Kris à Genève

A Canadian living in Switzerland

Thursdays with Juniper

with 4 comments

Both Eileen and I returned to work in early December. Eileen’s return was scheduled well in advance, but mine was more sudden, leaving us to scramble over our last 10 days at home to find a child care solution for Juniper.

Along with housing, child care is one of the core services that are hopelessly scarce in Geneva. Our first choice was state-subsidised daycare, but we were not too hopeful: the agency that administers the system announces in its literature that they have an annual shortfall of 3,000 spots. We applied for a spot six months before Juniper was born. But our file remains buried deep down the wait list, and she will likely be admitted a few days before she starts dating.

Our second choice was a maman de jour: a woman who is authorised by the state to care for several children in her home. We only applied to the association a few weeks before our scheduled return to work, and were naïve in thinking that this private service would be more available. When we heard nothing in response, I phoned the association, where a polite lady told me “no need to call; we will contact you when we find a spot for your daughter.” We have yet to hear anything from them.

Absent any organised child care, Eileen and I quickly found ourselves searching online classifieds for nannies. I was anxious: less at the prospect of leaving Juniper with a stranger, and more at becoming an employer. On parenting forums we read warnings about hiring nannies unofficially. Although raids are apparently rare, there are cases of parents receiving large fines for failing to register their employee or contribute to the social safety net, and even immigration charges for employing permit-less foreigners.

Eileen and I decided to do everything legally, and were lucky to find our nanny Valérie from among the handful of ladies we interviewed. Once we hired Valérie and registered her contract with the state, the anxiety disappeared. Juniper was comfortable with her from the beginning and did not even seem to notice when Eileen and I left in the mornings. In fact, the transition to being working parents of an infant was anti-climactic. I immediately began to appreciate the new balance between work during the week, and focussed time with Juniper during mornings, evenings and weekends.

In addition, Eileen and I each arranged to spend one day at home per week: Eileen on Wednesday and me on Thursday. We originally arranged this to ease Eileen’s transition back to full-time work, and because Valérie was only available for three days per week. But Thursdays quickly became my favourite day of the work week.

I do not cherish my Thursdays with Juniper because they are always fun: there are indeed enjoyable stretches of time, but there are equally entire afternoons when Juniper is whiny and impossible to please, when I long for a second parent to relieve me. But Thursdays are meaningful because they are my most intense parenting experience: I observe and share, uninterrupted, the full, extreme range of Juniper’s experiences over the course of a single day.

Never mind a full day: within the space of a few minutes, she can veer from tortured screeching at me lying her down on the changing table, to giddy giggles at my efforts to cheer her, to an immobile, expressionless stare aimed at nothing in particular on the ceiling. When everything is new, life reads as a series of erratic scratches on the page. On Thursdays, I have a private reading of Juniper’s experience through her expressions, sounds and movements. Thursdays are also my most intense training sessions as a parent, which appeals to my psychology.

Below are a series of photos that illustrate the routine of my Thursdays with Juniper. I shot the photos over two or three Thursdays to give examples of the different activities we share – this is important to remember, as I would collapse in exhaustion if I attempted to fit all of the activities depicted below into a single day!

7h33: Responding to her cooing sounds, I pulled a smiling Juniper from her crib. She sleeps through the nights with few exceptions and usually wakes before 7h, so this morning was a sleep-in.

7h35: When Juniper wakes at her usual time, we have 20-30 minutes together before Eileen joins us. But because of Juniper’s late start this morning, Eileen interrupted us on the changing table to say “good morning,” even before I could change Juniper’s diaper!

7h37: Diaper changed and ready for action. The changing table used to be Juniper’s favourite place in the world: she would squeal and wave her arms in excitement. Recently she has begun to find it oppressively boring, especially the lying down part, so she whines and cries at times. But this morning she was giddy throughout her first change.

7h39: A late start meant we proceeded directly to the breakfast table (couch). In general Juniper drinks her breakfast bottle between 7h15 and 7h30.

7h55: After her breakfast, it was time to say goodbye to Mommy. I can not remember why Eileen was leaving so early that Thursday morning – usually she leaves later. Eileen complains that Juniper is a reluctant cuddler, and this morning the distraction of my ever-present camera lens further degraded the quality of Eileen’s goodbye cuddle.

8h09: With Mommy out of our hair, Juniper and I settled into our chosen activities: she testing the consistency of some plastic shapes, and me reading.

8h22: I am convinced that Juniper will skip crawling in her development. She shows no interest in grubbing along the floor to displace herself. Meanwhile, she relishes the opportunity to motor around the apartment in her walker, which she steers expertly and propels with proper little footsteps. Here she is trying to force the walker over the lip of the carpet so as to swipe at all the forbidden goodies on the coffee table.

10h04: As Juniper begins to tire, her first tell is a long stare. By 10h she had been awake for 2.5 hours, so naptime was imminent.

11h18: Juniper eats like a champ and sleeps through the night, so within her core eat-sleep routine, napping is often our only struggle with her. She prefers being active and social, even when her energy dips, so she resists some of her naps. And her potential nap resistance builds throughout the day: she usually accepts her morning nap happily, is a bit suspicious of her early afternoon nap, and screams obscenities at the suggestion of a late afternoon nap. Here she is, waking up sideways and uncovered, after a happy morning nap:

11h20: The overhead light in Juniper’s room is directly above her bed and is cloaked in a marine-themed shade. To have more light for these photos, I turned on the overhead light, which is unusual when I am pulling her out of bed. Juniper wanted to have a closer look at the glowing orb above her bed.

11h25: I visualised the following photo, wanting to convey the difficulty involved in squeezing Juniper’s chunky, squirming legs through the tight openings of her highchair harness. But the photo proved impossible to execute while holding a 2kg camera to my face. So here is a rather static photo of Juniper standing in her highchair, waiting for Papa to get on with it:

11h33: Lunchtime! As I have said, feeding Juniper is a breeze: she eats it all. In addition, Eileen is a dedicated and creative purée chef. She has prepared every spoonful of solid food that Juniper has ever eaten, other than one jar of store-bought peas that we used on a road trip. I believe today’s purée was a mixture of squash, peas and cauliflower, flavoured with olive oil and thyme. As Juniper’s gestures confirm, it is irresistibly delicious.

11h44: Eileen preserves Juniper’s purées in easily portioned ice cubes. For the volume of her meals, on this Thursday she ate three cubes of purée and then washed it down with approximately 160mL of milk.

11h56: We are not yet at the stage of sharing meals around the table, but after I fed her, she watched from her highchair as I ate my lunch. On this Thursday, I think we could have easily introduced tuna into Juniper’s diet.

12h12: As much as any other activity, Juniper enjoys sitting in the kitchen, amid the action as her parents cook or clean. She alternates between clanging her toys against the table and turning to check on our progress. Here Juniper amuses herself while Papa washes the dishes:

12h41: For propriety on my Thursdays with Juniper, I have the unambitious goal of showering before noon. But I missed that target today. Here Juniper waits patiently as Papa showers:

13h00:  Also for propriety, I changed Juniper out of her pyjamas and into her daytime clothes. In the following photos, Juniper seems to be confronting a paparazzo. But, in fact, she was once again trying to solve the mystery of why that big camera was blocking her view of Papa’s face.

13h04: We occasionally place Juniper in her daytime prison. But she rarely tolerates it for more than a few minutes. In this instance, she was happy – but for how long?

13h44: Here is an example of Juniper’s erratic nap preferences. She was smiling and quiet when I laid her down for her morning nap. Here, she wails about abuse, religious discrimination and Chinese water torture when I lay her down for her afternoon nap:

2014_01_16_Thursdays_with_Juniper_272

14h52: It is unusual for Juniper to wake up mad, but she decided to end this nap as she began it:

15h02: Juniper is fascinated by screens as light sources, but has yet to take much interest in the action appearing onscreen. To help her reset after a traumatic waking, we watched an animated video of Frère Jacques.

15h17: Goûter! If Juniper enjoys her vegetable purée at lunch, she is positively bonkers for her fruit purée at goûter time. Often, Papa’s spoon hand is too slow to satisfy her taste for fruit. Here she gulps down a purée of apple, apricot, pear and Malagasy vanilla. Compliments to the chef!

16h09: One Thursday, I loaded Juniper into the big, diesel-powered soother, otherwise known as our car, for a late afternoon excursion to a ski shop in Thonon-les-Bains.

16h12: Car engines have a magical effect on babies. As a new parent, I could be forgiven for imagining that the creator of the internal combustion engine invented it to calm his inconsolable child, rather than to replace his slow-moving horse.

2014_01_16_Thursdays_with_Juniper_312

16h22: My favourite Thursday activity with Juniper is walking, with her happily perched in her carrier. The Deuter Kid Comfort III carrier is our latest, greatest purchase. After her newborn weeks, Juniper learned to hate the inward-facing position of a papoose-style carrier, so we had to use the stroller for longer walks, which is limiting and cumbersome. But Juniper loves her position in the new backpack carrier: she watches the world pass and chirps at the back of my head.

16h45: In addition to the viewpoint it provides, the backpack also transmits to Juniper the oh-so-soothing rhythm of my stride. At a certain point on our walk, she inevitably succumbs, face slouching into the drool cushion. This is the other, more strategic, benefit of a walk: it lulls her into a valuable late afternoon nap, instead of me having to overcome her screeching resistance to a nap in her crib.

18h35: If I succeed in inducing Juniper into a late afternoon nap, she is much cheerier during the difficult hour of 18h-19h. If I fail to convince her to nap, that hour will likely be the least pleasant time of our Thursdays together. On this particular day, Papa won the nap challenge and Juniper was a happy girl when she welcomed Eileen home from work.

19h40: When I return from work on Wednesdays, Eileen’s day at home with Juniper, Eileen is ready for a break and I am keen to assume the evening responsibilities: play, feed, bathe and then bed. On Thursdays, the roles are reversed, and I cook dinner while Eileen reconnects with Juniper and feeds her. I intervene only for Juniper’s nightly tradition: a naked dash through the apartment prior to bath time.

19h48: Along with her high chair, her backpack and the car, the bathtub is one of Juniper’s favourite places. She kicks; she splashes; she squeals and tries to devour her rubber duck.

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After exerting herself in the bathtub, Juniper rubs her eyes and, if it were possible, would happily roll directly into bed. Unfortunately, given her parents’ magical limitations, she often has to endure us dressing her in a diaper and pyjamas, and then waits still longer as we give her a last few kisses and squeezes. At around 20h on Thursday, I left a contented Juniper in her crib to drift off to sleep. My day with her complete, I turned my attention to Eileen for a couple of hours, during which time we tried to remember what we liked to do as a couple before Juniper arrived. Unable to remember, we put ourselves to bed.

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Written by Kris Terauds

February 9, 2014 at 22:02

4 Responses

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  1. What a great record for Juniper when she gets older, love all the photo’s and corresponding stories, all my babies are now 5,4 & 3 so we are past this stage but I remember it well! You blog took me right back, especially to all my own home-made purée ice-cubes.

    Pinterest madness and me

    February 9, 2014 at 23:01

  2. A great read, Kris. Sounds like a day at work is less stressful and taxing!

    Mike Palmer

    February 9, 2014 at 23:23

  3. Lovely baby blog and photos. You really capture the love and enjoyment. Stafford

    Stafford Reid

    February 10, 2014 at 18:47

  4. Delightful to read, Kris. Enjoy the descriptions of span of emotions all in one day – of both Juniper – and you as her Papa. The simple and miraculous things of parenthood.

    Mamie

    February 10, 2014 at 19:11


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