This time last year my baby could not yet crawl. She lay like an adorable lump, squeaking, laughing, rolling from side to side. As a brand new parent, I still worried constantly about SIDS and about her temperature. Was she too cold, too hot? Was she randomly going to stop breathing?
That winter was a long one. Sylvie could not yet move under her own steam, could not make much sense of the world around her, and yet there was pressure to entertain. Driven by feelings of guilt, I tried to take her out any chance I could. We needed fresh air, she needed stimulation. Many days we went to soft play, where I prodded her around a padded room, or swimming, where we dipped her in for all of ten minutes. I googled ‘what to do with babies’ so many times it could have been tattooed on my fingers. It was cold and dark and rainy, and she was so small.
This year we are not doing that. Guilt can take a hike. Sylvia is old enough that I am not panicked about her survival. She’s robust! We can go out in the rain. She has layers of leggings and vests, long-sleeved t-shirts, cardigans and socks, just like me. She has a puddle suit that a) keeps her dry and b) makes her look like a frog, so we pop her in it at any opportunity. She has wellies, which we picked up for one British pound at a charity shop. She has the gear, we laugh in the face of weather.
There are a plethora of Christmas events, Santa meet-and-greets, light shows and fairy trails in our area. While I am no stranger to a good time, some of these will be cash-grabs taking advantage of tired parents. Just a moment ago I was lured in by the promise of ‘free’ fun at Loch Katrine, a sail with Santa: only upon clicking ‘buy now’ did I find that, actually, it’s £19 per adult.
We don’t need to be spending money recklessly, no matter that the nights are long and the days are cold. No family should be getting into debt to put smiles on their children’s faces, especially not when children are notoriously ungrateful in any case. Bright, clear days are perfect for a romp in the woods, picking up one of Forestry Scotland’s free treasure trail maps. We might visit each and every playground in the county, rate them by slide slippiness and merry-go-round speed. We’ll pop in to local cafes to warm up, after. I would rather spend our pennies on homemade cakes than commercial grottos.
On days that are too dark, too long, I intend to coorie down by the fire, roast marshmallows, stuff both of us with mince pies and hot chocolate. We’ll watch any Christmas film going. My favourites are Arthur Christmas and Elf, thankfully both family-friendly enough to be a delight for all ages. We’ll craft presents for our family and friends, and Sylvia will help with the wrapping.
I loved having a brand-new baby. Those newborn days are so special and sweet, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. But, that said, I’m also so relieved to have a toddler this year. No longer will I worry about her catching her death the moment we step outdoors. This year, I intend to enjoy every moment of winter, and do it without spending beyond our means. We are going to jump in every pile of leaves, feed every duck, and swing on every swing. And, as long as nobody’s watching, eat every cake.