I happened to talk to a fellow mum this weekend about how we make different choices in our parenting. I thought I should think (and write) a little bit about what lies behind my choices.

The parenting principles that I wrote about four years ago still apply. But they’re not all there is, of course. My day-to-day parenting choices are also influenced by my values (which I could also write about at some point) and my general preferences (ranging from my enjoyment of reading to my dislike of wasting food, for example) and probably more stuff on top of that.

One angle for thinking about this is what I want to achieve. What would success look like? If I look at my children when they’re grown, what would I want them and their lives to be like?

  • I want them to feel loved, valued and respected, and to be able to love, value, respect and trust other people around them. They should never need to doubt that they are loved.
  • I want them to approach life with joy and enthusiasm.
  • I want them to be honest and non-violent. (This is almost too obvious, almost like saying I want them to be human, but still.)
  • I want them to have a sense of confidence and competence, to want to try things out, to not fear failure. “I can do it!”
  • I want them to be responsible, to think about the consequences of their actions, and to be able to make sensible decisions. To decide rather than to give in to whims. To have self-control.
  • I want them to think for themselves and to take charge of their lives. To be active rather than passive.
  • I want them to make their choices not for somebody else’s approval (especially mine) but because they want it. This goes for their choice of hobbies, of music, clothes, career and more.
  • I want them to have a healthy lifestyle and also a healthy relationship to health. I want them to enjoy good healthy food and exercise – not just to do it but to enjoy it.
  • I want them to be able to cope with the practicalities of life. They should be able to manage their own lives and later also their households: personal finance, cooking, and so on.
  • I want us to have a good and close relationship, to trust each other, to talk to each other, and to enjoy each other’s company. I want us to be willing to spend time together even when they are grown and no longer obliged to be with me.

I wonder what I’ve forgotten – what might so obvious to me that I don’t even think about it.

Ingrid has been talking about and looking forward to swimming lessons for about a year now. This spring I signed up for lessons for the autumn term. (Most swimming clubs here offer lessons for kids from the year they turn 5. For younger kids, parents are expected to join them in the water, which wasn’t an option since I had Adrian to take care of as well.)

Then during the summer she realized that swimming lessons meant swimming without her floaties. That led to some hesitation and then growing anxiety and finally “I don’t want to go to swim school!” She probably imagined being thrown in at the deep end and forced to sink or swim, or something equally horrible.

Today it was time for her first lesson, with Spårvägen Sim in Vällingby swimming pool. I promised her that she could take her floaties if she really wanted, and she reluctantly agreed that we could go have a look at least.

Once we were there, things soon fell into a natural flow and before she knew it the teachers had led her and all the other kids into the water. She also found an almost-friend, a girl she recognized from last year’s dance-and-play group. The teachers were nice and friendly, the activities in the water not too demanding, and by the time she came out she exclaimed, “Swim school was so much fun!”

This is more than enough for me. Even if she doesn’t learn to jump in from the edge or to dip her head under water, as long as she enjoys it and wants to continue, I’m satisfied.

Many of our neighbours, friends and acquaintances have been asking us about the remodelling – Are you done now? How did it turn out inside? What exactly did you do? – so we decided to invite them all to view our home in its new incarnation. Today we had a houseviewing party. Well, not quite a party, a houseviewing afternoon with coffee and biscuits. Lots of people came, we had a lovely time, and lots of biscuits got eaten. Now we’re all knackered. Except for Ingrid, who came into her second wind some time around 7pm and was still singing and hammering at the piano at 8.30.

We put up before-and-after photos of the house for the guests to look at. Going through the photos was interesting – already I myself am starting to forget what the house felt like before we started changing it. (I’ll be posting more of them here, too.)

Adrian was feeling quite a bit better today. He was sort of unwell on Friday, and really ill on Saturday, with a fever and a runny nose, and barely sleeping at night. Last night he slept a bit better, and today he actually had enough energy to crawl around and play and look at all the people. He loved the crowd so much that he barely slept at all during the afternoon.

1. This is when I really wish babies could talk. Adrian has had a fever and a runny nose and a cough and generally been miserably ill all day yesterday and today. Today, he was at his happiest in the very evening when Eric stripped him naked to put him in his pyjamas. So I guess he had been feeling too hot (even though he was in short sleeves) all day. I wish he could have told us so.

2. One of the upsides – pretty much the only one I can think of, actually – of having a sick baby is that they fall asleep easily. At least both Ingrid and Adrian do so.

After over two years of waiting, I have finally found and bought some more green bowls. Patience wins.

The building works here may be done but that doesn’t mean we’ve run out of work. We have painting to do, lighting fixtures to buy (there’s currently no lighting in the entry hall, or the stair hall, or the walk-in closet), books and bookshelves to move from the bedroom to the office/library…

This evening, after both kids were asleep and our productive time began, we got started on laying stone on the flat bit of ground between the garden stairs and the stairs to the porch. It was already paved before, but when the new porch got built, the upper flight of stairs became wider and moved slightly, so we ended up with an unpaved gap.

We chose paver blocks that come in a mixture of sizes, Fantasi Antik. We spent an hour and a half this evening designing a layout for the stones that we can live with.

Both Eric and I are “pattern people”: if there is a visual pattern, accidental or intentional, we cannot help noticing it. And if that pattern is in a place where there isn’t supposed to be one, it will keep catching our eye and irritating us. Like a visual itch. It often happens with cheapish printed products – cheap laminate flooring, fabric, wallpaper – where the pattern repeat is too short.

So we wanted to make very sure our paving is sufficiently random. In particular, no too-long unbroken lines, and no too-large rectangles of blocks. For example the long unbroken line down the middle of that marketing photo above would be a clear no-no.

It was almost like a computer game. Except with pixels of 70x70mm, weighing over half a kilogram each. And instead of trying to make order, we tried to make randomness. Sort of an anti-Tetris.

The stairs that were of so little interest to Adrian last month are now very interesting. One day he discovered that he could go up the stairs and he immediately proceeded to climb all the way up (with me just behind him). No practice needed.

Now we have barred the bottom of the stairs, using a stylish solution consisting of one chinup bar and one shower curtain bar. I don’t really worry about him losing his balance or not being able to climb – but he hasn’t yet learned that the floor is not always there behind him, so he could decide halfway up that it’s time to sit down, and sit down on thin air.

He’s also already found the ladder up to Ingrid’s play house and tried climbing that. I wish the surroundings were safer and softer for any falls – I don’t mind him climbing, but I do mind him climbing in a place where a fall could lead to a concussion or a cracked skull.

Other fun stuff includes kitchen drawers and cabinets. He knows very well how they open, but has some trouble making it actually happen on his own: the drawers glide too easily for him, while the cabinet doors require a bit more balance than he has. So I usually help him a little bit. It’s a good way to keep him occupied while I’m busy in the kitchen. The best cabinet is the one with all our (empty) food containers and picknick bottles; the one with pots and pans is the least interesting one.

The kitchen is also good for baths. The sink works so well for bathing him that we haven’t even tried the tub again. He’s at a convenient height for us, the sink is easy to fill and empty, the worktop is great for bath toys etc, and Ingrid can sit in the other sink right next to him.

As for actually eating in the kitchen, well, he’s been so skilled at feeding himself for a while now that there’s not much new to say. He has now also mastered his sippy cup; water mostly ends up in his mouth and not on his tray. We haven’t tried introducing plates or bowls or cutlery yet, but I’m starting to think that perhaps we could/should try soon.

We still complement food with breastfeeding. He nursed a lot during our vacation. Then during my first week back at work his nursing was a bit erratic, while he got used to me being away during the day. Now we’re settling into a more predictable pattern again. Nurse in the morning as he wakes; get some expressed milk during the day; nurse frequently during the afternoon and evening; nurse a few times during the night.

He’s pretty distractible during the day and is completely unable or unwilling to staying still while nursing. He climbs around on the sofa and on myself, pulls at my clothes, looks around whenever someone passes. It’s like a gym session. For the last evening feed we go up to the bedroom: it is much easier for him to focus when we’re in a quiet, dark room.

At night he sleeps pretty much as he’s always done. He wakes for nursing once around 10 or 11 in the evening; nurses thirstily and efficiently for five minutes, and then immediately goes back to sleep. Usually he does the same once or twice more during the night. Then at some point between 6 and 7 he wakes for the day.

During the day he now takes two naps. A long one at around 9 or 9.30 in the morning, often lasting an hour and a half, and then a shorter one in the afternoon, around 2pm, maybe 40 minutes or so.

If he’s really tired, he sometimes rests in a sling for half an hour between 5 and 6pm. He likes that a lot; when I bring out a sling or baby carrier he gets all excited and makes happy noises at me.

He’s not averse to sitting in a stroller when we’re out, but when we’re someplace new or crowded, he often wants to be carried instead, so I always pack a baby carrier of some sort when we leave home for more than a quick trip to the supermarket. He likes front carries best, especially for sleeping, but back carries work OK as long as I move around with him. The ring sling he doesn’t like much at all.

When he’s tired, he often shows it by pulling at his hair and sort of slapping his head, or rubbing his eyes and face. As he is often tired towards the end of dinner, it’s not uncommon for dinner to end with him smearing food all over his face and hair. Another sign of tiredness is that he does not want to be on the floor at all and demands to be picked up immediately.

He hates having his hands and face wiped after eating, almost as badly as he hates nappy changes. And he’s not very fond of me brushing his teeth, either. Basically he dislikes most things that involves us doing stuff to his body.

The thing that best distracts him during these activities is making funny noises or funny faces at him. He likes looking at our mouths, and – given the chance – to put his fingers in them, pull at our tongues or lips, or poke at our teeth. He also likes making sounds with his own mouth and hands. (What do you call it when you make your lips flutter with your finger, like this? That’s not Adrian in the video, by the way.)

He continues to make varied speech-like sounds, but nothing that I would call word-like. He obviously understands both words and the few signs we use, but doesn’t respond in kind. Or if he does, it is so indistinct that we miss it.

He likes books even better than last month, especially a touchy-feely one with textured patches. I’ve tried reading some very short baby books for him but he will not look at the pictures. He grabs the book from me and turns the pages instead.

He also likes handling DVD cases (grabbing them from the shelf, turning them around, dropping them on the floor) and pens and pencils. Mobile phones are also fun.

There are now palpable 9 teeth: four incisors at the top, four at the bottom (the two new ones barely visible) and the eye tooth that appeared early on but hasn’t progressed much since then.

Favourite foods: meatballs, puffed rice cakes, nectarines, gooseberries.

One disadvantage of having a large door towards the garden that stays open most of the day is that lots of insects find their way into the house. The old veranda served as a sort of a buffer; the insects gathered there and not many came all the way into the house. Now they come inside.

Daily, I find dead flies and other small insects here and there in the house. In the beginning I found them mildly disgusting but now I’m so used to them that I don’t react much, just pick them up or sweep them into a wastepaper basket.

It feels like I take out at least one (live) wasp per day. So I guess they built a new nest somewhere after we interrupted their building works in Ingrid’s play house.

For a while we had moths who for some reason tended to congregate in the bathroom. Every evening I found several moths there, on the window, on the windowsill, on the wall, and almost daily one in the washbasin. (That last one got mercilessly flushed down the drain.) Now the moths are gone, I guess their season is over.

Once one of them went and died inside the bathroom fan. The fan made its wings vibrate so it sounded like there was a bee in the room. I kept looking for it and it took me several days to realize where the buzzing was coming from.