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

 

 

 

 

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/

Going up in smoke…

People are going to hate me for this.

Seriously. 

But, to be frank, I don’t care. I mean what the hell is going on?

IT’S RIDICULOUS!

What am I talking about?

People smoking around children that’s what! It gets me so annoyed!!!

OK, so I’ll lay my cards on the table. I’m a non-smoker. Never have, never will. Never even been tempted. I figure that if I wanted to ingest serious amounts of carcinogens, there are much cheaper ways of doing it – like sucking on an exhaust pipe.

So, from the outset, you know I’m not part of the pro-smoking lobby. My mum died of smoking related cancer, and frankly I think it’s a horrible habit.

Still reading?

There is, I understand, an argument that people should be able to do whatever they like to their own body, thank-you-very-much. I get that. So if you want to ingest crap, 40 times a day, then that really is your funeral (literally). Good luck to you.

What annoys me, is the people I see doing this around kids. Often, and this is really what amazes me, their own kids!

I’ve tried and I really can’t see how people process this as if it’s an acceptable thing. I can understand the argument of: “It’s only me that suffers” that people give about smoking by themselves. It’s a stupid argument, because frankly nobody, not even Jeremy Dyson, lives in a vacuum. Screwing over your body is going to have effects on your family & friends, not to mention putting pressure on the NHS (if you’re reading this in the UK).

What I can’t understand is the idea of “Oh, it’ll only screw over my kids a little bit, by making them inhale my noxious cigarette smoke.” That, I don’t get.

As parents, don’t we just want the best for our kids? I mean, isn’t making sure they’re OK, and have the most promising start in life our entire role? Isn’t that it? Isn’t that ‘parenting’? Correct me if I’m wrong? So why would anyone go: “I want the best for my son, but I’m going to cloud him in cancerous gases because, frankly, I have no willpower”?

I told you some people weren’t going to like this.

It seems to me to have got worse lately. Since the smoking ban (which it won’t surprise you to hear, I love) smokers now linger outside pubs and cafes – which is traditionally where children are too. Here we find people frantically chain-smoking, a bit like deep sea divers filling their lungs before a long period of oxygen abstinence.

In the midst of these huddles of asthma inhaler-bearing inhalers we find kids, slowly turning into human kippers. Why would anyone do that to their own child? In an age where some parents what to find out the entire family history of any chicken nugget before they’ll allow their precious one to snack on it, why would these parents say: “Fuck it, you gotta die of something?”

The other day I was on a park bench, with Sam my son, when a man sat down next to me and lit-up. I asked if he could put it out or sit somewhere else.

“We’re outside!” he said, in a tone of ‘How stupid is this person?’.

“I’m aware of that,” I replied, attempting to stay calm, “I just don’t want my baby breathing that in.”

He tutted at me, then carried on smoking – with an air of ‘What are you going to do about it?’

I think ‘Going Postal’ is the term Americans use, when people lose the plot and majorly go off the rails.

I considered this for a moment…

… then chose another bench.

You see, I decided that not succumbing to an urge of the moment and acting in a negative manner (taking this man’s tobacco and shoving it forcibly where the sun doesn’t shine), was a better outcome for my son.

Perhaps there’s some parallel with smoking here?

Thanks for listening. I’m off to quietly fume somewhere*.

*NB:Please note the difference between ‘fuming’ and ‘giving off fumes’.

Still Sinking. 

The Out of Depth Dad. 

@Outofdepth_dad

Facebook.com/OutofDepthDad

 

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

Pretty Fly for a little guy…

The woman opposite me picked up the phone and cleared her throat.

“Ehem, ladies and gentlemen,” she said, in a strong New York accent. “Welcome aboard this American Airlines flight from New York JFK airport to Ronald Reagan international.”

There’s something about the vaguely bored tone air stewardesses give when speaking over the public address system that I find comforting. It says it all. Mainly what it says is ‘I’ve done this a million times before, and it’s all ridiculously routine’. This tone is the perfect antidote for the more sweaty-palmed flyers (such as myself).

The stewardess opposite me – I was in the first row of seats, taking advantage of the extra legroom – could barely have sounded more bored as she spoke. We were about a minute into a flight, climbing steeply with takeoff, and I was looking up to where she was seated – shoulder straps securing her to the cabin wall.

“We’ll be flying at an altitude of…”

This is where things changed. Suddenly the bored tone had gone – this had probably something to do with the climbing plane’s sudden loss of altitude. Rather than talking, this seasoned air stewardess screamed (I do not use that word lightly) into the telephone.

“AGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGH!”

If an stewardess acting nonchalantly makes a passenger feel calm, seeing one panic has quite the opposite effect. I don’t know how long she screamed for, it must have been several seconds as the plane plunged towards the ground.

“AGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

Then, as suddenly as it started, the plane’s descent halted and we began to climb once more. With this, the air stewardess straightened her clothes and continued in her previous tone.

“We will be climbing to a height of…”

At that moment my lack of enjoyment at flying became a full grown phobia.

It is into this context that a flight home to Manchester, with Sam and his mum, can be placed. It was only a short internal hop – less than an hour. But I’d been dreading it for weeks. People kept saying “Oh… it’ll be nice to head home for a few days…” to which my (non-verbal) reply was always – “Yes, if we survive the flight.” This is the fundamental thing that those who have no qualms about flying don’t truly understand. For me, although I know it is much safer than a common or garden car journey, I feel like getting on a plane is a dangerous activity. Something to be survived, not savoured.

When I get on a plane I scrutinize my fellow passengers, casting them in an airborne version of the Poseidon Adventure. Who will be an asset in an emergency? Who’ll be Shelley Winters?

So you can imagine getting onto a plane for the first time with Sam and his mother was a little – read ‘massively’- stressful. What if he does nothing but scream? What if we have turbulence? What if..?

So how did it go?

Seriously I wish I’d always taken a baby with my when flying. He loved it. Sam giggled through takeoff and spent the flight either sleeping or chewing on the safety briefing laminates. As a side note – I wonder if there are any other objects on the face of the planet that must taste more strongly of stale sweat than safety cards on a flight? My palms are clammy just thinking about one.

Having another focus, beyond myself and my fear of impending doom was so useful for a terrible flyer like me. He took me out of my head and into the moment  which – although it was thoroughly strange to be in a metal tube among the clouds – was nowhere near as bad as my imaginings of what could go wrong.

I’ll look forward to many more flights with my little lad, who at 10 months is a jet-setter.

PS:

If you’re an air steward or stewardess and you see me on a flight, please try to look bored.

Still Sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad

@Outofdepth_dad