So since my ‘flashblog’ on International Day of the Girl I have been thinking of stories, reviews and little tit bits of information that may help other parents or at least make others think “oh good, it’s not just me that does that” to get the blog writing going again.
I am a big believer in the phrase/campaign “Dads don’t babysit, it’s called parenting!” Which took off when Al Ferguson of The Dad Network posted a pic of himself wearing a t-shirt with the slogan on it. We’ve come a long way since the cave dwelling man be hunter gatherer, lady bear child and make home days (although comments from potential world leaders and his supporters would suggest some people still call the cave of sexism home). My dad did very little parenting so I have very little reference to go by when it comes to being a dad. I am flying by the seat of my pants with no ‘role model’ per se and making it up as I go along (like most first time parents I guess?).
When I had the chance to have a whole weekend with the mini human for the first time it was daunting for sure, but I was also full of ideas of how we could spend our time together, how I could be a parent NOT a babysitter. During my wife Karen’s maternity leave I was jealous of the coffee and cake dates, visits to play areas, swimming lessons and a host of other exciting things she would do with baby Bea. I am now acutely aware this time wasn’t all fun and giggles and the dirty nappies, sick, crying, all round tiredness, very little adult conversation etc was the buzzkill of this time.
So, a whole weekend, let’s make the most of our time together little one. Now this first solo parenting weekend was a while ago but I do recall deciding against the ‘substitute childcare’ of a Disney DVD and visiting a cafe for coffee and cake. This trip led to Bea being the centre of attention, she would wave at waitresses as they past us and she had a little milky moustache from her babycino which led to a number of laughs and plenty of cooing from all that witnessed her milky Poirot tash. The engagement with the waiting staff ultimately ended up in a free chocolate lolly for me, er I mean Bea (Don’t judge me, she was too small then to REALLY appreciate chocolate anyway)
We visited the local park, we watched a film together (ok so I gave in to Disney Daycare, she lasted 30 minutes before wanting to climb the bookcase), we did some arts and crafts, we even me PETER RABBIT!!! I loved it, she loved it.Post bath time I was getting her ready for bed, we watched that insane programme In The Night Garden and as I reflected on our day I text Karen to say what a lovely day it had been and how well behaved Bea was.
Oh what a rookie mistake that was, I jinxed my evening with one simple (probably slightly cocky “this parenting lark is easy peasy lemon squeezey “) text. It is not easy it is “difficult difficult lemony difficult” – we had full on baby rage 4 minutes after I put her to bed, standing up, throwing toys literally out of the cot, hitting the bars on the cot so much so that the house sounded like it was collapsing around us. On the 5th time of going upstairs to comfort her I was close to breaking point. I tried everything I had, new nappy, more milk, different bed covers. Placing her back down into the cot I had everything crossed (metaphorically and literally… They don’t tell you in ante natal class that going to the toilet is no longer a free choice when you have a kid, it is all about timing and distraction techniques) her head rested on the pillow, I crept out of the room and paused by the door…
What happened next is something that I have never done since and will never do again.
Our baby monitor has an intercom setting which we had never used before, as well as a camera that lets us check on little one whenever we feel the need (in those first few months this checking was almost every 30 seconds). Seconds passed and I could see she was standing again, screaming again, red and blotchy with rage face again. So pressing the intercom button, which gave me a live feed to her room I clearly and concisely said “Beatrix. Go. To. Sleep. Plllllease!”
Now imagine you’re in your bedroom, your place of sanctuary from the craziness of the world outside, you have just closed your book, or put down your phone ready to nod off and a voice, an omnipresent voice calls out to you. I know I would shit myself… Well yeah, turns out that a baby with no concept of intercoms, or what daddy’s voice will sound like coming from that blue light in the corner of the room will shit herself too. Not before a pause, one where she looked truly panicked, and me seeing this grief stricken face quick as a flash thinking “Oh bollocks! Now you’ve done it.”
I think I managed to have my wee and eat some food around 10.30pm having got in from a drive which was my last resort in getting the mini human to sleep, she nodded off about 5 minutes into this MUST GET BABY TO SLEEP mission (typical). I sent a text to my wife to explain the debacle and I nodded off ready for day two with slightly less enthusiasm to day one.
Flash forward many months and I am on a best friends hen do (gender equality runs deep with me and my friends), surrounded by good friends and new acquaintances we are chatting about pregnancy, babies and parenthood in general. A couple of the mums there had left their husbands in charge for the weekend like I was for ‘Intercom Night’. They were discussing how their husbands were “cheating” by helping each other out, arranging to have dinner together with the mini humans.
It was then I had a question pop into my head, one that if I asked I would be crossing a line, one that I may not be able to return from… One that could lead to an insight so shocking that it could turn day into night, dogs and cats would hug not fight, people would put cheese on their spuds before the beans. The response could be shocking!
I plucked up the courage, for all the dads out there I grasped this chance to ask the mums who were all sat around me “So when you leave the babies with us [Dads and partners], do you actually hope we fail a bit at parenting, do you hope we have a terrible time when you’re not around?”
BOOM!!! A deafening silence fell across the group… I feared I had pushed things too far, I’d taken advantage of my position at this time within the inner sanctum of motherhood. Then the reply, a reply that makes total sense, a reply that links both the special times and those buzzkill moments of parenthood.
“It’s not that we WANT you to fail, we just want you to have the tantrums, the food throwing, the leaky nappies that you sometimes miss out on. It is not all cake, coffee and play dates.”So there we have it, not that groundbreaking at all. Whether we are the stay at home mum/dad, the one juggling work and childcare, the one that feels like you are missing the good times, parenting takes on many different guises at many different times and you have to try and share the great with the gruesome. That is parenting for me and is what separates us from the babysitters, and the cavemen.