So what’s this fatherhood lark all about then? We asked our guest blogger to tell us! Andrew Peck is a technical author with a house and all the usual paraphernalia of parenthood (including a blog at http://momentsofparenthood.blogspot.co.uk/). Prior to the arrival of little Harris he lived a far more colourful life and taught both in China where he learnt the language, and Oman where he played with grenades and had a joyride in a jet fighter. He prefers parenthood!
My wife and child are away, and I get emails titled “your son” full of photos that make me ache. Being, and becoming, a dad is like no other experience. Our boy was born early so we decided his name on the way to the hospital and some 20 hours later, after enduring amongst other things a bout of vomit induced cross-dressing (her sick, and her clothes!) I was presented with a gore-encrusted fait accompli.
In the months that have followed, dad-hood is something that’s really changed me. For all those men out there about to go on this journey, and all those women who think men have it easy, here’s 10 things you never knew about fatherhood.
1. You have little time for yourself
Shortly after conception, people will start telling you how you have to “be there” and be tough, strong and resourceful for everyone. This isn’t really advice, it’s more a statement of fact. However, there will come a time a few months in when you need to sit yourself down and have a bit of a reality check; you may laugh, you may cry, but you must find a way to take that time.
2. Changes happen when you’re away
My work sometimes takes me away from home, and sometimes away from the modern crutch of the “internet connection”. Arriving home at the end of the week means he’s changed. Sometimes it’s just a new facial expression he’s picked up, but once it was the “dada” sound that had developed while I was gone….
3. Your natural competitiveness re-emerges
The week my baby was born, I took part in a white collar boxing event. I didn’t stay for the after party, I just got hit, did some hitting, took my trophy and went to visit mum and baby in hospital. My priorities had shifted, but as a guy I’m naturally competitive. I casually enquire into the age of other children whilst comparing them to my boy and somewhere down inside this little voice is saying
“My 9kg 7 month old has a 4 limb death grip, mastery of his opposable thumbs and would crush your puny child like a bug.”
This doesn’t mean I’m going to become one of the disastrous parents who films their kids brawling so that social services have a join the dots case, it just means that I’m having natural reactions to my own offspring. This sense of pride is natural, and there’ll be something about your child that really gets to you. It may be an ability manifesting itself, or it may be [perceived] similarities. Enjoy it while it lasts, because apparently they pick up your bad habits too.
4. There is no room for shame
You’ll find yourself stood in the queue in busy shops dancing from foot to foot singing. Other shoppers may protest, but it’s essentially a choice between a wail that shatters minds or a little bit of whatever song you can remember. On that subject, you don’t have to sing nursery rhymes if you don’t want to; my baby likes Tom Jones and Neil Diamond hits that I can remember from my karaoke days.
5. Tears happen, work to the ALARP principle
The ALARP acronym stands for “As Low As Reasonably Practicable”, and guides the management of risk in explosives handling. Babies are like explosives, they should be handled with care, but we still need to handle them. However, to think that babies will never encounter risk or distress is quite naïve (just ask the newly brevetted grandparents), instead of trying to remove all risk, try to create situations where stuff is still happening while risk is minimised. This may mean that instead of panicking about your baby eating raisins, you take a course and learn a bit of infant and child first aid (which is why I feed him stuff his mum panics about, I know the baby Heimlich) . There was one occasion when my child sneezed during his bath and vanished, deflated, to the bottom of the tub; sure he was a bit distressed, but not bathing a baby would be far worse for their health in the long run.
6. Mummy needs some quiet time
That girl you met all those months and years ago (maybe just a few months… but it’ll seem a lot longer) is still in there, and she needs to feel attractive and herself again. Buy some bath salts, and then keep the baby with you for a few hours. It doesn’t matter how much the baby screams and panics, when she gets back and asks “was everything okay?” you say yes. Otherwise, she’ll never relax again.
7. Babies get heavy
Unless you’ve been blessed with a supersized new-born, you’ll start off with a baby that you can casually lift and move around. After a few months the baby will turn into a bowling-ball that kicks. This means that carrying him everywhere with one hand is going to have to stop, but you can still cradle him whilst playing Xbox games.
8. Nappies aren’t that bad
I have a photo of me changing a nappy in a respirator (gas-mask for you civvies), but they’re not really that bad. You’ll get quite interested in the colour and consistency as a baby’s diet is often far less mixed than an adult’s (parsnips in… parsnips out!).
9. Sometimes your inner child can help
If you’re sat faced with a child who’s being uncooperative and fractious ask yourself:
“What would I want?”
We had a bit of a battle getting him to eat from a spoon. The problem wasn’t the spoon, it was the insistence on restraining him like a Guantanamo inmate. I made him watch me eat his food, and then let him paw at and hold the spoon whilst he was fed, a much messier process, but one he enjoys. As a general rule kids are attention loving, inquisitive, playful and decidedly robust, something that as a dad you should be more than capable of finding within yourself.
10. Your relationship with your baby will be unique
My wife is amazing; she spends all her time caring for a baby that looks nothing like her! He looks like a small me. Ordinarily with a mixed race baby, you’d expect at least a little colouration, but my wife frequently gets stopped and asked if she’s an au pair. She wishes the baby looked at least a little like her, and can’t understand why he’ll sleep or play nicely for me. I think the answer is that because I’m away more often with work, my time spent with him is more of a novelty. Also, (and don’t tell her this) I started treating him like one of Pavlov’s dogs the morning he was born; he knows on some deep level that me singing means it’s time to sleep.
Being a dad to a baby is wonderful; it’s on the route to having a partner in crime.