An Unbreakable Bond

“So, we meet again, Mr Bond…”

This week I learned that wouldn’t happen. In fact, I’d never meet him for the first time. The legendary Sir Roger Moore has shuffled off this mortal coil to the great expensive-looking finale in the sky.

I’ll be honest, it’s left me feeling sad. His passing marked, for me, the end of an era.

You see, though others hold Connery dear or have a soft spot for Dalton or Brosnan. Mr Moore, will forever be my Bond. He may not have had Timothy’s good looks, Sean’s alpha male dynamism or, for that matter, Daniel’s lunchbox, yet, to me, Roger was the man.

To put this into context, I’ve always been something of a Bond obsessive. The bit of the brain many other men leave for football is, in my case, stuffed with Bond facts and figures. Something about this most cinematic of franchises clicked with me and has never left – thanks, mainly, to Mr Moore. During the hard times in my life I’ve always looked to these films for (A Quantum of) solace.  I know them backwards, I speak the lines along with the characters karaoke-style. Like a comfortable slipper, I put one on and know I’m at home.

But there’ll be no more Moore, and that makes me sad. I had planned that watching Roger’s canon of Bond-fare would be a pivotal rites-of-passage moment for Sam and I. A father & son bonding (no pun intended) moment. It’s just a shame that Sam will always know Sir Roger as someone who’s dead. I don’t mean this churlishly. I was born 6 months before John Lennon died. My mum, now sadly no longer with us either, was a HUGE Beatles fan. I mean obsessive. So John was a big part of the landscape of my childhood, but as someone ethereal, a person I shared negligible time on the planet with. I knew he was important but always felt robbed by the impossibility of a (highly improbable) meeting with him. So it must be with Sam and Sir Roger.

You see, in Moore’s Bond, I learnt a lot about being a man. He was confident, cocky sometimes, but only with a heavy dose of irony. He didn’t take himself too seriously. Moore’s Bond wasn’t so tied up in his own machismo that he was impenetrable to others. Most of the time, when he got into a fight, you worried for him. He threw punches that looked as threatening as WI coffee morning. When he did a karate kick I worried he’d throw his back out. His hair was always perfect, even when his acting wasn’t. His Bond was a bit crap at times, and I loved him all the more (Moore) for it!

I’m no flag waver. I don’t like the Last Night of the Proms, or Union Jack underpants. You’ll never hear me putting that extra syllable in to England (Eng-er-land). But that moment, in The Spy Who Loved Me, where Sir Roger skis over the edge of the cliff and falls into the abyss – only to open a parachute emblazoned with the Union Jack. Well, it makes the hairs on my neck stand every time – and I’ve seen it hundreds. It makes me proud to be British. British in the way Moore’s Bond was, aware of a great tradition, with a tongue firmly in its cheek.

Sir Roger was, of course, much more than Bond. He did amazing work for children all around the world through UNICEF – a role which made him (in my eyes) far more heroic that Jimmy B ever did.

So what’s all this got to do with being a Dad? I’m aware Sam will find his own heroes, people who represent values he aspires to emulate. Whoever the role models Sam chooses are, I hope he gets as much pleasure from them as I have from Sir Roger’s work over the years.

For me, nobody did it better.

RIP Mr Moore.

Still Sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad. 

@Outofdepth_dad

 

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

 

I only went and forgot the bloomin’ pram!

The case in my defence m’lud.

I’d just dropped Sam off at nursery. This job involves winding my way up a very inhospitable road, filled with dog poo, too narrow pavements and perilously fast driving numb-skulls. I’d handed Sam over and breathed a sigh of relief. Now my day was to begin.

I worked through the mental list of things I needed to do. By ‘mental list’ I mean a list in my mind, rather than a list of ‘mental’ things (i.e. strip naked and climb a lamppost – which I’ve never done, honest.) My ‘to do’ list was extensive, ranging from work emails, people to chase up and things to write, all the way through to ironing, hoovering and maybe a sly nap*.

* As a side note, naps are now officially my favourite thing. The idea of a quick, totally impromptu snooze is bliss. If only I could persuade Sam to take more of them!

Anyway, I was wandering down the road, avoiding the dog poo and hopping on and off the too narrow pavements when a the strangest of feelings hit me. I felt almost like I’d forgotten something. I did the usual patting process. You know the one… phone, wallet, keys…

They were all there.

As I don’t carry anything else of value. I came to the conclusion I was having anxiety about forgetting something for no good reason. It was probably due to sleep deprivation. I made the mental note to move a cheeky nap up my ‘to do’ list – I was clearly in need of one.

I got to the front gate, nicely sidestepping the massive poo left in the middle of the path by some kind local and their dog (I realise I make a big assumption here… but I hope there was a dog involved). I got my keys out, unlocked the front door and stepped inside. It wasn’t until I was halfway through making myself a cup of coffee that I had a pang that something was wrong.

I stepped into the dining room, where the pram is usually kept and was about to call out to Sam’s mum: “Where’s the pram?”

When I remembered I’d left it outside the nursery.

I’m glad Sam was at nursery, because, for a moment or two, the air was filled with the type of language that I’d really prefer that he didn’t hear.

Profanities liberally scattered around the house, I charged out again, avoiding the poo once more and wound my way up the awkward road to the nursery. As I walked I prayed that somehow I might retrieve said perambulator without anyone noticing. I’d grab it and head home, and no more would be said. No embarrassing conversations, nothing.

Is that what happened?

Of course it didn’t! The first person I met was the owner of the nursery. A lovely chap who grinned widely on seeing my sheepish return.

“You can leave that there all day if you like,” he said, kindly.

“It’s fine,” I replied, channeling my inner teenager. “I’ll take it…”

“Did you forget it?” the owner asked.

“Yes…” I muttered.

“Happens all the time.”

As I walked back home, winding along the awkward pavement, dodging the poos and recently lobotomized drivers – is 50 really a good speed to travel at on a road with a blind turn and no room for overtaking? – I comforted myself I hadn’t done ‘A Cameron’*

I mean I felt embarrassed enough forgetting the pram, how would I have felt forgetting Sam?

*David Cameron, ex-British Prime Minister, once famously left one of his young children at a country pub, and went home, forgetting them.

From now on I’ve decided to add a few items to my checklist: phone…wallet…keys… pram… Sam.

Luckily the last two objects on this list rhyme. Fingers crossed I can remember at least four of the five most days. Parenting, I’ve discovered, is all about setting yourself achievable goals.

Still Sinking

The Out of Depth Dad

@Outofdepth_dad

 

 

 

 

Rhymes against Humanity

I can’t be the only one, surely?

My brain feels like it’s melting and about drip out of my ear, like some kind of novelty candle.

Why?

Nursery sodding rhymes.

Really! Nursery rhymes!

If I have to ‘row, row, row’ my bloody boat down another stream, I think I’m likely deliberately crash it into the river bank and set the wreck alight!

I just don’t get it.

Why are they all so archaic?

Why are they all so dull?

Perhaps they were designed by a shadowy part of the government as a subtle form of psychologic torture to keep parents brain-dead during the early years? On reflection, this would be overkill – sleep deprivation is fulfilling that function quite nicely.

Don’t get me wrong, they work. I understand that nursery rhymes are like catnip for kids. Sam’s entire demeanour changes when he hears about the aforementioned watercraft and its oar-based method of propulsion. He can be fully on a one-way trip to the Dark side, I mean full Sith, and the mere mention of that boat will bring him back to a smiley state (for which I’m grateful). Yet, the thing is, I hate them! Nursery rhymes are driving me up the wall!

I used to be a thrusting young professional. Actually, I was never a thrusting young professional. To thrust in a professional capacity is a particularly niche occupation, but you get the idea. I used to be a man about town (also lies, I used to sit in pubs reading the paper mentally debating where I’d get a take-away from that evening). Anyway, whatever I was, it was infinitely more exciting than some of the rhymes I’m currently singing on a seemingly endless loop.

There’s ‘Old MacDonald’, who, as the rhyme tells us, is in agriculture. Good for him. Why I’m spending whole chunks of my day listing in inventory of his livestock and the sounds they make is beyond me. Sam seems to enjoy the experience, perhaps he’s pleased that these animals, half of which he’s never seen, are present and in good voice?

Another classic is ‘If you’re happy and you know it. clap your hands!” Sam can’t (currently) clap his hands, it’s a milestone we’re still yet to hit. I’m sure when we get to that particular promised land the song will gain a whole new meaning, but right now it feels like we’re going through the motions somewhat.

I mustn’t leave out ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’, who seems to have some kind of obsessive compulsive desire to walk his men up and down any molehill in sight. I can understand ‘Up’ being useful vocab for a child, as is ‘Down’. But ‘Halfway Up’ is probably going to be little used by any kid who isn’t obsessed with umbrellas.

They’re just so dull. I can’t be the only one feeling this, surely?

I also can’t be the only one who’s ‘adapted’ the lyrics somewhat. Nothing major, but enough to keep me from losing the plot.

Here’s a few examples:

“Old MacDonald had a farm, that supplied his burger business.

 And on that farm he had some cows, ‘cause it’s a cattle farm.

 With a moo, moo here. A moo, moo there.

Here a moo, there a moo.

Everywhere a moo, moo.

Old MacDonald had a farm and an abattoir.”

Another favourite is:

“Row, row, row your boat, over to the villa.

Don’t forget to put the prosecco straight into the chiller!”

A refusal to go to sleep, well past 9pm, after I’d cooked an elaborate meal for my partner’s birthday led to:

“If you’re happy and you know it scream and cry,”

If you’re happy and you know it scream and cry,”

If you’re happy and you know it and you really want ruin a meal that daddy sweated over for hours…*

If you’re happy and you know it scream and cry.”

*Note:

I’m aware this doesn’t ‘scan’ correctly, but I feel that deficiency adds to the poignancy of the piece somewhat.

Perhaps you think badly of me, rewriting these classics. As far as I’m concerned, Sam just likes the sounds of the words I’m saying and doing it keeps my brain (mildly) active. Anything’s better than watching Judge Rinder on a loop surely?

If you have your own unique nursery rhymes, let me know! In the meantime I’ve got to go. I need to tell the tale of Incy Wincy Spider – a lesson in futility if I ever heard one.

Still sinking.

The Out of Depth Dad.

Freefall 2: “Unwanted Advice”

“Where’s his mum then?”

I must admit I was startled by the voice, seemingly from nowhere. It’s one of the (many) problems of being my height (I’m 6 foot 5), very small people don’t feature on my peripheral vision. For a moment, I thought I was hearing voices. They say that happens, don’t they – overtired people have hallucinations? They’ve always sounded like fun to me, in the abstract at least. I quite fancy spending an afternoon talking to Shergar or being one of those daring men on a flying trapeze.

But I digress.

I wasn’t hearing things, I was hearing someone – a middle aged lady to be exact, keen to interact with me and Sam my son. She was tiny, almost professionally so – hence my confusion.

“Sorry?” I replied, woken from my day dream of flying through the air in a Big Top.

“His mum?” the lady looked around expectantly. “Where is she?”

“She’s at home, working.”

She gave me a look of “Oh you poor dear” and then stuck a grubby finger in Sam’s unsuspecting mouth.

“Please don’t do that,” I said, trying to control my temper.

“He’s fine,” she said, dismissively.

Whether Sam was fine, or not, was hardly the point – although I was simultaneously trying to remember if there was a way of disinfecting a baby’s mouth.

“See… he likes it.”

Sam also likes to throw all of his weight in the opposite direction when he’s being carried, meaning you have to lunge to ensure he doesn’t fall. My point is, just because Sam likes something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for him. In fact, as a 7 month old baby, the idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are not concepts he’s familiar with.

As politely as I could, I disengaged her finger from Sam’s mouth and attempted to carry on with the shopping. She didn’t take the hint.

“That face, he’s pulling right now, that means he’s tired.”

That made 2 of us.

“I know.”

She made a little clucking sound and shook her head.

“I mean what you’re doing taking him out when he’s tired is beyond me. Men…”

Here is the crux of the matter. For some reason, that I am yet to figure out, some people think it’s perfectly acceptable to come over and interfere when a dad is out with their baby. It drives me mad. It really does.

“Got to go.”

“What are you feeding him on?” she continued.

“Bye.”

Before I’d removed myself she’d grabbed a can of baby food from my basket.

“He won’t like this,” she said, eyeing up the Chicken noodle mush.

Sam does like it. He eats it like it’s going out of fashion. I took another jar from the shelf and walked away.

“Some people are just rude,” she said, as I left.

I couldn’t agree more.

Unsolicited advice, has it ever been well received? I mean, ever? Why, as a father, am I destined to be the recipient of it, by the bucket-load? Perhaps it’s a generational thing?We really need to get over the idea that a dad, on his own with his child, is providing inferior care – so poor indeed that a complete stranger, who happens to be in the possession of a second ‘X’ chromosome, could do a better job.

I’m aware that I may sound like I’m ranting. Mainly because I am. But really, when you’re tired, it’s the last thing you want. I fumed about it for hours, while Sam on the other hand, was happily napping in minutes. The lady was right, he was tired and today so am I.

Back to Shergar and the trapeze.

Still sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad

 

 

Freefall: Going Boob-less

Life would be so much easier if I had boobs.

There, I said it.

So much easier.

It seems to me slightly unfair that only women are equipped in this area. Dads like me would certainly feel a lot more useful if we were given breasts.

Cue the jokes about how I’ve got man-boobs already.

Thanks for that.

The thing is, I’m being serious.

New dads, when you talk to them, often recite the same issue: the feeling of being useless.

Well not ‘useless’ exactly. We’re good at making cups of tea for mum and moving heavy things about. But when it comes to the bread and butter of looking after a baby – we’re often completely surplus to requirements.

I want to stop here and make an acknowledgement. I’m very well aware that there are a whole host of mothers who do not or cannot breastfeed. I am in no way implying that by not breastfeeding these amazing parents are surplus to requirements. Far from it. As someone who spent a good period of time in a neonatal unit, as premature son wrestled with the task of breastfeeding I do know how hard and frustrating it can be. Being able to feed a child by one specific method is not a mark of whether one is a good parent or not. Mothers everywhere I salute you and the valiant work you do.

Which brings me back to my point. For better or for worse, my son is being breastfed. Which in so many ways puts a massive weight of responsibility on my partner. A weight, much as I’d like to, I can’t take from her.

I’ve tried. Lord, have I tried.

You see Sam, like most babies, doesn’t just feed when he’s hungry. He feeds when he’s upset or feeling unwell or surprised or tired or bored…

…you get the picture.

It’s a comfort thing. Essentially Sam turns to milk at all the intervals when I would have a pint or inhale a tube of Pringles. This means that my other half gets all the extremes of emotion. This is exhausting for her and it’s exhausting to watch.

It’s a difficult position for the father to find himself in. It takes me back to Sam’s birth, in an operating theatre, via C-section. Sam wasn’t doing well and was rushed into intensive care. Meanwhile my partner had a large hole in her. Suddenly I had two people to care for, look after and protect. The thing was they were physically heading in different directions. I couldn’t be with both. So I did what any parent would and went with Sam.

I feel a similar strain here. I want Sam to be happy and content, but I also see how tired this makes my partner and frankly I want to protect her from it.

Hence the boobs.

Men with boobs may not be the best idea. I mean, as a teenager, I’d have never left the house! I would, however, like to be able to help more.

We’re weaning Sam at the moment and so going through the Titanic – I don’t use that word lightly – struggle to get him to take the bottle from me. We have screaming, arching of the back, bulging blood vessels and dry retching – and that’s just me.

Seriously. It’s not easy. Apparently, babies can smell milk from their mother if she’s nearby and will thus refuse to feed from a bottle. I’d heard that sharks can smell a drop of blood in an ocean, Sam’s sense has got to be far more powerful than this! My other half has hidden in the kitchen, gone upstairs and even out for a walk, but the little man still seems able to sense her proximity. I’m sure that, even in full camouflage gear, he’d spot her in an instant.

It’s been quite a battle of wills. I want to help the boy, I also don’t want him upset. None of this would happen if he could feed directly from me when his mum is at work.  I’m reminded of the man-boob that Robert DeNiro sports in Meet the Fockers. I’d thought it ridiculous at the time. These days if Amazon sold them I’d be buying one right away – no second thoughts.

I can only hope that as Sam gets older, I’ll be able to pull my weight a little more. I’ll be happy to sit through all those dull conversations about Power Rangers while my partner puts her feet up. I promise. I might even pretend to be interested in football if it’ll make him happy and give her some time off.

In the meantime I’m relegated to providing tea and sympathy. Mothers, breastfeeding or not, are amazing and I take my hat off to them all!

That’s all for now.

Still sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad

The Precipice…

So here we are then.

I knew this moment would come. I’ve been building up to this for over a year, but, as with many things in life, I can’t say that I’m ready.

Have I ever been ready for anything? Probably not?

Don’t worry I’m not talking about the birth. We’ve done that. Finished. My son Sam is now just under 7 months old. He’s a lovely little ball of liveliness – going through the screeching phase. If you don’t know it, this is the bit where the baby just screeches, for hours on end, for no other reason than to hear the sound of their own voice. It makes scraping your nails on a blackboard sound positively relaxing in comparison. Trust me. I do not exaggerate here!

So what’s all this precipice nonsense? Good question.

Let me explain my set up. I’m a writer, by trade – cue the “Couldn’t tell by this!” gags.

OK. Are we done?

Well that’s what I am, my partner is a scientist, and analyst with a proper job. So the plan was always that I was going to take over a lion’s share of childcare when she went back to work. It’s by far the most sensible thing to do.

It’s just… well… I never really thought that her maternity leave was going to end. And, well, it’s about to and I’m suddenly going to be responsible.

It’s a horrible word, isn’t it? ‘Responsible’. I’ve never really been the type to embody it. If the word in question was ‘sarcastic’ then, traditionally, I was your man. But ‘responsible’… I’m not so sure.

Don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not being thrust into childcare unwillingly,  I’m not. In one way I’m looking forward to it – there will be a nursery involved too, so I’m not doing this alone. It’s just my other half is so good with Sam and I’m… more than a little bit nervous.

I’m sure there are other dads out there that can feel my pain? You see, I’m part of a generation that somehow sees being ‘a dad’ very differently to how my own father did. I’m a different kind of bloke to my old man and his peers – I don’t have a mustache, pipe, Ford Sierra or mate called ‘Roy’ (who has all 3).

I spent ages in education and then went to the work in the media – God I do sound like a bit of cliche!  No, I don’t spend all my time in Hoxton – I live in Devon these days. I’m not what you’d call ‘handy’, I’m useless at DIY. I don’t spend my Saturday’s playing football, I can’t stand the game. I’ve never lent my next door neighbour jump leads – I don’t have a car (I am learning to drive at 37). Basically I see very little of my father in me. When things go wrong I still look for a ‘grown up’, I tend to forget I’m already one myself.

So when it comes to taking on long term part time parenting (while my partner works) I do feel a little out of my depth.

An Out of Depth Dad… about to go over the precipice.

I’m sure it’ll all go well. It’s just I can’t help feeling a bit nervous.

Don’t worry. I’ll keep you updated on what happens. Warts and all.

Chris

The Out of Depth Dad.

@Outofdepth_Dad