Louis and Soph. (Check out the matching knitwear.)
I thought I'd cracked it a few months back. You know, struck parental gold by chancing on a solution to that perennial daily battle that is Getting Ready. Instead of expecting Louis to get dressed on demand each morning, which was becoming an increasing struggle, I started bribing him by getting him excited about the day ahead. It started with a proposed trip to a playgroup to see Yoppy. They'd played there the week before, so he was more than happy to put some jeans on if it meant he could see her there again. Not to mention play kitchens while wearing a fireman's helmet.
I've since used it practically daily although obviously some excursions hold a bigger appeal than others. Try as I might to get him addicted to his daily frothy, it lacks the pull of my coffee - or his fire engine. And it's hard to think of anything that excites him about being dumped at nursery, although our orangutan cycle ride there - with him strapped to my back in his baby carrier - is helping. (Nobody tell health and safety.)
But I fear my device might be backfiring. On Monday, when I sprung my impromptu plans for a visit to Grandmas on him, he was desperate to leave at once. "Get dressed. See Grandma." I, however, had plans to finish a stack of chores, give him lunch and drive down while he napped. Then again today, with a trip on the big train to St Albans to see Sophie on the cards, it was all I could do to finish my cup of tea before he had bundled me out of the door. I jest not: we were ready to leave well before 9am, a feat never before achieved even on a work day.
Which made me realise that this parenting lark is all about striking a balance. In this case, it's about how to balance getting him excited enough to put down his lego and get ready but not so excited that I can't get myself dressed first. And if parenting really is about balancing then I can't help but find it ironic that the early days are all about such extremes. I'm talking about the sorts of extremes that get Daily Mail headline writers shrieking that leaving a baby sobbing could damage its brain - for that was how they interpreted Penelope Leach's latest wisdom on the subject in her new book - or the new parenting dilemma du jour: do you, or don't you, Gina?
Then again, thinking back, I'm not sure whether it's possible to find any equilibrium in those frantic early weeks. My finals-style approach to parenting by attempting to read all the literature out there so I could just use the snippets I liked from each so-called grand savant failed spectacularly. Perhaps we just have to accept that there are no easy solutions.
Unless you know better??