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How To Be A Good Father To Your Baby Daughter

In the mirror, though, I see Mr Bad Example. I see someone incorrigibly lazy, self-indulgent, quietly manipulative and in bad need of a shave. I see someone who can love his children to distraction - indeed, believes that they are the best thing that ever happened to him - while constantly thinking up new ways to get out of the house. Every evening, during the stressfest that is dinner-bath-bedtime, I fantasize about sitting in a pub quietly with a drink and a book. (When the family go away without me, that's what I do between 6.00 and 7.30 of an evening. Then I come back home, watch the telly by myself, go to bed early, sleep like a breezeblock. For a single man this sort of evening would make you want to top yourself. For me, it is the purest bliss.) 
How To Be A Good Father To Your Baby Daughter

I swear too much. I shout too much. Worse, I go from not shouting at all and talking in a very soft voice though an invisible fury barrier to shouting like a red-faced loon. All the books tell you that this is Very Bad Parenting Indeed.

I eat appallingly. (This paragraph has been prepared with the enthusiastic participation of Mrs Bad Example.) I don't go much on green vegetables and I adore refined sugars, especially whatever it is they put in Mars bars. And Mars bar ice cream. I am prone to defer to Mrs Bad Example on domestic matters, which (she tells me) is a disgraceful example to my son, who will grow up believing that only women cook proper meals. And I am unusually impractical in traditional male ways as well, being inept at all forms of DIY and liable, when things go wrong, to 'run around in circles like a headless chicken until someone else sorts it all out'. 

(At this point she paused, poured another large glass of red wine and then continued her list of my inadequacies, which I pretended both to listen to and to write down.) I'm sure you could produce an equally illuminating and humiliating list about yourself. 

But who gives a monkeys? As your child's first birthday party rages, as small children crawl and stagger around your house screaming and crying, as all the mums sit around eating cake and all the dads get quietly drunk, you know that you are at least good enough as a dad, and better than many, and that that's all that matters. You might almost say that all is for the best in the best of possible worlds, if some small person had not just come over to you and vomited on your trousers. To find out more, you can check out How To Be A Good Father To Your Baby Daughter.

How To Be A Good Father To A Newborn

To illustrate how fast the time goes: this will be the first and last birthday party for Junior that will be held primarily for the benefit of the parents. Next year your child will know exactly what's what, will be au fait with the concept of 'presents', and won't have to be coerced at gunpoint into blowing out candles on cakes. By the age of two children are very nearly playing with each other, which is to say, seeing something another child is playing with and grabbing it shouting 'Mine! Mine!' But at one, they are only dimly aware of other children, who are not really their friends yet, but the children of friends of their parents, which will never be the same thing, as I'm sure you remember.
How To Be A Good Father To A Newborn

At a first birthday party the kids wander around intrigued by the novelty of it all, while the parents chat away merrily and get a bit drunk. You'll love it.
Take a look at the other parents and their children. Even if you disregard similarities of height and weight and colouring and all that genetic guff, you may notice certain likenesses between them. For instance, a small girl may already have a similar hairstyle to her mother, or a small boy may have the same slightly pompous mannerisms as his father. We all assume our children will be like us, which is usually an assumption too far, as they are themselves right from the start. 

But it's around the first birthday that you can begin to see the effects of twelve months of nurture. First babies learn everything from their parents. (Second and subsequent babies learn more from their older siblings, but it all comes back to you in the end.) Oliver James, in his very fine book They F*** You Up, describes in grueling detail how quickly and comprehensively parents can screw up their children, but even if you haven't turned your infant into a schizophrenic you will already have had an enormous influence on the adult he or she will become. James says that most of the crucial work is already done in a year, although you probably can't see it yet. Nevertheless, you can begin to see it in other people and their children, if you look for it. Worse, they can begin to see it in you.

Whoa there. Is this Judgement Day? Will all your wrongdoings be brought to account? Junior may have acquired some of your strange little habits, but that doesn't necessarily point to a future of vagrancy and heroin addiction. This is why the theory of Good Enough Parenting is so comforting and popular. This accepts that nobody is perfect and, moreover, that nobody would want to be, because the 'perfect' parent who got everything right would be a pain in the arse. Far better to be Good Enough, to acknowledge that you are a flawed human being who is going to cock things up from time to time, and if you are happy with that you can get on with the job of parenting without passing on all your anxieties to your children. I think I know in my heart that I am Good Enough. To find out more, you can check out How To Be A Good Father To A Newborn.

When Does Life Get Better After Having A Baby

Contradiction, though, lies at the heart of parenthood. So does unpredictability. One day, and this could happen any time after Junior's first birthday, she will start smiling at you again. Weirder still, flirting with you again. She will say complimentary things to you when you are least expecting it (such as when you are awake). She will make faint suggestions during commercial breaks that she might respond favorably to your sexual advances. She will poke tiny holes in all your condoms. She will want your sperm again, and when you are drunk she will probably have it.
When Does Life Get Better After Having A Baby

For as Junior learns to crawl and begins literally to move beyond babyhood, your beloved will feel a yearning for another one. Her amnesia is complete, her glasses are tinted with rose. You can show her slides of the first birth, or selected video highlights; nothing will budge her. This time will be different, she will say. And besides, little Arbuthnot/Iolanthe needs a playmate. Much as you will need to find the money to buy somewhere bigger to live, a larger car and oodles more stuff to keep the family in the style to which it has become accustomed before you peg out with a coronary in 15 years' time.

Don't blame her. It is her body talking. Just as your male body tells you to impregnate as many women as you can, her female body tells her to make the most of your male body before you peg out with a coronary in 15 years' time.
And in the essentials she is right. The second birth usually is easier than the first. The female body is designed to give birth to lots of children. The first one is effectively a trial run. By the fourth or fifth they almost drop out of their own accord.

And while Arbuthnot or Iolanthe does not need a playmate as such, or even want one, they will certainly benefit from having one, and so will you. At first having two children is so much more exhausting that you will be astounded that you used to complain so much. All parents of two children say the same thing of all parents of one child:

'They don't know they're born.' (Incidentally, all parents of three children say the same thing of parents of two children.)

Once the youngest is about two, however, life starts to improve. Siblings will play together and with other children more willingly and happily than will only children. I know parents of only children who are still required to keep their charges 'entertained' for vast stretches of the day. Think about it: would you rather play football with your child for four hours, or would you rather watch your two children playing football with each other for four hours while you read a book and sip a mint julep?
And your relationship improves as well. As your children grow, so does your satisfaction in having done all this together and somehow survived it. Each of you realizes that this is the only other person in the world who loves your children as much as you do. It counts for a lot.
For second and subsequent births you and your partner will be much better prepared. If she wants to give birth at home in a pool surrounded by 40,000 candles while listening to Manuel And The Music Of The Mountains, then why shouldn't she? Meanwhile, you will know whether you want to be there or not. (If there are enough qualified and/or sympathetic womenfolk there, you might be able to wriggle out of it. As Kate Figes writes in Life After Birth: 'Throughout history all cultures that have excluded men from the scene of childbirth have done so because there is little for them actually to do.') I have left this revolutionary and possibly indictable suggestion in the reasonable hope that your partner won't have read this far. 

But this is for the future. Right now you have a party to host. To find out more, you can check out When Does Life Get Better After Having A Baby.

How Does Having A Baby Change Your Relationship

With a three-year-old in the house, everything is breakable. Or, at the very least, spillable. (The most expensive toys in the world can never be as interesting to a young mind as a big bag of uncooked rice that can be poured all over the kitchen floor.) Thus begin the Tidying Up Years. Valuable heirlooms, if fragile, are better off sold or kept in a safe or, possibly better still, stolen and claimed on the insurance. Parents of small children find it amazingly easy to fake burglaries, as their house tends to look like that all the time anyway.
How Does Having A Baby Change Your Relationship

PC no. 456: 'Oh, God they've smeared shit on the walls.'

Tearful householder: 'What sort of people would do such a thing?'
At a year old Junior is unlikely to talk, beyond the odd word like 'dog' or 'catamaran'. (So will be unlikely to give you away to the police in the scenario above.) But he or she can follow conversations and make the odd sound to fill the gaps. You can read simple stories to your baby, let it play with non-toxic crayons which it will eat, and encourage it to stand unaided for a second or two. Soon this baby will be a baby no longer, but a toddler. You won't be ready for that, either.

For the pressure does not let up. Once or twice in this blog I have used phrases like 'being past the worse which may have been interpreted by a few, sad, literal-minded readers as implying that everything calms down after a while. What I should have written, to maintain absolute accuracy, was 'being past a worst', because you are barely past one particular worst before two or three more start bearing down on you. 

Only Enforcer Dad, Absentee Dad and rarer beasts like Bigamist Dad seem to escape this process. The rest of us, mothers and fathers alike, must accept our fate. You start dreaming of alternative lives you might have led. You wonder what would have happened if you had had babies with that woman, instead of this woman. (Exactly the same, I guarantee.) You imagine yourself traveling light, with just a passport and an old rucksack, having wild new adventures every day, not missing home a bit. You remember happy nights in the boozer with all your other miserable single friends. You envy young people and the witless, doomed way they seem to drift through life.

Women think such things, too, or their womanly equivalents. But they are better at hiding it. That is to say, they are better at pretending that they have never even imagined that anyone could think such things, and that anyone who does is reprehensible to the point of criminality. The Tiredness Olympics were just one event. These days you are competing in a full decathlon.
Children change a relationship. How can they not? In the early stages of your relationship, your beloved's responses to you broke down roughly as follows:

  • Love 14%.
  • Amused tolerance 17%.
  • Thinking of having your babies 23%. 
  • Looking forward to changing your hairstyle, clothes, furniture etc. 38%. 
  • Faint concern at the back of her mind that she can do better 8%. 
And after a year of parenthood:
  • Sighs of disappointment 31%.
  • Raging certainty that she could have done better 43%.
  • Wondering what on earth she was thinking of 15%. 
  • Contemplating adultery/divorce/murder 11%. 

And this is without you having done anything to provoke her. Or anything at all really. To find out more, you can check out How Does Having A Baby Change Your Relationship.

When Do Most Babies Learn How To Crawl

Mr Bad Example

And so for your final station stop on this Vermilion Books service, the first birthday party. Change here for Terrible Twos, Potty Training, Playgroup, Sibling Rivalry, Primary School, Pester Power and all stations to Adolescence. Please could passengers remember to take all their belongings with them, including the baby bath I suggested they get and which they now can't get rid of. On behalf of Vermilion Books I would like to thank you for traveling with us today, and we hope to see you again soon. First birthday party. We are now approaching first birthday party.

When Do Most Babies Learn How To Crawl

It has been a long haul. Most passengers preparing to disembark have aged visibly since the start of the journey, and all could do with a good night's sleep. A few will be heading straight for the station bar. And yet it is only 21 months since your baby was conceived, since that tiny sperm with your face crash-landed into your partner's huge angry egg. In the grand sweep of a human lifespan, this is no time at all. But to you, as you plant a single candle in the centre of your firstborn's cake, it feels like the best part of a decade.
Junior should now be crawling, if not walking. Parents can be in a hurry for their progeny to get stomping, but those couple of months on all fours should not be underestimated: they represent a significant stage in Junior's development. Babies cheer up enormously when they start to move. They will try standing up, and may do some nonchalant leaning against chairs, before falling over with the usual clunk. But it is crawling rather than walking that opens the world up to them. They will expend vast efforts trying to crawl. 

At first they will be able to crawl backwards. This is progress, although they don't usually want to go that way at all. Imagine that the toy you want is almost within reach, so you try and crawl towards it and end up further away than when you started. Admittedly, most of the rest of life is like this, but it's a hard lesson to learn when you aren't even a year old.
Crawling, though, means power over your own destiny. For the first time in your short life as a baby, you can go where you want. I am writing this sitting in a park. Not far from me a conspicuously foxy young mother has put her infant down on the grass while she talks on her mobile. Infant crawls towards another woman nearby. Foxy young mother doesn't want infant to bother the other woman, so she picks her up and puts her down a little way away, facing the opposite direction. Infant immediately turns round and heads back to the other woman. Foxy young mother gives up and carries on chatting on her phone. Infant and the other woman make friends. Infant has won. She gurgles wit pleasure.
Walking impresses adults more, but to baby, I suspect, it's merely the next stage. (Baby is actually thinking about running when it starts walking. When it learns to run, it will be more concerned with jumping.) At twelve months some babies will be walking, although not all. Boys tend to walk before girls, and younger siblings earlier than firstborns.

Crawling and walking change everything, as you would imagine. From now on you must always strap in Junior to the pushchair to prevent untimely escape attempts (such as when you are halfway across a pedestrian crossing or near the front of a long queue in the Post Office). Indoors, you will be thinking about putting all breakables out of reach. This is easily managed when baby is crawling, a little more challenging when baby is walking, and completely impossible when baby learns to jump and climb all over the place like a gibbon. To find out more, you can check out When Do Most Babies Learn How To Crawl.