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

http://www.facebook.com/OutofDepthDad/

Are you a SAD SAK?

It’s all changed since I was a nipper.

Back then kids (like me) didn’t have a clue about fashion. I mean, I really didn’t have a clue. Not only that, being badly dressed was a staple ingredient of the whole ‘childhood experience’.

Let me give you an example. Growing up in Manchester, with its trademark rain, the first decade of my life was spent feeling never less than semi-damp in purple cagoule. I was 13 before I realized most people didn’t rustle when they walked. I suffered all the faux pas of the period, shell suits, bumbags, cycling shorts (while nowhere near a bike) – sometimes all three at once. But this was all par for the course. As a kid, you wore what your parents put you in, and that was that.

Things have changed. Now I’m aware that Sam, at 11 months, is nowhere near old enough to choose what he wears. That’s not my point. My point is babies aren’t just shoved into generic baby grows anymore. Oh no! They have mini versions of adult clothing. Sam’s got, hoodies, ironic T-shirts, tracksuits trousers, chinos, cords, lumberjack shirts you name it. Having an unfashionably dressed baby is just not done down at the local baby group. You’d be thrown out of the Wacky Fun House if  your tot was sporting last-season’s looks. Sam has far more outfits than me… and the collection is growing by the day.

In what I think is a telling contrast, I have very few fashionable clothes. Actually, I’m sure anyone who knows anything about fashion would say I have none at all. I have a pile of T-shirts (some of which are old enough to remember the Clinton administration) a smaller pile of shirts (with dwindling numbers of fully-attached buttons) and some jeans. That’s about it. The idea of having time in the day to think about looking trendy is ludicrous. To be honest, if I’ve not got a conspicuous sick patch on my shirt, I think I’m on to a winner!

This is a social phenomenon that I don’t think has been properly documented:

Shabby Appearing Dad – Slickly Attired Kid or “SAD SAK” as I call it.

Are you at SAD SAK family? It’s time to stand up and be proud.

Be proud of your stains.

Be proud of your un-ironed wrinkles.

Be proud of your unfashionable garb.

Be proud that your child looks to belong to a much more fashionable family than you do!

These days finding any time to do the things most human beings regard as normal is such a struggle. I shaved for the first time in months yesterday – mainly because I was beginning to look like I was missing a basketball friend called ‘Marshall’. I don’t own a comb, I remember to put on deodorant on days when my morning trip to the bathroom isn’t accompanied by screaming – this isn’t often.

I just don’t understand how the trendy parents do it. You know the ones: women with perfect hair and makeup, men who look like they live in the gym and wear clothes that appear to have never come into contact with puke. They hang around in huddles rattling the keys to their hybrid 4x4s discussing how their kids have never eaten processed food.

Personally, if I can get through the day without rocking in a corner I think I’ve done well.

If you’re a SAD SAK do let me know. It would be good to know I’m not alone.

Still Sinking.

The Out of Depth Dad

@Outofdepth_dad

 

Time gentlemen please!

I spend a lot of time scratching my head.

No, I don’t have lice; not that I know of, at least.

I scratch my head, because, for the life of me, I can’t figure it out. What on earth did I do with all that free time I had before Sam arrived?

I mean seriously?

I don’t remember feeling like I had loads of free time. Quite the opposite in fact. My biggest memories of the years before the little one’s arrival are of stress at not being able to fit all the work into one day.

I’ve always been a worrier, so ‘turning off’ is something of an issue. I never turned off before Sam (about work, at least). Yet, even so, I must have had some free time? I don’t remember it, but it must have been there.

Don’t get me wrong, I went to the pub, I went out on my bike and I watched the telly. I remember doing all of that. These are all activities that these days seem to belong to the Halcyon times of long ago (except the telly bit…  I still watch it, in a half-asleep zombie-like state). Yet I don’t ever recall feeling like I had loads of time on my hands – great yawning expanses of minutes with nothing to fill them, nothing except any whim that took my fancy.

“Why am I getting all philosophical?” – I hear you cry *.

*Note: I don’t actually hear you. It’s a figure of speech. I haven’t lost the plot – yet.

Anyway, what am I talking about time for?

Well as a dad of a baby, it’s the thing that I seem to lack the most. Time to do anything that isn’t baby-related. It’s just weird. Eating, drinking, walking, talking, washing… even going to the loo are all hurried affairs usually observed by Sam, who’s always on the verge of either crying or getting his mitts onto something he shouldn’t. Trust me, it doesn’t make for a relaxing time.

I know that those of you who’ve been parents for years will scoff at this.  “Why is he stating the bloody obvious?”, you’ll cry.  It’s just I didn’t realize this would be the case. I genuinely thought I’d have a baby who’d sleep 23 hours of the day, who’d then magically transform into a kid who wants to go out on bike rides and play computer games. I didn’t envisage my current situation, where, in order to get long enough to write this post,  I’ve deployed white noise, lullabies, a dummy, along with much cooing and head stroking to get Sam to sleep for around 20 minutes.

I’m not complaining. Well I am, a bit. But I don’t expect sympathy. I know as Sam grows, I’ll eek back time into my life. Who knows, by the time he’s five  I might be able to watch a movie without interruption. That’s my five year plan, impressive eh?

Maybe.

I’ll tell you something. When time drifts back into my life again, I’m going to enjoy it.

Got to go, Sam’s awake. Time for a walk, I think.

 

Still Sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad. 

@Outofdepth_dad