All the balloons had gone, but who'd swallowed them – the dog or the baby
19:53 GMT, 4 April 2012
The stair gates went back up at the weekend. They’re slightly rusting round the edges, but they’ll do the job (rather like me). We all stepped back to marvel at them in situ again, nearly a decade after we first bought them.
And then Baby Mabel, aged ten months, gave them a good licking, as is her way. It’s a worrying habit she seems to have learnt from the diabetic Airedale, her best friend.
There are two adults and three older siblings in the house to copy, but she chooses to mimic the world’s most annoying dog, with his laissez-faire attitude to personal hygiene and other unpleasant habits.
Puppy love: Baby Mabel and Lorraine's pet dog have become best friends (posed by models)
Canine and baby are now so close that when one of them is responsible for an unmentionable smell they look at each other accusingly. I may put it on YouTube and make some money out of their questionable relationship.
On Sunday, when several small water balloons disappeared, we didn’t know whether Mabel or Duke had eaten them, they both looked so guilty.
I frantically ran round the kitchen searching for the multi-coloured balloons — and cursing the parent who thought these were a good party-bag gift. Fools. Can’t they remember what it’s like to have babies, who eat everything they can lay their pudgy little paws on
Luckily, the dog was the culprit, and he’s swallowed worse, so no further action was required.
I was just recovering from this when a small piece of Lego flew across the room and nearly embedded itself in my cheek — expelled by Mabel’s excellent gag reflex.
This is one of the many things I’d forgotten in the five years since our last baby.
Our house is once again a minefield of objects that can cause ‘death by swallowing’.
More than one million children under the age of 15 have an accident in and around their home every year
It’s like an obstacle course for trainee parents and I collapse on the sofa each night congratulating myself that we’ve avoided a trip to casualty to remove a Moshi Monster ‘glump’ or some such toy from Mabel’s windpipe.
‘She’s still alive Mr Candy,’ I yell as we high-five each other after the children have gone to bed. (Although my eye is then drawn to the potentially lethal stuff we failed to put out of baby reach; marbles, pen lids, pencil shavings, Nerf gun bullets — all possible killers of our infant, otherwise known as the Pritt Stick licker).
There is so much to remember with babies, and it’s peculiar to be recalling it just as my nine-year-old heads towards her most independent stage yet.
I look back in wonder as I recall the maternal madness of baby Number One: all the tip-toeing round the house we did, fearful of waking her, how I would curse anyone who rang our doorbell as she napped, how I sterilised everything several times before she touched it.
And — at the extreme end of the worry scale — how I’d check her room for rats at bed time and put the loo lid down in case I slipped and dropped her in the lavatory bowl while carrying her.
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I’ll weep at my office desk
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All these memories flooded back with the reappearance of the stair gate.
These recollections made me love my older children more, because it made me realise how much effort goes into just keeping them safe on a daily basis, things we do without thinking as parents. It’s something to be proud of and it made me joyful — and possibly even less guilty about being a working mum.
And I also discovered that this nostalgic happiness is a useful mothering tool. It makes you more patient.
Mine came in handy as the busy week progressed and I rapidly rushed home from a meeting yesterday to comfort my hysterical eight-year-old who’d thrown her favourite toy into next door’s garden by accident.
I was still wearing my rose-tinted glasses as I negotiated with a grumpy neighbour for the rabbit’s return and I burst through our front door clutching the toy.
‘Here it is, Gracie,’ I yelled triumphantly, still happy, still patient.
At the same time, the five-year-old approached me to say he wasn’t feeling well and vomited all over both me and the rabbit.
Baby Mabel watched with interest. And I believe she was thinking what the dog was thinking as he eyed up the mess in front of him. They both moved slowly towards us, as we all shouted in unison: ‘Mabel, Duke. Nooooooo!’
Lorraine Candy is editor-in-chief of Elle Magazine.