Finding Your Feet

In which our reluctant hero faces a near impossible deadline. Probably. 

So, against all odds, my first most excellent (if somewhat lacking in actual words and sentences about being a Dad or parenting) blog post survived. Some of you may even have read and even remembered it. If so, I really suggest that you try to get out just a tiny bit more. Or chuck your phone in the bin. It’s for the best. Trust me.

My resolution for this week was to think about a proper first post. Which, to be fair, I did. Sadly, no resolution was made to write said post despite me apparently mumbling something to my considerably better half about finishing each weekly Friday offering by the Sunday before. Oh, why do spouses only listen at the most inopportune moments?

So, here I am. A man (technically, by definition – I checked) trying to concentrate on doing something important-ish (my blog) without any real clue as to what I am doing, while keeping one eye and half of my brain firmly focused on something else important-ish (Wallander.) Which I suppose is about as near to accidentally stumbling across an analogy about parenting that I’m likely to get, seeing as there’s only about 54 minutes left until Sir Ken solves the murder.

Briefly getting back to the blog…

The concept of parenting is a bizarre one to get your head around. It’s the only permanent job that you’re likely to perform with hours directly in contravention of the European Working Time Directive, provides no pay, and to which no, or practically no, training (aside from those wonderful NCT antenatal classes that you can sign up for – happy Regional Chair?) is given. You need a licence to keep a telly in the house in case you can’t look after it properly. Yet you’re allowed to keep a real life human baby in the corner of your living room, or mounted on the wall, to stare at for hours on end without anyone batting an eyelid. Utter madness.

It should be simple. Should be. But, somehow, it just isn’t.

As if not having the foggiest idea of what you’re doing isn’t bad enough, everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) that you know is positively itching to bamboozle you with advice. Advice. All of it conflicting. Most of it veering unhelpfully towards Chocolate-Teapot Land.

“Yeah, the World Health Organisation stuff about breastfeeding until two is nonsense. Pureed Sugar Puffs with Cup-a-Soup will be fine from five days.”

“Slightly jaundiced? Ignore that stuff about sunlight. We left ours in the fruit bowl with bananas on top of her for a fortnight. Ripened perfectly.”

It’s quite frankly amazing that we survived past being cavemen and caveladies, especially since CBeebies was only broadcast between noon until one until the latter period of the ice-age. The savages.

One of the more useful pieces of advice that I was given was that the best thing that you can do is listen to everyone’s advice and then do your own thing. Sound advice indeed, which I promptly dismissed and went and did my own thing.

In the early days of parenthood, my primary role as a Dad, particularly at night, was to walk around in ever wearily decreasing circles with a permanently screaming baby welded to my shoulder. Just on the off-chance that the three of us would somehow all manage to be asleep at the same time, even if for only half an hour. Fat chance.

The nighttime hours spent not screaming were pretty much exclusively spent not feeding. My wife was determined to breastfeed but our daughter had other ideas. Ideas mainly involving inhumane acts of torture applied to the upper adult torso.

During a particularly sleep deprived and difficult night of a series of many, in a moment of utter madness, I offered some advice of my own. With my exhausted and demoralised wife at near breaking point and, for the first time, considering giving up breastfeeding, this was probably not the time for such foolhardy action. So in I went anyway…

“Don’t ever make a decision in darkness.”

Yeah, I know. I don’t know where it came from either and confess to having forgotten all about it until being reminded while writing this. As my default setting is “don’t ever make a decision” adding two extra words wasn’t so great a leap. It was just a case of picking the right two. “In Greggs” probably wouldn’t have had the same impact.

And, miraculously, more by luck than judgment, everyone got to sleep and everything did indeed seem better in daylight. My wife persevered with feeding past the twelve month mark and I was more than a little surprised to learn that she passes this advice on whenever anyone else is struggling. Blimey. (I’m happy to cash out on my ten bonus Dad Points, albeit three years late by the way.)

And, eventually, it does get easier until, finally, one day… Eureka! You nail something all by yourself. Something so spectacularly impressive that you too feel duty bound to share and annoy your peers with like a modern day Dr Spock. Or Mr Spock. Or something.  

“Yes, little [insert child’s name here] wouldn’t eat a single piece of fruit or veg until we smeared hummus and quinoa on the plate before serving. And now [he’s/she’s/it’s] thinking of going vegan. At six months. So advanced.”

And at this exact point, the one where you move seamlessly over to the dark side, be sure that next mealtime you have a plate with some words and a knife and a fork at the ready. And make sure that the plate is smeared with a couple of delicacies from the Waitrose Essentials range beforehand. Because you’ll soon be sat in your kitchen eating those garlicky, grainy words while watching Sugar Puffs and Cup-a-Soup zoom round in the blender.

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