Refresher course on being a parent

Last updated 14:27 14/12/2012

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OPINION: There's something pretty special about holding a week-old baby in your arms, writes Mark Hotton in And Baby Makes Four.

The realisation that this tiny being relies on you for pretty much everything - well, actually more mum than me, for obvious reasons, despite her best efforts.

It's also pretty frightening because suddenly you realise how much you've forgotten about looking after new babies. And, as it turns out, that's quite a lot.

You forget how small they can be, because you get so used to a 15 kilogram, two-year-old sapping all your energy.

You forget newborns can be rested in your forearms, head nestling into your cupped hands, your thumbs poised for "lazy cat" pats under the chin.

You forget they can chill on your knee after a big feed and gently drift off to sleep in a beautifully serene way - try doing that with a two-year-old and you're likely to lose a kneecap or a testicle.

You forget little ones have feisty little legs they like to pump when you're trying to change a stinky - and tiny - nappy. Which you probably changed just 30 minutes earlier.

You forget how much they can sleep - and how jealous you become of their ability to sleep anywhere at any time, even despite the two-year-old in the same room loudly and incessantly demanding his Wiggles spoon and fork so he can eat his "taties and fish".

You forget how shrill their cries can be when they suddenly decide, right then and there, that they're hungry and would like some food. And that means right now!

You forget how to wrap them properly and how difficult it is to dress them, especially when their clothes don't quite fit so arms and legs end up stuck in sleeves and pants. And how spindly and boney their arms and legs can be and yet so strong.

You forget what it's like to bath a newborn for the first time, when they've never felt water on their skin so aren't too keen on it, and how you're meant to hold them so you're not dunking them or cutting off their air supply.

You forget how much they love skin-to-skin contact and how content they can be as you gently massage their back. You forget what it's like to have to check on a sleeping baby and have to listen so intently just to make sure they're still breathing - and you actually end up making her move or snuffle just to make sure anyway.

You forget how new and strange the world must be to them, and how you soon see things from their perspective: Sounds, colours and textures.

You also forget how quickly parents can adjust to these new experiences. These are all tiny issues easily and quickly overcome, and suddenly you've mastered it. Well you have to; you can't keep dunking their face into the bath water, that's not quite the done thing. Mark Hotton is a journalist who has forgotten more things about parenting than he should have, but is learning how to give tiny cuddles, nuzzles, belly raspberries and kisses again.

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» Mark Hotton is a journalist, amateur chicken fancier and on the adventure of being a dad of two

- The Southland Times

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