Friday, 30 March 2012

A tale of two city parks

We've been spending a fair bit of time in London's Bloomsbury recently and, when our need for a swing, a loo, a climbing frame, a sandpit, a bench shaped like a train, a cafe or some goats and chickens overcomes us, we head to Coram's Fields, a park that you are only allowed to enter if you are with a child. If those facilites don't sound enough for you, consider this - once, about a year ago, I even spotted Damian Lewis there.

Before I had a child I was desperately jealous of the friends who got to hang out there, not because there aren't other parks in London I could go to, but because when friends got together there for a day out it was just so excluding. Now I can go, I'm a bit ambivalent about the place. Because although in theory it has everything you want in a park, including a well stocked children's centre with a drop in play session for the under fives complete with craft materials, judgey staff, polite notices and children with ridiculous names, it seems wrong to have a park solely for people with children. It gives across a Daily Mail-esque message that all adults without children who wish to go to a park are paedophiles, and, conversely, that everyone with a child is not a paedophile, both statements being untrue of course.

The other day we went to the park next door to Coram's Fields, Brunswick Square Gardens. It has more flowers than Coram's Fields, and flowers, along with pigeons, are my daughter's favourite things at the moment, having usurped ducks and dogs. The sun was shining, the daffodils were trumpeting spring and the plane tree in the middle, which according to the Camden Council website is "the finest example of a London plane tree to be found anywhere in Camden" and listed as a 'Great Tree of London' by the charity Trees for Cities, was resplendent. One thing was missing however, for though it looked lke a park and smelled like a park, it wasn't the slice of society that parks usually are - for there were no children, and it was rather sad.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Why are you crying mummy?

During the first evening of my baby’s life she nearly died. A passing midwife noticed that she wasn’t just coughing, as I had thought, but was turning blue. The midwife grabbed her and, yelling ‘crash’ and pressing a button on the wall, ran from the ward taking my baby with her. I was left tied to the bed by my catheter for seconds? minutes? hours? Long enough to know that the worst had happened. Long enough to think about having to send a message to everyone cancelling the birth announcement I had sent out a little earlier.

When I realised my catheter would unhook and my legs, numbed by a spinal, would carry my weight, I found my baby in a side room. “Is that my baby?” I asked the midwife. I had not known her long enough to recognise her yet, something that haunts me still. That was my first question. “Is she alive?” was my second. She was. They had a question for me too. “Why are you crying mummy?” asked the midwife, the hero midwife who saved my baby, the monster midwife who could not understand why I might be upset.

I still do not know how to answer that question. Is it because I thought my baby was dead or is it because she was alive?

Over a year later mostly I manage to put this to the back of my mind. I have a healthy baby who has become a wonderful mischievous loving toddler. The world is her oyster, which easily becomes lobster, which is tantalisingly close to the Yiddish word lobus which means little monster, in an affectionate cheeky way, and which although conventionally only used for boys is used in our household for our beautiful girl. The world is her lobster, and this lobus is our world.

A healthy happy baby is all anyone wants. That we have one is magical. Every day I appreciate it and most days I choose not to remember the moments when I thought it had been taken away just as it began. Yet sometimes, in the shower, driving alone with the radio on, walking through the park, I remember that night, and anyone who sees me and my tears may well also ask that question, “why are you crying mummy?” And still I cannot really answer.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Just say no (no)

There is a school of parenting thought where the parents don't use the word 'no' to their children. I found out about it when I overheard another parent at my daughter's nursery ask the staff whether they used the word. The staff were a little taken aback. I could see that they wanted to give the mother then answer she wanted, but that they were also thinking of the many many times a day they say it. "We only use it when it's necessary," one of them finally offered. 

In my experience, it's often necessary. When my daughter goes to touch an electricity socket for example, or tries to eat a crayon. When she attempts to empty the kitchen bin or thinks 5am is morning. 

I looked up the not saying no idea, or the 'No No' as I have started to think of it. Try to find an alternative to 'no', one book urged, suggesting that a toddler be distracted by a toy or an alternative activity instead. That way, it said, you can try to prevent your toddler entering the stage where they always say no. 

Now call me old fashioned but I want my toddler to both hear and use the word no. I do not want to give her extra time to be electrocuted while I think of something as exciting as a plug to play with. I do not have the wherewithal to simultaneously find something fun for her to do with one hand while preventing her from running across the road with the other. And when she is faced with situations where she is offered a choice, you know - sweets from a paedophile, drugs from a big kid at nursery, a drink with spirulina in it, I hope she also says no, as firmly and confidently as possible. 

Thursday, 15 March 2012

The ass in Titus

A pregnant friend of mine told me about this phenomenal American baby names site in which people write in with their name dilemmas and the site author answers:

Here's a sample:

"After struggling to conceive, my husband and I have been blessed with a pregnancy. We are due October 1st. DH doesn't want to know the sex of the baby, and I don't have strong feelings about needing to know, so we're preparing two sets of names. The names need to fit in with several family traditions. We've decided to use his last name (Moore), but my family of origin traditions for first and middle names.


1. In my family, the middle name Oliver is a tradition for the first born male in a generation (it's my brother's middle name, my grandfather's middle name, my great-grandfather's middle name etc.). Since I am the first sibling to have a child in my family, I'd like to use Oliver in the middle for a boy.

2. The second tradition in my immediate family is to have the initials spell out an additional name. For instance, my initials spell AMY. I loved growing up with a "secret" extra name and want my child to have the same gift. Also, I think my parents would be thrilled if I carried on the pattern they started with my siblings and me.

My husband and I have had no trouble coming up with girl names to fit this pattern. Currently, our favorites are Genevieve Elise (GEM) and Penelope Alice (PAM). We wouldn't turn down more suggestions at this point, since we have a ways to go yet, but we need much more help with a boy's name. Other first names for girls that we like but that don't fit the initials pattern include Celeste, Lydia, and Cecilia.

The boy's name is giving us more trouble since there are two traditions restricting our choices. Basically, with Oliver in the middle, the most reasonable option is to find a first name starting with T to get to TOM. If we don't use Oliver, we are considering Simon Arthur (SAM), although I'd probably rather break with the initials tradition than the Oliver tradition, so maybe we'll just reserve that for a second boy, if we are blessed enough to have one."
Better still is her reason for not choosing one T name - "Titus - Husband says it has the word ass in it, so it's out."

I've known about this site for a week and dare not admit how many hours I have already spent reading it.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Juicy lovely bits

I've been thinking about mothers and fathers and the differences and I think I've worked it out.

A mother, upon her child spying her eating something nice and wanting some, will pick the juiciest loveliest bit and give it to her child, and have the other bit herself.

A father, upon his child spying him eating something nice and wanting some, will pick the juciest loveliest bit and put it aside for himself, and give the other bit to his child.

Or is that unfair?

Related post: Being Project Manager

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Hippo Has A Hat

Nothing profound to say about this, but really a very lovely cheering book. We've read it hundreds of times already - still makes me smile.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Essential kit for new parents

Once you have a child you become a go-to person for expectant parents keen to know what equipment they need to buy to prepare for their arrival. And of course I could wax lyrical about moses baskets and new matresses and sleeping bags versus blankets and types of baby monitor and slings and sterilisers. But really there are just two pieces of equipment I particularly recommend.

The first:

(A tumble dryer)

And the second:

(A banana guard)

Really with dry clothes and no squished banana all over your bag, you'll be laughing.