Tuesday, 31 July 2012


I've been talking a lot recently about the role of the father and the challenges we face with various people. Henry is now at a point where, on occasion, only mummy will do. He can become rapidly inconsolable by anything apart from a cuddle with Emily. This can be particularly difficult for the hands-on dad, like I am trying to be. When you want to be a part of the parenting and do your very best to meet your child's needs it can be quite an emotional challenge to recognise those times when you're not enough. And clearly Henry isn't doing this to hurt, the mother baby bond is vital and well-documented. And a generation or so ago this wouldn't have been an issue, there was less expectation, I think, on dads to be active parents. The hands-on dad was the exception, not the norm.

However, times have changed and people do expect more of dads - although I think I pressure myself more than society expects of me. This is what leads to the difficulty. I want to be able to do it, but sometimes I am just not what he wants. I can imagine at this stage it is tricky for dads to maintain the involvement, it can be difficult to continue when you feel you're having to hand over to mummy each time. I am fortunate that I've got a chunk of time off work now and can be about a lot more and strengthen the relationship. For dads that don't have that opportunity it must be very tough and I would question what support, or consideration, they get. My mum talked about my dad, who was an exception but also was in the navy so had to be away for long periods, and how she hadn't considered what it would have been like coming back from months away to a child that wanted mummy. I cannot imagine how difficult that would have been - I am sure all he wanted was hugs and smiles and to not put me down, yet I imagine I had other ideas when young.

The importance of the relationship both parents have with a child is important, and I think preparing dads for these trials would be beneficial.

Thursday, 26 July 2012


In the past I have considered when does a child become a child - i.e. when do they move from simply a mass of cells into something with a consciousness?  I did not provide an answer, I am not sure there is one to be honest.

However, is there one for when a behavioural reaction becomes a tantrum?!  Friends of ours have ascribed their four week old screaming and kicking to a tantrum.  Emily and I do not think that's right.  One of the things that we have learnt since having Henry is that:

1)  You change your mind about everything you thought you would hold dear.
2)  Everybody, and I do mean everybody, has an opinion.  Be they friends, neighbours, passers-by, everybody think they know how it should be done.
3)  When you watch other people you think "ooo...I wouldn't have done that..."  In this, though see point 2 above!

But when does a tantrum become one?  We had a long chat about what the difference between a tantrum and a baby screaming was...we found it difficult to draw the line.  The issue is that they are both behavioural expressions of when something is wrong.  What we think the crux of the matter is, is the ability to access other strategies, such as talking about it, that are not available to a baby.  But it is far from decided in our household.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Oh, they grow up so fast!

Henry is at an amazing stage. He smiles, beginning to have good head control, and, amazingly, babbles away in full conversations with us. We get to kiss him all over and have bath times with him. If he gets crabby he goes up onto a shoulder (although this has resulted in a number of top changes) and gets taken for a walk - around the garden is a sure fire calmer for all but the most serious of ailments.

I was standing in the shower this morning thinking about all of this and worrying, again, about him growing up and only getting to experience those moments in my memories.

It actually offered me some insight into why people, even in these modern times, have large families. These days are so precious with Henry, dependent on us and attachments emerging. I am tremendously excited about all that is to come, but these few months where a silly noise is enough to get a smile (and I will do ANYTHING for one of his smiles), a kiss is enough to get a giggle, he looks for you as you leave and is fascinated by his own hands, are so short. When he is a bit older, moving around and talking I know I will miss these days. I'm fairly sure I will feel like this at every stage of his life. But there does seem to be something particularly precious about these first few months.

A biological imperative? Probably. Do I care if it is? Certainly not! My little boy is waiting for a silly voice and a kiss on the lips - there are more important things to be worried about!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

I'm a parent too!

I've just posted my last blog and it has occurred to me that it would be useful to quickly vent my spleen.

I used to work for a Children's Centre (a hub of staff and activities for families with children under five) and we ran a Dad's Club every week.  Currently, in my city, there are two monthly Dad's Clubs run.  Despite increased awareness of our role we remain a very neglected part of service provider's considerations.

During Emily's pregnancy the midwives treated me as useful, or interesting but entirely surplus to requirements.  They were never rude or dismissive, but nor did they attempt to really engage me.  And I am confident professional; heaven knows what it would be like for somebody without my background and experience.

Now that Henry is here I continue to be left out.  I work so none of the normal weekday activities are possible.  Evenings, I'll grant you, would be out of the question.  But a couple of hours on a Saturday to have somewhere to go and meet other dads?  Apparently this is too much to ask.

And Henry recently had a minor health scare and we spent a night in hospital.  They tried to get me to leave, arguing that only one parent could stay as any more presented a fire risk if the floor had to be evacuated.  At the time it was obvious that this was service led, rather than patient led rules, with no basis whatsoever in fire regulations.  'Luckily' Henry was still undergoing assessment, so decisions needed to be made so I was never forced to leave, or to make a stand.  But when a child is that young, to ask one of the parents to leave is cruel.  We live quite close to the hospital, but it is a regional servant to a large swathe of Devon and Cornwall.  What if something did happen suddenly and home was an hour's drive away?  This is a terrible state of affairs and one that I thought we had moved on from.

Dads are important; services need to actually take that on board now and stop paying lip service to the idea.

Everything changes

Life is busy.  I know I used to fill my time before Henry came along but for the life of me I cannot remember how.  It is a common occurence for my wife and I to be cooking dinner around 8-9pm.  Not good for our waistline, but it is shared time, and important to us both.  And Henry's routine is paramount!

Thinking about how he sleeps has made me realise how much has changed in the 13.5 weeks since he arrived.  I commented today how he used to scream when having his nappy changed - the worst moments for me in those first few weeks were a 2/3am nappy change.  Tired, bleary-eyed with a screaming banshee of a son exercising his surprisingly powerful lungs were the moments that pushed me to near breaking point.  But now, he 'enjoys' having his nappy changed - he appreciates the necessity of it and enjoys the focussed attention he gets.  Henry talks to us, engages with us, smiles at us.  He is taking a great deal of interest in the world around him.  He is very sociable - at his happiest when he has our undivided attention or he is held on a shoulder and taken for a walk to see the world.

When I visit these pages I am reminded how useful it is to record my thoughts here - but I just do not seem to be able to find the time!  I get back from work, then it is into spending time with him and Emily before and during his final feed of the day - then tip-toeing around for a bit until he invariably wakes up and he gets a final top-up and settled for the night.  He has slept through a couple of times now, and is in his big bed (he looks tiny!).  The goal of this blog was to capture our evolving relationship - it now feels like this is changing daily as he learns new skills and responses.  He recognises me now, he settles on me when he is teasy on others, smiles when he sees me.  I'll grant you none of these are 100% of the time, but they are certainly often enough that it does not feel like chance.

(Of course I may be deluding myself - biologically I am programmed to see things in Henry that make me believe a connection is growing so that I feel the need to protect my progeny and preserve the future of the species.  However, that is a cold outlook and I prefer to think that it is not random facial twitches, but genuince pleasure that daddy is home!)

And it has struck me whilst having a Twitter exchange with Michael Rosen (http://michaelrosenblog.blogspot.co.uk/) that it is about time I started to read to my son.  I have so far only read a few excerpts from the paper - now, though, it is time to start him on his exciting journey towards becoming a reader.  One day I hope he will read these posts.  If so...tidy your bedroom and get a hair cut son!