The (Im)Possibility Of Being A Present Parent

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A few weeks ago Little Ored and I were travelling by bus en route to our Monday morning baby class when I was approached by an elderly woman. “It’s so nice to see a young Mum playing with her child instead of staring down at her phone.”

I was taken aback. Firstly by the apparent compliment on my parenting skills and secondly by how old she actually thought I was (I’m a few months shy of 30 and let’s face it that’s not that young).

All joking aside, I’ve always made a point of putting away my phone when I’m with Little Ored but even more so when we’re out and about. What would be the point of taking him to soft play, for a walk along the beach or out to lunch if I then spent the entire time ignoring him? We treat Little Ored as we would any adult, and if I wouldn’t sit on my phone for the duration of dinner with a friend then I’m not going to start doing it with my son.

Of course I’m no saint. There are occasions when I reply to a text, listen to a voicemail or check Google to find out when the next train is due. Or the more obvious and frequent reason I reach for the phone- to take photos. But I’d honestly say that for about 80% of the time when Little Ored is awake my phone is either hiding in a coat pocket or buried underneath a mountain of toys and baby wipes on a tabletop/kitchen counter.

Having a one year old means that for the most part, I’m too busy to even have my phone in hand but of course there are occasions when I have to remind myself to put it down, and that’s because I’m actively choosing (and trying) to be present in my son’s life. Screen time- specifically social media- is a BIG distraction from real life relationships and I don’t want my son or any future children growing up with the feeling that Mama isn’t really listening. I don’t want them ever feeling as if they have to compete for my attention. Likewise I don’t want to miss out on the funny/cute/ new things Little Ored does because I was too busy thumbing through Instagram.

And Little Ored loves that I’m right there with him, building blocks just so he can knock them down later. Chasing him into the tipi as he squeals with delight or dancing with abandon when his favourite song comes on the radio. Or, as is always the game of choice on any form of public transport, playing ‘ticket inspector’ on the bus.

But I can’t help but wonder how fully present any parent can really be when it’s almost impossible to shake off our responsibilities, be it work, running a household or both? So whilst my phone may lay untouched for hours on end, that doesn’t mean I haven’t found myself promising repeatedly that “I won’t be long,” whilst unpacking the third machine load of the day.

I always thought my phone was the enemy but now I realise it plays just a small part in the day to day demands on my time. For there will always be dirty dishes in the sink. Clean clothes that need folding. Errands to run. It’s a juggling act for any parent and I’d argue that no parent can be 100% present, 100% of the time.

Of course that doesn’t mean I don’t strive to be the best I can be, but it’s all about finding the right balance that works for me and my child and that’s all anyone can do as a parent. I guarantee they’ll be moments when sitting in front of the TV for an hour or two is the only way to appease a grumpy one year old. Other times I’ll need to hoover or cook lunch leaving Little Ored to amuse himself for longer than I’d like.

But if I can eliminate the unnecessary distractions (I finally deleted my Facebook account two weeks ago and I’m still basking in the glow of freedom) then at least I know that for the most part, Little Ored is getting the very best of me.

 

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What To Buy For A First Birthday

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This post has been sat in my draft box for sometime now and this morning I decided that if it’s going to see the light of day it’s now or never, because otherwise the Birthday related posts will continue until the next birthday rolls around!


Let me start this post a little off piste by telling you about a fantastic read by Emily Rollings called ‘Slow Blogging.’ If you use social media- Instagram in particular- or blog then it’s well worth a read. I found it to be both an inspiring yet relatable approach to posting content, with an emphasis on quality over quantity. I like to think that social media is like all good things- worth the wait. Which is why, like Emily, I’m going to stop apologising for not posting regularly enough!

(Starting… now)

Back to the task at hand and can you believe Little Ored is turning one in a matter of days? (Four to be exact) which has thrown up the BIG dilemma of “What do you buy a one year old” Suddenly, the gifts we bought for friend’s children, having not yet had a child of our own, seemed laughable. Wind up wooden musical toys albeit beautiful, are by no means practical especially in the hands of a baby!

So it was time to get our thinking caps on and with Little Ored’s first Christmas a not-too-distant memory toys were 100% out of the question. Quite frankly Father Christmas (aka both sides of the family) spoilt him rotten and whilst he’s come to have his favourites it seemed kind of crazy to buy any more.

Now that we’re a one-income household also had to think about a budget. It would’ve been so easy to get carried away and buy gift after gift, but a) we couldn’t afford to do that and b) would have been overwhelming for Little Ored. (We’ve read a lot online about how children are overwhelmed by too much choice and how less toys = more quality playtime).

So with that in mind we tried really hard to think of gifts that will have a little more longevity; presents that he’ll be able to use/keep for years to come.

So here’s what we’ve opted for, with our reasons for doing so. I really hope that by sharing our thought process behind the presents, it’ll help any parents struggling like we did, and maybe help you to think a little more outside the box.

1. All The Things I Wish For You

This personalised picture book was an absolute no-brainer. Not only does Little Ored adore having books read to him (not to mention how often I catch him flicking through them at leisure when in his nursery) but the story itself has a beautiful, heartfelt message, making it the perfect first birthday present. Not only that but you can include a personal message/dedication making it a wonderful keepsake for your baby to read/look back on when he’s not such a little baby anymore!

2. Tipi

When Little Ored starting pulling his ball-pit over his head, relishing the hiding space, it soon became apparent that a tipi could quite possibly be the BIG birthday gift. Despite the price tag (you can buy them on Etsy from anywhere from £40-£150+) we’re hoping that this will be a gift that will grow with Little Ored, giving him a fun place to play, read and relax until he eventually grows out of it (literally). And I think that’s what I really like about this- it’s not a present that by his next or even third birthday, he’ll be done with. I also like that’s there’s so much choice in design meaning that you’ll get something pretty unique that matches your chosen space, with the ability to make it even more special by adding your own little creative touches (lights, pole flags, bunting, cushions etc).

3. Birthday Letters To My Baby

One of the things I love about Instagram is how random follows lead to random discoveries and that’s exactly how I stumbled upon Emily Rollings. I know writing birthday letters has become popular, but for a couple who are both seriously unorganised and have a penchant for loosing misplacing stuff, having a beautifully bound book seemed like the safest way of storing those thoughts, memories, hopes and dreams that we have for Little Ored.

Also, I very much like that I only have to find the time to sit down once a year to write and reflect because quite frankly I’ve failed at keeping on top of filling out his Baby Book as the months have passed!

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A Letter To My One Year Old

I wish I could tell you to slow down. To pause for a moment whilst I catch my breath (and catch up). But your endless energy, knowing grin and curiosity wouldn’t let you even if time would.

So here we are, basking in the afterglow of what was your first birthday this time last week. How has it already been a week since your birthday? How has it already been a year? The past 365 days have been an absolute whirlwind, and they have been the best I have ever known. In that time you’ve morphed from a helpless yet content baby into an olive eating, book loving, shrieking and pointing toddler- seemingly in the blink of an eye.

I remember holding  you for the first time, surprised by how small and how light you were in my arms. I remember not being able to sleep the night you were born as you lay next to me, for the sheer adrenaline coursing through my tired body. I was excited but most of all I was completely and utterly in love.

And so with those memories so clearly etched, despite sometimes feeling like a dream, I can’t quite believe that we are now here. Encouraging you to take your first steps. Deciphering yells whilst eagerly awaiting the day you start to say your first real words.

I had no idea whether Motherhood would suit me. I was never maternal but I’d like to think of myself as caring and loving, and as it turns out that’s all that really matters. Still, I was nervous. Imagine starting a new job without any kind of training! But I had nothing to fear. Motherhood has unequivocally been the making of me and that’s all down to you.

Thank you for making the last year as stress free as possible. Even in the womb you were chilled (I will always remember the sonographer asking me to shake my belly to try to get you to move) and along with your sweet nature, you’ve eased me into motherhood without ever making me feel overwhelmed. Not everyone gets to be so lucky.

That’s not to say I didn’t use Google every time you had a temperature or refluxed after a feed, but there’s a lot to be said for trusting your own instinct even when your instinct as a first time parent is practically non-existent at the start.

I look at you now- strong-willed, determined with an unapologetic mischievousness – and I can’t quite believe you are the same person whose head I was worried I wasn’t supporting properly, or who spent his nights sleeping in a baby box. Now you wake me up in the mornings by crazily crawling around in your cot as if to say “Come on Mama, it’s a new day!”

But it’s bittersweet. I already feel you becoming more independent and self-assured, quick to get cross if either of us tries to help you  because you’re adamant to learn on your own. And even though you are still very much a boob man, I know there probably isn’t long left on our breastfeeding journey (I’m letting you decide when you’re done) not to mention the preparations we’re making to move your cot into your own room in time for the summer.

No one told me that a birthday could be so emotional. But also full of promise. What wonderful, exciting adventures lay ahead of you…

Every day you surprise me with something new. Like when you blew raspberries against Papa Bear’s shoulder (for a solid 5 minutes) or when you problem solve a new toy super quick. Not to mention how impressive your dexterity is. And with that comes an overwhelming pride and joy in watching you grow.

Of course it’s not only you that’s grown in the past year. I no longer fumble with nappies and become flustered when undressing you at the Doctor’s. I’m a pro at navigating public transport with a pram and somehow we’ve created our own language in which I know from a look, cry or shout what it is you want (a good 90% of the time anyway).

I had always thought of myself as patient and empathetic but these are qualities you’ve only heightened. I no longer have time for negativity or anger or to let tiredness dominate the day. And when I see it written down like that, I’m kind of blown away by how much you really have changed my life.

In you I see the best we can be. And I see an already kind, bright and beautiful baby whose future hangs above us like the night sky. What stars you’ll map and align we’ll have to  wait and see, but oh how they’ll be lots and oh how they’ll shine brighter than we could ever have imagined!

And that fills me with more excitement for the future than sadness for the year that has now been and gone.

To you our loving, ever-smiling, head-bopping, beautiful son. How lucky we are.

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