Equation: M-H=F (Man minus Hobbies equals Father)

Once upon a time, a young man in his twenties spent a lot of his spare time at rehearsals for amateur dramatics shows, down the pub with his friends, or playing video games.  This young man had what he felt was a pretty good life – a good balance between work and play.  He was a singer in a band, he read books and comics, and he liked a drink or two.

Then, one sunny day in 2009, he got married.  This was nothing negative.  People got married all the time, and although divorce rates had never been higher, nothing could have been further from his mind!  Nothing much changed during this first year of marriage, although (for various, unrelated reasons) the band went on hiatus and eventually split.

The turning point came in mid-2010, when the young man and his Darling Wife became expectant parents.  Even at this point, there was nothing much different about the way they went about their lives, but the young man’s primary shopping locations went from being predominantly HMV, Game and CEX, to John Lewis, Babies R Us and Mothercare, none of which sold Halo video games or Bones on DVD.  A significant amount of time was also spent browsing through catalogues and websites for baby clothes/toys/furniture/bedding.

Cherub #1 arrived in Spring 2011.  Wills and Kate had just got married, Britain was experiencing an atypically warm spell, and ‘Party Rock Anthem’ by LMFAO (you know, the embarrassing dance track from The Inbetweeners movie) was #1 in the UK charts.

After his arrival, there was little time left for video games or socialising.  The young man (me, surprisingly!) had a job which took up the majority of my days, and a wife and child that took up the remainder of my time at home.  The saddest thing about being a working father is the amount of time with the family lost to the job or to travel (but that is a gripe for another post).

Everything has its place though, and once a routine had been worked out with #1 that freed up some of our time, it became easier to reintroduce certain pastimes that had been shelved.  Out came the Xbox and out came Halo: Reach.  I could once again join in the fight for humanity!  On rare occasions, #1 would sit on my lap happily pressing buttons on the controller, causing me to lob grenades at my team mates and constantly enter and exit vehicles at very inopportune moments in the heat of battle!  Bless him!

But this reprieve was short lived.  Cherub #2 came along in short order.  As for that routine?  It was a case of ‘find the nearest window and throw it out’!

It’s been just over 10 months since Bubba Pink arrived, but I have again found time to save humanity, win the Spanish La Liga, and finish watching the first season of Person of Interest.  Not bad for 10 months with two demanding children.  Being out of work for 5 months has given me more time with them, but also allowed me extra ‘ME time’ when Darling Wife takes the children out for a few hours.

I was, and still am, happy and thrilled to be a father.  #1 is an awesome little boy, and #2 a chilled out baby girl.  They can be difficult sometimes, but then what children aren’t – as I am sure Wills and Kate will find out soon enough.

And congratulations to them too, by the way.  Y’know, Alexander is a great name…but it should have come first!


Situational Manipulation, or Suffer The Little Children

Somewhere in The Bible (Mark 10:14, I think), the following words are uttered:

Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God.

I am fairly certain the following quote came from Julius Caesar (The Roman Dictator, not the Shakespeare play):

‘Veni Vidi Vici’ (‘I came, I saw, I conquered”)

If someone were to translate my children’s thoughts at this moment in time, I’m convinced they would be saying:

Suffer the children, for we came, we saw, and we conquered, and our parents didn’t stand a chance, for such is the way of things in our house!

Having spent the day at a Christening (Godson #2 and his brother) and had a wonderful time, we decided to get the children fed and ready for bed before leaving as we were an hour away from home – the thought being that they would sleep in the car on the way back and bedtime would be easier than usual.

Our children had other thoughts…

While Spawn #2 actually did sleep for part of the journey, #1 did not. Not only did he not sleep, but the closer we got to home, the more over-tired and upset he got. And for those of you who don’t already know, kids will get upset about the most random things. Spawn #1 got upset because:

Cars were overtaking us.

His favourite song finished and the next song took to long to start.

His food tray was up and he wanted it down.

His food tray was down.

His feet were on the food tray.

His feet were not on the food tray.

The food tray is black.

There were trees outside.

This went on for about 40 minutes. Upon arriving home, we tried to get the kids upstairs and into bed ASAP. While bedtime was later than usual, we still wanted #1 to have his milk and stories. Cue more complaining about which stories he wanted, because the first set of stories he picked weren’t the ones he wanted when I eventually persuaded him to sit down. Tonight, he had ‘A Squash and a Squeeze’, ‘Ten in The Bed’ and ‘Sleepy Farm’.

When stories were finished, we set the Gro Clock to sleep time. (Yes, we bought Firstborn a Gro Clock – made by the same company that sell the perennially unhappy GroBag Egg room thermometers – to try and teach him that any time before 6:00am is NOT an acceptable time to get up. I can safely say that this hasn’t worked as yet.)

Then Mummy came in to say Goodnight. Cue another complaint about whether Daddy or Mummy would sing him his bedtime songs, ‘Castle on a Cloud’ and ‘Summer Time’. Daddy won. Eventually. Not sure exactly why I get to do this when Darling Wife has the better singing voice… Probably something to do with the fact that I don’t have the breasts for comfort feeding a ten month old…

With songs finished, I put the Little Darling down in his cot. At this point, I should probably mention that Spawn #2 had been wailing and moaning since just before ‘Castle on a Cloud’ and when she’s upset, Spawn #1 gets upset too. It’s almost like a one way empathy link. I say it’s one way, because #1 will get all whiny if #2 is upset, but #2 couldn’t give a rat’s rear end if #1 kicks off. Aren’t they adorable!

Eventually, I managed to leave the room and headed downstairs to wash a pint glass in preparation for a well deserved cider. Suddenly, #2’s crying unsettled #1 and he kicked off again, wanting “Mummy. Mummy. Mummy”. Off upstairs I went once more, but this time I had a plan – Situational Manipulation.

As I entered his room, Firstborn threw himself back down from a standing position into a kind of ‘I swear I was trying to sleep and you can’t prove any different’ pose. I slowly stepped to the cot and had the following conversation (translations appear in brackets):

ME: Hey Buddy, it’s sleepy time. (Please, for the love of God, go to sleep!)

#1: Yeah. (Whatever.)

ME: You had lots of fun today didn’t you? (Why the Hell aren’t you unconscious already?)

#1: Oh Yeah. (And I ain’t done yet, Daddy-O.)

ME: But playtime is over and it’s time to close your eyes and get some sleepies. (PLEASE!!)

#1: No. Mummy. (I want Mummy to come in here so I can wind her up too.)

ME: Mummy is busy putting your sister to bed. Can you hear her crying?

#1: Uh. (Mummy or Sis?)

ME: Can you hear your sister crying? (Smart arse!)

#1: Oh Yeah. (That little attention seeking squirt is cutting in on my action.)

ME: She’s crying because she is tired and upset, and all that noise you’re making is keeping her awake. (WELL THEN, SHUT THE F*** UP!)

#1: Yeah. (No.)

ME: So lie down, close your eyes, and Mummy will come in and say goodnight to you when she’s finished putting your sister to bed. (I have no idea if this is true, I just want you to be quiet and go to sleep.)

#1: Yeah. (It’s a deal.) [He rolls over and actually makes the effort to go to sleep.]

ME: Night night, Monkey. (Ha Ha, Sucker!)

I really do love my son. He’s so cute and adorable when he is oblivious to my parental scheming!

P.S. I do not condone lying to a child of any age, but sometimes it’s the only way to get them to do what is best for them.

A Father’s Duty

So. It’s 00:48am and Spawn #1 has just stirred and called out for attention.

Dilemma: Is he dreaming and crying out in his sleep or is he waking and genuinely in need of attention?

I lie here listening to him for a few seconds to see if the crying out gets any louder. Bugger! It does.

Dilemma 2: The children’s rooms are next to each other, their doors separated only by the geometric entity that is a right-angle.

It has been so hot in our hometown this week that the Grobag Eggs in their rooms have been constantly RED and unhappy (for anyone unfamiliar with a Grobag Egg, these are small plug-in room thermometers that change colour with the temperature: BLUE = Too cold. YELLOW = Just right. ORANGE = Slightly too warm. RED = Sauna from Hell).

So the doors to the children’s bedrooms have been open all week to try and help cool them down. It hasn’t worked. And whenever One Child makes a noise in their sleep, Other Child wakes and has a moan.

With Spawn #1 making screechy noises, I figure it won’t be long until #2 is dragged screaming from the realm of sleep. With this in mind, I climb out of bed and head to #1’s room to head this off at the pass.

I exit the bedroom I share with Dearest Wife and turn towards the Little Cherubs’ rooms. I start to pace towards #1’s door when I am cruelly tackled by a laundry basket. Thankfully my little toe takes the brunt of the impact and I swear silently into darkness of the house.

#1 is starting to get more upset so I enter his room, expecting to find him stuck in the cot with his arms and legs pinned between the mattress and the frame, or find he’s stuck a book up his nostril. But no. He’s just upset because he rolled over onto The Highway Rat and cannot get back to sleep.

I soothe #1 until he is once again unconscious and tiptoe back to my bed, avoiding any more ninja laundry baskets. On the way back to bed, I realised something.

in all of the books that we read while planning for children, nothing anywhere had prepared me for all the bits that parents actually go through: The Stress, The Emotional Turmoil, The Impacted Social Life, The Erratic Sex Life, and the almost constant edge-of-your-seat bedtime routines.

People with kids tell you how great being a parent is, and often they will tell you it’s tough. They may even regale you with a story or example of something that isn’t quite going to plan – but all these experiences are unique to each situation. Every parent is unique, as is every child. Some techniques will work, while others that people swear by (having seen them used to immediate effect on Supernanny) will fail spectacularly. But if you persevere, you can and will overcome almost anything.

Its now 01:33am, and I am bringing this, my first blog entry, to a close. I intend this to be the first in a series of posts intended to provide short snippets of my daily war with my children, and on occasion a nostalgic glance back to days gone by, when the children actually slept at night and England was a far more temperate, Grobag Egg friendly place to live.