Home Alone

In which our reluctant hero tackles role reversal.

Apparently, being a modern dad isn’t just about going to work then swanning off down the pub until closing time, like in the olden days. If there’s enough time after doing the Shake and Vac and the ironing, we have to babysit the kids too.

Like Harrison Ford sitting in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, I went solo this week. Home alone while Mrs Babysatdad went off to work and down the pub. For three days. It’s like the 1950’s never happened.

I’ve been a dad for over four years so wasn’t phased by this. It can’t be that hard. Mums do it all the time. What could possibly go wrong?

Friday
I was up early and super organised with the day’s chores sorted before seven. Go me! After dropping the eldest off at her school nursery, it was time to have some fun with the little one.

I hadn’t been to a baby group for ages and it turned out that now the boy is nearly three, he entertains himself. As he couldn’t escape, I left him to it while I got stuck into tea and cake with the mums. I even managed to talk to an almost-grown-up person for a bit. I could get used to this.

I was one of about four dads swimming in a sea of mums and toddlers. Most of the others brought helpers but still look lost and awkward. All of the elements of the scene were present, but something looked wrong. Think Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” repainted with the disciples playing with iPhones.

Once the cake was no more, I rounded everyone up and went home for lunch.

We were left a brief to “make something for mummy” so spent most of the afternoon being creative. The eldest drew lots of family pictures, while the youngest tried the same but mostly smashed felt pens into the table. Dad, in a panic, started to write last Friday’s blog that he had forgotten to do.

Tea, bath, blog, and bedtime stories sorted, it was time to relax. Home alone? I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.

Saturday
I don’t recall rules one or two of the “Bluffers Guide to Parenting” but number three is to get enough sleep. I didn’t. D’oh!

I would have recorded “The Last leg” had I thought that the cats would be scratching the bedroom door at 5:15. Don’t they know that I have a twelve hour shift with no support from nursery or baby group today?

I’m slightly less tolerant than on Friday, so I opt to hide in the front room and wait for the caffeine to kick in while the kids finish arguing about which breakfast to have, who stands on the steps, which bowl to use, and what to watch on telly.

Bad weather meant that we were stuck inside with jigsaws. Predictably, most of the morning is spent sorting muddled jigsaw pieces, tipped out when I momentarily left the room to make a cuppa. Will I ever learn?

Tumbletots provided my first proper sit down of the day and the kids thought that driving through the numerous big puddles on the way home was hilarious. I ignored their tempting calls to drive down the wrong side of the road to even the splashes out.

Once home, the youngest put on a puppet show with the audience (The Gruffalo, Dolly Parton and me) served wooden birthday cake from the pretend party earlier.

If you’re interested, the show was Rapunzel (it always is) featuring the policeman from Punch and Judy, presumably there to investigate the false imprisonment of a princess. There’s more questions than answers in this story, trust me.

Spaghetti bolognese equals bath needed and I put new sheets on the littlest little one’s bed to replace the ones he wet on Friday night. Stories are a drawn out affair involving not listening and much messing as everyone is tired.

Stories done, there’s a loud shout before I make it to back down the stairs.. .

“Daddy!! There’s wee on my bed!!”

Of course there is.

This shouldn’t be a big deal, but solo parenting is starting to grate. The clean bed and ‘jamas from 18:55 made it to 19:12. Seventeen minutes. A new personal best.

I put the fifth load of the day into the washing machine and sit down at around eight. I realise that I haven’t spoken to an actual human being all day, asides from the lady in Codsall Co-op when the self scan didn’t work.

Knackered, I watch a film and go to bed.

Sunday
I’m slightly more awake after an early night and there’s a mere eight hours to kill before the cavalry arrives.

Things I miss as a parent, No 7 – Sundays.
Remember in the olden days when you could lie in, sup coffee and spend half the morning wading through The Observer on a Sunday morning? That.

Back to reality, we spend the morning playing board games, hospitals and making more pictures while the roast roasts. Having dished up lunch, I return to the dining room to find a new addition to the table. Glitter. About four tubs of it. It’s at this point I genuinely wonder why stay at home mums and dads don’t go mad sooner.

After a quick cathartic outburst, I clear up, muttering to myself like a sulky teenager throughout. We eat. Nobody dares move from the table until they have clean plates.

I calm back down watching Gnomeo and Juliet, as Sunday nap time is also Sunday movie time. By three o’clock the cavalry is on the bus. Hoorah! I remember that you can bribe kids with technology and let the eldest watch YouTube so that I can watch the match.

I hear the key turn in the front door. I’m being rescued! Hoorah again!

Normality restored, what did I learn? Although three days solo is doable and enjoyable at times, there’s a reason why I’ve never heard of any other dads attempting this challenge without jetting in the grandparents or a crack team of au pairs. It’s hard. Leave it to the pros, or at least remember that tablets can buy you half an hour off if you need it. And need it you will.

Over to you mum…

Fin.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in tonight’s blog, please contact @BabysatDad via the usual channels.

Advertisements

That Was The Year That Was

In which our reluctant hero pops on a party hat, blows up some balloons and prepares for the birthday bumps.

Good evening. Is that you? It’s lovely to see you again, but surely you’ve got something better to do on a Friday evening? Soaking a ham perhaps, or tackling the washing before an early night to prepare for Saturday’s twelve hour parenting shift? Do you remember when there used to be two eleven o’clocks in the day? No, me neither.

Anyway. If my dates are correct (and we all know how inaccurate a science relying on dates is eh, Mums?) then my lovely blog is a year old. Whoop! 55 posts containing around 50,000 words and not a Friday deadline missed, albeit increasingly touch and go in recent weeks.

Starting a blog is like becoming a Dad. It seems like an exciting idea in the run up, but from day one you have no idea what you’re doing and spend half your life worrying that somebody will realise that you’re making everything up as you go along.

Over the year, I’ve written about such diverse topics as the early days of parenting, naming children, Peppa Pig World, holidays, choosing a school, children’s nutrition, classic parenting fails, surviving bedtime, the two year check, and still found time to invent the best parenting inventions yet to be invented. If that wasn’t enough, I made a fake news correction that was also fake news, wrote about online trolling with the sole purpose of trolling somebody, and unveiled the answer to the ultimate parenting question. Blimey.

Without doubt the most difficult post to tackle, both from a writing and emotional perspective, was about baby loss. Despite the story being a real and familiar one, I still start filling up when reading it back.

After an uncertain start, I essentially settled on tackling the less airbrushed elements of parenting. Why? Because (spoiler alert) stuff frequently goes wrong. Why else?

Fortunately for me, humour can usually be found in situations involving moderate disaster and, through a series of happy-in-hindsight accidents, this has become a good source of material. Besides, there’s nothing more dull than reading a load of insincere emotional guff about cherishing every moment with our offspring, despite what The Daily Mail thinks. They don’t have to live with them.

“What went wrong this week?”
“Well, the boy nearly drowned chasing a random dog into the sea on Tuesday.”
“Ah. I forgot about that. I’ll get my pen.”

I’m as pleased as I am surprised that the blog is still going strong. It seems a long time ago that the lovely folk at NCT Wolverhampton volunteered me for the job. At times it’s been like trying to control an unruly toddler, but the hard work has provided some pleasing results.

However, as the weeks pass, it becomes more difficult to write about the early days, not least as my littlest little person has past the first 1,000 days that NCT primarily support. Like an aging amnesic goldfish, I have almost no recollection of what happened last week let alone a couple of years back. This causes me a problem.

Little people don’t stay little for long and if I’m to continue blogging I need to focus more on the present. So from next week, I’m ditching the armbands and stabilisers and going it alone. What could possibly go wrong?

To be honest, I’ll be surprised if you notice much difference initially, but I have a few new ideas to play with once I’ve thought them through. I’ll update the banner at the top of the page too, as in real life I look nothing like the comedian Stewart Lee, despite my then three year old daughter seemingly thinking otherwise when she provided the artwork.

Thanks to anybody and everybody who has taken the time to read, share or like any of my posts so far. Hopefully I’ve provided a few chuckles, mostly at my expense, and maybe even the occasional pearl of wisdom out of my semi-successful experiences as a learner Dad. In the words of Samuel Beckett “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Thanks most of all to my little family, who I love dearly and without which none of this would be possible. So blame them!

For more tales of parenting and disaster, tune in next week. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel. Probably.

Fin.

Changing Rooms

In which our reluctant hero is thrown in at the deep end once more.

This week I’ve mostly been on holiday again. No, not to that place. The other one. The one where giant pets dance around and mime to cd’s of children on helium apparently “singing.” The one where the lead Funstar presenter has a strange form of tourettes that makes her say “boys and girls” every four seconds in a semi-scally drone. Hashtag “grating.”

I’ve already written about holibobs, so am not going to with this post which is instead about something that we do on holiday but rarely do when back home. Swimming. Like a family of elephants going on holiday, we also always take our trunks.

Swimming is an essential life skill that we should make more effort to teach our children. They have nailed the basics, love the water and manage to avoid sinking if we remember their armbands. Our eldest can manage a width or so of the little pool at a crawl. Our youngest prefers to splash. Lots. So much that we could hire him out as a minimum wage wave machine, like the one at Rhyl Sun Centre when we were kids which was also powered by a small child. No wonder it closed down.

Yes, teaching little people to swim is important. It’s just that, asides from the occasional milestone and a few minutes of fun before the chlorine destroys your retinas, it is all a bit of a pain.

Remembering the tonne of equipment, changing, showering, getting in, getting straight out as the toilet was needed after all, getting in again, wrestling an over excited splashtopus, apologising to everyone who got splashed, slide refusals, not being big enough to go on the slide yet tantrums, getting out tantrums, second shower with added shampoo complications… You get the drift.

But there’s a part of the process that makes the above look like child’s play. Getting dressed after the swim.

Yesterday, I again managed to draw the short straw (I’ve never seen any straws, but am assured that they do exist and that mine was definitely the shortest) and was put in charge of our soggy two year old.

The first challenge is to get your stuff from the locker to a cubicle without losing your child or any of the stuff. A tricky opener, made considerably easier if one of the nearby cubicles is free and family sized, which they never are – think towels on sun loungers. So it’s off to find a “normal” sized cabin, inside which you would struggle to swing a cat, had you been daft enough to have taken your cat swimming too. Never work with children and animals.

Once inside, you’ll find almost as much water on the floor as in the toddler pool. If there’s a hook, it’ll be too small to hang your bag on, forcing you to spread the dry clothes across the bench. A bench so small that it will struggle to seat a toddler’s bottom. At this point you’ll also regret not having hidden the post swim snacks better.

It’s hard to track the movements of your little person in such a confined space and at some point you will be convinced that they have escaped. They may well have done as it is obligatory for them to play with the door latch at all times. Cross your fingers that you’ve still got your trunks or swimming costume on if this happens.

Clothes and armbands removed, there will be no free floor space left. Fortunately, your two year old will provide an instant solution to the problem by kicking the wet kit through the gap into the adjoining cubicle.

Towels next. I find it better to quickly wrap both you and your child up, otherwise you risk yet another over animated conversation about your privates starting. And nobody wants to hear about that.

The next dilemma is who to get dressed first. I favour the grown-up as, tempting as it is, I’m slightly less likely to run off as soon as my shoes are on. A towel with a hood for your little person is a good distraction as you can buy enough time to dress while they pretend to be a ghost.

There should now be space on the bench and drying should be straightforward. Should. Sadly, the narrow bench will make it almost impossible to put a nappy on. Under ones will always roll onto the tiled floor – oops. Thankfully the less painful problem with a two year old is that they fill the bench and it’s the nappy that rolls off instead.

Nappies are amazing aren’t they? They barely retain the smallest amount of fluid produced overnight, but drop one on a changing room floor and it will suck a minor flood up in seconds. A dry floor is useful, but the nappy is useless. My top tip is to take three. One for the floor, the one that the tabs always rip off, and a spare for the child.

Thankfully, it’s downhill from here. Finish dressing, open the door, knock on the next cubicle to ask for your swimming costumes and armbands back, pack everything up and head to the cafe for a Panda Shandy and a Highland Toffee Bar. More sink than swim, but you did it. Well done.

If it took less than half an hour, award yourself a “star of the day” badge. Or a 10 metres swimming certificate, if you managed to swim as far as that. Go on. You’ve earned it you champion. Probably.

Fin.

She Bangs the Drums

In which our reluctant hero is surprised to be hear The Little Drummer Boy in May and acts to prevent the spread of fake news in his blog.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about definitely not needing a dog, more Build-a-Bear stuff, or a new series of Prison Break. A lovely post it was too – I’m sure that you recall it fondly.

However, like a toddler in a giant soft play, time moves quickly and recent events require me to propose an urgent amendment to my original post.

Don’t panic. The good news is that we have no dog, and we still don’t need one. There have been no new places set at the teddy bears’ picnic either, although how long that will last now that our eldest knows that you can buy Build-a-Bear Trolls is questionable. Two down, one to go.

Surprisingly, Prison Break turned out to be a necessity after all. Addictive, in the same predictable, thinly scripted, can’t-act-their-way-out-of-a-paper-bag-let-alone-a-prison way, just as three of the first four series were. It’s trash but has hooked us. True escapism. Literally.

To prevent the further spread of fake news, I need to replace Prison Break in my list of stuff that we definitely don’t need with something else that we definitely don’t need. The new something that we definitely don’t need appeared from a dark corner of our loft on a drizzly bank holiday Monday morning.

Fakebook. Monday. At about tea time.
Oh wow. Yeah who hates you and bought the kids the drum kit?! 😂😂😂 xx

My wife did.

That’s awkward 🙄 xx

Quite.

After magically making the drum kit appear, my wife hastily disappeared back upstairs, finding sanctuary in the calm of the attic bedroom to catch up with work. This left me alone with two children, four drumsticks and a new play thing that I instinctively knew was going to be very, very noisy. What could possibly go wrong?

Giving small children a drum kit is like considering going back to a lit firework. The initial calm is unsettling, but you know that if you move an inch there will be a very loud BANG! For about five hours… Never go back to a lit firework, kids.

To be fair, it wasn’t all noise, just mostly noise. After a couple of drum “lessons” (sadly, I can’t play them either despite being generally quite musical) we made progress. Proper rhythms played without perforating my eardrums. Hoorah! Our littlest little person even started counting himself in with the sticks, like a pint sized Ringo. Turn your back, however, and he turned into Animal from The Muppets. Every. Time.

Once the kids were asleep, the post bedtime dilemma was whether to return the drums to the loft, leaving 50p in their place while claiming that the Drum Fairy had visited, or leave them out to be played. If they are staying out then there needs to be a good reason as to why. Some research was needed. Over to Professor Google.

According to Time Magazine;

Science has shown that when children learn to play music, their brains begin to hear and process sounds that they couldn’t otherwise hear. This helps them develop “neurophysiological distinction” between certain sounds that can aid in literacy, which can translate into improved academic results for kids.

Now, that may be true for proper musical instruments, but I’m talking about a drum kit. Drummers are the people who join bands to hang out with musicians. How can children distinguish between sounds when the only sound is that of a cymbal being repeatedly walloped with a plastic Thomas The Tank Engine?

Another Internet article described different potential benefits.

The more a child practices an instrument, the better they are at paying attention, managing anxiety, and controlling their emotions.

Really? Give the children the drumsticks and, yes, they pay attention and are massively focused on the task in hand, but sadly not on me and my rantings about playing quietly. I understand the anxiety and emotions bit as the drums can represent an emotional punchbag of sorts. The kids may have de-stressed, but what about dad, eh?

After yet more searching, I found a list of the benefits gained by children learning a musical instrument, which I considered as follows;

It improves academic skills
Having ruled out Time’s “neurophysiological distinction” nonsense, when they’re playing properly, the children are counting and concentrating so I can perhaps see how it might. We even did one rhythm in 7/4.Tick.

It develops physical skills
Yes. The kids each had an extended upper body and right foot workout this very afternoon. They’ll be looking like Geoff Capes by the end of the week. Their coordination and timing noticeably improved over time too. Tick.

It cultivates social skills
Hard to tell with this one as we’ve not ventured out of the dining room yet. We daren’t. I certainly think that they’ll need to develop skills in acting cute and politely next time the neighbours see them. So, maybe. Tick.

It refines discipline and patience
Agreed. They both waited patiently for their turns and certainly put a shift in. Tick.

It boosts self-esteem
How do you measure increased self-esteem in a couple of under fives? Bashing away at the cymbal, skins, sofa, walls and doors certainly made them very excited, loud and happy. Or, put another way, drumming made them feel good. The drums are staying, aren’t they? Tick.

It introduces children to other cultures
Long term, yes. Learning brass instruments as a child certainly shaped my fondness for the odd bit of classical music as an adult. Likewise, learning the guitar and joining “proper” bands unveiled a new mysterious world. It’s drums though, so who knows? Classical culture at best, locked in a bedroom being an Emo kid at worst. Tick. Probably.

With the list reviewed and few negatives to consider, asides from the infernal din, it seems that the drums are staying for now. Oh joy.

Cue my cunning Plan B in which a magical box containing earplugs and a set of drum brushes, to replace the drumsticks, arrives from those lovely folk at Amazon tomorrow. Silence is going to be golden. Probably.

Fin.