Monthly Archives: January 2013

Easy as 1, 2, 3…

Jackson 5

 

Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael: move over.  There’s a new Jackson Five in town and, although this bunch doesn’t yet have the same back-catalogue of chart hits to its name, it’s definitely headline news – well, in our house, at least.  The reason?  This time last week, “the present Mrs Jackson” (as she’s always delightfully referred to by a colleague of mine) gave birth to a beautiful, slightly shell-shocked baby girl.  A girl who, according to my mum, looked like a frog when she was born (nice).  To be honest, she wasn’t wrong – but then, who’s ever looked their best whilst having their photo taken close-up on a mobile phone, 13 minutes after appearing from the womb?

 

Having had two kids already, both of whom took many hours to arrive, my wife was in no hurry to get to the hospital last Sunday evening.  She understandably didn’t relish the chance of whiling away most of the night in the Royal Surrey, so we stayed at home for the first couple of hours of labour.  By the time we actually arrived, I was mildly concerned that we may not get any further than the car park.  Thankfully, though, we did make it to the delivery ward, albeit no thanks to an unruly wheelchair that clearly wanted to lead us down the adjacent corridor to, rather alarmingly, the Chapel of Rest.  But all was well in the end and, an hour later, Daughter Number Two (a.k.a. Child Number Three) was on the scene.

 

Over the last week, I’ve been reminded again of some fairly key rules about childbirth – and even made a few new observations along the way.  In no particular order, my Top Ten are:

 

  1. It’s never right to share with anyone the details of how many stitches your wife had to have after the birth.  No, honestly: DON’T.
  2. Unless it’s your own child, a baby is a relatively boring thing.  To quote our four-year-old son, “Dad, is she ever awake, or does she just sleep the WHOLE time?”
  3. When considering if and when to make small talk with the midwife, you should apply the Taxi Driver Rule.  In the same way that it’s clichéd and inadvisable to ask a taxi driver if he’s “had a busy night so far?” or “just started your shift?”, so it is futile and pointless to pose similar questions to the woman who, at that moment, has most of her forearm inside your wife because she’s trying to ascertain whether or not she is fully dilated.
  4. No matter what your politics, everybody should love the Labour government at least a little bit for the fact that, in 2003, they introduced paternity leave.  For dads, a world without paternity leave does not bear thinking about.
  5. The smell of a baby’s head is, without question, the finest smell in the entire world.
  6. When you have a newborn baby, you should completely lower your expectations of what you can manage.  Frankly, if you remember to put clothes on at all, you’ve achieved something, let alone actually getting round to washing, drying and ironing anything.
  7. No matter how funny you may personally find it to refer to your wife’s “breasticles”, now is really not the right time to make that joke.
  8. Despite what other people may tell you about it being a lovely moment of bonding with your newborn child, the dad-based ritual of “cutting the cord” is a completely gross experience that should be avoided at all costs.  Ask yourself: have you ever enjoyed cutting a bit of gristle?  Quite.  It really is no different.
  9. In the first few weeks after the birth, you may well wonder whether you’ll ever get another night’s uninterrupted sleep in your lifetime.  Don’t worry: it does happen.  But it takes about two years, at least.
  10. Becoming a dad is, without doubt, the most humbling, scary and “wow, what’s the meaning of life really all about?” moment you’ll ever experience: guaranteed.

 

On Wednesday, the joys of paternity leave become nothing more than a memory for me – almost certainly for the very last time.  So, before the madness of work returns, I’m going to enjoy these next two days.  And, much as I have high ambitions for my kids, I think I’ll leave it until next week before I get them to rehearse our tribute versions of I Want You Back and ABC.

 

Hand

A new-found love of the office…

Me and the kids

In the nicest possible way, I’m looking forward to Monday morning already.  Does that make me a terrible dad?

All day, I’ve been trying to work from home.  And I can confidently conclude that it has been a disaster.  With the snow affecting my trains and the bad weather only due to get worse during the course of the day, I concluded first-thing that I really would be better off staying put.  After all, I had a stack of award entries to write along with a script for a big concert we’re putting on at work in a few weeks’ time, so it wasn’t as if I didn’t have enough to do.  What’s more, with the eldest child at school, things would be fairly quiet at home, and with my wife now very pregnant I really didn’t relish getting “the call” in the midst of London transport chaos.

So, up I got, bright and early, ready to make a start before the kids had even had their breakfast.  I was just about to get cracking, when my phone went off.  “Upon advice from the local education authority, the infant school is closed today.”  Right.  Okay.  Well, I’ll quickly get him out of his school uniform (he’s quite keen on school at the moment and was dressed and ready to go before 7am) and find him something else to do.  Then, I can get started.

For the next two hours, I sat at my Mac with a two-year-old clambering on my shoulders and a four-year-old asking “can we build a snowman yet?” approximately seven times per minute.  Then, my wife took them out for a coffee with a friend.  “Great,” I thought.  “I’ve got an hour and a half to get stuff done.”  The front door had barely been shut for a few seconds when the phone went.  It was my mum.  Wanting to speak to me.  On the home phone.  She didn’t even know I was at home (“Oh!  Why aren’t you at work?” was her first question), so why on earth she’d phoned me here at 11am remains a mystery.

Once my quick chat with her was done and dusted, it was time to truly crack on.  And I did make some progress – honest.  So much so that at lunchtime, I even managed to stop for 20 minutes to try and build the much-requested snowman with the kids.  We had a lovely time at first – although it very quickly went from this:

Happy kids

To this:

M nearly crying

To this:

M crying

Afterwards, I attempted to take various phone calls from the office and elsewhere, all the while trying to give the impression that everything was calm and focused here, and that the emails I was sending hadn’t been typed with one finger.

A typical Friday night in our house will involve a curry, Homeland and a bottle of wine.  Tonight, after my complete failure to do the working from home thing, it’s going to have to involve a Mac, a pile of award entries and a to-do list of stuff I was hoping I’d have tackled by now.  Ditto Saturday night.

Much as I love being with my family, right now I’m quietly looking forward to Monday morning.  If nothing else, I can at least be pretty certain that no one in the office will try to climb on my back while I’m writing an email.

Any day now…

Car

Tonight’s starter for ten: is there a good time to have a baby?  By my reckoning, any new arrival in your family is a hugely exciting prospect – but would it be wrong to suggest that having a newborn in the summer is an easier option for all concerned?

Our two kids were born in July and August respectively.  On both occasions, the conditions weren’t exactly Mediterranean but there certainly wasn’t any need to de-ice the car before driving to the hospital.  Now, though, as my wife approaches the 38-weeks-and-counting stage of her third pregnancy, we face the prospect of navigating that journey in positively Arctic conditions.  The other day, I rang her and shouted “The Daily Mirror’s got a headline that says THREE WEEKS OF SNOW!”  It probably wasn’t the most caring way of flagging up the impending weather conditions but, to be honest, I think her main concern at that moment was that I’d become a Daily Mirror reader.  Since then, the reality of the situation has hit home.  This morning, we woke to a blanket of the white stuff in our little part of Hampshire.  To say that my wife looked fairly unimpressed at the idea of doing the school run in the snow with two kids under five, both of whom wanted to travel there via the universally-loathed mode of transport known as the scooter, would be putting it mildly – especially when Child Number One suggested building a snowman on the way.

Anyway, if its daily somersaults and kickboxing in the womb are anything to go by, our baby is itching to make its presence known as soon as it can, even if its official estimated time of arrival isn’t for a fortnight yet.  So, I think I need to be a bit more prepared, not just for the journey but for the fact that I’m about to become a dad again.  But so far, all I have is an old cassette box to scrape the ice off the car windscreen and a packet of Minstrels in case my wife is hungry on the journey to the hospital.  She, meanwhile, has packed her hospital bag and washed about five loads of baby sleepsuits that were already clean anyway (I didn’t question her logic, honest).  I know there’s a mountain of books about how to prepare for the arrival of a baby – but they remain on the shelf, untouched (except for the chapter about what sex is like during pregnancy which, without a shadow of a doubt, is the one every man turns to first when picking up a parenting book.  And if your husband says otherwise, he’s LYING).

I’m not going to panic too much, though.  You see, I might not quite be there yet with the car maintenance, but the experience of having had a couple of kids already has taught me a few basic dos and don’ts when it comes to how to behave when your partner is pregnant.  The first is to never, ever tell her that she’s massive.  The line “Wow!  You basically resemble Mr Greedy from the Mr Men now!” is never, ever advisable.  No, really.  Equally, if you’re ever tempted to suggest that, at the late stages of pregnancy, you give her…lady garden…a trim, don’t do it.  Obviously, you’re trying to be caring, considerate and very 21st Century Man, but it’ll only end in tears.  Believe me, I’m never going to attempt to pursue a career in horticulture after that particular experience.  And finally, as I may have mentioned before, when you finally make it to the hospital, try to avoid walking into the wrong delivery room.  Having to deal with your own wife’s labour is challenging enough, without having to inadvertently witness someone else’s.

Anyway, those are my little tips.  Yours are very gratefully received – and if you know anywhere in rural Hampshire that’s open 24 hours a day and has plenty of de-icer in stock, do let me know.  It might come in handy sooner than expected.

Like father, like son?

Like Father, Like Son

 

As any parent of young children knows, it is entirely normal to spend your days in a permanently sleep-deprived haze.  Lie-ins can quickly become the stuff of legend; either that, or their definition changes so dramatically that uninterrupted sleep until 7am is the post-kids equivalent of waking at midday and watching ITV3 crime drama repeats in your pants for the rest of the afternoon.   So, one of the things I love the most about staying with my parents – something we’ve just done as we saw in 2013 with them both – is their willingness to get up with the children at the crack of dawn.

 

On New Year’s Day, there is really nothing sweeter than being able to say to two under-fives when they appear at your bedside, “Go and see Grandad.  Goodbye.”  What’s more, the fact that my dad doesn’t appear at 8am and consider that to be enough of a lie-in, purely because he’s been up with the kids for a couple of hours by this point, is something for which I’ll be eternally grateful.  If and when I have grandchildren (a ridiculous thought, I know, given that I sometimes wonder whether it’s even legal for me to have kids of my own yet), I hope I’ll show the same consideration to my brood and happily rise in the middle of the night to watch the 2050 equivalent of Abney and Teal.

 

All this has made me wonder: is it really true that eventually, we basically become our parents?  If so, I don’t know whether to feel delighted or terrified.  After spending the new year with my folks, the idea that I’ll one day be exactly the same as my dad fills me with a bizarre mixture of serene contentment and what can only be described as paralysing fear.  Because although I love my dad’s considerate nature and his eagerness to ensure that my wife and I relax whenever we stay there, there remain some things that deeply panic me about the prospect of becoming more and more like him.  Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have him any other way and he is, of course, the best father anyone could ever have, but it’s surely okay to have at least a few quibbles, isn’t it?

 

His ability to get his words confused, for example, isn’t something I want to emulate in a hurry.  When planning the New Year’s Eve festivities, he heartily announced to the assembled throng that we’d be having “a lesbian meal – all together.”  Just your average December evening in the Home Counties, then.  (Upon further enquiry, he begrudgingly admitted that he had, in fact, meant ‘Lebanese’ – but it’s an easy mistake to make.  We’ve all been there.)  Similarly, his choice of attire is never less than interesting.  My dad remains the only man in the world who believes it to be entirely normal to wear a large green bumbag when shopping in Sainsbury’s (“why would anyone want to have to reach into their pocket for a wallet when you can access all your money via one zip?”) and he resolutely refuses to remove his jumper when eating, even if he’s practically dying from the heat (“I just don’t believe in taking my pullover off at the table – and anyway, it wouldn’t make me any cooler; it simply doesn’t work like that”).

 

Before we left to head home, I mentioned to my dad that I was writing a blog about parenting.  “You?  Parenting?  What on EARTH do YOU know about parenting?”  It’s a fair response – but then, I guess the beauty of muddling on through as a dad is that none of us has a clue how to do it.  If we’re honest, we’re all attempting to find our way and do our best, whether that be as a dad to a toddler or a dad to a father of two kids himself.  Which is a relief, really, because if it required anything more than that, I don’t think any of us would qualify for the task.

 

Now then, where on earth did I put the lesbian peppercorns?