Going for a song

Usual apologies for the delay between posts. After one of my first blogs betrayed a terror about what I had let myself in for, someone suggested everything would soon become less hectic and settle into some kind of routine. It hasn’t.
What has happened is that Baxter has grown and now reached the age where there is a whole new world of scrapes for him to get into. His mobility, increasing speed and ability to stand, coupled with the sort of inquisitive nature that could easily be mistaken for a deathwish mean he now has a host of new ways in which he can harm himself. He discovers the death traps I have obliviously littered around my home far quicker than I can so I can’t take my eyes off him for a minute.
He is exhausting and I barely have time to eat, wash and sleep, never mind such fripperies as poncing about with blog posts.
When I am not hovering neurotically around Baxter, my time is taken up just keeping the kids occupied. Mostly this is straightforward and involves little more than sticking them in front of a pile of moulded plastic and letting them squeak, beep and bash until they grow tired, need feeding or start to fight over who was playing with something first.
On the rare recent occasions when the weather has allowed, we have headed out to the park. Minnie runs all over the place, finding the death traps there as easily as Baxter does at home and terrifying me with her gung-ho approach to unenclosed heights. But Baxter is largely limited to swings, and not even the edgy ones without bars to hold you in that Minnie now prefers. Once he has tired of swinging, his activities are restricted to being carried around the park, joining me as I chase his sister in a futile attempt to keep her out of danger.
In the mornings, there is a window when Minnie is at nursery when I can take Baxter for some quality time on his own terms without having to worry about how bored his three-year-old sister is getting. There are a few regularly scheduled activities I try to take him along to. There are quite a few things laid on around the area that are targeted at the one-and-under market. The 1 o’clock club playgroup in Peckham Rye park – which obviously starts at 10.30am – is one favourite, but most often I take him singing.
There are a few options here too. Minnie graduated from the brilliant Bea’s Baby bop last summer and Baxter has taken to it with similar gusto. There is also a council-sponsored singing session at Dulwich library, at which we have become regulars. But I’ll be honest; that one is a nightmare.
For starters, it is free. In the same way that Metro has become the most read newspaper in Britain despite also being the most rubbish, purely on account of people not having to pay for it, the library sessions often resemble a scene from Ben Hur.
What’s worse is the timing of the sessions. I have 15 minutes from the 11.30 finish to get back to collect Minnie from nursery. It’s about a 10-minute walk and it is quite likely Baxter’s buggy will be trapped behind about 3,000 others at the end, meaning I have to wait and then basically sprint at breakneck speed across a busy junction and through the streets of East Dulwich to ensure his sister doesn’t get abandoned.
As a result I need to time my arrival to get there late enough so there isn’t time for all the other buggies to box me in. However, the downside of achieving this is that there is no space left in the actual singing session and we have to squeeze in at the back.
The logistics of just getting in make me wonder whether it is worth it, especially as Baxter sits looking non-plussed for most of the half hour (although that may be down to his being stuck on my lap in a plastic chair in the corner rather than down the front where the action is, and the tambourines are).
Through all the sickeningly energetic efforts of whichever failed drama student is ploughing through the Wheels on the Bus, Old McDonald or whatever, Baxter sits grumpily, just waiting – and apparently failing – to be impressed.
Every week I wonder why I have dragged us both down here. To be honest I don’t enjoy it much more than he does. We go through all the usual motions. Boredom, giving way to wriggling and then me having to hold on to him because there is no room to let him go for the crawl he craves. The Grand Old Duke of York provides some respite midway through but then we’re back to the usual pattern of him fidgeting and me restraining.
Then, suddenly, about 27 minutes into the 30, everything falls into place. Along with everybody else, we stand up. I help Baxter put his left hand in, and he starts grinning. By the time it’s “knees bend, arms stretch ra-ra-ra”, he is delirious.
The joy he gets from those two minutes make the whole nightmare of just getting there worthwhile. It seems that, for Baxter at least, the Hokey-cokey really is what it’s all about.

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