I am three years and two toddlers into Fatherhood. I somehow made it this far, but in case I don’t make it any further, I thought it was time to document and share this tongue-in-cheek list of truisms from my experience of being a father. So here you go, these are my 40 truths about fatherhood.
Out and about
- When out pushing a pram you are giving legitimate and unconditional permission for complete strangers to come and talk to you.
- The MORE opinionated the stranger, the LESS children they have.
- SOME strangers can be hot, single, childless women.
- Despite what the received wisdom suggests, hot, single childless women often have the “BEST” advice for bringing up babies and toddlers.
- Society blindly trusts a man with a pram, despite the fact that the man might be a child-stealing pram thief.
At the park
- At any play park, there is ALWAYS one piece of badly designed equipment that is a toddler death trap.
- It is GUARANTEED that toddlers will always choose to play (for hours) on the one piece of equipment in the play park that is a toddler death trap.
- If there is dog poo, sharp glass, poisonous substances or hypodermic needles lying on the ground, a toddler will IMMEDIATELY find it, touch it, eat it / shoot up with it.
- Any trip that involves more than four toddler insertions / withdrawals from a car seat in a twelve hour period should NOT be taken.
- DONT argue with the sat-nav lady. Shouting at an automated voice robot is not a good example to set your children. Save that for your wife instead.
- “Are we nearly there yet?” is a legitimate question that can be asked at any point on the journey, including even before the journey has started.
- If you do decide to treat yourself to a few beers / glasses of wine of an evening that will be the night that your baby / toddler subsequently decides to wake up screaming every 45 minutes.
- Never fly solo on a hangover with two toddlers. EVER.
- Toddlers will wait for your important meeting / job interview / wedding / long awaited holiday before going down with extreme diarrhoea and vomiting.
- Pink-glitter-in-the-beard is NOT currently an on-trend office style.
- NEITHER is the hello-kitty-sticker-on-butt look.
- Although tempting, when out in a restaurant with your toddler NEVER shout “Seal the exits and set up a perimeter!”
- NEVER believe a toddler, especially when it comes to food. If they demand chicken, give them pork. They would have changed their mind anyway.
- A toddler ALWAYS waits for you to sit down at the dinner table before pointing out that you have forgotten something.
- When your toddler is screaming with hunger, you will ALWAYS overheat the meal.
- Yoghurt is toddler crack cocaine. NEVER run out. CULTIVATE a reliable dealer. ENSURE constant supply lines.
- The parent HOLDING the baby / toddler when it has a poo is responsible for changing the nappy.
- If the baby / toddler is on the floor at the time of the poo, the nappy change becomes the responsibility of the NEAREST available parent.
- For obvious reasons ALWAYS wait for a baby or toddler to finish coughing or sneezing before changing their nappy.
- Regardless of the quality and amount of toys you purchase, it is GUARANTEED that at some point your toddlers favourite toy will be one, or all, of the following; a) an empty shampoo bottle b) a cardboard box c) a toilet roll d) food scraps from the floor e) dead flies and spiders.
- The more an adult hates a particular toy, the more a toddler will play with it.
- Television should only be used as a LAST RESORT option to placate a melting-down toddler.
- The last resort is often the only resort.
Around the house
- Houses without stair gates are both liberating and petrifying.
- Football shin and knee pads ARE acceptable accessories for adults in stair-gated houses.
- 98% of carpet surface area in a house containing a three year old toddler is held together by stale milk, faeces, teething drool and nose bogies. FACT
- NEVER follow the five second rule (see 31 above)
- Child services FROWN on the concept of using a padlocked broom cupboard as a children’s “play area”
- More parental love, care and attention goes into creating a toddlers birthday cake than actually into looking after the toddler.
- Male adults who say they are enjoying a toddlers birthday party are either a) drunk b) insane c) gate-crashers d) from the bouncy castle hire company
- It is perfectly acceptable and normal for a toddler to shout “I WANT TO GO OUTSIDE” and “I WANT TO GO INSIDE” in the same sentence.
- NEVER bank on your toddler keeping a secret. One of their primary life objectives is to bust their fathers as often, publicly and as awkwardly as possible.
- Toddlers are ALWAYS listening. They KNOW more than you think.
- Head butting a wall is an acceptable toddler method for expressing mild displeasure.
- You will spend the first two years looking forward to hearing your baby’s inner voice, and the next sixteen trying to SILENCE it.
And finally, the one GOLDEN universal rule applicable to all events and circumstances
NEVER let the total amount of toddlers outnumber the total amount of parents.
I would love to hear what you have learnt about being a father / mother and what universal rules you have learned from your experience.
Since child number two arrived it has been over fourteen months since my family has been away from the house and on holiday together. Given that previous holiday attempts with child number one were less than successful, it was with a sense of anticipation, fear and trepidation that we set out on a week-long family holiday over the recent Easter break. We shouldn’t have bothered. We should have stayed at home. This is part 2 of that diary (here’s part 1 in case you missed it)
- Family holiday day 5
Black cross put back onto front door of plague house, quarantine procedures re-established and disinfectant on standby. We consider cancelling holiday and returning home. Daughter shows signs of improvement. By evening daughter is bouncing off walls again, happy, charismatic little self once more. Unfortunately son spends day screaming with teething pain. Calpol not working. It must be serious!
When children are in bed, wife finds “Contagion” in DVD drawer of the Plague House. We proceed to watch it, touched by the beautiful irony the universe is serving up. Film finishes and we spend rest of evening washing hands, trying to avoid touching face (which the film tells us we do subconsciously more than 2,000 times a day) and disinfecting surfaces some more.
Wife complains that DVD has made her skin crawl and spends an hour in bed itching and touching her face. Surely Plague House hasn’t also got fleas?
Hands red raw from over-washing. Becoming concerned that I might have OCD.
I wish I was back at work.
- Family holiday day 6
Daughter woke up at 03:00 screaming in pain, with a horrific rash on her lady bits. Wife starts sobbing and reveals cause is probably due to use of new toddler wipes used the previous day. Wife spends next three hours beating herself up. The Baton of Screaming is back in play again. Everyone takes a turn with The Baton of Screaming. I consider battering myself on the head with it again. Anything for a few minutes of quiet.
I spend the next hour organising an out of hours, out of area hospital appointment. Bitterly cold outside. Snow is falling. Peace returns to house around 07:00. Wife and I giddy with tiredness.
Later in the day wife starts to complain of nausea and stomach pain and retires to bed early. I sit upstairs on my own and revert to Twitter for solace. Good old Twitter. There is always Twitter. Thankfully there is wi-fi in The Plague House. Wi-fi stops working. Wi-fi is also sick.
I wish I was back at work.
- Family holiday day 7
No diarrhoea or vomiting for 48 hours and daughters rash has improved significantly. Happy house once again, so as a treat, we organise an outing to local play park.
Daughter insists on going on insane looking zip wire. Completes a couple of zips with my help, and then tells me to go away and let her go on her own. I hesitantly “let go” physically, emotionally and mentally. Surprised at how hard I find it to expose my daughter to risk.
Daughter spends the rest of the afternoon finally happy, zipping up and down the wire with her cousin. I stand by, watching nervously, wanting to run along side her every zip, but also amazed at bravery of daughter.
Sun comes out. Last day of holiday and finally all seems well. Wife comes and gives me a hug while daughter plays happily with cousin, and son messes about contentedly in sandpit. This is how it could have been.
Unfortunately, temporary happiness broken on last go of zip wire before dinner. Daughter gets thrown off like a rag doll, does double somersault in mid-air and lands heavily on back. Terrifying moment of silence. Daughter starts screaming. Daddy and mummy breathe sigh of relief and run to winded, but not wounded, daughter. Decide not to go to A&E.
Daugther later asks, repeatedly, why I didn’t catch her when she went flying off the zip wire.
- Family holiday day 8
No further events. Exhausted family pack up and leave Plague House behind. Car breaks down on journey home.
Standing on the roadside wife and I agree that from now on we are going to scrap all holidays. We agree instead that for future holidays we will lock children in front room for a week with a box of Cheerios and a DVD of “Lord of the Flies” on loop. We will retire to bedroom with a bottle of gin, curl up and rock gently in a corner, weeping whilst staring at pictures of unattainable sunny, palm fronded beaches.
Since child number two arrived it has been over fourteen months since my family has been away from the house and on holiday together. Given that previous holiday attempts with child number one were less than successful, it was with a sense of anticipation, fear and trepidation that we set out on a week-long family holiday over the recent Easter break. Frankly we shouldn’t have bothered. We should have stayed at home.
This is part 1 of the diary. Part 2 will be released later this week.
- Family holiday day 1
Bags packed and ready to go! However, son, recovering from a sickness and diarrhoea bug, vomits at breakfast time, bringing up bowl of half-chewed Cheerios. I try to score points with wife in personal ongoing vendetta against Cheerios by suggesting they are too sweet for son. Wife scores most points by making me clear up son’s vomit.
Holiday postponed by one day, due to Breakfast Cheerio Vomit. Holiday suitcases remain by front door. Daughter spends day whingeing – repeatedly – about not going on holiday. Son also spends day whingeing and clinging to any adult in sight. Wife reflects it’s like being on lock-down in an old people’s home, where all the old people are on Speed. Stressful day ends with wife sobbing in bathroom.
- Family holiday day 2
Son, hasn’t vomited in 24 hours, but is clearly still not fully recovered. Hold telephone consultation with rest of family (brother, sister in-law, two kids and Grandma), who arrived at separate, but nearby, holiday houses the previous day. We decide to travel to our holiday house, but under strict self-quarantine rules.
Both children fall into deep beautiful slumber on the three hour journey from Oxford to Kent. Wife and I dare to believe that the holiday is back on track.
However upon arrival at holiday house, both children melt-down. Daughter wants to go play with cousin, but nuances on the concept of quarantine are lost on her. Two resulting time outs for daughter. Son, teething for England, screams his way through the day, and nearly chews his own fist off. In order to delay onset of parental tinnitus wife and I take shift turns with son.
One brief conversation through holiday house window with rest of holiday party is our sole contact with the rest of humanity. Our holiday house is renamed The Plague House by my niece. Cold, wintry and miserable outside. Snow starts falling. It’s April.
- Family holiday day 3
No sleep due to daughter and son spending the night in a relay race, passing The Baton of Screaming between each other. At 4am, after approximately NO hours of sleep, I consider picking up The Baton of Screaming and whacking myself over the head with it. Seems like the only chance for some sleep.
Son still unwell and doesn’t eat breakfast. Bitterly cold and miserable outside, barely reaches above freezing all day, feels colder with barbaric North-easterly blowing in off Siberia. Children really tetchy. Pattern set for rest of day.
We are locked into Plague House, with no contact with the other holiday party except for stolen conversations through Plague House window.
Highlight of day is when daughter has a poo on toilet, looks down and squeals “It looks like Makka Pakka’s house!” I can confirm it really did.
- Family holiday day 4
The Baton of Screaming is dropped. The house is silent at night. Sleep results. Eight, lovely, unbroken hours of it. Both children wake up happier, smiling. Son attempts a few wobbly steps after breakfast, daughter back to usual charming and charismatic self. It’s been over 48 hours without an incident of diarrhoea or vomiting. Disinfectant is locked away! Recovery is complete!
Ring other members of holiday party. Sun comes out. Daddy and mummy rejoice. Celebratory decision made to go to Safari Park en-masse.
Arrive at Safari Park. Colder than hell, despite sunshine. Queue for hours waiting to get onto safari transport. Son goes quiet in pram, little nose frozen. All other children begin whingeing. Safari finally gets under way, vehicle passes through massive Jurassic Park style gates “Welcome to another world!!” announces driver triumphantly. This other world looks suspiciously like cold, empty fields. In Kent.
Son falls asleep, probably hypothermic. Safari passes field after freezing field, no sight of animals. Vehicle passes empty lion pen. Grandma suggests Friesian cows have kidnapped the lion and are torturing him for escape route information.
Vehicle eventually stops at an outdoor restaurant in the middle of nowhere, with no shelter, no cover. Bitter wind blows through restaurant, food takes over one hour to arrive. Son wakes up starving hungry, screaming for food. Food doesn’t arrive. Son eventually stops screaming, reverts to guttural protest growl and worrying thousand yard stare.
Food eventually arrives 80 minutes after it is ordered. Utter garbage. Utter expensive garbage.
Family huddle around a tropical lizard tank, along with 30 other people, to try and defrost. Tropical lizard tank is only piece of warmth remaining this side of hell.
Daughter wets herself. No spare trousers, so spare trousers borrowed off sister-in-law. Daughter refuses to wear spare trousers and escapes my grasp, running half naked out of the toilets and into the outdoor restaurant screaming “Get off me! Get off me!” I die of embarrassment in front of hundreds of startled onlookers. I suppress the urge to shout “It’s OK! I’m not a paedophile, I’m her father!”
Family troop back onto safari vehicle. Still no safari type animals. Plenty of squirrels though. Hands frozen with cold by this point. Children melting down. Final ten minute walk to car park is most miserable, cold walk ever taken. Cost of family outing totals over £300. Would have had more fun if we had spent the day sat in a big freezer, looking at pictures of squirrels.
All children put to bed, so I open the first bottle of wine of the holiday and pour into glasses. A split second later I am immediately alerted by crying coming from children’s bedroom. Daughter has vomited all over bed sheets and herself. Half digested, open-air-freezer-restaurant pizza stuck in her hair.
Daughter spends rest of night vomiting, one particularly strong hurl goes down my front, with splashback onto face. I note that vomit is surprisingly hot.
Wife and I painfully strip skin off hands through over use of soap and disinfectant.
I begin to wish I was back at work.
Look out for Part 2 of – The Diary of a (yet another rubbish) family holiday – later this week
I am quite new to the blogosphere so was pleasantly surprised the other day to find that I had been given a Liebster Award! The last time I got an award was in a school assembly, and it was for going a week without pulling the legs off spiders in the playground. Or something.
The award had been sat on my “about” page for some time. I was also particularly pleased (and humbled) to see that it had been awarded to me by a blogger that I have incredible respect for, and was in fact one of the first (if not first) bloggers that I followed. I seriously encourage you to go check the Undead Dad out. His writing is truly inspiring.
And according to the Undead Dad “……..Leibster is a German term for sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. It’s generally awarded to bloggers with less than 200 followers as a form of recognition and support to keep on blogging.” And here are the rules:
- You must thank the person who nominated you (thank you Undead Dad!)
- Answer the 11 questions posed by your nominator
- Pass the award on to 11 new recipients
- Pose 11 new questions to your bloggers
- Stick the Leibster award somewhere on your blog (if you like)
I had a REALLY hard time thinking about my nomination list as I follow so many great bloggers. So I decided to choose a list of 11 whose writing is
- a little off the radar,
- has at times forced me to think and challenge my own preconceptions and values
- demonstrates a bravery or honesty that I simply don’t possess
- has made me laugh out loud
- deserving of a broader audience
My 11 nominations are
Oops, that’s 12 nominations. Ah well, sue me.
These are the questions for you lovely nominated people (some of which I have stolen from others)
1. Which of your blog posts is your personal favorite?
2. Unicorns or zombies?
3. Name one other blog post from another writer that really inspired you?
4. If you could possess one super power for the day, what would it be and why?
5. Describe yourself in 20 words or less
6. If you started / owned your own country, what would you have as the top three principals of your constitution?
7. What three things would you tell your 18 year old self, given the benefit of hindsight?
8. What is the best joke you have ever heard / can remember?
9. What is your earliest childhood memory?
10. What is your favourite month of the year and why?
11. Favourite ever holiday and why?
And these are my answers to the 11 questions I was posed
1. Which of your blog posts is your personal favorite?
They all mean something to me, but my favourite is perhaps this one…..
…..simply because the picture I paint in the final few paragraphs is a vivid memory I carry around with me in my mind. This memory keeps me going when I am away from home and feeling down.
2. Name one other blog post from another writer that really inspired you.
I am going to break the rules here slightly and name two – this one from the Undead Dad, a brilliant meditation on the zen-like act of weeding and this gloriously funny one from Just a Normal Mummy on why gin is better than children
3. Unicorns or zombies?
Unicorns are beautiful but I have always fancied taking a swing at a zombie with a baseball bat.
4. Favorite children’s/YA book?
The Hobbit. I read it about a quad-zillion times when I was younger
5. Why did you start blogging?
I love reading and writing. And parenting is such an emotive subject which provokes the most profound emotional reactions. I just had to have an outlet for those emotions, and blogging seemed like the ideal vessel. And I also wanted to nose around and take solace in the fact that every second, somewhere in the world, a toddler is ruining someone elses day.
6. On average, how many times a day do you check your blog and/or its notifications?
Once or twice. Ok three times. Alright, four times. Yes ten times. About fifteen times.
7. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from blogging so far?
I’ve learnt two things – It’s your story, only you can tell it. And hot chicks dig guys who can write.
8. Do you have kids and, if so, do you hope that they’ll read your blog one day, or stay the hell away?
Yes I have two, one is currently 3 and the other is 1. I am still considering whether my blog will remain my secret. Even my wife is unaware that I write it. I currently don’t feel very comfortable with this secret, I feel as if I am being slightly dishonest in some way by keeping the secret, but I find writing under the cover of anonymity helps me to write more honestly and openly. I may choose to tell her one day. But not before I have deleted / edited all the incriminating posts.
9. You’re on death row: last meal?’
My home made spaghetti bolognaise and chilli con carne, my wife’s thaka dhal and saag paneer, one of my wife’s home made pizzas and a slice of mille feuille from Patisserie Valerie. I would try and eat myself to death so the bastards couldn’t take me alive.
10. When does the writing bug tend to strike?
All over the place. I have to write stuff down in the notes app on my iPhone. I find a post develops over a number of days. I think of an idea, write it down as a post header and then generate the story over the next few days in my mind. It can be days / weeks between actually getting an idea and sitting down to write about it
11. Real name or pen name?
Pen name, although it would actually be pretty cool to be christened “The Secret Father”. I would simply HAVE to be something cool like a spy with a name like that.
Change is never easy, and potty training – one of the major milestones in any young child’s life – can be one of the more challenging and frustrating change phases for everyone involved. It is much more than just taking off their nappies and showing them where the toilet is. It is the beginning of the process that will eventually see your child walk out of the door and off into the great wide world on their own. No wonder it can feel so stressful.
There were three indicators that my daughter was ready to start potty training
- She started to express an interest
- She was becoming conscious of the urge, shifting around and fussing when she needed to go.
- She was regularly waking up with a dry nappy
And there were three good reasons to start potty training
- She was getting stronger, and at 26 months old, we were fed up with fighting her on the change table.
- It was summer. Much easier for potty training
- Her best friend was potty training too, which provided a great peer pressure incentive
We were initially quite fearful as our daughter likes routine, doesn’t like change and expresses displeasure openly, frequently and assertively. In other words she can be a Todzilla.
However the transition to grown-up pull up pants made my daughter happy as she felt like a grown up girl. Equally my wife and I felt an immediate relief and liberation from the dreaded nappies (not to mention happiness at the thought of the expense saved).
However despite these early quick wins, the first two weeks didn’t go very well at all. In fact I would describe them as a disaster.
My daughter found it very difficult and was having accidents all day at nursery and also at home in the evenings. We tried to be patient and adopted the line to never scold an accident, but instead gently reassure and encourage her to get it right the next time. This is difficult though when yet another poo ends up on the kitchen floor.
My daughter became increasingly frustrated, unable to vocalise her angst. In hindsight, and judging by her reactions to each accident, I am also pretty sure she found the whole process quite humiliating – after all, who would want to be seen wetting or soiling themselves in public?
This went on for two weeks. Fortunately we have tiles and exposed floor boards at home in the majority of the family space in the house, so the damage from the many accidents was easily cleaned up. However the emotional scars were much harder to deal with. My daughter still couldn’t work out what was happening and became tense and stroppy.
My wife and I were also frazzled from following her around the house and garden with a potty. I began to hate those words “Do you need to go to the toilet?” which had become a burdensome mantra.
We tried lots of ideas, but even the sticker chart (which we thought would be the failsafe technique given her love for stickers) didn’t work. Each day the situation report from our key worker at nursery made depressing listening. We began to dread the daily briefing of failure and the exchange of yet another plastic bag full of soiled clothes.
Then one day, as we entered the third week of potty training, our nursery key worker pulled us to one side with our daughter, and suggested that it wasn’t working and that we should revert back to nappies. She said my daughter was not ready.
We were gutted.
I was actually at the point where I was also willing to cave in but thank goodness my wife provided the spine on this occasion and argued that we had put so much energy into potty training, and that this was NOT the time to give up.
My wife was also aware that my daughter’s friend had successfully transitioned from nappies to potty pretty easily in the meantime, and this provided further incentive for all of us.
And the very next day something amazing happened.
We were stood in the nursery, explaining our decision to our daughter’s key worker and my daughter toddled off into the bathroom. After a few moments I decided to follow her. When I turned the corner I cried out in amazement! My daughter was sat on the potty, big grin on her face, HAVING A WEE! I could not contain my excitement and called the others in to see. Of course I am not sure this was the right move as it temporarily made my daughter a little shy of her achievement.
However, amazingly she had no more accidents that day, nor the next, nor for many days after that.
By the end of it my daughter had cracked number ones within three weeks and number twos within two months. Accidents, when they did come, were generally during periods of intense play and excitement, when her mind was on something else, but within a couple of months these became incredibly rare. She suffered a couple of viruses in the time, which also seemed to set her back, but generally the learning trajectory was extremely sharp after that initial success.
I look back upon that period with mixed feelings. I was pleased that my wife had been tenacious enough to persuade me to stick with it. I was also proud that my daughter had decided to prove us all wrong, determined to do things in her own time, in her own way; but I also know it was a tough and stressful time, and a time when there were also many other challenges such as teething and sleep issues to deal with.
However, looking back, the overwhelming sense for us all is one of celebrating a victory; for my wife and I it was about having survived one of the key transition phases in early childhood development and for having successfully supported and coached my daughter through it.
But more importantly the victory was for my daughter; my daughter who assertively and confidently took her own decision to take yet another step on the path towards autonomy and independence; for my daughter who took a step closer to understanding and taking control over her own body; for my daughter who became closer to understanding her own needs and shaping her own independent future.
We learnt that potty training is more than just removing their nappies and showing your child where the toilet is. It is about empowerment, trust and preparing your child for the next stages in their life. These are big issues and big concepts, and introducing them so early on in their little lives is bound to cause tension, friction and challenges. And it is no surprise then, that it can feel all consuming.
And as we now stand on the verge of embarking on the potty training process with my son, who will soon embark on his own little war of (nappy) independence, we are preparing and steeling ourselves for a long, and sometimes stressful, journey. We will be prepared for setbacks on the way. We will be prepared for another summer of running around the house with a potty in one hand, and a bottle of disinfectant and brush in the other. We will be prepared for the inevitable accidents.
But ultimately, given what an incredible achievement it is for a child to throw off the lumpy shackles of nappies and to be able to stride confidently, with bare buttocks, out into the big wide world, we will be prepared for our children to (once again) amaze us.
This post appeared in its original format for a series of guest posts on Potty Training on the @Mummy_loves blog page (thismummyloves.com). Go check it out, there’s some great stuff on there. And why not follow Sonia on Twitter @Mummy_loves, she’s ace!