One of the joys of being a second bloom parent is that when the Baby King looks closely at my face, he instinctively reaches for the loose folds of my skin.
At least he’s too young to comment. At his age there is only the bald unvarnished truth and for me, obviously, the truth is bald. But I’m going with my niece’s idea (when she was four) that I haven’t lost my hair at all, it has actually yet to grow. ‘There are already some fluffy bits at the back,’ she told me. My hair ebbs and flows like sea – and currently the tide is out.
A close inspection of my face is one of the ways in which my son and I pass the time. He pulls my lips out as far as they can stretch, prises open my eyelids and closes my nostrils until my ears pop. It’s great fun. Blowing raspberries is another excellent use of a few minutes. I pretend we’re practising the two different phonemes, “th”, but really we’re just making funny noises. You can keep your satire, wit and deconstructive comedy. If you want a really good laugh, blow a raspberry.
But these activities, brilliant though they are, are not sustainable for an entire day. It’s thirty years since I was last the father of a six-month-old baby and I had forgotten that at this age he will spend much of his time attached to either Sally or me. And he insists we are always be on the move to satisfy his vestigial instinct to keep one step ahead of the predators.
Carrying a baby around the house is how I imagine walking on another planet would be. Ordinary movements become planned manoeuvres and ongoing terrain assessments. When I walk down the steps I look exactly like Neil Armstrong descending from the lunar landing module.
I still have my muscle-memory from the old days: picking up, putting down, carrying around. It’s the muscles that are missing. However, as his royal pleasure is to endlessly bounce up and down on my lap, I can use him as a free weight workout. If I do five sets of twenty lifts every day I could expect a respectable pair of deltoids by the time he is three.
We take him out as much as possible, travelling light with just a buggy and/or a sling, a fully-equipped nappy bag, extra bottles of milk, thermos covers, a blanket, a rain cover, toys, hats, muslin cloths, bibs and a change of clothes (just in case). We can often be ready to go in under an hour these days.
… Incidentally, on the subject of clothes, a message for sleep suit manufacturers – please ditch the poppers and buttons. At three in the morning, in the half-light, with a squirming baby on a changing mat, lining up a set of poppers is not helpful. Zips: ankle to neck, with built in scratch mitts. Thank you …
We take him to swimming lessons as well. He’s doing fine having been dunked weekly for the last three months. His incredulous look that I would do such a thing to him has passed. Now he assumes that if I am in the pool then sooner or later he’s going under. He’s clearly biding his time for when he’s big enough to return the favour.
As often as possible, we sit quietly with a picture book. It’s nice to be reacquainted with such authors as Shirley Hughes, Jill Murphy and Judith Kerr. I recommend The Great Dog Bottom Swap by Peter Bentley and Mei Matsuoka. It’s excellent. I read to him and we discuss the characters’ motivations and our expectations as readers, but all he really wants to do is to eat the book.
… while I am recommending books, I am consuming a lot of fiction myself, especially in the wee small hours. So these days I appreciate a shorter book and I recommend the novella, A Month In The Country by J L Carr. It’s a quiet story set a small village after the end of the First World War. The hero is one of the few people in the country who can uncover medieval murals in churches, and his immersion into local life, his thoughts on his work and his fragile situation are a gentle study of bucolic life, love, death and the dull ache of regret for missed opportunities, both big and small. A Month In The Country is a Penguin Modern Classic and costs about £8.99 …
At night, with the Baby King falling asleep on my lap exhausted after a day of poking his fingers into my eyeballs, bouncing up and down, raspberry-blowing, swimming, travelling and book-eating, it is my turn to look at his perfect face.
It is the most wonderful moment. I gaze at him and become lost in the thought that soon, surely, the tide will turn and my hair will grow back again.
Categories: Don't do the Maths!
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