How much attention is too much?

We recently had our second child. Watching her and our first tells us that we made a couple of mistakes with our first child. Not major mistakes mind you. Just little ones. When our first was a little bubs we were incredibly attentive to her. We never let her cry out for particularly long. Always entertained her. Reflecting on it I’m starting to wonder how much attention is too much? When do you reach the point where you are just spoiling your child?

This winter holiday I spent a lot of time with my two daughters and noticed a few things. For one thing I noticed that when I am around my daughter wants my entire attention all the time. I don’t mind as my girl is a lot of fun to play with but it does make me think. Our early obsessive attentiveness to her needs have led to a few positives and negatives. We have a little girl who loves us dearly and loves a good laugh. Another bonus that I’m sure is derived from the way we treated her is that she is an excellent big sister. She gives our second one a lot of hugs and often wants to feed her or help us change her nappy. Since she is copying our behaviour this must reflect on how we treat her. The downside though is our little girl is very dependent on us. She isn’t good at playing by herself. When we are around she expects that same amount of attention we gave her when she was a baby. Due to this I am unable to give our second one much attention. Fortunately this seems to have had a very positive effect on our second little one. She plays on her own for an hour or two without grumbling and she doesn’t need many hugs. She definitely gets more mum time than dad time. The first is my little girl and the second is mummy’s little girl. In a strange way I feel like it’s a bit of a social experiment.

Hush little baby don’t say a word the realistic version

This is a rewrite of the classic lullaby with realistic actions instead of bizarre purchasing practices.

The original rhymes but I couldn’t be stuffed trying to make this rhyme.

Hush little baby don’t say a word, papas going to quickly check your nappy

If you’re still crying after a nappy change papas going to check if you’ve been fed recently.

If you’ve been fed and you’re still crying, papas going to try and give you a cuddle.

If you’re crying in papas arms, he’s going to try standing up while cuddling you.

If that still hasn’t changed your mind. Papas going to start pacing back and forward.

If pacing back and forward hasn’t stopped your crying, Papas going to keep on doing it for another hour

If you’re still crying after that hour. Papas going to tag out and pass you to mama.

If you’re still crying after being with mama. Papas going to try it all over again.

Giving Birth in Japan

We have two kids. My wife gave birth to our first in Australia and the second in Japan. To me the procedures for both births looked about the same. I’m sure there were differences but I couldn’t tell. One thing that is a major difference though is drugs. My wife gave birth to the second baby with nothing but a sports drink and an oxygen mask. What’s more remarkable about this is that it is standard. Women in Japan tend not to have epidurals. Before anyone says their babies are smaller. The average size in Japan is around 3.5 kilograms. Not massive I know, but not tiny either. So are they built of sturdier stuff? Probably not. I’m not sure what the difference here is. Why for the first kid my wife had everything they had to give her and the second she needed little. My wife was impressed by the way they went about it though and swore she’d only ever give birth in Japan from now on. So there must be a difference. Perhaps I’ll write another blog on that one when I find out more. What happens after birth in Japan is more interesting though.

After birth the mother stays in the clinic she gave birth at for a week. You get your own private room and three meals a day in very generous and delicious portions. Of course there are also showers and toilets you can use. The baby is cared for for three days by the midwives at the clinic fed on bottled milk. They also pump breast-milk from the mum so the baby gets what it needs from that too.  On the third day the baby is brought into mum for full time care. Of course the midwives are still all there if the mum wants help. At the end of the week mum can go home. When my wife and I tell Japanese people what happens in Australia, one day and you’re out, they can’t believe it. My wife said the experience was fantastic and really helped her adjust to having the baby at home when she got out.

Another difference in giving birth is the first month. In Japan it is common wisdom to not take your baby out of the house for the first month. I’m honestly not sure if this is a good idea or not. At first it seems a little tough on the carer if they can’t go anywhere for a month. The logic behind it though is pretty reasonable. There are two reasons for it. First is to make sure the baby isn’t exposed to any illnesses. Secondly to unsure the transition to outside the womb living is stress free and simple. Perhaps there is something to it.

Parenting in Japan and Australia

Perhaps one day I’ll write a thesis on this but not today. Today it’s just some observations on differences I’ve noticed between the two countries.

Recently we had our second baby. She is two months old. As you’d expect from a baby this age she tends to cry a lot between 9pm and 12pm. She then wakes up every three hours crying. My wife and I started doing research on what we could do to help our baby settle. The results were quite surprising. Almost all of the English sites on the topic said the same thing. Just let them cry. The Japanese sites though were stressing the importance of giving the baby comfort and be patient until they settle. All sites both in Japanese and English said this is just a phase and in the third and fourth month the baby will adjust to day night patterns. Either way the baby will settle after a month so which is better? For us letting the baby cry is impossible. This kind of response is only possible if you have a wide open spaces perspective. In Australia the baby has it’s own room away from yours. You can’t hear the kid cry anyway unless you set up a two way radio or a video. In Japan the baby is right there with you. I couldn’t ignore the baby’s cry if I wanted to. The other thing about this though is that I don’t want to ignore the baby’s cry. I want to comfort the baby and honestly I think that’s important. The baby in its first few months is only just adjusting to the world. I don’t need to lay down the law with it tell it this is what life is. I want the baby to know that it’s surrounded by love and happiness. If that means occasionally getting up and walking back and forward in my kitchen rocking her back to sleep I’m OK with it.

As hinted at we sleep in the same room as both our babies. Well one is two years old but she still wants to be babied sometimes so I call her our baby. When we had our first one everyone from doctors and midwives to parents and friends said ‘Don’t sleep on the same bed as your baby, you’ll crush them.’ Honestly I don’t see how this is possible but a little research revealed that this has happened. In Japan the opposite is the case. Doctors, midwives, parents and friends all recommend sharing the bed with your babies to better cater to their needs at night. Two years in and neither my wife and i have ever come close to rolling over onto one of our kids. That said though if you aren’t so sure about your ability to wake up don’t try it or test yourself by putting a doll in your bed and see if you wake up after rolling onto it. Interestingly enough it isn’t so rare to people to keep on sleeping in the same room. Our neighbours all sleep in the same room and their kids are seventeen and twenty. I don’t think we’ll be doing the same.

Another interesting difference between the two is the question of teething. In both countries there isn’t even a question. In Australia teething is an accepted theory for why babies cry. All sorts of goods can be purchased to combat this discomfort. There is no such theory in Japan. People I’ve mentioned it to look at me as if I’m totally crazy. They ask me ‘Why would teeth coming in make them cry?’ As far as I can tell I’m going to agree with Japan. Why would it be a problem? I don’t remember my teeth coming in ever hurting. I also don’t remember losing my teeth ever hurting either except when they were being pulled out by the dentist. A dentist pulled four of my teeth out believing it would stop my teeth from being so crooked. Shakes head. Those poor four teeth, you aren’t forgotten. The point is that my wife and I haven’t done anything in regards to teething neither has a whole nation. Japan is probably not the only one either. Perhaps there’s another thesis here. Whether or not teething is a thing or just made up to make parents feel better. I suspect it’s the later.

There are probably more differences. I suspect I’m just scratching the surface. I’ll keep a log of it and perhaps one day there’ll be a great big book about it. I think I’ll call it How to make an Australian or a Japanese person. Or perhaps something simpler.

The terrible twos aren’t so terrible if you think about it

We’ve all heard the term terrible twos well and truly before we even think about kids. I know the first time i heard it was in primary school. For those who don’t really know why the twos are considered terrible I’ll fill you in. Two year olds are just starting to flex their independent muscles. They start saying no to things they don’t want to do and they insist they do things for themselves even if they have no hope of being able to do it. So what’s so terrible about that? Well the thing that people think is terrible about it is that you tend to butt heads with your two year old a lot. It can get frustrating. The thing is though, it doesn’t have to be frustrating.

It’s all about how you look at it. A two year old is not a fully developed human. Their brains are still going through the process of growing and changing. They won’t have the full mental capacity of a human adult until 25 years old. Up until 2 they have been observing and absorbing everything they can about how humans live and function. I’ve mentioned in a previous post that babies are blank slates. This is so that we can adapt to every variant of human society there could possible be. At two your child is ready to start testing out what they’ve learnt. They want to try it all for themselves. The key to this age as the parent is to let them. Let go of your control and your fears and let your child try things for themselves.

The other trouble with this age is how often your child says no. Don’t get angry about this. Again it’s part of their development. They aren’t being disrespectful to you and they aren’t being insolent. You have to bite your pride and ignore any rising anger. They’ve said no to something. You shouldn’t force it on them. That will just lead to more resistance and resentment. They say no, you change the topic. Accept their answer. They’ve said no for a reason. You may not know what that reason is but they’ve said no and you should be the adult in the situation and accept it. Move on from it. Then perhaps after a time you can try and do what they said no to. You may know better than your child but until they learn for themselves they don’t know that. You need to hold their hand and support them as they explore the world. Not be a barrier against them.

The key to this age is embracing them because while it may be famous as the terrible twos it’s also an absolutely amazing time. It’s important not to waste your time on anger otherwise you’ll miss all the amazing things your child is learning and picking up. The terrible twos aren’t terrible. They are a time when your baby is starting to become human. Starting to act on their will rather than yours. The amount of first times that occur in this age is remarkable. A time that you should enjoy and cherish.

Tiredness and Parenting

This is probably more for myself then anything else. A mantra to stay in control and get it done.

I’ve been kicking this idea around in my head for a while. When your a parent you get tired. Real tired. It comes with the territory. This article is about how you act when you’re tired. So far I’ve spotted three different reactions when tired. I’m sure there are more.

The first reaction I’m going to call explosive. This is the one where as long as everything is going well and sweet you are your usual self. As soon as something goes wrong though, and in his state something goes wrong has a very broad spectrum, you explode. This reaction is not a good way to react especially when you are around children. The reason is simple. Up until the breaking point your child was probably showing model behaviour. One thing goes wrong and the entire night is out. If this is a reaction that you know you go to regularly when tired I strongly suggest you become aware of when you are feeling that pressure build and try and change the situation. Perhaps go out for a quick walk.

The second reaction I’m going to call too tired to care. This one you just couldn’t be stuffed doing anything. Everything seems too much hassle. The kids are going berserk and you’re just happy they are playing by themselves and giving you a chance to drink your tea. It’s true that you want your child to be playing by themselves. It’s something they need to learn. If they are misbehaving though and you are too tired to care this can establish a dangerous precedent. I would consider this reaction worse than the previous one. The first one at least establishes boundaries. It’s not an ideal way to establish them but they are there. The too tired to care reaction lets the kids go wild and that they will do. Have this reaction long enough and the situation is going to get much worse. You’ll be fighting an uphill battle to gain control. Basically this too tired to care reaction will beget more tiredness. If this is your go to reaction when you’re tired be aware that you could be teaching your kids they can do whatever they want.

The third reaction I’m going to call getting it done. This is the one where you make a quick list of everything you need to get done before you can rest. When it comes to parenting the list is something like; play with kid, feed kid, give kid bath, read books to kid, get kid to clean teeth, put kid to sleep, clean the dishes, wash the clothes, clean your own teeth and go to bed. You go through the steps that you’ve laid out in your head and you get it done. Each step may take longer than you thought but you’ve got a plan and your body is giving you what you need to do it. This reaction is ideal. There’s minimum stress and because you’ve got a plan if you keep it up every night you’ll make yourself a routine. Keep on egging yourself. Tell yourself, just gotta do it and then I can rest. Next thing you know you and your kid are asleep.

Of course it’s not as simple as saying there are three different reactions. Often the three go hand in hand in one night. You’ll be going along with your night time routine and your kids wants to watch TV instead of going through your carefully laid out plan. Suddenly your get it done persona slips and your explosive persona comes forward. Or perhaps you just don’t care this night and you let your kid watch TV. Suddenly it’s way past bed time and you’re still only on step two of the list. To conclude when you’re tired it’s hard to make sound judgement calls. Stay in control, stick to a routine and you and your kid can get to sleep early. Slip and your probably going to get tireder.

Boys should play with dolls

Boys should play with dolls. In this blog I’ll write why I think so.

Yesterday I took my daughter to the toy store. She wandered around most of the store and played with a range of demonstration models. One of the toys she played with was a doll you could feed with a fake milk bottle. She did it very deftly. We don’t have any dolls in our house. Not because we are against it or anything just because we’ve never bought one. At the time I wandered if she had been a boy would she have picked up the doll and played with it? In my opinion he would have and I’ll explain why I think so.

Children are geared to learn how to be human. One of the major ways they learn how to be human is playing. Children copy what they see adults doing. My daughter sweeps and vacuums the floor. We never asked her to do this it was something that she copied from us. Similarly she puts the teddy bears to sleep by giving them hugs, shushing them, placing them on the bed and putting a blanket on them. She is basically practicing how to be a parent. Dolls, and in our household’s case teddy’s, are a good way for children to mimic being a parent. They see how we act towards them and mimic it to the doll or teddy. This is why dolls are a good toy. Children can practice being parents with them.

Given that dolls and teddies are a means for children to develop their caring and parenting skills why does our society tell us that boys don’t play with dolls? It’s not because they don’t. It’s because people don’t give them the option to. It’s considered something that girls do. Some parents will even tell off their boys for playing with dolls. This is essentially telling boys not to learn how to be parents from a very young age. Our society should encourage boys to practice their parenting skills. Boys should practice babying a toy. It’s a natural part of development and will give them the skills they need to be parents when the time comes.

Parental Noir

I had to pick up the babe. It was raining so I had to go by car. She was inside waiting for me. She had short hair but you could tell she’d been trying to grow it out. Cute face and a laugh that could unfreeze even the coldest of hearts. She knew I was always due around this time. As usual she was glad to see me and happy to see the car. That changed when I accidentally bumped her head on the car roof. Clumsy me, Tears formed and she was screaming before long. I hugged her too me and climbed into the car. Fortunately she’s pretty easy to distract. I showed her her reflection and she was immediately mollified.I cruised off heading for home but get the idea it’d be nice to go to our favourite bakery. The wife had left some money on the table to get nappies. We could treat ourselves a bit. I took the back way to get there. No use driving on main roads. Too many cars, you never get to go beyond forty kilometres per hour. The babe started to get restless though. It distracted me and I missed the turn. I cursed. I’d have to take another street. It was always a risk in Japan. Take the next street and it was just as likely to add twenty minutes to your trip or put you on a road so narrow you weren’t even sure it was a road. I took my chances. I’d mollified the babe with promises that we were almost there. She seemed convinced for the moment. She was fine until I got to the next turn. I was grateful to see it. This road was going to link up. I turned in and almost had a head on with a four wheel drive. The road was two way but couldn’t fit more than one car. I backed up and let the woman go. She sat at the intersection not moving. I couldn’t figure out why she was just sitting there. Had she completely forgotten I was turning into her street and was waiting for me to go? Was she just stupid? Probably the latter. I cursed and babe started up again. The woman finally went and we got to the bakery.

The bakery is a nice little place nestled away in a little country town. It’s easy to miss unless you know about it. They’ve got a wood fire they use to cook the bread. I like this bakery. The bread is good and they give you free unlimited coffee. I had my fourth cup for the day. I should probably cut down. We snacked at the table they provided the babe satisfied that I hadn’t been lying. That she was going to enjoy where we were going. To top it off for her I bought a milk as we left. Dropping the change into my pocket. My wallet doesn’t have a coin section. It was a gift and looks nice but I’ve stopped carrying change for longer than a few hours. The next stop was to get the nappies.

Again the babe was getting annoyed at the trip. Annoyed enough that I promised myself I’d spend longer in the shop just to appease her. I found the nappies no worries but realised I was short two hundred yen. I couldn’t believe it. To get so close and be short two hundred. I cursed getting that extra milk. I wasn’t going to originally. But then I thought about it. It just didn’t add up. I was missing something. The bakery trip didn’t cost that much. The coins must have fallen out of my pocket while I drove. I went back to the car and searched like crazy. Checking every nook and cranny. To no avail. I turned up more coins but I was still short ten yen. Maybe they’d just let me have it. Not likely I sighed. I’d just have to except failure and try again. Have a conversation with lady of the house as to why there are no nappies and not enough money. I cursed. There had to be more money. I looked again. There should be a fifty yen piece somewhere. I know I saw it. I double checked under the steering wheel where a little ledge sat. There to my great relieve was a hundred yen piece. I gave a roar of triumph thankful that my mission wasn’t going to be a failure. I went back inside the shop only then realising that I had been narrating the whole experience to myself in the film noir style. I should cut down on the detective novels or maybe it’s just the coffee.

Travelling with a baby

Earlier last year I went to Korea with our baby girl.  She’s one and a half now so I guess I should be calling her infant instead of baby.  I went with my parents and my sister but was obviously the primary carer.  At the time I was going to write a blog about travelling with a baby but couldn’t think of anything particularly special to write.  My main feeling at the time was that it wasn’t really that different to daily life.  I did notice that I was a lot more worried about what I would feed baby but since I generally feed our baby what we are eating it ended up not being an issue.  Besides you can always go to the supermarket to get what you need.  We regularly stopped in to get bananas, milk and bread since those are baby’s favourite snacks.  Something to always keep in mind is; ‘what can baby do while I am there?’  One of the things I made sure we did while I was in Korea was devote a day to doing something baby would enjoy.  We found a kids land in one of the malls.  It was an amazing centre.  Overall she had a pretty good time.  It helped that I had my niece and nephew along.  They were a great help in keeping baby amused.

Last month we went to Australia.  It was a sixteen hour journey to get there; usually it’s a ten hour flight from Tokyo but we had to get to Tokyo first and that took six hours.  Baby handled it well.  She seems to like planes, this is her fifth time flying to and back from a place so she’s already a seasoned traveler.  I would give the following tips to anyone wanting to fly with a baby.  For starters its not like driving in the car or catching the bus.  You don’t have to buckle up except for on take off and landing.  Generally the trips are quite smooth so you can comfortably let baby walk up and down the aisles (or crawl).  Take a toy or two though since it can really help fill the time.  We did both a day flight and a night flight.  They’ve both got pros and cons to them.  If you are flying a night flight you can get the baby to sleep at their usually sleeping time and then hopefully sleep yourself or watch some movies.  That’s the dream anyway.  Day flights you’ve got to entertain baby for a significant part of it.  This doesn’t sound ideal but if you are like me and can’t sleep on planes it means you get to go to sleep at your usually time in a warm bed.  Not such a bad thing.  One thing I learnt which doesn’t seem to be well known is that you can designate a bag as a baby bag when getting on the plane and they don’t take out liquids.  You know as long as you aren’t crazy about it.  So flying with a baby isn’t so daunting.  I’d do it again.

As in Korea I found that going around Australia wasn’t so different as home life.  I had my standard baby bag with everything I need for an emergency; nappies, water, food, clothes and a toy.  Every place I met up with friends at in some way involved something that  baby could do.  Usually a playground with a swing.  This was a bit difference to my Korean visit since I didn’t know anyone there.  In Korea we mostly went to historical places and shopping.  Two things that aren’t exciting for babies.  In both these cases I just made sure baby knew we hadn’t forgotten about her and played with her on the go.  One huge difference I found was distances.  When you are travelling you tend to go that extra distance to do something.  Instead of doing a twenty minute car trip its more like an hour car trip.  This can make a bit of a difference for the baby’s experience.  Especially if they aren’t such a big fan of cars.  In my personal experience buses and trains are better for babies then cars.  You can give them more attention and they can share the experience with you.

At one year and four month my daughter does . . .

A very short rant and then all the things that amaze me about my daughter

Whenever someone asks me about my daughter the only question they ever ask is “Can she walk?” as if this is the benchmark for all achievement.  It annoys me because there are a whole bunch of things my daughter does that absolutely amazes me everyday.

My daughter  . . .

crawls and furniture walks absolutely everywhere with wanton glee.  I assume she doesn’t walk because crawling is just so awesome.

talks a lot.  Mostly the syllable da and ba but she talks most of the time.  At kindergarten she has conversations in baby talk with other babies

loves to turn on light switches and press whatever button there is.

holds and drinks out of a glass or cup (we had a bottle for her but she never took to it.  She just wanted to drink out of a cup)

Pours a drink from one glass to another (Usually leading to disaster)

Will sit in the front seat of the car without moving or jumping around.

knows how to turn the vacuum cleaner on and starts trying to vacuum the floor.  She vacuums the same spot but it still amazes me that she not only does this but wants to.

knows where the biscuits are kept

can open and close sliding doors

can turn the handle of the toilet door and open it (it’s a pull down handle.  the thing that amazes me about this is the door opens out so she has to turn the handle and move out of the way before pulling the door open)

Stands on tippie toes to reach the door knob and tries to turn it.  Thankfully she can’t yet.

knows how to open the car door.  She can’t do it but she knows where the handle is and tries to pull it.  Only a matter of time.

knows that you blow your nose into a tissue (this is really cute)

cleans her teeth and knows that you’ve got to put toothpaste on the brush (she is very insistent about this)

bang my head against the stove light switch to turn the light off.  (odd but yes she can do this.  She grabs me by the back of the neck and pushes forward.  It’s cute but also kinda mean.)

when she spills something if there is a tissue or towel nearby she’ll get it and clean up the spill.

Picks up rubbish and puts it in the bin (this one blows my mind)

claps her hands whenever a piece of music begins.

High fives people

head bangs whenever a piece of music she really likes comes on.  (actually that was a few months ago, now it’s moving her head from side to side)

climbs up onto the table by climbing onto the chair

climbs up slides at the park

climbs up stairs

go down a slide on her own face first and not hurt herself (It’s ridiculously cute and a little scary but she does it)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7sgjQe4fcQ

feeds herself by hand, fork or spoon

feeds other people

do stuff on computers and phones that I didn’t know you could do (you’d be surprised what you can do by button mashing, she once made my friends computer hotkey only so that every single key was a hotkey to something else.  We couldn’t figure out how to fix it or how she did it because we couldn’t look it up on the net.  We put her back on it, she banged some keys and it went back to normal.)

scroll pictures on the phone

flush the toilet (she isn’t potty trains just knows what the flush does)

cleans the toilet with the toilet brush (actually we discourage this because it creates more mess)

use a broom

use a spade

make snorty pig noises, fart noises, and the native american war cry (is it a war cry? I don’t know, I’m not American)

climb into the front seat of the car from the back.

climb the chair to get to the electronic piano, turn it on and then press the demo button.  There are three demo buttons but she only ever picks the first one)

open drawers and cupboards

unscrew the caps off the kerosene (this isn’t so good)

Play hide and seek with the cat.  (the cat is really into this.  It gets put out if we don’t try and find it.)

There are probably more I haven’t thought of.  Perhaps I’ll update this in a few days time.  I never cease to be amazed by my daughter and I hope that other parents out there are similarly amazed by their children.  It doesn’t matter in what order your child does something or if other children can do something your child can’t.  What matters is that every day your child is learning something and will add to his or her list of things they can do.