With a shift in my body clock I’ve been waking up at 4.30am, waiting for one of my kids to stir. I keep thinking I should do something with all the extra time. Learn a language or take a thorough stab at finishing Infinite Jest. Either way, last week I reflected on six of the 12 things I’ve learned since my youngest daughter turned one. Here are the rest:
7. First words can tell you a lot: our eldest daughter’s first words were “banana” and “maple”. Maple is the name of her favourite teddy. Our youngest daughter’s first words were “dirty” and “get down”. And this feels entirely symptomatic of being the second child. She is left to fend for herself while we prepare food, read books to our eldest, tidy, do jobs, prep things. And the first time she is noticed is when we are saying, “Bleugh, no, dirty. No, get down from there. Get down please.” She shakes her head a lot to indicate no. We never know when she is agreeing to things. And if you say no to her, she cries. Even if it’s in passing or casually. “No. No, no, no, no. No, no, no, no. No, no, there’s no limit” would make her bawl with sadness as if we were telling her the world was ending.
8. What worked first time does not work second time. With our first kid, we sorted the sleep first and we used a dummy. The dummy was fine. The dummy was our friend. With our second, she wouldn’t take the dummy and sleep was a big issue. I was tearing my hair out trying to figure out how we could find a way of getting our second to go to sleep that was just as effective as the dummy. And then, our eldest decided she was too old for the dummy and needed to give it up. Suddenly, the both of them were in cahoots, trying to turn the night a shade of insomnia called sleepless purple.
9. A year is a strange vortex of time. When our youngest was born, I couldn’t for the life of me fathom how long this was all going to last. It felt endless. I joked that, for the next 14 years, I would be struggling to get them to bed and then I would struggle to get them out of bed. Now, I cannot remember that desperation I felt. It was irrational. To the point where I would write in a notebook how many hours of sleep I would get when I went to bed. And what knock-on effect interrupted sleep felt like. But the thing was, as soon as I felt like that was the rest of my life, done, everything changed. Now, I look back at that time and it’s a blank.
10. Chips do not travel well. In the second year since our kid was born, the Friday-night takeaway has become a staple. However, if there is one thing I have worked out, it’s that if you get one of those apps to send you food, chips do not travel well. They go soggy very fast. And cold and soggy chips do not make Friday night feel like you made it out and you’re living your best life. Eating your soggy cold chips in front of an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine can sometimes feel like you are not living your best life. No matter what the apps say.
11. They are always watching. Always. With our eldest, we have this routine. Forty-five minutes before bath and bedtime, we have tidy-up time followed by telly time. Every night. And the routine has worked perfectly for her. She will help to put away her toys, watch 30 minutes of television and then head up for a bath, almost on autopilot. Our youngest is always watching. I realised this last week when I sang the tidy-up time song. And our youngest, who is not expected to be part of the tidy-up time routine, picked up a rattle and a doll and walked over to the box they both belonged in, before throwing them down. She is now part of the routine. Tidy-up time is hers, too.
12. I know nothing. This point bears repeating. Every time I think I have it all figured out, something happens to show me that I do not have a clue about what’s happening and anything I think is a given is a one-off. It keeps me on my toes. And boy, I would not have it any different.