opera, and that is just a ridiculous thing to do. No it’s definitely modern music, pop, rock, hip hop, house and a dash of punk is best I think. I have turned myself into a living karaoke machine, pumping out at will a vast array of tunes. No need for MTV or Radio 1, just me and my raw naked voice for baby Friday to enjoy. Dad Unplugged. I must sound bloody awful though, unlike most karaoke nights, the audience in this case isn’t drunk.
I have come to the point where I have to ask the question What car do I drive now? Or I should probably rephrase that to What is the most suitable form of transport for me AND baby Friday? Is it an Estate car? Could it be an MPV? How about a Saloon? Or shall I just take the Bus? I have to agree without too much protestation, but with much regret, that gone are my hopes for a 2 seated sports car, well, for the foreseeable future anyway. The bus is also definitely out. The thought of jostling for position with a baby laden buggy on a crowded deck, full of people coughing and spewing out all sorts of interesting ailments for myself and baby Friday to pick up, does not fill me with a great sense of excitement. Trains are only slightly better. So it’s back to what car do I drive now? MPV’s scream Family man! Single life over! You would probably be invited to a school governors meeting instead of the pub. Estate cars are very similar, but with a dash of travelling executive about them. 4×4’s are very appealing to me, but as I am effectively a house husband and would not be travelling vast distances over rough terrain’s, to drive one of these would mean the complete and total absorption of me into middle class yummy mummydom! School runs, Exercise classes and face lifts also come as often added extras to these.
So it’s down to the four door saloon then. This seems to be the best and most practical option available to me and my ever self conscious image. A sleek black little number I think, with chrome edging and tinted windows that says could be a family man, but he could also be a hedge fund managing spy. Yep, this is definitely the best choice. This enables me to hang on to my single, child free, manhood. Driving my way to urban chic coolness! I just hope I can fit the buggy the boot?
Shall I indoctrinate him or not? That is the question. No, I’m not talking about some extreme fringe type political view. It’s something way deeper and far more important. Should I brainwash baby Friday into becoming a red blooded, partisan, Tottenham Hotspur hating Arsenal fan like myself? Before we go any further, you may think that the term hate is a very strong and unnecessary term to use for your feelings towards another football team, and you are correct. So just to clarify the situation and calm any images you may have of me as lager swilling football lout, I only use the term hate towards Tottenham Hotspur when they do well, never do I use the term when they are playing badly! I hope that clears that up?
I think it is easy to understand that football, or indeed any other sport are far better enjoyed if you are a neutral, and do not have that stomach knotting, heart pounding desire for one team to win. Take the last game between the two great above mentioned north London rivals. It was a pulsating clash that ended in a 3-3 draw. Arsenal were leading 3-1 at one point and so the final two Tottenham goals came as devastating blow that left me with a mild depression for almost an hour or so afterwards. These two goals would have been celebrated by the neutral as the feast of football that they were, and by the Tottenham supporters as almost life saving relief. So it is clear, perhaps, that I should breed an air of impartiality into baby Friday in order for him to become an intelligent lover of the beautiful game. But how do I do this? This is going to be an incredibly tricky operation to perform. I scream when Arsenal miss, score and concede goals, and laugh and sneer at the opposition when they miss clear cut chances and have a player sent off. These are all things that he will surely pick up? There was a situation recently where I thought I would test myself and watch a televised Arsenal game with baby Friday. The aim was to remain calm and to openly appreciate any good football from either side. I am pleased to report that I remained in an almost catatonic state throughout the whole game. Arsenal lost 8-2 to Manchester United!?!!….
Is it just me or does cradle cap turn everybody into a Howard Hughes style OCD nutcase? The urge to pick the stuff off is almost unbearable. I know you are supposed to smear his head with olive oil like he’s a Greek salad, wait, then gently brush his hair through, but I’m sorry that simply is not going to happen!?! I’m going to brush, and rake, and pick until it’s all gone. In the process I will drive him insane with my constant pulling and tugging at the bits sitting loosely in his hair after being dislodged from his scalp, but refuse to be brushed out. It is almost as if these protesting flakes are making a last stand and have the ability to duck out of the way when a comb approaches. All this must look like a scene from a wildlife programme on primates preening their young, although I draw the line in my obsession at putting it in my mouth like apes do.
The term cradle cap is getting me in a spot of bother as well. I have been getting it confused with skull cap, or Kippah, the name for the small cap worn on the back of the head by male members of the Jewish community. I have Jewish friends and when during one discussion I asked if the subject wore a cradle cap, It brought about some bemusement as well as the embarrassment of me having to explain the confusion. Still, they may have had cradle cap? We’ll never know for sure. Baby Friday’s cradle cap seems to have all but gone now. This is probably down to time and the above mentioned olive oil treatment rather than my OCD driven, primate like cleansing rituals, and with the cradle cap’s disappearance, also goes my OCD. It is strange how one little issue can bring something like that out in you when it clearly wasn’t there before or indeed since, hang on a minute, I just need to shut the door, now I’ll open it again, no shut it again, where’s the fridge? I need to make sure all the labels are facing the right way round…..
I am wondering if the emasculation process that I feel I’m going through is now complete. Baby Friday and myself recently met up with friends at a local indoor adventure play centre. The friends we met up with also had new born babies around the same age as Baby Friday, give or take a few weeks, and the accompanying adults were all female, mothers…..women. In fact the whole play centre was female dominated. There was a glimmer of hope though, whilst dipping Baby Friday into the ball pond, a man of similar age came and prevented his son from throwing himself, head first, off a rocking horse type thing situated nearby. Aha! Is that a fellow stranded male, battling against his own anxieties and striving to become a full time domestic and paternal god like me!?! No, he was there with his wife/partner on what was obviously a family day out. The truth of the matter, and why I’m wondering if my role of Rambo style hunter (and I was before! Honest!) has now fully morphed into Mary Poppins, is because I enjoyed this little adventure and found it to be beneficial, and the interaction between us all wasn’t always about baby stuff. Careers were discussed, and here, potentially, was another blow to my male dignity, I was the only one not going back to work anytime soon. Again I felt incredibly ok and relaxed about this (who wouldn’t thinking about it!?) in fact the last time I felt this relaxed surrounded by women talking and asking me questions, would have been at a nightclub eons ago with my confidence fuelled by alcohol. I even laughed, genuinely, when I was compared to the character Carrie Bradshaw from the TV series Sex in the City whilst discussing this blog. The future invites include a Little Baby Gym which could be interesting, but I have declined any singing, hand clapping type situations. This is nothing to do male/female gender role reversal issues, it is because I would feel a complete and utter fool doing it, and if this means that Baby Friday will never win X factor then so be it! And besides he’s going to be a footballer anyway, or a formula one driver, or a boxer, or a stockbroker, or a Special Forces commander……where am I going with this?