Judgement Day – Friday 26 February 2016

Like agitating Siri until he becomes impolite, brushing a toddler’s teeth is an impossible task.

Milo is prepared to: squeeze toothpaste directly from the tube into his mouth, suck the bristles of his toothbrush to extract remnant toothpaste flavour, carry his toothbrush around and stab the cats with it, brush my face with his toothbrush, deposit Kuepps’ toothbrush into the cats’ water bowl, brush my face with my toothbrush and post Kuepps’ toothbrush into the cupboard with all the candles in it.

Brushing he will not do. There can be no agitation of any kind of bristles on enamel. If such a manoeuvre is attempted Milo will purse his lips together, shake his head wildly side to side and slip immediately out of your arms and onto the ground as if he has spontaneously liquefied.

We have convinced ourselves the magic of toothpaste is such that brushing is actually a nice to have. The real benefit comes from swilling the toothpaste around in your mouth, or better still, eating it. But in the sub-cockle area of our hearts we know this to be false; and Judgement Day is coming.

As a new parent there are a number of big milestones in the first year; among these are the  4 big check-up/ vaccine delivery days (2 month, 4 month, 6 month and 12 month). These are the days when the project you have been working on at home is presented to the public; like going on a month holiday, working on a beard then unveiling it to your colleagues for assessment. These are exciting and trepidatious days.

Unlike the holiday-beard example however, the baby assessors (otherwise known as doctors) are overwhelmingly complimentary, encouraging and positive during this first year. Any vague concerns about weight, blotchiness, hygiene, ear-wax etc are readily explained away by the inexperience and fatigue of the parents. The holiday-beard example would sound something like this “Howard, overall your beard looks really terrific. Those bald patches around your cheeks and the dirty ginger/ grey mis-colouration around your chin are nothing to worry about. I am sure given time it will all thicken up and assume a homogeneous colour. You’re doing great”.

We have heard rumours however, from parents a few months ahead of us, that the ‘under 8s everybody receives a participation trophy’ attitude ends at the 18 month check-up; and for Milo that is only 6 weeks away.

All of a sudden we are growing concerned that Milo brushing my face with his toothbrush is probably unlikely to reduce or eliminate the plaque build-up on his teeth. Will the baby assessor accept the argument that he has a second set on its way so what’s the big deal?

Our self-consciousness about this major unveiling is also straying outside the sphere of dental hygiene. What is the optimum percentile for weight? Does the 90th imply we are really great at feeding him or really bad at running him?

What about scars and bruises on his legs and arms? What is the optimum number that says “I protect my child but allow him the freedom to develop physically as an independent human?”

Does a bit of skin pigment let the assessor know we are mindful of Milo’s vitamin D intake, or that we are sunscreen negligent in one of the most fearsome UV environments on the planet?

And what of language? I can only imagine there will be surreptitious language testing resulting in some kind of score being applied to our child, and thereby to us. On this metric we are unlikely to do score highly.

Although Milo’s understanding is developing by the day, and he is a master of compelling ‘non-verbals’, the three languages currently being thrown at Milo are slowing him down. His vocabulary remains as follows:

Mummy = mummy

Daddy = daddy

Ball = ball

Nani = banana

Boo-eah = dummy

Da = light or fan or thank you

Dadadada = bird

Baa = dog or sheep, but mostly dog

Gatgia = cat (a derivation of the Spanish gatita)

Dodo = car, or bicycle or truck (a derivation of the German auto)

Mimi = his ride-on fire-truck, or ride-on busy bee, or trolley

Gaga = his tummy

Moremore = More or some or do that again

And that’s about it. All adorable but unlikely to score us strong assessor points.

So where does that leave us? Only time will tell; but meanwhile we are running a tight regime of mock weigh-ins under various climatic conditions and altitudes, facilitating bare-chested solar gain but only at dawn and dusk, dressing Milo in tights before embarking on walks upon uneven surfaces and visiting the zoo a lot to practice some big ticket items like “elephant, monkey and scimitar-horned oryx”.

Whatever the 18 month baby-assessor check-up equivalent of “Howard, go home and shave that thing off immediately. Seriously I just can’t look at it” is… the three of us are working hard to avoid.

  ‘Water Dragon’ is likely to score bonus points with the baby assessors

Gluten-free muffins – Friday 5 February 2016

Milo is not overwhelmingly in favour of gluten-free muffins.

While strolling through a particularly gluten-intolerant neighbourhood of our city this morning Milo and I happened upon an organic cafe which specializes in ethically-bartered quinoa and nude-harvested linseed.

As we were on the move we were in the market for some one-handed food to share; Milo was in one of his famous ‘wander aimlessly and dangerously and certainly not in the pram’ moods. With limited choice we settled upon an oatmeal, apple and funkleberry muffin; denuded of all gluten.

Milo was suspicious. With no gluten Milo knew the muffin must be held together with trickery and broken promises. Still, he was hungry so he began stabbing his little finger at the withered, shrunken little pseudo-muffin accompanied by an insistent rendition of his ‘jack-of-all-phrases’ “moremore”.

So, while we were waiting for our change I brought the deflated nugget of mischievousness to his lips. His little mouth opened expectantly as I nudged the gnarled muffin-top toward it. Just as he was clamping his limited but highly effective teeth upon the apologetic morsel our waitress returned with a beaming, organic smile upon her face saying “I hope you enjoy it”.

Well, as soon as the gravelly, drab, slice of mediocrity touched Milo’s tongue his mouth immediately fell open. The look on his face was a mix of betrayal and incredulity as the muffin crumbs tumbled out of his mouth, somersaulted off his chest and fell upon the pristine wooden floor-boards, which of course had been hand-pummeled in order to look less pristine.

Milo then began scraping his tongue with his fingers with quite some urgency, to ensure every sawdusty fragment was expelled from his mouth immediately. Once satisfied with the physical expulsion Milo began blowing rather wet raspberries with his tongue, one after the other, spitting out the last now semi-liquid specks of oatmeal and funkleberry until his chin, his tshirt and the floorboards directly below him were covered in a thin film.

Satisfied, Milo wandered off to inspect a small succulent growing in the cafe’s window-box. Our waitress and I were aghast, paralyzed by social convention. I quickly popped the rest of the muffin into my mouth in an overt show of support for the organic cafe, and gave an embarrassing wink and a little fist pump to nobody; I don’t know why I did that. I collected my muffin-soaked child and strolled casually but swiftly back to the anonymity of the street.

Milo’s reaction was spot-on. All of the life had been sucked out of that poor little muffin; it was like eating river-sand and apple skin, wrapped in ineptitude. The organic cafe had received some valuable feedback from the only honest customer they would get that day, perhaps resulting in a tweaking of the recipe, a little introspection, and maybe even some genuine enjoyment for the poor gluten-intolerants of the future.

It got me thinking; when and why do children stop behaving with simple honesty? When do social conventions begin to overwhelm their instincts? And when it happens to Milo, will it be our fault?

Here are a few things that Milo does now that will likely not be acceptable on year 7 camp:

  • Milo chews food, removes it from his mouth and offers it, with genuine sincerity, to his parents to eat;
  • When the electrician comes to visit us Milo stares at him then runs frantically in the opposite direction until he finds a leg to hide behind;
  • When somebody Milo does not know well tries to ruffle his hair he slaps their hand away and scowls at them;
  • When Milo does something he is pleased with, like jumping on the spot or smelling a flower, he claps himself with genuine admiration;
  • Milo identifies shoeless strangers in the park, carries their shoes to them and insists, blank faced, that they put them on; and,
  • If Milo happens upon a co-traveller in the lift with their sunglasses atop their head he will insist the glasses are worn on their eyes, appropriately. The frustrated, and growing insistence often continues long after the co-traveller has stopped laughing.

There must be a moment when Milo realises behaviours like these are not common among fully-functioning adults; and he will instead choose to swallow the dry, banal muffin, smile and assume his dishonest yet polite position in society.

Questions like this baffle me as a parent; how to craft a polite, respectful, yet free spirited, confident boy. One who doesn’t take a hair ruffling when he doesn’t want one but who also doesn’t spray muffin-mist everywhere when he doesn’t like the taste. One who claps others but also himself when he does something especially clever, and one who is prepared to stand up for what matters to him most; like everybody wearing shoes, all of the time.

The streets of organic-town

Wet weather survival – Friday 22 January 2016

Today we visited one of the most beautiful zoos in the world; but I’m going to write about Bunnings. Bunnings is the wet weather destination for toddlers.

Sydney has recently been experiencing some inclemency bordering on the ridiculous. Miserable, persistent, stubborn, unwelcoming rain that started off as a fine novelty but has now descended into something of a ubiquitous, bitter, irritant; like kale.

This weather pattern is not conducive to easy parenting, certainly not with our child. Milo is no Ferris Bueller; in the art of escape he has no patience, no guile, no ingenuity and no subtlety. As soon as his big plastic sea-shell filled with smaller plastic balls has been emptied down the stairs, all of the electric fans in the house have been switched on, the buzzy-bee ride-on wheely thing has been lifted up onto the spare mattress and the house denuded of all bananas, Milo wants out. He is immediately at the front door trying to force his little fingers into the crack to pry it open, becoming increasingly frustrated and more feverishly pistoning his little fists up and down. Even with no destination in mind, it is time to go.

Ordinarily that spiky pale green plastic ball that apparently helps your clothes dry more efficiently in the dryer, a handful of bread sticks, a banana and a steady stream of neighbourhood dogs for mutual sniffing in the park will buy us an hour at least. But with these monsoonal conditions our usual haunts are inaccessible.

This morning our solution was a purposeless visit to Bunnings. Here’s why Bunnings is such a terrific wet weather destination for adventurous toddlers:

  • The allure of danger – controlled hazards are everywhere. Upon arrival I place Milo on the ground and let him walk, mumbling and chirping to himself. He rounds the first corner and comes face to face with an entire wall of dangling axes. From tiny ones suitable for scalping all the way to battle-axes presumably only purchased by Dwarf warriors like Gimli. Milo is overwhelmed by the thrill of it; he taps at them gently and grins at me. They appear precarious but of course they are well fixed and immovable. A little way down this aisle an end-cap dedicated to rat-poison. Again, Milo doesn’t completely understand but he knows the little packets of well-sealed bottles with the picture of the sheep on the outside (every animal is a sheep to Milo) are dangerous contraband. He pokes at them a little, giggles, and continues. Of course this goes on, aisle after aisle. Precariously stacked terracotta pots, awkwardly piled shovels, ride-on lawn-mowers that don’t start, secateurs with their little mouths tied together, packets of vacuum-sealed fertiliser, power tools safely held in smooth plastic boxes. All of it a delight to my son and all of it, with a little supervision, quite safe.
  • Enormous fans – Bunnings has the largest ceiling fans you will find anywhere. These alone are enough to transfix Milo for an hour. He looks up in awe, grinning while absent-mindedly spiraling his hand around in a clockwise direction.
  • Empty kitchen cabinets – the display kitchen section of Bunnings is Milo’s dream destination. Dozens of cupboards to open and close and open again, all of them empty, all of them at Milo height, none of them off-limits.
  • The soundtrack – it is nothing but easy listening 90s favourites like Paula Abdul and Lenny Kravitz, pleasing to Milo’s ears and his hips.
  • Tiny trolleys – no additional description required here except to say they are significantly easier to maneuver than the adult version. I preference them for my own shopping if Milo is nearby to give me credibility. Unfortunately it is not uncommon (when also shopping with Kuepps) for Milo to wander off at the key moment of payment and for me to be left alone with the tiny trolley at the self-serve checkout. Nothing says ‘credibility’ like a shin high trolley filled with a cactus, a smurf gnome and two packets of 3M hooks.

The above list is before you even get to the actual children’s play equipment that is set up and ready to go, and the fact that such a journey enables me to indulge in one of my true passions; browsing Bunnings without buying anything.

We gave knowing looks to two other dads alone with their young sons and daughters this morning exercising the same brand of wet-weather Bunnings parenting; same empty tiny trolleys, same contented looks, same tomato sauce on their collars.

  Tiny trolleys, perfect for RATSAK

Milo of Croton – Monday 4 January 2016

If the legend is to be believed Milo of Croton was a wrestler and all-round cool guy of significant regard who lived a triumphant but somewhat truncated life during the 6th-century BC.

Milo won six Olympic crowns, seven at the Pythian Games, ten at the Isthmian and nine at the Nemean Games; a kind of ancient ‘Grand Slam’ legend of the Panhellenic Athletics circuit. The dude could wrestle. According to stories of yore his winning streak ended because people stopped competing against him; rather like Usain Bolt jogging to Olympic Gold unopposed.

The most intriguing stories about Milo are, however, from outside the ring, or octagon, or mat, or whatever it is called. He was pals with Pythagoras, one of his best students, and even managed to convince Pythagoras to let him marry his daughter Myia. I think Pythagoras would be a cool father-in-law, if somewhat frustrating to play at Trivial Pursuit.

As a boy Milo was given a newborn calf as a pet. For some reason Milo carried the calf on his shoulders wherever he went, and as it grew so too did Milo. After four years the calf had grown to a full-size bull, presumably now weighing somewhere around 1000kg. Milo was still carrying this thing around, a feat which by now must have been impressive but somewhat lifestyle limiting. Anyway, one day Milo decided to slaughter, roast and devour the whole thing in one sitting. Apparently he achieved this feat with ease and asked to see the dessert menu; in the end he decided against dessert but the mere fact he was considering it was impressive. He did have a single shot espresso, decaf.

Milo of Croton just appeared to do things because he could. Once he was an Olympic legend the mid-level bureaucrats of the Grecian Olympic Committee honoured Milo by casting his likeness in a bronze statue. Milo decided to carry the statue of himself into the Stadium of Olympia on his back. Why did he do this? It must have been incredibly heavy and awkward to lift. Slaves were plentiful and many such statues had previously been erected in the Stadium with little fuss. Just doing stuff because he could.

Once he tied a leather band tightly around his head and then burst it by inhaling air quickly, causing his temple veins to swell. His daily diet consisted of 9 kilos of meat, 9 kilos of bread and 10 litres of wine. Why? Even a large wrestling man like Milo could not possibly require such a gluttonous feast every day. Strong dude, lots of time on his hands, just doing stuff.

The story which captures this aspect of ancient wrestler Milo’s personality most saliently however is the story of his demise. It would appear Milo was walking through the woods one afternoon when he saw a rather large tree trunk, partially split by ancient lumberjacks, but not completely severed. Milo, wishing to test his strength, reached his arm into the split in the trunk and tried to rip it asunder. Unfortunately Milo’s estimation of his strength was over-ambitious and his arm was instead wedged in the trunk. Some opportunistic wolves leapt out of the forest and devoured him, and that was that. The key part of this tale is that he was alone; nobody was there to witness Milo’s test of strength.

Milo didn’t eat his childhood pal the bull to impress Myia, Milo didn’t burst the leather band off his temples at a frat party to impress the Delta Kappa Gammas, Milo didn’t eat 9 kilos of meat to compliment Pythagoras’ cooking on Christmas Eve (Europeans celebrate Christmas on the 24th). Milo pursued these ridiculous feats for himself. Doing stuff because he could.

Our son is named after Milo of Croton; although we can no longer remember whether we came up with the name before or after we learned about the ancient wrestling legend. We think Milo (our son) came second, but we can’t be sure. Actually, clearly the chocolate malted drink came first, then Milo of Croton, then Milo of Sydney.

His voracious appetite aside, Milo has recently started exhibiting some very Croton-esque habits; doing stuff because he can.

Milo stands on one leg in the bath. Why? It is incredibly dangerous and not conducive to cleansing himself.

Milo shimmies under his ball pit and hoists it like a Kazakh weightlifter; a perfect dead lift which sends all the balls tumbling down the stairs like an emptying apple truck. He then directs me to retrieve the balls with an emotionless gesture of his hand.

Milo walks on his tip-toes backwards.

Milo carries his ride-on fire engine around in front of him, in a very awkward fashion which only uses his deltoids and triceps; like a mini upright row. He powers it up stairs two at a time, grunting and panting as he goes. This is a very slow process but he is in no hurry. When he reaches the top he sends it crashing back to the bottom where he retrieves it and begins again.

Milo does the same with his ride-on lady beetle and his wooden ball-trolley. Often times the ball-trolley is balanced atop the lady beetle before he attempts to lift the whole pile together. Why? Just read a book or play quietly with your Captain Planet figurines. Just doing stuff because he can.

In the last week Milo has also begun to exhibit behaviour that may suggest he has an innate desire to wrestle. I don’t know quite how it started but Milo rather enjoys me pushing him over.

Now that I have written this down it doesn’t sound great, but it’s true. Milo will sidle up to me, get down on his haunches and begin to giggle before I have even begun. But as I gently nudge him off balance Milo bursts into fits of laughter which continue as I roll and shove him back onto the ground; by his hips, shoulders and forehead. If I pause my nudging Milo will immediately deliver his phrase ‘moremore’ which is a ubiquitous signal for ‘keep doing what you are doing or keep feeding me whatever that delicious food/ beverage was’. If ‘moremore’ does not do the trick Milo will simply pretend to fall over himself, laughing just as energetically, hoping that I will follow him and continue the shoving. It’s pretty weird, adorable, but weird, and I think can only be fully explained if the legend of Crotonian Milo is understood.

If Milo begins to carry either of our cats Huckleberry or Suu Kyi around on his shoulders, we may be in trouble.

Crotonian strength

When should my toddler stop listening to Kanye? – Friday 18 December 2015

This morning something unusual and wonderful happened; Milo and I slept in. Unfortunately, however, this caused us to be embarrassingly late for an important appointment.

Given we rarely have social engagements at 0630am, we have of course not required a morning alarm for the last 14 months. This morning we had our regular gentlemen’s breakfast with Milo’s pal ‘White Lightning’ and his dad, a delightful affair that occurs most Fridays at 0730.

At 0745 my left eye levered itself open cautiously, like a Pipi checking its surroundings before burrowing feverishly into the sand. The morning light was glary and sharp, the house silent. My right eye had by now taken lefty’s cue and with my depth perception restored I checked the time.

In one swift motion I pulled on a trouser with one hand whilst texting ‘White Lightning’s’ envoy with the other. Simultaneously I hopped into Milo’s room and found him sleeping soundly, a peaceful little angelic boy who quickly turned into a snarly brute as I poked him. Milo channeled his inner teenager and turned over belligerently with the clear and unabashed intention of returning to slumber.

Having been a teenager myself in the past I quickly recalled the inhumane tactics utilised by my father in such situations and began pulling on Milo’s toes. As tiny and elusive as they were, I was able to cling on to one or two as they danced around, desperately trying to evade my pincering. Finally Milo relented and sat up, scowling.

Well we had no time for scowling so I scooped Milo up and assumed the role of Kate McCallister in the classic scene from Home Alone 1; dashing around Milo’s room, throwing mismatched clothing on him, buckling shoes onto the wrong feet, tripping over cats. Surely had we owned more than one child somebody would have been left in the attic.

We made it to breakfast and enjoyed some gentlemanly company, Milo learning important lessons about older boys, weight differentials and Newton’s First Law of Motion.

Due to our tardiness breakfast was truncated and we were soon in the car ready to execute our plan; our first drive to Canberra without mum. Kuepps was otherwise engaged this weekend so Milo and I were hitting the highway together to spend a family weekend in Canberra for early Christmas celebrations.

Milo, not a man who enjoys restriction of any kind (mental, physical or metaphorical), will only tolerate his car seat for long periods of time under very specific conditions; that is, he is asleep.

So the plan was to keep him awake until the Botanical Gardens in Mount Annan, run him around like a Hungarian Vizsla, return him exhausted to the car for an immediate transition into sleep, avoid the temptation of McParenting at Sutton Forest and cruise triumphantly into Canberra several hours later as Milo gently roused himself from a peaceful rest.

Phase 1 was fraught with danger from the outset; and failure here would almost certainly set-off a chain reaction that would lead to laps of the Big Merino with a red-faced infant not impressed by high thread-count yarn.

My solution was to turn the radio up really loud, to create a mini Guantanamo Bay in the back seat. My album of choice was Kanye West and Jay-Z, which seemed to work rather well. After three or four songs however I remembered that if you listen closely, or not at all closely, Kanye’s lyrics are really quite rude. And I began to wonder at what point a toddler should stop listening to such eloquent, but objectively inappropriate musical material.

This is another of those topics for which there is really no particularly good advice in the literature; like when is my child old enough to care for a cactus? Or, how old is too old for Crocs?

I started thinking more broadly about being a role model, how and when we as parents need to start weeding out some of our less palatable, or at least non-model habits, such as ‘borrowing’ wifi while sitting outside the First Class Lounge at the airport, mixing whites and colours in the washing machine, starting to cross the road when the red man has already begun flashing, claiming ‘home office’ supplies at tax time to an amount just below the ‘receipts required’ limit (I have never been brave enough to do this).

Clearly none of us is even close to perfect but somehow many of us still manage to raise pretty decent children. Is it a case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’? Like my skin doctor who has made it his life’s work to identify and aggressively burn off the slightest hint of skin irregularity with extreme prejudice, but smokes a pack of Marlboro Lights a day. On balance I believe he is anti-cancer because of his fine work in the skin realm , but his lung work leaves a lot to be desired.

Or perhaps as a parent you need to save up your anti-social habits and perform them all at once when your children are asleep; like answering a question correctly in Trivial Pursuit and then giving some additional context to let everybody else know that you really know the answer, or starting a new yoghurt before the old one is completely finished because you don’t really like that watery stuff that tends to accumulate at the bottom, or cutting your toe nails inside and not completely worrying if a few fragments fly off into the unknown.

I don’t know the answer to this but I hope it becomes clearer, I’m a little baffled and nervous that Milo will soon learn how bad I am at drilling.

But perhaps that is the point. There is no hiding our foibles from our pesky little sponge-like infants; perhaps their very presence simply causes us to try the watery yoghurt, to just give the answer ‘Mont Blanc’ and leave it at that, to stop and wait when the red man starts flashing and to cut your toenails in the garden.

And every now and again, when the mood is right, you can listen to Kanye with your headphones on.

  Released from the vehicle

Attempts at parenting – Friday 11 December 2015

The following is a self-help checklist to determine if you are likely addicted to Crystal Meth… or Baby Einstein:

  • You have developed a dependence and tolerance to it. Do you feel like you need it to get through the day, to feel better or for any other reason?
  • You experience withdrawal symptoms, you use again to counteract withdrawal symptoms;
  • You are losing or have lost the ability to control your usage;
  • All of you priorities start to revolve around its use; eg. you are preoccupied with getting it, you have to have it in your possession to ‘feel okay’, you do whatever you can to get it including missing work, family obligations etc.

Based on the above checklist we have concluded that Milo is developing, or potentially already has, an addiction to Baby Einstein, the nonsensical, psychedelic, youtube sensation that bypasses a baby’s capacity for conscious thought and injects itself directly into his or her reptilian brain. Readers may recall Baby Einstein was introduced to Milo some months ago to counteract his regular distracted demeanour at breakfast time. We found that Baby Einstein rendered Milo immobile, save for his little jaw which pistoned up and down in an involuntary fashion, allowing a well-timed spoonful of Weetbix to be deposited.

Unfortunately what started as an innocent folly has spiraled out of our control and can now only be described as a breakfast dependence. All manner of distractions and other strategies have been employed to break this oppressive cycle; cats chasing a laser pointer, eating with novelty sized salad servers, using the baby-monitor handset as a mock telephone, dad wearing a cycling helmet, mum wearing Oma’s sunhat. None of it works. Milo points frantically at our pockets which house the Baby Einstein machine saying ‘baaa, baaa’ over and over (Baby Einstein regularly features puppets of animals, including a strange baby hippopotamus that sucks a schnuller and is pushed around in a pram. It is weird). If Milo’s efforts are not rewarded swiftly he, quite frankly, loses it. The chance of any Weetbix being deposited anywhere near his mouth is immediately forfeit, any projectiles within his surprisingly extensive radius are immediately seized and projected, and he begins to clamber his way out of his high chair with the unbalanced determination of an injured T1000.

Earlier this week I decided it was time to break the cycle. I visualized an addiction gnawing away at my poor child. I saw him shunned from sleep-overs in primary school because of the embarrassment the morning after would bring. I imagined my dream of hiking the Inca Trail with him some day shattered; no phone reception means no youtube, and no youtube means no Baby Einstein. And no Baby Einstein for three days means, well, I shivered at the thought. It was time for some parenting.

Being an expert on addiction, and parenting for that matter, I decided the cleanest and most logical approach would be ‘cold turkey’. Surely a child as hungry as mine would quickly concede defeat, return to his chair, apologise for his disruptive behaviour, daintily consume his Weetbix and then likely thank me for my provision of sustenance, and adroitly administered discipline.

Not so.

Milo bellowed as if his very world was collapsing; as if the planes would never again take off and land, as if the global supply of corn cobs had been exhausted, as if the little guy he sees sometimes in the mirror had stopped waving back, as if organic macro crackers and mini Italian bread sticks were no longer a thing, as if the little daisy buds that he loves to pluck from the sacrificial bush had just stopped growing. He was sad. And angry. And confused. But mostly angry.

As I am the adult and he the infant I held firm, reasoning with him as he writhed around on the ground, mucous and tears running in rivulets down his cheeks and joining forces just below his neckline to flow together into a damp stain in the shape of a V on the front of his shirt, as if he were a slightly out of shape middle-aged man shamed back to a lunchtime cross-fit class with his colleagues, sweating uncomfortably and wishing he’d just gone to Subway.

Eventually Huckleberry mustered the courage to investigate the cacophony, which distracted Milo momentarily and caused the bellowing and sobbing to eventually peter out. I congratulated myself on my patience and thought Milo and I had achieved a great parenting victory together. I welcomed him back into his high chair and offered him a little more Weetbix. Milo paused, his mouth firmly shut, looked at my pockets and delicately but definitively said “baaaaa”. I declined Milo’s gentle request for a quick glimpse of Baby Einstein which, perhaps predictably in hindsight, quickly precipitated a return to yelling, sobbing, writhing, injured but determined T1000.

It was about this time that Kuepps emerged from downstairs, showered and ready for the day. It was a Tuesday and therefore her day at home with Milo. Needless to say Kuepps was none-too-impressed with my attempts at parenting, and far from amused as I handed her a pink-faced, hungry, disheveled, slobbery child… but I was late for work.

Needless to say this morning (Friday, our day of adventure) Milo and I laughed heartily together at the antics of the creepy little hippo baby puppet, our jaws moving up and down with involuntary reptilian unison, as we enjoyed our Weetbix together.

A man sits alone; alone with Baby Einstein

The dog says baaa – Friday 27 November 2015

Readers of this blog may recall that Milo’s first word ‘dada’ meant, at least to his mind, ‘picture frame’ and so was, strictly speaking, wrong.

Unfortunately it would appear that Milo’s second clear utterance ‘baaa’ is also rather imprecise. And once again it is probably our fault.

So far Milo understands more German than he does English. Kuepps, Opa and Oma have been working hard on Milo’s teutophone and one phrase in particular has lodged well “hey Milo, was macht das schaff?” (what does the sheep say?) Milo loves to hear this question. A cheeky smile flashes across his face and with an uncharacteristically demure voice Milo says “baa, baaaaa” Of course Milo is thoroughly rewarded for this response; with laughter, clapping and kisses from anybody in the vicinity. In fact the whole sequence is so enjoyable that Milo is asked numerous times every day. His (and his audience’s) enthusiasm never wains. If you ask with the correct tone the “baa, baaaa” often drowns out the question, such is his delight in giving the answer.

But alas all of this enthusiasm has resulted in Milo convincing himself that every animal says baaa, and in fact anything vaguely related to animals, such as a tractor or a shovel.

Dogs are Milo’s favourite creature that say baaa. On our regular neighbourhood walks we encounter countless baaaing canines. Milo will point frantically at each one and waddle toward them at pace, like an elderly drunk man, repeating “baa, baaa, baaaaa”.

Thus far we have only encountered one owner who seemed slightly offended by my child’s rather odd behaviour. This man was strolling with a something-a-doodle which, to be fair to my son, looked quite a lot like a sheep. He seemed somewhat taken-a-back that Milo had mistaken his woolly dog for a farmyard creature. I tried to explain that no, Milo knows his dog is a dog, all creatures are sheep, or at least all creatures say baa, and so do shovels, and actually Milo doesn’t even really know what a sheep is. The man appeared no more enlightened, and dragged his sheep-like puppy away from my son who was desperately trying to get licked.

The delightful, but potentially confusing, baaing situation has got me thinking about how easy it is to instill bad habits in toddlers and how susceptible Kuepps and I might be to this dilemma. We are not particularly disciplined when it comes to not laughing at objectively hilarious but potentially anti-social behaviours.

Two examples: Milo has made great progress recently at drinking water out of a cup. He can do this perfectly but usually chooses not to. At some point early on in this learning process Milo picked up his cup and poured the water all over his head. Because this is hilarious we both laughed. Milo grinned, laughed back at us, then filed the experience away.

Now most times Milo is offered a cup of water he will pause, ensure a sufficient number of people are observing him, and ceremoniously pour the water over his head. The chill of the water surprises him every time; he flinches briefly and then grins broadly. Unfortunately we continue to laugh at this, because we love it, and it is hilarious. But I suppose at some point in Milo’s future this habit will begin to impede his ability to function effectively in social settings.

Secondly, as part of Milo’s walk training I encouraged him to totter back and forth between me and our staircase, taking small blocks of duplo out of my hand and lobbing them down the stairs. Again, this sequence was rather amusing at the time but has become less so as he has got taller, stronger and far more balanced. Duplo no longer gives him the thrill it once did so more ambitious objects are being lobbed; buckets, soccer balls, the plastic turtle thing whose head pops out when you push in all the different shapes on his back, Milo’s green recycling truck. I fear it is only a matter of time before Elefun is levered up and over the railing. Poor Elefun.

At some point, say before he has the strength and ambition to dispatch my laptop down the stairs, we will have to address this behaviour. But that is future Jupes’ problem; and I am sure by then our ill-discipline will have added many more amusing but questionable tricks to the list.

Oh, also, Milo had his first babycino last weekend. He loved it.