Sunday, February 28, 2010


...or Babyhattan, as it was then

When it comes to the least toddler friendly holiday, I used to think skiing ranked pretty high. But I think I have managed to trump myself. And all within the space of a month. For, dear bwb fans, I am taking Louis to Manhattan. Or Boyhattan as it shall henceforth be known chez L. What’s more: I am doing it by myself. Well, the flight bit. And most of the wandering around. DJ will be there – he’s going earlier for work – but by the sounds of it, he’ll be wall to wall. 

My logic for going is simple. Pricey as those trans-Atlantic flights might be, they are a darn sight cheaper than they will be in June after Louis hits two. Which I realize means eight-plus hours (because whose flight has ever actually departed once you get on the plane? Not mine, for sure) with a hulking 21-month-old-to-be on my lap. And yes, that’s more than a little daunting. But hey, even if it’s a disaster, at least I’ll be doing something. And aren’t traumatic memories better than no memories at all? Or something like that.

What’s more, we won’t be alone in wreaking toddler havoc upon Boyhattan. No, Louis will have no less than two toddler friends with whom to run riot in the Met. Or whatever the hell else you do in a freezing March week with three boys under two. (And if anyone knows, please spill the beans!) As for whether Louis will ever get to go on a NYC trip he remembers – we were also there when he was seven months – well that particular jury is out. Maybe we’ll have to take a leaf out of the book of some friends who became parents last summer. They, too, are going to Manhattan (as they’ll get to call it). But alone, sans son. Incidentally, that particular fact was probably instrumental in pushing us to go. With Louis. 

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Nursery nightmares

Tell me something. Why is it that life just seems to get harder? No sooner have I (sort of) got used to abandoning Louis with his erstwhile lovely nanny while I go out to work then wham, she hits me with the news that she can’t look after him anymore because it clashes with the English class she wants to take. I couldn’t face the emotional investment necessary to find another nanny, so I had no choice but to become one of those nursery mums. You know, the ones who spend so much time insisting their kids actually love it once they are there that I can’t help but not believe them.

I have to confess Fate played a small part in my decision. Two weeks before Anna dropped her bombshell, a local nursery I’d put Louis’s name down for BEFORE we left for DC (i.e. when he was three months old) had got in touch to say they had space on the two days I needed. Which at the very least was prescient timing. And he is 20 months now. So a lot older than he might have been starting out at nursery. And yet. He’s still so small. So attached to his Mummy and Daddy. And he was so happy with Anna. Sigh.

After jumping through the requisite hoops to nail the place, we’re now busy settling him in. Or, unsettling him in, I should say. I’m being characteristically wimpish about it, staying with him for twice as long as most parents. But last Thursday I actually had to leave him. Not for long. Just an hour or so. But as soon as he clocked what was going on he became frantic. “Louis coat. Louis coat,” he bleated, as he grabbed my hand and marched me to where his coat was indeed hanging up, tears falling all the time. I nearly bottled it yet again, but figured I should probably go through with it. And so I abandoned him, crying, to the embrace of the lady charged with his care while I can’t be bothered. At least that’s what it feels like. And yes, I was crying too.

I’m told he settled quickly – after about five minutes – and that he spent the rest of the time doing “individual play”, which seems to be the nursery gold standard. But it didn’t make me feel any better about leaving him. Especially as I can’t stop the words of a child psychologist we saw on a recent TV programme about childcare echoing round my head. He called nursery, ‘the biggest social experiment ever carried out,’ referring to the fact that we are the first generation to have handed care of our children over to complete strangers. Then there are those studies that show boys aged around two fare the worst in nurseries, becoming either withdrawn and sad or aggressive. It' s because they are under stress; in tests their brains appear marinated in cortisol, the stress hormone. Worse, they are consequently at a higher risk of emotional and social problems in later life.

Each time I express doubts, I’m told that ‘it’s good for him’. And that he needs to snap that cord eventually. But I’m still far from convinced, albeit totally willing to eat my words if need be. That said, I fear doing so will just turn me into one of those mums (see above). And so the cycle of angst begins again.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Who knew? I like boys!

Louis and Samuel (and those retro boots)
Samuel and the sledge

One unexpected upshot of our week away was that - whisper it - it turns out I might actually like boys. I mean, of course I *like* boys (although I respect anyone who doesn't). It's just that I've always had my reservations about little ones. For instance, here's a confession: my first thought when shown my brand new (c-section) baby was, 'Oh, isn't it beautiful'; my second, 'Oh, it's a boy'. I'll leave you to imagine my third....

Needless to say I adore Louis. And I'm pretty keen on his dad. But it's those ones in between that cause me concern - with the notable exception of my godson. (Plus anyone else who is feeling offended.) You know, the testosterone-filled ones that only like trucks and dirt and fighting. Not to mention shouting and causing general chaos and devastation. And yes I know I am stereotyping, but thus far my experience has been pretty limited to former classmates or my brother. (Apologies Uncle Rob.) 

So I was genuinely delighted when Louis decided to befriend some older boys while we away. Or, correction: they befriended him. First up was Adam, who was sitting with his Dad on the seat behind us on the coach from the airport. Louis kept asking, 'Who's that boy? Who's that boy?' and so the introductions were made. Adam, 6, made a point of saying good morning every day at breakfast and chatting to us at various moments. (Which is more than I can say for his parents.) The following Saturday, back at the airport, he told me: 'The first time I saw Louis I wished he was my brother." Why? I asked. "Because he's the cutest baby I ever saw." Melt. 

Then there was Samuel. The lovely Samuel. And his friend (or brother, we never worked it out) Jacob. We met getting skis on the Sunday morning. Irrespective of the age gap - Samuel was 11, to Louis's 1 - they instantly became equally besotted. To the extent that the older boys started ringing our room to see if they could play with Louis after skiing. Louis spent every day wondering where Samuel was, and according to Samuel's Dad, Samuel did likewise. They'd trot off together for 'a walk' halfway through each meal. Which was a godsend for me, although I'm not sure Samuel's family was as delighted. 

Samuel even quoted back that don't-you-know-pink-is-retro line to me that I'd used when he'd queried why Louis had pink snow boots. I don't think Samuel and Jacob ever did notice the age difference. They'd ask us stuff like, 'Is Louis on half-term too next week?' and 'Why isn't he talking properly?' Um, try because he's only one! Even now, Louis still begs me to see the photos of him and Samuel on "Mummy's 'ello". I'm only sorry that he's too young to have a pen-pal, although I am wondering whether to send Samuel a link to bwb......

Sunday, February 21, 2010

How to really ski with a toddler!

Okay, so this is how you really take your toddler skiing. (If you think this makes us look like perfect parents because we finally stopped being selfish and started hanging out with Louis then I guess I should confess that this was actually the last day and we were waiting for our journey-from-hell home to begin. Of which, doubtless, more later.)

p.s. totally unsure why this video isn't showing up. i think it works if you hit play, but it's odd.... perhaps i should just delete this post.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A skiing downer

Day two in the French Alps and in theory I couldn't be happier. We've actually done it. Gone skiing. Not only that but the snow is great and the blue skies almost touchable from the mountain peaks. Plus thus far I have survived with both knees intact despite somehow both starting and ending my first day on a black run. Or just about.

And yet. And yet. This will sound utterly bonkers to anyone who has endured me moaning about the lack of snow in my life the past three years but, whisper it, I really didn't enjoy myself. Sure, the days had their moments. Like when my phone rang at lunchtime on day one as I was about to tackle a bumpy black and it was the nanny telling me that Louis was doing fine and "an absolute pleasure to look after". And I coped with the slope. Not to mention that feeling of catching some high altitude rays in the middle of what has to be the longest winter ever.

But for the rest of the time I honestly felt wretched. Utterly wretched that here we were, on holiday, and we'd opted to dump Louis with a total stranger so that we could head up a mountain without him. Sure, we'd watched him settle in and there was no way I'd have left him if he'd been crying. (Unlike plenty of other parents using the creche.) And I knew the nannies would be keeping him busy. After all, there was sledging to do and a snow park to explore. Not to mention feet painting and cookie baking to come.

Yet that didn't change the fact that for all the stimulation, I knew Louis would have been happier spending the day doing chores with me than a day without me. Especially on a so-called family holiday. I just couldn't get the knots to leave my stomach or the echoes of "Mummy toys" out of my head. Even if I managed to forget about him briefly while negotiating the way down, there was always that long chair back up again to dwell. Even the fact that we'd started both days late and finished early - well, for us, at least: normally I'm fanatical about getting the first and last lifts - didn't help.

What to do? Except hope that the guilt will dissipate as the week wears on. Who knows: by day six I might even manage to enjoy myself.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Pink stinks. Or does it?

Here's a question: is it ever okay for boys to wear pink? I ask because I was confronted with a dilemma today. I needed to buy Louis some snow boots to wear next week because wellies are just too chilly; ditto his brown boots. I found some great Columbia ones in one of the posh Kensington ski shops. For a mere £20. They're black and really rather funky. But although they're the right size, there is no way they're going on his feet. And trust me I've tried. And tried.

So instead I went to Decathlon, that French magnet for all things sporty and cheap, which is handily but a short hop from our 'hood. But this being February and still the middle of winter, you can imagine what their selection of kiddie snow boots looked like. (Is there a shortcut key to inject a heavy note of sarcasm??) All they did have were rows and rows and rows of pink ones; the neutral coloured toddler ones apparently sold out in early December. What to do? (You can probably guess where this is going from the picture.) So, I got him to try them on, figuring if I had to fight either the boots or him then I'd just leave them on the shelf. But the first slipped on like a dream, and he demanded the second one too. They were also less than half the price of the Columbia ones. Just.

Reader, I bought them. Yes, pink snow boots. I did briefly figure I might be able to get a fabric pen and colour them a different shade. But realistically that's not going to happen. Thus far he's just been stomping round the house in them: he really loves his "snowman boots". Is that cruel? Bear in mind his lovely blonde locks are already too long - we had another failed attempt at a trim this morning - and that he's often mistaken for a girl, including, ahem, by the Decathlon check out girl. I wanted to check what the Pink Stinks campaign policy was on boys in pink but they haven't got back to me. I'll update this if they do. For now, though, can he pull it off? Or is it just too cruel? Then again, making him walk round with cold feet won't exactly win me mummy of the month.