Except us. To be fair, we’ve never really put her in an actual corner. It’s usually any available, clean(ish) flat space – this could be a sofa, some grass – this morning, it was inside a shopping trolley. Not on one of those special baby seats- no- she was right next to some chicken wings and a pack of Peppa Pig pasta. To my credit, I did bring a blanket (organic cotton, no less) to enhance the experience – that’s got to buy me some parenting points, surely!
N is at the wonderful age where she can’t yet move about. You can put her on the kitchen counter, the table, any surface, you name it – and she will simply stay there. She will usually cry in protest – but at least I know that she’ll be there, safe, in that very same spot when I return. This ability to pop N down anywhere you like when you are needed urgently and now is particularly handy when you are already living with 2 other children, who sadly have not fully developed the dexterity to independently deal with crucial tasks such as (proper) teeth brushing, coat zipping and of course, the ever critical bum wiping. Knowing what I know about what lies ahead when N unlocks the power of mobility – it is a small window of time to cherish before I find myself spending my days hovering over, and chasing after a speedy little 4 legged, then 2 legged creature that is determined to put itself in the most precarious of situations.
In addition to being static, some other talents have started to emerge in the last few weeks. N is now interactive. No more blank stares, no more jokes falling flat. All she needs is to look at your face – any ol’ face, not just mine- and she is all smiles, squeals and gurgles. Watching your baby- I’d wager any baby- smile and laugh for the first time, is a magical thing. And it doesn’t matter if it’s your first, second or your third – it’s just as amazing each and every time. It’s a first glimpse into their soul, proof that inside that sleeping, milk guzzling bundle of marshmallow flesh, is in fact a real person. N laughed for the first time a few weeks ago when her Auntie J delivered some quality Peepo action. It was pure comedy gold watching a tiny chubby lump sat on the table, cackling away with reckless abandon. Tragically we haven’t been able to make her laugh since – such was the calibre of J’s Peepo that no one else’s rendition has been up to par.
So far, N has been the ideal third child. She is basically a marsupial, and spends most of her waking (and sleeping) moments inside a pouch, on the go. She’s already been to more birthday parties, family swims, and trips to the cinema than the other two at her age. She’s even been camping. OK – so it was glamping, but still. Her absolute hatred of the car and refusal to sleep in her buggy has solidified my role, not as Mother, but rather, her main mode of transportation. When we are out and about, H and I like to pretend that N is in fact an evil villain, and I am merely her giant robot mech suit that she is controlling on a quest to destroy the world. Dadallama tries to cheer me up by saying that I’ll be like a marine by the end of it all. Except being a marine is not exactly something that I’ve always aspired to. My mum has a more Southeast Asian twist on this – and likens me to an ox, or some kind of water buffalo. So it’s glamour all round. But I guess being strong helps, especially if the 2.5 year old that you’ve just appointed as your middle child is feeling tired and needy. I kid you not, last week I walked for an hour with a child on my shoulders and a fat baby strapped to my chest. So I’m having that extra piece of banana cake as I write this, thank you very much.
These days, when chatting, I often get caught out saying stuff like ‘And on Thursday I’ve got both of them!’ And people correct me – saying, you mean three of them! It’s true. I quite often forget about N, even though she is basically attached to me most of the time. We’ve already had a Home Alone moment quite early on where we nearly left for the swimming pool with N all ready and strapped up in her car seat – sitting patiently in the middle of our living room while we started the engine of our car.
I think a lot of people think that being a third child means that you get ignored a lot. OK, I admit it, sometimes we nearly forget her (nearly being the operational word here) but in fact, she is hardly ignored – quite the opposite. I remember the day H & M came bursting into the maternity ward, anxious and excited to meet the then christened Batbaby for the very first time. Since then, the 2 of them have been her biggest fans. H thinks she is the cutest, most hilarious thing he’s ever seen, he can’t quite handle the way her cheeks wobble in the car next to him. He transforms into an old lady when he’s with her, fussing and saying things in a weird coochie coo voice, like ‘Isn’t she just gorgeous?!’ And as soon as N starts to fuss or cry, M is on the case, rushing over, vigorously bouncing her little chair, saying ‘Don’t cry Nova! M’s here!’ In fact in the first few weeks of N’s life, one of the most frightening things I had to do was to bring her into the kitchen, where the other 2 would be eagerly waiting every morning. As soon as they saw her they would rush over and smother her with their over zealous and (literally) suffocating love – which would result in a fight over who got to cuddle her. This of course always ended in tears – mostly on N’s part.
The one perk is that N benefits from parents who are much more relaxed about the whole child rearing thing. We now know that babies are resilient little things. They are tougher and smarter than we give them credit for. And any weird shit that happens is almost always a phase. But, old habits die hard. I need to at least feel like I’m in control of something. 3 kids on, that something is sleep and an established routine. This is driven solely by our own desperate need for it. When N was born, she stopped breathing for a moment – and was whisked off to the NICU before I could even give her a cuddle. But every cloud has its silver lining – her brief stint in the NICU meant that the tiny baby that was returned to us was already able to cope with 4 hourly feeds. This was hands down, the highest point in Dadallama’s entire parenting career to date. In the early days, when people ran into him, and asked ‘How’s the baby?’ – it wasn’t the usual ‘Oh she’s doing really well, so is mum’ kind of chat- he would always burst out ‘She’s on a 4 hourly schedule!’ literally unable to believe his luck.
And it’s thanks to that that we are able to function. We’ve never had to do the hourly feeds through the night, and so haven’t had to endure the bleary eyed hell that we did with H. This has been huge. N is our 3rd and last child, so each moment with her is actually even more precious and poignant because we know that this is the last time we’ll get to experience these magical baby moments. Right now she is entering that super cute baby stage, the kind of baby you see on the side of nappy packs – she’s chubbing out, holding her own neck up and meticulously working out what those tasty little morsels at the end of her arms are. She is at her purest, her love for us completely unconditional, her faith in us unshakable. Compared to her siblings who produce real adult turds, her bright yellow, milky shit literally does not stink at the moment.
When I was pregnant with M, I worried a lot about whether I would be able to give of myself as much to H when she was born. I was relieved to discover that when you have a new baby, something crazy happens. Your heart grows, much like how the Grinch’s heart grew 5 times on Christmas day, increasing your capacity to love each kid fully, and equally. And true enough, it’s happened again with N. But practically speaking, right now, love is not all you need. It’s extra arms that would make a pretty big difference. So unless I obtain a vial of Rick Sanchez style reptilian limb regeneration serum, the truth is that N will probably continue to be left crying on various less than ideal surfaces in the months to come. But I like to think that what matters is we that remember to pick her up as soon as the bums are wiped, teeth are brushed and coats are zipped – and put the spotlight back on her – because nobody puts (our) baby in the corner.
Until the next toddler emergency.