Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Ordination fun with a child of one

This weekend the Different Duck household all went to watch the ordination of one of Drake's former colleagues as an Anglican Deacon. I am not religious, and knew next to nothing about the process so I was very interested to see what it would entail. Sadly I am still none the wiser, as I ended up on primary Duckling duty, the person being ordained being Drake's friend and not mine. Most of the two hour (TWO HOUR!) service was spent in the Cathedral's 'crèche' (essentially a side chapel with some carpet, a few toys and lots of bible stories) trying to prevent Duckling trashing the place. I learned a lot about child wrangling in those two hours, so thought I'd share some of my key tips for those facing the prospect of directing a rambunctious toddler through a solemn religious ceremony.
  1. When your other half says "Oh no, there won't be any room for a buggy, let's carry him there," don't meekly agree. Cathedrals are sodding massive; there'll be plenty of room and you won't then arrive sweating like a pig with bruised ribs and small footprints all over your Sunday best. What's more, you'll have somewhere to put your child to sleep at nap time.
  2. Don't even think about attending a major religious event if it runs over nap time.
  3. Don't sit next to the aisle or other area along which official minister types will pass. Cassocks, shiny golden staffs and interesting shaped hats are all very, very exciting for the under fives, and they will want to reach out and grab said items / join in the procession / point and shout "WOW" (Duckling) or "WHY DOES THAT LADY HAVE A BEARD?" (the little boy two rows behind us referring to a priest in his robes).
  4. In avoidance of main thoroughfares, by all means find an area where you can watch the service on a TV, but be prepared to explain, at length, why that TV can't be tuned to Ra Ra The Noisy Lion.
  5. If you are not religious, bring your own reading material. Duckling quickly became obsessed with a book called "And God Made Me!". My attempts to add an epilogue explaining the fundamentals of evolutionary theory did not meet with approving looks from the other (presumably more pious) parents in the crèche.
  6. Nor did Duckling's attempts to hook my breasts out of my top with cries of "Boobub Mama!!! BOOBUB!" Wear a polo neck if possible.
  7. Take everything you need into the crèche area (a.k.a the nuclear bunker) and STAY THERE. Don't be tempted to pop out with child to find up a tissue / locate your change bag / see Daddy ("DA DA DA DADDY! DadEEEEEEEeeeee!") / actually follow some of the service.
  8. Don't give your child anything that will make a loud noise when dropped on a stone floor. Soft toys good. Metal fire engines and toy cars bad.
  9. Biscuits are your friend (thanks to Katie at Hurrah For Gin for opening my eyes on this one).
  10. Biscuits are not your friend when there is chocolate on them and very holy people wearing white about.
  11. If you are an atheist, pre-prepare your excuse for not taking Holy Communion. Do not get flustered and say to the priest "I'm so sorry, I'd love to, but I just need to go catch my little boy. I think he's done a poo."  Also, when someone shakes your hand and says "Peace be with you," the expected response is not, "Oh, thanks, I really wish it were today! Ha ha!"
  12. If you're going to lose it, don't do it five minutes before the actual blessing and ordination happen. You can pass the toddler over to your other half while you calm down, but will just have to take them back again so other half doesn't miss the primary thing he came to see. This will cause the toddler to get in a grump because Mummy doesn't wear glasses and is thus not as interesting as Daddy.
  13. However far your toddler pushes you, do not blaspheme. Cathedrals are echoey and everyone will hear you. And tut. Nobody will be fooled by your attempts to make your "For Christ's Sake!" sound like a genuine plea to Jesus either.
Hope this is helpful.  Peace be with you. Ahem.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Runny Mummy - part 2

Following on from yesterday's Runny Mummy post, here are six reasons I deeply dislike running:
  1. It's HARD and I'm not very good.  Running is painful and exhausting, particularly if you're sleep deprived or you haven't been for a while and you're essentially having to start from scratch with your fitness level. I rarely manage to complete a 5k without having to take a walking breather at least once these days, as I only get to run once per week now I'm back at work. Any longer between runs and even 3k becomes a major challenge, and usually results in several days of 'runner's cough' (confirming my Mum's suspicions that it Really Isn't Good For You).
  2. Post-baby pelvic floor problems. Since having Duckling, I'll be honest, going down steep hills does seem to cause a little teeny bit of wee to escape if I haven't been to the loo immediately before leaving the house. Weirdly this seems to be more of a problem now than when I first started running after I had him, possibly because I've become rather lax about doing my pelvic floor exercises of late. And squeeze...
  3. Looking like a wally. I am not one of those ladies you see running in teeny tiny shorts and vests, gazelle-like legs cooly powering them along at a seemingly unstoppable pace. I am tall, with quite significant child-bearing hips (and bum. And stomach. And thighs.). I go bright red and sweaty within 30 seconds of starting and apparently I run like a girl (which, as I repeatedly point out to Drake, is not surprising because I AM a girl). I therefore feel like a bit of a fraud when I run; an unworthy member of some unspoken runners' club, and half expect the more professional towpath cruisers to stop me and say "Give it up love, you're not fooling anyone."
  4. Hazards and obstacles. Stinging nettles, mud, dog poo, squirrels, lampposts, hedges, opinionated builders... You name it, I've probably run into it at some point.
  5. Injury. Thankfully I have never actively injured myself while running (bar some stings and scratches from the above), but running has on a couple of occasions exacerbated injuries obtained through other means. The worst occasion was when I was doing Pick Up Put Down sleep training with Duckling and had given myself a really bad back. Ignoring the pain, I blithely headed out for a run, only twigging that this probably wasn't such a good idea when I was around 3 km from home. I hobbled back and took a long, hot shower, and discovered on getting out that things had deteriorated further and I couldn't actually walk anymore. All running (and non-essential walking) was put on hold for about four weeks after that while I sought the help of a chiropractor. Genius, given that I only had six weeks before the 10k race mentioned yesterday... This is probably why I finished 142nd out of 156.
  6. Judgement. In the land of social media, all sporting endeavour seems to be used as a tool for self-aggrandisement. I have a number of friends who like to inform all and sundry on Facebook / Twitter that they "ran / cycled / swam X kilometres in X minutes today". I don't, because I run for me, and I'm not especially interested in anyone else's opinion of my achievements. Also, as I mentioned, I'm rubbish. I don't even really like bringing it up in conversation, because you never quite know what reaction you're going to get. Fellow runners often get madly competitive: "Oh cooool, I did the London Marathon last year in 35 minutes - what's your best time?"; others seem to think I'm boasting, "Check you out, Paula Radcliffe!" or passing judgement on them: "Ugh, I don't do anything like that. You make me feel really lazy."; and others are just clueless "Oh wow, running! How did you learn how to do that?" (seriously, someone once asked me this).  It rarely seems to be a neutral topic of discussion however it comes up.  I guess that's like any pastime you make public these days though; it's somehow no longer something you do, but a statement of your identity.  Not 'I run' but 'I am a runner'.  Unfortunately, if my e-mail inbox is anything to go by, being 'a runner' slots you into a neat little demographic niche that marketeers like to fill with all sorts of promotions for Compeed and electrolyte drinks and sports bras.  The only thing worse than these being irritatingly irrelevant (I'm flat chested, OK?  Sports bras are pretty much pointless), is when I am reeled in by one and I actually buy something.  I always feel like writing SUCKER across my forehead in indelible ink as penance.
Anyway.  On balance, it would seem there are more pros than cons. Which is good really, or I'd look a bit of an idiot for persevering with all this cardiovascular lunacy.  Tomorrow: the pros and cons of the athletic endeavour that is pushing an 8lb 14oz baby out of your nether regions.  Spoiler - mostly cons, not so many pros.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Runny Mummy - part 1

Fear not, I've not had the runs this week (though poor Drake has - Lufthansa's wonderful in-flight catering apparently). This post is about the wholesome athletic pursuit that is running.  Or, in my case, leisurely jogging.  
Running isn't for everyone - for a long time I didn't think it was for me. I come from a family that treats exercise with a strong degree of suspicion, and seems to reject the general consensus that it is "good for you". Running is considered particularly suspect (all that deep inhalation of particulates, facial flushing and ankle/knee wear), so it didn't really occur to me to take it up as a regular pastime until I got engaged, and needed to lose some weight before the wedding.
Without wanting to sound like a motivational magazine article ("Ten reasons you should take up running!"), here are the ten reasons I took up running:
  1. It's free. No eye wateringly expensive and totally wasted gym membership for me! I leave that to Drake (Drake, if you're reading this, will you either cancel your subscription or actually go sometime please? We could fly to Australia and back with the amount we spend on it.)
  2. You can just go. It doesn't involve masses of prep or faffing about with equipment. I just need my running kit, key, headphones and phone (which incorporates music and distance tracker app) and I'm away. OK, so some days even that is too much to organise ("Duckling! Have you eaten the earbud off Mummy's headphones again?!") but mostly I can get it together and make it out the door.
  3. It's not weather dependent. I go even in the rain - I quite like the cooling / sweat masking effect. Less so raindrop inhalation. I tend to avoid the snow though. I'm not that sure footed / dedicated / nuts.
  4. You can run with a buggy. You look like an absolute tool, particularly if you don't have one of those whizzy three wheeler things (which I don't), but if you put your pride aside, it sort of works. Until you hit a pothole or the child in the buggy gets bored and/or hungry and you have to stop to pick up discarded toys / stuff cheesy puffs into them.
  5. Escape. Without the buggy, it's the perfect excuse to grab somewhere between 10 mins and an hour of restorative, endorphin-producing 'you' time. With Drake away all week, I get very little down time from being a Mum. Running is therefore a bit of a sanctuary, and because it's doing me good (physically and mentally), it's very hard for him to object to having sole custody of Duckling while I head out (plus father and son bonding time - v. important). To be honest, I have considered just going and sitting in Costa for 45 mins to eat pastries and dick about on my phone, but the lack of scarlet face and gratuitous wheezing on my return would quickly give the game away.
  6. Music! I am a big music fan, but get far fewer opportunities to just sit and listen to it these days. So I run and listen instead. The faster the beat, the faster I run - for about 30 secs anyway. Though when Madonna pops up singing "time goes by so slowly," I almost always have to stop for a short breather, because she's right, when your lungs are about to burst, time does seem to go by veeeery slowly.
  7. Exploration. This one should probably be nearer the top. I love to explore (I was an nightmare of curiosity as a child) and I take a weird amount of pleasure in telling Drake "ooh, ooh, I took a new route today and discovered you can see The Shard from the top of Hilly Hill!" and "ooh, did you know that No. 25 Streety Street keep a horse in their front garden?! A horse!!!" when I get back. He generally humours me, mainly I think because he gets to benefit from my London cabbie-esque knowledge of the local area when trying to avoid roadworks or locate a postbox.
  8. Cool kit. This one is stretching it a bit, as I mostly run in old leggings and a t-shirt, but I do possess some nice(ly expensive) Sweaty Betty stuff for 'special occasions' - which mostly consists of said items being clean. Also, I love my nerdy Endomondo running ap and its little graphs and "you have completed 1 kilometre in 2 hours and 14 minutes" announcements. When my crappy phone deigns to let it work properly.
  9. It's a skill people can sponsor you for. Difficult to include this one without sounding flippant, but I think I should anyway. When one of my best friends lost her baby last year, I was desperate to do something, anything, to make things better. In truth, there's little you can do except be a friend, but running a sponsored 10k for Sands felt like a small positive act in a sea of despair, if nothing else. I was joined by her husband and another good friend, and we raised a fantastic amount of money. Not sure what I would have done if I wasn't into running. Maybe a sponsored cake eat?
  10. Talking of: it lets you eat more cake. Weight control and fitness are probably the main reasons I run, but they're the least interesting so they come last. I'd say weight "loss", but I can never control the urge to eat half a loaf of Soreen the day after a good run. I may therefore actually be better not running at all. But then I couldn't eat as much Soreen, and that would make me sad :-(.
Well that's all very positive.  I may have to follow this up with some of the less fun things about running tomorrow, in the name of balance and all that.  Now, where's that Soreen?

Friday, 19 June 2015

I know I'm right...

I said something at work today that I don't think I've ever said before. The conversation went something like this:

Phil: But do you think that maybe the donor just hasn't understood the way we calculate our fee rates?
Me: No. They understand it fine, and they don't have an issue with that. The problem is that we got our calculations wrong.
Phil: Really? I'm pretty sure I checked them and it all looked fine to me
Me: I know, you said, but as I said, the problem wasn't obvious. I've talked to Karen, I've talked to the donor and I've gone through the figures myself with a fine tooth comb. We screwed up and if we don't admit our mistake and correct it today, we're likely to make a horrible loss on this project.
Phil: Can't we just fudge the numbers a bit?
Me: Nope, it's too fundamental for that. Sorry, but I know I'm right on this one.

Not "I think I'm right" or "I'm probably right" but "I KNOW I'm right." You might not believe it from reading my rather opinionated blog (anonymity is great!), but conviction does not come naturally - I tend to be a little circumspect in all my dealings at work, as I don't like sticking my neck out unnecessarily or committing to absolutes. Today's declaration however was prompted by frustration (this debate had been going on some time and "Phil" just wasn't getting it) and an absolutely certain belief that I was right.  After I said it, I half expected a klaxon to sound and someone with a wagging finger to burst in and proclaim me wrong, or arrogant, or both. Instead Phil just sighed and said "OK, fine. I'll talk to the donor and we'll sort it out." And he did.

Being authoritative felt good. More importantly, it also worked, and got me wondering why I don't do it more often - it's certainly not through a lack of situations in which I have a viable answer to the problem at hand.   I suppose my timidity is the result of three factors. First of these is my basic personality. I am a bit of a perfectionist and slapdashery does not sit well with me. If I'm going to make a statement on anything, I want it to be absolutely ship shape and watertight, so if I'm not certain enough of the facts, I generally remain quiet. Second is my personal experience of humiliation (usually at the hands of the 'cool kids' at school), which has left me with a pathological fear of looking stupid. I'm not stupid, I know I'm not, but the thought that someone might laugh at me, or write me off as some blonde airhead because I say something a bit daft brings me out in a cold sweat. Which is unfortunate really, because I am a little prone to moments of catastrophic dizziness. Thirdly, conversely, I don't speak up much because I don't want to sound like I'm showing off, imposing my will on others, or trying to 'outdo' my colleagues.  This is probably because I'm faux Dutch (i.e. English - if I were really Dutch, I'd have no such concerns over propriety), but also, as much as it pains me to say it, because I'm a women. I may not fit the blonde airhead stereotype (mostly), but unfortunately I do sometimes fulfil the social expectation that it's unseemly for women to wear their brains on their sleeves. Hearts fine, brains no.

Sexism in the workplace is a topic that has been discussed to death, but what rarely seems to be addressed is the fact that it's not just about men leering and jeering, or companies treating women unfairly. It's also about the more subtle limitations and pressures that women place on themselves in order to 'fit in' or be seen as 'acceptable', often entirely subconsciously. I will be honest - I have been very lucky and have never really been on the receiving end of any overt sexism in my career, or indeed anywhere else for that matter. Except for one time in Year 9 when my Design Technology teacher made some very ill advised comments about girls being better suited to domestic science, prompting a classroom wide "knit in" protest the following week (20 mins of sitting there knitting/sewing and refusing to do any work). I think we genuinely scared the shit out of him, as he made us all promise not to mention the incident to any other teachers or our parents. What a twat. 

Anyway, I digress. I work for a research charity in which 60% of the staff are female. We have an excellent maternity leave scheme, a pay system that tries to ensure equality, a very relaxed attitude to flexible working, and no discernable 'glass ceilings' (our previous director was female, and nearly all of our senior management team are women). It's a really good place to work, especially as a new Mum. Yet if I think about general attitudes towards particular staff members - especially the most vocal ones - there is definitely a more critical stance taken against the women (bossy, pushy and difficult are all words I've cringingly heard used) than the men, simply because this is how wider society tends to view clever women.  This in turn affects the way I behave.

Still, in an organisation like mine, being an uppity sort of lady might actually get you promoted if your assertions are robust and well evidenced. In other places, I know this is definitely not the case. I have one friend that regularly has to pretend to be far more bimboesque than she actually is to avoid 'threatening' her male peers. Another, who works for a large financial firm, has to do the opposite, and was recently told to "man up" when making redundancies so that the individuals affected wouldn't think she was a soft touch who could be persuaded to offer a better redundancy package. She largely ignored this instruction and even hugged a couple of people who ended up in tears, but spent the rest of the week paranoid that her boss would somehow find out she'd been 'nice' and discipline her for it. The problem with having to pretend to be somebody you're not in situations like these is that it's unsustainable. Either you grow tired of putting on an act and quit, or you put on an act so much that you become permanently desensitised to others and end up becoming a person you don't really like. 

I don't want to push myself too far outside my comfort zone for this reason, but I do think I can probably relax a little more and stop being quite so worried about appearing big headed. Modesty is a positive attribute: it makes people nicer to work with and nicer generally means more approachable, more collegiate and thus more productive, whatever that obnoxious knobhead of a boss you once had might have insisted. There are times when it gets in the way though, and it's better just to be upfront and declare yourself right. So yes, clever ladies of the world, I call on you to join me in having courage in your convictions, and speaking up if you think you have the answers! I know it is hard to quash that little voice inside that tells you to be humble, but we won't change social norms if we constantly hide our intellectual lights under self-deprecating bushels. So don't be shy! I know I'm right about this! I mean I probably am...  Possibly.  Well anyway, it was just an idea...

Friday, 12 June 2015

Being Mrs Drake

I love my husband. He drives me nuts sometimes, but he also makes me laugh out loud, and I have an enormous amount of respect for him, his attitude to life and his unflappable calm in the face of my Ducky flapping.

One issue I've always had however, is identifying myself as "Mrs Mallard" (bear with me on the clunky pseudonyms here...). I have formally changed my surname in my passport and in most contexts outside work, particularly those associated with Duckling, I present myself Mrs M. I know there's far less stigma out there about unmarried parents these days, but I find having the same surname as my son and husband avoids a lot of administrative confusion. However, at work I am still "Ms de Eend" (The Duck in Dutch for reference) and have no intention of changing that any time soon. My marital status has no bearing on my work (which is why I also use Ms) and I've spent seven years building a name for myself at my organisation so it seems a bit daft to change it.

I think Drake is a bit offended that I haven't wholeheartedly embraced his surname, and, admin issues aside, if I'm being honest, that's the real reason I use Mallard; I love him and I don't want him to feel I dislike his surname or that I'm unhappy being identified as his wife. That doesn't stop me objecting strongly to the archaic and patriarchal nature of the tradition however. It dates back to a time when wives were literally their husband's property, and though this state of affairs is long gone, it still feels like you're proclaiming "I belong to my husband now" when you change your name. Thirty years of being Duck de Eend (which, let's be honest is more exotic), and suddenly I have to start calling myself something totally different, and rather dull and English to boot. But then, as Drake always says, I am only "faux Dutch" (Dutch Dad, English Mum, born and raised in Surrey) so maybe an English surname suits me better. At least people can spell it.

Of course Drake finds the whole thing hilarious (there's not much in life he doesn't laugh about. Except Arsenal losing.) He's particularly amused by my fury when we receive letters addressed to Mr & Mrs Drake Mallard. "My name is not Drake! It's Duck! Why doesn't my name appear?!" is a familiar refrain. Even worse is when I get birthday cards for "Mrs Drake Mallard" (yes, Drake still has some aging relatives that do this). My acceptance of Drake's surname was grudging enough, I'm certainly not willing to change sex and answer to his first name too! I remember reading Pride & Prejudice when quite young and being very confused when Charlotte is referred to as "Mrs William Collins". I honestly thought there must have been a typo in the text - her name was Charlotte, not William! But apparently not, and amazingly this practice still persists today, albeit only amongst those with a penchant for proper letter writing etiquette.

Maybe I'm overreacting. Despite none of my friends (even the most feminist among them) hanging on to their maiden names after marriage, studies of names on Facebook have shown that an increasing number of women - particularly those in their 20s - are now opting to do so. Furthermore, there is absolutely no legal or administrative requirement change one's name. We could have taken our cue from Civil Partnership trendsetters and changed my or both our names to something double-barrelled (Mallard-de Eend?) or hybridised (de Mallard?!), or I could have asked Drake to take my surname, like actress Zoe Saldana did with her husband recently. I didn't because there was no way he was ever going to want to go through all the form filling this would entail (I don't blame him - it's a pain in the bum) and I suspect he would have been endlessly ribbed by his mates. Mainly though, it wouldn't have been fair to ask him to relinquish his surname when I was so reluctant to give up mine - in some respects it would have been even harder for him, given the comparative lack of social precedent.

So, this leaves me with an odd hybrid identity: de Eend at work, Mallard at home. Oh, and The Different Duck online. Annoyingly addressed mail aside, I think I can live with this, and it doesn't yet seem to have led to split personality disorder. I do sometimes regret not having stuck to my feminist guns and kept my name throughout - I actually had a bit of a freak out about it after the wedding - but as time has passed, I have mellowed and become more comfortable, particularly now Duckling is here and the common surname binds us together as a family unit. Given the rise of alternative naming conventions, if he ever gets hitched, I will be very interested to see what name he/his partner takes on. I'm hoping for Duckling Mallard-Pondweed Smythe Dabblington the third. He may not be so keen.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Helpful Harry

This isn't based on personal experience at all, honest!
Harry was a helpful boy
He liked to fetch and carry
But every time that Harry helped
His Mummy cried "Oh Harry!"

"Oh Harry!" she would mutter
As he picked up her car keys
And wrapped them up in clingfilm
To live in the deep freeze

"Oh Harry!" she would shout
As he brightened up a wall
With a pot of poster paint
And a felt-tip scrawl

"Oh Harry!" she would grumble
As he opened the fridge door
And rearranged the carrots
On the kitchen floor

Visits from his relatives
Were the best chance to assist
He'd make sure that they all received
A helpful little gift

Pogo stick for Grandma
Trike for Uncle Barry
Roller skates for Bob the Dog
Still Mummy sighed "Oh Harry!"

Harry kept on helping though
He knew from Mummy's tone
That she was really happy
When he hid her mobile phone

And she really liked it
When her purse went in the sink
And when he found a ten pound note
And coloured it in pink

"Oh Harry, helpful little boy,"
His tired Mummy said,
"I think that you can help the best
By heading off to bed."

Night night Harry!

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The Sleep Training Conundrum

Ahh, sleep training. I know four things for certain about this particular parenting delight: a) I fundamentally disagree with it as a concept b) I have yet to find any viable alternative to it c) I hate doing it and d) I'm totally bloody shit at it. 

Here is my essential dilemma. My parenting ideals are not conducive to staying sane. On a sliding scale of mothering approaches ranging from strict, disciplined mother-led routine to baby-led attatchment stylee, I'm definitely nearer the hippy dippy end. I breastfeed on demand (still, at 15 months. Yikes.), I co-sleep, I carried Duckling in a sling for most of his first year... I've adopted this approach because it suits my personality, my child and my understanding of child psychology and development. However, I am also a pragmatist and I know I can't give everything to Duckling or I'll snap.  I need me time, I need adult company and I need SLEEP.  Who doesn't frankly?

Most nights (if made to sleep in his cot), Duckling will wake every 1-3 hours. In an ideal hippy dippy world, this wouldn't be a problem - it's normal child sleep behaviour after all. I'd just bring him into bed with us, he'd latch onto the boob and we'd all sleep happily ever after, until one day he would declare he was 'a big boy now' and could sleep through the night in his own cot. In the real world, most nights follow this pattern:

  • We have a splashy bath for 15 mins, some toothbrushing tantrums, then a fight to apply nappy and sleepsuit before the carpet is peed / pooed on.
  • We read Rabbit's Nap 17 times, interspersed with attempts to wriggle off my lap, some peekaboo behind the curtain and some desperate pointing at unidentified objects on the other side of the room.
  • Book is put away ("I mean it this time!") and breastfeeding begin in earnest, while I occupy myself with some inanity on my phone (if I've remembered to put it in my pocket.  Otherwise it's more Rabbit's Nap for me).
  • Sometime in the following 20-90 mins, the eyes will close properly, the nipple will be relinquished and I will transfer Duckling to his cot (after maybe just one more round of Candy Crush).
  • If Duckling's tilt switch is activated as I lie him down and wailing occurs, we repeat the process until he's asleep again.
  • Once properly passed out in his cot, I leave the room and try to cram in 95 household chores and some 'quality' TV time with a comatosed Drake / a Skype call with a nearly comatosed Drake (he works in Germany most of the week).
  • I go to bed too late.  Always, always too late.
  • 10 mins after closing my eyes, Duckling wakes up and cries.
  • More boob and Candy Crush / blogging (if I've run out of lives on CC). 
  • Duckling goes back in cot and I get somewhere between 5 mins and 3 hours sleep before he wakes up again and I cart him into bed with me.
  • Semi-sleep until 6-7am as Duckling attatches and detatches from boob, repositions himself horizontally, repositions himself upside down, gets tangled in duvet, kicks me, kicks Drake, falls out of bed, stands up in his sleep then falls over and headbutts me in the face etc. etc.
  • Get properly awoken by Duckling slapping me on the head or hitting me with his sippy cup and shouting "YESH!" (his universal word for everything).
  • Grudingly get up, noting exhaustion / bad back / buggered shoulder / black eye (it was fun trying to explain to people I'd been beaten up by a one year-old).
So, yes, as hippy dippy as I am, in the interests of getting some of my evening back, and being able to sleep without injury to myself, Drake or Duckling, sleep training has become a necessity. I have tried several different forms over the months, each time with some limited success, but nothing has yet resulted in the "quick to sleep and stay asleep" scenario I've hoped for. But then, as I state above, I'm awful at sleep training, and never do it properly, most likely because I can't get the idea that I'm doing Duckling some kind of psychological damage out of my head.

I started at six months with Pick Up Put Down training (PUPD - pick up when they cry, put down when they stop) as it sounded gentler than the other methods (I had already tried the No Cry Sleep Solution in vain - Duckling did not get the 'no cry' part).  I'd done my Googling and knew most paediatricians don't recommend sleep training before six months, as your baby still ideally needs at least one night-time feeding before this - Duckling definitely did due to his tongue tie related early growth issues.  Very few recommend simply leaving babies to cry themselves to sleep either ('Cry it Out'), due to the reasons outlined in my post on evolutionary parenting.  Controlled Crying (leaving them to cry but going back in at set intervals to comfort) still seemed too heartbreaking and stressful for a baby so small, so PUPD it was.  It took ninety minutes or so before Duckling started to follow the rule book by actually stopping crying when I picked him up, but eventually after countless attempts, he fell asleep in his cot through pure exhaustion.  I hated every minute, but I kept telling myself this was the solution to a better night's sleep for both of us and repeated the process each time he woke in the night.  The problem was, after a week, while he was going to sleep on his own fantastically well, he was still waking up every couple of hours after that.  I'm fairly sure the problem was hunger - Duckling was still underweight at this point, and I didn't actually want him to go the whole night without a feed because of this, so I was still feeding him at some of his wake ups.  Unfortunately that meant he remained used to that feeding pattern, and would wake up accordingly.

So, after a week or so of religiously following the schedule and always putting him down awake (and picking up and putting down ad nauseam), he was still waking up multiple times in the night and I was even more sleep deprived than before because I wasn't 'allowed' to co-sleep.  The 'rules' don't tell you what to do in such circumstances and my resolve crumbled - I started to bring him back into bed with me at around 3am.  A vicious cold caused him to wake every 20 mins one night, knocking things off track a little further.  Then I totally buggered my back up (PUPD is a spine killer) and before I knew it, I was back in the habit of feeding him to sleep, then bringing him into bed with us when he woke in the night. 

For a while I left things like this - I felt a failure, but even if I was being woken up repeatedly by little feet kicking me in the stomach, or a little finger exploring my nostrils, at least I could stick him back on the boob, we could both go back to sleep fairly rapidly, and I didn't have to freeze my bum off sitting in a rocking chair for hours.  Breastfeeding is natural, co-sleeping is natural, Duckling was getting lots of milk and warmth and cuddles and avoiding the stress and heightened cortisol levels of being left to cry - it was all so easy and peaceful so did I REALLY need to sleep train?

Fast forward a couple of months, and with the prospect of returning to work and needing him to sleep for the childminder (no boob!), I decided I did.  I repeated the entire process again, complete with bad back and a nasty cold a week or so in, and achieved the same outcome - a brief improvement at the cost of my sanity, followed by an inevitable regression to the co-sleeping norm.  I remember slamming the phone down (well, angrily pressing the disconnect button) on Drake one night after Duckling had woken and interrupted our Skype conversation for the third time, because I was utterly furious that Drake was several hundred miles away, in his PJs and all ready for bed where he would get to sleep soundly, while I hadn't even had the chance to finish my dinner and was facing yet another night of traipsing back and forth to an ungrateful, screaming child's room.  He said later I sounded quite unhinged that evening, and unsurprisingly it wasn't long after that that I gave up sleep training for a second time.

So the cycle of desperation and failure has continued, though I can now add Controlled Crying to the list of sleep training fails too.  As Duckling had amazingly taught himself how to fall asleep, unaided, in his cot at the childminder's (little sod), I felt reasonably confident that he might be willing to do the same for me with a little encouragement and reassurance.  Not so - he howled until he could barely breathe / was nearly sick every time I left the room, and I ended up cuddling him then patting him to sleep. Whether this makes me a caring and compassionate mother, or a weak-willed pushover I can't quite decide.  Probably both.

I therefore remain thoroughly ambivalent and also quite resentful about sleep training.  I feel crap that I'm going against my basic childrearing beliefs in doing it, crap that I'm being so inconsistent and useless when I do do it and crap that it's become a necessity in the first place - books (damn books!) say that you need to let children learn to settle themselves at an early age by not responding to them immediately at every wake up. Pffft. Tried it so many times and it never, ever worked.

All this said, we have recently (whisper it!) made some progress - the last round of training means Duckling will now go to sleep IN HIS COT reasonably easily most nights, unless he's had a late afternoon nap and isn't tired enough yet.  I can't yet leave the room until he's reached a critical tipping point of sleepiness and his eyes have properly closed, or he'll leap up and wail.  At some point though, when he's not teething or ill - and he's both at the moment - I will work on him letting me leave the room before he falls asleep because I'm pretty certain that once he can do this, he'll be able to 'self settle' properly and will sleep through the night. And this time I will not fail! No siree! Victory shall be mine!

Oh who am I kidding?