Raising Eloise and Morgan

Topics: introduction prepregnancy pregnancy birth breastfeeding weaning teething routines bathing walking activities dad

Dad's View

I guess the best and biggest bit of news to impart to any would-be dad: it's not as scary and as hard work and all-consuming as I thought it would be! playtime for 5 month old girl

For a long time I thought I'd aim for my first sprog at about 40; I'm a fairly highly-strung and pernickety person, but I am getting more mellow with age. Somehow my aim was to be fairly mellow, but not too ancient to do all the things that a daddy (apparently) has to do, such as take his daughter to football, son to ballet, pets to vets, etc...

There have been bad bits, like seeing Jean in pain giving birth (though with enough presence of mind to tell me to go and get some food rather than faint) and seeing Ellie in distress when she has banged herself or is teething or ill. And getting up lots of times in the night is not great, but it's not terrible either, and it feels good to be able to comfort her. (As of 12 months Eloise seems to be "sleeping though" from 7pm to 7am.)

There have been funny bits which would have been bad but for a bit of father-mellow-ness, such as the initial squirty-poo nappy-changing-on-the-bed incident (lesson: don't hold baby's butt up at 45 degrees unless you wish to prove your school physics that that's the optimal initial trajectory for distance!).

And there have been lots and lots of good bits, such as her first word "Sidney" (our cat's name) at age ten months clear to me in a different room, her all-round cheerful disposition and smiles and her happiness when she masters new things like holding her beaker to drink from at six months, her regal wave to point at something she wants or is interested in, ...

I need LOTS of beauty sleep (it's not working yet!) and I get lots more sleep than Jean though not much of it unbroken... In our case Jean is a lark and I am an owl, and so Jean tends to get up with Ellie (6am-ish, which would half-kill me) and go to bed early, while I can get lots of peace and quiet for work up to the early hours.

At 12 months, with Ellie becoming much more mobile (and on the verge of walking), we're starting to have to safety-proof the house and I'm having to do some DIY (which an old art teacher of mine would have diplomatically described as "not his forté"). This means covering the wide gaps in our stair/landing balustrade and fitting safety gates at least at the bottom and top of the stairs, and possibly on other doors such as my study/office and the kitchen. The safety gates look easy, but there's some measuring/cutting/manly stuff required for the landing. Where's that book of "how to suddenly become a good dad without trying" that I assumed everyone was given? Maybe I missed it amongst the SPAM...

(We had to put up the stair gates for Morgan at 9/10 months, and he's been standing up and taking steps from sitting at the turn of 10...)

At 12 months Morgan is also on the verge of walking (and talking, with the odd (part-)word such as 'narna' when desperate for banana), and is 10kg and 78cm. He's able to follow and do some of the gestures to "Twinkle, Twinkle" such as make the point of the diamond shape ("Like a diamond in the sky").

Coming up to 14 months Morgan is taking a few steps and also fairly clearly saying "there" when pointing something out.

At 14 months it is becoming important to safety-proof the house more: she nearly climbed/fell out of her cot today so we must actually make the landing railings child-proof ASAP. She also managed to push her chair over backwards at the kitchen table (something that most teenagers still haven't learned to avoid), giving us all a huge shock. And she has another cold! She's also become quite confident toddling around in the last week or so, and is barely crawling any more: what a lightning change!

Coming up to 15 months Morgan is stumping about and even trying to run, and is trying a few other words and animal sounds such as "baa" when he sees a sheep. We're having fun trying to say "zzzzzzzzzip"!

Turning 17 months he celebrates his achievements with "Did It!" and has a growing (if still somewhat muffled) vocabulary including "door" and "car" and "yah"/yes and "nah"/no and "more" and "dada" for danedlion, and a range of animal noises (you can ask him "What does a sheep say?" and he says "Baa!"). He also tugs me around by my thumb or finger to show me things such as a cat or bird in the garden, or if he wants a snack from the kitchen.

At 18 months another small-but-vital part of my induction to fatherhood: a friend came round to collect something and we were chatting at the door, when Ellie appears and hides behind the door out of shyness for a while and then emerges to study my friend a little closer, safe because of daddy!

I'm pleased to note that the first new word I heard from Morgan as he turned 18 months was "meter" as I was taking daily readings! We went to see my aunt on her farm in the Chilterns and Morgan was very very excited to see real horses (other livestock less so, though he knew what they all were I think), shouting "NEY, NEY!" whenever one was in sight. Maybe he's practising to be an opposition (Tory) MP? He seems to be getting more used to nursery now, and is not completely distraught to the point of throwing up when Jean leaves him. He's (still) calling his sister "Yellie" and is very fond of her, yelling her name when she's around or things of hers are visible, and he's coming to me more often for comfort or play, not just Jean. Coming up to the end of this month amongst other new words and concepts is "me".

At about 19 months Ellie went through a vocabulary explosion, but what has also been interesting is some subtle changes in the way she prounounced some words by month 20 that she already had by month 18. For example, "pe-wee" (penguin) gained a subtle trailing 'n' to become "pe-win", and "bar-wee" (banana) became "bar-bar". I'm still puzzled by her fixed choice of word for water: "oof-ay" or "uff-ay"! Also at 20 months "mummy" and "money" became distinct, and she can count a little: "one, two, four, five, si-even, nine, thirteen" was one morning's distinct variant. At 21 months Ellie is managing to put "ing" on words such as "walk" and "eat" and "do" and is beginning to compose words such as "mummy daddy" for "mummy and daddy"; grammar will be along soon. (She just fell and hurt herself and announced "I want daddy!") She can also just about count to five now, and is good at recognising common colors such as blue/yellow/green/red/black/white. Ellie has grown on average at about 1cm per month since her first birthday; maybe half that rate at the moment. At 22 months Ellie is starting to say "um" as a placeholder when she is thinking of an answer, rather than remaining silent as before. She's also starting to say "thank you"; getting the hang of possessives such as "mummy's", "daddy's" and "yours"; and starting to use more complex verb phrases and compounds such as "line up", "washing hands" and "brushing teeth". She's also using comparatives/sizes such as "like" and "big" and "tiny". And we had our first conversation on the 'phone where she responded to several questions from me. At 23 months her typical utterances are 2 or 3 words long, and some of them are complete sentences by luck. She's having slight problems with pronouns saying "feed you" when she means "feed me" because she's copied what we've said to her, eg "Shall I feed you?" Coming up to her second birthday, her sentence fragments are getting longer, she has the imperative tense down pat, and is aware of her impending birthday.

At 19 months Morgan's vocab takes in a new word or two each day. He also latches onto some incidents like the horse obsession from last month, and this month after seeing an autogyro circling us in a field and being disappointed that it would not land shakes his head while saying "down" to remember that it would not come down, ie is getting the idea of negation, and he does a fair impression of my "round and round" gesture and words, and quickly understood that if it had come down it would have got "stuck". He's using combinations of "me" and "now" to demand things! In one day he picked you "far" and "near" and "further" and used used his own name instead of "me". Morgan also seemed to enjoy his first experience of a swimming pool while his sister went from scared to swimming by herself with armbands in the same session! It was also becoming clear that he wasn't going to be using a high-chair any more; we didn't use the one we'd hired in the holiday chalet, and he sits in a normal chair without even a booster seat, chin at the table! He is sleeping about 12 hours per day, including any afternoon nap.

Turning 20 months Morgan was able to increasingly reliably name several colours viz: "lellow", "boo", "red", "purrrpoo" and sometimes white and "back". He's also had a go at stringing a few nouns together warming up to constructing a sentence, and started saying "water" instead of "war-war", trickier words such as "fruit" and "strawberry" with resonable fidelity...

Turning 21 months we're about to take away at least the bottom stair-gate as he seems able to get up and down reasonably safely. He's also picking up some new words such as names the first time he hears them, and is just on the point of stringing pairs of words together.

Before 22 months the bottom stair-gate has gone, we've taken a first family visit to the Natural History Museum and possibly shifted some of his obsession from helicopters to dinosaurs, and he's quite good at repeating novel words and using them immediately. (He got to sit in a real helicopter recently: how many toddlers get that?) He can reliably name 10 or more colours... Morgan is putting together word pairs such as "daddy's swings" and "lid off" and "battery charger" and "fall down" and "arm hurt".

Around 23 months Morgan is putting together quite sophisticated sentence fragments such as "Both fit in there" (referring to two teddies and a space behind me on the sofa) or segments with subject, verb and object and "not"...

Ellie's new trick for turning 2 is negatives: "mummy's swings" and "not daddy's swings" to emphasise which park she wants to go to for example. Shortly after her birthday (on Boxing Day), after warming her up to the idea for a few days, we took the side off her cot to allow her to get in and out by herself: she did apparently fall out once onto the duvet we put down as we found her sleeping on the floor at one point, but she was fine! (Whoops! She fell out about 3 times the next night, and a few on following nights, but was getting back in...) She also was able to jump with both feet off the floor on Christmas Eve. She's also now saying "nappy" instead of "pappy" coined from ~18 months. Ellie also walked nearly half a mile back from the local park with her mum!

At 2 Morgan is putting decent create sentences together and starting to demand the names of things with "That called?", and is also starting to say "thank you" appropriately, as well as "please" for emphasis, or even "no please" to refuse something. Longest to date: "There's a bit of dirt in my eye." He's still pretty clingy to Jean. He's also late in the month seemingly learned to count to ten and beyond!

25 months: "Sissie [Sidney, our cat] sit Ellie's bed," plus longer sentences "I don't know where the other one is," showing the intentional stance "Little baby [not] like swing," and starting to use "I" routinely...

At 25 months Morgan spontaneously asked to use the WC with the child seat (he's not started potty training yet) with "Go to the toilet" (or similar) and delivered on all fronts...

26 months: Ellie is using grammatically more complex sentences such as this one with a subject, object and indirect object: "Cat hid fairy under rug." Using words such as "on" "in" "under" but still not using "and"; thus "Mummy daddy wake up." rather in the style of US headline writers. Also starting to say "sorry".

At around 26 months for Morgan we all got nits: he had it worst, and it took three rounds of treatment to clear...

27 months: Ellie is starting to use "and" purposefully and correctly. Can recite/'sing' chunks of books and nursery rhymes phonetically with reasonable fidelity. Can take off socks and shoes (she's been able to do trousers for a while).

For Morgan at 27 months he can do quite a lot of dressing and undressing, he's using negation ("not") and long sentences (to 7 words or more) and we've taken the side of his cot off.

28 months: while playing and pretending to be going to visit her nanny, Ellie announced loudly that hated phrase into her toy mobile phone: "I'm on the train at the moment."

28 months was the point that we stopped buying full milk for Morgan, so life should be tiny bit more simple with us all on semi-skimmed!

29 months: Morgan is good enough on the stairs that we've now taken away the top stair-gate too.

30 months: it's possible to have fairly detailed and abstract exchanges for example about what she will do tomorrow in painting classes. Ellie is 93.5cm standing (75th percentile) and 13.6kg (50th percentile).

30 months: Morgan can be pretty strong-willed, and today insisted on his booster seat being taken away.

31 months: Ellie's using 'to do' as an auxiliary for negatives and past tenses (ie without having to learn all the irregular parts!) eg: "it didn't be a lion", "they did just [only] go down", "there didn't be ..."

32 months: Ellie can pretty much dress and undress herself, is more-or-less potty trained for the day (has the odd accident, two weeks in), and has been moved from her cot to a full-size single bed in her new room where she suddenly looks so small again! She's also getting the hang of a few more irregular tenses, etc.

33 months: at this age I believe that she's meant to be able to name one colour and put together sentences of 5 or 6 words... rather than her ten-or-so 'colours' (black, white, gold, silver, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown), and rambling stream-of-consciousness monologues with multi-word subclauses!

34/35 months: Ellie's been really good dealing with the arrival of her brother Morgan; essentially no jealousy nor other bad behaviour, and maybe just a few extra toilet-training 'accidents'. She's making understandable mistakes with irregular verbs (eg "I comed home") and other complex parts of grammar such as use of he/his/him, and these are more evident as Ellie is more adventurous with her speech.

3 years: she was greeted with a breakfast table covered in birthday presents! In fact she had a nasty night before, coughing so badly that she was sick, but other than being upset at the time, she didn't complain or "act up" once. Mind you, we've had a little back-sliding on the toilet-training somehow... And in January she had her first day in (state-funded nursery) school!

On his third birthday Morgan had a sea of presents and cards at breakfast. He also had picked up some new skills:

Just over a month on and Morgan's new Argos divan arrived and he is out of his cot (37M)! Soon after he had his hair cut at my barber's for the first time.

At 3-and-a-half (42M) he has been sounding out, ie reading, the following words (and others) with Jean: an, at, man, ant, on, no, cat, pan, bat...

A little over 4-and-a-half and Ellie just 'graduated' today from nursery school (my first graduation was with BSc(Hons) from university!) and she won a small (book-token) prize for being a star pupil; I didn't get one of those until my A-levels! Ellie seems to have been well-liked by her teachers.

Still not-quite-five and she's at school. She says she's excited but she's showing the strain being sick at night and similar. In her third full week in Reception class Ellie got a certificate for writing and learning to read six new words, with a sticker from the head!

A couple of months past here fifth birthday and Ellie is largely dry at night, out of nappies.

At five years and six months, discussing at bed-time how we might dodge an asteroid headed for the Earth, and how we are looking out for NEOs anyway, Ellie had the inspiration that the real reason that the dinosaurs died out was that they weren't clever enough to make computers and watch the skies. She also had her first (second-hand) bike, and was immediately able to ride with confidence (and without stabilisers) having had some practice at school.

Important news that I received from mum by text message on my phone

Important facts that all dads must learn

Damon

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Copyright (c) Jean Ryder 2006-2008.
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