10 lessons I learned from Sam’s 1st birthday party…

“Let’s have a party!” I said, with an enthusiasm that I now understand was naive.

“Yes,” said Sam’s Mum, ” something small.”

I must admit I don’t like the word ‘small’. I’m a BIG person, with a BIG appetite and a BIG mouth.

“Not that small. We want a day to remember.” I insisted.

“Yes, a small day to remember.”

“We’ll figure out the details later,” I suggested.

Small details.”

That woman has more wisdom than a whole host of Solomons. We ended up with a small-ish party and it almost killed me. I swear that next year we’re just going to show Sam a photo of a birthday cake and that’ll be it…

Here’s the 10 lessons I learned from Sam’s 1st Birthday Party…

1:

The party is not for the child.

It’s for the adults who’ve survived a year with a child. Rather than being called a ‘Birthday Party’ it should be named a ‘365 days without accidentally damaging your baby party”. Sam had a great time at the do, there’s no doubt on that, but he had no idea what was going on and would, I’m sure, have been most surprised that the collected throng were assembled for him.

2:

There will always be too much food.

This is something I find very tricky, I want to be a good host – part of which includes ensuring that no guest leaves feeling hungry. That said, guessing the size of appetite possessed by a group of grannies, new mums and their tots is an almost impossible task. I totally miscalculated, leaving a table that looked like my local Iceland was suffering from a power cut and had cooked everything in their freezers. Let’s just say that many sausage rolls found their way to a bin that day – totally untouched. Their sacrifice will always be remembered.

3:

Any salad is too much salad. 

Sam’s mum and I looked at the assembled masses of beige food and realised we needed more salad. So bowls of leaves were bought, dressed and ignored. Nobody ever touches salad at a children’s party, but it HAS TO BE THERE – it’s the law! If I ever get on Dragons’ Den, my big idea will be inflatable bowls of salad, that are placed on trestle tables to provide colour, then deflated to be used again. Genius eh?

4:

People aren’t really up for alcohol at midday. 

By the time the party started, I was so stressed that I quite fancied a drink – whether the sun was over the yard arm or not! The difficulty is getting someone else to drink with you. Grannies are no help in this cause, or granddads for that matter (stern looks from their better halves ensure this), while other parents are reticent as a mid-afternoon hangover (while looking after a youngster) is no fun at all. In this situation I found myself necking champagne making loud comments about not remembering the last time I drank during the day – to avoid any rumours of a perennial G & T with This Morning each morning emerging*.

*Note, this is a bad idea **.

**Note, I tried it once, it did make the show a lot more palatable.

5:

Babies love boxes. 

The sad truth is that no matter how amazing the present is, the baby will always prefer the box it comes in.

ALWAYS.

You could unwrap a fully-automated life-sized model of Disney World and the baby will ignore it and make a bee-line for the box it came in – to be fair this would be a pretty impressive box! In this situation, as your child impassively tosses aside an impressive selection of carefully chosen gifts, it falls to the parents to make ‘oohs!’ and ‘ahhs!’ on their behalf. I’ve never been particularly good at conveying emotion – I’m convinced it’s something to do with my Wigan-based upbringing – so I often find any enthusiastic exclamations can sound like sarcasm. In order to combat this I lift the tone of my voice an octave, which (if I’m not careful) leads to my sounding like an overly enthusiastic Mickey Mouse-clone exclaiming how lovely a teddy is.

God, this parenting stuff isn’t easy.

6:

I am no longer a raconteur.

Before Samuel’s arrival, I laboured under the deluded belief that I was something of a gifted conversationalist. I put myself as somewhere between Clive James and Peter Ustinov as a witty chatterbox that might give Parky reason to resurrect his chat show just to hear my anecdotes. Of course this was complete fantasy, but I could at least tell a funny story – I thought.

At the party I realised that these days had gone. My conversation is now limited to Sam and sleep. I started chatting to a friend I haven’t seen in some months and within seconds I was recounting my son’s bowel movements.

“Yes, we had a rather IMPRESSIVE poo today. His mum and I were VERY pleased.”

To their credit, my friend nodded as enthusiastically as you can to a story of a baby’s motion. Within milliseconds the chat had moved onto that old fall-back, the weather. Stephen Fry needn’t worry, I won’t be taking his seat on the chat show circuit any day soon.

7:

Agree the baby’s name in advance. 

Before you break into a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday To You… announce to the crowd how the child’s name will be used. Sam’s full name is Samuel, a two syllable word, which fits in with the two syllable gap left in the fore-mentioned song. The shortened version ‘Sam’ is only one syllable and can lead to an awkward lengthening of the name to ‘Sa.. am” – which the pedant in me hates. We found a clash of ‘Samuel’s and ‘Sa… am’s during our birthday song which I’m sure Gareth Malone would’ve hated. Not that I’m a fan of Mr Malone’s work either, but that’s another story.

8:

Name badges are great. 

Remembering names can, at the best of times, be a struggle for us all. A kid’s birthday party can be particularly taxing in this department, where most people don’t know each other. We didn’t give out name badges, but I wish we had done. My mum famously would go through the name of each and every one of my cousins before she’d settle on my name when trying to attract my attention. We had a few similar incidents at the party, which I won’t go into a avoid any blushes.

9:

Have a post-party, party. 

Sam’s mum and I were so EXHAUSTED by the time the party and the accompanying festivities were done that we needed a holiday. That wasn’t on the offing, but we did treat ourselves to a bottle of prosecco, a takeaway and half a movie – a major party for us. As any parent knows, I say ‘half a movie’ because we never have the stamina to sit up through a whole film. Those days are well and truly gone.

10:

Sam’s 2nd birthday will be small affair – tiny. 

Next year Sam’s birthday will be on a completely different scale. I enjoyed the experience for his first outing, but from now on we’ll be going smaller. I just don’t have the energy for anything else. Seriously, a year is no where near long enough to recuperate.

Still Sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad.

Facebook.com/OutofDepthDad

@Outofdepth_dad

 

 

 

 

The News At One

So Sam just turned one.

ONE!

No, I can’t believe it either. He’s an entire year old. That’s 12 months of nappies, no sleep, naps and nasty niffs.

We made it!

When Sam was born, friends kept saying to me that the first year was the hardest. I reminded them of this during the birthday celebrations, and was told that year three was much tougher.

Thanks guys, talk about moving the goalposts!

Who knows what’s true? All I know is we managed to take our son on a complete rotation around the sun without doing anything monumentally stupid (well not much).

Here’s my highlights of the first year, I’m sorry I don’t remember when any of these things happened (my mind is a sieve) other than they all took place in the last 365 days…

1:

The first smile.

As Sam was a premature baby this arrived a little later than many might expect. But when it came, seriously, it made my millennium. I’ve a theory that nature withholds the nicer moments of a baby’s development until they’re really needed. For Sam’s mum and I, we were exhausted and emotional after months of hard work, pushed to breaking, then like an oasis on the horizon, he flashed us a smile. A proper smile, not wind. I’ll take that moment with me to my grave.

I knew there and then that I’d do anything for that little boy.

2:

Sharing a joke. 

Humour is hugely important to me. I bond with those I love through laughter. Generating peals of giggles is one of the most pleasurable things I think any of us can do. So when Sam and I shared our first joke it was magical. It wasn’t that funny really, what happened. I put a pair of his trousers on my head and he laughed, but to me it was pure unadulterated joy. To hear that laugh for the first time was blissful. Sam can’t talk yet, but we communicated through laughter at a very deep level. In an instant I forgot about the sleepless nights.

3:

Poo up the wall

I know this sounds like a negative rather than a positive – but for me it was a highlight of the year. I was changing a nappy and I mistimed it somehow and… well… an explosive poo splattered all over the nursery wall. It’s the type of thing where you just have to laugh at the absurdity of it all. But why was it a highlight? For some reason, when this happened, I felt like I’d been properly inducted into the guild of parenthood. I’d heard, throughout the pregnancy, all these horror stories of scatological incidents that occur with babies. Now at last I had my own, I was part of the funny anecdote club. I had a great story to embarrass Sam with when he was 30.

I wouldn’t want to have to clean massive amounts of poo off wallpaper, furniture, skirting board and carpet every day – but this one incident was a time I’ll remember for the funny side.

4

A shoulder to cry on…

For most of Sam’s year, his mum was exclusively the person he wanted when upset. That was fine with me, I was eager that Sam’s mum and he bonded, even if that meant I was relegated in the relationship to a fetcher and carrier role. That’s the way (in my mind) it should be, babies go first response is go to their mother for comfort.

In the last few months however, I’ve been allowed by Sam to act as a stand in. Don’t get me wrong, I am very much the substitute teacher of comforting cuddles, but even so, it would seem that daddy has the ability to make it all better.

This is a great, hugely rewarding, responsibility that I cherish.

 

I loved the little party we had for Sam to celebrate his first birthday and (although he had no idea what was going on) he loved all the attention. In fact, I enjoyed the whole birthday thing so much that I’ve decided we should do it all again next year!

Still Sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad

@Outofdepth_dad

www.facebook.com/OutofDepthDad/

 

 

5 Things I Didn’t Expect From Fatherhood…

I’m the first to admit that I was quite naive going into this whole ‘parenting thing’.

I really was.

I genuinely thought my days would be just as they were before, with a few nappy changes and the occasional bottle feed.

How dumb was I?

The answer is pretty dumb – almost Donald Trump levels of stupidity.

Thankfully I’m a quick learner. I can now change nappies with my eyes closed – not to show off, I just find I have to look at much less poo that way. All in all, I genuinely feel like some days I’m getting into the swing of this whole parenting thing. Some days. That said, there are still somethings that I do, on a daily basis, that surprise me. Moments that are a little odd, that nobody warned me about.

Here are my 5 Things I Didn’t Expect From Fatherhood:

1: I pick my son’s nose most days. 

There, I said it.

Babies, all babies, are snotty creatures. Sometimes it feels like producing snot is their actual job. Sam, like so many of his peers, produces bogies at a prodigious rate. I mean, if snot were gold we’d be millionaires.

You know that feeling you get, the slightly awkward one, where you’re talking to someone and they (unknowingly) have a bogie hanging from their nose? You don’t mention it at first, not wanting to be rude, but then you reach a point when you can’t mention it – as it’s been too long. The snot draws you in like a tractor-beam; soon you’re not hearing what they’re saying, instead you’re looking at the unwanted appendage swinging in the breeze. Well that feeling drives me nuts, and Sam’s face seldom isn’t home to (at least) a bogie or two.

With small babies (whose noses are two small to pick) there are these little vacuum pumps that you insert into your young un’s nostril and squeeze – in an attempt to dislodge the accumulated goo.  These devices are about as useful as… as… something not very useful at all. There are other bits of kit that allow you to siphon snot from your kid’s nose by inserting a tube in there and sucking on the other end. I’m sorry, but that was never going to happen.

So you can imagine my glee when Sam’s nose became large enough to pick. God there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write. Anyway, in order to keep him – relatively – snot free a good nose-picking is what I give him. The joys of fatherhood.

2: Work is ‘time off’. 

I do childcare for Sam three working days a week – he’s in nursery for the rest. My days with him are glorious, but tiring.

Oh, so tiring.

Sometimes I feel like I’m spinning plates, running around trying to do ten things simultaneously: play games, wash bottles, find toys, prep lunch – growing ever more exhausted until the plates start dropping.  These days I drop so many (metaphorical) plates the (metaphorical) floor looks like it belongs in a (metaphorical) Greek restaurant.

So my days doing work, which used to be the low-point of my week (although they were the majority of it), now feel like a period of relaxation. All I need to do is sit down and get things done, with nobody to worry about but myself. They feel luxurious.

There’s an old cartoon Click here where we see a sheep dog and Wile E. Coyote spending the day protecting and hunting sheep (respectively) – the gag is that both see this activity merely as ‘work’. Handing over Sam at nursery feels like the moment here where they both punch out of work and calm descends. It’s a great feeling. That said, I do miss the little fella during the day.

3: I’ve become competitive.

I’ve become strangely competitive. Which is strange because (generally) I’m not a competitive person. Or perhaps I see the foolishness in misplaced universal competitiveness. I’m not one of those people who feels the need to compete at everything, from ten pin bowling to getting away first from traffic lights. Why waste energy on things that are: i. Unimportant. ii. Physically or mentally draining. iii. Likely to be done better than you by a host of people? I’ve always limited my competitiveness to one or two key areas where I know I have talent, leaving the rest to those who are easily distracted by shiny things.

I have, however, become very competitive on Sam’s behalf. On our daily activities together I find myself silently comparing Sam to the other babies we encounter – always announcing Sam as the victor. Which baby has a nicer laugh? Sam. Which baby has better hair? Sam. Which baby would be most at home rollerskating in an Evian commercial? Sam.

I’m sure this will only get worse at the years roll by. As long as I don’t turn into one of those screaming dads shouting encouragement (read ‘abuse’) at Saturday football (unlikely considering how much I detest the sport) I think this should be manageable.

4: I smell poo everywhere.

Poo is a big part of my life these days (not my own). Sam’s mum and I talk about little else:

“Did he poo this morning?”

“A little.”

“How little’s little?”

“Cadbury’s Creme Egg sized.”

“OK. What colour?”

“Brown.”

“Dark brown or sandy?”

You get the idea.

I’m constantly sniffing the air to see if a nappy needs changing or (God forbid) a leakage has occurred. They say that Queen think the world smells of fresh paint, which must be awful. Wet paint gives me a headache. For me, I’m sure the entire world smells of poo. Why? i. It does. ii. I’m concerned there is an (as yet unfound) poo stain on my person, from a particularly involved nappy change. iii. I have poo tinnitus.

I’m not sure if ‘poo tinnitus’ is a ‘thing’, but if it’s not it should be!

5: Socks will always be with me…

In Star Wars there’s a line ‘The force will be with you, always…’ Click here. Fatherhood has brought me a similar thing, but with socks. “Socks will be with you, always…” Socks to a just-about-one year old are the best thing in the world. They’re right there at the end of your leg, ready to be pulled off, laughed at, shook about and discarded.

My life seems to be one long succession of putting on and picking up socks. Every item of clothing I own has one of Sam’s socks in its pockets, rescued from the floor. Seriously, his socks are everywhere, in my shoes, in my kit bag, behind the TV… I even went through a phase of using them as impromptu book marks.

The only place I rarely find socks is on Sam’s feet. And if that doesn’t sound like something a dad would say, I don’t know what does!

Still Sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad 

@Outofdepth_dad

facebook.com/OutofDepthDad/

Is Postman Pat on a Zero Hours contract?

We need to talk about Pat Clifton, probably better known as ‘Postman Pat’.

Everybody knows his bright red van, black and white cat and ‘happy man’ persona. But despite Mr Clifton being such a familiar (strangely un-aging) face to so many of us, I’ve got the feeling that there’s a story just below the surface that nobody’s talking about.

For the last 30-odd years Postman Pat has been delivering mail, with the aid of his cat ‘Jess’, to the people of Greendale (and surrounding districts). A genial fellow, Pat has never been what anyone would consider the ‘perfect postman’ – or perhaps we should say ‘post person’?

Pat has the habit of, well, mislaying the very items he’s supposed to be responsible for. A strong and stable pair of hands he is not! This truth was apparent even in the earliest part of his career, when Clifton worked under the direct supervision of postmistress Mrs Goggins. The affable pensioner always seemed to look the other way as Pat, instead of delivering the large quantities of mail he was tasked with,  would spend an entire day chasing a single letter he’d mislaid. Many would say that it’s to her credit that Mrs Goggins saw Clifton’s benefit to the community, as a slightly hopeless helper, outweighed any true ability he had as a deliverer of mail.

Times sadly have changed and I’m now worried about Pat. He no longer works for Mrs Goggins, his role is now under the supervision of the privatized ‘Special Delivery Service’, which I’m convinced has him on a zero hours contract.

It’s a well known story of a new company coming into a previously public sector enterprise and squeezing existing employees. The ‘Special Delivery Service’ seems happy to invest in equipment – they’ve automated conveyor belts that must spend half of their time empty considering the tiny amount of post Greendale receives. They’ve also bought a helicopter, dune buggy, snow mobile and all manner of post vans.

But have they invested in Pat?

I think not.

Clifton is clearly on a zero hour contract, with no hope of career-progressing training.

Why do I think this?

1: Pat is always on duty. No matter what he’s doing, any day of the week, Clifton can receive a phone call from the Special Delivery Service and is expected to get to work straight away. Birthdays, outings and school plays have all been ruined by Pat’s un-defined working routine.  The strain this constant state of uncertainty is having on his wife Sarah and son Julian is clear for all to see.

2: Pat never takes his uniform off, nor has the uniform been updated. It’s my suspicion that he wears it all the time to save money on clothing. Pat deserves better than that!

3: Pat drags out deliveries for much longer than necessary. He seems to literally go all around the houses, getting into bother, rather than just delivering the items he is given. I’m concerned Pat is trying to up his hours (and income) by unnecessarily prolonging his work.

4:Pat’s mobile. It’s an old Nokia, clearly he’s not financially solvent enough to be considered for a smartphone contract.

We can only hope that things improve for Pat in the near future. A career in the postal service, a role that became such a big part of his identity, should have treated him better.

 

P.S.

I’m slightly worried I’ve been watching too much kids’ TV!

Still Sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad

@Outofdepth_dad

www.facebook.com/OutofDepthDad

5 stupid things I am regularly asked…

I don’t want to sound like I’m moaning…

Nobody likes to be considered a moaner, really, do they? But, as a new SAHD dad, I find myself getting asked stupid questions on a far too regular basis. So, to set the record straight, here are 10 stupid things people seem to want to ask, again and again…

1:

Are you getting much sleep?

In my former life, as a live TV producer, I used to tell my presenters that they should never ask a question that they don’t already know the answer to. It’s a useful maxim to work by. Yes, it requires pre-interview research, but it stops your guest saying something unsavoury on air.

In real life, there are some questions that just don’t need to be asked, precisely because the answer is blatantly obvious. Every person who has ever inquired of new parents: “Are you getting much sleep?” already knows the answer they will receive. Nobody, in the history of mankind, has EVER replied: “Yes, yes I am, thanks for asking. In fact, I’d recommend that insomniacs get themselves a baby – they do wonders for the old beauty sleep.”

It’s not really a question at all, is it? It is, in reality, just a chance for a third party to point out, to your face, that you’re clearly not getting much sleep as you look like crap – something every brain-frazzled, zombie-fied parent is all too well aware of!

Please, for the love of all things holy, stop asking this question. Thank you.

2:

Is he a good baby?

How exactly am I supposed to answer this? I mean really? What a stupid thing to ask! What constitutes a ‘good’ or ( heaven forbid) ‘bad’ baby? I think the nub of the question that is being so ham-fistedly approached is probably “Does he cry a lot?” – but since when did crying have anything to do with morality?

I have, on several occasions, been tempted to reply in the following way:

“Sadly no, he’s not a good baby. In fact, we’re pretty convinced that he’s bad, very bad. We don’t have the evidence to prove it yet, but his mum and I think he was pivotal in the Kennedy assassination and disappearance of Shergar.”

If you’re not looking to be greeted with extreme sarcasm, then please don’t ask this question. Once again, thank you.

3:

Who do you think he looks like?

Once again, I understand that people are trying to be nice, but please stop with this question – especially if it’s asked in front of both parents. Newborn babies, I understand, are designed to look more like their father than mother, in order for the father to stick around. It’s one of nature’s little quirks.

Yet, asking a dad to point out that the baby looks a lot more like them, in front of the mum who has probably been up most of the night feeding said child is a little awkward to say the least.

I got around this question by pointing out that if we were honest, Sam looked most like Ian Hislop – which he did. As he’s got older, Sam now (in my view) looks like his mum and I equally – in my view her beauty balances out my ‘quirkier’ features.

Please stop asking this question. Thanks again.

4:

Are you still cycling / going to the gym / yoga / building models of the Forth Rail Bridge out of matchsticks?

Whatever it was I used to do to unwind, it’s highly likely that I’m no longer doing it right now. That’s just a fact of life. I’m a keen cyclist, I find it immeasurably relaxing, but please don’t ask if I’m getting out on my bike much. These days I feel like I’m winning if I get to go to the loo by myself. Being reminded that I have no free time, or being expected to make up an excuse why I’m not ‘making time’ for such an activity is annoying at best.

While I’m on this topic, will people please stop gong on about ‘making time’! I need to ‘make time’ for me, is advice I’ve heard. And how does that work exactly? Do I need a special watch? Should I call Doc Brown? If I could ‘make time’ I’d use it for sleeping, but sadly it seems I’m stuck on the 24 hours in a day model with everyone else. Who knew?

5:

When is number 2 on the way?

Assuming this isn’t a question about my bowel movements (which frankly, are none of your business), the answer is firmly “none your business”. It amazes me that people can ask such a personal question in the smallest of talk. What possible good do questioners imagine will come from harassing parents, knackered from the demands of the child they already have, by prodding them to have another?

I have no idea if Sam will be an only child or not. What I do know is that I won’t be rushing home to Sam’s mum, saying: “Mrs Brown at the Post Office says we better get a move on and have a second one, so we’d better take her advice!”

I’m quite content with my lovely family as it is, thank you very much. So please stop asking. Thanks again.

***

Sorry for a particularly moan-y post. I’m sure next time I’ll be all sweetness and light… mainly because (with a bit of luck) people might have stopped asking me stupid questions!

Still Sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad

www.facebook.com/OutofDepthDad

@Outofdepth_dad

 

 

 

What have wet wipes ever done for us?

Wet wipes, I’ve got drawer after drawer of the bloody things.

You can’t open a cupboard, unzip a bag or even clean down the back of the sofa (not something I do often) in our house without being hit by an avalanche of moist towelettes.

But, at the end of the day, what have wet wipes ever done for me?

Nothing. That’s what!

Except making changing nappies considerably easier than using toilet paper or cotton wool. We had to use cotton wool when Sam was in hospital, it was a nightmare – bits of fluff getting everywhere. It didn’t so much collect ‘matter’, more just move it around.

OK. So apart from making changing nappies considerably easier, what have wet wipes ever done for me?

Thinking about it, they’re pretty good at cleaning up sick too! They don’t dissolve into porridge-like goo in the same way kitchen roll can. Wet wipes are really good at holding onto chunks of matter that might be found in said regurgitation.

OK, OK. Moving on…

So apart from making changing nappies considerably easier and being pretty good at cleaning up sick, what exactly have wet wipes ever done for me?

Oh yes. They’re great at getting rid of snotty noses. Especially when the bogies are dried on and have the consistency of toughened concrete. Wet wipes remove snot much more effectively than the old spit and hankie technique my mum used to prefer.

OK. OK. That’s all well and good. But apart from making changing nappies considerably easier, being pretty good at cleaning up sick and great at getting rid of snotty noses, what exactly have wet wipes ever done for me?

*Wet wipes cleaned my glasses nicely after Sam decided he wanted to rub them with Ella’s Kitchen covered mits – not ideal if you’re just heading off to a driving lesson and aren’t allowed behind the wheel without eye-wear.

*They also provide a great distraction during nappy changes. I hand an unopened packet to Sam and it keeps him occupied while I get on with the messy business. In fact, wet wipes’ packets, with their crackling sounds, are treated by my son as if they are the world’s greatest toy. Nothing makes him happier, other than (perhaps) a sock that’s been newly liberated from his foot.

*They were great at removing all traces of chicken tikka masala from a new pair of brogues, when I slipped on a squeaky pig and sent my dinner flying.

*Wet wipes were also great at providing a substitute for a shower when I arrived late (long story) – sweating heavily – for an interview with a minor celebrity. The wipes were pleasingly refreshing , in fact they should write that on the packet!

*Wet wipes were also a great way of cleaning milk formula off my iPhone, when a certain baby knocked over an entire container of the powder – causing a mini snowdrift! Note: I wouldn’t recommend doing this, it probably invalidated the warranty.

*Four packets of wet wipes also provided effective ballast, preventing a picnic blanket Sam and I were sat upon from taking off, during a sudden windy period. We’ve had a lot of sudden windy periods since he started weaning…

But apart from making nappy changes considerably easier, being pretty good at cleaning up sick,  great at getting rid of snotty noses, polishing my spectacles, providing distraction during nappy changes, removing traces of chicken tikka masala from new brogues, giving a refreshing shower substitute, cleaning formula off my phone and providing effective ballast at picnics… wet wipes have never done anything for me!

At all!

Thank God for wet wipes.

I’m sure you agree!

Still sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad.

@Outofdepth_dad

www.facebook.com/OutofDepthDad/

BTW, take a look at this: Monty Python’s Roman’s sketch.

The Missing Piece of the Jigsaw…

It’s not an easy subject to talk about.

Trust me.

But that’s probably a very good reason for continuing…

Becoming a parent has been a life-changing experience. It’s changed the way I look at the world – and I’m talking about more than the blurred perspective of tiredness!

As a dad, I’m growing more fully aware of the role my own parents played in my development. There’s a dawning realization just how integral they were to making me… me.

Which brings me back to my main point, that missing piece of the jigsaw.

It’s been 18 years since my mother’s premature passing. She was only 45.

18 years, really?

Some days it feels like yesterday. If I choose to seek them out, I’d easily find the emotions attached to her death – the hurt, the pain – knowing they’re all still as fresh as if it were a recent event. Which is probably why this chapter of my life is often kept in a room that I keep locked – ‘Warning, do not enter, unhappy memories lie within’.

My mother died of cancer. A cruel and merciless disease. It tore a hole in my family 18 years ago, just as it continues to decimate the lives of people up and down the country every day.

The thing is, as a parent, I’m now necessarily pondering the ‘What ifs?’ of my life. Actually, that’s not true. I’m pondering one, major ‘What if?’.

It’s quite simple really.

“What if my mother had lived long enough to know my son?”

Part of me thinks that such a question should never be broached, it’s a cruel conundrum to burden myself with, as a useful answer can never, truly, be given. Even so, I think of her a lot at the moment.

I was (just) 20 when she died. Looking back on it all I can see that I was a kid, nothing more. So immature, so tied to the apron strings, so lacking in any meaningful life experience. My parents had managed to shield me from the worst of what life had to offer, which, I think, is a big part of your role, as a parent. This, however, had a unintended side effect. It made the savage, gut-wrenching, unfairness of her death all the more piquant.

I’m not going to go into details. It’s enough to say that the disease tried to rob her of her dignity. It failed, but that was only because of the sheer force of will she brought to the situation. 45 is no age at all.

As a father I’m now aware of wanting to have a positive and lasting effect on my son’s life. Something that lingers. None of us know what tomorrow brings, but thinking back to my mum makes me what to take a little more control of today. I’m sure that she had regrets. We all do. But the regret that my mum shared with me was, and is, an inspiration.

Speaking, just the two of us, during one of the precious moments that came between influxes of nurses, well-wishers and medication, my mum shared a thought.

“I wish,” she said, with a wistful smile. “I wish I’d roller-skated more often.”

The sheer whimsy of this statement, from a woman who was staring into the abyss, has stayed with me. I take her thought to mean that she wished she’d lived in the moment a little more, that she had taken more time to enjoy herself. Forgetting to have fun is a trap, even with her warning all those years ago, I frequently fall into myself.

So what do I take from all this? Where does it go? I’m not going to stop thinking about my mother, keeping her alive in the memory is a duty that I have been given. I also feel that it’s my duty to tell stories of her to my son. I catch glimpses of her in him every now and then, just moments that evaporate as soon as I’ve noticed them. There’s part of me that feels on some level, he’ll know the stories of his grandma already – passed down in his DNA.

What else?

Well it might not surprise you to hear that, as soon as he’s ready, Sam will be getting a pair of skates. I’m sure he’ll skate rings around his daddy, probably with the assistance of a set of celestial stabilizers.

 

Still Sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad

@Outofdepth_dad

www.facebook.com/OutofDepthDad