As a new mum I struggled; sometimes I felt totally out of my depth. I was riddled with concern and spent the few precious hours that I should have been resting, ‘researching’ reasons as to why my son, Taylan, wasn’t sleeping, what normal baby poo should be like and why he sometimes appeared to be so miserable.
Naturally I just wanted to enjoy the early days with a content, smiley baby but that was not going to be my reality. My tiny bundle of joy quickly descended from apparent calm into a wriggly, over stimulated and over tired mess.
Long gone were the days of leisurely visits to cafes or restaurants; they’d become places of sheer new-parent panic, apologetic grimaces and swift exits while juggling a screaming tot and a take away latte. I’d practically choke on envy at seeing babies the same age as Taylan, gurgling quietly or sleeping in their buggies next to their rested, sociable parents. Why did other babies seem content and mine so sadly unsettled?
I avoided places with a buzz knowing how he would respond and preferred strolling in the park. Eventually as the summer heat soared uncomfortably, we retreated back home and spent airless days inside where I knew at least, how he could be entertained.
When Taylan was about 5 months old, he began contracting infections which landed us waiting anxiously in A&E more than once. My gut feeling was confirmed; he did have a medical issue which saw us regularly visiting the hospital for various investigations. Despite reassurances from others around me that I was doing ‘really well’, I doubted my parenting abilities and my confidence shattered. Motherhood was not all powdery and sugar coated as I had imagined, it was tough going.
My efforts at singing all the nursery rhymes I knew, reading books and entertaining Taylan with toys would not nurture my son forever. I knew that his tender mind craved more stimulation than me and the hospital play area that he’d come to know so well. We needed to get out and find some activities, fast.
When his health issues were under control he settled into a much needed routine. I was finally able to gauge when he was tired or hungry, so I gathered my tattered confidence and by the power of Google, found activities in my local area.
Soft play areas were great for him to be as vocal as he wanted and wriggle about without anyone so much as glancing sideways. But his tiny body easily exerted itself to the point of exhaustion after squirming about through padded mayhem.
I was keen to give other groups a fair go too, but Taylan was still a sensitive soul and easily overwhelmed. I could see his anxiety bubbling up, his teary yelps getting lost amongst the lively ruckus. When he was accidentally trampled on by a boisterous toddler, I knew it was time to go, before he really began howling uncontrollably.
Here I was again, stressed out and in a steamy sweat. We were definitely not having fun. I was even reduced to tears once as what we were doing felt so unnatural and forced. But I didn’t give up searching for our perfect activity; we needed to find somewhere where he could flourish.
Then I found Paint Pots House Creative classes for Children, and promptly signed him up. Away from plastic smiles and fluorescent lights, the soothing atmosphere was massively unintimidating.
There was just the right amount of stimulation provided with a gentleness I hadn’t seen elsewhere. There was no competitiveness, no pressure to push your kid to the front and more importantly for my ebbing sanity, no screaming baby!
For the first time outside in the big wide world, Taylan was happily engrossed in activity, free to explore and manipulate things on his own terms. As the weeks passed, his confidence developed and through simply observing him I understood, as he shook a maraca wildly and bobbed his fuzzy head up and down to the music, that I had finally found the wholesomeness I’d so much wanted for him.
The combination of heuristic play and acoustic music was a success. I’d found a teacher who told me that it was fine to let him take it all in from a distance if that’s what he wanted to do, and then remembered another who tried forcing him to do a forward roll at barely 10 months, despite his clear resistance. I’d found songs we could sing along to too, and shuddered remembering music so loud that my son was scared out of his wits. I’d found a place which smelt of lavender oil. Wafts of chemical detergent and squashed banana had become a distant memory.
At Paint Pots, I saw a passionate understanding about child development. The creative lessons were not only encouraging my child to be independent, they were also lessons for me as a parent. I could see just how capable he actually was, and learnt how to encourage his sweet nature with a calm, gentle approach. Surrounded by other children in the same developmental stage, he also began to socialise. It seems he had even found his first girlfriend!
For everyday challenges, I have adopted techniques and activities; I sing his favourite Paint Pots songs to calm during wriggly nappy changes, unsettled teething moments and to divert his attention away from impending tantrums.
As Taylan enters Toddlerdom, we happily continue our magical learning journey in the Paint Pots house. I’m relieved to have found the right source of enrichment to fill his precious early years with beautiful memories. ‘We’re going to Paint Pots!’ I say, whilst struggling to strap my rigid toddler into his buggy. His chocolate brown eyes light up and his body relaxes.
‘Aha!’ he exclaims, pointing towards the door.
Alexia De Angelis – Paint Pots Mum