The Stripey Bus Stop (a little baby story)

So, every day I put the baby on the changing mat, switch on the voice recorder on my phone, and start telling a story off the top of my head… (been a while since I posted any – transcribing is a bitch.)

This is a story about the Stripey Bus Stop

The Stripey Bus Stop was the Best bus stop in the world. Most bus stops are just made of glass and red metal, with a sign in them, but the stripey bus stop was a deep burgundy with white stripes all the way around it.  It was quite psychedelic and the buses loved stopping there and the passengers loved getting on and off there.

Now, sometimes passengers would walk extra…even an extra mile maybe – just so they could get on or off at the Stripey Bus Stop so they could see its lovely stripes.

But the thing is, this made all the other bus stops jealous.  Because it wasn’t their fault that they didn’t have stripes you know? No one knew how the Stripey Bus Stop had ended up being stripey.

So one day one of the other bus stops had a word with a Teenager who was waiting for a bus there.  He said “I’m sick of that Stripey Bus Stop – can you do something about it?”  A little nod, a little wink- the Teenager knew exactly what he was talking about.

The next day – well, the Stripey Bus Stop was covered in black splodges. it was ruined!  And everyone knew that the Stripey Bus Stop would never be the same again – it was no longer attractive, it was shunned by people, they would walk away from it and go to one of the normal bus stops. 

And this carried on for a while.  And once the Stripey Bus Stop had been neglected for a little while it got worse – more black splodges and scratches and scrawl, and eventually it was just a rusty bucket of an old bus stop that everyone just forgot about.

And the only person who knew a thing about why this had happened to the Stripey Bus Stop was the bus stop who had asked the Teenager to ruin it.  And that bus stop felt something called regret, and remorse – for being so nasty.  Because the Stripey Bus Stop had never done anything bad – he’d just been stripey.

And once he got  a little older, the other bus stop realised a better solution, rather that to ruin the Stripey Bus Stop would have been to ask the Teenager to paint some stripes on all the other bus stops so they could all be great stripey bus stops.

There’s a lesson in there, which hopefully you’ve absorbed, even though you are only 8 months old, but there is a lesson in there – it’s a moral story. Erm, so think on – think on that…

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Ever feel like a phoney?

In about 6 weeks I go back to work full time.  Ouch – it’s a downer, but if I’m honest, its not too bad, because I’ve not felt like myself for a large portion of the last 5 months.  Or of the last year, maybe.

Being off work, being the only man in most rooms I’m in, drinking coffee alone, having the same conversation with dozens of mums I will never meet again, all the while trying to figure out whether I’m doing ok.  Writing a blog to help with that.  None of it really feels like me.  Going back to work will be a relief in some ways because I’ll be firmly back in my comfort zone, a safe little triangle of work, home and friends, in which all is known.

Fucking comfort zones eh?  Too tempting by half.  Its new year, there is lots of talk of resolutions  new beginnings and change, and the last 6 months have certainly given me the opportunity to learn a lot about myself and what I’m comfortable with.  About what I can change about myself.  I initially assumed that 6 months is long enough to develop some new habits, to shake off old constraints and focus on things I always wanted to do.  But it turns out some things are fixed.  My novel went nowhere.  I wrote about 4 songs but only finished one of them.  Same as it ever was.

And then there’s watching a baby grow and develop.  If ever you need a lesson in personality, just watch a baby closely for a while (preferably one you have a relationship with, I’m not talking binoculars at the playground).  So much about a baby is fixed from birth.  I didn’t believe that would be the case, but it’s undeniable.  Ours is a furious, twitchy,  curious box of endless energy who will not be tamed.  She was like that at week one and she’s like that now. She exhibits the same traits in every new environment she encounters. Its fixed.

It’s convinced me that we’ve all got our defaults, and though we can learn to mitigate them, or imitate others, our basic instincts cannot be shed. Maybe that’s why my comfort zone is so attractive, and why in many ways I have felt odd, and ill at ease at points in the last 6 months.

The life of a stay at home parent is a lovely, lazy lifestyle in many ways.  It’s nice to wander through, and interesting to watch a whole different world of daytime stuff, of prams and shoppers, umbrellas, lunchtime drunks, young truants and scared old ladies.  But its not my default to be here, doing this, writing this.  I don’t enjoy passing hours making small talk with strangers because there’s nothing else to do.   I feel fake, like I’m hiding behind a front.  My mouth is saying things like “yeah she sleeps through” and “have you tried Infacol?” but my brain is sat in the background thinking “what the fuck, John, your nicotine-tampon idea would make a way better conversation than this”.

But but but,  just once in a while, the same conversation about sleep or feeding takes an unexpected turn, and I realise that today’s random stranger is someone great, someone I’d never have met if I’d stuck to my defaults and hidden in my shell, following my instincts.

They’re a trap, sometimes.

Is my baby a jerk?

So when do you reckon it’s ok to start attributing negative traits to someone?

Because, you know, us new parents sure take pride in our kids.  We love ascribing positive qualities to them, most of which cannot possibly actually be possessed by a little baby.  I hear it all the time – people complimenting their beautiful, placid, tranquil, curious, attentive babies, basically for sitting still and not doing much.   We’re almost expected to say nice things to people about their kids – and there is a knack to it, its just about choosing your adjectives carefully.  So long as they aren’t insults.  (I think there is a nice lesson for humanity in this btw – it’s always possible to find a good point about a person if you are compelled to look for it).

A lot of people say for certain that babies are just born with personality.  I always doubted this, I’m firmly on the side of nurture over when it comes to most things.  We’ve always spoken of our baby having certain traits but to be honest i think of this kind of speech as more of a comforting way of making sense of things rather that real descriptions of who she is.  I would prefer not to pigeonhole her – I saw the quote “every day she wakes up different” recently and I really like that idea.

But – we have always described her as wilful, determined and furious – in that everything she ever did was done with intense fury.  We thought of those as admirable qualities, but quietly, I’ve always been scared that she’ll grow up to be a jerk.  For 8 months, Ada was the only baby in our immediate group of friends and so she’s always got loads of attention. She’s now a very smiley kid who loves being in crowds, likes the attention of strangers, and is comfortable with everyone.  All that is nice, but what if she becomes a bigheaded little princess?  Cos that’s how we’ve nurtured her? If she is like that, how should we as her parents go on disguising it with polite adjectives or just admit it?

Also – today, we had 6 other babies at the house for a few hours. They played on the floor together.  She made two of them cry and was constantly snatching, clawing at them, shoving them over.  Of course, the other mums played this down – she’s just a baby she doesn’t know any better.  But what if she’s actually a dick?  A bully?  At what age does it become appropriate to say “that baby is acting totally up themselves”,  “He’s being a moody little sod” or “That baby is being a spiteful cow”?

Obviously it’s never going to be OK to say those things out loud, that would be rude – but at some point, those become appropriate descriptions for their behavior.  In management, we’re taught to judge the action, not the person, but sometimes, some people, like some elephants, are just jerks.

Milestones Shmilestones.

The baby is 0.75 years old today.  To celebrate, I drew a curly mustache on her and gave her a pipe* to smoke:

Her mum and I also spent the morning reflecting on her little achievements on her journey towards becoming a Human. And it dawned on me that raising a child is just en endless cycle of looking forward to them doing something new, then being disappointed when it finally arrives.

And these milestones – apparently they are quite predictable – you can get charts that tell you where your baby should be at all times.  In some ways, it’s quite comforting that human development is fairly easy to track like this.  In other ways it’s a shame.  Ideally I’d want a baby that can’t sit up but can play violin.  Sadly, basic human development rules that out.  Likewise, we’ll never have a toddler who can fill a pipe with tobacco, light it and enjoy the rich brown aromas for what they are, without fear of judgement.

So for the sake of any parents with a baby under 9 months, here are the milestones you can expect your kid to reach soon, along with their matching downside:

1) Rolling.  Oh. My. God.  Did you see that?!!  It means nothing, but your nappy changing skills need to improve fast.

2) Sitting.  Yaaaay!  Now she’s way way way more likely to face-plant, scream and make you look like a bad parent.

2) Eating mush.  Clever girl.  We’re going to have to buy a tumble drier and a new washing machine

3) Crawling.  She’s so strong!  And the square footage of floor space now I have to clean on a DAILY basis just increased spectacularly.

4) Standing up while leaning on things.  Look at her!  Climbing up on the kitchen bin.  Again. With her fingers in the top of the bin. And in her mouth.  And why are the coasters all on the floor and not on the coffee table?  Oh.

4) Understanding the word “no”.  She is VERY bright, isn’t she? And now I know for certain when she is wilfully ignoring my commands.

5) Eating solid food.  And doing solid shits.

6) Clapping.  Oh they learn so fast! And then they never stop clapping, or clap at inappropriate moments like when they catch a glimpse of you having sex.

Ok.  I think that covers all of the major development steps I’ve encountered in the last nine months.  I know walking and talking are still to come.  Can’t see anything to worry about with those though. If anyone reading has older kids, please enlighten me!

*no need to call social services, it’s a brand new pipe that has never seen tobacco, quit worrying already.

What if the royal baby is a hermaphrodite? What then?

I’m sure like me, every parent has a lot of questions about the Royal Spawn.  So I’m making a list, below, to send off to the Palace.  Please add yours in the comments :o)

  • At what age does a royal baby get a body guard? 
  • Does someone have to taste all its food before it eats (drinks) it? 
  • Who’s gonna buy it a Sophie the Giraffe?
  • If The Queen and Charles both die somehow, then William dies, and the paternity test rules Harry out (which it surely will), all in the next nine months, what’s the deal?  Is that baby the Monarch from Birth?  From 24 weeks?  Will the Royal Foetus be required to open Parliament?
  • Does Buckingham Palace employ a wet nurse yet?
  • Where can you get stair gates for a double staircase?
  • What if the royal baby is a hermaphrodite? What then?
  • Where will their nearest NCT group be?
  • Will a Health Visitor insist on a home visit?
  • Will Kate breastfeed in public?
  • Is the Royal carriage compatible with an Isofix base?
  • Will Wills take 6 months off so Kate can go back to work early?  (Ha!)
  • When they sing Humpty Dumpty, will Wills change to words to “all of MY horses and all of MY men”?

Any more questions anyone?  Add them in the comments – I’ll post them off in a week…

Going to work

I have to go to work today to discuss my eventual return, among other things.  I’m excited, surprisingly.  Being off has been great but work seems tempting too sometimes. I think because at work, I am given things to do and I dont have to choose what to think about.

Finding ways to keep myself entertained every day for 6 months is not as simple as you might think. On the one hand its all relaxing coffee mornings and walks, but on the other hand, it’s just relaxing coffee mornings and walks, you know? Stimulation comes in some forms – conversation, small logistical challenges etc- but i am rarely confronted with anything unexpected or that requires any real thought. I like having freedom to decide what to do but the list is fairly short once you factor in the baby.

Its grass is always greener syndrome- work has its many drawbacks too and of course I will miss this freedom once it has gone. I guess the important thing is to appreciate that the grass is green.

So I have about two months left before I return. I’m starting to feel that quite keenly and the urge to do something productive is growing again, I feel like I’ve been coasting too much recently.

A short children’s story – “The Ship’s Cook”

So, every day I put the baby on the changing mat, switch on the voice recorder on my phone, and start telling a story off the top of my head… (been a while since I posted any – transcribing is a bitch.)

This is a story about a chef who lived on a boat.  A fishing boat, that was always out at sea. and his job was to make sure the captain always had the best food.

Now, the Captain was a big fat man who loved his fish, which was handy because they lived at sea and fish was all there was to eat.

But the Cook had lied to the Captain when he got his job.  He had lied and said he was an expert in cooking fish, but he wasn’t – he was just a common-or-garden chef.

Now, luckily, most fish are easy to cook.  The fishermen would bring them to him, from the day’s catch, already gutted, s all the chef would have to do is put them in a pan, boil them, grill them, skin them, chop them up sometimes – it was easy.

But one fish was the captain’s favourite, and the chef had no idea how to cook it.  And that fish was a jellyfish!

The thing with Jellyfish is that they can sting – even when they are dead, they can sing. He was scared of being stung so he had never cooked a jellyfish.

One day after a few months at sea, with lots of nice cod and haddock, plaice, hake, sole, tune and trout, the cook’s worst nightmare came true, and one of the fisherman brought down to the galley a jellyfish from the day’s catch, and he said:

“The Captain wants this for his tea!”

The Cook was terrified.  He didn’t even want to touch the Jellyfish. But he knew he was in trouble because if he didn’t cook it the Captain would be mad, and would know he had been lied to.  But he was so scared he went about cooking the potatos and the veg and the starters and the dessert – he made a feast – but he never touched the Jellyfish.  He just left it there on a tray on the sideboard.

He was scared – he coudlnt cook the jellyfish but he didn’t want to disappoint the Captain.

In the end he hid in his cupboard.

He herad the fisherman come in, pick up all the food and take it up to the serving quarters, and he heard them have a big feast. He stayed in his hiding place.

Much later on, he was still hiding and he heard a knock! knock! knock! at the galley door. The captain burst in and shouted

“Cook – Cook! Come here!”

The Cook crept out from his hiding place and winced as he looked up at the Captain.

“That” said the Captain “was the best Jellyfish I have ever eaten!”

The cook hoped his surprise didn’t show too much on his face, and he tried to smile.  The Captain continued

“the stingers were still on, you got the flavour from them, and the worst thing with jellyfish is if they are overcooked, but i like mine raw and you did it perfectly”

The cook smiled and said “i though you would – I didn’t cook it at all”

After that, the cook had nothing to be worried about because he learned that the one thing he couldn’t cook was the one thing he didn’t need to.

 

Morals: Lying is good.  Cowardice is rewarded.