Hey, I’m walkin’ here

The homunculus walks.

A new phase begins in three unaided steps; we will ever be the same again?

My mind is polarised with this development. On the one hand I’m delighted, it means things are all moving in the right direction, he’s fit, healthy, blah, blah, blah and whilst I know I shouldn’t take this for granted (believe me, I don’t) it’s not as if this advancement has come out of the blue, or it’s a huge surprise, his walking has been on the cards for a couple of months. But being the cup half-full kinda guy I am I’m feeling a bit weird about the whole ‘baby’ part. It seems to have shot by in a millisecond, which may well counter something I wrote previously about how time seems to have slowed right down. I dunno, I was probably tired as I am now so I who knows. Perception is as perception does so it’s allowed.

It’s not accurate to assume that I’m missing his baby phase in a way that tips the scales of any preference, it’s just that this morning he stood-up, leant against the side of his baby bay and kicked out his leg as if fending off an aggressive beggar. The baby that barely occupied half of the baby bay on which the boy now stood was no more than memories, it hit me so hard that if I wasn’t already actually lying in bed when I made this realisation I’d have to have had a lie-down.

In order to make some sort of sense of all this and, I suppose, as a way of acknowledging that the ‘baby’ seat is now owned by that of a toddler, I need some sort of totem, a fetish if you will, to allow my brain safe passage into the unknown. In one sense compiling a list of seven things a parent needs in the first fifteen months of life could be seen as both patronising and unnecessary. On the other, it’s not. It’s just a list of things you need have to have, in no particular order, before your kid walks.

Microwave. For sterilising stuff and re-heating half-drunk cups of tea and meals you’ve had to abandon because something has kicked off.

Digital Radio. Radio 4 will become one of your best friends, but occasionally a play or programme will infuriate you so much you’ll want to rip out your toenails. Relax, Absolute Classic Rock is one button away.

A lobby dustpan and brush. Note the ‘lobby’ bit. You can clean up dry and wet food (and actual shit if necessary) off hard floors without having to bend down or worry too much about spilling the contents whilst in the process of cleaning or en-route to the bin or bog.

Vileda mop, bucket and wringer. The most expensive you can get. The amount of post-food mopping you’ll have to do is unimaginable, don’t bother with cheap or you’ll regret it.

Curved or concave changing mat. Kids wriggle, this will help prevent them from wriggling into thin air.

Ikea high chair. Don’t bother with anything else, they don’t work properly

Baby Bay. I don’t know how we’d have coped without one of these, the fact he’s not used it in six months and I’m still in love with it must count for something.

There is one other, penultimate, consideration that didn’t make the list as it’s not quite as simple as just saying ‘baby-related Pharmaceuticals’ because there are other factors to consider outside of cotton balls and Calpol, though while I’m here, Tesco nappies are half the cost of Pampers and just as good. Top tip: Tesco deliver for free if your bill is over 40 quid so, if you buy in bulk, you don’t even have to carry the bastards back from the shop.

‘Baby-related’ pharmaceuticals apply to the parent as well. Since the little fella was born, and certainly since he was in the nursery, I’ve never been so ill. Diarrhoea, vomiting, cramps, lethargy, not to mention a knackered back and sprained wrists, require a well-stocked medical cabinet, and by well-stocked I mean it’s worth spending a few quid on some specific stuff. Get an electronic thermometer, you’re all gonna need it, most importantly, get loads of drugs starting with top quality painkillers. Co-codamol is the strongest over-the-counter ‘killer but paracetamol and ibuprofen are of equal importance, that doesn’t mean you can bypass cold and flu remedies (don’t bother with Lemsip, scotch, honey and lemon in hot water can cure cancer) and you’ll need all manner of stomach-related cures from Imodium to Buscopan, Ranitidine to Dioralyte.

Contracting a bug off a kid isn’t like getting something from that arsehole at the office who wears the same t-shirt every day. These illnesses come on faster than a line of celebratory sniff and before you know it you’re out of it so this stuff has to be at your disposal 24/7.

Finally, drinking.

Drinking.

That is all.

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Beered

The little fellow’s nursery has a simple policy when it comes to sick children: if they’re unwell, don’t bring them in. I suspect that many parents don’t adhere to the guidelines because, lately, we’ve found ourselves on the wrong side of the bog on numerous occasions after contracting some plague or other from the boy.

Obviously when a child is seriously ill you’d never dream of palming them off to a bunch of relative strangers (unless you’re a shitty parent, of course) but when they have a cough/cold/splats and you figure you can slip them in, you’re going to try. The reason for this is twofold, the kid is in the nursery because the parents have to work but if the kid isn’t in said nursery the parent, whilst still having to pay for the nursery, may also be losing additional money by having to take a day out to look after some sick kid. It’s also worth noting that most nurseries charge for bank holiday’s when they’re shut which is bullshit.

To say the system is unfair on parents with full times jobs is tantamount to asking if a fart smells and if I wasn’t working on a freelance basis, and my parents weren’t driving across London twice a week to help out, one of us would be forced to quit work and take care of the little fellow full time.

The reason that this has been on my mind of late is because the better half is now in the office five days a week meaning that I have to juggle my work on the two days he’s in the nursery (for all intents and purposes that’s 10am to 5pm of actual free time) plus the one free morning and spare afternoon courtesy of my parents. Obviously the nature of my work means that weekends and evenings are all fair game for graft so it’s not an issue that on Monday’s I’m 100% off work, looking after my son, with or without my beard.

It was to be my debut, the first whole day I’d spend with my little boy, just he and I, maybe his uncle for a swift half late in the afternoon. The weekend that proceeded it had been heavy, said uncle and I had attended an all-day punk festival in North London which had ended in the small hours following heroic quantities of liver-crippling booze. The following afternoon the hair of the dog that bit me was administered with a little too much zeal so the decision to trim my beard by my bon-viveur-self later that evening was very badly judged, especially as I know only too well to never ever interfere with facial hair after a few pints.

I was doomed from the off, the clippers were on the ‘close’ settling and I went in at the wrong angle. Attempts to rectify this by going for different diminishing styles, Grohl, Edmonds, Fawkes, Hitler, was a loss leader. In ten minutes I went from hairy biker to bald potato. I was devastated, though the missus found the whole thing hilarious which didn’t help.

The following morning, I woke to find the little bloke was already in our bed, asleep. The missus was getting ready for work so I lay there for a while listening to Today and, as usual, getting infuriated. My son woke with a whine, he looked over at me and froze. For a good twenty seconds he stared at me, wondering who the hell this person was in mummy’s bed before completely breaking down. It took ten minutes of ‘it’s daddy!’ pitched in a variety of cadences and a single rendition of ‘I was born under a wondering’ star’ that contained a completely made up verse about testicles to put me back in the game.

Looking after a small child is a war of attrition. You have a few weapons at your disposal, each designed to bring on the onslaught of sleep. They are, in order for ease of reference, feeding, changing and playing. These three key munitions are used to direct the child calmly into the pram offering the parent some sort of physical freedom whilst simultaneously soothing the little one off to sleep for an hour of peace and quiet, or as it’s known, cleaning-up. If you get it right you can have up to two hours of cleaning-up a day.

Timing the pram and sleep aspect is an act of art, the fulcrum on which rests failure and success. I’m very proud of my little bloke so I want him to be awake in the pram so that all may gaze upon his beauty as I perambulate the streets of Hackney in order to purchase more wine boxes. However, if he falls asleep too soon, I’m losing out on cleaning-up time at home and that’s unacceptable.

As soon as he awakes the cycle can begin again, though this time one might like to start seriously thinking about visiting a pub. Ideally you want them to be fed, changed, entertained and in the pram by 4pm. By the time you meet his uncle at the boozer at 5pm he’ll be sound asleep. The missus will pass by said establishment at 6-ish, which is about the time he wakes up, and she’ll be only too happy to take over -but only after you’ve allowed her to get a round in for self-esteem purposes.

Once home the better half will feel obliged to take over the complicated evening ritual of baby bed-prep leaving dad plenty of time to drink in front of Police Interceptors on Dave. The adverts allow a window of loud self-congratulation as dad extrapolates on how massively well the day went with overplayed highlights. In the meantime, ones’ knackered wife will have fed, bathed and soothed the little fella to sleep only to return to find dad crashed out in front of Shed and Buried in his pants.

Well done, dad.