The moment that Melanie found her feet, I became rather unsteady on mine. I had been eagerly awaiting the moment my little protégé would undertake her first totterings, but my cute wobbly-walking daughter quickly developed into The Baby Daredevil, whose hair-raising episodes would make even a hardened Hollywood stuntman want to sit down for a 5 minutes with a nice cup of tea.
On expeditions to the supermarket, for example, she refuses to sit nicely in the trolley, preferring to wobble her way around, frequently drifting towards the most appealing (ie dangerous) displays of towering glass bottles and knife racks. Desperately seeking a more health and safety conscious shopping experience, I invested in a set of toddler reins. Unfortunately though, while I thought this a great idea, Mel did not. On first use, realising she had been ‘harnessed’, my little iron-willed angel staged a screaming sit-down protest. The reins quickly became redundant.
However, I have since found that if I give Mel a few small items to carry around with her, shopping becomes a bit more of a game and she is more willing to follow me. But Mel really began to find her independence at around the time that my partner, Rachel and I decided to move away from Manchester, back to my home town of Oswestry. The thought of getting a bit more countrified was appealing to us for several reasons: better schools, more green space, and being closer to our families. On the down side, houses were going to be more expensive, which meant that we’d have to take on a bit of a DIY project if we were going to be able to afford the move.
We bought an old Victorian terrace, which had loads of space and bags of potential, but unfortunately (or fortunately, if like me, you take a strange delight in applying sledge hammers to walls) it was going to need gutting and renovating by someone with a black belt in DIY. So, feeling particularly manly, I donned my tool belt and squared up to the challenge.
- Baby safety – your room by room guide
- Dad’s story – how being a parent changes your relationship
- Dad’s story – playing Father Christmas
Mel, of course had suddenly found herself in strange new surroundings, and with a lot more space then she was used to. At first I worried how the move would affect her, but out of everyone in our small family (me, Rachel, Mel and Lucky the dog) I think Mel coped best. After only a day or two of being unsettled, she was soon charging about and exploring her new landscape, taking everything in.
However, this included rusty nails, piles of rubble, bare electrical cables and a whole host of other dangerous infant magnets. Toys were now redundant – Mel had found new and much more appealing things to play with. Having thought that I had made a particular area secure, she would always be able to root out something ‘unauthorised’ to fiddle with. Could I put her in a cage? Or perhaps (as my dad had once contemplated with me, as an aspiring Houdini tot) attach her to a length of rope secured to a pole?
Home from home
Such was the danger that, in the early days, the only solution we could find to the problem was to actually remove Mel from the house. We temporarily moved into my Dad’s house while renovating what was to be Mel’s bedroom as a priority, after which we started sorting out our bedroom and a small ‘kitchen’ area (basically a fridge and a kettle) so that we could eventually move in safely.
Mel’s room was finished surprisingly quickly, like a little oasis in a DIY desert: it was baby-proof, clean and had everything we needed to keep her happy. We only moved in properly when our room was finished, although we didn’t have any hot water for about two months, which meant that we had to make frequent trips to various parents’ houses to bath Mel (and ourselves!). Now, having just about survived my first renovation experience, I’m more than confident I can survive parenthood.