Tag Archives: Bringing Up Bebe

On and off

It’s been a little quiet on the blogging front lately. My apologies. I think I’ve run out of ways to say ‘I’m tired’, and my beloved thesaurus is in tiny print, so no help there.

Some days we do well: Teddy’s night-time sleeping intervals inch towards three hours instead of two, we make outdoor plans, we carry them out, I do the cooking but probably not the washing-up, I watch a cheeky documentary on iPlayer, and everything feels normal.

Other days, Teddy fidgets half the night and we flop around the house all day, Henry gets more annoyed and more inclined to use his brother as a surfboard, and all I can think about is getting them both to sleep at the same time so I can too. I’ve decided that as long as I’m breaking roughly even with our on/off days, we’re doing pretty well.

Incidentally, I don’t have any foolproof baby sleeping strategies (Henry was a good sleeper with no input from us, and Teddy’s still so small he gets hungry a lot), but this is what I’ve decided is the truest truth. PRIORITY ONE is more sleep. PRIORITY TWO is better sleep. 

Initially I am insanely, eat-a-whole-jar-of-Nutella desperate for as much sleep as possible. Both our boys have slept for longer in our bed, so that’s how we start. But all babies are different, and we’ve had to experiment: they might sleep better in a swaddle, or after a bath, or after ten minutes with Daddy, or wearing a miniature Barbara Streisand wig, for all I know. Whatever works. Do it. DO IT.

That’s good for the first couple of weeks. But while they sleep for longer between us, I sleep lighter. I also feel a lot less like an, ahem, natural woman and more like a dairy cow when there’s a baby physically separating us at night. So now I settle Teds in the crib between as many feeds as possible. We’ve gone back to THE NEST, and elevating one end of the mattress, which I can recommend times one million (I thank Eunice the night nurse in my prayers for that little gem). And Teddy gets colic in the evenings, so he gets a dummy to help with the stomach ache. I am not sniffy about dummies. One day I’ll have one gold-plated.

It’s a little early for sleep strategies, though I’ve been trying out le pause when I remember, from Pamela Druckerman’s French Children Don’t Throw Food (more on that later, probably). There are plenty of nights where PRIORITY TWO goes down the sinkhole, so I go back to PRIORITY ONE. Two nights ago he slept for four consecutive hours, and I woke up dizzy with the joy of it. Last night he huffed and wriggled until 2am, then woke up again a couple of hours later. I got out the Nutella jar again this morning.

Here are some photos from a winning day. Bacon sandwiches, a clean house, an afternoon nap, an evening walk by the canal in a burnished sunset. Some days it does go right. No Barbara Streisand wig required.

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Photo 04-08-2013 12 26 46 AM

Bringing up Bebe, with no food on the floor

It’s been a spotty week for blogging, I’m sorry. It’s been a spotty week for most things except three-day-old pyjamas, nose-blowing, drug-taking, and charging through more work than you can shake a hanky at. It’s been one of those long, sad weeks that exist to remind you how nice your normal life is, using a compare and contrast method. The universe is nothing if not methodical.

However! It’s all over now, and here we are victorious, etc. And in between – well, can you believe it? – I read a book.

Actually, I read one and a half books. One was J.K Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy, but I gave up halfway through when I realised she’d managed to write a doorstopper without a single likeable character in it. But the other one, I suspect, will be a game-changer. It was this.

Photo 28-11-2012 08 47 21 PM

(It’s called Bringing Up Bebe in the US edition.)

I’m coming very late to the party here: this book was released early this year, I think, so all the controversy has been and gone. The premise of the book is simple: couple move to Paris (she’s American, he’s British), then have a baby. It’s while they’re on holiday and eating in a restaurant, their eighteen-month-old leaving a trail of napkin devastation as per, that she notices the French children sitting down quietly. Eating everything put in front of them. Looking like they’re actually enjoying themselves. And so she embarks on a study of French parenting. The more she looks, the more she finds that French babies sleep through the night between two and three months, eat widely and enthusiastically, and aren’t a nightmare to control in public. Their parents don’t seem to be stressed by parenting, they don’t constantly witter on about how ‘gifted’ their babes are, and they don’t, either, seem to let it transform them out of their pre-baby fabulousness. Sacré bleu.

Well, I am sceptical of miracle children. And her observation pool was almost entirely middle-class Parisians. But despite that, I was more than predisposed to listen, because that scene in the restaurant is my life in miniature. I always said that Henry was going to give me a run for my money as soon as he could actually run, and so it’s proved. He’s just got a lot of things to look at, and he can’t reach any of them from a high chair, so could that be fixed, please? And, probably, I don’t know, everyone in the library wanted to hear that top-of-voice quacking noise, so he was doing them all a favour. And if you didn’t want him to climb up onto that precarious high ledge from the table, then what is it there for?

Photo 30-11-2012 10 37 56 PM

According to the book, French parents educate their children from a very young age to learn how to wait, to control their emotions, to realise that they’re not the centre of the universe, and to know, always, who is in charge. Then within that strict framework, they receive a lot of little freedoms, to make them feel independent. There was a lot in it, and I’m not going to recap it or we’ll be here all night. But let’s just say that:

1. I’m saying ‘it’s me who decides’ much more often and with more authority;

2. I ask Henry to ‘please wait’ when I’m not ready to pick him up or do exactly what he wants. It won’t kill him. And it might save my biceps.

3. I’ve started serving his lunch in three courses, in the French vegetables-protein-dessert order, and sticking mostly to starchy stuff like pasta and rice at dinner. It works like a dream (grated carrot, he ate. Two days in a row. GRATED CARROT. Glory be).

4. I will definitely, definitely be using that sleep technique with our future babies. We were lucky with Henry, which means next time we’re due an insomniac.

5. SO HELP ME, we are going away for our anniversary next year, even if I have to hire a nanny. It’s not too much to ask to go away as a couple once a year. It’s good for all of us.

There was a lot in it that I didn’t agree with – I don’t want to be pressured to give up breastfeeding after a couple of weeks, or have to get back my figure within a month or two, or feel completely worthless as a person if I’m just a stay-at-home mother. And there’s something rather lovely about getting down on the floor and making Lego villages, thank you very much. You should try it, Frenchies. See how excited they get.

But I would give rather a lot for him to eat his dinner and stop climbing onto that ledge. So let’s try this thing, shall we?

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