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If you missed ‘New Parent Observations’ 1-14, you can catch up here. These are based on my 8-month son, Hugo…
15. He’ll never sleep when you desperately want him to.
16. He’s guaranteed to fall asleep as soon as you don’t want him to.
17. When you most need a dummy, you don’t have one.
18. He likes to take his dummy out, wave it at you, then put the other end back in. Jerk.
19. Transiting a sleeping baby from car seat to bed is as careful an operation as carrying dynamite.
20. Learning new skills is cute, for about five minutes. You then quickly wish he hadn’t. “Oh, I can roll on my front now Daddy. Actually, ALL I do is roll on my front…“)
21. Baby rice is a mysterious and pointless food.
22. You can put as much baby rice in the baby as you want – more always ends up on the outside.
23. You can’t hide food in things, with any amount of disguise. He knows when you’ve hidden carrot in something.
24. He likes to hold his spoon at the curved end. You know, the end where all the food is?
25. Swimming lessons amount to wallowing around in the baby pool with a load of mums, trying to sing nursery rhymes you can’t remember the words to.
26. You’re not allowed to have regular songs stuck in your head. Only nursery rhymes. And ridiculously annoying toy music.
27. One day you go for a shower, and this has happened:
More ‘observations’ to follow, no doubt.
P.S. I’m doing a daily Facebook live this month to accompany these emails . There are various reasons behind this experiment – I’ll explain more tomorrow.
“I’m having my hair done in town,” my wife Linzi informed me on Saturday. “Are you okay to have Hugo for a few hours?”
“Uh yeah, sure.” I replied outwardly.
“Shit.” I thought inwardly. “It’s the last Saturday before school starts. Everywhere will be rammed. And I’ve never had Hugo alone out and about before.”
So at 1PM, Hugo and I left Linzi at the hair salon and set off tentatively towards the shops. Hugo eyeballed me from his pram seat. I eyeballed him. He isn’t exactly a newborn baby anymore: more an independent-minded dictator.
You quickly realise when left alone with the baby that nothing is easy or straightforward.
First I wanted to pick up some birthday cards. A simple task, you would imagine…
The first challenge is to select the least busy store. You don’t want anywhere where manoeuvring the pram will be hard. Once inside, you have approximately three minutes to select your cards before the little dictator in the pram starts to shout.
(It isn’t about what you want to do!)
Cards bought and shouting avoided, we walked around aimlessly for a while. Until I needed a pee. Hugo again eyeballed me from his pram seat. The challenge with needing the loo is to select a bar or cafe that isn’t rammed with people, and has obvious disabled access.
Oh, didn’t you know? You’re disabled as soon as you have a pram. In fact you’re worse than disabled, because your disability has a mind and voice of its own.
You can’t just go into a bar and sit anywhere. You can’t just pop in somewhere and nip to the loo. Oh no.
You have to push your pram to the bar, and ask for the RADAR key to the disabled toilet. And while you’re there, you may as well check his bum too – and hope to God there isn’t a nappy-escaping poo waiting for you.
So anyway, we ended up in a new bar called Turtle Bay, which is a chain of Caribbean themed bars. A good choice on my part, I think. Good disabled access, and not too busy inside. After going through the bathroom shenanigans, I bought a small beer to drink in the sun outside.
Which normally would be a relaxing experience…
As soon as we sat down, Hugo did his cute-charming-smiley thing to the middle-aged couple on the nearest table. Who came to say hello… for 20 minutes.
Of course, I’m not completely against this. I’m not a total grump. But ultimately I’m an introvert at heart, and making constant chat takes a lot out of me.
So I got Hugo out of the pram for a bit (while trying to drink my beer, dammit). He carried on with the charm offensive. By now we practically had an audience of cooing women – and not the sort you dream about growing up.
See, you can’t have a relaxing beer on Daddy Day Care. You can only have a stressful beer, where you hold the baby and maintain constant conversation with the baby and / or random strangers.
So anyway, beer drunk I wrestled Hugo back into the pram and moved on. Every shop you walk past you have to think: ‘will the pram fit in that door? Is the step too big? Will there be space inside?’
Ten minutes down the road Hugo started his gristly ‘I’m getting hungry’ noise. Which means you have approximately ten minutes to get food down him, or else the world blows up. Which is an issue, when you aren’t the provider of milk.
Somewhat hurriedly we ended up in a park. ‘We’ll sit here in the shade,’ I thought, ‘and feed him some baby mush.’
Sounds easy, right?
Nothing is easy.
I sat down with Hugo on my knee. I firmly believe you have to be an octopus to do what comes next.
While holding the baby, you first have to put a bib on him. To anyone nearby, it probably looked like I was holding him in a choke hold while wrapping a piece of cloth around his neck. With the bib finally on, I glanced around to check nobody near me was filming me, or on the phone to social services.
Next, you have to continue holding the baby (who is trying to roll away), while at the same time find his food, spoon and muslin cloth. You then have to feed him without really knowing where his mouth is. Of course, half the food went up his nose or around his eyes.
With a semi-successful feed complete – and no attention from social services – we headed to a pub to repeat the disabled toilet trick. Where Hugo had a massive “I’m tired” shouting meltdown, and we quickly had to leave.
For four hours this went on.
When we finally met up with Linzi later in the afternoon, she smiled knowingly.
“Yep, that sounds right,” she said unsurprised. “That sounds like my life, twenty-four hours a day…”
I’ve shared this story with you for a few reasons. Really it’s a story about discovering someone else’s perspective. Which is actually why we tell stories in our marketing – to take your reader outside their current perspective and help them see yours.
It’s also an example of a particular kind of story – the current story. The fresh, up to the minute story that lets your audience into a particular part of your life. A current story is only really effective when people already know you.
When people first opt-in or enter your world, you need to delve more into your past. Recently I’ve been referring to this as a ‘core story’.
So this month, I’m doing something different with these emails. I’m going to tell you my own core stories, as I currently see them.
Instalment 1 of 20 will be with you tomorrow.
So it’s been six months since our first child Hugo was born. I’d like to offer you some observations on the experience…
1. It’s like having a little dictator, who won’t compromise on anything. Worse; he won’t even tell you why he’s dictating.
2. A baby held in a particular position standing up is fine. Perfectly happy. You sit down – with him in exactly the same position – and he cries. WHY?
3. Bedtime is at 7PM every day. Get-up time (as dictated by baby) is at 6AM. It’s like having a tiny pensioner. He can even ride the bus for free.
4. Babies have a sixth sense that triggers when you think about putting them down. Even the mere thought is enough to activate tears. HOW DO THEY KNOW?
5. Whatever was funny yesterday IS NOT funny today. Smiles or chuckles can not be requested on demand.
6. Bath time is an excuse to remove all of the water from the bath and onto the floor.
7. Taking your baby to John Lewis on a weekday morning is like attaching a beacon to your body, which attracts the attention of cooing old women. Which is great – if that’s your thing.
8. The more annoying the toy, the more enjoyable it is to the baby.
9. The packaging of all toys is always more fun to play with than the toy itself.
10. Sometimes you will be permitted to sleep… but more often not. New or expecting parents are referred to observation No.1.
11. From your baby’s perspective, the primary reason to sit in a pram or sling is to chew it. See exhibit A:
12. Food must be eaten at 0mph, or 100mph, with only a nominal amount entering the mouth.
13. Sleeping ON you is always preferable to sleeping in a cot, bed, or Moses basket. Why wouldn’t it be? It isn’t like you have anything else to do…
14. When presented to strangers all of the above seem untrue.
Why share all this? Partly for a chuckle, but also to point out that you know and see more than you think.
Remember the seventh rule of Story Selling: people are both more like you, and less like you, than you can possibly imagine.
Commenting on the things happening around you at the interpersonal level is always a way to find common ground with your audience.
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