Summer in the foothills of parenting

I’ve been waiting for a moment of divine inspiration and philosophical insight to begin writing but it has finally dawned on me that it could be a long wait. So here is another missive from the beautiful foothills of parenthood.

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I’m liking the summer. I’m a lot happier when the sun shines, and while the complexions of the other members of family mean I’m unlikely to get to spend much time in some serious heat in the next decade or so, I’ll take the gentle British sunshine any day over the rain. We were in Ireland recently and it rained every day (although all the hardcore natives wore their shorts and t-shirts, regardless). It does make everything over there insanely green, but I had an extra skip in my step when we landed back in Luton in the blazing sunshine.

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Can you believe we have a seven month old now? She’s trying out food and making a big, joyous mess. It’s fair to say her meals get a lot less attention than Jesse’s did at this stage, but that’s the joy of baby-led weaning. She just tries loads of stuff that we eat and I don’t have to make any purees. My old boss used to say many wise things but the one I remember most clearly was that “we’re all as lazy as we dare to be”, and this is a case in point. Lazy weaning. Not that baby-led weaning isn’t a bona fide and respectable strategy, but it especially appeals to me because of the lower level of effort involved. One of its promised benefits is a toddler who isn’t fussy with food but is much more used to a variety of flavours and textures from the start. I am under no illusions about these kinds of grand promises, however, since our toddler is still pretty darn fussy. We do weaning this way because I’m convinced it’s a healthy, happy way to go, and it saves me a heap of effort. Although there is a lot of mess. (Any creativity which I can muster up is largely thanks to the brilliant new website some friends have set up called Baby Loves Veg – check it out!).

We have just come back from two weeks away (during which our fussy toddler ate a bare minimum for survival). I wouldn’t quite call them holiday weeks because Andy was working to some degree for both weeks, singing, speaking and hosting at a couple of Christian festivals. And the word holiday suggests some kind of rest when, as parents, you’re actually still doing all the parenting stuff, just in a different place and probably with less equipment. Looking after kids in our own home is always easier than doing it elsewhere. I know some parents who avoid going away with their small children as the hassle just isn’t worth it (and conversely, I am in awe of Mel Wiggins who just went to Florence with a 5 year old and a 4 month old). Believe me, I really got that this summer. Flying with kids and all that stuff. Sharing a room with a baby and toddler while trying to stop them waking each other up all night. Persuading Jesse to eat unfamiliar food and not destroy someone else’s house. Spending evenings camped outside the bedroom door with a book. It was, at moments, gruelling. (I may have ended up one night holed up in the bath drinking red wine out of a sippy cup. Ahem). But then at other moments it was brilliant. And worth it.

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Jesse loved both weeks. The first week he loved the tents (not that we were in one…) and caravans, the kids groups he went to, the community, the muddy puddles. And the second week he adored having his grandparents available 24/7, and staying in a castle, seeing his cousins and having access to a whole room of toys. Jubilee rolled with it all and was happy as long as I was there (she even spent a few mornings happily playing in a creche). They both slept fitfully, and struggled at different moments. But we had so much love, practical help and prayer that it still felt like a good call to be there. And I just love seeing our kids learn to feel at home in a wider community, learn to trust others and be in new places. Even if we need a break afterwards,

And now we’re home. And I get to spend at least some of each night in our bed while the kids sleep in other rooms. I get to cook our food again (the carbs in Northern Ireland were so intense that I actually started dreaming about salads, which is a new thing for me). It’s nice to be in our own space.

Life is small right now. We’ve dug in because just looking after the four of us is exhausting. No-one is sleeping through the night, and the emotional toil of watching Jesse struggle and scratch and cry out at night with his eczema is worse than the more predictable teething cries of the little one. We’re trying all kinds of things to help him get better – seaweed and aloe and oatmeal and laundry eggs and water softeners (potentially) and so much cream we could just slide from room to room without taking any actual steps. It’s trial and error, life is gloriously normal one minute and agonising the next. But every day there are beautiful moments. Mostly, I feel peaceful and contented (and tired), which is not something I really expected from this year, so I’m savouring the feeling for however long it lasts!

 

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2 thoughts on “Summer in the foothills of parenting

  1. Mary Barker

    Dear Jenny – I hate to tell you – but it might take 21 years of children before you feel you are able to sleep soundly. Each era has its difficulties and joys.
    The small steps – like sleeping through 4 hours in the middle of the night – WOW – so good.
    The bigger steps – when you can sleep through the WHOLE night.
    Then they give us sleeping during the day – eeeek – makes you even tireder.
    Each stage has its struggles – are you kids fitting in at kinder, school, church sunday school, youth groups, sports clubs, etc etc. You really want your kids to fit in. and enjoy their lives….without struggles.
    But hey that is not for real….at least it wasn’t in my case.
    Oldest boy – think you might know him well – struggled at school, with reading, maths, etc….but finally in grade 5 or was it 6 wrote an amazing story – which we were all amazed at.
    He had so much inner strength and wasn’t swayed by the bad kids.
    He worked so hard at soccer – his love – and kept going…and going…so much perserverance.
    He became top of his class at the soccer referree course, and he was 15 and the rest of them were really old. We then realised his potential, and told him he could no longer trick us – we KNEW HE HAD BRAINS. We discovered he only worked when he like the subject. Second child was ADD – well perhaps not – but had to have constant supervision at school, got bored….disrupted class, etc etc….sounds like his mum I must say, where the other boy was much nicer and like his dad…
    ALL THIS TO SAY – KIDS ARE DIFFERENT – AND LIFE CHANGES AS THEY GROW.
    Try and relax and enjoy each era as you do forget
    My best friend remembers more about my kids growing up than I do
    Keep writing as it is memories which make your life important as you look back.
    Blessings
    Mary

    Reply
  2. Baby Loves Veg

    Dear Jenny,

    So glad you are enjoying our recipes! Enjoyed your blog post very much, good luck on the next few months weaning, we can do it

    Love Catherine, Hannah and Ruth

    Red wine out of a sippy cup in the bath = genius

    Reply

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