Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bedtime Stories

Blake has been sleeping through the night from two months and ten days. Even though he was our first child we knew how lucky we were. He was still occasionally a handful during the day, but at least I could once more sleep through the night.

The fragmented sleep was certainly the worst thing in the those first two months. Inconsolable crying came a close second. Of course often you would have your sleep disturbed because of inconsolable crying and get a fantastic combo.

Getting up in the middle of the night from Blake's hungry screams, I had to scrape myself out of bed, change him and warm up the bottle on auto-pilot with my eyes half shut. When I was finally done feeding him I would be completely and utterly awake. Not enough energy to do anything worthwhile, but too awake to fall back asleep. That was when I fell back into playing World of Warcraft (a bad habit I kicked since, hopefully for good) and watch various movies and TV shows.

So it was a delight when Blake started sleeping through the night. But somewhere along the way, I'm not even sure at exactly what point (Eight months? Nine?), Blake would scream his head off every time I would try to put him to bed. The look of terror and betrayal in his eyes would tarnish what could have been a wonderful day spent together. He would make me feel like a real bastard for sticking him in bed and walking away. It didn't matter if I tried singing to him or put the lullaby music on. I was Darth Vader. Often he'd fall asleep within a minute or two, but sometimes he would cry for up to fifteen minutes, getting into a frenzy and I would have to take him out and give him another thirty minutes or so to roam free and really get tired.

And now, about a week ago, just before Blake turned thirteen months, the most amazing thing happened. He stopped crying. He would just turn to his side and be ready to zonk out. Absolutely amazing. Putting him to bed and walking away without being accompanied and haunted by his screams... Heaven. Not sure why it happened, though.

The fact that he can now walk, practically run, probably has a lot to do with it. He tires himself much more. But at the same time I also decided to give him a little nighttime routine. Up until recently we would just let him roam free and do whatever he wanted and come ten o'clock (forget putting him to bed any earlier) we would just lift him, disturbing whatever activity he was doing, and stick him in bed. I can see how that can be a bit jarring. If someone did that to me I don't think I would be that happy about it either. I did try reading him stories, but he is too young to show interest. He would usually listen for a few seconds and then smack the book out of my hands or try to eat it. He is also getting into turning pages in books nowadays. It doesn't matter what else, it's all about the page turning action.

A few days ago I edited all the video tapes I had of Blake so far. I wanted to fit the first year into seven minutes with the Jeff Buckley version of Hallelujah playing in the background. It turned out quite well if I do say so myself. So that what Blake watches every night now just before going to bed. It works wonderfully. He sits on my lap and we watch it on my computer. As soon as it starts he immediately goes limp and relaxed. He sees himself, the people his love, his home, his dogs, his toys. The music is very soothing. As soon as it's over I just take him to bed. So far, almost a week and he hasn't protested once.

It works for now and that's all I care about. What will happen next we'll see. I suppose eventually this will transform into bedtime story time when he is ready.

Now the only problem is little Dexter. Our excitable little pup needs to be taught NOT to bark late at night outside of Blake's room and wake him up screaming...


Monday, June 22, 2009

Where did my baby go?

Ever since my son was born I was eagerly awaiting the next milestone. Quite frankly, the first few weeks were quite boring. It was amazing to hold him in my hands and look at him, but that was pretty much what I got to do (other than feeding, washing, changing etc.).

Each new milestone just gave me appetite for more. Suddenly he was smiling, laughing, sitting up, crawling, walking a few steps. Waiting for the changes felt like forever and a new milestone sneaked up on me when I least expected it.

Not anymore. Only three weeks ago he started walking, three steps at a time and then falling back on his bum where he felt safe. Every single day I could see a change. Walking a bit longer, a bit faster, a bit more confidently. Yesterday we went to the park and for the first time, rather than me carrying him around to various attractions, he was walking all over the place on his own. Walking? Almost running.

Suddenly my baby is gone and there's this little boy who looks a lot like him. How long is he going to stick around? Suddenly I'm no longer in a hurry for the next few milestones. They can get here whenever he is ready. I am going to make the best out of every day, every moment.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Multi tasking

Doing college work in my small study. Blake is roaming the upstairs floor so I locked the gate. The dogs are lying in the landing and present an obstacle for Blake to overcome. Dexter comes over to say hi. Due to a double operation he had on his eye and ear he's wearing a big satellite dish on his head which makes him even more clumsy than before, knocking down anything in his way like a bulldozer.

Blake cries. I run over to find out he got his fingers pinched and stuck in the hinges part of the door to the toilet. Can't lock the damn thing. Fortunately no real damage and a few verses of Wheels on the Bus calm him down.

I have lots of work to mark for college for tomorrow's final assessment, so I get back to it. Thankfully I don't need the computer for that. Blake comes over and takes over the keyboard and mouse. He smacks the mouse and drops it. It's now dangling off the keyboard, swaying back and forth with a little glowing red light that fascinates Blake. He slaps it a few times and moves away. He walks over a pile of essays I left on the floor, gotta move them.

Gotta go and stop him. He picked up something he shouldn't. Maybe I'll finish marking the work once he sleeps!


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Time flies?

One of the biggest lies most parents will tell you is that time flies. One second you are holding a newborn baby and suddenly he is in his thirties and has his own children.

That's simply not true. When I look back at my son's first year in this world, it feels like much more than a year, to the point that I seem to be able to only vaguely remember what my life was before Blake came along. When I see pictures of Blake at three months old, super chunky and unable to even roll over when lying down, it feels like years ago.

Thinking about him as a new born feels like a lifetime ago.

But here's the thing: It doesn't matter if time moves fast or slow. Once it passed, it passed forever and there is no going back.

Blake changed, literally, under my nose. It wasn't a case of him suddenly going "poof" at the end of every month, shedding his skin like a snake to reveal a new version. The change was constant and gradual. So without noticing it, several versions of Blake (all of which I totally adore) disappeared forever without even saying goodbye. Looking at some videos from the first year, a wave of nostalgia crashed on me. It was as if I just remembered an old friend I haven't seen for a long time and figured that maybe it is now a good time to pick up the phone and rekindle the relationship.

Only you can't do that with past versions of your child...

And now Blake is amazingly cute at one year and I know I'll miss this version so much once he moves on to the later stages. And certainly once he fords his teenage years towards adulthood.

When I first held my son in my hands I finally understood my parents in a way I never did before. Now that he is one and I have seen him go through all those changes I understand them even more.

That is how they see me. That is the first impression I made on them. My mom would tell me how she misses me as a baby and I thought she was just being silly. Oh, how wrong I was.

Twelve months old Blake is going to turn into thirteen months old Blake in less than two weeks, but in my heart there will always be a shrine dedicated for each one of those versions. The pictures, the videos, the blog writings, my memories... He's not going anywhere anytime soon.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Blake at one.

When I first met Blake he was a little lump of flesh that cried, ate and slept (peed and pooped goes without saying). It was not love at first sight, it started out as sheer awe and fascination. As he started growing and slowly developing his unique personality that was when I started to gradually fall in love with him more and more. Now at one year my heart is on the brink of bursting with love and yet I find the capacity to love him more and more every single day.

So at one year, who is Blake? What can I say about my son? How do I describe him to someone who never met him?

Blake is a wonderful creature. The first thing you notice about him is how gorgeous he is. I know all babies are the most beautiful to their own parents but with Blake I can safely state that he is objectively the most beautiful boy in the entire known universe. He has a heart-melting smile with eight beautiful pearly white teeth, one of which was chipped a little a few days ago in Barbados, but ended up only adding to his charm. He has soft flowing brown hair that glides perfectly into place at the slightest touch. Big gray eyes just complete the tiny little package of perfection.

Blake is an easy baby. I never had any other baby to compare, but I heard the war stories from other parents. Blake is a delight. He sleeps through the night since two months and one week with the odd exception for when he’s feeling off for whatever reason (teething being the most common reason - thank God for Calpol). He’s very good at keeping himself entertained with toys and by exploring the house. When we put him to bed he might cry for a couple of minutes, but will soon be out for the night. He’s well behaved at restaurants, though nowadays it helps if you distract him by placing him facing the door or window so he could watch cars passing in the street outside.

At one year he’s now off baby food altogether with the exception of formula. He eats whatever we eat: eggs, bacon, steak, chili, pasta, fruit, rice, fish, shrimp… Anything with the exception of small hard things he might choke on and extra spicy stuff. Medium spicy food makes him giggle. His spice tolerance is already higher than my husband’s… Liking adult food and being able to walk means that I can no longer snack or eat in front of him without sharing. Especially if I eat something sweet… Blake would come over, lean forward with his hands on my knees and get a silly little smile on his face, his eyes saying to me “go on, give me some”. I’d start putting bits of snacks in his mouth and his little smile will turn into a big grin as if to say “good stuff!”. This is actually good. Since I wouldn’t want Blake to snack too much, I’ll have to cut down on snacking myself now that he expects me to share. Well, it's far more likely that I'll just end up doing midnight snacking when he's asleep...

Blake loves watching Baby Einstein. He watches a program after every meal (unless he dosed off by the end of it and then he is carried up to his bed). By now he’s old enough to watch all of them, but he has his favourites. If he disapproves of a certain program he makes a lot of noise until it is changed. As soon as he finishes his food his highchair is turned towards the laptop in the kitchen and the fun begins. We travel with the laptop so Blake could watch his Baby Einstein wherever we are in the world. As soon as the show ends, during the credits even, the protest starts. Blake naturally dislikes sitting in front of a switched off screen. Sometimes, Windows being Windows, an application will launch itself to the front of the screen and interrupt the video, but Blake will be very resourceful at getting someone to come over quickly to sort it out for him. I tried showing Blake other cartoons: from classic Disney and Loony Tunes shorts to Dora and Diego. He shows interest in those, but it lasts only for a couple of minutes.

One of the coolest things Blake does is something I’ve seen no other baby do and I have no idea where he got it from. When he is excited by something, like a good Baby Einstein session, he makes an adorable pout and start twirling and twisting his little hands as if he dances some exotic east European dance. He’s being doing it from five months and I dread the sad day when he would suddenly stop doing it.
Blake been speed crawling for months now. He quickly learnt to stand up by pushing himself up using his hand and then to get up just using his legs. Just before our holiday in Barbados we made it very clear to him that if he doesn’t start walking before Barbados, he’s not coming. So he started walking just before we left. His record his twelve steps. He still feels more comfortable to crawl the big distance and then walk the last few steps, but it’s a step (ha!) in the right direction. The split between crawling and walking is now almost a 50-50 split and he walks faster and more confidently every day.

Blake doesn’t speak yet. At nine months he said “aba” and we wondered if it was the Hebrew (we speak it between us) word for daddy/ papa, or just a noise. We assume it’s just a noise and that none of his random sounds were actual words yet. His vocabulary so far includes “aba ababababa bwaaaa”, “eeeee” and “ppfffffft”. He loves razzing.

Since coming to London with us at three months, Blake always had two Great Danes with him (not the same two, sadly Kato passed away in February). So Blake must think that every baby has two giant dogs to hang out with. Leo is a bit jealous and wary of Blake and keep his distance. Dexter the-almost-seven-months-old-puppy is far more in sync in Blake and loves giving him big wet slurpy kisses. Blake, on his part, loves pulling and tagging at the dogs’ faces and crawling over them.
Like most babies, Blake loves going out. I take him in the stroller to Tesco for quick shopping or to our nearest playground where he adores the toddler swings. In Barbados we went splashing in the clear water twice a day, but alas that’s not an option in London. We’ll probably look for some nearby swimming pools, but after having your first ever dip in clear Caribbean water, nothing else is good enough, certainly not a mixture of chlorine and urine. Car rides are also welcome, especially now that he sits forward and has a better view.

Blake recently developed a fake cry. He would look and sound upset, but as soon as he got what he wanted or was efficiently distracted, he’d get a silly grin on his face.

What else? There must be a million other things. When Blake is contemplating he sucks his thumb and twirls his hair. He loves grabbing my hair and pulling or sticking his fingers in my mouth and scratch my teeth while he likes trying to eat Miron's nose. He can win wet t-shirt competitions when drinking from his sippy cup, but he’s perfect when drinking his bottle. He’s obsessed with phones, keyboards, gamepads and mice and would grab any as soon as he sees them (I wonder how many of our friends god international calls from Blake). He dislikes clutter and will throw every item off the table one by one. He knows how to hold a 360 controller properly and turn on the machine – or any other machine that is remotely operated for that matter. Dexter managed to destroy some of Blake’s toys, there’s a learning curve there… But Blake has repaid the dogs by taking over their big chunky rubber tire. He loves picking it up, standing up and then letting it fall to the ground, bounce and roll.

This can go on forever. If bothered to write all year I would’ve probably been able to expand on many of the things mentioned here in more detail. That’s what I’m going to do from now on. For all I know, Blake has already changed and some of the things I mentioned in this long post are probably no longer relevant anyway.

Stay tuned for more Blake!


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Gayrenthood – Year 1

My son is now one year and two weeks old. That's how long I've been a papa.

I was looking forward to writing about my adventures as a gay parent, but as any regular follower of this blog (ha!) knows, the updates arrive less frequently than a decent Dreamworks animated feature.

The main reason is the simple fact that being a gay parent, at least in the first year, is a lot like being a non-gay parent - only gay.

Many exciting things have happened in the last year, but those are things that are only exciting for the child's parents and close friends. The first time Blake sat up on his own, then the first time he pulled himself up, then the first time he stood up just using his legs. The first few steps, vocalizing, holding his own bottle, using a sippy cup... Tons of little milestones that blow your mind away even though you know they'll happen. The thought that I'm going to have conversations with Blake soon still make my head spin.

But that's not very exciting to write about. Just look at my most most recent blog posts. Writing about Heroes, baby mobiles and my feeble attempts at creating self-published comics that will be read by five people (including myself).

The simple fact is, we have not encountered any real problems as a gay parented family - yet. Blake is still home all the time, taken care by either one of us or, rarely, babysat by some close and trusted friends. His encounters with the real world are restricted almost entirely to the playground and since I'm don't leave the house with a "Gay Dad" sticker on my forehead, it's not noticeable to the other parents. The only time we did point out that we're gay was when we went to visit a possible school for Blake and we were reassured it shouldn't be a problem and in fact we just found out he got in! Yay!

So even though it would have been far more "interesting" to write about our battles against discrimination, so far our parenting life has been quite easy. Please let it remain this type of “boring”.

But things will get more interesting now whether I like it or not. He's older now. He’s no longer a chunk of dough that pees, poops and eats – he’s a little boy. We'll start going to more places. He'll start going to day care in a few months. He'll start talking soon and with that come questions. Then it’ll start being more “interesting”.

If I won’t write it all down, I’ll forget the small little details. So from on I’ll try harder to write regularly. Hopefully Blake will supply me with a constant flow of anecdotes!