Monthly Archives: August 2008

Nine months – Mobilitas

Katie's first milestone in her ninth month, only a few days into it, was to learn how to sit herself up from lying flat.  We would probably have greeted this new accomplishment on the part of our little girl with more joy if we had been organised enough to get round to letting her cot base down at an earlier stage.  Of course, we hadn't; weeks of saying that we really should do it, and there we were with a cot base still high enough that sitting up too close to the edge would put Katie at risk of toppling head first over the side. 

Fortunately I managed to get her to sleep that evening without mishap, and Barry then decided that, under the circumstances, he had better not wait any longer to let her cot base down to the next level.  The small matter of Katie being asleep in said cot at the time was one he brushed aside as unimportant; he was convinced that we could do it without waking her.  This, of course, proved not to be true.  However, she took it quite impressively in her stride to be woken up by the mattress under her swaying and dipping in odd directions and to find Mummy and Daddy hard at work dismantling her cot around her. We tried to keep the atmosphere of all this appropriate to night-time, the way the books tell you you should do if you're doing anything with your child in the middle of the night (I think they were actually talking about feeds and nappy changes rather than carpentry on the child's bed, but, what the hell, I figured it was still applicable); accordingly, we were working by torchlight and Barry's unflattering opinions on the intelligence level of furniture designers who placed screws the way that these screws had been placed were delivered in a whisper.  Katie lay there watching us in sleepy wonderment, with the occasional huge smile at the thought that Mummy! and Daddy! were both here, which meant that, however incomprehensible the proceedings were, they had to be basically good.

Interestingly, she sits herself up without needing to use her hands.  She can simply swing her upper body around and up to the vertical, something my mother says she's never seen a baby do before.  I credit it to the build-up of her abs from all the leg lifts she did in her early months.  (She would actually do leg lifts in her sleep, raising both legs and then letting them drop on the mattress with repetitive thuds.  From the room below, it could sound quite extraordinarily like someone walking around upstairs.)

As exciting as all this was, it was still beaten into second place for Most Exciting Milestone Of The Month a couple of weeks later when Katie learned to crawl.  Between the rolling, the wriggling, and the sitting herself up and lying down at a different angle (it's surprising how much ground you can cover incrementally by doing this), she was already fairly mobile, but, half way through her ninth month, she finally got the hang of the traditional hands-and-knees forward motion.  Which of course means that life just got a whole lot more awkward, and we're now spending a lot of time putting books back on the lower shelves in the living room and dining room, and putting rubbish back into the bin when she tips it over, and washing her hands because she's got into who-knows-what, but, in spite of all of this, I'm particularly thrilled with this milestone.  There is something about the ability to move purposefully from one thing to another that seems particularly significant as a developmental leap.

After that, it seems quite anti-climatic to record that this was also the month when her third tooth poked its way through the gums, but I add it in the interests of completeness. Top right of centre.

A more significant event, at the very end of the month, was her introduction to her heritage of geekdom.  Our baby girl has now attended her first convention.  There is a remote chance that I may actually find time to write a proper post about how the weekend went; in the meantime, I shall record that Katie's main experience of the weekend consisted of sitting in a sling looking out at the world while Mummy chased after Jamie, and that she was a huge hit with everyone.  Since I hadn't got around to posting anything on the on-line group for, um, a few years, many people were quite surprised to see that I had added to my number of offspring since they'd seen me last.  Emms, of course, was up to date with the current child count, but hadn't seen us for over a year and was quite surprised by how big Katie was by now.  "I thought she'd be smaller!" she told me, in one of our few brief snatches of conversation before I had to leap up to chase Jamie yet again.  "She was," I assured her.  "You missed that bit."

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Fulcrum

If the calculations I made with a little help from this website are correct, today is the day that Katie has spent as much of her life outside the womb as she has in it.

From here on… Actually, I can't think of anything with which to finish that sentence that doesn't sound boring or clich├ęd.  I just felt that one sentence wasn't enough for a blog post, and the above milestone sounded worthy of at least a passing mention.

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Diagnosis

We have had the Interview Of The Three Hundred Questions, on which I hope to write a full post in due course ('due course', of course, potentially meaning anything within the next several months).  However, the bottom line for now is that we have indeed managed to get official confirmation of what it has been becoming increasingly obvious for the past several months is going to end up being the diagnosis; now that the votes have been collected and the boxes ticked, Jamie has indeed been diagnosed with a mild form of autistic spectrum disorder.

I'm pleased to have that sorted out.  Although in one way it's only confirming what we've already known for some time, any thoughts or discussion of Jamie's ASD have hitherto been encumbered with that untidy straggling thread of disclaimer ("Well, probably ASDalthoughwe'restillwaitingfortheofficialdiagnosis"), and it's nice to have that neatened up.  On a more practical note, I think we've reached the stage where an Official Diagnosis is going to be useful.  So far, Jamie has done nicely with no input more specialised than what we and his nursery provide for him, but I do think that as he gets closer to school age he's likely to benefit from having something more, and having a diagnosis is going to be an important step in looking at/choosing from whatever the possible range of options in the Something More category may be.

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Balancing

Libby Purves, author of the wonderful How Not To Be A Perfect Mother, says that the first few months of having two children are particularly chaotic because of (among other reasons) the differences in their developmental stage with regard to routine; one child in an age group that thrives on a regular, predictable daily routine, and one in an age group for whom body clocks are a thing of the future, who still live what Purves describes as a ‘hippie, freewheeling, unpredictable’ lifestyle. 

While I think the first few months after having a baby are going to be chaotic regardless of the existence of any older children, I have to say that I actually found the two different sets of needs much easier to co-ordinate in the first few months.  Since Katie had no body clock to tell her that she should be sleeping at any specific times or for any specific lengths of time, and was small enough to drop off easily in my arms and get the naps she needed there, it was fairly straightforward to fit her daily activities in around Jamie’s.  I just hauled her round from room to room after him, popping her on the breast when I thought she might be hungry and putting her down on the big beanbag in his room when I needed to change or dress him.  (She wasn’t thrilled about that last, but fortunately I’m past the stage of feeling it’s my job to keep a baby happy every minute, and figured she could live with being upset for the time it took me to change one nappy.  Incidentally, I have an endearing memory of Jamie dancing round the room on one occasion as Katie howled and I gave my hands a quick post-nappy-change wash, reciting “Oh, you want me to feed you!  I will pick you up in a minute!”  It took me a moment to realise he was repeating something he’d heard me say to her in similar circumstances.) 

Things did get chaotic on the two evenings each week that it was my turn to give Jamie his bath, as I struggled to persuade Katie that she could interrupt her evening feeding marathon for long enough to settle quietly with Barry for a bit and then to persuade Jamie to progress through the teeth-bath-bed routine at speed so that I could get back to Katie before she started screaming to be nursed again; neither child, I might add, was at all happy to go quietly along with plans.  And then there were those moments of trying to haul Jamie off things one-handed while holding Katie in the crook of the other arm.  But, for the most part, it all seemed reasonably workable.  Of course, I’m sure there is a certain rose tint to my glasses as I look back from a safe distance of a few months, and I doubt I was quite so sanguine about it all at the time.  Still, even allowing for that… sure, it was difficult, but manageably so.  And, of course, since I was also lucky enough to have a baby who was willing to take one long nap a day if fed, swaddled and settled in a darkened room, the lack of body clock came with a huge advantage; since she didn’t mind when she took that nap, I could simply time it for whenever Jamie took his and thereby give myself an opportunity to take one myself.  And, my goodness, but that was bliss.

Now, however, balancing their needs is a whole different matter.  These days, Katie needs two definite naps plus a reasonably specific bedtime, and she’s too big to sleep comfortably in my arms for any length of time.  Nor is she a baby who falls asleep with great ease.  Ideally, she needs a period of nursing/cuddling/general settling in a quiet darkened room prior to each of those three sleeps.  Especially at bedtime, when she will fight off any suggestions of sleep with vehement howls.  There’s also the matter of bathtime; in the first few months I didn’t feel she needed anything more in the way of cleaning than a quick sponge-down of her face and neck every day to get the dried milk off and a once-weekly bath to pick up anything that had been missed, but, these days, I really feel she ought to be getting proper immersion in a body of warm water before going to bed. And, of course, I’m also now supposed to be giving her more in the way of one-to-one interaction than just a few minutes here and there while I feed her or change her nappy; according to Sally Ward’s Baby Talk, I should ideally be spending half an hour of uninterrupted, undistracted time with her a day to chat away to her about whatever she’s doing, and, while I normally dismiss this sort of thing as yet another guilt-inducing gimmick from the Parents Should Be Superbeings movement, there does in this case seem to be some decent-quality evidence that this is markedly beneficial in terms of language, and general, development. 

So… what do all the activities mentioned in the above paragraph have in common?  None of them are brilliantly compatible with taking care of a very loud and energetic three-year-old who has not yet reached the stage of being able to grasp such concepts as “If you can play by yourself for half an hour while I get Katie to bed, you can have my undivided attention after that”, and who can wreak havoc if left unsupervised for too long.  That’s what they all have in common.

I manage.  I manage in an endless awkward muddled-together string of tiny copings and makeshifts, but that’s still managing.  Katie generally wakes up some time between seven and eight, whereas Jamie stays up to have dinner with us and hence can sleep later; that gives me a chance to fit in a bit of uninterrupted time with her early in the day and maybe even get her down for her first nap before going in to him.  At other times he can be distracted with the computer or television.  Occasionally, I have to put up with Jamie joining in with Katie’s bathtime (which did get to be slightly less hassle once I thought to instigate a no-climbing-in-the-bath-with-clothes-on rule – at least now he’s easier to dry off once he gets wet).  I’ll keep Katie up past the time she really needs to get to bed so that I can try to get Jamie engrossed enough in the CBeebies website that I can feel comfortable about leaving him.  I’ll rush her through her bath and take her downstairs to put night clothes on her so that I can check on what he’s doing.  I’ll go back and forth between the two of them, Katie crying in her cot and Jamie playing on the computer or running round the living room, dividing myself up, making compromises, a few minutes for one, a few minutes for the other, back and forth, trying not to leave either of them for too long.  I bend and wiggle the routine this way and that, trying to make each bit of it fit, each day.  I juggle and joggle and jiggle, getting everything in.

It won’t be this way forever.  Nothing in parenting is; you get by, you manoeuvre your way through each stage until it’s over, like a person picking his way across a floor so cluttered with toys and Lego bricks that almost no clear space is left.  Eventually, Jamie will get old enough that I can routinely leave him on his own for a half hour or so.  Eventually, Katie will get old enough for them both to be on the same routine.  Eventually – a long time eventually – both of them will be able to put themselves to bed, and I’ll only have to pop in for a goodnight kiss and Parently Chat About The Day.  Everything’s eventual, as Stephen King wrote.  I get by and get by, until those days come.  I make it through this stage, one day, one naptime, one bedtime at a time.

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