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/

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

Football Crazy…

I know why they do it. It’s meant to be nice. I know that. I’m meant to be thrilled and agree. But, frankly, I find it quite annoying.

Actually more than ‘quite’. I find it VERY annoying.

You’ll see what I’m talking about and many of you will think I’m over reacting. That I need to ‘chill out’.

Perhaps I do.

But, even so, hear me out. I do have a point.

Sam, at 9 months, is now an active little fellow. On the cusp of crawling, he’s a bundle of wriggly-ness (yes, I’m aware that’s not a word). Since the recent discovery of  his legs (which I’m sure must have been akin to when Carter unearthed Tutankhamen’s tomb -although this story only contains one mummy – Sam’s face lit up in a quizzical way that said: ‘These hadn’t been there all the time had they?’)  Sam’s been kicking them all the time – like it’s going out of fashion. And here comes the annoying bit.

“He’s kicking well there,” said an old lady, smiling at me. “Who knows? You might have a footballer on your hands!”

Now I know, in her mind, she was probably saying something nice. That’s what you say about little boys isn’t it? If they’re lucky, they might grow up to be footballers. It’s a social norm, an acceptable comment to pass on a baby. My frustration is not with the old lady. She is certainly not the first to have said it to Sam, and (I’m sure) won’t be the last. My frustration is with the aspiration that lies behind it?

Why are we limiting our boys in this way?

Sam may well grow up to be a footballer. But kicking a ball around a field and speaking in monosyllables is not the only way my son can achieve success*.

*At this point, I’d like to make clear that, whatever he does with his life, Sam’ll always be a success in my eyes (even if it is play for Manchester United).

Why can’t we start saying?

“Oh, there’s a good arm wiggle. Who knows? You might have a cardiothoracic surgeon on your hands!”

Or

“He makes a good giggle. Who knows? You might have a polyglot on your hands!”

Or…

Well you get the idea. There are many, many, ways to ‘succeed’ in life.

For me being a nice, decent, caring person is the primary way this can be achieved. I’ll be far more proud of Sam if he looks out for the needs of others than if his face was available to stick into a Panini album (I’m talking stickers here, not sandwiches).

Our society is one screaming out for positive male role models. Wouldn’t it be great if a new generation was allowed to look beyond the football pitch to find them?

So, apologies to the old lady (who was I know meaning to be kind), but I’m not going to limiting my son’s aspirations. There’s a whole world available to our kids, success can take to many forms.

Next time you see a baby boy kicking/waving/smiling/screeching, why not say: “There’s a great kick/wave/smile/screech he’d make a great dancer/social worker/paramedic/teacher”?

Maybe I overthink things? But maybe, just maybe, I don’t?

Still sinking.

The Out of Depth Dad

@Outofdepth_dad

 

Groundhog Day…

I feel like I may have written this post before. If I have, please forgive me.

It’s just at the moment, life seems to be one long familiar blur. I’m serious. I feel like I’ve done, seen and heard everything before. This must be what Enya feels like whenever she steps into a recording studio.

Monotony, I’ve learned, is not a board game where you try and buy up all the stations before your brother. In fact, if it were a game, ‘bored’ would be a far more appropriate spelling. My days seem like a never-ending treadmill of very similar events. I’ve asked around, I’m not the only parent who feels this way.

Let me take you through my Groundhog Day.

*I’m up, before I’m fully awake, around 5.30 to 6 am.

* Either my partner or I change a nappy. How one small boy could produce so much pee is beyond me. I marvel at the absorption abilities of the boffins at Pampers, wondering why they don’t get into the flood protection business.

* Coffee is made, and consumed like it is the antidote to some extremely potent sleeping poison. More is produced. I feel like Bono during his solo spots on U2 tours – glad to have taken off The Edge.

* Sam is fed. By fed I mean baby rice is smeared everywhere, with some (occasionally) landing in his mouth. We clean him up making a mental note to re-wallpaper at some point (we won’t).

* Our breakfast is bolted down – trying to ensure we’re out of the house by the time tiredness hits the boy. Tiredness has already hit us.

* We discuss whether or not Sam has poo’d. Much time is spent on this most fascinating of subjects. Size, consistency, colour are all mentioned. I feel like a sommelier for bowel movements (in this case pronounced ‘Smellier’).

* The day proper begins – a haze of walks, play, nursery rhymes and attempting to feed Sam – covering the walls again. Every day will include:

1) Sam’s mum or I commenting on how heavy Sam has got. It’s either that or our strength has left us.

2) A comment as we remove orange food from Sam’s face that we don’t want him to turn into Donald Trump.

3) A comment that it won’t be long until we can order ‘Babyccinos’ for Sam.

4) A discussion about whether there’s an ambient bad smell or it’s just Sam’s filled his nappy.

5) A whist-ful discussion about sleep.

6) One of us discovering the other has a snot/sick about their person that they haven’t noticed.

* Around 6pm the day hits critical mass. It’s downhill from here. Sam has his dinner – more punishment for the wallpaper – and it’s bath time.

* Bath time ends with me making a mental note to do something about my knees, which are struggling with all the kneeling down it requires.

* Story and bedtime. These are always accompanied by a comment about how expensive kids’ books are and how glad we are we either received them as presents or hand-me-downs.

* Dinner, in front of the TV. With one eye on the baby monitor. Silently praying we have a moment or two’s peace.

*9pm bed. Rock and roll eh?

* 9pm – 5.30am multiple disruptions, very little sleep.

* I’m up, before I’m fully awake, around 5.30 to 6 am.

So that’s my day.

It’s proving increasingly difficult to tell days apart. I feel a little like an actor who has performed a play so frequently he suddenly has no idea whether he said his next line already or if that was yesterday.

Essentially I living my entire life on the channel Dave ja vu.

Was there a point to all of this? Probably not.

I feel like I may have written this post before. If I have please forgive me.

Still Sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad

@Outofdepth_dad