A lesson in patience and multitasking 

I feel I must begin with a heartfelt apology to the Knee High team. This blog post is not one, not two but nigh on four months late, but at least I have a good excuse. Unless it’s inappropriate for me to blame my one year old son that is? In any case, here it is.

To say a lot has happened in the last 8 months would be an understatement of mammoth proportions. My son has been at the centre of virtually every decision my partner and I have made – he’s dictated the how, what, why, when and where of how live our lives. Money and time still remain high on the agenda, but one topic in particular manages to eclipse all others.

I caught up with an old friend last week who I haven’t seen for a few months. Having asked how I was, I then ranted about sleep, or rather the lack of it, for five minutes. Sleep is by far the biggest issue in our new family. It’s a case of coping, whilst hanging on to past memories of uninterrupted slumber. There’s a reason why sleep deprivation is still used to extort information, prolong torture and inflict pain… because it slows your brain down. It puts life into slow motion and makes it 200% harder.

But what can we do? Douse his pillow in lavender oil, ignore his screams, tie a piece of amber around his neck, put him to bed later? There’s no shortage of advice.

We have, and continue to tell ourselves that he will eventually sleep through the night – the magic 8 (or even 6) hours sleep in a row. As I say to my partner every night… perhaps tonight!

Sleep or no sleep, my partner and I are now members of one of the most efficient tag teams known to man. Teamwork has become as essential as sleep, from changing nappies, late night comforting, feeds, preparing lunches, playing with him and ferrying him from A to B.

One of these A to Bs is the journey to our child-minder. After weeks of deliberation (probably closer to three months), we made one of the most difficult decisions in our lives – to leave our son with a complete stranger. Finding a child-minder we could trust one was one thing, leaving him with her was quite another, an experience I will never forget, nor ever want to experience again. Why would we choose to have a child only to farm him out half the week to some random person? No matter how much I try to reason with it in my mind, it still doesn’t sit right with me. What makes it worse is that I know we’re luckier than most, in so far as that I can work part time, allowing me to look after him 2 days a week, plus he has the company of his grandmother a day a week, meaning that he spends just 2 days with the child-minder (who is wonderful, and has two dogs, which is obviously important).

Stressful as life may be 90% of the time, it’s equally rewarding to watch the little man learn how to grasp a spoon, stand, throw his food on the floor, climb the sofa and recognise his own name (and the best to date, the ability to point out animals, including dogs, cats, mice, frogs, birds (owls at least) and foxes).

The wee man’s development has been amazing to watch. From the fourth month he’s been able to stand, from the fifth he’s been able to hold his beaker, in the ninth he started to crawl (at hyperspeed) and just recently he’s been taking some steps – he averages about six until he wobbles and falls on his backside. But far more interesting, to me anyway, is his mental development. I’ve taken a particular interest in this as some of the research I did for Knee High has stuck with me. Sir Michael Marmot’s advice of ‘read, read, read’ rings in my ears every time I catch sight of a book or wonder what to entertain him with next. I’m happy to say that he loves books. They are probably his favourite thing, which may be the result of my obsessive reading to him in a variety of odd voices. To start with he loved turning the pages, but now that he’s beginning to point at things, he’s more interested on what’s on the page than the facts it moves.

Reading more and more about child development has made me much more of a creative storyteller. In an attempt to ward off the evils of the TV, I now try to capture his imagination on what’s pictured on the page, rather than simply read printed words at him.

Although reading takes up much of the days we spend together, we do venture outdoors too. The soft play centre and the fun hut are two of his favourite destinations, along with the park (principally to spot dogs, and if he’s in a particularly good mood, to count them too- 57 is our record to date), and a bit of grocery shopping with him firmly in the driving seat of the trolley. What’s interesting is that wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, there’s never any shortage of other kids, but a distinct like of dads. My first time at the local play group, aptly named the ‘fun hut,’ resulted in some raised eyebrows from some of the mums and female child-minders; it was almost like I’d walked into a ladies’ loo! And despite settling in soon enough, the fact that some of them were so surprised to see me there surprised me even more. Is it that dads feel embarrassed by a tide of traditional peer pressure, or feel their place is at work, or is it that they believe that females are simply better at it (child care I mean)?

Finally, I’m often asked what my favourite piece of design is. Until recently I’d have quite happily have said the mobile telephone, the internet or even the Dyson vacuum. I’m now torn between John Lewis’s parenting room and the Maclaren Techno XT buggy. The former has revolutionised post baby shopping for me (which I’ve never really liked anyway) – it is quite simply a parental haven from sprawling streets and shopping malls, rude shoppers and pushy sales assistants. Whilst the buggy, well, this is probably the finest piece of engineering design I’ve ever had the pleasure of owning. It’s designed around a canny insight that every parent will relate to…. that is, while carrying a baby, you only have one hand. A bit of nifty foot work and it’s folded up or down in seconds. I wouldn’t swap it for a ‘real’ Maclaren (I’m referring to the rather expensive car, for those who aren’t petrol heads).

Both of these examples do the one thing that makes all great design, great. They make your life easier and therefore happier. In the words of that famous design critic Paul Calf, why can’t it always be like that?