Milk

In which our reluctant hero tackles a touchy subject with great care, in case it is still sore.

Anybody with small people, or anybody with friends or family with small people and a Fakebook account, will be aware that it is World Breastfeeding Week again. Or is it National Breastfeeding Week again? Which one was in June?

Anyway…

Having blogged my blog almost TO DEATH for fifteen months, and sporting my shiny “NCT Blogger” badge last time round, I looked for an old post to share. Strangely, there was nothing. In early August 2016, I was chronicling my then three year old breaking the terrible news that Postman Pat was dead. Greendale is still in mourning, but at least the post gets delivered now. Every cloud and all that.

The logical conclusion was that I had chickened out. I got away with a lot, mainly as almost nobody from NCT read any of it, but a cheeky blog about boobie juice could tip the blog police over the edge if discovered. Besides, my little blog had enough knockers already so it seemed senseless to add to the mound.

Not this year though, so here I go.

We have gone through breastfeeding twice. By twice, I mean with two children, not just twice. That would be silly. To say that the results were variable is an understatement.

First time round, we did the standard swotting up and attended NCT and hypnobirthing classes, which are mandatory for expectant Tettenhall parents.

By due date, we were in no doubt that “breast is best.” Which it is. Probably. We were also confident that our daughter was simply going to be breathed out without so much as a junior disprin, let alone an “epidoodle.” Our new arrival would also miraculously head straight for her breakfast, just like in Hypnobirthing video brainwash number two.

Back in the real world, after several days of failed inductions, a bodged anaesthetic and failed c-section block, much sawing (my wife felt every cut) and stitching up later, our baby was out. Drugged, but out. I did dad duties while mum was sellotaped back together, ready to do what mum had been repeatedly told that she should do best.

Recovery was a nightmare with my wife having to drag a drain bag and stand around to even get close to our child. Nobody slept. Our baby didn’t feed for days. Irrespective of that, we were discharged to work things out for ourselves.

Once home, our living room was transformed into a hybrid milking shed come Boots the Chemist. Pumps, bottles, bags, sterilisers on one side, cream, gels, nipple shields, pillows and a baby in a straitjacket (Swaddle Pod) on the other.

The feeding process took about twenty hours a day. I say feeding, as I’m guessing some of that time must have involved the transfer of milk from mum to baby. We were not helped by a tongue-tie not being picked up at hospital. This caused further distress to our little dot once snipped, whereupon she had to learn her terrible latch all over again.

The severity of my wife’s pain was making me wince in sympathy, and I started to doubt if the whole “earth mother” thing was all it was cracked up to be. Predictably, she was a semi-broken shell after a couple of weeks. In the middle of a particularly fraught night, she told our daughter exactly what she thought of her and decided that enough was enough. I somehow persuaded mum to carry on until morning. Things always seem better in daylight.

So, with breakfast done and sanity partially restored, mum and baby took the bus across town to their first Breastfeeding Group. It was the turning point.

It turned out that in this parallel universe, other mums were struggling to feed too. Who would have thunked it? Armed with proper support, a new outlet to vent frustrations, and shared tales of feeding and disaster washed down with plenty of sugary tea, mum cultivated the mental toughness of Ellen Ripley tackling those pesky Aliens with an emphatic “SCREW YOU!”

Feeding got easier when solids were introduced. Once weaning started, it became apparent what a good job the Breastapo had done on me when I pooh-poohed a suggestion of chucking unused “emergency” formula on our daughters porridge, simply to use it up. Let’s use the cow’s milk instead, eh? Idiot.

Things carried on relatively smoothly until the final bedtime feed was eventually dropped. We did it. Go us!

By the time that the boy was preparing for his grand entrance, we were lots more relaxed about the keeping little people alive thing. Ideally, the wee fella would be another loyal customer of Mum Dairies, but if he was as much of an arse as his sister was then we would rethink.

Once born, this time by less bodged emergency cesarean, I asked the midwives to check for a tongue-tie and was promptly told there wasn’t one. Tick.

Fortunately, as boys are better and cleverer than girls, he took to feeding like a duck to plum sauce. Good lad. He was, however, born with a tooth and enjoyed a good chomp (eek!) His feeding further improved when the tooth was yanked out and his tongue-tie was snipped. Yes, you read that correctly.

The average feed, sponsored by Infacol, was down from about two hours with our daughter to about ten minutes with our son. Was this the dream that we were mis-sold first time round and, if so, can we make a claim? Perhaps not, but it was relatively stress free and normal, if there is such a norm. That’ll do.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. The support that we had with our eldest was abysmal. It is little wonder that mums, already sleep deprived, hormonal and as neurotic as they’re ever likely to get in life, crumble.

I’m absolutely in favour of encouraging parents to breastfeed if they can – the benefits are clear – but better support has to be there if wanted or needed. Else, do what you can and don’t be judged for it. Breast, mixed, or formula are all fine. Get the baby fed and try not to go insane or make yourself ill doing it.

Although breastfeeding support has improved locally, there also has to be more done to manage expectations in the run up to becoming a mum or dad.

Soft focus videos of newborns climbing to latch themselves as “Titanic on Panpipes” plays in the background are all well and good, but if your newborn isn’t having any of it then you have a big problem. Some mums may be like Friesians – great – but not all. Give us some advice on how to overcome problems. Be realistic, honest and open with the rhetoric.

There was barely a night in the first six months of parenting that my wife and I were asleep at the same time. I wore about a dozen pairs of slippers out, pacing for hours trying to get our baby to sleep. With better education, we would have sought help sooner and may even have tried something different. Who knows?

William Shakespeare, or the bloke who wrote William Shakespeare’s stuff, once wrote that “No legacy is as rich as honesty.” True that.

And that finishes our story. See, I can write semi-sensibly if I put my mind to it, with barely a pun in sight. Which is probably just as well as I wouldn’t want to make a tit of myself, would I?

Fin.

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As Good As It Gets

In which our reluctant hero is surprised to learn that his award winning blog* has become even more award winning. Or something.

Regular readers may recall that my everyday tales of Parenting and Disaster™ began with the unexpected press-ganging of yours truly by Wolverhampton NCT in May 2016. A year or so on, I found myself on a shortlist of three in the West Midlands 2017 NCT Stars Awards Volunteer of the Year category. Blimey.

Having resisted the temptation to head to my local farm to count eggs that I would most likely assume all contained fluffy chicks, I forgot about the nomination. So, imagine my surprise when, on Monday evening, an email arrived telling me that I had only gone and won it. Woohoo!

My first, typically self-deprecating, reaction was to wonder just how little everyone else in the region must have done to cause such an upset. This is nonsense of course. In reality, small armies of dedicated volunteers work their backsides off, helping their local NCT branches provide valuable support to new and would be parents. “They’re all stars to me” may be a cheesy but appropriate cliché to use at this point, as (like all clichés) it is true.

Popping my thinking head back on, I remembered that progress at this stage was determined by a public vote, just like on Pop Factor. Perhaps the victory for this plucky underdog was simply down to my wife coordinating a mass attack by the button pressers, of which there were many? Maybe. I dare say that being only one of two blokes on the national long list may have helped get me there in the first place too. I’ll take that though as it’s about time that us blokes got a bit of a leg up in such a female dominated industry. Ahem.

That’s not to say that I’ve been idle, or that my award is somehow undeserved. Creating around a thousand words of original semi-coherent nonsense each week certainly requires putting a shift in, and my efforts have (hopefully) provided a different kind of support.

Society generally fails to reach out to dads in same way as mums. Fact. My cunning plan was to lure a few unsuspecting other-halves in with my weekly tales of failing ever so slightly better each week. And it sort of worked.

Although my posts should relate to all parents, it’s probably reassuring that it is dad tackling the weekly mountain on a child’s pushbike with dodgy brakes and no stabilisers. The resulting chaos is intended to make other dads feel better as it’s not their wheels coming off this time, and make mums feel better by reaffirming their unwavering belief that mum knows best. The latter statement is, of course, not always true, but it would take a braver man than me to commit to that position in writing. Let us instead say that everyone’s a winner, baby.

Surprisingly, blogging and parenting have more in common than you may think. To explain, I cobbled together a list on the back of an empty Frosties packet.

  • There’s going to be an unavoidable disaster if you don’t plan properly.
  • There’s a huge amount of creativity required to constantly make everything up as you go along.
  • You get disproportionately proud of every ounce that your offspring gains and take every opportunity to tell everyone about it.
  • The worry of how your little treasure is developing occasionally keeps you up all night.
  • You wake up feeling sick some (Friday) mornings, but muster the strength to get through the day and finish things because you have to.
  • You spend a lot of time tidying and cleaning up vast amounts of poo.
  • Many people don’t really think much of your wonderful creation, but you love it all the same.
  • You are surprised and relieved to reach birthday number one with everyone still in one piece.
  • You swear blind that you could have done things so much better had you more time.
  • You forget about all of the stress and difficulties when you finally see your pride and joy sleeping peacefully at (6pm each Friday) night.

Award winning stuff. Probably.

Winning the regional award made me wonder how much I have actually contributed over the past year or so. I genuinely don’t know. I know that my writing has, on occasion, made people laugh, and also made them cry. It has made people feel better about themselves, and provided the odd gem of an idea (yes, really) to be shared by all. Even non-parents have liked and shared my musings, and that’s no mean feat. These extremes could be conveniently interpreted as emotional responses, and I’m happy enough with that.

It’s off to London on my daughter’s birthday weekend then. (Thanks for that, party poopers.) Realistically, I’m not going to win the big prize but I may scribble out a few words just in case. The thought of doing a Gwyneth at the Oscars is unthinkable.

To win or lose matters not. Oddly, being recognised for an award through my writing has given me something that we all crave but never get as parents. Somebody, somewhere, taking the time to say “Well done” for all of our hard work.

Fin.

(*) Wolverhampton NCT Volunteer of the Month – August 2016-ish

Wouldn’t it be Nice?

In which our reluctant hero would like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony.

I’m conscious that I’ve perhaps neglected the new mums and dads a little in my musings here of late. And the older ones. And the ones without children. But all that is about to change. Probably.

As an award winning (NCT Wolverhampton “Volunteer of the Month” – July 2016) contributor to the massive dustbin of unnecessary parenting blogs that is the modern day internet, I’m often* asked;

“What would be the one single piece of important advice that you would give to another parent? New or old, it doesn’t matter. Or a person generally.”

See. Told you.

As questions go it’s a tricky one to answer. Like “Whose idea was it to make yet another Bridget Jones movie?” or “WHERE HAVE YOU HIDDEN THE KIDS’ ARMBANDS?!!” ten minutes before the start of a swimming party. The modern day $64,000 question. Or the £256,000 question using today’s exchange rates if you prefer.

Having thought long and hard about this, I always** give the same carefully considered answer.

“Don’t give anyone any advice. Ever.”

Yes, stick to this top tip and you won’t go far wrong. Not just in parenting, but in life. You’re welcome.

 

Fin.

Ok. I could quite happily stop there. Job done. Or I could expand. Read on if you like, else just hit “share” on the Facebooks and move on. It’s fine, really.

Giving advice is a bit like going to McDonald’s as a treat. Everybody says that they want it, but once you start dishing it out, you find that there’s a sudden loss of appetite.

We all ask for advice from time to time, the reason for which generally falls into one of three categories;

  • To reassure us that a predetermined choice is right (but are probably sticking to our choice regardless, so there)
  • To help us decide which one of a couple or more options to go for (but now have a focus of blame if it all goes horribly wrong)
  • We haven’t got the foggiest idea what’s going on… (usually this)

    Parenthood. The time that we are most likely to start involuntarily blurting out random questions at anyone within earshot. Your nearest and dearest or some random stranger who happens to be standing near the nappy section in Aldi, it matters not. You didn’t do this before, but you weren’t feeling inextricably tired, emotional, overwhelmed, and massively insecure then. It’s suddenly time for that long overdue trip to Argos to buy a good sounding board. Preferably in the sale and with an eighteen year guarantee.

    People are generally quite sensible when dealing with the onslaught of contradictory or just plain silly questions that you’re likely to fire at them in the early months. If you can find somebody with good listening ears and a mind like an open book on opening day of the open university bookshop then bingo. They may not necessarily agree with your approach, but respect your position and will help as best as they can within that framework. These people normally live in real life.

    Sadly not all people get the concept of empathy. For every dozen or so voices of reason, there’s a Katie Hopkins lurking. Minds closed. Earplugs rammed tightly in. There’s probably strongly held beliefs bubbling away under the surface, ready to erupt at the first opportunity presented. An unstoppable stream of opinionated lava that burns, belittles and undermines everyone that crosses its path. These people normally live under shady bridges somewhere inside your phone.

    Most of us aren’t daft. Even if it’s a case of copying off a friend on the bus, we’ve done enough homework to ensure that we don’t do anything that daft. Silly, maybe, but daft, no. So, the last thing you need to hear is that you’re doing everything wrong, or worse still, that you’re going to somehow hurt or damage your child. If it’s a medical issue ring a doctor, else the chances are that you won’t.

    The are some favourite areas for the hysterical rant brigade to get on their high horses about, ready to steam in and save the rest of us uneducated buffoons given half a chance.

    Over the course of the first couple of years, these will include sleep training, breastfeeding, formula feeding, when to wean, how to wean, baby led weaning, attachment parenting, dummies (how apt), colic, teething, weight gain, weight loss, weight stay-the-same, milestones, developmental leaps (what?!), sleep regression, potty training, potty regression, phonics, stereophonics, baby signing, baby singing. Blah blah blah…

    If you ever find yourself on the end of any of this nonsense, my (proper) advice is to step away (most likely from the keyboard) and find Mr or Mrs Sensible to sit you down with a cuppa and help pop your wobbly Scalextric back on it’s tracks.

    A lot of opinions are just that. Opinions. They’re not always backed up by fact. Worse than not being backed up by fact, they’re often straight out of The Daily Mail or, worse still, Mumsnet. Being bombarded by these “alternative facts” is a fate worse than a fate worse than death. Stop doing it. It’s silly.

    So, before pressing the panic button at the first sign of trouble, do a little research and try a few things out. Think things through and do what you feel is the right thing to do, as it probably is. Most of all, stop worrying. You’re doing alright.

    My other (proper) advice, for when the shoe is on the other foot, can be nicely summed up in the following words, found on a poster attached to my mum and dad’s kitchen pinboard.

    “Engage brain before putting mouth in gear.”

    Or, simpler still, “just be nice.”

    Yes, stick to this top tip and you won’t go far wrong. Not just in parenting, but in life. You’re welcome.

     

    Fin.

    *(never)
    **(would)

    We Can Work it Out

    In which our reluctant hero attempts to shake up governmental policy and employment law to get dads a better deal. Or something.

    21st Century Britain has seen many changes. If we’re honest, most of them since 2010 have been pretty bad. And the less said about 2016, the better.

    One of the more pleasing changes, as reported in the papers this week, is the increasing involvement of dads in child rearing, if rearing is the right word. (I’ve an image of sheep stuck in my head now, but it’ll have to do.)

    Anyway, a survey by “The Modern Families Index” (no, me neither) has revealed that 47% of dads would be happy to take a less demanding job and a pay cut to spend more time with their families. “Happy” is such subjective word, don’t you find?

    Not answering the key question of “who the bobbins did they survey?” aside, the Guardian article that I read raised an interesting issue. Women have struggled to find suitable, flexible work for years, but, apparently, men are now more likely to face discrimination when asking for flexible or part-time work. Blimey. On a positive note, men suffering too may mean that something actually gets done about it. Go sisters! I mean brothers…

    The option of home working or working flexibly is sadly not available to all. With technology potentially making this easier, employers could, and probably should, do more to be not just family friendly, but people friendly. It would be a good start to addressing some of the problems and an easy win.

    But there’s also times in life when all of us need a bit more than a couple of hours or days off, be it flexible, unpaid or extended leave, especially when children appear.

    The government’s flagship policy of shared parental leave has been somewhat of a disaster, possibly as it requires mums to jump out of their hospital beds and back on the work merry-go-round at the first opportunity. Some may want to do this of course, but clearly not many.

    So how do you fix the problem of employers and politicians not understanding what families need? Get a dad to write it all down, obviously.

    Here goes…

    0-3 Months (first child)
    Every new parent has “L” plates on for the first three months. Two weeks paternity leave? That’s not enough time to get your head around the upheaval, let alone deal with any of it. Once the fortnight is up, you need to establish another new routine to replace the one that you’ve just nailed. Double trouble.

    Paternity leave of up to four weeks for those who want it, preferably paid, may be a good start.

    3-6 Months (first child)
    The “L” plates are in the bin, replaced by “P” plates. You’ve passed the first test, but it’s still better to warn other folk that you may be prone to the odd erratic manoeuvre and occasional prang. My blurry memory recalls this period being relatively calm asides from the continued night-time wake ups for mum.

    By this point, mum is pretty much in control of everything else and not shy about telling dad this.

    Dad duties mostly involve giving mum a break and finally seeing their child do something other than cry and poo. This is a refreshing change from quarter one, trust me, and chances are that you’re not missing out on much due to work.

    6-12 Months (first child)
    The second half of year one presents a new and exciting challenge in the form of movement. Why Mother Nature hasn’t risk assessed and let human evolution work on adding an extra pair of eyes in the back of the head is beyond me.

    The calm was indeed before the storm. You suddenly realise that your house isn’t anywhere near as childproof as you had thought. Top tip: Buy shares in UHU. Dad will be needed to remove things that aren’t yet broken, and to fix the rest. You’ll probably find him hiding in the shed quite a lot. Mums should avoid mentioning taking any time off even though they’re in need of a rest.

    12-18 Months (first child)
    It’s a doddle this parenting lark, isn’t it? Stuff is still occasionally smashed into a million pieces and you will have invested in a Mr Bump bruise soother by now. Parents and child are starting to communicate and be mutually understood, which is nice. Mum and Dad are still tired and grunting at each other, but you can’t have everything.

    You finally feel like you’re getting somewhere. You notice rapid developmental changes and playing is so much more fun than it was. Sleep is fixed, dinner occasionally stays on the plate rather than on the floor in-between mouthfuls, and your little person is genuinely happy to see you when you walk through the door after a hard day’s yacker.

    If I had my pick, this is when I would take off, particularly if it’s summer. The hard work of year one has been done. It’s time for a cuppa and to enjoy things.

    18-24 Months (first child, latter stages of pregnancy) and 0-6 Months (second child)
    Top tip. Leave a bigger age gap. A much bigger age gap. About fourteen years should be plenty, with the added bonus of a free babysitter in a couple of years.

    Ok, dads. You had forgotten all about the “uffing” hadn’t you?

    So the situation now is that you have a toddler zooming round like the Duracell Bunny with a faulty off switch, and a better half that needs winching off the sofa every two minutes to go to the loo. It’s just like last time, but with no downtime whatsoever for mum or dad for periods of up to fourteen hours.

    Mum will probably want dad to take some extra time off as she approaches full term. Dad will be adamant that it’s better to save his leave for later.

    Post new arrival, this period pretty much mirrors the first six months as before. Only with a toddler permanently pulling at your legs and stamping their feet any time that you even so much glance at the uninvited guest that is clinging like a limpet to mum. Oh, and with no prospect of a lie in. Or a sit down. Or a cuppa or food anything warmer than tepid. Ever. Again.

    Up to nursery or school age (first and second children)
    Repeat until nursery or school kicks in. This is your life now. Get used to it.

    Nursery or school age (first and second children)
    The dreaded “school run” begins. Too many things to do in too little time while negotiating leaving the house. Plus there’s nativities, assemblies, bonnet making, parents evenings, teacher training days, sickness, mums going off to the spa, and a million other things to coordinate.

    If flexible working wasn’t needed before, it is now.

    So there you go. A solution of sorts. Probably. Why not print a couple of copies off, pop one in the post addressed to your local MP, and bang the other on your boss’ desk on Monday morning. What could possibly go wrong?

    Fin.

    Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

    In which our reluctant hero writes a sort of topical post.

    Thursday 12th January 2017
    It’s early. Too early. I slurp the dregs of my almost cold cuppa and start to apply layers of clothing before leaving for work. Shirt, tank top, fleece, duffel coat, scarf, gloves, hat, thick socks, emergency hat. Pants and trousers too, naturally. What do you take me for?

    As the wind howls, I regret not fishing my long johns out of the drawers before bed. It’s too late now. I’ll take my chances against the elements, rather than risk any fallout from waking the missus up.

    Leaving the house, it doesn’t feel that cold. Maybe it’s the layers. Maybe it’s not that cold. Or more likely a bit of both.

    For clarification, I don’t usually wear every item purchased at the 2001 C&A closing down sale on a weekday morning. But today is going to be different. It’s going to snow. Probably.

    I check my phone. The Guardian’s live snow blog, which is normally the barometer of impending doom, isn’t up yet. So far so good. However, it seems that I am wise in being prepared.

    The BBC Weather app shows two days of intermittent snow for Wolverhampton. ITV News, whatever that is, is talking about gale force winds of 75mph and snow headed our way. Huffington Post are similarly predicting wintry polar blasts. Even The Independent are banging on about something called “Thundersnow” battering poor old Blighty. They’re making it up now. I don’t bother checking The Daily Express’ variant on “UK BLIZZARDS DISPEL GLOBAL WARMING MYTH” as that will just annoy me. Even the Met Office are issuing warnings of yellow snow. Or issuing yellow warnings of snow. Or something. Either way, it sounds bad.

    I was born, and grew up, in Wales in the 1970’s. My blurry recollection is of snow most winters and, when it came, it came good and proper. The world momentarily stopped. We all downed tools (asides from snow shovels) and just got on with it.

    Snowy days were great when I was little as it generally meant no school and lots of playing. Snowmen with coal for buttons and carrots for noses. Snowballs, sledging on bin bags out in the fields, freezing half to death, but back for tea to thaw out again.

    Back then the weather was properly seasonal. These days it seems to flip between nothingness and total disaster. As a result, at four and two, our children have barely seen more than a dusting of snow, which seems a shame.

    Having seen Amazon’s lovely “The Snowy Day” over Christmas, the children, or our eldest at least, are looking forward to making angels in the snow and catching snowflakes on their tongues next time it comes. Idyllic as it sounds, this may sadly not be possible as, the way 21st Century weather cycles are going, the next cold snap will probably be a mini Ice Age.

    Our daughter first saw snow at two months old. I took her out into the garden to look at it, mummified in more layers than I was in this morning. It was cold and bright and she had no idea what was going on. After five minutes outside, new parent paranoia kicked in and it was back to the house where I checked her temperature for the next two hours in case of hypothermia.

    Everything was of course fine, apart from when my frosty hands touched her skin. “SHE’S CRYING AGAIN! I’VE FROZEN HER!”

    It was no wonder that I was worried. As, at the time, a first time parent of a tiny child, everybody who came through our front door had strong opinions (which they were all too eager to voice) about whether our baby was too hot, too cold, about right, or just needed another ten minutes to be done. Take a layer off, and the next person would put it back. Pop a layer on…

    Needless to say, two years on, our youngest had his first glimpse of snow out of Gran and Grandad’s front window as big sister played outside with her uncle.

    The next time it snowed, I took both children to the local park. It was the frostiest of mornings and we managed about ten minutes playing before our son, then one, started crying as his hands were too cold.

    “Well, if you’re holding onto a frozen roundabout wheel without gloves, what do you expect?”

    Nobody ever listens to Dad.

    This (crying and cold things, although not listening to Dad is equally valid) has become a bit of a recurring theme. At a similar age, the waterworks were back on when he stuck his finger into an ice cream for too long. Ice cream and tears were reunited once more last summer, although this time an unprovoked attack by a sugar-crazed bee while we watched “Punch and Judy” in Llandudno was to blame.

    Killer bee attacks asides, preparing against the elements is so much easier now that our children can talk. There are however three golden rules to remember;

    1. Occasionally, little people get “hot” and “cold” mixed up. So if you’re heading out into a blizzard, don’t take the snow suit off and pop swimming trunks on just because they said to.
    2. Prepare for the cold all you like, but at least half of the hats, gloves and scarves (maybe even wellies and socks too) that you start with will be lost within two minutes of leaving the house.
    3. Any item of protective layering not lost in the first two minutes will be unfit for use within a further three minutes. Socks will be soaked and gloves caked in lord knows what having been dragged down the sides of parked cars. You’ll notice a passing dog wearing a vaguely familiar Frozen scarf. Buy ten identical items of everything. Take spares and spares of spares. You still won’t have enough but you’re at least be in with a chance…

    Back to the present-ish.

    Thursday 12th January – 5:14 pm

    It’s snowing. Heavily. I was right. Yay!

    Oh. Hang on… There has been drizzle all day and the snowflakes are dying. My snow blog goes up tomorrow and at this rate there’s going to be no snow. The heavy stuff forecast for tonight better come, otherwise I’m going to look like a right idiot. Again.

    And if there’s no snow I won’t get to post my mildly amusing meme debut. This is terrible.

    Thursday 12th January – 10:26 pm
    Things are looking more promising. The drizzle has turned to ice and snow is still forecast despite it being the clearest of nights. On a positive, it’s also Friday 13th tomorrow. It’ll look like Narnia by morning. Sorted.

    Friday 13th January – 6:04 am
    *Does a little snow dance in the kitchen*

    Nothing.

    Friday 13th January – 8:42 am
    A flurry in Birmingham. Get in!

    Friday 13th January – 8:43 am
    It’s stopped. It didn’t stick. Nothing.

    Friday 13th January – 15:00 pm
    More nothingness in Birmingham. The snow clouds must still be in Wolverhampton.

    Friday 13th January – 17:23 pm
    No snow in Wolverhampton.

    But wait. It turns out that the blogging gods were kind enough to have sent some during the school run. The kids saw the snow, messed around in it for a bit, were late for nursery, and all was well with the world. About an hour later it had gone. No matter. A topical post. Done.

    So, there you go. Some anecdotes and advice about something that didn’t really happen much or for long.

    Don’t forget to tune back in next week when I’ll be out and about putting children’s sun block and paddling shoes to the test at Tettenhall Pool.

    Fin.

    One Small Step for Man

    In which our reluctant hero tries to be helpful for a change.

    Regular visitors to my blog will have probably guessed that I am not a proper writer, but a Dad who sits on a train bashing into WordPress at far-too-near-to-the-six-pm-Friday-deadline-for-my-liking each week. Take a picture, think of a name, press the schedule button, then it’s back home to changing nappies and getting stressed about the mess. Sorted.

    I quite like the writing bit which can, at times, be fun. Probably. However, coming up with post ideas that I can run with each week is nothing short of torturous.

    The overarching idea for my blog is to mix things up a bit, reflecting on experiences from a Dad’s perspective in an ad-hoc fashion, rather than creating a diary of sorts. The problem with this approach is that, as a parent, everything exists very much in the present and, to a degree, in the near future. This makes writing about things from the past trickier as each week passes. I can barely remember what I had for tea last night, let alone details about failed attempts at potty training and the like from a few years back.

    Nevertheless, I’m going to attempt to go old school this week. Back to the first year of being a Dad no less. A time before arguing about whether “Team Umizoomi” or “In the Night Garden” should be on before bed was the norm.

    Last week’s post about parenting fails to date was quite popular, so why not try to flip it over, brown for a couple of minutes, and serve back up as a list of lessons learned so far? It’s either that or write a post about taking the family to Thomas Land on the only sunny day of the August Bank Holiday weekend. I think that you got off quite lightly considering.

    So, in no particular order;

    • There’s more to life than books you know – Mr Spock, Supergran or whoever else has flooded the market with their definitive guide to parenting this month aren’t bringing up your baby. By all means read their books, but remember why you have a bin if it all proves to be a load of old rubbish.
    • It’s OK to throw in the towel now and again – Middle-class idiots that we are, we bought some fabulous looking reusable nappies with the best of intentions of going green (no pun intended) once the little person popped out. Trying to get everything washed and dried in November after little or no sleep didn’t really happen. Plus the smell of mushrooms kept making everyone hungry. Off to Aldi for some disposables then, and move on. No shame in that.
    • White washes – Speaking of washing, white baby grows, vests and so on look lovely until they are worn for more than thirty seconds by a real life actual baby. Pick more sensible colours if you can.
    • Don’t make a drama out of a crisis – Once they start finding their feet, todlers fall over and bump into things all of the time. They are also tougher than you think, thankfully. When the inevitable happens, see what their reaction is before making a fuss. Nine times out of ten they’ll dust themselves off and carry on without so much as a whimper as our eldest did after tumbling down half a flight of stairs. Oops.
    • Calpol is your best friend – Obviously don’t overdo it, and try not to spill any if swigging straight from the bottle.
    • Reassess how you carry babies that move – This doesn’t strictly need to be at the side, but once they get slightly bigger and more mobile, work out the most comfortable way of carrying that avoids you getting on the wrong end of the all too frequent headbutt or kick in the groin.
    • The rule of threes – If you think you’ll only need one nappy in your changing bag to pop out for half an hour, think again. A change is always followed by another change two minutes later if you only have one spare. If you have two spares, one of the tabs will snap, guaranteed. Take three.
    • Never take more stuff than you can fit into, under or onto a buggy – I wrote about packing issues a couple of weeks back. You didn’t listen of course. I don’t know why I bother…
    • Play Doh is edible – Probably. So, be careful but there’s more important things to worry about and it never did us any harm, right?
    • Learn some “lyrics” – Tunes aren’t the problem as every melody that you hear in the first two years is basically a remix of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” But learn some words. This will be vital if you’re feeling man enough to go to baby group on your own. Dad Expert Level unlocked.
    • Never go to baby group on your own – Especially once the little people are moving and doubly especially if you haven’t remembered any “lyrics.” What could possibly go wrong?
    • Get into a routine – Boring as this sounds, it really helps whether it is bath time, bed time, meal time, or any other time come to think of it. Sterilising things, tidying up, making tomorrow’s lunch or banging dinner in the slow cooker before bed can make a massive difference the next day. If you’ve had no sleep, everything is that bit more organised and bearable. If you’ve had some sleep you may actually get to sit down for a bit. Yay!
    • Remember that you’re a team – If you’re not doing the parenting on your own, then there really should be no “me” in Team America. So work out who needs to do what, stop grumbling and just get on with it!
    • Get to recognise sounds – Is it a gurgle, a burp, a rumble, or something more sinister? Remember that sound travels faster than partially enclosed smells. Get this right and you can be half way down the garden doing the compost before anybody notices the deed has been done. Your turn.
    • Don’t always assume that “Mum knows best” – You’re both making it up on the hoof after all and you may actually be right. (You won’t be.)
    • Don’t ever let on that you may be thinking that “Mum might not know best” – There are some great tips on subliminal persuasion and so on in Derren Brown’s books. Engage brain before putting mouth into gear, especially if you haven’t mastered The Force to at least Padawan level.
    • Avoid taking advice from anyone who gave birth to their youngest child over two years ago – They’ll barely remember anything about the preceding two years plus and just make it all up. Guaranteed.

    So, there you go. Not everything, but a start for you newbies out there and a timely place to end this post just in time for me to start reclaiming the remote and putting my two and three year olds to bed.