Guest post, Hannah, typing, keys

Dude, Where’s My Car (Keys)?

As a parent, I try to be ‘present’ as much as possible when I am around my daughter. I love the times when she has my full attention, and we play together or read books, or play hide-and-seek.

Sometimes, adult things just need to be done. Bills have to be paid, emails responded to, cooking done… it’s just not possible to give a child 100% of your attention, all the time. But toddlers don’t understand that. They have particular feelings at particular times, and these feelings are quite separate from your desire to get things done. As a consequence, distractions are sometimes required.

Take, for example, my experience last night. I was sitting at the table, tapping away on my laptop keyboard, when Hannah wandered over and took a great interest in what I was doing. Not content with watching me type away (Hannah is never content to just watch), she insisted on being part of the action. I can’t blame her, the clicking of keyboard keys and the bright screen are enough to entice any toddler to interaction.

I needed a distraction and I needed one quickly. I was in the zone with my writing and I really didn’t want to break my concentration at that point (It’s always so hard to start again, and it’s never as good). Almost absent-mindedly, I reached for the one thing on the table that was even more enticing than the laptop – my keys.

What is it about keys? I don’t understand it at all. I used to laugh at the stereotypical image of a parent dangling a set of keys in front of a baby, but I don’t laugh any more. Keys have a mysterious power over the infant mind. They hypnotise it in ways that even science can’t explain (I’m assuming this, I have in no way bothered to research the validity of this statement). It works. I don’t know why, but it just does. Anyway, back to the story…

I handed the set of keys to Hannah without a second thought and I carried on writing. The distraction had worked and Hannah toddled off to examine her newly-acquired treasure. All was good.

The only thing was, I had broken the golden rule of letting a toddler play with something they shouldn’t otherwise have – I hadn’t watched what she did with it.

This rule is fundamental and universal. Take, for example, letting your child play with a pen. She will examine it carefully, and look ever so grown up with it while you have your eye on her. But dare blink and immediately a blue line will appear on the wall. You will then look down at your child and she will innocently look back up at you, blue ink all over her face and the remanets of an exploded blue pen in her hand.

Or your phone. The innocent and adorable child, sitting at your feet and swiping through some mindless game, will flush that bad-boy down the toilet if given even half a window of opportunity.

After a substantial period of quiet play by Hannah and excellent writing by me, it began to dawn on me that I had made a terrible mistake. A niggling little sound at the back of my mind turned into full-blown alarm bells as I realised that Hannah had moved on from the keys, and she was now playing with her toy train.

I snapped out of my writing haze and focussed fully on the burning question – Where are my keys?

“Where are my keys?” I asked Hannah, fully aware that it would be futile. She looked up at me briefly, smiled, then returned her full attention to her train.

I tried to retrace Hannah’s movements in my mind, but that was useless. My attention had been on my laptop and I had no idea what she had been up to. I had vague recollections of her wandering past the table and towards the stairs, but that was it. They could be anywhere in the house.

I began looking in toy boxes and drawers. I searched under the cushions on the couch, then under the couch its self. I headed up stars and checked the bedrooms. Nothing.

I headed back down stairs and resigned myself to a thorough search of the house once Emma returned home. I was annoyed that I had so easily given away something so important, all for the sake of a few minutes of uninterrupted writing time.

When I returned to the play mat, Hannah was still sitting and playing with her toy train. She was completely oblivious to my frantic searches. Defeated, I slumped into my chair. Hannah was still engaged with her train, but I was no longer in the zone to write.

A short time later, Emma returned home. We said our hellos, then almost immediately she looked to the spot on the play mat where Hannah had been sitting.

 

“Why are your keys on the floor?” She asked.

 

The Pramshed
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Seagull at beach

My Sunday Photo – Seagulls

My Sunday Photo for this week is of seagulls at the beach.

Perfect Autumn weather calls for outdoor fun. Cool, clear mornings quickly warm up to the ideal temperature for parks and walks. Yesterday was as good as it gets, so we had to get outside and make the most of it.

We headed to one of our favourite beaches. It has the winning combination of sand, long walks, grass and play equipment. When we first arrived it was snack time, and Hannah was soon stuck into a banana. That’s when these locals joined us!

Seagull at beach

Many people don’t like seagulls, and I understand why. They can be aggressive, particularly when food is involved. However, they are also beautiful creatures, and a lot of fun to observe through a telephoto lens.

This series of photos is of one seagull who was bathing himself in a shallow ocean rock pool. We had a great time watching him do his thing.

I used a fast shutter speed of 1/2000, because I wanted to freeze the action completely. I love the way that you can see the drops of water pooling on the seagull’s back and running off.

Photalife
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shadow of swing Gough Whitlam Park Swings, baby, swinging, shadow

My Sunday Photo – The Shadow of the Swing

My Sunday Photo for this weeks is of a shadow

I have had a busy few weeks, so much so that I didn’t even get around to posting a My Sunday Photo last week. I also haven’t processed any of my photos from this week yet, so I’m cheating a bit and using one of last week’s photos from our park visit – The Shadow of the Swing.

shadow of swing Gough Whitlam Park Swings, baby, swinging, shadow

I love this photo because the shadow perfectly sums up what parks are all about for Hannah at the moment. As far as she’s concerned, if it doesn’t have a swing, it’s not a park worth visiting.

I also like this photo because I don’t post identifying photos of Hannah. A shot like this that captures her in the middle of her favourite activity, while still being completely anonymous, is a rare treat! One I’m very happy to share with you all.

This photo was taken on our recent visit to Gough Whitlam Park, you can read the full review here.

Photalife
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Toddler Playground Carss Bush Park

The Other Children in The Toddler Playground

Now that visits to playgrounds feature heavily in our weekly routine, I’ve begun to notice a few similarities between the children that I see at each playground. As someone who forms his understanding of the world through sweeping generalisations, I have spent my last few visits to playgrounds observing the other children there, and placing them in categories.

 

The King (or Queen) of the Playground

You know this kid. He’s the one that sits at the top of the slide and doesn’t let anyone else go down. She’s the one who pushes others down the stairs, or hogs a particular piece of equipment all for herself, the entire time you’re at the playground. The ruler of the playground is usually just that little bit older than the rest. He has no ability or desire to share and he becomes extremely agitated when his dominance is challenged.

These kids may appear fearless, even like miniature schoolyard bullies. However, their tough-guy façade tends to crack fairly easily.

Last week Hannah managed to wrestle the baby swing from a helmet-clad toddler who was hell-bent on dominating it, despite the apparent unwillingness of any adult to lift him up and place him inside. He had been holding the damned thing for a full five minutes before Hannah got jack of the situation, toddled over and went head-to-head in a battle of ‘hold and pull’.

This kid had already chased away a grandmother with a small baby, by racing over and yelling “it’s mine” as she attempted to give her granddaughter a quick swing. The poor old darling seemed quite flustered by the interaction.

But he was no match for Hannah. Her tiny hands grasped the black rubber and they refused to budge, despite the young tyrant’s best jerky efforts. “Aw, you’re sharing” I interjected from the sidelines, which no-doubt fuelled his ego-centric rage and resulted in a few more attempts to regain sole control of the contraption. However, he hadn’t counted on the tenacity of a baby girl with surprising strength and a bloody-mindedness for swinging that matched his own. He relented and retreated to the big-kid swing, where he sat sulkily and complained about not being pushed, for the next five minutes while Hannah swung away joyfully. As soon as Hannah alighted, he raced back across and resumed his position at the ‘throne’, much to the dismay of the grandma who was once again hovering hopefully nearby.

 

The One Who Always Gets Hurt

Just this morning we were at the soft play area in a shopping centre. As I watched Hannah play I noticed a little boy, perhaps three years old, out of the corner of my eye. He was climbing the staircase of a slide, it was no more than a metre high. Somehow, he pulled a backwards summersault off the side and landed face-first on the soft-fall surface. Despite the meagre size of the equipment it really looked quite painful, so much so that I let out an audible gasp. The boy’s father was close by and he rushed to his aide.

Following this adventure, I went for a quick browse of a shop While Emma stayed with Hannah. When I returned just a few minutes later, Emma regaled me with a story of a little boy who had almost taken out Hannah in a spectacular fall off the slide. It felt like déjà vu as I listened. Then Emma pointed out which child it was – the same bloody kid! In the space of ten minutes, the child had managed two life-threatening falls on what must be the safest play equipment in Sydney.

This wasn’t a one-off occurrence either. The other day I watched a kid with his arm already in a sling, majestically pirouette from one stepping-stone to the next, until he gracefully slipped, tumbling head-over-arse and landing on his one good arm. Some kids are just born to have spectacular stacks.

 

The Nice Kid

I’ll admit it, this one surprised me. I was expecting all other kids at the playground to be self-centred jerks, or at the very least uninterested in the activities of a little baby girl who is just finding her way around. But time and time again, a little darling has absolutely blown me away with his or her generosity or kindness towards Hannah. Every time it has left Hannah with a great big smile on her face, and hopefully taught her a thing or two about positive human interactions.

Several times girls who are a few years older than Hannah, and otherwise alone on the playground, take her under their wing and show her the ropes. They play with her, show her how to do things and even share their toys with her. Hannah, in return beams great big smiles and fully engages in their games.

One child that particularly surprised me recently was a boy of primary school age, who had some of the sweetest interactions with Hannah yet. He had sent his football down a slide and it had rolled off the edge, straight into Hannah. She had looked monetarily shocked, but not upset. He came down the slide after his football and went straight over to Hannah to check on her. Seeing that she was okay, he then offered his football to her to play with. She showed some interest and her interacted with her for quite a while. He even showed her how to use another interesting piece of equipment at the playground. The young boy was so engaging that at one point, another young girl of about Hannah’s age crawled over, and they both sat side-by-side watching the boy. It was really beautiful to watch and I felt such joy that there are kids like that around. It taught me not to be such a cynical old grump.

 

The One With Parents Permanently Attached

Little Johnny should be able to climb to the top of the slide by himself, after all, he’s six years old. But he can’t, because for his whole life he’s relied on a helicopter ride straight to the top. This kid can’t do anything for himself, and when he is faced with even the slightest glimpse of independence, a parent magically appears with a fresh roll of bubble wrap to protect him from the threat.

Ha has absolutely no social skills, because he hasn’t been provided with the opportunity to develop them. His views about other children range from mild annoyance to bewildered hatred. His parents can often be seen forming a kind of makeshift human barrier between him and the great unwashed.

But all of that is okay, because he’s not going to have to learn how to wipe his own bottom until he leaves for university – he’s living the dream!

 

The One Without An Owner

You can spot this kid easily. He’s the one hanging upside-down by his ankles from the top of the rope gym when you first arrive. A quick scan of the playground will reveal that there isn’t a parent in sight, yet this kid seems quite at ease. He doesn’t think he owns the playground, he just happens to live there.

These kids come in two flavours – the ones who keep to themselves, and the ones who attach themselves to your family.

The ones who keep to themselves normally drift between the pieces of play equipment, choosing the least populated activity. Sometimes they even scurry off into the bushes for a while, no-doubt seeking some downtime from the hustle and bustle of a busy playground. They re-emerge later, sometimes after several hours – long after you think they’ve gone home.

Then there’s the one who tries to join your family. She just happens to play on the same piece of equipment as your child, and before you know it she’s eaten half your picnic. When you go to leave the park, she’ll look at you as though you’ve just run over her puppy.

 

The One Who is Stuck

He’s ten centimetres off the ground, but that doesn’t stop him from calling for help to get down. He doesn’t scream at the top of his lungs, instead he opts for the continuous “help, I’m stuck” said at normal speaking volume. He knows someone will come to help, they always do.

 

The Bolter

This kid has a twinkle in her eye and a penchant for playing on motorways. Her parents have learnt that she can only be taken to fenced play areas, and even then that they need to be constantly alert to the possibility of escape. She can be spotted loitering around the one exit of the playground, just waiting for a careless person to leave the gate open a fraction of a second too long.

Heaven help her parents if they glance at their phone to check an email. It will almost certainly result in a manic chase across at least three lanes of traffic. This child’s parents have the thighs of Usain Bolt and they’re probably quicker off the mark.

 

The Perfect Child

This is the one who’s behaviour you just can’t fault… you can’t help it that they just happen to be your child…

 

I’m pretty sure this is the definitive list, but if you happen to spot any other types of children who I’ve neglected to mention, feel free to drop it into the comments. I’ll be sure to keep an eye open for them the next time I’m at the playground.

One Hull of a Dad
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baby, smile, teeth, mouth, happy, joy, toothbrush

The Toothbrush and The Tiny Teeth

Sometimes good parenting comes down to patience. Something that seems hopeless and unachievable for weeks, even months on end, can, all of a sudden be realised.

This was our experience with Hannah and the toothbrush. From the moment the first little peg popped through her pink gums, we knew we would have to take good care of it and all the rest that followed. Oral hygiene is fundamental to overall health and developing good habits from an early age seems like a worthwhile investment in Hannah’s future.

But, it hasn’t been easy to get started. In fact, it’s been downright difficult.

In the beginning…

We introduced Hannah to the concept of a toothbrush by first using a damp cloth to wipe her tiny teeth. Emma began attempting to brush her teeth at night, after the feed and before sleep. To say that Hannah was reluctant is an understatement – she downright fought it. She was uncomfortable with the feeling of a cloth in her mouth and, as she was already tired from a long day, she didn’t have the patience to give it a go.

After a little while Hannah became more willing to allow the cloth into her mouth. Emma made up a tooth-brushing song, which Hannah appeared to like and she did a great job of making it part of the night routine. After a few weeks we began to introduce a teeth-brushing before the mid-day nap. Hannah was now familiar with the process and much more willing to participate. She was also less tired at that point in the day, so more willing to give something a go.

After a month or two, Hannah would happily open her mouth for the cloth. She did, however, sometimes decide to put her newfound chompers into action mid-brush, the result of which was tiny little teeth marks in parental fingers. One time recently, she even managed to draw blood from Emma.

All of this was good. It was progress towards our ultimate goal. But it wasn’t our ultimate goal. The regular use of a toothbrush was.

Introducing the toothbrush

Hannah was far more suspicious of the toothbrush. She eyed it sideways from the moment it appeared on the shelf during the bedtime rituals. Initial attempts to get it anywhere near her mouth resulted in tears, flailing limbs and a general sense of frustration for all involved.

This didn’t seem to get easier. In fact, it felt like it became worse. Hannah became anxious about the toothbrush well before it was brought anywhere near her face. She made it very clear that under no circumstances was it to go anywhere near her mouth. This happened for weeks. Long enough that Emma and I became a little concerned about how long-term it was going to be, and whether we would ever be able to convince Hannah of the necessity of the toothbrush.

During this time Emma was fantastic. She persisted each night with presenting Hannah with the toothbrush. She took her own toothbrush in each night and showed Hannah what she did with hers. Hannah watched with great interest, but still she was reluctant to allow the toothbrush near her mouth.

During the day I would give Hannah her toothbrush and ask her if she would like to give it a go. She was willing enough to hold it for a few minutes, and during that time she would look at it intently. I told her what is was and what it was for, as did Emma when she went through the same routine at night. Each time was the same, Hannah didn’t want it in her mouth, but she was happy enough around it. We still had to use the cloth each time to thoroughly clean her ever-growing collection of teeth.

Eventually Hannah came to the point where she was happy to put the toothbrush to her lips. However, she still instantly fought back whenever we tried to get it any further. The whole endeavour felt pointless and we really worried about whether she would ever accept the toothbrush.

Then, a couple of days ago, she opened her mouth and put it right it. She felt the texture of the brush with her tongue and teeth, and she decided it was okay after all. Since that point she has been happy to let us brush her teeth properly. If anything, she even appears to enjoy it… sometimes.

Every good story needs a moral…

I have found, time and time again, that things seem hopeless right up until the point that they are not. Patience and persistence are two of the most powerful tools that a parent has. The end goal may be months away, or it may just be a day away. It all feels the same until it happens. But in the end, the effort is always worth it.

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