Urban Fathers' Liberation Front

Confused dads working out the city

Injection of a three year old

It’s Toots’ birthday this week, and we had a little get together for her over the weekend.  There were just four of her friends, with their parents, round for tea and cakes for a couple of hours on Sunday.  It’s really the first celebration for which she’s been fully conscious of the implications of what’s going on.  She’s been looking forward to getting a suitcase (we’ve not yet got to the bottom of why she’s been asking for a suitcase for her birthday, but she did pack it immediately after unwrapping it, so she may not be here by the end of the week), and she’s been practising singing, ‘Happy birthday to me’ for about three weeks.  I thought last Christmas might have meant something to her, but beyond being further practice at throwing wrapping paper around, it passed her by without much excitement on her part about the traditional icons of the season.

Last week my mum had commented that she wished she could have an injection of 3 year old, such was Toots’ enthusiasm for life, and the energy she puts into it.  Having moved from a cot to a bed last week as well, Toots has quickly realised that she can now leave the status of sleep and be on the bedroom floor in – literally – seconds, and on Sunday morning we found her standing by our bed in our room at 5.45am.  Naturally, she had no interest in going back to bed, or to sleep.

Nonetheless, Toots had a magnificent day, doing jigsaws, playing trains, baking cakes and making sandwiches, shopping with grandma and then welcoming her friends in and dancing, running around, playing, chasing, eating and laughing like a drain right up to the friends all going and bedtime arriving.

She dropped into sleep like a stone that evening, but she was back this morning with her energy levels restored.  It was a remarkable day, filled with joy and happiness.  As parents and grandparents, we looked back on a hugely satisfying birthday party.  But it’s terribly unlikely that we’ll have the bounce that Toots shows today and every day in these early years, barring that magical elixir being harnessed in a digestable form.

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Nappies Drying

Nappies Drying

Why have the expense and waste of disposables when reusables are so good these days?

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Jesus Christ

Today was one of the harder days I have to face. Don’t get me wrong; my problems are all of the middle class persuasion.  I don’t have to starve or fight for water or cross minefields to get my kids to school.  Hey, but Fridays are a challenge.

Now I work from home, three days a week, with Toots at nursery for two, Friday sees me at home with my wife and two kids.  I’m torn between the need to make money and the need to help out as my wife finds Bub clamped to her breasts half the time and Bub screaming about needing food for the remainder. Not to mention Toots running riot as she seeks the attention from her mum that she cannot give because of all the breasts and the screaming. I pretty much feel the urge to work countered by the urge to help out all day, but find myself generally rooted to the office chair, albeit a bit stressed.

After the challenging aspects of the day had ended with the kids in bed, my wife and I ate and had some wine.  It was, after all, a middle class Friday night.  She passed me the, ‘North Central London Maternity Services Guide: What to expect after the birth of your baby, 2012-13’, which, she said, had a bit for men.  ‘A bit’, was true – a quarter of a page in a 16 page booklet.  Some suggestions for helping out included, ‘many areas where you can really help.  Here are just some suggestions: cooking; shopping; helping with cleaning; attending to the baby’

Jesus Christ.

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The tragedy of spelling mistakes

I’m not, I think, an unreasonable person.  Obviously, there are times when I will appear to be unreasonable in certain circumstances.  However, overall and on balance, I don’t think I’m unreasonable.

Like many others, I have signed up to endless websites, blogs, magazines, online shops, institutions, comments boards, ticket agencies, venues and no end of other stuff, which means I get mind-numbing quantities of unsolicited mail everyday in my inbox.  These companies might argue that, because I signed up to those sites, the endless stream of garbage in my inbox is not unsolicited, but I still consider them to be largely unwanted and therefore unsolicited.

Occasionally, one of these companies will tweak my interest, and the National Childbirth Trust did that last week.  They were looking for contributors to a debate about whether parents were worse off as a result of taking maternity leave.  However, the hyperlink to the relevant report was spelled incorrectly and, as a result, did not work.  There were three further spelling errors in the email, which was a only a few sentences long.  I made an immediate response to the effect that the spelling mistakes made the charity look ‘a bit silly’.

A few minutes later, I received a response from the sender, claiming she was just a volunteer working for the charity, passing on a press release that she had simply copied, pasted and forwarded.  I made a second response, saying that charity work was noble, but the mistakes still undermined its work, and that she had not checked the email was, in my view, lazy.

Following this, the volunteer forwarded the email conversation to the regional office of the NCT, citing degrading and damaging insults and demanding a personal apology.  A week later, I’ve not said anything more and I’m waiting to see what the NCT will do.

I admire the NCT and the work that they do.  My wife and I have been members as we became parents.  We attended their classes prior to the birth of our first child, and have been along to their sales and events.  However, based on this experience, it would appear that their press communications are handled by volunteers; that their volunteers do not check their emails with the press office, or take on board simple spelling themselves; that they do not regard spelling and accuracy as a key concern in seeking support and goodwill, and they have volunteers with flaky self esteem who claim personal damage to the regional hierarchy as a result of mild criticism.

Let’s see where this ends up.

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Lying on the sofa

I got in yesterday evening from a conference for budding journalists, and found the house empty.  Hearing the silence was blissful.  I took my shoes and coat off, and went into the front room to lie on the sofa and close my eyes.  My mind put my body on a sunny beach and I slowly exhaled.

About three and a half weeks had passed since child no.2 had arrived and, aside from increasingly prolonged visits to the toilet to play football on the Nintendo, this was the first waking moment on my own since his arrival.  I’d managed four hours sleep the previous night, what with Bub refusing to sleep between 3.30 and 5am, and I’m sure I’d only managed an average of five hours on the nights in April as a whole.  Having had my self imposed paternity leave (or was it imposed by my wife?) and returned to some kind of work, the absence of any regular and consistent dreamtime was beginning to show.

We’d been quite complacent in the nine months preceding Bub’s arrival, as our no.1, the beautiful Toots, had been – at least compared to our contemporaries – a zen-like child from birth to present.  Bub also came into the world relatively easily, (although I have to confess that biology prevented me from doing any of the pushing, screaming or tearing), but I was quite unprepared for the recollection that newly born babies do very little besides screaming and limb-movement, pissing and farting (the latter with regular follow through).  It doesn’t help that all of these activities are completely irrational.  I was also unprepared for the increased levels of washing and ironing, for the heightened chaos in the house and for the higher demands made of the occasionally jealous older sister, who now shouts, kicks and runs around much more, like some spoiled princess.

And on my little desert island sofa, for that ten minutes or so that I had, I wished for some kind of order to return; for a routine to develop.  Having been through this once before, I know I should neither wish my time away nor ignore my need to create a strong bond with my son as I have with my daughter, but God do I hope for some nice routine to shape up, so I can pick up the things again that I love to do, and I can give some proper time to my new business.

And before I have time to think again, or tell you more about that, the key is in the door, and my wife returns with Toots and Bub.  “Why’s daddy in the front room?”.

Hi, Toots.

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