Photo by Alice Copperwheat.
I don't tend to get much advice from my grandfather these days. However I did get some from him recently. Which is odd. And not just because he died in 1999. It was odd because the advice was about caring for a baby. This is not a task with which I associate him. I always enjoyed his company and learned a lot from him. If the advice was about finances, chess or wine then I would have had no problem. But babies. Odd.
I seem to remember he quite liked them. I recall him encouraging my little sister to put her dessert on her head one day. He quite liked that. But he was more of your traditional male role model. Worked all week. Evenings in the armchair. Weekends reading the paper, drinking wine and walking on beach is how I remember him. Kind, caring, intelligent and would go out of his way to help a stranger. But I doubt he got out of his own bed in the night to help his wife with the children. I suppose he lived in a different world to us now. It wasn't the done thing.
So a few weeks ago my grandmother passed on some advice that he always said to her that helped her through the tough times as a mother (note that he said something helpful rather than actually doing something useful). He would tell her that no matter how challenging life with a small child was today that it would have changed in six weeks time.
And I think he's right. It will be different in six weeks time. It may not have improved but it will be different. Six weeks ago our main worry was getting Iris to get herself to sleep. Six weeks on she gets herself to sleep fine. Our concern now is that she has started waking in the middle of the night. Oh how I long for six weeks ago when I cuddled her to sleep and she stayed asleep... I'm not quite sure this is what he meant. But in general the outlook for parents with young children does change over six weeks. A lot can change in six weeks. What was new and exciting becomes old hat. What was cleaning crap off the carpet becomes a hilarious anecdote to scare expectant parents with.
I often think that a lot of very unhelpful advice is given to new parents. "Swaddle him." "Give her a bottle." "Try winding her." "Lay him in the cot the other way around." "Use a sleeping bag not a blanket." "Bounce her on your knee whilst singing Life On Mars, it always settled mine." "Stand on your head and feed her using her left hand." Nonsense. Every child is different. Every parent is different. Do whatever you think will work for you and your baby. But remember when it gets shit that everything will have changed in six weeks time.
I'm glad I have that small piece of wisdom from grandfather. I'll try to remember it during the tough times. I'll also remember to use the side plate to my left, that a combined score of 500 in Scrabble is a 'good game' and that watching The Muppets was really the only reason to buy a colour television. In the long run this last piece may be the most useful... the six weeks bit, not The Muppets.
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