Breakthroughs, milestones and planning a road trip with an infant

So, today has been a slightly less screamy day so far, although I’d rather not speak too soon since her most screechy time is inevitably the tired afternoon, post-nap playtime. I will almost certainly help this along with a nice walk in the park and maybe a go on the swings as this improved yesterday no end. And I didn’t grit my teeth at all when she stopped screaming whilst playing with her Dad, oh no…

Anyway, today Ramona has decided to do the following:

  • Pull herself upright independently, clinging on to a table or bits of me, a handful of times.
  • Walk along, holding my hands, with increasing confidence.
  • Mimic back noises I make including ‘moo’.
  • Return kisses blown to her with very cute lip-smacking noises.

All of which are, obviously, good. She also taught me that she was happy to eat lunch as long as absolutely everything I gave her was finger food. I say ‘eat’, I mean ‘chew and drop’, but in the chaos of flying bits of lamb, cucumber, bread and banana, I think a few mouthfuls did actually get swallowed. And when I made ‘yum yum’ noises at her she rather sweetly shoved her piece of dribbled-on bread in my mouth. Moist, pre-chewed food is the way to go, folks…

Speaking of food, from six months I’ve been feeding her a mix of finger foods and stuff I can spoon into her mouth but she’s now rejecting the spoon unless she can feed herself with it (again, read: smear it around her mouth, with pure luck deciding how much actually goes in). So she was wearing quite a fetching pattern of lumps and Greek yogurt. She usually loves fruit so I added some canned peach bits to the yogurt but she decided to eat the yogurt and spit those out.

Is this the age where you realise every baby is just a toddler in training?

Anyway, I’m trying to focus on the positive today, and get on with getting ahead on the holiday prep. We don’t go for a month or so, but there’s a bit of an epic list of things to get through. I have a packing list and a ‘to buy’ list. The latter includes:

  • Enough ready made formula for the days in the car, there and back.
  • A few packs of disposable bottles.
  • Enough nappies for the days in the car, and swimming nappies for the days at the destination.
  • Jars of food and snacks for the journey in case there isn’t something appropriate on the road.
  • Contact lenses (okay, those are for me. I hate prescription sunglasses and I’m running short of dailies).
  • All the wipes in the world.

You don’t want to see the length of the packing list. As I’ll be in the car with both Whiffle and her grandparents and it’s not a barge or a tank, we’re probably going to look like we’re crossing Europe in Steptoe’s cart.

Honestly. I’m trying to be brutal and take what’s actually needed, not just what I think I need, but I fear leaving something out only to discover it’s absolutely crucial. I’m like Magrat in Carpe Jugulum, frantically packing to get herself and her infant daughter out of a castle full of vampires but nonetheless terrified to leave anything behind: “…and don’t forget the sponge shaped like a teddy bear. And the teddy bear shaped like a sponge.”

But at least it’s something positive to focus on. And it stops me stressing about the actual car trip bit because I’m going to be on my own (well, with my parents, but not with Ashley, is what I mean) for nearly four days. I’m so accustomed to relying on his never-wavering support, whether that’s emotional or practical, that I’m wetting myself at the thought of getting through the days there and back without him; he’s catching up by plane for the bit in the middle so he doesn’t need to miss work – and therefore getting paid – unnecessarily.

So, yes. Better shopping, packing and planning than stressing about screaming and dealing with her on my own. And honestly, what kind of mother is slightly scared of spending that much time being solely responsible for her child? Well, this one. But I do know who the parent is here, and I’m pretty sure babies smell fear and indecision, so I’m going to do my level best not to exhibit any.

Right. Time to go help ma with some spring cleaning while Whiffle sleeps off the five lumps of banana, two mouthfuls of lamb, single cucumber stick, lone piece of bread and four spoonfuls of yogurt she actually ingested.

Thank God she still likes her milk.

The Shrieking Shack: Baby phases again…

Poor Ramona. Life at nine months old just isn’t as easy as we think it is. We look at her being carried everywhere, having a lovely buggy, having people fall over themselves to talk to her, cuddle her, play with her and forget how it seems from her perspective.

Being carried everywhere? Only because I can’t move myself and I want to. (She doesn’t crawl, and refuses to try but can stand unaided for up to a minute and do some holding-on shuffling)

Making new friends? Having strange people talking at me and invading my personal space.

Being cuddled and played with? Mostly good, until I need to communicate what I want and NO ONE SPEAKS MY LANGUAGE.

She has learned one sign – ‘milk’ – and occasionally uses it, and the babbling is picking up pace, which is great because it means that some time in the not-too-distant future we might hear the beginnings of speech. She even tried to moo back at me over the book about the cow. We take the ability to speak and communicate so much for granted, and here she is talking away and not being understood. It’s frustrating for me, so it must be doubly so for her because she knows what she means and I don’t!

So, with every milestone – the standing and shuffling have been coming along really well this week – comes a bout of frustration and that means her shrieking phase is back. I know not every baby does this, but she can’t be the only one. It’s alarming; she’ll be sitting playing quietly and suddenly take a deep breath and ululate painfully and repeatedly. And I will wince. And wince again.

I had to step out and count to ten yesterday, and let Daddy deal with it for a while, which he did with patience and calm. I wouldn’t have shouted or lost my rag at her of course, because she’s a baby and she can’t help it, but I could feel my sanity slipping away and took the opportunity to regroup. After all, you simply can’t find the energy to sing songs, create distractions, read, play, sign and soothe if you can’t think straight.

It didn’t help that we made a Major Parenting Mistake yesterday (note to new parents and parents-to-be: you will make one of these most days. Learn from it). We went to a lovely family lunch day out charity thingummyjig. And it was one error after another. Her morning nap was cut short. Her lunch was late. There was too much noise. There were strange people pookey-pookey-pooing right in her face. I will never forget Ramona’s look of horror as my dad was holding her and this very kindly lady stroked her cheek and ba-ba-baaed at her. Separation Anxiety Stranger Fear Fail Alert!

We both felt like terrible parents for putting her through it, although she did sleep through some of it. I hope she doesn’t hold it against us for too long; at least we have learned our lesson about what she can and can’t tolerate right now.

Meanwhile plans are full speed ahead for a summer holiday road trip. Some of the family think I’m nuts for wanting to put her in a car for a few days (no more than about five hours driving per day, broken up) but she’s fine in a car and a wriggly little excitement monster on my lap, so I am not putting this kid on a ‘plane. I find flying stressful enough, thanks! I’ll take each issue as it comes, allow for lots of breaks, and learn from each day’s inevitable mistakes. Like every other parent, I’m flailing in the dark and making things up as I go along anyway.

Sometimes I take heart from the fact that all the descriptions of really successful, intelligent people include a bunch of kids who drove everyone crazy with their incessant energy and curiosity. Maybe Ramona’s ants in her pants and screaming are just signs that she’s too bright for this recalcitrant baby body; maybe she just wants to grow up already, thank you very much. Maybe I’m one of Amy Chua’s Western parents making excuses.

Or maybe I just love my daughter so damn much that even when she’s driving me stark raving bonkers I will find the good in every situation and go after it hell for leather.

Yeah, maybe.