From contented little babies to chaos

Laugh and Cry...

Jody Brettkelly, the chic mum behind the blog About Last Weekend, thought she had the contented baby thing sorted… and then they became teens. Perhaps she’s now wondering if there’s a contented teen book!

Over to Jody…

Fourteen years ago when I had my first baby boy, Harley, we were utterly clueless. We knew nothing about caring for a baby and pontificated annoyingly about how it wasn’t going to change us. Luckily for me, he latched on immediately (I was so ignorant I wasn’t aware of all the challenges of breastfeeding) and he seemed to love being out. And with no routine, we did go out – and out and out – strolling him all over London parks and restaurants, then to New Zealand and San Francisco and back to London.

By nine months Harley wanted to be up and out all the time. I was a shaking, wan, scrawny mess. (Not a good way to lose 15lbs.) Harley hadn’t weaned except for the odd spoonful of Greek yoghurt and I was breastfeeding randomly and often. His up-all-night exploits rendered me exhausted and unable to even think about going back to work. Or even to think.

Somehow we managed to have another baby. A friend arrived at the hospital with The Contented Little Baby Book by Gina Ford. I was desperate. I tried to follow it as close as I could: the sleep training, the meal times, the routine. I was a believer, a convert, a book-thumping bore.

The babies were in bed by 7pm even when they were tiny, so we could get a babysitter twice a week knowing they wouldn’t wake up (I couldn’t express much milk so we had to be sure.) We had two more babies. Of course life with four kids was not exactly easy, there were the monumental meltdowns and we definitely felt in the trenches. But holidays, even skiing, were doable because they were mostly rested and fed.

No longer babies!

Now our kids are 14, 12, ten and eight. They still eat at 5pm. They still keep them to strict bed times. But they fight constantly, crave cereal for every meal and watch hours and hours of TV. They’re ungrateful and whiney. Our piano teacher just fired us – apparently their lack of progress and poor attitude was unprecedented. “We won” said the kids “It took three years- but we won!”

I sort of, kind of, learned to do the baby thing. But they didn’t stay babies. Help me, help me!

At what age were your kids when you felt “sort-of sorted”?


Jody Brettkelly–About Last Weekend

Jody Brettkelly, 49, was a journalist in London for 15 years writing on a variety of topics including football players’ hairdos and ‘banana hammocks” (men’s speedos). She now lives with her husband and four children in California.

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  1. 06 February 2012 / 19:56

    Sounds like a good anti-Gina Ford ammo to me!

  2. 07 February 2012 / 03:04

    Yes the good training was supposed to last forever. However I suspect its more to do with our deficiencies in parenting that La Gina!

  3. 07 February 2012 / 14:32

    I was faithful to all the baby book wisdom I could find when my duo were infants. We fed, fed (two of them), played, slept. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. All day and night for months. It did indeed work as they were and still are marvelous sleepers, but you are right: it becomes even more challenging when they get older.

    I could even handle the toddler years. We had lots of “time-outs” and time on the “naughty step.” I had a system and the system helped me weather the storm. As we enter the tween years, though, I feel quite out of sorts. They are fresh and defiant and bicker non-stop. But they are such adorable people now. Not toddlers. And I do love their determination and wit. I want to encourage them sometimes when they do stand up to me. And other times I just laugh. I do not think this could be considered a system. So where’s the manual for this stage?!?

    • 07 February 2012 / 17:13

      It is lovely being actually able to speak to them and (sometimes when they are not grunting) have a conversation. Like you I want their to be determined and speak out (my generation was not encouraged to do that!), but sometimes they love to overexercise that freedom – have to keep a sense of humour that’s for sure!

  4. 07 February 2012 / 15:19

    Things are much easier with me as I only have the one child but I think the early days of getting into a routine certainly worked as regards sleeping. He’s 15 now and would sleep all day, given half a chance 😉

    • 07 February 2012 / 17:16

      Yes, Sleep and routine are much more usual in England I found. Here in the East Bay, California, people allow their kids to stay up to all hours. 8.30pm bed time for tiny children here is early! And my kids were going to bed at 7pm. I was considered quite weird with all my Contented Baby Book “nonsense”…Isn’t it bizarre that you spend years trying to get them to sleep then you can’t get them out of bed!

  5. 08 February 2012 / 10:25

    My ado son is very atypical really. He doesn’t need hours and hours of sleep, doesn’t oversleep or sleep in at the weekend, he just goes to bed around 10.30pm and gets up at 7am to get ready for school. At the weekend he’ll get up around 8am.

    He will hog the XBox though, given half a chance.

    I read a couple of books on bringing up boys. One piece of advice I retained was ‘pick your battles’. The other was ‘planning is for adults’ – adolescents don’t have a mature enough brain for it, so it’s pointless asking them to look ahead. Great news for those who are expected to plan their futures and study accordingly. The result is “What do you want to study, son?”. Answer: “Er, dunno”.