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/

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/

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

 

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

The Empty Nest…

I know that this is going to sound ridiculous. I can hardly believe I’m writing it myself.

But Sam and his mum are away, visiting her family and I miss them… loads.

That, you may note, is not ridiculous in itself. Missing my partner and my son is not a strange thing – of that I’m aware. But stay with me on this…

I feel like Morgan Freeman – sadly I don’t share his sonorous tones – in The Shawshank Redemption. I assume you’ve all seen it. If you haven’t, what on earth are you doing reading this? You must stop immediately and watch the movie. I’m not joking.

Good. They’ve gone.

In the film, you’ll remember that Morgan’s character ‘Red’ gets out of prison, after a long old sentence, and suddenly doesn’t know what to do with himself. All of those things he’d promised himself that he’d do don’t have the same attraction when he’s actually out. In fact, Red would much rather go back inside the prison. He likes its routine, its certainties.

Now, before people start screaming at me, I know very well that fatherhood is not a prison. It does, however, share some similarities. What I’m thinking of is a lack of self-determination. You can’t just do what you want to do, when you want to do it. There have been many times in the months since my son and heir was born during which I’ve just craved silence, a nice cold beer and a Bond film on the telly. I’m a man of predictably simple tastes.

So now, here I am in a silent house, with every Bond movie at my fingertips and a fridge full of beer and what do I want?

My family.

Don’t get me wrong. I will have a beer at some stage, and I might even spend an hour or two watching the hi-camp antics of one Mr Roger Moore. It’s all good. But now that I’ve got what I thought I wanted I realize it is a pale whim compared to spending time with my little one and his mum.

I don’t write on here to be unnecessarily soppy, that’s not how I’m built. I’m just telling you how it is. Parenthood is a weird thing, it pushes you to the limits of tiredness, of sanity of… well everything really. But it takes a little break from the daily grind to remind yourself how much you actually enjoy it. How happy you are.

That’s enough profundity from me.

Carry on as you were, I’m off to get used to the temporary peace and quiet.

Still Sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad. 

@Outofdepth_dad

Daddy Brain…

I’m not saying that pre-Sam I was some kind of intellectual super-power.

Far from it.

I’m the type of guy who gets quite smug after answering a few questions correctly on The Chase (my favourite Chaser, should you want to know, is The Governess. I don’t have a good reason for this. I probably should stop there).

University Challenge leaves me universally challenged.

As for Mastermind, I think I’d fall down on the General knowledge – I know nothing about Generals*.*

**That was what’s known in the trade as a ‘Dad Joke’. Since Sam’s arrival I am (officially) allowed to tell them – joy!

Anyway, despite not being a candidate for Eggheads, I always prided myself on having a brain that worked – kind of.

All that has changed since the arrival of our little monkey. I have a suspicion this occurrence is the result of a combination of lack of sleep (the standard parenting complaint) and being permanently unnaturally enthusiastic – unnatural for me, quite a monotone Northerner.

Together these elements have created what I like to call ‘Daddy Brain’.

I’ll give you an example of how ‘Daddy Brain’ manifests itself:

Yesterday I went to the loo. Quite a mundane activity, I’m sure you’ll agree. I won’t give details of whether this featured an odd or even number. Anyway, I did what came naturally and flushed the toilet. On doing so, for no good reason, I said out loud:

“There’s a good boy! Well done.”

I was on my own. Seriously. Sam is nowhere near being ready for toilet training. Why I said it is beyond me. Sadly, it got worse. For some reason, saying this caused me to roar with spontaneous laughter. Laughing by yourself in the loo is not (in our culture) regarded as a good thing. My other half called through the bathroom door to check if I was OK – all I could do in reply was snigger.

That’s Daddy Brain for you.

Another Daddy Brain incident happened to me when, at 7 in the morning I made my way to the kitchen to make a brew. I opened a bag of ground coffee and, rather than emptying it into a the jar, I emptied the whole thing into the cafetiere. Once more this triggered deranged laughter from me, and concerned inquiries from my other half upstairs.

The strangest incidence of Daddy Brain occurred to me today. I was going around the supermarket, alone, and without consciously being aware of it I was singing (loudly) “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands!”

When I say that I was singing loudly, I’m not lying. In fact, I was singing with such gusto that, just as I passed the dairy section,  another customer joined in with my rendition.

Before, in my pre-Daddy days, this would have been so embarrassing to me that I would have stopped, dumped my basket and run home to hide. With Daddy Brain, that didn’t happen, We harmonized for a moment before I continued with my shopping.

It was all very strange.

So that’s Daddy Brain for you. I can’t wait to see what I do tomorrow, something weird, no doubt.

Still Sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad.

@Outofdepth_dad

“Turbulence”

It’s time for me to be honest.

I thought I knew exactly what I was going to write in this blog. I really did. I had it all planned out. “What is he going on about?” I hear you cry (I don’t). 

Let me explain.

Today was Sam’s first full day at nursery. It was, not entirely coincidentally, my partner’s first day back at work after her maternity leave. So far, so predictable.

I had a blog planned, on how we were worried about mutual separation anxiety caused by Sam’s stay at the nursery. I was going to say that my partner and I had planned how she would balance her workload – which before Sam’s arrival had been considerable – taking into account the effort and tiredness that goes along with parenting a small child. I’d expected to build all of this up into a pleasingly tense crescendo, until, surprise surprise, it all turned out well in the end.

That’s what I’d planned to write. That’s not what happened.

I woke this morning feeling like I’d gone 12 rounds with Mike Tyson – boxing, not drinking. My head thumped and my throat was sore. “Never mind darling,” said my partner, “you can get a nap after the builders have gone.”

Did I mention we had builders in today too?

What kind of idiot books in builders on an already busy day (see above)? I did. But, to be fair, I didn’t. The building work was supposed to take place last week, but it drifted, as building work has a tendency to do, so that the builders were still with us today. Glorious.

This morning was supposed to be the family version of an exhibition match. A morning where I showed how smoothly it could all run, with me in charge of Sam then dropping him at nursery, while my other half got on with her job (she works from home).

I don’t know if babies have an inbuilt ability to know when important conference calls are happening? Sam was as happy as Larry (whoever he is) until 9 this morning (we decided to start him at the nursery at 10 – easing him in). From 9 onwards, just as his mum began the ‘back to work’ conference call in the next room, he screamed the house down. There was nothing I could do. All the usual appeasing tricks didn’t work. He screamed and screamed, the conference call listened and I became grayer and grayer. I couldn’t take Sam out of the house, because the builders hadn’t arrived (they were predictably late) and my partner was on her besieged conference call and so couldn’t let them in.

I’ve rarely been so frazzled as when I delivered Sam to the nursery. Handing him over I noticed a small – zit like – spot on his hand. I mentioned it to the care assistant, who agreed to keep an eye on it.

Stressed, but relieved Sam was in good hands, I made a mental list of all things I was going to achieve in the next 6 hours. 6 whole, beautiful hours. Time, when you’ve got a little one, is such a luxury. At least, I comforted myself, the worst of the day was over.

I’d just sat down with a coffee, – beginning a piece of writing I’ve put off for far too long – when the phone rang.

It was the nursery.

Sam needed to be collected, in the last half hour spots had broken out all over him. He’d only been a nursery 27 minutes!

I rang the doctors straight away. Had a I done the drinking glass test? I felt sick. It’s amazing how, as a parent, your mind races to the most dramatic conclusions.

Sam’s mum and I raced (literally) to the nursery. I was soaked with sweat when I arrived. True enough, Sam was gathering an impressive collection of red spots. I tried to seem calm as we raced him to the doctors. I couldn’t help but feel guilty about not being more sympathetic during his screaming this morning: clearly he’d been ill and I’d just taken it as grumpiness.

I’ll bring the story to a rapid conclusion. I see no need in drawing it out. It was a viral infection, nothing, thank God, more serious. Nothing, I mean nothing, is more likely to make you feel out of your depth than the prospect of a seriously ill child.

So now, as I type, I’m sitting with a spotty, but sleeping child. Nursery for Sam is out of bounds for the next week so I’m on permanent daddy duty (rather than my usual 3 days). As for my partner’s stress-free transition back to work. Well, that may have been too much to hope for.

I wonder if Sam has hit some kind of record – being removed from nursery on his first day after only 27 minutes?

Maybe not.

Either way, it’s not been a day I’ll forget in a hurry.

Must get back to the spotty boy.

Still sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad.