Life Health & Wellbeing

Tuesday 25 June 2019

Now our 21st century babies are becoming toddlers

Parenting: Emma and AJ Leahy
Parenting: Emma and AJ Leahy
Parenting: Kelda and Elin Ward
Parenting: Jane and Priya Edgeworth
Parenting: Niamh and Hector Hughes

Andrea Smith

At 11-months-old, our babies are lively and inquisitive and it's time to batten down the hatches.

Emma and AJ Leahy

Emma Leahy (31), is married to chef Dan Leahy and they live in Cork. They have two children, Hannah (3), and AJ (11 months), and Dan also has a son, Shane (17). The Dubliner is a stay-at-home mum.

AJ's development: "AJ is now described as two animals in our house, a billy goat - because his top teeth are breaking through, so he is constantly putting something in his mouth, usually a box of tissues, a sock or a doll's foot - and a parrot, because he tries to mimic every sound you make, including coughing or sneezing.

"After taking quite a while to figure out how to crawl, he has now begun to pull himself up to stand and is attempting to cruise. With so much going on around him, he's just eager to get steady on his feet. He's taken a few bumps to the head already, but it's all part and parcel at that age."

AJ's personality: "AJ is a joker. He really is a very smiley, happy baby. Strangers in supermarkets constantly comment on how cheery he is.

"He is a charmer though - you can see he has a special smile for the ladies. He has always been a very placid and content baby, and for only 11-months-old, he's very responsive to affection."

Daddy: "Dan has coped brilliantly with being a dad, although he was already a dad to Shane long before I met him. He is very hands-on, and certainly isn't shy when it comes to all the donkey work, like sterilising and laundry.

"I don't think anything can prepare you for the changes that occur in your relationship after having children. From the very moment you see the two lines on the pregnancy test, you instantly become a mum and your life changes, but it's another nine months before things begin to change for the dads.

"One minute you are looking doe-eyed at this wonderful man who has helped create the most precious thing in your lives, then, in the dark hours of the night, you are quietly plotting how to poke him with various sharp objects because he can sleep through a crying baby."

Relationship with friends: "Most of my close friends have been in my life since school, and they're like family now. Our friendship has remained constant. I may see or speak to them less, but when we do get together, it's like picking up from where we left off.

"We are all in the same cycle of small children and babies, so I'm very lucky that we can all appreciate that our free time is limited.

"Making dates with the girls is important though, and I worry that I don't make enough time for them. I am probably more conscious of it now that I have moved away from them all, although with smartphones and WhatsApp, I'm only ever a click away. More casual friendships have certainly been affected though."

Discipline: "I grew up with parents who never smacked, so I knew physical punishment wouldn't be something that ever arose with my own children.

"We try to promote positive reinforcement as much as possible, and have implemented a reward chart system.

"It focuses on specific goals or behaviours that need monitoring or addressing, and good behaviour or goals achieved are rewarded with stars or stickers.

"We also use a 'thinking step' and 'quiet time' if completely unacceptable behaviour occurs and a little bit of reflection is needed.

"I don't think smaller children can fully comprehend punishment, so for now this works for us."


Kelda and Elin Ward

Kelda Ward (33), is from Glanmire, Co Cork and is married to Robert Ward. She has three children, Nathan (14), Jessica (27 months), and Elin (11 months). She is a self-employed Montessori teacher at Toddle Inn Montessori Pre-School, Glanmire.

Elin's development: "Elin has gotten much more mobile in the past month. She is cruising along the furniture and has mastered climbing the stairs.

"Thankfully, after some physio, Elin has started clapping her hands and is waving to everyone she sees. She has become even more vocal and is now saying 'hiya' to everyone. She calls out for 'mama' when she wakes, which I love, and is constantly giggling at Jessica."

Elin's personality: "She is constantly giggling, which leads me to think she will be very fun-loving.

"She loves interacting with Jessica, but is well able to let you know if she is unhappy or things aren't going her way. We can already see that she is a very determined character with her own little personality."

Daddy: "Rob took to fatherhood like a duck to water. He gets stuck in and has no problem doing nappies, feeds and baths. He loves to take the girls swimming, for a walk to the park or feeding the ducks.

"I don't think having children has changed our relationship, but it certainly did change our lifestyle.

"We used to love having dinner parties and going out with friends, but it's very rare that we get to do those things now.

"We don't miss it a lot either, as it's only while the children are small, and at the moment we are just enjoying family life."

Relationship with friends: "My relationships with my friends haven't changed although it can be hard to make time to see them as much as before. In saying that, when we manage to get together, it's like we were never apart. Quite a few of my friends also have young children, so they understand the predicament we're in with two small babies in the house."

Discipline: "I think it's important that each home has discipline and rules that are enforced by the parents. While I don't agree with smacking a young child, I do think there needs to be a consequence to bad behaviour. At home, we use a short time-out as a punishment."


Jane and Priya Edgeworth

Jane Edgeworth (32), is from Raheny, Dublin, and is married to Francis Edgeworth. She has two children, Hayden (2), and Priya (11 months). She works as a part-time beauty therapist and consultant for Elizabeth Arden.

Priya's development: "Priya has started to crawl and is delighted to scramble around the house to investigate anything that takes her interest. I have finally moved her into her own room, as she was waking at all hours thinking it was party time. She seems to love the peace and quiet of her nursery, and is very content chatting away to herself before she nods off.

"We had quite a scare with her this month when she developed a nasty viral infection and swollen tonsils, and we ended up in Temple Street Children's Hospital very late at night.

"Her high temperature really gave myself and Fran a fright, and I must commend the nurses and doctors who reassured us and were so great with Priya. Thankfully, she bounced back to her happy little self within a few days. I've been introducing more new foods to Priya's diet and we are still finding she has a little trouble with certain foods. Eggs and tomatoes seem to be causing flare-ups due to her silent reflux."

Priya's personality: "We are starting to see Priya become a very laid-back and contented baby, which is so delightful after the tough start she had with her silent reflux.

"She doesn't make strange with people, and loves to babble and smile away at anyone who fusses over her. She absolutely loves to chatter away and bop along to music, always clapping her hands. Although it's too early to tell, I think Priya is going to be a very bubbly, fun-loving little girl, whilst also being sensitive and affectionate."

Daddy: "From helping me through labour to preparing the bottles and changing nappies, Fran has completely embraced becoming a dad. I feel that it's hard for new fathers in the early stages of parenthood.

"Things like feeding Priya, settling her, and singing her to sleep all came naturally to me, while Fran admits he felt quite overwhelmed by this tiny little lady who was solely depending on us to meet her needs.

"However, I can see now as Priya is getting bigger and communicating more, that her bond with daddy is becoming stronger. Only he can make her giggle and shriek with delight, something that is wonderful to watch.

"Our relationship has definitely changed, as we have grown into mature and responsible parents - most of the time! "Our love for one another has become stronger, we respect and appreciate each other more, and where once our house was just one big mortgage with parties every other weekend, it has now become a happy home."

Relationship with friends: "I wouldn't say relationships with my old friends have changed, but the dynamics most certainly have. I previously could go out for the night at the drop of a hat, but now it's all about babysitters and early morning starts every weekend.

"My social life has become more about meeting with friends for play dates with their little ones, or going to the park or a trip to the zoo, and I wouldn't change it for the world. "Some friendships with old school friends had drifted apart during our college years, but these have come back on stream now that we have become mums. "Our bond has become strong again, and it's great to meet up when we can to let our hair down and compare stories of 'adult life'."

Discipline: "These days, parents and teachers believe in trying to understand a child, and are more educated around how children develop mentally and emotionally. Therefore we know that a lot of patience and allowing a toddler 'time-out' is a big key in discipline.

"Fran and I are still totally new to this and have even attended parenting talks with David Coleman, but it's still a minefield as each child is so different. "However, we are firm believers in keeping a routine in place, and as she gets bigger, we will set boundaries. This can assist a child in feeling secure and help them to thrive."


Niamh and Hector Hughes

Niamh Hughes (37), is from Castlebar and lives in Carrick-on Shannon with her secondary school teacher husband, Daithi Hughes, and their eleven-month-old baby son, Hector. She is currently on unpaid maternity leave from her local authority position.

Hector's development: "Hector now has three teeth and they have given him very little bother so far. We are hoping this trend continues for the next 17. He has become more sturdy on his feet while standing against a support, but is not making any efforts towards walking just yet.

"Why would you when you can crawl at the speed of light? He has been doing a spot of travelling this month, with a long weekend in Sweden for a wedding then on to Spain for a few weeks of sun, sea and mainly siestas."

Hector's personality: "Hector is very determined, and when he makes a decision, it's impossible to change his mind. Simultaneously closing his mouth and eyes tight is his universal method of rejection, which covers food, nappy changes and getting dressed.

"He loves interacting with people, especially kids, and is fun-loving. He will initiate a game of peek-a-boo, given the opportunity."

Daddy: "I always knew that fatherhood would come very naturally to Daithi and I wasn't wrong. From day one, he has been amazing. He was first to hold Hector and have that very important skin-to-skin contact while I was in recovery.

"By the time I got back to the ward, I could see the bond that had already formed. Hector slept on Daithi's side of the bed so he could hand him over for feeding and re-settle him afterwards, which helped me so much and definitely hastened my recovery. Although not planned, Hector still resides on that side and offers of re-location have been declined!

"Regardless of his work in the morning, help throughout the night continues, and the evening bath is also given by daddy. Our relationship has naturally changed as we now have a little human to love and protect, but we still ensure we have time for each other. "I sit on the opposite side of the room sometimes, observing Daithi's caring hugs, little chats, music sessions and silly antics, and realise that although I didn't think it was possible, I love him even more."

Relationship with friends: "My long-standing record of instant replies to text messages has been lost in the past 11 months, and is now at an acceptable level of a three-day turn around.

"I still find the time to be with old friends, but it's conducted differently. Due to the fact that I am breast-feeding, late nights out do not suit, but this is my decision and is in no way a disadvantage. Hector and I have at least one lunch date a week with friends, so although the time of day for socialising and the type refreshment has changed, nothing else has."

Discipline: "Discipline hasn't yet been given much thought, as at 11 months, it's a game of distraction. I believe discipline is more about having the right relationship with your child than about having the right techniques. When the time comes, I hope I can understand Hector's perspective, which will help me act appropriately and guide his behaviour. I don't believe in smacking or any act that results in pain - after all, they are human."

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