30 Oct Fatherhood, a (non) expert’s guide
When Aly asked me to write this blog I was immediately suspicious.
Is she going to put it out there as the example not to follow? The do nots of fatherhood. As she has been know to tell me on occasions I am not the perfect parent far; from it.
Also many of the things I write on here are like Yorkie bars
(for those of you unfamiliar with the sexist ad campaign of the early noughties that means “not for girls”) – I mean they probably would still work for girls, they are pretty universal truths but I’m putting it out there as a disclaimer after all we have two boys and that’s all I know.
So here is the benefit of my wisdom accrued over the past 6 and ¾ years:
Sleep is important – There are many reasons why this is true. Inevitably you have more energy and patience for those parenting techniques that we all employ – the timeout step/thinking chair, the non-judgemental language that we employ – “oh look the milk has spilt” etc…
Also there are other more practical applications, especially in the early days.
Like the time when I would get up in the night and do the ‘dream feed’ – when you lift your baby and give him a bottle without waking them in those early days. On one occasion I wasn’t sure all the wind was up and figured rather than lying flat on his back might be the best posture to get rid of that last bit of wind (obviously in the crook of my arm while I too lay on the bed).
Aly woke up the next morning and was surprised that Elijah had slept beyond his normal waking time. She came into the room to find no child in the Moses basket, nor could she see that he was very contently still in the crook of my arm sleeping like a baby!
Suffice to say all was well, but this was perhaps not an ideal scenario and one that I resolved to avoid moving forwards!
Be succinct – I am a teacher of secondary school age children. I’ve learnt over time the language I use in the classroom (bear in mind a good friend once described me as a verbose wee ba$*!rd) does not necessarily work with a 3 year old. Keep it simple.
I still struggle with this.
I often think it is important to try and explain to them in detail why their behaviour is inappropriate and how it may be a negative example to their peers and how if they were to replicate it in a formal education environment their teacher may not be too enamoured.
Sometimes it’s just sufficient to crouch down on their level and tell them it’s ‘not kind’ or something.
Teach them key skills as early as possible – Our kids have never respected weekends or holidays as time for a lie in. You hear other parents “…yes our wee Johnny slept until 8 o’clock at the weekend…”.
Not our boys.
Whether it’s Sunday morning, the holidays, we’ve been out until ten for dinner with the family, none of it matters.
Today, having been at Granny’s until about 9.15 last night we were up at 6.45, which by a street is the best time since the clocks went back – ‘extra hour in bed’ says the weather man the night before the clocks go back – not in my world.
Anyway I’m ranting – the solution…teach them key skills – like unlocking the Ipad.
Sure your wife’s camera roll might be polluted by close ups of your beard when you’re sleeping (see above), or Snuggles’s (the elder boy’s teddy) latest adventure, but that extra thirty minutes of sleeping through it is priceless!!
When packing for trips get the important things in there first –
During the summer as you probably know the Harte’s took on Camp ‘Merca. This involved Aly heading out there early and me having to come back before she did to get home for work. I, on both occasions made the journey with the boys.
Two flights and a taxi ride to our friend’s apartment, an early start to get a taxi from Brooklyn to Penn station trying to avoid the build up to NYC’s ‘Pride’ parade. Followed by a six hour train ride to upstate New York.
(I know I’m not going to win father of the year, but it would be nice to be nominated).
All safely negotiated. Return leg – the three of us are all there, an hour away from NYC on the train back – “Daddy – where’s Snuggles?” OH CRAP!!!
Devastation – ensuing conversation went something like
Son: “Daddy we are going back to get him aren’t we?”
Dad: “Elijah – think about how far we have travelled and all the people who are on this train – your father will not be able to go to the front of the train and speak with the locomotive operator and get him to turn this thing around on it’s axis and retrace our steps now can he?”
Son: “I hate you Dad!”
Like I said pack the important things first.
Big gestures don’t solve any/every problem – Following on from the story above there was clearly only one solution. How do you bring a child around from the disappointment of losing his favourite teddy?
Clearly there is only one solution: you tell him he’s starting to get too old for teddies now that he’s six and instead he is going to get a replacement. Cue a trip to some electronics store and two Amazon Kindle Fire’s later (in fairness I did get a great deal) problem solved.
What Teddy?!?! Think of the lie ins I’ll get now!!
Problem solved. As it happens Mum felt so bad that Snuggles and Huggy (Son ♯2 when told Huggy had been left behind simply asked ‘can I have a game on the IPad?’) got posted home. Brats now have both!
Kids 1-0 Parents.
You see big gestures rarely work.
The importance of quality family time – In our house this can mean playing cards, board games or football outside. Our first born HATES to lose, this is, in some respects at least, a dreadful trait.
Rarely do we get to finish a game of Jolly Holidays or ‘cards’. The board is usually tossed up in anger when dad rolls a six or makes him ‘pick up 2’. I have tried both to suggest to him that it is only a game and it doesn’t really matter who wins, it’s the fun of playing BLAH BLAH BLAH…and the antagonising. (The latter is more enjoyable for me)
But neither has yet solved the problem.
The favourite activity though is wrestling! It’s easy to waste away the time choke slamming them onto the bed or delivering the piledriver on the living room floor. WWE warn you not to try this at home, but my kids would strongly disagree with this adage.
And I mean, what’s the worse that could happen?
They practice on themselves – how could that possibly end badly?
Live vicariously through your kids – Growing up I played hockey in the winter and cricket in the summer. It was what you did.
To my dad the idea of walking around a shopping centre with the family on a Saturday afternoon was what happened in Room 101 in Orwell’s1984. When we were old enough we went with him to watch hockey or cricket for hours on end.
When he needed a hip replacement the hockey stopped but he became a manager/referee/umpire or followed his children around the country supporting/abusing officials (delete as appropriate).
Don’t tell him but I have just stopped playing hockey this year and it actually turns out that spending time with your family on a Saturday isn’t all that bad –
I think it’s called being a modern father!
However, my two lads will not be stopping sport at the ripe old age of 35 – at least Tobs won’t be. Elijah might, you see he will be making my, ahem sorry ‘his’ fortune on the ATP Tour. He’ll be trail blazing the way for the Irish tennis player.
Tobs on the other hand will be following in the wake of ‘Rory Rory McIlrory’ as he calls him.
So off we troop to the local tennis courts, the driving range or Pirate’s Adventure Golf.
If Tobs can hole his putts with the cannon firing and his brother trying to hit him with his putter he’ll have no problem in front of the galleries with Jordan Speith looking on at the TPC in Sawgrass.
Besides at the minute they love it.
In a few years time when I’m making them hole five 20 foot putts in a row on the practice green when the hailstones are falling and sun went down half an hour ago they might not be, but that’s for another day!!
So there it is the benefit of my 6 and ¾ years of insight.
As I said, I’m not going to win father of the year…but it would be nice to be nominated!