Thursday, January 28, 2010

Soft Play: a rant

My mum and I took Boy (and Missis) to a soft play centre this week. It was a different one from the local one we frequent. The equipment was much better, more, cleaner, more imaginative, better split into sections. But halfway through our visit, I asked for a feedback form. I wanted to complain. I never received one, so here is my letter of complaint.

Dear Sir/Madam,
I am writing this letter following a visit with my two year old son and 4 month old daughter to your soft play centre. I wanted to express my views on the way it was run, from a mother's perspective. I came that day to play with my son, and I assume that is the goal of most parents attending. But on arrival, the staff member at the front desk (which is in the same room as all the exciting equipment, separated by a gate) bombarded us with extra charges on our entry fee for "meal deals". My mother, attending with us that day, got very flustered, as did I (my son was very upset at this delay) and paid the extra monies for a drink and biscuit/fruit. We also had thrust upon us a form to fill in for The Body Shop, who were in attendance that day, apparently giving facials. By this point, my son was itching to play and we were finally let inside. Before we had even put our things down or taken our coats off, a lady from The Body Shop came over and pestered us. I was very annoyed at this point and walked away to tend to my son. I did not come to ignore my child and get a makeover, I came to play.
Later, the "meal deal" arrived. There was no choice of fruit, and I was shocked to see it was just two and a half slices (not wedges) of orange (not worth the money at all) and a very brightly coloured drink not at all suitable for toddlers. My son got most upset that I would not allow him to drink the juice, which although sugar free, was packed with artificial sweeteners, colours and flavours. I would suggest a carton or 100% apple or orange juice would be more appropriate.
I was mostly pleased with the actual play facilities, except the sports area for playing ball games. This could only be accessed via an assault course suitable for quite old children, and although he loves to play with footballs, my son would not cross these barriers to the sports area. The assault course also presents a problem for parents needing to retrieve a child from the area in an emergency, for example, an injury.
The cafe on site provided what seemed to be a host of healthy meals for adults, and a selection of junk food for the children. I was glad to have brought a packed lunch for my son, however frowned upon that may be. My main gripe with the food served, other than the rip-off "meal deals", was the deserts counter. It held lots of cakes, chocolates and biscuits, and was at the EXACT eye-level of a toddler. As you can probably tell from what I have written already, I don't believe junk food is appropriate for toddlers and my son rarely has access to that kind of fare. But he knows what it is, and repeatedly went up to the counter and banged on it, getting upset when I said no, and getting under the feet of adults at the counter carrying hot food and drinks above his head.
At this pointed I asked for a feedback form. It never arrived.
One more issue I had was the extra charge for the go-karts. I must say, I felt very much taken advantage of during my visit, really as though you were out to squeeze very last penny from my purse. The atmosphere was one of making money, not enjoyment. I will not be visiting again. Our local soft-play area, although basic, meets our needs much more efficiently, and does not ram commercialism and consumerism down our throats. On the whole, I think many parents, particularly parents of young children visiting midweek like I did, attend your establishment not to sit around chatting and having coffee while ignoring their children, but to have a nice family day out and enjoy being with their children. I would have appreciated being left alone once I had paid my entry to play with my son.

What do you think? Too harsh? ;-)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sky+ Children; a niche market

Wouldn't it be great if children were a bit more like Sky+? I could just pause while I nipped for a wee and know that total devastation would not meet me on my return. Like Sky, you couldn't pause forever, while you went out to get your hair done or anything, but three minutes? Like, enough time to make a sandwich after sitting and feeding Missis to sleep for 40mins (with a grumbling tummy), only for her to wake up as soon as I set foot in the kitchen. While we're at it, fast-forwarding a few of those newborn breastfeeding mammoth sessions would be great. I'm all for staring in adoration at a tiny baby at my breast, but after three hours just out of arms reach of the remote/laptop/mobile/book, it wears a bit thin. Fast-forward tantrums? Yes please. And volume control. I'd love a bit less "BEEP-BEEP! CRASH!" from Boy just as I'm extracting a sleeping Missis from my arms.
But the best facility my Sky+ children would have is the ability for me to record. To record the squeals that Missis makes when her brother gives her a good-morning cuddle, the cuteness of chubby little fingers squeezing mine, to not wipe away a funny facefull of weetabix, record the way a sleeping baby looks, smells, feels, sounds. When Boy was tiny, I wrote down some notes to him, telling him some of my favourite things about the baby he was then. It makes me so sad that looking back at these scribbles less than two years later, I can't understand them. I can't remember the things I mention. I know Missis is my last baby, and I feel like each of her milestones are like dry sand running through my fingers, I want to grasp at everything but I know I'll never remember it all! I just try to enjoy every moment. But I do wish sometimes that children were a bit more like Sky+........

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Slinging praises

I don't often share personal photos on my blog, but I figured what the hell! I love this picture of me and Missis, she will look very different in a few months anyway.

Missis is now four months old. She spends about 40% of her time in a sling or being fed, and 40% in our bed with us (being fed!), the other 20% is made up of being held, played with, or playing by herself/with her brother on the floor. She, like her brother before her, ABHORS being put down, unless it is her choice, and it's not one she makes often. So I carry her. I've just learned a few weeks ago how easy it is to put her on my back with a stretchy wrap. (a MAM eco babywearing set, with matching hat and booties, so cute, borrowed from slingmeet in orange, see above, then bought my very own :-) and dyed it purple, see above!) She loves riding on my back. Sometimes, when I had her on my front, she would push away and want to see what was going on. (I believe a baby should never be carried facing outwards, it puts too much pressure on the pelvis, and I suffer with a pelvic disorder). I was worried she didn't like being carried! But I've since found that a front carry is a sleepy position, and a back carry is for nosy babies. I carry her high, and she peeps over my left shoulder while I chop onions, or bath Boy, or hang out washing. I'm really at a loss to think what exactly I would have done (other than leave her to cry) without the sling while I look after a toddler too. In fact, that applies to looking after myself too. Making myself meals or drinks, brushing me teeth, going to the loo. I really don't know how people manage without slings, especially if they have more than one small child. Surely not all babies that don't get carried in slings are "good"? (Than awful word used to describe lethargic, quiet, complacent infants). If I didn't use a sling, Boy would quite possibly have to have all his naps and meals whenever it suited Missis (i.e. not very often) and I would have to wait until HID got home from his 12hr working day for me to have a wee or something to drink or eat. Either that or let her cry, something I cannot stomach unless absolutely essential. (i.e. 3 mins crying while being carried in the sling while I put Boy down for a nap, then I can feed her. And crying while being held by someone who loves you, and crying in a dark room alone are totally different things). What do people without slings DO with babies? How do they do other things? In the early days, I even used a special sling that I could wear in the shower so I could get clean without putting her down to cry. Now she's happy to sit in a bouncy chair for 5 mins while I chat to her through the glass door.
All this being said, I find it unbelievable to remember that I only borrowed my first sling when Boy was FOUR MONTHS OLD, the age Missis is now, who has spent hours upon hours in the sling. And Boy was even MORE high need than Missis. Well, perhaps Missis is just as high need as Boy was, but it's much less noticeable because we don't try to fight it by putting her down, we just take her with us. I really didn't enjoy Boy's newborn days. It could have been the rocky recovery from the birth, but it could have been the relentless carrying, even at night, and total neglect of my own needs for a baby that, even as 6 months old, woke every 2hours or less. When we started to carry him everywhere, he started to chill out. How did we cope without carrying him when he was tiny? It is really crazy to look back now. I rely on my slings so much.

I love helping out at my local slingmeet now. The lady that runs it is very pregnant and poorly at the moment, so some of us older members (all of whom either now have new babies or are expecting them within 6 months time) sort of run it when she's not able. Today was particularly busy! Lots of new ladies came needing help, demonstrations and wanting to borrow slings. We lent out 2 wraps, 3 mai-tais and a pouch! Missis was star demo baby, in & out, up & down, back, front and hip. I even popped Boy up on my back to demonstrate how long you can enjoy carrying for. I was pleasantly surprised I could still do it after a 6 months break!

post-script: while I was dyeing my sling purple, I amazed myself at my own genius by deciding to do the ultimate in recycling Boy's old baby clothes without dressing my gorgeous girl head to toe in blue. I popped a few stripey vests, a white cardigan, some beige cord pants, some blue baby-leg-warmers, and some striped trousers and even a few pairs of socks! Apart from the cardi, which is a dissapointing lilac, the rest look great! I'm so chuffed. Boy had a gorgeous dungaree set with a blue&browm striped vest, which Missis can now wear and look uber funky and girly at the same time!! They are not in the picture as she's wearing them :-)

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Social life? You can keep it!

A while ago, while pregnant, I posted about my invite to HID's work's Christmas do. I assumed Missis would be "high need" like Boy, I assumed correctly, and tried to convince the relevant people at HID's company to allow me to bring her in a sling. Needless to say, in our baby-unfriendly western world, they refused. Missis was born and the date loomed. We were co-sleeping (still are- we put her name-plaque on our bedroom door, we foresee her in with us for quite some time yet) so the idea of me staying overnight in a hotel away from her was laughable, there was no way she'd sleep in a cot for my mother. So maybe I'd go for an evening out. Missis fed every hour as a newborn...and this continued for many weeks. I began to express milk two months in advance, as I find expressing very hard work, yielding very little for my efforts. I began to realise that all the frozen breast milk in the world could not compare to the comfort of a breastfeed, and besides, she would need to be syringe or cup fed due to a total refusal of the bottle. (Much to my mother's horror, who had never heard of such a thing as a baby refusing the bottle).

Weeks passed and Missis smiled, fed and slept in my arms only. She allowed HID to hold her for short periods in the sling, a parenting method that my mother will not be a party to, even after explanations that is was the one surefire settling tool she could use, besides spontaneous lactation! I started to feel more and more uneasy about leaving her. Perhaps I'd stay just for the meal....

A few days before the party was my 25th birthday. Missis was three months old. My sister offered to babysit so that we could eat out. She isn't especially confident with babies, she was really trying to be nice. I didn't really want to be apart from Missis, but everyone seemed to think I'd enjoy it, and it was the perfect trial run for the party, so I said yes. We were out for two hours and I felt awkward the whole time. After half an hour, I really wasn't enjoying myself, but continued as I didn't want HID or anyone else to think I was crackers. I didn't feel this way last time, I was desperate to get away, I was depressed. So this was all new and surprising to me. My sister called me to hurry home, I gladly did. Apparently Missis had cried so much she'd had called my mother (but not me) over to settle her down. I was really upset by this news and decided not to go to the party at all.

The boss' wife text me when she heard I wasn't going. She said perhaps, if I left her in the room, Missis could come after all, and she would see if the hotel offered a baby listening service. There were a few things wrong with this suggestion (as well as the hypocrisy). One, bar twice in her life falling asleep in the car and sleeping in her carseat for two hours, she has never slept unaided, i.e. without my body touching her in some way (sling/breast/family bed). Two, even if we were lucky and Missis slept like a baby (whoever invented that saying ought to be shot) the idea of someone me and my baby didn't know listening out for her? How long would they let her cry before the came to get me? How long would it take to find me? How long would it take for me to get to the room? No way. It turns out no such service was available anyway.

I decided, maybe if we took the baby monitor that I could keep on the table, if we were lucky, she may sleep long enough for me to socialise a little. And if not, maybe ordering room service and charging it to the company and a huge bed and TV weren't the worst things in the world! And if I wasn't happy, I could turn straight round and come home. Then I found out it was over an hours drive away! Hmmm, perhaps the trip wasn't worth it. The boss' wife had insisted that the room was less than 30 seconds away from the function room, which sounded good. HID gave me the hotel's number to call and confirm this. It was a complete fabrication, the receptionist informed me our room was at the other side of the building, there was no way our monitor would work to cover that distance. She could only move our room to the closest one within our party (and that was only with the boss' wife's express permission) and even that wasn't close. The snow started to fall and the driving conditions worsened.

Needless to say, I didn't go in the end. And I'm still not ready to leave her now. People think this is very strange. HID made up a little story about her being unwell, he did not feel comfortable telling people his wife refuses to be separated from her new baby. Even I am a little surprised by feeling this way. After a difficult birth that resulted in two separate (6hr in total) surgeries and permanent nerve damage I still suffer with today with my first baby, I almost couldn't wait to be rid of Boy, (who was just as difficult, but not breastfed and slept in a cot. I say slept...for 2hrs at a time til 6m, and only when very settled) and we left him overnight and two days with my mother when he was 3m old and went away for the weekend, 2hrs away. I know now it was PND, and I feel terrible about it. But I could not leave Missis. How strange that they are having such different starts in life.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Classic Argument

My cousin's current facebook status:

X wants to know whether standing on an upturned plug with bare feet is more or less painful than being hit in the nuts?

some misguided replies:

try it! bloody kills!
06 January at 19:29

its a close call. upturned plugs are a nightmare
06 January at 19:30

less id say mate depends on size of nuts pmsl
06 January at 19:32

Wot about bein hit in the nuts by an upturnd plug?
06 January at 21:01

My reply:

in that case the eternal argument of whether childbirth or getting hit in the nuts is more painful is over. Standing on a plug is like being kissed by a fairy compared to childbirth you bloody wuss!

What would you have replied?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Here are some of our Christmassy photos! Sorry for the delay, things are only just returning to nomal around here, the house still looks like toys 'r' us.
At the park enjoying the pre-Christmas snow.
Feeding the cold ducks in the snow.

" Mi-mi? Cooooorld!"

Wrapping paper hand made out of used parcel paper by Boy.

Homemade gingerbread tree decorations made by Boy and I. Great gifts for the grandparents.

Looks like we had a great time! Well the day itself didn't run so smoothly. Let me explain why.
I wish I'd been brave this year and stayed at home with my little family. Instead, I went to my mums and had to play by other people's rules. Two days before Christmas, my mum informed me that her Christmas dinner guests (her included? not sure) did not want me to breastfeed in front of them. (As we all know, breastfeeding is a shameful secret and should be hidden away. Want to give your child the best possible start to life? By god, shush, don't tell anyone.) With one guest in particular to be avoided at all costs. And pay? Gosh did I. I sat with a tiny three month old baby in a freezing conservatory in the snow on her very first Christmas, each wearing a coat and wrapped in blankets. Then a huge sheet of ice crashed down on to the roof, making us both jump (I did actually fear the roof would cave in), and as a result, Missis screamed for half an hour. (The crash was that loud. And very frightening even for me, who knew and understood what it was.) So next feed, I attempted to balance myself and my baby on an uncomfortable dining chair, with my feet on tip-toes to lift her, and my shoulders hunched to reach her. Comfy! Each time I was alone, listening to laughter and merriment going on in the next room, missing out on my son playing with his new toys. So finally, after everyone had enjoyed their dinner (mine was a bit hurried as GOD FORBID I fed the baby while people were EATING, how DISGUSTING) I went into the comfy livingroom to feed the baby and play with Boy. Next, the family member who I was told to stay away from or face the concequences, actually came and sought me out to have a go at me (while he faced the wall as he couldn't even bear to look in my direction, but god he milked it). I couldn't get up and leave because I was feeding, and the more he went on, the more I could literally feel my let-down reflex slowing down, I'd be there all day. Great. Eventually he left the room (no, no-one came to rescue me) and I started to cry. No matter, Missis with have another first Christmas next year. Oh no, wait, she won't, will she?
If mum had only given me a bit of notice, I'd have cooked for us and stayed at home. Thank goodness she warned me though, if I hadn't been expecting, well, something, I'd have been a lot more upset.

We were supposed to be attending said family member's house for their annual Boxing Day party the following day. Needless to say, I would rather have peeled off my own toenails than be humiliated like that again. (Plus, I was forbidden from breastfeeding in his house, never mind in the same room as him.) Even my mum's tipsy begging couldn't change my mind. But HID asked if he could go and take Boy, which I thought would be a good idea to prevent people from lying about why I wasn't there (oh, she couldn't come, baby is ill). I asked him what he planned to say when people asked where was. He said; "I'm proud of what you are doing. I'll say 'she's at home feeding the baby'." I love him.
Instead, we spent time with the other side of the family and attended a different gathering. I fed the baby surrounded by family. An eight year old girl sat next to me and stroked
Missis' head as I fed her. And a lady looked at us fondly and said "god, I miss breastfeeding." It was her daughter sat beside me, who she fed for years, not months.