Thursday, 25 February 2016

As Usual

This morning Eleanor came through to our room as usual, got into bed as usual and had some mum-milk as usual.

This evening, we shared a bath as usual. We washed each other's hair as usual.

And these things got me thinking, how much longer will this be usual for?

As of today I'm 39 weeks and 2 days pregnant. Baby number 2 could arrive any day now. When he does, he'll get first dibs on mum-milk. How will I hold Eleanor off? I probably won't be able to bath with Eleanor for a good while, it may even be that she'll start sharing her baths with her brother instead. Will she miss our baths? And when will I wash??!

In an unspecified number of days, nothing will be as usual. Ever again.

And I know that it will eventually be replaced by a new as usual. But I don't know what that looks like yet, and it's a bit scary.

It won't be just the three of us any more.

There'll be a fourth person, one who needs so much attention. The thought that I might not be able to curl up on the sofa with Eleanor and a book, without having to tend to anyone else, makes me sad. I've already mostly relinquished bedtime stories as laying in her bed is too uncomfortable. Am I about to lose all our quiet moments together?

I'm so excited about having another baby, but at the same time I feel a strange sense of melancholy about the changes this will necessarily bring to my relationship with my first baby. No more days of hanging around, just the two of us. No more slow starts to the day with milky cuddles.

How will she cope with all the changes? How will I cope?

When will things get back to 'as usual', and what will that be?

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Gender Stereotypes - They Start in the Womb

Knowing I'm having a boy this time has been quite interesting. When I tell people, the first reaction is invariably, "ooh one of each!" I never quite know how to respond to this because I wasn't really bothered whether it's a boy or a girl. I found out because a) I don't like surprises, and b) I feel weird referring to my child as 'it'. I kind of wish I could have another baby just to show that 'one of each' wasn't my sole aim. (More on why that's not going to happen here.)

I've also heard some interesting comments about what to expect from having a boy. My mum happily affirmed that boys sleep better. This is from a sample size of two boys and one girl - and one of those boys didn't sleep through till he was 4. I've also been told that boys are more confident and boisterous than girls - a 'fact' which, seeing as I already have possibly the most confident and boisterous child known to man (and guess what, she's female), strikes utter terror into my heart. Don't get me wrong, I love that Eleanor is brave, tough, extroverted and almost fearless - but it's exhausting to parent and I don't think I could handle a child that's more so!!

I find it fascinating and, if I'm honest, frustrating how babies are attributed certain qualities before they've even exited their mother's body, purely on the basis of their gender. I had a Twitter conversation about this a few months back where someone said that reporting of foetal movements changes once mothers know the gender. But interestingly this can go either way - a lively male foetus will be described as 'rough' or 'boisterous', but a quieter one will be 'lazy'. When pregnant with Eleanor she was VERY lively, painfully so, and when I mentioned this to someone they said she must be a can-can dancer rather than a footballer. Eh?

Much as I love our modern ability to find out the gender before birth, it does seem to have created a culture where we are ready with the gender labels before we're even halfway through pregnancy. There's talk about 'pink bumps' and 'blue bumps', and expectant parents create gender reveal videos themed in pink and blue. My daughter's favourite colour is blue. So's mine. Weird, considering we're both female.

So please, next time someone tells you what they're having, don't rush in with stereotypes. The kid isn't even born yet, give it chance to have its own personality. The only definite difference between boy and girl babies is their relative ability to pee in your face. Fact.

Friday, 12 February 2016

The Accidental Literacy Teacher

It's not what you expect, your 3 year old suddenly starting to read.

But it's what happened to us last year. At first it was the odd word on signs - mainly the word 'no'. She started tracing the letters on street signs and taking interest in text around us.

Then one of her preschool teachers mentioned she was pointing to words and reading them in books. At the time I didn't realise that was unusual, but the teacher's reaction told me that it was a bit out of the ordinary.

One day I went into a charity shop, I went browsing around and found some Level 1 and 2 Biff, Chip and Kipper Books. (Actually under the new grading they were Level 2 and 3 but I didn't know that.) I got them, thinking they'd come in handy when she was closer to 4. She found them and read the lot. She wasn't even 3 and a half at this stage.

We set about finding more Biff, Chip and Kipper books and managed to get a box set of the new levels 4 to 6. We thought that would keep us going until she was at least 5 or 6. By the end of the summer holidays she'd finished the lot. She was still only 3 years 8 months.


From there she just started reading everything. She would happily read her picture books to herself, and would often correct me if I went wrong when I read them to her. She would read text on boxes, packets, the blurb on the back of books, signs in shops. When we went out to eat she could pick her own food from the menu. All the while I was reeling in shock at this bizarre child who was still only semi-toilet trained yet seemed to be able to read almost anything.

She moved to a school nursery in January and they tested her reading. She now has a reading age of 8.9.

She was 4 in December. She has a reading age of more than twice her actual age.

HOW THE FLIP DOES THAT HAPPEN? 

By now you're probably thinking I'm boasting. But I'm not. Because boasting would imply I've had any sort of control over the process, and I truly, honestly haven't. She's done it all herself. Yes, I've read to her since an early age, but she was the one demanding stories as soon as she was able to grab her own book and bring it over to me. To be honest, there have been times when, having read about 20 books (or occasionally one book 20 times), I wished she wasn't so bothered! But apart from reading with her I've done nothing special. No Baby Einstein, no reading programmes, no second language, nada. 

So here I am, suddenly 'teaching' a literate child when I never expected to do that. I figured that she would learn when she started school, that the teachers would take care of most of it and I'd just have to read whatever came home in her book bag. Now I have a preschooler who already has a book bag - and is complaining the stories they give her are too easy!!

It has its annoying downsides. For instance, she has a thing for Pom Bears. (Show me a preschooler who doesn't.) We'd told her that they were to have with lunch only, but then she read that it says 'Potato Snacks' on the bag. Yeah, thanks for that. There was also the time she freaked out when I had a satsuma because the packaging said 'Just for Kids'. And she often reads the bizarre self-aggrandising slogans on packaging and asks why it says that, to which I reply, "It's marketing."

It's also a challenge finding suitable reading material for her. She is very sensitive to anything scary, and it's hard finding books intended for 7 or 8 year olds with a subject matter that's appropriate for a 4 year old. 

But at the moment it's not too bad. She's mostly happy to just read her old picturebooks with the occasional chapter book from the library thrown in. At home she's still quite happy to be read to, and that's fine. I don't want to push her. No, really! As someone who passionately believes in the importance of children just playing and delaying formal education, the fact my daughter took it upon herself to learn to read while still a preschooler is actually quite irritating!

So for now, I'm trying to play it cool. At one point I was worried that, having learnt to read by sight, she'd struggle with phonics and was desperately scrabbling round for phonics resources to help her 'catch up' and then I realised how utterly ridiculous that was! She will learn in her own time, as she has with sight reading.

Just turns out her own time was rather earlier than we were expecting!

Did you have a very early reader? How did you find it? What surprises are in store for us?!