One thing which constantly worries me is that I don’t know how to play with Reindeer.
We spend all day together and I try to vary our activities: we attend groups, go swimming, go for walks, sing songs and have cuddles, as well as Reindeer accompanying me as I do the shopping or run other errands. Sometimes we’ll visit his dad at work, have lunch together, or he will come with us to activities.
The bit that I worry about is playing. Reindeer has a lot of toys ranging from teddies to a jumperoo (borrowed from his cousin) but I’m well aware that with an age gap of more than thirty years I’m not the ideal playmate. I don’t know when to try new skills, or even which skills. I don’t know when to leave him to focus on a toy or when to play together. I don’t know when I should be giving him space to practice crawling or when I should be practising giving/taking/please/thank you. Should I be sat beside him or should I be in front of him? Should I be talking all the time or keeping quiet?
In short, I don’t know what he needs from me.
I feel guilty if I leave him while I put washing in the machine or get a drink of water – I worry that he’ll think I’m not interested in him. But when I sit with him to play, my mind can go a bit blank and I just try to encourage him with his toys, rolling balls towards him helping him to pick things up, moving toys further away to encourage him to stretch.
Should this be intuitive? Do people just know how to play with babies? I hope not, because I already feel as though I’m failing.
I’ve tried looking online but haven’t found anything particularly helpful – most pages contain information along the lines of: your baby should be waving by now, or, your baby should be crawling by now, or, your baby should be interacting and exploring now. They don’t tell me what to do to encourage and support that process.
But Reindeer is exploring: he always wants to sit up and then try to get on his knees. He’s desperate to move independently, wants to be on his feet. This evening in the bath he was actually trying to pull himself to his feet. He managed to get up on his knees and then to get his feet under himself whilst holding onto the side. Tomorrow I will be putting solid items of a similar height around the living room to encourage him to try again on dry land.
He wants to play with lots of different toys and is particularly interested in anything that lights up. I sit with him and try to encourage interaction and he seems happy that I’m there. We go to groups so he can interact with other babies – I may as well not be there as he is so interested in what everyone else is doing!
Every day we laugh together – this is now my favourite sound. He seems happy and content with life which is wonderful to see.
The problem is that I’m so keen to get everything right, I’m worrying myself silly that I’m getting it all wrong. I’m well aware that there is so much I don’t know enough about, but research can lead to more pressure and worry as advice is often conflicting.
Mostly I think sleep deprivation is to blame. Things are gradually improving in the sleep department, but being tired in the day makes it hard to focus, and having a difficult day creates worry at night, which makes sleep harder.
Reindeer had a full 12-hours of sleep last night but only one 15 minute and one 35 minute nap during the day. I’m hoping that a few more nights like that will give me more rest so the lack of daytime breaks won’t matter as much and I can stop second-guessing myself.