It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s 4.15am on a Wednesday morning, to be precise. And I should be in bed. Instead, I’m singing some kind of bizarre (or, I would argue, inspired) theme and variations on the tune of “Yes, my name is Iggle Piggle.” It all seems to be working quite well: my scamp of a daughter is slowly drifting off to sleep, and I feel quite smug about the fact that I’ve managed to settle her. Bed beckons, I think. And then, she utters the words no parent wants to hear at that time of the morning: “I need a wee.”
When I discovered, five years ago, that I was going to be a dad, I experienced that age-old heady mix of giddy excitement and paralysing fear. I prepared as best I could: I felt like I was on first name terms with Gina Ford, I knew my social life would be turned upside-down, I even managed to remain calm when, at our ante-natal class, our midwife produced a fake breast to demonstrate how a new mum might feed with an inverted nipple. As you do. But nothing could prepare me for the seemingly unending lack of sleep.
Someone at work told me the other day that his two kids have always slept through the night. ALWAYS. Even from birth. How on earth can this be true? His son and daughter both wake naturally at 9am. If you’re about to become a dad, be aware: THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN TO YOU. Although I’m sure Gina would have something to say about my no-doubt bad parenting habits, my own little theory is that there’s absolutely nothing you can do to control your kids’ sleep patterns. They either sleep through, or they don’t. In our house, 4am appears to be the new 7am. Me and my wife frequently discover a small human-shaped mound at the end of our bed in the mornings. And I’m pretty sure I’ve sung every CBeebies theme tune (and even a few from that Channel 5 alternative with the scarily smiley Mancunian woman) in the wee small hours.
Over the last four-and-a-bit sleep-deprived years, I’ve learned what it’s like to be a dad. There have been some slightly suspect moments, and it’s been a huge challenge to juggle home life with work life – especially when the two collide. But, with my eldest having just started school, I now feel pretty happy about how the whole parenting thing has turned out so far. This Diary of a Desperate Dad will hopefully give you a little window into the world of a father of two, with another on the way. From sleepless nights and the challenges of joint parenting, to playground peer pressure and dealing with other people’s children, I’ll be pondering what it is that makes dads (and their kids) tick.
More tomorrow – but for now, I reckon it’s time for a siesta in that meeting room downstairs. I think I’ve deserved it.