12 3 / 2013
The Curious Case Of Albert Royall
One of the most rewarding aspects of having a young child is watching them learn new tricks. I suppose ‘skills’ would be a more appropriate description – tricks makes it sound like Albert has learnt to jump through a hoop or balance a beachball on his nose. By the same token, ‘skills’ makes it sound like he’s learnt needlepoint or French, which I can assure you he hasn’t. Either way, it’s been incredibly heartening to watch his progress from a lumpen, immobile flesh bag into a shuffling, babbling little person.
Albert’s development has tended to come in great spurts, followed by long plateaus of relative inactivity. Which is unsurprising really, mirroring, as it does, the stop-start story of all human advancement. The flowering of civilisation in Ancient Rome was followed by 1,000 years of stagnation before the printing press arrived and with it the Renaissance period. Da Vinci’s days were then followed by another great era of inertia, until 2013 and the invention of Oral-B’s Pulsar® toothbrush, the only toothbrush with revolutionary Micropulse bristles. We’re living in the Micropulse Bristle Age now, my friends.
If I were to labour the analogy, I’d say Albert entered his Neolithic period at the turn of the year, having mastered the use of basic tools such as the stone, the stick and the grown up spoon. Not to mention his evolution from quadruped into Homo Erectus.
This inspiring tale of progress, however, was suddenly put into reverse last month when, quite mysteriously, Albert stopped walking. There was no accident or heavy fall preceding this turn of events. There were no signs of injury. No swelling, no bruising. No feasible explanation whatsoever. He just stopped walking. Or, more precisely, he stopped being able to put any weight on his left leg.
The first time it happened he’d been sitting in his high chair, happily enough, spooning food in the rough direction of his face, but after I helped him down from the table, he crumpled to the floor in a heap. While alarming at first, after 40 minutes or so, he seemed to shake it off and was running around like nothing had happened. We breathed a sigh of relief and put it down to a bad case of pins and needles.
Until two days later when it happened again, this time several times in one day. Worse still, in the moments when he was walking, it was with a discernable limp. The next morning we took him to A&E, where they x-rayed him and took blood samples. We’ve been through this before with his various asthma-related shenanigans, but it doesn’t get any easier. Getting the blood samples is a particularly emotional endeavour requiring one parent to hold Albert in a vice like grip, the other parent to dance about, sing songs and blow bubbles like a crap clown, and a team of five nurses to extricate the blood, most of which ends up on the floor, walls and any passersby unlucky enough to be in the vicinity. It would be easier, of course, if Albert didn’t fight but he takes a ‘better in than out’ approach to his blood and I can’t say I blame him.
Unfortunately, once we got the x-rays and test results back, the doctors were none the wiser. There were no indications of a break or fracture. And the blood samples seemed to rule out all sorts of other nasty stuff – like bacterial infections and infant arthritis. He was a perfectly healthy boy, they said, aside from the fact that, y’know, he can’t walk anymore – come back in a few days.
In a few days, Albert had given up limping entirely and taken up crawling again. Our adventurous, little toddler seemed to be regressing back into a baby before our very eyes – like a tiny version of Benjamin Button. And just like Benjamin Button it was incredibly painful to watch. He looked, frankly, depressed. All the strides he’d made in the last few months had been for nothing; his newfound independence, cruelly snatched away. Albert’s fledgling attempts at talking were also aborted, as if there was no point trying anymore. He was going to be a baby forever.
Over the course of the following two weeks, we made another five trips to A&E, two visits to the fracture clinic, and had two overnight stays in the children’s ward. Each time necessitated more blood tests and more x-rays. In fact, the only bones in his body that now haven’t been x-rayed are his arms and his skull. What’s more, after all the prodding and poking the diagnosis was exactly the same. “Congratulations. Your son is a medical mystery.”
Thankfully, this story has a happy ending, although not an entirely satisfactory one. Three weeks after he first stopped walking, Albert decided enough was enough. On a trip to the local playground, possibly inspired by the hordes of other toddlers scurrying about on their hind quarters, he clambered out of the sandpit, raised himself up on two wobbly legs and with all the determination he could muster limped forward a few paces. He could still barely place any weight on his left leg, but it was clear he wasn’t going to settle for a life on all fours anymore. I didn’t cry when he took his first steps, but there were tears in my eyes this time.
Since then, he’s gotten a little bit better every day. In fact, he chooses to run everywhere now – crashing about the house as if he’s intent on making up for lost time. We still don’t know what went wrong and probably never will. Frankly, I’m not sure I care anymore. I’m just relieved to have our little Neanderthal back.
18 1 / 2013
Daddy’s Coming Home
Somewhere, in the big rulebook of human behaviour, there’s a chapter on parental duties. This ancient record, drawn up by our forefathers, divides all the household chores neatly into mum jobs and dad jobs. I’m not sure what our foremothers were doing at the time (the dishes, probably) because the division of labour is appallingly one-sided. I don’t really need to elaborate on the details, because you already know what it says. Mum jobs are cooking, cleaning, singing lullabies, dressing the children, organising family outings and wiping food, tears and snot off faces. Dad jobs are mending things.
23 11 / 2012
One Night in Luton
Here’s a fun fact. Our travel cot is exactly the same size as the bathroom floor-space in a budget room at the Luton Ibis hotel. Ok, maybe that wasn’t necessarily a fun fact, per se, but I can assure you it is undeniably a fact. As I survey it from the doorway the head of the travel cot is pressed up against the sink, the foot of the cot is pressed up against the toilet, and the far cot wall (‘far’ is a relative term here) is pressed up against the bath Actually, sod it, let me just draw you a diagram.
Here you go.
If I want to go for a piss I have two options, and neither of them are pretty. Option one is to climb into Albert’s cot, open the toilet lid from inside the cot and carefully arc my stream over the cot wall and into the toilet. Option two is to stand in the doorway and arc my stream over the entire width of the travel cot and into the bath. (This is undoubtedly the most flamboyant of my options.) It’s probably also important to note at this point that Albert is currently in the cot and asleep.
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20 11 / 2012
… And Breathe
Is it illegal to drink tequila in a children’s hospital? There are no signs anywhere saying you can’t. Maybe it’s one of those things where it just goes without saying. Except it obviously doesn’t or I wouldn’t be asking the question right now. In the absence of any forbidding signs I’m just going to assume that it’s probably frowned upon but not explicitly outlawed. I take a furtive swig from my flask and hand it to my wife who has joined me behind the laundry trolley at the far end of a shadowy, hospital corridor. She in turn presses the metal spout to her lips and snaps her head back just as a night nurse appears from an adjoining corridor some 15 feet away. We freeze guiltily, but the nurse, perhaps more preoccupied with the business of caring for sick children than hunting down delinquent adults, passes by without a word. This act of dubious criminality would be charged with excitement were it not for the circumstances which have contrived to bring us here.
05 10 / 2012
Long time no blog, right? Sorry about that. How are you? How are the kids? Actually, don’t bother, I’m not interested. We’re here to talk about my kid, ok? If you want to bore me with tales of your simpering progeny then you should update your sodding dadblog.
10 7 / 2012
03 7 / 2012
Crawl of Duty: Mortal Wombat
Anyone got any cotton wool? I need enough to cover… *makes complex mental calculations*… uh, EVERYTHING. After spending 10 and a half months happily sat on his arse or lying prostrate on his back (not the front, never the front), Albert has finally decided it’s time to give forward motion a try. His initial attempts at crawling were predictably pathetic (lunge, faceplant, cry, repeat). Then, for a brief spell he tried dragging his body across the floor using just his hands in a wounded soldier fashion. But now, after cracking the magic ‘two hands, two knees’ combination, he is scampering about the place like a highly-caffeinated wombat.
14 5 / 2012
Here’s a top parenting tip: don’t have a sick baby. Better yet, don’t have a baby at all. That one piece of advice alone should ensure you many years of happy contentment – but if you really must insist on saddling your life with a squawking, little flesh bag, for the love of god, don’t get a sick one.
14 3 / 2012
Boy Meets World
I am a jaded, cynical soul. World-weary even. I am weary of the world. That’s a terrible thing to admit about yourself, but there you have it. The world, after all, is a big place. There’s quite a lot of stuff in it to be weary of, much of it laudable. Bees, dogs, socks, velcro, tree-frogs, lolcats, piñatas, microwaves, Beyonce, skateboarding pets, people called Gary, metamorphic rocks, large hadron colliders, Lionel Messi’s left foot, wasabi flavoured Kit Kats, season three of Mad Men, chicken nuggets that look like George Washington, the angry trombone solo on Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out”… you get the gist.
06 2 / 2012
This Old Man
Bloody hell, do you know how old Albert is? Probably not, no. Why would you? He’s not your child, after all. And other people’s children are pretty much the dictionary definition of ‘not that interesting.’ I realise that kind of undermines the whole point of this blog, which is why I try to write about slightly broader themes than just “Albert rolled over!” or “Albert just burped!” or “Albert did the cutest poo in the bath today!”