20 Facts About Me

20 Facts About Sarah Rooftops

(Bonus fact: I smile more than this picture implies)

Ages and ages and ages ago, Helen tagged me do to a "20 Facts About Me" post on Instagram. I meant to do it but... you know... it involved more thought than I'm used to putting into Instagram and so it never happened.

And now it's not an Instagram thing. So I'm doing it here instead:
  1. I have one sister. My mum's husband also has two daughters and I'm never sure how to refer to them. "My mum's husband's daughters" sounds a bit impersonal, as though I don't really like them (which I do); "my stepsisters" sounds a bit intimate for people I met in my thirties. I may be overthinking this.
  2. I left home at sixteen. I felt so grown up. But was not.
  3. Steve and I have been together for eight years. This is how we met.
  4. I was Aberdeen's first female cinema projectionist since the war. 
  5. Despite loving the clanky, clunky magic of old school projectors, I avoid seeing films which I know are on film; I can't stand all the hisses and scratches and truncated scenes ("which shoddy projectionist caused that?!"). 
  6. I have very few regrets but I probably shouldn't have listened to the grown ups who told me art school would result in a life of poverty.
  7. I've been a vegetarian since I was twelve, partly for ethical reasons and partly for health ones. No, I don't miss meat.
  8. I would miss garlic, though. And coconut.
  9. The first band I ever saw live was The Cranberries.
  10. The brighter the colour, the better. I dress like a children's TV presenter.
  11. I don't currently own any make up.
  12. The only thank you card I remember sending a stranger was after my miscarriage. I am so grateful to all the medical staff who work so hard - at all hours; regardless of holiday periods - to help strangers through their toughest times. And all at no cost to us. (*waves SAVE OUR NHS placard; shouts out DON'T VOTE TORY*)
  13. I started my (current) photo a day project on 1st March 2014; this was cautiously symbolic as it was the point at which I felt ready to try for another pregnancy. I hope to keep going until Matilda and any subsequent child/ren hit eighteen, if not longer.
  14. I am allergic to perfumes (in toiletries, candles, cleaning products, air fresheners etc) and also to penicillin. 
  15. I really like city centres which have a mixture of old and new buildings; I'm more interested in creating layers of architectural history than in preserving only the ancient.
  16. I graduated from Aberdeen University in 1999.
  17. My ideal way to spend child free time is either to have a hot beverage and cake with one of those friends who never fails to make me laugh or to spend hours on end with a book.
  18. The first thing I ever had published was an opinion piece on armpit hair in J-17. Not to give you the impression that I was ever a freelance journalist; I worked in marketing pre-child so I've seen a lot of my writing in print.
  19. I can't drive and I'm happy that way. I also can't ride a bike which strikes me as a much bigger issue.
  20. In my twenties, I was sure that I didn't want children (and I believe that's a valid choice which doesn't need defended, so I'm not implying anything when I say that:). In my thirties, I think parenting is the best thing I've ever done.
I'm tagging Elise and Emma for the simple reason that they've both been making me look like a prolific blogger recently - here's a prompt for you both! But, if you fancy joining in, consider yourself tagged, too.

Advice for First Time Parents

Advice for First Time Parents

When you have your first baby, you get given a whole lot of pink or blue baby clothes (regardless of how vocal you were about keeping things gender neutral), rattles your kid won't play with for several months and concrete but contradictory advice.

Well, I'm not here to tell you how to get your kid to sleep through the night, when to wean them or whether to give them a dummy. I am not an expert on any of those things. In fact, I'm not convinced that anybody is, regardless of what it says in their Twitter profile.

But there are some things I've figured out along the way which I think are worth sharing.

Here's what I had figured out after four months of parenting, and here's what I would add to it now:

Nobody Cares About Your Toenails
I'm still - still - baffled by all the "If this baby doesn't hurry up and arrive, I'm going to need another pedicure" tweets that I see. Pregnant ladies!, think about what midwives see on a daily basis (keywords: birth; poo; vomit; blood) - if they're looking at your feet it's because they're gauging whether or not you need compression socks, not because they're tutting at your toenails. Likewise: it's not your bikini line that they're examining down there.

Your Baby Can't See Beige
If the nursery is painted magnolia with beige giraffes on the curtains, it's all for your own benefit. Babies can't see far and they only see high contrast - if you must go minimalist, stick to black and white. But, honestly, you may as well embrace the primary colours now, while you still have a say in where and how they're used.

It's Okay Not To Love Every Minute
Even if you spent years trying and trying and trying to create this baby, it is okay to have middle of the night crying fits because you just want to get some sleep. The best, most contented parents you know have all had moments of sobbing "I can't do this!"

You CAN Do This, Though
Every week it will get a little bit easier. Especially when your baby starts to smile. And, if it doesn't: speak to your health visitor; they have heard it all before and they exist to help you through this.

Video Your Kid
Even if you never watch the videos (you will, though), nothing cheers up a wailing child like watching themselves fall over a teddy bear seventy-nine times in a row.

Parent Friends Are Essential
Go to toddler groups and baby classes; ask friends to put you in touch with other new parents they know; try those play dating apps. Shove yourself right out of your comfort zone and exchange phone numbers because it's a long day if you don't have another grown up to text about teething.

Advice for First Time Parents

Fresh Air
Get some. I don't care if you're in your pyjamas with hair you haven't washed in a week - sit on your doorstep and look at the clouds for ten minutes. You do NOT have to spend every moment your baby naps doing the ironing; you DO need to grab a bit of time for yourself.

On That Note
Don't buy baby clothes which need ironed. They'll get crumpled as soon as you put your kid down for a nap/clip them into their buggy or carrier/let them roll around on the floor. Jersey cotton all the way.

Your Partner Is A Parent, Too
They might use slightly different words and a slightly different rocking motion than you and it might not be working quite as fast as you might like, but let them figure it out for themselves. Nobody welcomes constructive criticism when they're feeling incapable and sleep deprived.

Pat Their Bum Dry
Why does nobody ever tell new parents this?! If you've just used a wet wipe on your baby's bum, pat it dry. Don't just assume you need nappy cream, either - we've only ever had to apply it twice.

Not All Advice Is Aimed At You
All those leaflets about breastfeeding and chatting to your baby and not feeding them Maltesers? They are for people for whom this stuff is not already obvious. If breastfeeding doesn't work for you, you are not a failure; if you can't think of enough small talk to fill your baby's every waking moment, they will not flunk out of primary school; if you think filling a teether with strawberry jam is a bad idea, your kid's teeth will be off to a good start. Don't work yourself up assuming that all advice leaflets are attacks on YOUR personal abilities - they're not; you've totally got this.

And If Some Other Advice Doesn't Seem To Be Working For You...?
Ignore it. All kids are different. And some of them really don't want a bath at bedtime.



What I've Been Reading Recently

What I've Been Reading Recently

The Power by Naomi Alderman
Young women suddenly develop the ability to electrocute other people... and the balance of power in the world begins to shift. It sounded a bit... daft... but anything which looks at gender politics is worth a go (also, honestly: it was my book group's latest read so I didn't have much choice!). And it was fascinating. I didn't love everything about it, but I did love how much it made me think and I was very, very glad that I had a date in the calendar to sit down and talk through all the questions it raised with a group of other women.

Seriously... What Am I Doing Here? by Ken Schneck*
Ken Schneck is a gay Jew working for a university in Vermont; he doesn't like upheaval and he doesn't like to travel. And then he finds himself in Uganda. And then he finds himself doing a charity bike ride, attending a healing retreat, heading back to Uganda, and hiking through the Rocky Mountains. He kept this diary throughout. Now, I love - love - collections of autobiographical humorous essays but I've also started and given up on a lot of really, really bad ones; I was kind of expecting this to be one of the duds. It wasn't. Ken's writing style is seriously funny but it's not just that: throughout the book, Ken is trying (and often failing) to deal with the collapse of his marriage, and - no matter how much he tries to hide his feelings behind humour - his pain is very much apparent. This is personal, (fairly!) honest and deeply engaging. I loved it.

The Broken Bridge by Philip Pullman*
Sixteen year old Ginny's mother died when she was a baby; she has been raised by her father in a small town on the coast of Wales. She already spends a lot of time thinking about her identity - where she comes from; life as one of only two black kids in town; what her future holds - and then a social worker turns up and reveals a whole lot of secrets Ginny's father has been trying to keep. I had a couple of issues with this (mostly to do with two dimensional adults) but nothing which would have bothered me in my teens; as a young adult I would have absolutely loved this and, as a 38 year old, I was genuinely curious to find out the truth about Ginny's past.

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
Okay, I know I'm several years late on this one but: if you haven't read this, I really think you should. Dystopian yet beautiful, exploring interconnected lives and the aftermath of a pandemic which all but wiped out the human race. Astounding.

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
So, obviously I read this because it's by Aziz Ansari and I enjoy Parks and Rec and I thought it would be funny. Ironically, the jokes were the bits I didn't much like. The rest of it? The analysis of flirting, dating and relationship trends in a world of social media and internet romance? That, I found really interesting.

*Provided for review

Ways In Which I Am Not Leading A Blogger's Life Right Now


Decorating
You know how, if you've run out of things to blog about, you buy a couple of lamps and a bunch of flowers and a seasonal duvet cover and you film a little video about giving your bedroom a makeover? Yeah, the closest we're getting to sprucing up our home at the moment is buying sample pots of paint with which to hide the huge coffee stain on the living room wall. You may note I said "buying" sample pots instead of "actually getting round to using" them...

Vlogging
Still don't get it. Who's got the time to film and edit vlogs? More importantly: who's got the time to watch them? They can't be skim read; they're not for me.

Throwing A Massively Instagrammable Second Birthday Party for Matilda
Trying to fit ten toddlers plus twenty parents into our two bedroom flat sounded a bit overwhelming (not to mention that we don't have enough pull-along ducks to stop that many children bickering). Paying real, actual money to hire a hall (even one which came equipped with a couple of shrivelled helium balloons lodged in the light fittings) seemed like an unnecessary expense (not to mention a bit of a gamble, what with toddlers and their amazing ability to catch debilitating illnesses at the most inconvenient of times). And Matilda's choice of theme would have been so specific - I'm guessing "sparkly orange dinosaurs flying to the moon with cats and ice cream" - that I would have had to hand make all the decorations, and see above: who's got the time? So we bought her a cake from the supermarket and took her to the garden centre with her grandparents instead.

Enjoying New Clothes, Holidays, Fancy Events, Shoes, Designer Make Up, Aspirational Magazines etc
They look so pretty in other people's grids but my idea of a splurge is buying biscuits from the extravagantly priced Tesco Express instead of from a discount store.

Baking
Remember when I said I was going to prioritise baking on my own last month? Yeah, that didn't happen. When I did get a couple of hours to myself, I was more likely to spend it napping. Or removing cat hair from the carpet with a squeegee.

Not Much Enjoying Parenting
I keep reading that toddlers are unreasonable, illogical tyrants who ruined your waistline and drove you to drink. But that's not my experience. My home might be covered in sticky fingerprints, my bank account might be empty (although rejoice: the pet insurance finally agreed to pay £500 of Gizmo's £736 vet bill!) and I might have a shamefully in depth knowledge of Hey Duggee but I'm finding parenting a toddler to be brilliant. Tedious sometimes (there are only so many cups of imaginary tea a bladder can hold) but mostly hilarious.

Keeping to A Blogging Schedule
The downside of a happy life: I don't have much to write about. How are things with me? Same old, same old. Parks, Pom Pom the panda books, stickers on every available surface, repeat.

And it's kind of lovely.

What I've Been Reading Recently


Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
So, yeah, this seems to be one of those books that every blogger loves; I've loved several other Rainbow Rowell books so I expected to enjoy this one, too. And it was... okay. But "troubled girl meets wholesome boy; they fall in love; he rescues her" has been done too many times (and causes me some feminist discomfort). I know it was supposed to be full of overblown teenage emotions but it was a bit too teenage and emotional for my liking.

I Love My Computer Because My Friends Live In It by Jess Kimball Leslie*
So funny. Jess writes about growing up alongside the internet - about it being the safe place where she met other Bette Midler fans; the embarrassing place where she became a professional Twitter waffler; and the magical place where she met her wife. This will be familiar, uncomfortable and oddly comforting to anyone whose coming of age involved a blog with a scrolling marquee.

Leaving Lucy Pear by Anna Solomon*
A wealthy young woman abandons her illegitimate baby in a pear orchard; an impoverished mother-of-many finds the child and raises her as her own. Ten years later, fate brings the two women together - one of them realises the truth; meanwhile, the other's world is falling apart. This is a story of two very different lives and I had two very different reactions: on the one hand, a fascination with the story, wanting to know how events would unfold; on the other, absolutely no fondness for any of the characters, which made it hard to care what happened to them. Worth picking up from the library but you don't need a copy of your own.

The Cows by Dawn O'Porter*
Tara is a single mother with a successful career - she doesn't feel like she or her daughter need a man in their lives, but she hasn't ruled one out. Cam is a mega-successful blogger who is single by choice and fast becoming the face of childfree women. Stella is trying to decide whether to have a baby before going through surgery to avoid the cancer which killed her twin. All three of them are about to face unexpected changes in their life, and all three of them are about to find out how much they will allow other people's judgements to affect them. I had my issues with this book (for example: could none of the characters call out the assumption that lesbians can't have babies?! And why do all the men smash crockery?!) and it does have some fairly ludicrous plot twists, but it's an easy read about important issues and, frankly, more mainstream fiction needs plots which don't end with a handsome prince and a baby.

The Decorator Who Knew Too Much by Diane Vallere*
Ah, comedy whodunnits are great, aren't they? They're like hangover TV in book form. In this one, a retro obsessed interior designer and her handyman boyfriend head to Palm Springs for work, only for their plans to be derailed when she discovers a body in a river. Great fun, a quick read and I genuinely wasn't sure who to suspect until the very end.

Every Other Wednesday by Susan Kietzman*
I slogged through SO MUCH of this, in the hopes that something would happen. It didn't. It was just a bunch of women sitting around talking to each other in implausibly full paragraphs. Unconvincing dialogue is my biggest book bugbear and I'm afraid I couldn't get past it.

*Provided for review

Some Things

Sunflower competition

So, it's Mother's Day and all I really wanted was the illusion that my child had slept for an extra hour; this is the one and only time I have ever appreciated the changing of the clocks.

I also received a life sized paper Matilda (where do I put it?!), a Caitlin Moran book (always welcome) and a couple of hours to myself while Steve and Matilda go swimming (the real gift here is not having to deal with a toddler in a changing room). I was going to sit in the garden, drink some chamomile tea and read my new book but that plan has been scuppered by our neighbour - who does things like turning garages into summer houses just for the fun of it - doing something noisy and productive on the other side of the wall. I'd feel cross* but he's a wonderful source of tools.

*Also, nobody whose toddler spends hours running around the garden shrieking is in any place to complain about noisy but brief stints of lawn moving.

* * *

However, yesterday was spent in the garden.

With it being the first weekend of spring, we invited a couple of [grown up] friends round for a sunflower competition. We're being a bit optimistic because the chances of us getting through April without any frosts are almost non-existent, but we've made little greenhouses out of water bottles and put stickers (insulation!) all over the plant pots so fingers crossed.

We also planted morning glories, nasturtiums, cosmos and some novelty sunflowers (i.e. sunflowers which are not competitively leggy) and so the annual battle with the slugs begins.

* * *

Matilda and I had a joint dentist appointment last week. I was dreading it. The whole point of joint appointments is to prove to your child that visiting the dentist is a joyful, pleasant experience - not an appropriate time for a crying fit - and I'm not that sure of my acting skills.

Anyway, all went well: nobody bit the dentist's finger; positive sounding terminology was thrown around; Matilda sat quietly while I had my mouth checked; and one of us got a sticker (not the co-operative one who had actually opened her mouth, mind you).

Best of all, my gums are apparently in great shape now.

"So whatever you're doing differently," the dentist said, "keep it up."

I didn't have the heart to tell her that the only thing I'm doing differently is consistently forgetting to floss.

* * *

There was something else I was going to waffle on about but I've no idea what it was, so for now: tell me what's new with you?


What I've Been Reading Recently

What I've Been Reading Recently

The Pictures by Guy Bolton*
It's 1939 and the Hollywood movie studios are paying the police to cover up the crimes of their stars. When a series of gruesome murders seem to point straight back to MGM, a couple of cops wonder whether solving the case might be better than keeping things secret... Fast paced, well written and genuinely intriguing, I enjoyed this a lot. I mean, I had to leave bits of my modern brain switched off - it's a homage to 1930s detective stories and doesn't try to pretend that equality was around back then; I bristled at plausible portrayals of racism and the lack of strong female characters. But I also really like 1930s detective stories (and tales of early Hollywood); I got swept up in the story, wondering whodunnit and who was going to come good in the end.

The Lonely City by Olivia Laing*
Wow. Okay, how do I describe this without it sounding all heavy and tedious and pretentious and ugh?! Let's see... Olivia Laing moved to New York from the UK in her mid-thirties. And she was lonely. She lost herself in the internet a lot, but she also found herself examining art which explores loneliness and learning all she could about the artists behind it. This book is part art history, part biography of some often very disturbed people, part autobiography and part pop psychology. It's fascinating and beautiful and upsetting and inspiring; it prompts thoughts about art, about sexuality, about hoarding, about our need for emotional contact with others. After the first chapter, I thought it was going to be too much to read all in one go - I thought I'd be dipping in and out of it for a while - but then, suddenly, I'd finished it and it took a few days before I was ready to pick up anything else.

Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland by Sarah Moss
Sarah Moss and her family moved to Iceland just after the banks collapsed and left, a year later, just after the volcano exploded; this is their story of trying to live in the extremely expensive, extremely cold city of Reykjavik. I have a particular fondness for autobiographies about moving to new countries and I enjoyed the baffled-stranger-in-a-bizarre-new-land aspect of this but not as much as I expected. I was irritated by the casual overgeneralisations about other nationalities (oh, but it's not racist if we Brits all know that all Italians do X, Y, Z...); I was irritated by the assumption that we all have the exact same private school and Oxford English Literature degree education (I only got the Peter Rabbit reference because of CBeebies); and I was irritated by the derision regarding Iceland's nursery system, which was explained merely by giving three quotes from one nursery's website and assuming we will all react to them with the same horror (they want to try to eliminate gender stereotypes?! Nooooooo!). And Iceland, which I want to picture as a place of stunning scenery and crazy pop songs, sounded a bit too much like Aberdeen, what with all its conspicuous consumption, empty housing developments and crappy weather. It's the first time in a long time I've read a book like this and not wanted to immediately move to the country it's describing and that was a bit of a let down.

*Provided for review

More Things: Another Stream of Consciousness

Stick boat

I've completely lost track of what day it is.

Does anybody else ever worry about being in hospital, being asked simple questions by the doctors and not knowing any of the answers - not because of a head injury but because their brain's too full of CBeebies trivia to figure out anything else? I could know what the date is or I could know which episode of Hey Duggee was on this morning - I CAN'T DO BOTH! And the date has never inspired Matilda to build a nest.

Not that that's what I came on here to say.

* * *

Let's get the icky thing out of the way first: remember how Matilda and I had hand, foot and mouth disease in November? I was warned that our nails might peel off about a month afterwards. Which hers did. Mine have just started peeling off now. Three months later. THREE MONTHS LATER. Although, luckily, only three of them and only on my feet - it's so horrible to look at, I'm not sure how I would have coped with it happening on my hands. *shudders*

(I don't believe in jinxes but if I wake up tomorrow with peeling fingernails...)

* * *

On a less medical note: February is a time of birthdays for us. Friends, relatives and several of the toddlers in our lives are turning a year older at the moment, and it's been making me think about Matilda's birthday.

Which is in April. My teeny tiny baby will be two in April.

This is the bit where I'm supposed to say "It doesn't seem possible!" Actually, so many of Matilda's friends are two now - and, at the risk of sounding all Smug Mum, she's so surefooted and articulate - that I don't really think of her as a one year old anymore. One year olds stumble around and make indecipherable noises, right? Well, that's not her.

But I'm making our annual photo book at the moment and looking at photos of Matilda from this time last year. And that - that - seems impossible. That she was taking her first steps just over a year ago; that she was still more or less bald; that she only said a handful of words; that she napped regularly (and at home!); that she still wore (ridiculously ill-fitting) sleepsuits to bed; that she was bright orange after every tomato-based meal; that she was only just starting to scribble with crayons; that she still played with those toys and read those books (the ones which have now been stowed in the attic); that we were still nervous when she climbed on the furniture; that she still needed us to join her on the slide.

The changes in her are so gradual and I'm with her so much of the time that I don't really notice them happening; comparing the Matilda now to the Matilda of a year ago is really bringing it home to me how fast she's both learning and growing.

* * *

As for me, Smidge (accidentally) pointed out to me that I'll be forty next year.

I seem to be okay with this.

I was very much okay with turning thirty. I was ready to put my self-conscious twenties behind me; I was looking forward to starting my thirties.

My forties...? So far... nothing.

We'll see how I'm feeling nearer the time.

I feel like there should be a project in turning forty, though. Any ideas?

* * *

One more immediate plan is to bake a cake without help from a toddler. It's something I used to love doing but something which now never seems important enough for me to bother with when I get a few hours to myself.

Next month, I'm going to make it a priority.

* * *

Yesterday, however, I did not. Yesterday I had six hours to myself - SIX HOURS!!! IMAGINE!!! - and I divided them neatly into three hours of cleaning the things I never usually bother with and three hours of sitting by our sunniest window, reading a book, surrounded by cats.

Three of those hours were lovely.

* * *

What's going on with you?

Family Friendly Food at wagamama

Wagamama: Blueberry spice drinks. YUM!

Look: I know this is a review post; you know this is a review post; let's skip all the pretending-to-have-a-deep-point-before-luring-you-into-reading-about-the-product nonsense and get to the photos of food, okay?

Okay.

So. Recently, Steve, Matilda and I were invited to find out how family friendly wagamama is. And, in summary: we would totally take our toddler back there.

I'll expand on that: all three of us had a great time and a lot of good food was consumed.

Also drinks. Those are blueberry spice juices in the photo above and they tasted every bit as punchy and vibrant as they look. Matilda, meanwhile, had a cococino which she loved just as much as she always loves warm, frothy milk (that's a lot).

Wagamama: Cococino

Here's one big reason why wagamama is family friendly: fun kiddie chopsticks. They're sort of like wooden tweezers (sorry, wagamama PR people - that was the best I could come up with) and Matilda LOVED them. They were so easy to use that not only did she feed herself, she fed her parents, too.

(We took the bib along and it's pure coincidence that she's dressed like the wagamama branding)

Wagamama: Toddler chopsticks
Wagamama: Whatever I ate

Anyway: the food.

I had yasai yaki soba. I always have yasai yaki soba. I love yasai yaki soba. That's a picture of it up there. Yum, right?

Steve had... eh... something he really liked. OH GOOD GRIEF, I NEED TO NOT WRITE REVIEWS AFTER A GLASS OF WINE AND WHEN MY DINING PARTNER IS UNAVAILABLE FOR QUESTIONING. Anyway, that's a picture of it below and it looked tasty even to me, the vegetarian. Largely because anything with a fried egg on top looks delicious, right?

Wagamama: Whatever Steve ate
Wagamama: Dip thingy

He and Matilda also shared this dip thing. Oh, hang on - I can find this one on the online menu. It was pulled pork steamed gyoza. It was a hit with them both. 

They also had duck wraps which I failed to photograph and which Matilda mostly used as a blanket to keep her other food warm (she's considerate that way).

Matilda, meanwhile, had cod cubes; her favourite part of the meal was the sticky rice. Our waiter (hi, Declan!) was outwardly unfazed by how much rice she left scattered around her chair.

Not that it was a chair. It was one of those clip-on high chairs which are either clever or terrifying - I'm still not sure which. It was good for swinging in and kicking parents' knees from, anyway, and looked a lot easier to clean than the usual upright wooden ones.

Wagamama: Kiddie cod cubes meal

As our meal wore on, Matilda became so confident that she moved on to using real chopsticks. She did this more adeptly than me, and so ended up helping me to finish my food:

Wagamama: Even a toddler can do chopsticks better than me

Finally, we had dessert. I had a plate of three small cakes (all delicious) while Steve had mochi balls (below) which are sort of... ice cream wrapped in jellied rice?! Also delicious, anyway (obviously, I had one of each, for thoroughness of review; I did, somewhat grudgingly, let Steve sample my cakes, too).

So, wagamama: delicious food; fun toddler tweezers; clip-on high chairs. Also: colouring in for me the kids.

Yes, I think we'll back.

Wagamama: Dessert, Mochi Balls

Our Experience of Baby/Toddler Floor Beds

Our Experience of Baby and Toddler Floor Beds

A year ago, I wrote about our decision to move Matilda out of her cot and onto a "floor bed". One year on, I firmly believe that this has been one of the best parenting decisions that Steve and I have made.

(For those who haven't clicked on that link: we moved Matilda onto a single bed mattress at eight or nine months. She immediately started sleeping better; bedtime became about cuddles rather than crying; her eczema - which had been triggered by her foam cot mattress - cleared up, never to return)

We get asked a lot of questions about how/whether/why floor beds work, so I thought I'd pull them all together into a post.

Doesn't she fall out?
It can happen. The first few nights, she fell out two or three times a night; she fell out about once a week for a couple of months after that. But falling off a mattress is a matter of six or seven inches - when your child's asleep, they're floppy and very unlikely to hurt themselves (although you could pad the floor around the mattress, if you were really worried).

Since those first couple of months, she has only fallen out twice. In fact, it's so rare that, at fifteen months, we moved her onto a single bed and didn't bother with a bed guard.

Crucially, she can climb back in to her bed, which gives her an extra little bit of independence - and most of us know how much toddlers value being able to do things by themselves!

How do you stop her roaming the house in the middle of the night?
We have a gate across her bedroom door. We only ever close this at night.

How do you stop her climbing on her bedroom furniture/playing with sockets/otherwise endangering herself in the middle of the night?
The same way we would have done if we'd waited a year and taken the side off her cot at the standard time: most of the furniture in her room is toddler-height; the one high surface (her wardrobe) is not next to anything she could climb onto; there are minimal hard angles and no accessible glass. We get asked about sockets a lot so I'm going to take a moment to clarify that UK sockets have been designed to be child-safe; in fact, UK sockets are safer WITHOUT SOCKET COVERS - we have taught Matilda that they are not for playing with but that's just an extra precaution. So, basically: toddler-proof the room.

I could (and probably, at some point, will) write at length about how important I think it is for a child's room to be treated as THE CHILD'S ROOM, not just a convenient place to store nappies, vests and sleeping infants. Their room should be somewhere they can play safely, unsupervised and - as far as the layout of your home allows - as often as they choose.

How do you stop her getting out of bed?
We don't. When she wakes up and [believes she] needs us, she gets out of bed and walks to her bedroom door. But she is calm when she does this; she goes back to bed without objection. In her case, the alternative was for her to stand up in her cot, screaming and trying to climb over the bars - it was a lot harder to settle her back down when she was in the cot, both because she was less cooperative and because it was physically more difficult for us to reach into a cot than it is for us to kneel beside a bed (or - if we're really tired or she's really upset - lie down on it beside her).

As for getting out of bed to play with her toys or read books, her room is very dark at night and she can't reach the light switch, so it's pretty unlikely to happen. I do remember having an agreement with my parents that I could read for as long as I wanted, as long as I stayed in my bed, and we intend to take a similar approach with Matilda.

It also helps that she loves her bed. Properly loves it. Not the necessity of sleep but the actual bed. She climbs on it, bounces on it, plays on it (putting her toys to bed has been a favourite game for months, as is instructing other people to fall asleep on top of it) and reads on it - it's somewhere with positive associations for her so it's somewhere she's happy to be.

Can you sleep train with a floor bed?
I imagine you'd find it difficult - you can't force the kid to stay in the bed.

Is it hygienic?
I'd advise getting bed slats to raise the mattress off the floor slightly - it's preferable to have some airflow underneath it as there's a chance of mould otherwise. We didn't actually do that which is one of the reasons we moved her onto a proper bed at fifteen months.

Are there any downsides?
The other reason we moved her onto a bed was that I found it quite tough on my knees, kneeling beside the mattress all the time. However, this was still preferable to the back ache I was getting from leaning over her cot!

Are there any other positives?
Quite simply: it's nicer. I hated Matilda being in the cot - it was difficult for me to reach her, impossible for her to reach me, and the act of shutting her away behind cot bars was so far from the loving, cuddling, emotionally accessible parenting I wanted to do that it often reduced me to tears. Bedtime and night wakings are now calm, affectionate times rather than battles and there's no understating how happy that makes me.

It also saves you from having to transition your kid from cot to toddler bed, toddler bed to big bed, and it saves you the cost of a toddler bed and little sheets.

Floor beds are not for everyone. If you're intending to sleep train, they're probably not for you. And some kids may not take to them - or make not take to them at the time you first want to try. But I'm a convert. It's the perfection option for us.

Is there anything else you want to know?