“Mommy Mommy, he’s getting the cat food…… I’ll stop him”

Three-year-old proceeds to block the baby’s path with a cushion. Baby tries to go round. Cushion changes function from a barrier to an active weapon. Intervention time.

“Yes, he’s crying because he didn’t like you squashing him with the cushion.”

Now that he’s got a taste for the cat food we’re in trouble.

We’ve been casually talking about babyproofing now for the last couple of weeks. So many things the crawler is determined to investigate, mostly with his mouth.

There’s a small rock collection that I daren’t throw out, for fear in incurring the three-year old’s wrath. The other day I threw out his porridge (after asking him twice whether he was finished). He was still sore about it the day after.

“I dont want that porridge. I wanted the porridge I HAD YESTERDAY. That you threw away.”

Then there are the electric cables (mostly tidied away). The guitar (music lover). The area around the fireplace (he likes to make straight for the grate in the mornings, ever optimistic about his chances of a mouthful of delicious coal ash).

There are all of the three-year-olds toys. Some because of the small pieces. But mostly because of the potential ownership issues.

“Pick him up Mommy. He’s trying to get my things”

Then there are all of the baby toys that used to belong to the three-year-old. Thought we’d pulled the wool over his eyes there.. not a chance. He spent an hour today pushing his old baby walker around the house.

“I’m just going to play with it for a little while mommy. For twenty”.

Lifts his wrist and taps his finger on it, setting an imaginary alarm, imitating my actions.

I’m pretty sure the older boy never ate cat food. Maybe the bowl just was never in his path. Maybe we were buying the cheaper, less tasty cat food most of the time. Maybe he was more interested in chewing shoes and computer cables than cat-food crumbs.

The baby eats the cat food and I barely blink. I wonder what kind of parent that makes me. What kind of parenting style leads to baby consuming kibbles. And then I realise I don’t care (probably ‘good enough’ parenting then..)

My sister used a baby carrier for my niece. I thought it a good idea. I had seen Mozambican women fastening their babies to their bodies, with an ease I could only dream of.

I discovered that was called baby-wearing. I discovered there were baby-wearing consultants. I wondered what the Mozambican ladies would say to such an idea.

My older boy as a baby refused to sleep in his cot beside the bed. So he slept in the bed with us, waking at regular intervals, head bobbing, seeking out the breast in the air around his head, falling into an (apparent) deep slumber, but in fact ready to wake when I cleared my throat. I discovered this was called co-sleeping.

I breastfed my baby because this is what my friends did. All the health practitioner advice reinforced this, but I wonder what I would have done if all around me were bottles. If I didn’t have the support of an amazing midwife in those early days.

I discovered all of this fell under ‘attachment parenting’ style.

But honestly, it felt like the path of least resistance. And each time I tried to move to a different route, following the advice of one baby book or another, I usually found my way back to the path, via tears (both mine and baby’s), frustration, and a cup of tea and a chat with my ever-patient husband.

So the path of least resistance led to walking the baby to sleep up and down our short apartment hallway, naps in the baby carrier, later listening to podcasts through my headphones while waiting for a toddler to sink into sleep, and then eventually, slowly to a reading of a couple of stories and a kiss and a cuddle before leaving a three year old to (happily) fall asleep on his own.

Least resistance means giving the baby the same food as you are eating. Minus the good stuff like salt and sugar. This is baby led weaning. Guaranteed to make your child a less fussy eater.

Least resistance means not making a fuss when the three-year-old refuses to eat anything with sauce on it. (Baby-led weaning. I want my money back.)

Least resistance means letting the baby crawl around the sitting room, unrestricted. But using a travel cot to imprison keep him safe when you need to. It means using cloth nappies when it suits and disposables when it doesn’t. It means doing what you have to in order to minimise the number of sleep-deprived zombies in the house.

It means going easy on yourself.

It’s okay that the baby is licking the floor. It builds up immunity. It’s fine that everyone is wearing pajamas all day. It’ll make bedtime easier. It’s not a problem that neither child has had a bath all week… is it?

The path of least resistance parenting might work for babies though, but it’s probably not advisable for toddlerhood on.

Unless, like the three-year-old, you think a neverending stream of cartoons accompanied by ice lollies is a good idea.

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