My daughter turned one this week to much fanfare and garish gifts from gushing family members, each with flashing lights and mid-Atlantic robotic accents.
While it’s largely an arbitrary milestone – particularly for the child – it is perhaps the first of significance. At least as far as the NHS is concerned, I am now a few days into toddlerdom.
Next week, she starts nursery and my wife returns to work after a year-long hiatus. I think the both of us are mentally bracing ourselves for life to become more chaotic – a blur of nursery drop off and pickups punctuated by visits to soft play venues on generic out of town retail parks.
Before this, while things are a little calmer, I thought I’d take time to reflect on the things I’ve learned, mistakes I’ve made and few pointers for those gearing up for their first year.
Your Importance as a Father Increases Over Time
Alarmingly quickly after birth you realise the bond between mother and child is the most important in your newly expanded family, through evolutionary design.
The book The Expectant Father suggests you should assert your authority as an equal partner in the birthing process, and a baby’s early days. There’s merit in this, but personally, this wasn’t anywhere close to reality for me, and I was honestly fine with that.
Don’t become disheartened.
Your importance as a father to your new baby increases slowly, day-by-day throughout the first year. Are my wife and I equal partners now? Probably not, but if day one was 90:10%, day 365 feels closer to 60:40%.
Teething Just Sucks
You finally get on top of their sleep, the bags under your eyes start to disappear and your child starts to eat proper food – hooray!
Suddenly, an eruption in your child’s mouth turns your world upside down. They revert to a newborn baby, waking every two hours as these sharp objects start forcing and tearing their way through the gums.
A stream of lava-
And then, a tiny white peak emerges from the red angry gum. Like the calm after the storm, suddenly you get your happy child back.
Until the next tooth makes its journey
You’ll Become a Routine Bore
There’s little doubt babies thrive under routine. What’s harder to admit, is parents do too, and you’ll become very protective of it.
My daughter was fairly laid-back, and I expected our first trips away from home to be relatively easy. A couple of missed naps later, however, she’d transformed from a sweet angel into an inconsolable mess, and so had we.
As soon as we walked through the door of our house, she returned to her old self. If there was one thing I learned from the whole exhausting adventure, it was this: Babies like a predictable world.
And so will you!
You’ll be Endlessly Fascinated by Their Development
A friend of mine said you ‘never wish them younger’.
Each stage of their development makes them more interesting and it’s fascinating to see their personality and body develop and change.
The change from day one to a year is massive too. They double in size and weight, go from inanimate pudgy milk drinking machines to a ball of energy tearing through your house, with millions of synapses developing
It’s Much Harder on Your Partner
From birth through to returning to work, the physical, emotional and mental challenge faced by mothers in the first year shouldn’t be underestimated.
After an initial couple of weeks, you’ll gleefully return to work, which magically becomes this sanctuary of calm and stimulating adult conversation. I even started to treasure the morning commute – a thirty minute island of tranquility where I could drink a coffee and listen to a podcast of my choosing.
Your partner faces a slog of nappy changes, rocking a screaming child to sleep and mind -numbing baby groups.