As I sat with Toby for 45 minutes or so at around 3am the other night, my sleep-deprived mind began wandering. It was during this state of semi-consciousness that I had an epiphany – I realised that my son had superhero powers. I also realised it wasn’t just a single superhero power, but a conglomerate of different ones that he could deploy against us, his parents, at any time.
I list out below some of the different superhero personas that Toby has. I’m sure most babies also share these powers with him and that any other parents reading this will be fully aware of these alter egos within their little ones. I’m sure there are also plenty of others that babies across the land call into action as and when they please. Anyway, for now, I’m going to focus on those that Toby excels at. See what you make of it.
The Baby-Faced Nappy Assassin
This was one of the first super-powers that became apparent to me. Toby’s ability to rustle up a ‘poonami’ of epic proportions at the most inconvenient times known to man. This includes every time when there is a need to leave the house under time pressure – the school run, any form of appointment (doctors, dentist etc.). Just as we are about to head out of the door, I will pick him up, all smiley and cheery, and catch a whiff of the dark arts of his nappy. Often I can look down and see it’s leaked through onto his clothes and I am faced with a whole outfit change and clean up operation with no time to spare. He was particularly adept at this when he was younger … and would just laugh at me as I was changing him – all that was missing from this evil genius was a white cat to stroke as his master plan came to fruition.
As with any potential challenge such as this, after a while of being faced with this constant battle, you can adapt your routine to cope better – leave slightly earlier to said appointments so that if the Baby-Faced Nappy Assassin strikes, you have more time to deal with the resulting fall out (literally at times). However, what I have discovered is that the super-hero powers themselves are also adaptable and Toby has taken this persona to a new level. The first change is his immediate and constant desire to roll onto his front mid-nappy change. This is infuriating and difficult in equal measure. He’s also so strong that it’s like trying to stop a baby elephant rolling around in the mud. The only tactic at present that vaguely prevents this is to put a couple of toys in his hand and to sing, blow raspberries or perform any other number of ridiculous acts to keep him flat on his back.
This week, he’s also upped his game further. He can now stand against furniture. He was doing this all sweetness and light and caught my eye. As he did, the smell of his nappy caught my nostrils. He smiled at me and as he did so, in world record time and with a force faster than the speed of light, he sat down, flush onto said shit-filled nappy and exploded it everywhere – in particular, right down his trouser leg so that when I came to change him it was all over my new jeans, on the holiday-home rug and all down his leg. Thankfully Karen was on hand to assist, but if this new tactic continues we could be in for a messy period. I dread to think what he has in store for us when he starts potty-training!
It was this power that had me up at 3am when I began the train of thought that has led me to writing this blog. I’m not talking about the usual baby needing a feed or baby teething issues, but a deeper power that The Sleep-Stealer deploys at will. The first is Toby’s bizarre and random desire to wake around 10:30pm-11pm and stay up for 2 or 3 hours on end. At first this was cute as we brought him downstairs whilst we watched TV when it was clear he wasn’t going to go straight back to sleep. But as the hours dragged on and our eye lids became heavier, his energy levels went up. No rhyme or reason – he will periodically throw one of these nights our way. Last night it was between 4:45am and 6am. As Homer Simpson would say “Why you little …!”.
Another skill The Sleep-Stealer has in his armoury is the ability to wake up whenever I nip to the loo in the night. As someone who drinks a load of water/squash, this is a nightly occurrence. Even if I nip to the loo as stealthily as a ninja in the night – tip-toeing my way to the bathroom, avoiding any remotely creaky floorboards, treating myself to a sit-down wee and leaving the flush until the morning so as to reduce any noise, Toby will more often than not still wake up. Unbelievable.
The final arrow to The Sleep-Stealer’s bow is when you settle him down to sleep once he’s woken in the night. Toby’s fast asleep in my arms, breathing heavily and no sign of being vaguely awake, but as I lower him back into his cot – BOOM – he tenses up, cries and the cycle begins again. I’ve taken to lowering him into his coat as slowly as possible, inch by inch, like some kind of sadistic weight-training drill. It’s also like Indiana Jones at the start of Raiders of the Lost Ark placing the bag of sand on the pedestal as I look to swap it for my sleep back. Just as I think I have won and the sand’s safely on the spot (i.e. my two stone, deadweight of a baby is in his cot), as I walk away, his cry follows like hundreds of poison darts being fired my way followed by a giant boulder ready to roll after me and crush my skull into sleepless oblivion.
What’s most annoying is that he will sleep when he wants to in the day time. And at that point nothing can wake him from his slumber – hair-dryers, doorbells, his sisters squabbling and making more noise than a Brass Band going for a Guinness World Record number of performers – nothing. And there is zero chance for me, as a Daddy on Shared Parental Leave, taking a nap with him. There are too many jobs to get done to allow that and, even if I wanted to or tried to, I can guarantee the Sleep-Stealer would wake and crush those dreams like a paper cup and then sleep in the car or pram on our next trip out. Damn him!
The Kamikaze Kid AKA The Danger Magnet
This is the baby you have been placed in charge of who is intent on self-harm and is a magnet for danger. Toby excels at this, his newest skill. It has really come to fruition since he has been able to crawl. I expect it will only get worse when he can walk and then climb. The girls were never really into anything and everything. Tessa liked to explore the perimeter of a room, but that was it. Toby wants anything that is unsafe and/or dangerous. This includes his favourite – the dishwasher, any cables or wires, pegs – he loves pegs, the wine rack – he loves that too, just like his Mummy and any number of other items which are likely to hurt him, despite the multitude of toys we have in our main living space for him.
Besides searching out danger at every opportunity, the other side of this power is Toby’s Kamikaze Kid spirit. The desire to throw himself backwards when you’re holding him or if he’s on your knee, like a demented lemming with no regard for his personal safety. This in turn has shown me a super-power in myself which has lay dormant in me until now – the ability to adopt Matrix style moves to catch Toby has he launches himself one way or other. This doesn’t always work and boy wonder has succeeded in falling down the front step to our house face first and face-planting our floor on multiple occasions.
The Kamikaze Kid also has the power to lull you into a false sense of security. A prime example of this was when he was having a go on his baby-walker. Holding on nicely he laughed and gave me lovely smile as it was clear he was very proud of himself standing up. He even went to give me a one-handed wave – a little over-confident you may say, but happy as Larry. Then in the blink of an eye, he side-rolled and pulled the walker down onto his head … another bump to tell Mummy about in the Shared Parental Leave bumps and bruises dossier from the Kamikaze Kid. Cheers Toby. The pictures below reveal this incident in all its glory.
I may set up a padded room for Toby for when he does start walking and climbing. Alternatively, kit him out like Robocop for his daily exploits – helmet, elbow and knee pads, the lot. Good luck to the nursery workers for when he starts with them later this Summer! I have a feeling he, and his Kamikaze Kid/Danger Magnet persona, will keep them well and truly on their toes!
The Parent Beater
The final piece of Toby’s current super-power jigsaw I’m going to spend some time on is The Parent Beater. An all too common scene in houses across Great Britain and beyond. This baby looks as cute as the big-eyed Puss In Boots from Shrek, or Gizmo the fluffy cute one from Gremlins:
The problem with The Parent Beater however, is the speed they can shift into the claw wielding, swashbuckling Puss In Boots or the evil psycho Gremlin intent on maiming you at the earliest opportunity.
Toby can strike at any time as his Parent Beater alter ego. Often, as you hold him in your arms, he will be having a laugh with you, look lovingly into your eyes, smile as you tell him you love him, before unleashing a double-handed slap to the face. Twice. Three times. All in the blink of an eye. It’s like the old Tango adverts and the Tango Man pops out from nowhere to hit you in the face with a wet fish. You put him down and he gives you the eyes like nothing has happened! You pick him up again, a little wary, maybe sit him slightly further away on your knee. Then, as time passes and as confidence is restored – he might be watching TV or his sisters playing (or squabbling as is often the case!) – just long enough for you to take your eye off the ball, Toby will swivel round in a flash with the speed and tenacity of a Tasmanian Devil, and like an enraged Wolverine, metal claws unleashed, will deliver killer scratches to your face and body. If you’re really unlucky he’ll scratch and grip at the same time. However often you cut those nails, he will always manage to leave his mark.
You should also be wary that The Parent Beater often works in tandem with other super-hero personas. With The Sleep Stealer they will work together to catch you at your lowest ebb. As you cuddle The Sleep Stealer in an attempt to get them into the deep sleep required to return them to their cot, The Parent Beater strikes, most frequently with the quickest and most painful nipple tweak known to man. With the Baby Faced Nappy Assassin, whilst you sit on the floor changing that nappy, The Parent Beater may deliver a hard and fast kick to the balls or other areas, before rolling round in his own mess. Again.
So that’s a summary of Toby’s greatest superhero powers as they stand. I should also add there are others – The Food Destroyer, The Mess Maker and The Master of Disguise (see photos below, just ‘cos I love them). Do your babies have any others that drive you up the wall? As time goes on I’ll do my best to keep combating these elements of Toby’s personality and to focus on the positive traits he also oozes – The Smiler, The Sweet Sibling, The Laughing Buddha and so on. But in truth, who knows what the future will hold for us. We can only ride the wave and see where we end up. And as we do, enjoy it all!
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