Five Things You Learn Before Baby Turns One

It seems unbelievable but Elsa turns one in a few days time. In many ways it has flown but, at the same time it’s difficult to remember life without her around. It’s mainly difficult to remember the last time we managed to grab an entire night’s sleep.

A whole year of being a dad and I am barely any less bewildered than I was all that time ago. I have learnt stuff though, I’ve learnt a hell of a lot – parenthood is like an apprenticeship with worse pay but, on the plus side, also without the threat of Lord Sugar making a tenuous pun and firing you.

Forget the likes of Gina Ford and the Baby Whisperer – there’s often a huge difference between their ideas of how the first year should progress and what actually happens, here are five things that you really learn before baby turns one:

5) Your status in the family changes.

Often an infant’s first word will be “daddy” or, at the very least, “dada”. Mums will tell you that it’s all down to the fact that it’s an easy collection of sounds for a baby’s tongue to form, which sounds to me like maternal propaganda. Anyway, it’s a moot point because we’re pretty sure that Elsa’s first word was actually “dog”.

After all of the mornings when I’ve been woken before 6am and played cheerily whilst propping my eyelids open with matchsticks and I rank lower than a mutt. Our labrador Alfie shouldn’t feel too smug though, she actually vocalised her affection whilst playing with next door’s Staffie rather than him. The girl has no loyalty.

Despite my jealousy, though…

4) Want a baby? Get a dog!

Alfie has thoroughly enjoyed Elsa’s weaning. Her table manners could be best described as ‘reckless’ with food flying all over the kitchen closely followed by an ever more rotund labrador, snaffling everything that touches the floor for more than three seconds.

We didn’t properly appreciate the advantages of this canine waste bin though until he went away on his holidays. My parents had him for a week and during that time we finally realised how much Elsa drops and, therefore, how much he hoovers up. I don’t know how parents without a hound manage all of the additional work that clearing up the aftermath of baby tea time entails.

Alfie is now on an enforced diet.

3) How to hold your breath for five minutes.

The nappy changes are unpleasant enough to begin with but after they start eating solids? Good grief. If you don’t have access to one of those nose clips so beloved of synchronised swimmers then you soon learn not to inhale for the duration of the process.

2) You can never have enough batteries.

Our house resembles the stock room at a large branch of Toys ‘R’ Us. We were like many middle class parents – we once had ideals of only letting her play with beautifully crafted, old fashioned, wooden toys. We relented as everyone does and now we’re faced with a sea of plastic, encrusted with flashing lights and emmiting more irritatingly catchy tunes than a Stock Aitken and Waterman jam session.

The noisier and more garish the toy, the more she loves it and they all drain their batteries with alarming regularity. She’d make the Energizer bunny look more like the Energizer sloth within an hour of him entering the house.

All of which leads to…

1) The dawn chorus changes when you have a baby.

No longer do you wake to the soft chirruping of the neighbourhood bird population. This is how mornings sound now:

Stick that on Autumnwatch, Strachan!

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