Master the stairs, baby climbs stairs Blog

Master the Stairs

A few weeks ago I wrote about Hannah’s new-found love of all things terrifying. You’ll be pleased to know that her desire to explore all the dangerous things has not subsided. If anything, it has intensified!

 

This makes for interesting times in my house at the moment. Where just a few short weeks ago I was becoming complacent in my attitude towards observing Hannah’s play, I am now back to a state of close hovering. I know that makes me sound like a bit of a helicopter parent, but trust me, Hannah needs to be watched carefully at this point in time.

 

Testing the Water

Take, for example, yesterday’s antics. The three of us were upstairs. Emma and I were completing fairly mundane, adult tasks, while Hannah played with her toys. All of a sudden, Hannah stood up and headed for the stairs at a rate of knots. She navigated them safely, so I was a bit slow to follow. However, when we heard the door to the laundry (and steps of doom) click open, I was after her in a heartbeat.

I almost did myself some serious damage as my sock-clad feet struggled for traction on the carpet at the top of our stairs. Fortunately, I caught the handrail and steadied myself before becoming the first in our family to go to hospital for a stair-related injury. I had no time to contemplate my near-death experience. Hannah was, in my mind, mere steps away from her own misfortune.

I cleared the flight of stairs in three great leaps and, using the banister as a kind of turning pole I slid around 180 degrees to run to the laundry. Again my socked feet made that part slightly more hairy than it otherwise would have been, and I once again had to steady myself, to avoid coming to grief on the tiles.

After gathering my composure I set myself to take off at full speed, only to look up and stop in my tracks.

There was Hannah, standing next to the laundry door, a big smile on her face. She had obviously enjoyed the show, and may or may not have now formed a connection in her brain that tells her that if she opens the door, daddy comes running in a crazy way.

 

Becoming a Big Girl

As I have mentioned before, Hannah has long known how to navigate the stairs. She takes herself up and down with ease and perfect safety in a well-practised motion.

But that is no longer enough. Hannah is hell-bent on growing up and becoming a big kid. A key part of that in her mind right now is using the stairs in the same way that the adults do. Thankfully, a few scares early on have helped Hannah to realise that she’s not quite ready to do it by herself. Unfortunately, that means that she DEMANDS that one of us help her. Every time.

Hannah now waits at the top of the stairs and makes a big noise. As we draw near to see what all the fuss is about, she holds out her hands and steps threateningly close to the edge of the top step. This, of course, leaves us with no option but to offer a hand. As soon as one is within reach, Hannah latches on and she doesn’t let go. Her grip is amazingly strong for little girl who has only been on this planet for 18 months, and she uses it to her full advantage.

Once she has secured a parent, Hannah is in big kid heaven. She grins from ear to ear as she slowly descends the stairs in an upright, forward-facing position. She is using the stairs just as we do and it’s obviously a big thrill for her!

 

Try and Try Again

Did I mention that Hannah has a strong grip? Did I also mention that she knows how to use it to her full advantage? I did? Good.

When we reach the bottom of the stairs, Hannah does not release her captured parent. That would be a waste. After-all, who knows when the opportunity to capture one might present its self again? No, Hannah doesn’t release her parent, she merely turns them around and prepares for the journey back up the stairs.

See, Hannah’s tiny toddler brain has a more profound understanding of one of the keys to a successful life than many of us adults. It is a fact that we probably all once had a grasp of, long ago, and it really is simple. Mastery comes through repeated, deliberate practice. Failure is a part of the journey. It presents an opportunity to learn, to get better.

Hannah wants to climb the steps like a big kid, and she already knows that the only way she is going to be able to do that is be practising and practising and practising until she can master the stairs.

 

Now to You

So, grown adult, now it’s your turn to master the stairs. What daunting learning have you been putting off, because you don’t think you can do it?

In what aspect of your life do you desperately wish to be like the big kids? Who is offering you helping hand to guide you safely off the top step as you take the plunge towards your goal?

Mastery is hard work. It requires sustained effort. Failure and its inbuilt lessons are fundamental to your eventual success. Can you handle that as well as a toddler does, or have you learnt to shy away and protect yourself? Are you really ready to climb that staircase again, and again, and again, or are you just waiting for someone to pick you up and carry you down?

 

Do you want my advice?

Go on, do it! Embrace the effort. Take a page out of the toddler’s handbook. Master the stairs.

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scooter path at park Blog

Covet Thy Neighbour’s Scooter

It’s no secret that we love the park. I’ve written about it many times before. We regularly go to our local toddler playground, but we also enjoy exploring Sydney and finding great new places to play. Many of the playgrounds that we find have bike tracks. These are always well-used, and why wouldn’t they be? They offer the perfect, safe environment for kids to learn how to ride a bike or scooter.

 

You see me rolling

 

Recently, Hannah has begun to take notice. She likes to watch the older kids zoom past confidently on their scooters. She happily sits or stands, for long periods of time and she studies them.

Of course, the inevitable result of that activity is that Hannah desperately wants to have a go as well. The scooter, after all, fits her modus operandi perfectly – full speed and just a hint of danger.

It has now reached the point where Hannah sees any poorly-guarded scooter as fair game. She can spot one from across the other side of the playground. And once she has seen one, she’s off. Nothing gets in her way. Her previous favourite piece of playground equipment – the swings – don’t even get a look-in once Hannah has spotted a scooter. She walks with Terminator-like determination. Other kids have to slam on the brakes, or violently swerve, in order to avoid crashing in to the tiny little tot as she bee-lines straight across the bike track.

 

The eternal dilemma

 

However, once she reaches the discarded personal transport, she is faced with the eternal dilemma – Do I listen to dad, who is telling me not to touch it, or do I follow my burning impulse and give it a crack?

To give Hannah full credit, she is a better listener than many children. More often than not she follows the simple instructions that I give her. Pack-up time, for example is fairly consistently an easy affair in our house. But even for the most eager-to-please toddler, the lure of a shiny, unattended scooter can be too much.

Inevitably, Hannah will tentatively reach out, the freedom-machine tantalisingly close to her fingertips. She will pause, briefly, just centimetres away when she once again hears my voice gently remind her that the scooter is not hers. She will consider the information for a moment, but as soon as her eye is once-again drawn to the prize, she is left with little choice. Her impulse is now in charge. It tells her that if she can just wrap her tiny little fingers around the smooth, chrome handlebar, then it will indeed be hers!

 

Foiled

 

Unfortunately for Hannah, it is at that exact same moment that I swoop in and scoop her up. Over the wail of her own voice, she doesn’t her me mumble an apology to the disapproving 6 year old who has just raced over to rescue his pride-and-joy from a devastating touching by a toddler GIRL! And she probably doesn’t care much for my apology anyway. The only thing that she’s sorry about at that point in time is that her long, golden locks are not fluttering in the breeze as she elegantly sails down the bike track on her shiny silver steed.

 

One day soon, my darling, I will get you a shiny scooter of your very own. But for now, you have to wait. Have patience, my dear. Know that I’m looking forward to the day that I teach you how to ride one, almost as much as you are.

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She can open the door, terrifying milestone Blog

…Unless They Figure Out How To Open Doors

I’ve written about milestones before. Some make me cringe at the competitiveness with which parents approach them, some (non-official) milestones make me laugh, some milestones genuinely fill me with joy and excitement. But just this week, we have discovered a new type of milestone – the absolutely terrifying milestone.

 

It has been a week of explosive development. Hannah has come leaps and bounds with her comprehension and communication. She looks older, she walks more confidently, and she has suddenly decided to grow up. All of that is wonderful! Except that three specific incidents in the past week make it absolutely terrifying.

 

1 – Hannah can open doors

 

You know the scene in Jurassic Park, the one where the velociraptor figures out how to open doors? Well that was re-enacted in my house. And it was far more terrifying that in Jurassic Park, because instead of an oversized, animatronic raptor, it was an overly-curious, real-life toddler. She’s 17 months old! Surely she shouldn’t be able to reach the handle yet.

To be honest, she was as surprised by it as we were. At least she was the first time. By mid-afternoon she had her technique down, and all of a sudden she had unfettered access to the laundry and basement steps (aka the steps of doom). Up until that point, the laundry had been the ‘safe place’ to dump cleaning chemicals and anything else that needed to be out of reach. Now that needs to change, because the look in Hannah’s eyes told me that it is her new mission to explore every last cranny of this mysterious new room. What’s going to stop her? Certainly not a puny door.

 

toddler open door, terrifying milestone
We’re doomed!

 

2 – Hannah wants to walk down the stairs

 

Hannah has always been interested in the stairs. From an early age we taught her how to safely ascend and descend, as it was obvious that she was going to figure it out, with or without our help.

This past week, however, Hannah has decided that being able to navigate the stairs safely is no longer good enough. She is a big girl and she’ll be damned if she doesn’t use the stairs like a big girl. Upright. Without holding on. Face first.

Hannah has taken to standing at the top of the stairs, right on the edge. She understands the basic mechanics of walking down the stairs like a big person, she just can’t yet get all of her bits to do what they are supposed to do. At one point she dangled one foot precariously over the edge, before fear took over and she retreated to the corner of the landing.

I don’t think she will actually try to do this by herself, but one can never be too sure. I really don’t want to be that parent, who didn’t pay attention that one time…

Then again, my parents tell me that my brother used to routinely tumble down the stairs, and he has turned out reasonably normal.

 

3 – Hannah knows how to work the child gate

 

We have a child safety gate which separates our kitchen from Hannah’s play area. Up until this point it has been quite effective. Hannah has been able to play with her toys while we prepare dinner, and when she gets the overwhelming urge to cling to our legs while we stir boiling hot liquids on the stove top, she is prohibited from doing so.

Except that she isn’t. It started a few days ago. I was working in the kitchen when I noticed that Hannah was intently studying the latch mechanism on the gate. That’s not unusual, she is a keen observer of her environment. I then watched as she stretched out her tiny little finger and somehow applied enough pressure to slide the latch. It made a satisfying ‘click’. The type of satisfying click that acts as an incentive to do it again. And again. And again.

Hannah quickly had the latch mastered. Thankfully, the gate still had a second line of defence. It has to be lifted up in order to open. I was still safe in my culinary sanctuary.

Except that I wasn’t. The next day I was checking on some salmon that was roasting in the oven. It was just at the crucial point, so I was having a close inspection to see if it needed another minute or two. All of a sudden, a little head popped up beside me. It peered intently at the fish.

“What do you think, Hannah?” I asked. “Is it done?”

A large, toothy grin smiled back.

A moment later the danger of the situation dawned on me. An inquisitive toddler was now mere centimetres away from a hot oven door, her favourite protein tantalisingly waiting on the other side.

“AAAAAHHH!” I exclaimed as my composure abandoned me. In one movement I pushed the salmon back in, shut the door and scooped up Hannah. She was mildly annoyed by our hasty retreat, but at least she was safe.

 

More to come?

 

I have the unnerving feeling that this is just the beginning of the absolutely terrifying milestone phase. After all, we still have knives, traffic, open water and wild animals still to learn about, just to name a few.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m glad that Hannah wants to push boundaries. I’m excited that she wants to explore and understand the world in which she lives. With these experiences, Hannah is making all kinds of neurological connections. She is learning about safety, confidence, risks and consequence.

I might gain a few more grey hairs as I make sure that the consequences are never too severe, but it’s worth it!

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toy, doctor's surgery , waiting room Blog

The Things We Swore They Would Never Do –…

A wise man once told me that opinions are like anuses – everyone has one. This is especially true of parenting. After all, it’s a task that most of us undertake at some point in our lives.

 

Sifting through the sea of contradicting opinions is one of the ultimate challenges for any new parent. People are only too willing to drop their two-cents, whether solicited or not. This undoubtedly adds to the complexity of parenting, but these are not the opinions of which you should be most wary. The opinions that I believe can cause you the most problems are your own, pre-child ones.

They are the throw-away lines that you used so freely before you actually had any understanding of the complexity of the job. They are the opinions that escape your mouth as “I’d never let my child…”, often uttered as you witness a single snapshot of another family’s life.

I have done it, many times. Too many to count. I think it’s natural to have an idealistic view of how you expect family life to be before you begin, but it is important to understand that the reality rarely meets your expectations.

The Toys in the Doctor’s Surgery Waiting Room

I had always looked on toys in the doctor’s surgery with disgust. I would never let my child play with them I used to say quietly to myself as I watched children play with the same toys that have sat in the same corner of the surgery waiting room for the past ten years. Just imagine how filthy they are! Imagine how many sick and grubby little fingers have been touching them already. To be honest, the thought of going anywhere near them made me feel a little ill.

 

Yesterday, we took Hannah to the doctor. She was suffering from what turned out to be conjunctivitis – highly contagious conjunctivitis.

We entered the room and sat down. I sat on the chair and Hannah sat patiently in my lap. She looked around the room and took in the various elements. Her eyes stopped for a while on the television, something that is still very much a novelty for Hannah as we have avoided giving her any screen time at home (yes, I did say I would never let my baby watch the television. So far I have stuck to that one).

After a while, Hannah became bored of the American chat show on the screen and she began scanning the room again. She looked at posters and pamphlets, until eventually her eyes came to rest on the lime-green plastic object in the corner of the room – the toy bucket.

 

The battle begins…

I still have no idea how Hannah knew what it was, but she definitely knew. Almost immediately she grew restless. Her little legs kicked out and she twisted her body in the usual “let me down” manner. She had a goal in mind – a target that she suddenly had to reach.

Elderly eyes swivelled in the waiting room. A show was about to begin and they would be damned if they were going to miss the fun in their otherwise dull excursion. It was obvious that a battle of willpower was under way – my determination to keep Hannah from the box of disease, and Hannah’s determination to play.

 

Resigned to defeat

Hannah, of course, had the upper hand. An enthusiastic wail from her and I had to let go. No-one likes to be the parent in the middle of a waiting room commotion, and I’m no exception. To my advantage, Hannah didn’t know that she had this power. She’s never been in the situation where she has had to unleash it, as episodes of public crankiness are few and far between. But I could feel the wail building inside her. I knew I had lost. In that moment I had made the choice – I had become the parent who disgusted me so much in my pre-children days. I had become the parent who let his child play with the toys in the doctor’s surgery waiting room.

I placed her on the floor. I’m sure I gave a head-to-toe shudder as her tiny feet began to carry her towards the dreaded bucket of doom (or fun, depending on by whose viewpoint you look at it).

 

Saved by an angel

Just then, a voice like an angel from heaven called out “Hannah?”

It was the doctor. It was our turn to see her.

Before Hannah could reach the bucket, I scooped her up into my arms. “Time to see the doctor,” I told her.

It took a moment for it to sink in, but not too long. Hannah’s focus was already onto the next issue – the strange lady in the white coat who seemed entirely too interested in poking and prodding her. But that adventure is a story for another day.

 

Until next time…

One thing is for sure, Hannah has an excellent memory. I have no doubt that the next time we set foot in that doctor’s surgery waiting room, Hannah’s entire being will become devoted to reaching the bucket. At that moment, I will have little choice but to give in and let her play with the toys. Hopefully, when that time comes, Hannah will not be carrying anything highly contagious. More importantly, hopefully neither will have the last kid to touch them…

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skin cancer, mole, skin, body, health Blog

Skin Cancer and the Boiled Lolly

The scourge of skin cancer in Australia

Skin cancer is a devastating reality of life in Australia. We have one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. According to Sun Smart Victoria, 2 in 3 of us will be diagnosed with a form of skin cancer by the age of 70, and skin cancers account for more than 80% of all new cancers diagnosed each year.

These statistics are huge, and I believe most Australians are vaguely aware of them. We have now had several decades of sun-smart programs, ad campaigns, lessons in schools and highly visible posters in doctor’s surgeries, warning us of the dangers and compelling us to Slip Slop Slap (and in more recent years Seek Slide).

 

 

Because of the significant possibility of developing skin cancer, I visit my local skin doctor on an annual basis. Last week my phone beeped with an alert. It informed me that it was once again time for my check-up.

Ten minutes of discomfort

Going to the skin doctor is a strange experience – it is mildly uncomfortable for several reasons. At the forefront of my mind is that I may go home with slightly less of me than I had when I entered. This is because on several occasions my doctor has removed suspicious-looking growths for further analysis. The removal of such growths isn’t overly painful, just a quick local anaesthetic, a bit of scalpel work then a couple of stiches to hold you back together again. The whole thing takes about ten minutes.

But there are other aspects of visiting the skin doctor that make it uncomfortable too. On my last visit the doctor ushered me into a room, where he asked me to strip down to my underwear. He then left the room. I assume he does this to provide a sense of privacy while undressing, but I don’t quite get it. I know that in the end he’s just going to see me in my jocks anyway. If anything, it just adds to the sense of discomfort, because inevitably I end up standing around in nothing but my y-fronts, waiting for his return.

I’m also never quite sure whether I’m supposed to be sitting down, standing, or lying on the surgical bed ready for my examination. I was mid-way through pondering this question when the doctor returned. As a result, he caught me in a semi-squatting position – mid sit.

As he lifted each side of my underwear to check for signs of arse-skin cancer, he lamented the political career of poor ol’ Gough.

He entered the room, quickly glanced at my file, then launched into a monologue about dead Australian Prime Ministers. This threw me a bit, as I was expecting the usual ‘How’s your family?’ small talk that health professionals usually seem to stick with. At the same time, his eyes started darting across my body. For the briefest of moments he would hold his magnifying glass up to a curiosity, assess it, then move on to the next. All the while he continued with his speech about politicians of the past.

Every now and then he threw in an instruction – lift your arm, turn around, lie on the bed. But the main focus of thought appeared to be his chosen topic. As I lay face down on the bed, the doctor waxed lyrical about Gough Whitlam and his It’s Time election slogan. As he lifted each side of my underwear to check for signs of arse-skin cancer, he lamented the political career of poor ol’ Gough.

By this point in the examination I had become quite engrossed in the doctor’s monologue. He had taken me on a journey through some fascinating and some poignant moments of Australian history. I waited eagerly for the moral, the purpose of the good doctor’s story, but instead his voice just trailed off…

“The good news is that I won’t have to chop you today,” the doc declared. “Put your clothes back on, see you next year.”

I sat up, hoping that the doctor would provide some closure to his story.  But as I turned around, all that I was left with was the ‘click’ of the door through which he had made a quick escape. By the time I was buckling my belt, I could hear the doctor’s voice in the next room. He was already talking to his next patient. I can only imagine what interesting, yet ultimately pointless story he had begun. It dawned on me that his story had been nothing but a distraction. It was merely something to take my mind off the awkwardness of the situation, to reduce my nerves about what may be found.

The moral of the story…

I put on the rest of my clothes and headed to the counter. I looked at the ubiquitous bowl of boiled lollies on the counter, which I normally ignore. But this time I gave a wry smile and picked one up. Suddenly, the lolly had assumed great significance. It’s message to me was simple – The discomfort is minor, the consequences are real, so suck it up.

 

I looked at the receptionist and asked her to book me an appointment for the same time next year.

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