Family life with a Forever Baby

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Claire, 34, and Andrew, 33, McLennan are parents to Alexandra - their “forever baby” who lived for only one day in September 2015 - two-year-old Ophelia and Humphrey the Wonderdog, live in Morley. They have been together for nine years and married for five. Andrew is a Software Engineer and Claire is a Trainee Paralegal.

What are your top tips for getting children to do what you ask? We got a great tip from the excellent TV series Motherhood. Always give the child the illusion of choice, even if you’ve picked the two options beforehand. Only ever offer two choices (especially for a two-year-old).

What family task takes you the longest? Leaving the house. We never have all the equipment we need, forgetting toys, water bottles, food etc. It’s easier now as most places have toddler stuff but we have been caught out a few times.

What’s the weirdest thing your children have done/brought home/done to your house? We haven’t yet started potty training but the other day Ophelia checked Daddy’s trousers to see if he had done a poo (he hadn’t).

Have your children ever really, really surprised you? How and why? The way Ophelia copies phrases exactly how she hears them so she can order the dog around in an extremely strict way or ask if Daddy is ok in a very caring way if he’s stubbed his toe.

What’s the most bizarre thing you have found yourself saying since having kids? “Put down that dog foot!” When we were in Crete at the Knossos palace, Ophelia bent down and picked up what we initially thought was a stick but turned out to be the severed foot of some Greek dog (or fox)! It was lying there (no sign of an injured dog) in the entrance and had probably been there all morning with nobody else noticing (or trying to pick it up).

What’s the hardest thing about being a parent? We are loss parents and our first little girl Alexandra passed away when she was about 40 hours old. It makes it very difficult because you always wonder what Ophelia’s older sister would have been like and what she would have thought of her little sister. We want Ophelia to be aware of her older sister but not feel burdened by her.

What hobbies/pastimes do you enjoy as a family and separately? Claire is a Ranger Guide leader and Andrew is a Scout leader (that’s how we met - on camp). Ophelia hasn’t yet been on camp but it’ll only be a matter of time!

What’s the funniest thing your children have ever said/done? Ophelia can’t quite say the word “Fox” yet, which is unfortunate as she has a lot of “Fox” things around the house. Instead, she says “F*ck” and it is very difficult not to giggle when she does this. She isn’t much better with “Fork” or “Stick”...

Mini moan - what really gets your goat? A lot of people like to goad parents-to-be which isn’t really helpful. Yes it’s tough, but it does get easier and is a fantastic experience and we think there should be more support for new parents.

What’s your favourite family day out? We (Andrew and Ophelia) like going on trains so a good day out would be a trip on a heritage railway. We’ve been to Middleton quite a few times and the volunteers there are lovely. Ophelia likes to shout, “More trains”, especially when in earshot of the local MP (this really happened).

What’s a typical evening for the grown-ups once the children are in bed? Claire runs a Ranger Guide unit and Andrew runs a Scout Unit so we do that on an evening. Claire is into crafting and Andrew enjoys tinkering in the garage building a kit car.

What is Leeds’ most family-friendly restaurant and why? Most restaurants in Leeds have been great with Ophelia and have never given us any problems. Practically everywhere has child seats and will bring out children’s food before adults, which is great.

What’s the best thing about weekends and why? You have to work hard all week so it’s great to spend time together as a family. We find you don’t have to do anything spectacular for it to be a good day out, even going to see the fluffies at the garden centre counts as a trip if you’re two.

What is your most treasured memory? Ophelia was a late walker and we were referred to the excellent Leeds Community Physio service who made some recommendations for us and six days later, she walked on her own. It was brilliant to see and it felt like she transitioned from baby to child on that day.

What’s the number one thing you would change about Leeds? Transport round the city seems to be getting worse. There needs to be more investment in trains (so they arrive on time, don’t break down, actually have somewhere to stand/sit) which would make the city more accessible. There is no step free access in Morley station so taking a buggy on the train is a real chore.

What’s the children’s favourite food/meal? Ophelia loves pasta and generally makes a massive mess with it. The dog thinks this is fantastic and tends to try and sit directly under her chair (which does sometimes mean picking hard pasta out of the dog fur, the glamour of being a parent).

What’s your top penny-pinching tip? We have used reusable nappies and wipes since Ophelia was about eight weeks and must have saved a fortune in nappies (not to mention being kinder on bottoms and the environment). Oh and breastfeeding, it’s brilliant.

One family member’s proudest achievement? Claire really struggled with breastfeeding and getting Ophelia to latch but after 2-3 weeks, she cracked it. I was very proud because she never gave up, even when she was at her most vulnerable emotionally.

What one item can you not live without? We don’t use a tumble dryer but the washing machine is on most days. We’d really struggle if that broke.

What can your children not live without? Even though Ophelia doesn’t really have a favourite item, I suspect she’d miss the dog more than anything else. She loves him to pieces and he wonders why we got this strange puppy. All dogs that look a bit like ours are “Humphrey’s” and she has a little cuddly “Humphrey” which comes with us when we’re away.

Child’s favourite book and author. Current favourite is “That’s not my Hedgehog”, which she insists on having in bed with her (even though the lights are off and it’s pitch black). We can hear her scraping her nails on the Hedgehog at the end of the book over the monitor.