Judgement Day – Friday 26 February 2016

Judgement Day – Friday 26 February 2016

Like agitating Siri until he becomes impolite, brushing a toddler’s teeth is an impossible task.

Milo is prepared to: squeeze toothpaste directly from the tube into his mouth, suck the bristles of his toothbrush to extract remnant toothpaste flavour, carry his toothbrush around and stab the cats with it, brush my face with his toothbrush, deposit Kuepps’ toothbrush into the cats’ water bowl, brush my face with my toothbrush and post Kuepps’ toothbrush into the cupboard with all the candles in it.

Brushing he will not do. There can be no agitation of any kind of bristles on enamel. If such a manoeuvre is attempted Milo will purse his lips together, shake his head wildly side to side and slip immediately out of your arms and onto the ground as if he has spontaneously liquefied.

We have convinced ourselves the magic of toothpaste is such that brushing is actually a nice to have. The real benefit comes from swilling the toothpaste around in your mouth, or better still, eating it. But in the sub-cockle area of our hearts we know this to be false; and Judgement Day is coming.

As a new parent there are a number of big milestones in the first year; among these are the  4 big check-up/ vaccine delivery days (2 month, 4 month, 6 month and 12 month). These are the days when the project you have been working on at home is presented to the public; like going on a month holiday, working on a beard then unveiling it to your colleagues for assessment. These are exciting and trepidatious days.

Unlike the holiday-beard example however, the baby assessors (otherwise known as doctors) are overwhelmingly complimentary, encouraging and positive during this first year. Any vague concerns about weight, blotchiness, hygiene, ear-wax etc are readily explained away by the inexperience and fatigue of the parents. The holiday-beard example would sound something like this “Howard, overall your beard looks really terrific. Those bald patches around your cheeks and the dirty ginger/ grey mis-colouration around your chin are nothing to worry about. I am sure given time it will all thicken up and assume a homogeneous colour. You’re doing great”.

We have heard rumours however, from parents a few months ahead of us, that the ‘under 8s everybody receives a participation trophy’ attitude ends at the 18 month check-up; and for Milo that is only 6 weeks away.

All of a sudden we are growing concerned that Milo brushing my face with his toothbrush is probably unlikely to reduce or eliminate the plaque build-up on his teeth. Will the baby assessor accept the argument that he has a second set on its way so what’s the big deal?

Our self-consciousness about this major unveiling is also straying outside the sphere of dental hygiene. What is the optimum percentile for weight? Does the 90th imply we are really great at feeding him or really bad at running him?

What about scars and bruises on his legs and arms? What is the optimum number that says “I protect my child but allow him the freedom to develop physically as an independent human?”

Does a bit of skin pigment let the assessor know we are mindful of Milo’s vitamin D intake, or that we are sunscreen negligent in one of the most fearsome UV environments on the planet?

And what of language? I can only imagine there will be surreptitious language testing resulting in some kind of score being applied to our child, and thereby to us. On this metric we are unlikely to do score highly.

Although Milo’s understanding is developing by the day, and he is a master of compelling ‘non-verbals’, the three languages currently being thrown at Milo are slowing him down. His vocabulary remains as follows:

Mummy = mummy

Daddy = daddy

Ball = ball

Nani = banana

Boo-eah = dummy

Da = light or fan or thank you

Dadadada = bird

Baa = dog or sheep, but mostly dog

Gatgia = cat (a derivation of the Spanish gatita)

Dodo = car, or bicycle or truck (a derivation of the German auto)

Mimi = his ride-on fire-truck, or ride-on busy bee, or trolley

Gaga = his tummy

Moremore = More or some or do that again

And that’s about it. All adorable but unlikely to score us strong assessor points.

So where does that leave us? Only time will tell; but meanwhile we are running a tight regime of mock weigh-ins under various climatic conditions and altitudes, facilitating bare-chested solar gain but only at dawn and dusk, dressing Milo in tights before embarking on walks upon uneven surfaces and visiting the zoo a lot to practice some big ticket items like “elephant, monkey and scimitar-horned oryx”.

Whatever the 18 month baby-assessor check-up equivalent of “Howard, go home and shave that thing off immediately. Seriously I just can’t look at it” is… the three of us are working hard to avoid.

  ‘Water Dragon’ is likely to score bonus points with the baby assessors

Gluten-free muffins – Friday 5 February 2016

Gluten-free muffins – Friday 5 February 2016

Milo is not overwhelmingly in favour of gluten-free muffins.

While strolling through a particularly gluten-intolerant neighbourhood of our city this morning Milo and I happened upon an organic cafe which specializes in ethically-bartered quinoa and nude-harvested linseed.

As we were on the move we were in the market for some one-handed food to share; Milo was in one of his famous ‘wander aimlessly and dangerously and certainly not in the pram’ moods. With limited choice we settled upon an oatmeal, apple and funkleberry muffin; denuded of all gluten.

Milo was suspicious. With no gluten Milo knew the muffin must be held together with trickery and broken promises. Still, he was hungry so he began stabbing his little finger at the withered, shrunken little pseudo-muffin accompanied by an insistent rendition of his ‘jack-of-all-phrases’ “moremore”.

So, while we were waiting for our change I brought the deflated nugget of mischievousness to his lips. His little mouth opened expectantly as I nudged the gnarled muffin-top toward it. Just as he was clamping his limited but highly effective teeth upon the apologetic morsel our waitress returned with a beaming, organic smile upon her face saying “I hope you enjoy it”.

Well, as soon as the gravelly, drab, slice of mediocrity touched Milo’s tongue his mouth immediately fell open. The look on his face was a mix of betrayal and incredulity as the muffin crumbs tumbled out of his mouth, somersaulted off his chest and fell upon the pristine wooden floor-boards, which of course had been hand-pummeled in order to look less pristine.

Milo then began scraping his tongue with his fingers with quite some urgency, to ensure every sawdusty fragment was expelled from his mouth immediately. Once satisfied with the physical expulsion Milo began blowing rather wet raspberries with his tongue, one after the other, spitting out the last now semi-liquid specks of oatmeal and funkleberry until his chin, his tshirt and the floorboards directly below him were covered in a thin film.

Satisfied, Milo wandered off to inspect a small succulent growing in the cafe’s window-box. Our waitress and I were aghast, paralyzed by social convention. I quickly popped the rest of the muffin into my mouth in an overt show of support for the organic cafe, and gave an embarrassing wink and a little fist pump to nobody; I don’t know why I did that. I collected my muffin-soaked child and strolled casually but swiftly back to the anonymity of the street.

Milo’s reaction was spot-on. All of the life had been sucked out of that poor little muffin; it was like eating river-sand and apple skin, wrapped in ineptitude. The organic cafe had received some valuable feedback from the only honest customer they would get that day, perhaps resulting in a tweaking of the recipe, a little introspection, and maybe even some genuine enjoyment for the poor gluten-intolerants of the future.

It got me thinking; when and why do children stop behaving with simple honesty? When do social conventions begin to overwhelm their instincts? And when it happens to Milo, will it be our fault?

Here are a few things that Milo does now that will likely not be acceptable on year 7 camp:

  • Milo chews food, removes it from his mouth and offers it, with genuine sincerity, to his parents to eat;
  • When the electrician comes to visit us Milo stares at him then runs frantically in the opposite direction until he finds a leg to hide behind;
  • When somebody Milo does not know well tries to ruffle his hair he slaps their hand away and scowls at them;
  • When Milo does something he is pleased with, like jumping on the spot or smelling a flower, he claps himself with genuine admiration;
  • Milo identifies shoeless strangers in the park, carries their shoes to them and insists, blank faced, that they put them on; and,
  • If Milo happens upon a co-traveller in the lift with their sunglasses atop their head he will insist the glasses are worn on their eyes, appropriately. The frustrated, and growing insistence often continues long after the co-traveller has stopped laughing.

There must be a moment when Milo realises behaviours like these are not common among fully-functioning adults; and he will instead choose to swallow the dry, banal muffin, smile and assume his dishonest yet polite position in society.

Questions like this baffle me as a parent; how to craft a polite, respectful, yet free spirited, confident boy. One who doesn’t take a hair ruffling when he doesn’t want one but who also doesn’t spray muffin-mist everywhere when he doesn’t like the taste. One who claps others but also himself when he does something especially clever, and one who is prepared to stand up for what matters to him most; like everybody wearing shoes, all of the time.

The streets of organic-town