Thursday 25 February 2010

Our new normal

I was thinking the other day how things have changed in a relatively short space of time. You don't notice at the time but slowly it dawns on you how life slips into a new routine. I remember before Clare and I were married that we'd sometimes complain about being bored, not having a hobby or annoyed that we hadn't made plans. When I look back to that time, where we had a relatively small mortgage, loads of friends on the doorstep and the ultimate freedom that comes with not having a child, I find it hard to believe how we could have been bored. Why didn't we go to the cinema, pub, shopping and any number of things that could have been done at the drop of a hat? Of course we did do those things but perhaps our expectations of entertainment were higher then.

Of course, we were also skint in those days so our ambitions had to be tempered by more modest bank accounts. Not that we're loaded now by any stretch but those more frivolous activities are much more in reach financially if not practically.

So, we can afford to do as we like yet we're not afforded the time to do it in. Again, this is an excuse, we can still do whatever we want, it just needs more planning. And because it needs more planning, we tend not to get around to it until it's too late. However, we're seldom bored. Maybe that's because now, our expectations of entertainment are more realistically lower!

People have asked me how having a child changed me and the reply is always that it hasn't really; I think moving slightly further away from friends and family a year before Jake arrived helped set our expectations. It gradually allowed us to settle into a routine of entertaining ourselves and being happier with our immediate surroundings than constantly looking for new sources of enjoyment. I forget who said it or where I heard it first but one of my favourite sayings is;

"it's not about getting what you want, but about wanting what you've got"

I still have constant gadget craving and we're always looking forward to the next holiday, but Jake has given us a load of perspective on what we can and cannot practically do on an impulse. We can still be impulsive but it needs to be planned! How's that for an oxymoron?!

The point is when I'm asked if I can play golf or bugger off to the pub at a few hours' notice, generally I can't (I'm playing golf tomorrow but it's been in the dairy for a month) but I don't resent that and I especially don't resent Jake for it, it's just the way it is. It's important to make sure it doesn't give you a reason to become lazy but I actually like our new normal, it sets the tone and pace for our lives and keeps us all in check.

It might sound boring and perhaps sometimes it is, but in the main it doesn't feel boring and that's really all that matters.

Wednesday 3 February 2010

Personality and performance

Over the last few months, Jake's personality has really developed. He's always been a smiley boy and laughs a lot when we get him at the right moment, but he's much more affectionate of late. Clare always makes a fuss when I come through the door and he gets so excited. I can't tell you how awesome it is to see his face light up when he sees me. He legs it across the dining room with his arms up, often laughing. As soon as I pick him up he buries his head into my shoulder as if he'd never expected my return. That unconditional love is so rewarding and not something I'd anticipated so soon. I like to think I'm a nice enough person but no one else I know greets me with such enthusiasm!

He's starting to work things out now as well and watching him investigate and learn stuff is brilliant. He can walk in my slippers, knows how to use a digital camera (well, he can hold it up and look at the screen), knows which button turns off the telly (really, really annoying) and can choose his favourite biscuit from his box of treats.

I always cringe a bit when people forecast a child's future talents from their early achievements (ooo he opened the toilet seat, he's going to be a plumber etc), but it does look like he quite a creative child. This isn't a proud dad proclamation (although I did get a twinge of proud dad syndrome), his nursery reports make repeated reference to his finger / foot / potato painting - he made an almost perfect snowflake (there's an oxymoron) print last week. His teachers mention his coordination with the materials is really good and he picks things up quite quickly. On the downside they mention that it takes him a while to settle down to activities because he constantly wants to play with something else. Naturally, we've taken this as early signs of ADHD but at least he'll be producing some good stuff when he can concentrate!

The creative / materials stuff is what appealed to me about the Montessori approach. I've mentioned before that I used to think it was a bit hippyish but I didn't really understand it. I think I confused it with that Steiner nonsense where kids don't compete and no one wins etc. To be fair I might even be wrong about that but haven't the inclination to prove myself otherwise. Anyway, I digress; the Montessori method uses lots of natural materials to help children learn by playing and interacting with them. So instead of showing them the number '2' for example, they will make the shape of a 2 out of sandpaper, stick it to a block of wood and get them to trace their finger over it. It could all still be a load of bollocks but it makes sense to me and if it means he gets an appreciation for wood over plastic then I'm all for it.

So, basically the boy is a genius and he really loves me. Can't ask for much more than that.