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Dad Life with Josh Zimmerman: The lengths I’ll go to to win over my baby

The strangest thing happened when I put Cleo on my lap this week.

Rather than immediately and violently wriggling free, attempting to shove her fingers in my mouth or screaming in protest, she sat still.

She looked around placidly. She reached up and touched my chin. I think I might have even heard a little sigh of contentment. The experience lasted five beautiful seconds before she farted, pulled off her sock and hit me in the face with it.

Still, it was a start. The first tentative signs of affection I can remember in nearly a full year of Cleo’s life. A trickle of water from a glacier in the early days of spring.

It wouldn’t be fair to call Cleo hard to please. As long as her voracious appetite has been met, her nappy is clean and she hasn’t been awake for six straight hours, she’s generally pretty happy.

But don’t expect any thanks for meeting those basic needs. This is a baby with far more important things to do than hug her parents. Chase the cat for example. Or open and close the shower door 200,000 times.

It’s no exaggeration to say Cleo has given me more colds than cuddles over the past 11 months. Spreading the love: no. Spreading the flu: yes.

The situation has been only slightly better for my wife, whose breasts have proved the only thing that can hold Cleo’s attention – and halt her perpetual motion – for more than 30 seconds at a time.

(This is a double-edged sword. As much as I long for a time when Cleo will happily lounge on my chest, I most definitely do not want that time to be 3am on a cold winter’s morning.)

I have found just two reliable ways to get Cleo to interact with me. The first is to feed her. This does not guarantee a warm reaction – you’re just as likely to cop a face full of coconut yoghurt as you are a smile.

The second, which I find myself resorting to more and more frequently, is to engage in exaggerated slapstick routines. Think hitting yourself in the head with a shoe, or pretending to trip and knock yourself out on a chair.

I’m somewhat ashamed to admit I’ve drunkenly YouTubed Mr Bean clips to expand my repertoire. I feel like I’m barely a step above a court jester at this point. I’m surprised I didn’t get one of those hats with bells on it for Father’s Day.

The rational part of my brain knows that competing for the affection of a baby (well, at least my baby) is like attempting to win over a fish. Unfortunately the rational part of my brain has also steadily retreated every day since Cleo was born.

My hope is that raising a baby is like following the advice of the Barefoot Investor.

Decades of investing your time and money with the promise it will all pay off around the time you’re ready to retire. The only difference is you can forget about date night once a month.

Encouragingly, I now know she is at least capable of tenderness. Even if it does appear to be brought on by gas rather than emotion.

Which gives me a good idea. I know for a fact bananas give Cleo indigestion. It’s also a hell of a lot easier – and cheaper – to shovel fruit into her face than buy a Mr Bean-style 1969 Mini.

They say the key to a man’s heart is his through his stomach.

That might just be the case for Cleo too.

Jade’s Tips from the Trenches

Cleo is turning one soon and we are in need of a low allergen cake for our small family gathering. Strange Grains have a range of options to suit, and at a great price too.

We are part of quite a large parents’ group, which means a lot of babies turning one around the same time. To free up our calendars and save on gift costs, we have decided to do a combined, share-plate party with a secret gift exchange.

In preparation for Cleo starting day care, we have purchased some name labels online for her possessions. They’re dishwasher and washing machine friendly and mean we don’t have to worry so much about things getting lost.

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