In boxing, the fight is grueling, no doubt about it. But even in this most demanding of pursuits, there are little breaks, where the pugilists sit at the side of the ring, have a drink and try to regain their senses. It's only as a result of these intermissions that the fight will ever have the chance of going the distance. For me, it was the same with parenting a little one. For hour upon hour your senses are pummeled as tears, food, poo and puke fly. The parent becomes totally punch drunk, but clings onto their sanity in the knowledge that there's a nap around the corner, the child will be sleeping any time now. This sleep is, I feel, far more restorative to the parent than it's ever been for the child. It's a chance to catch your breath, wipe down the walls and consider a few winks of sleep for yourself.
At any one time I’ll be putting shoes on my toddler, picking up Lego, texting my partner about dinner, trying to put my own socks on, brushing my teeth, waiting on hold to speak to the gas board, wiping dripped toothpaste off my T-shirt, sniffing my toddler to see if a nappy change is necessary, half watching Homes Under The Hammer and trying to eat some cold toast. Whatever this chaotic process of attempting to do everything at once is called, one thing is certain - I didn’t act like this before the baby.
It had been a few minutes, three maybe. I looked at him, as encouragingly as I could, and spoke. “OK, that’s good. It’s easy, just one, two, three and push.” I’d tried to hide any stress (rapidly growing within me) from my voice. My son looked back at me, seemingly unconvinced. “Cuddle?” “We can have a cuddle when you come down the slide.” “Cuddle now?” “Just go down!” chimed in a boy, about twice the age of my son - part of the growing queue for the slide forming behind my little one. “He’ll go when he’s ready,” I said, once again trying to appear calm - reminding myself that empathy isn’t a skill kids are born with. “Just one, two, three and push!” Still nothing. It was going to be a long day.
It’s the odd thing about milestones, I just don’t see them. What I mean is, I’ve never actually noticed a milestone at the time it happened. Rather I’ve only been able to see the moments that marked real, tangible, progression in my life retrospectively. I think this may be a side effect of being busy. Actually ‘busy’, if I’m honest, doesn’t quite cover it. For the last 2 years I’ve been so manically active, so frantically ‘on task’, that ‘busy’ sounds like a rest. And no, I’m not about to start moaning about how hard parenting is. We’ve all heard that a 1000 times before. Parenting is hard. But that isn’t newsworthy, there is no breaking story there. It’s always been hard. It will always be hard. That’s just the way it is. Sorry folks. I’m keen, however, as my son achieves his second birthday, to look back at my first 24 months of fatherhood. What have I learned? If anything? Am I still out of my depth? It’s likely. Do I continue to make points in lists of 3? Definitely. Here’s Fatherhood: The Story So Far...
This I just don't get. If I present an item to my son, on his favourite plate, there's a 50/50 chance of his eating it. If, however, I get the same item and throw it on the floor... 100% certain he'll pick it up and munch away happily. For some reason, toddlers want to put everything in their mouths. So any walk in the park, trip across town or visit to the supermarket is perpetually punctuated with me saying: "Take that out of your mouth! We don't eat off the floor". Leaves, rocks, bits of twig, squashed chips & a whole assortment of litter have all been whisked from his grubby little mitts just before he attempted to eat them. If I'm honest, there have been several times when I didn't get there quickly enough - so these items have had to be wrestled from between stubbornly closed lips. He, of course, thinks this is hilarious - while all I can think of is a potential night of projectile vomiting should he catch some lurgy or other.
I remember his mother and I would discuss, in those oft-remembered (much missed) quiet relaxed evenings before our son was born, television's role in our household. We'd pretty much decided that our offspring would never be sullied by exposure to the telly. Equally he'd never touch sugar, only eat organic and spend his life with well-thought through educationally relevant play. What mugs we were!
Dads do AMAZING things WITHOUT superpowers It's (relatively) easy to save the day if you can fly or walk up the side of buildings. Superheroes (on the whole) are blessed with some pretty nifty abilities that the average person in the street could only dream of. They've got a bit (read 'a lot') of a head start. The thing is, I've seen dads do amazing things with no superpowers whatsoever. OK, OK, what they do might not be as 'showy' as the antics of Messrs Wayne, Kent and Stark - but they're more impressive.
Suddenly a cry rings out, causing a shudder of tiredness to run up my spine and take root in the bags under my eyes. Next, probably by magic, your feet find the floor and you question y our existence. The door opens and a night light illuminates the face of a crying toddler, you smile broadly - pushing back your own desire to cry. Then, tot in arms, you collapse into the chair and break into a droning "Incy Wincy Spider..." as you look at the clock. It's 3 am. But the tot doesn't care about the time. Why? You get your answer as the full flavour of the nappy he's just filled wafts towards you. Happy Birthday.
A Musical Vehicle. Now I'm not suggesting that musical vehicles (like those created by Vtech) were first created by sadists in a diabolical plan to bring misery into the lives of already stressed-out parents. I'm not suggesting that at all. OK, I am suggesting that this might be one possibility.
My brush with fame was to take place at the Exeter offices of BBC Devon. From these far from exotic surroundings (sat in a glorified cupboard) I was to link in with show. It was only when I was seated, mic'd and framed for the piece that my stomach sank. I spent the next 30 minutes, looking at 4 monitors each displaying my features as we waiting for the allotted time. Under the harsh lighting (without makeup) I looked like crap. There's no other way of looking at it, I looked like someone who'd just completed a sleep deprivation marathon. I have never seen myself look so old, tired or haggard.