My Son Has Got His Hat On

The sun came out this week so necessity dictated that I should buy the boys some sun hats. Now I have always had a problem with hats, mainly because I have a funny shaped head and hardly any style of hat suits me. I have an Australian Bushman’s hat which I can just about get away with, but anything else is a no go, especially a baseball cap. If I don a baseball cap I look like a kid from Great Ormond Street. Last time I put one on and went out in it, my friends thought I was dying and set up a Just Giving page for me. Someone does the Race for Life in my memory every year. Hats were bought though and it would seem that the boys are similarly affected in the head department as their daddy, because although the hats are for the correct age group, they drown the boys heads and are far too big for them. I might try them through the tumble dryer and see if that sorts it. The hats, I mean, not the boys.

When I mentioned this purchase to someone, they commented how it was more expense and that having kids must be costing us a fortune. I keep a tight rein on money and a track of what I spend. It wasn’t always the case and I used to spend frivolously, only finding out that I was hitting my overdraft limit when it was too late. That all ended when on my first date with Mrs Aitchworld I went to withdraw some cash out to pay for things and the cash machine told me I had insufficient funds, which was all very embarrassing, especially as I was convinced I was several hundred pounds below my limit. Since that day I vowed to be careful with money and for the first time in ages I actually have a savings account with more than a tenner in it. Not much more because, somewhat stupidly, I couldn’t resist the urge to buy a classic car. But that’s another story entirely. The matter in hand is that really the twins haven’t cost us a great deal of money. Well, not directly. We have been to IKEA a number of times though and that does cost. But clothes have been given to us and even nappies and wipes aren’t all that dear in Aldi.

I have to confess I like IKEA. Even on a bank holiday Sunday, with the twins, on my own, it didn’t daunt me. But despite their incredibly reasonably priced goods, going there always costs us dearly. When preparing for the arrival of the boys and we needed a cot, we headed straight for Warrington. A cot and a mattress were duly ordered up. And then on the way round the rest of the store, we bought bath matts, cushions and so it went on… Ooh look that duvet’s reasonably priced, I didn’t know I needed slippers, grab that garlic press, is that a nursing chair that’s been reduced? We need a new plastic table cloth, and a new blue bag for the camping stuff so pick one of those up, tea lights, we must have tea lights, and tea light holders, so grab some of those. Before you know it you’ve got a trolley each full of shit you don’t really need but are buying because it is cheap, and by the time it has gone through the tills the bill that is rung up is about the size of the GDP of a small country and our bank account takes a right old hammering. And we never learn – it is the same every time we go. And we don’t even use tea lights.

I can see how people who have babies might find things expensive if they are not breast feeding their children because baby formula seems to cost a lot of money. And for some reason, it doesn’t qualify for Clubcard points. Fortunately we aren’t buying that much because we are combination feeding, the combination being breast feeding, bottle-feeding with expressed milk with the odd bottle-feed of formula to top up. Feeding two growing boys is quite a task.

We’ve been getting a bit confused with feeding in the last couple of weeks though. Well, more the equipment than the feeding itself. When we started bottle feeding, we used a specific teat, made by Medela, who seem to be the experts when it comes to breast pumps and expressing milk. The particular teat we are using is designed specifically for breast milk, so the blurb says. Of course, as a man, I read the blurb after we had been using them for several weeks and had put formula through them. This particular teat, the Calma, is supposed to replicate the actions of a nipple, giving the baby a chance to pause without its mouth filling with milk as a normal teat would. There is a clever valve system that allows this. And it is very clever, because when using breast milk in them, the teats do exactly that – without suction or pressure, the milk will not leak from the bottle if it is held upside down. However, if you put formula in it, the bottles know what you’ve done and they will drip if held upside down. They are awfully clever!

We did find last week though, the boys seemed to be struggling to draw enough milk quickly enough, so we decided to upgrade to some different bottles, which is incredibly confusing. I even resorted to the internet to research and I have even ventured onto mumsnet. When I am feeling strong enough and have recovered from this experience I will attempt to write about it. In the meantime I have learned a lot about breasts and nipples. As have the designers of teats it would seem. What they don’t know about a nipple isn’t worth knowing.

At this juncture, I must confess that I have quite a puerile sense of humour and laugh at the most childish of things. I recall one balmy summer afternoon sat in a pub beer garden somewhere in the Peak District where someone had found a copy of Roger’s Profanisaurus inside and brought it out to the table, after which the group I was with proceeded to laugh so much it ended up hurting. Much mirth and merriment was had. And many beers, which probably helped.

The reason I mention all of this is that because in the past I still find certain words extremely funny. I cannot even utter the word clopper without falling apart and as childish as it may seem, up until March breast and nipple would also raise a titter if used at an opportune moment or repeatedly. And although I did call someone a nipple in anger the other day, I no longer really find these words amusing any more. And when used in relation to feeding, they are very serious words indeed

Mrs Aitchworld hasn’t always been as like-minded but eventually some of this childishness has worn off on her, nowhere as evident as when we visited the Hardman’s house in Liverpool, a couple of years ago. It was the home of the Hardmans, as the name suggests, a couple who were famous for photography. They used their home in Rodney Street in Liverpool as a photography studio and remained pretty much unchanged from the 1950s up until Mr Hardman’s death in 1988. It is now run as a National Trust property and is only available to look round by prior arrangement and due to the size of it, not a vast deal greater than Aitchworld Towers, the tours around it are guided carefully. In fact, the National Trust are a bit over-zealous in this respect and there seems to be a guide per room, some more informed than the others.

In the last room, the guide was struggling for things to say, partly because there wasn’t much to see but also because he wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. He pointed out the bicycles in the corner, with labels from a railway company still attached from when they were last used, which said Llandudno on them. He told us he imagined this was in Wales. Imagined! He pointed at a desk with a telephone and a ledger book on it, telling us that there was a desk with a ledger book and a telephone on it, although in a desperate attempt to make it more interesting he informed us that it was a replica telephone and that the original one would have been taken away by the GPO as all telephones used to be rented from them. He then moved to a clock on the wall, which had a knob on it for setting the date and time on it, apparently…

At this point, Mrs Aitchworld started convulsing, turned a funny shade of puce and left the building by the nearest exit. The guide asked if my wife was okay. “Technically, she isn’t my wife, but I will see what’s wrong with her”. When I left the same exit I was confronted by Mrs Aitchworld with tears rolling down her face, in pleats of laughter. “He said knob”, she howled. My work was done here – I had converted her.

Back to the bottles though, despite learning a lot, I am none the wiser. We generally go by recommendation and besides the Calma teats, someone had mentioned the Breastflow bottle. This is a complete bottle and teat system and like the Calma is supposed to replicate the nipple. And a very good job it would have done too, had it not been for the fact that the bottles themselves leaked like a sieve and more milk ended up soaking into the boys’ baby-grows than going into their mouths. Those bottles were quickly binned.  I only read the reviews that universally said this was the case after buying them. And that wasn’t on mumsnet. I have no idea what it said on there because I was trying to decipher all the codes they use on there. I’ve only just got to grips with LOL and roffling in general social media usage, so mumsnet was way beyond me, with all of their acronyms. I think even Alan Turing would struggle to be honest.

I gave up in the end and decided to fend for myself but the choice is bewildering. Once you have got past the array of manufacturers, which seems endless, there is still a massive variety of teat types. There are slow flow, medium flow and fast flow, but then there is vari-flow which does all three speeds, in which case why do we need the individual ones in the first place. Then there are anti-wind teats with valves in them that seems impossible and implausible that they actually do anything. I am no engineer, but I’ve studied them in detail and no matter how I look at it, I am convinced taking the valve out will make no discernible difference. And finally, we have the anti-colic teats and bottles. This has baffled me the most, because whenever I have Googled colic nobody can really identify exactly what it is, other than a convenient label for having a grumpy little shit of a baby. Yet here we are with someone making teats that combat something that nobody knows what it actually is. However, if someone really could invent an anti-grumpy-little-shit teat, they’d be a very rich man. I’ve not checked, but I bet it’s just the sort of thing they have in IKEA.


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