Sweet Dreams

This was an actual conversation that just took place at bedtime. I was trying to explore bullying and feelings / emotions with my kids. I’ve clearly got some work to do.

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Me: (finishing story about the ugly duckling) “why do you think the duckling was sad?”

5yo: “Because everyone was mean and calling him ugly

Me: “Yes. True. Some people might call you ugly one day. How would you react to that?”

5yo: “Punch them!

3yo: “Kill them!

Me: …………….

 

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Staring out to sea

I found this letter I wrote home, the first time I took my daughter on a long haul holiday back in 2010. She was seven months old. As this site is as much about therapy as it is about providing a record of the parenting journey, I figured I should post it

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Yesterday I spent most of the day staring out to sea.

I did the same yesterday.

I plan to do the same tomorrow.

It’s not that it is a particularly captivating scene. Nothing much changes. It’s big. It’s blue. And apart from the odd jet-ski ripping past and para-glider coming into land, it remains relatively constant.

So why is it so captivating?

Perhaps it’s the way that the crests of the waves capture the sunlight and send shards of light twinkling all directions?

Perhaps it’s the tantalising fragrance of salt, fresh limes and divine frangipane carried by the trade winds that ventilate the island?

Perhaps it’s the fact that we have secured a spongy raised water bed, right on the beach that is the size of a small room and with as many soft furnishings as an Ikea showroom that allows Asha to roll around to her heart’s content?

Perhaps it’s the fact that there is a nice man who keeps bringing us drinks and food all day long?

I dont know.

All I can say is that for a view that changes only once every half hour or so, this is strangely compelling.

So what of Bali? Well we have hardly seen any of it. There really is no need when you have a swimming pool right outside your front door and a beach about a cricket balls throw away.

Our hut is beautifully arranged, along with 7 others nestling in the tropical undergrowth, around the centrepiece swimming pool. We have an outside shower where you can enjoy a nocturnal cool down under the stars listening to the gentle burr of the Cicada’s and surrounded by the enveloping fragrance of jasmine. 

To one side of the hut there is a massage table under a thatched Pagoda shade, and everywhere else is lush green foliage, hidden statutes, paths and God heads, bright tropical flowers and the constant sound of gongs, wind chimes and trickling, running water.

What we have seen is reminiscent of both Sri Lanka and Zanzibar.

But unlike the former that has been torn apart by conflict and the latter that has been criminally overlooked by corrupt governance, there is something balanced about this island.

From the diversity of cultures, to the gentle ambiance of the people; from the sticky warm fresh fruit served with coffee and a smile first thing in the morning to the gentle flux and flow of everyday life. This just seems to be an island that gives something back.

Unlike the happy mania of Jakarta, the people here seem more considered, down to earth.

Asha is not a celebrity here, in the same way that she was in Jakarta, but people have much more refined views. They still take her, and fuss over her, and tickle her until she smiles her smiles but you can tell people are taking her in when they look at her.

And they have time to see her in a different way here.

One man we met was captivated by her and said she had amazing charisma.

Another, after many minutes of looking at her, compared her to the Hindu Goddess Krishna.

I have been glowing with the inner pride of knowing I have a charismatic God baby ever since.

Like I said, Bali gives something back.

And despite the fact that we have forced Asha across 8 time zones, made her stay up late far too many times, dropped her on her head on a hard marble floor, made her sleep in a room where even the mosquito’s sweat and watched her vibrate for 2 hours after feeding her some chilli fish she is just loving every minute of it.

She continues to squeal, gurgle and grin her way through every day.

She is very happy here.

And as I write this next to the swimming pool fringed with mini Baobab trees with fragrant pink flowers, I know that I feel extremely content here.

And I am sure my wife, who is currently indulging in a one hour body massage, is also feeling it too.

And later today we are going to go and stare at the sea.

Tomorrow we will do the same.

I will let you know if anything has changed.

xxxxx

The Toddler Resistance Movement – A Guide to International Travel

As a member of the Resistance you should know by now that our objective is to create as much fuss, noise and disruption as possible whilst maintaining continuous supply lines of yoghurt, entertainment, snacks and sweets. So follow the guidelines on international travel below and you will be in receipt of a bumper payday of all things good my fellow toddling travellers.

On the way to the airport

  1. Vomiting just as the Ugly Giants are leaving the house is a great way of reminding them who is in control of this family holiday. Extra points will be gained for vomiting on carpet. At the very least it will result in the Ugly Giants cracking the DVD player our early doors, which means hours of Finding Nemo for you, my jet-setting friend.
  2. A couple of well-timed requests for toilet breaks during the car journey is a good way of keeping the pressure on. Refuse to go and then request a toilet break EXACTLY at the point where the Ugly Giants have just passed a service station.
  3. Regardless of the toilet break outcome, go in your pants. ALWAYS go in your pants.

At the airport

  1. Implement the four point plan as follows i) Demand to press the button for the car park ticket. ii) Demand to see the car park ticket. iii) Demand to play with the car park ticket. iv) Lose the car park ticket. The four point plan is just for kicks people.
  2. Refuse to go anywhere in the airport without either a piggyback or a ride on a luggage trolley. You are goddam toddler royalty and walking is for TWATS and LOSERS.

At passport control

  1. Demand passports. Chew passports. Hide passports. Lose passports. Your job here is done.

At the security check

  1. At a high and persistent volume, randomly complain about something i.e. your ears. Demand to have them replaced. This is just for kicks people.
  2. Stick metallic objects in the Ugly Giants pockets. Keep doing this until the scary looking man with the baton has stripped your daddy down to his underwear, and has him bent over the conveyor belt.
  3. When all medicines and liquids are out in the open, mainline the Calpol. You will feel the benefits in 10minutes.
  4. Insist on being last through the X-Ray scanners. Throw a tantrum if you have to. Just be the last through. When you are sure that all the Ugly Giants have gone through, make a break for the bastard car-park. This is not just about snacks, this is also about Freedom, my itinerant friends.

At Duty Free

  1. At a high and persistent volume complain about your shoelaces. Keep the pressure on. The Ugly Giants are weaker under pressure and more prone to cracking open the entertainment and sweets.

On the flight

  1. During boarding it is a good idea to loudly and repeatedly request items of clothing that you know have been left at home. Become inconsolable until the treat jar is cracked open. Boom! Payload!
  2. On the flight, kick the back of the chair in front of you as hard and as frequently as you can. The Ugly Giants love this.
  3. When the seat belt lights come on everyone will sit down. This is a perfect opportunity to get up and go for a stroll. The aisles will be clear of idiots, leaving you to have a gentle and unimpeded walk. Ignore the shouting from the flight crew.
  4. Demand stuff from the painted ladies. They are paid to have more patience than your Ugly Giant. And they have a trolley. A trolley full of salty snacks and fizzy drinks. And they CANT SAY NO! Boom!
  5. Half way through the flight, just as everyone has settled in, run up and down the aisles shouting. This is one way to freak the Ugly Giants. If you can learn to shout the word “BOMB!”, even better.
  6. Stay awake the WHOLE bastard journey. The Ugly Giants will be like putty in your hands by the end.

Before landing

  1. Scream loudly every time the PA breaks into episode 47 of Peppa Pig. Make the pilot adopt a perpetual holding pattern over the Middle East until episode 50 of Peppa Pig is finished. The pilot is your bitch now.
  2. Go for another stroll when the seat belt lights are on. Pull as many levers and press as many buttons as possible. Innocently ask why the engines are on fire. Disrupt and disobey. This is your role, live up to it.
  3. Refuse to hand over the headphones, blanket, in-flight magazine and soft toys. They are YOURS goddamit.
  4. Fall asleep two minutes before landing.

On arrival

  1. React badly to being woken up. This should result in a snack pay-out.
  2. The luggage carousel is your objective now. All roads lead to the luggage carousel. Once at the luggage carousel jump on board. Enjoy the ride! Don’t get off unless there are snacks proffered.
  3. Finally, once through passport control, demand to go back home. Keep this up throughout the duration of your stay. The Ugly Giants love these constant reminders of who is actually in control of this goddam family.

 

If you are reading this, you are the resistance.

The Toddler Resistance Movement – Guide to the Supermarket

Fellow comrades, listen up. For the Ugly Giants, the supermarket is a necessary chore, but if you follow the guidelines below the supermarket can become your own personal playground with added food and fizzy drinks. If you follow the steps below you will be in line for a juggernaut payday from the Holy Trinity of Toddlerdome – snacks, fun and attention. BOOM!

  1. Before even entering the supermarket, seek out the children’s rides and demand a go on whatever flashing monstrosity is at the entrance. Run screaming into the carpark if you don’t get your way.
  2. At the entrance insist on riding in a shopping trolley. Subsequently demand to get in / out of the shopping trolley every 10metres or so. The Ugly Giants love the exercise. Twats.
  3. Once inside, alternate between dawdling painfully slowly in some aisles and sprinting like a cackling loon down others. If you run into other shoppers, throw yourself to the floor and scream hysterically until they realise it was their fault. This should result in a yoghurt or muesli bar payoff.
  4. Take off all your clothes and randomly distribute them around the store. Socks, pants and soiled nappies are known as #aislemines and should be deployed near fresh produce. This is just for kicks people.
  5. Find the aisle with glass jars, crockery or high value electronics and insist on spontaneous and robust play with all items. NB dropping plates on the aisle floor and then screaming hysterically will result in a snack payday.
  6. Your role is “The Confuseriser”. Create Maximum Confusion by offloading items that the Ugly Giant puts into the trolley and uploading other unwanted items. Not only is this great fun, but it could also lead to a placating bag of Minstrels. Every little helps, my supermarket warriors.
  7. Make it your priority to find the pastry, cake and bread aisle. Quickly stuff your cheeks with whatever comes to hand. Teeth marks count as possession in the cake aisle, so a half eaten croissant is effectively yours. Bite everything until you are stopped. THE PASTRIES ARE YOURS!
  8. Situational awareness is key in our struggle, comrades, so be sure to make a note of the aisles where the yoghurt and cheerio’s are kept. You will need this information for the POWERPLAY.
  9. The powerplay approaches. Prepare for the powerplay by getting properly lost.
  10. Next find a security guard and put on your best Lost Child Look – tear streaked eyes, finger in mouth, lispy, half formed words….you know the drill comrades, we are talking CHARM OFFENSIVE, defcom one.
  11. Once taken to the customer services desk, all stars are now aligned for the powerplay. As soon as staff backs are turned, grab the intercom and shout the following words “This is a customer announcement: All Gin is now three for one in aisle seventeen. I repeat, THREE FOR ONE ON GIN”. 
  12. In the resulting madness, find your way back to the Cheerios and yoghurts and GO. NUTS. You should be able to do a couple of packs before you are busted.
  13. If you and your Ugly Giant have not yet been arrested, congratulations, you are still in the game. So insist on helping* at the checkout. If denied, find a pensioner and wedge your head between their legs whilst screaming “IT’S SO DARK! I CANT BREATHE!” until security is called to break up the #pensionerwedgie
  14. Make a loud beeping noise every time the till operator scans an item. Carry on BEEPING LOUDLY. For ever. Or as long as it takes to get a chocolate profiterole.
  15. On the way out, carefully place cigarettes, batteries and alcohol miniatures in your Ugly Giant’s pockets and then alert a security guard. Again, not for snacks people, this is just for fun.
  16. At the exit, find the children’s rides and stage a sit in. HOLD. YOUR. NERVE. You know it and the Ugly Giants know it – they cannot leave without you. BOOM! Before you know it you will be riding off into the Cheerio and yoghurt coated sunset with Postman Pat and his black and white cat as accomplices.

*helping broadly defined as – “eat all consumables”

#aislemines

#pensionerwedgie

Perfect Moment

A vivid but chaotic dream is interrupted by the sound of the bedroom door slowly sweeping across the carpet.

I am bought quickly into the room by the sound.

I open an eye and can see the door opening, but as yet no figure in the doorway.

The adrenalin and dull shock from the rude awakening quickly subside. I see the hazelnut curls on the top of my daughters head bob past the end of the bed, her footfall padding lightly on the carpet.

She rounds the bed post and her full face comes into view. She is full of sleep and there is no emotion on her face.

I don’t want to wake up yet. I don’t want the embrace of sleep to leave.

I hold my hand out to my daughter and close my eyes. I hear her feet pad a few more steps on the carpet and next thing I feel is her grip tighten around my wrist as she pulls herself into bed.

She collapses next to me and snuggles in tight, breathing loudly. She hasn’t quite yet worked out the concept of personal space, and while her head lies awkwardly across my jaw, and I receive a couple of accidental knees and elbows in delicate areas, her final position is comfortable enough for me to draw her in close.

She sighs loudly, contentedly. She appears to be in no immediate rush to go downstairs today.

She shuffles a little bit in the bed and nestles finally and comfortably in the crook of my shoulder. My face is now buried deep in her forest of curls.

I love being in here. It is soft and warm and smells sweet and earthy. I gently run my face through her billowy cloud of curls.

I chance a look at her, and her eyes are shut. Her breathing is soft and rhythmic, her chest rising with every breath, her warm outbreath kissing my shoulder. She is still and content. I close my eyes and my mind starts to wander.

I can hear morning birdsong outside, carried through the open window on a warm summer breeze which gently disturbs the curtains. In the distance there is the bark of a dog and the hum of a car engine. I can feel myself drifting, the warm embers of sleep burning on.

I have no idea how long we lie together, it doesn’t matter. I am snuggled up close to my daughter and we are still and quiet and entwined. She is safe, and warm and loved.

I don’t want this moment to end.

Bastard Holidays

You look tired, why don’t you book a holiday – give yourself something to look forward to. I’ve just been on one with my boyfriend and it was amazing

These were the simple words, uttered by a friend in the kitchen at work today.

Well my smug, well rested and bright-eyed friend, these are the reasons why a) holidays are actually bastard exhausting these days and why b) holidays are not bastard well meant to be looked forward to anymore

1/. For you packing means throwing a few clothes in a bag and walking out the door. For me packing begins weeks before the holiday begins, if not months. In fact I have started packing NOW in April for a holiday we are planning in August (* takes a hit of gin to stop the twitching)

2/. You won’t have your face clawed off by a bezerk toddler if you forget to pack Peppa Pig leggings.

3/. Studying and thinking about holiday property room configuration is about as tedious as reading Mr Messy on a perpetual loop. Oh I forgot, you have no idea how tedious either of those things are. Bastard.

4/. Your journey to your destination will be a chance to watch the landscape go by, catch up on the latest movies, read a holiday novel or get some restful sleep. For me it will make Marlow’s journey up the Congo River look like a fairground ride. Because listening to two toddlers having a screeching competition for two hours whilst stuck in French traffic is not something anyone should have to go through. (* sets up Amnesty International on speed dial)

5/. Upon arrival at your destination you can fling open the French doors and flop onto your bed. I, on the other hand, will have to immediately set up a perimeter and carefully remove the car seats before the squashed raisins, brioche and colouring pens begin to fuse, multiply and morph into a deadly contagion like they did Last Time. (* sets up Centre for Disease Control on speed dial)

6/. Holiday property brochures always lie. For you this isn’t an issue. For me that bastard line in the configuration plan which turns out NOT to be a wall between rooms, but a line to denote a change in flooring materials, will mean sharing a room for TWO FECKING WEEKS with my wife and two bastard snoring children. This means wake up at 06:30, lights out at 19:30, no down time, no drinking and shouting loudly and definitely no sexy-time.

7/. For you, free standing glass cabinets and unfenced gardens will provide charming property character and a pleasing sense of boundless space. For me, these things will provide The Crazies with their first experience of near death base jumping, and free-range and self-guided toddler tours of local highways and electrical sub-stations.

8/. Your holiday is a chance to indulge in two weeks of pure hedonism, escapism and down time. For me I will need to put all my own needs on hold in order to plan and execute exciting child centred activities, fun and games EVERY DAY for two bastard weeks. But it will be the fact that I forgot the bastard Peppa Pig leggings that will dominate conversations for the entire journey home. In between the bastard screeching competitions of course.

9/. Your evenings will be spent on balmy terraces, enjoying fine wine, leisurely food and scintillating conversation. Mine will be spent ramming food down my mouth as quickly as possible, shouting loudly at my wife and watching while one child feeds fish fingers to a tank of expensive looking oriental fish, and the other asks an angry looking man at the next table why his nose is so big.

10/. You will lounge on a beach recliner and will luxuriate in a thirty second application of Hawaiian Tropic sun cream, the mere smell evoking a tropical paradise. I, on the other hand, will be spending half my days sprinting up and down the beach trying to marinate my slippery children with a dense pasty gloop just to get minimal sun cream coverage. And don’t get me started on the question of bastard sun hats; because this is a question where Superglue is the only answer.

11/. Because by the time I have finally cleared the laundry backlog from this damn holiday it will be time to think about packing for the next bastard holiday.

So there you go my relaxed and just-returned-from-holiday-faced friend. If I sound bitter, it’s because I bastard well am. Bastard Holidays can feck right off.

PND and fatherhood – seven tips for dads

Continuing the mental health month theme on my blog, this post highlights the devastation that PND can wreak upon a family. But it is also an optimistic post as it provides a chink of light by proposing seven key tips for dads whose partners are suffering from PND.

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Two months after our second child was born, my wife was diagnosed with post-natal depression. 

We already had an elder child who was 7.5 years old when her brother was born.  After my wife was diagnosed she seemed to rapidly go downhill in the space of three weeks such that she eventually ended up in a mother-and-baby unit which was over 100 miles away from home. 

I became a single parent looking after my daughter whilst my wife and son were in hospital.  After three months she was moved to a mother-and-baby unit nearer home but she was there for three days before she refused to go back to the unit on a home visit. 

The next day she went out for a walk and ultimately took an overdose at a nearby hotel. 

I will never forget having the police in my house in the middle of the night whilst I had to get friends to look after my children.  

My wife subsequently needed further treatment at a psychiatric hospital, then moved with my son to her parents for six months, who live over 300 miles away, and got far better treatment than provided by my local area of the NHS. 

Our relationship has now broken down. 

The points below are completely from my point of view and I hope they help you if your partner is suffering from PND:

1.            Take all the offers of help you need:   The number of people who offered me help from doing some hovering to looking after my daughter when I need to go somewhere on my own was at times overwhelming but so gratefully received.  I only ever needed to take up a small proportion of those offers but always did so when I needed to.  If you need help and have been offered it then there is no shame in taking it and people will be grateful that they can help.  If you do need help then ask from family, friends or neighbours – people will always be there if you need them.

2.            Look after yourself:  During the period of my wife’s PND I twice had periods of a couple of weeks where it felt like I could literally not stop crying (luckily I have my own office at work).  I was able to get carer’s support from my local health authority which for me was an individual who I could talk to every couple of weeks and who was not emotionally involved in my situation and who provided great support when I needed it.  If you do feel that you are not coping then try and talk to someone, and if you need more professional help, then try and get that help.  I was ultimately referred me for counselling with a local charity which helped me try and understand what had happened.

In my experience, my wife’s personality completely changed when she was very ill and it can be very hard to experience that change in someone you love all day, every day.  If you need to, try and give yourself a break even if that means going to the shops for 20 minutes and getting out the house.

3.            Try and find out as much as you can:  A local support group would have been fantastic but without one I had to try and found out as much information as I could about PND from the internet and other individuals who had been in the same situation as me.  Obtain as much information as you need so that you can understand some more about what is going on and why your partner is ill.  My only note of caution would be is to recognise that unless you have been through depression before, it is very difficult to understand what you partner is feeling and why she is feeling it, and that there is only so much you can also know and understand.

4.            Kick up a fuss so you know what is going on:  In hindsight, I did not know enough about my wife’s treatment or her medication, why some things worked and others did not.  I wish I had asked more questions of her doctors and the seemingly endless number of individuals who kept coming to see her when she was at home.  I was constantly told that ‘most of the recovery will be at home’.  I have had no experience of mental illness and wish now that I had known what to ask the people who were treating her and not just accepted what they said and why they said it.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the nurses and doctors treating your partner to ensure you are satisfied with what they are doing and why they are doing it.  My wife got treatment to help her bond with our son at her parent’s local hospital which made some difference to her starting to recover; ask the people treating your partner whether there are these types of treatments which could help your partner as well.

If for some reason you consider one of the individuals treating your partner is not helping then try and get that changed.  My wife’s Community Mental Health Nurse would get cross with her when she forgot things but she forgot things because of the depression not because she was not listening.  We were ultimately overtaken by events but she wanted to change her CMN because she did not think the original individual was doing her any good.

5.            Don’t try and fix the illness:  I constantly made suggestions to my wife about things she could do (go for a walk, got to playgroups to meet other mums, sleep when he is asleep, the list is almost endless) that I believed would help her.  They would not necessarily cure her and most parents have probably heard them all before but I had an almost overwhelming need to suggest all these things as I thought they would help.  Ultimately my wife’s depression was so severe that it was a struggle for her to just get out of the bed and get through the day and so she was not capable of doing the things I was suggesting.  Try and accept that your partner may not be able to do everything that everyone, including the healthcare professionals, says she should do and don’t get upset or angry if she does not seem to be helping herself.  It is the effect the illness is having on her.

6.            Try and appreciate the positive moments:  My wife had a very positive few days at home half way through her time at her first hospital and there was optimistic comments about her being discharged after this home visit.  However, as soon as she returned to the hospital she became more depressed and things took a turn for the worse after that.  However, those positive few days were something that could be hung onto as an indication that in the future she could get better.  Some of her weekend home visits were awful and it seemed like there was no end in sight but sometimes, even only for a few hours, she was back to what she was like before the illness started.  Try and see the good times as positive moments but understand that sometimes they may only be temporary.

7.            She will get better:  Every individual who takes their life because of PND is a devastating tragedy for everybody involved.  However, in nearly all cases (I don’t know the exact numbers, I am not sure anyone does) the person suffering from this dreadful illness will get better.  It will be hard to believe this at times but hopefully for you it will be true.

 

(NB The author of this post has requested to remain anonymous)