The Toddler Resistance Movement – A Guide To Swimming

After a particularly traumatic swimming experience I found my toddlers in their room, writing this on their Fisher Price tablet. Be warned people, they are getting organised!

The Toddler Resistance Movement – A Guide to Swimming

The Ugly Giants think that going swimming is all about learning to swim. Idiots. Whereas we all know that the objective of swimming is to get them to empty the bastard treat bag as quickly as possible. Follow these steps and you will be drinking Coca – Cola and grazing on smoky bacon flavour Wheat Crunchies before you are even out of the changing rooms.

1. Whinge to the Ugly Giants in the days / hours / minutes leading up to your swimming lesson. Shouting about it loudly and frequently makes it happen quicker, and therefore gets you to that treat bag quicker. Fact

2. Once at the swimming baths, refuse to get changed. This should result in a decent treat payout. Refuse the banana, let that sweat in the change bag. Hold out for the Organix muesli bars. The Ugly Giants love the smell of chlorine and humid banana on their clothes anyway. Freaks. 

3. Once changed, refuse to wear goggles. In fact refuse to wear any kind of bastard swimming aid. This includes floats, goggles and swimsuits. This stuff is for losers, and will hamper your chances of executing the mission. Stay focussed. 

4. Having spent the whole morning demanding to go to your swimming lesson, refuse now to get into the pool until you get to call shotgun on the floating aids. The acoustics in this place are ace my fellow swimmers, so to secure the holy grail of floating aids (the shark fin float), cry loudly. Remember you are slowly breaking the Ugly Giants in preparation for the ultimate treat payload – Strawberry flavoured Petit Filou yoghurt.

5. If the swimming instructor is one of those tenacious types and refuses to immediately let you into the basket of floating aids, shout “STOP TOUCHING ME” very loudly. I have noticed this gets you what you want. 

6. Run everywhere. The adults will soon tire of telling you to stop. Once they have stopped nagging, run as fast as you can and fall over dramatically, preferably into the pool. This may hurt, but it should result in a heavy treat payload. A small price to pay for that buttered slice of raisin Soreen, my aquatic friends. 

7. Spend 10 minutes warming up by removing all buoyancy aids from your swim suit. This is a good test to see if the bastard life guard is paying attention. You will need him / her later on (see 10 and 11 below) 

8. Create the illusion of walking on water by strapping all buoyancy aids to your ankles and moving swiftly across the surface of the water whilst shouting “I’VE BEEN TOUCHED BY THE HAND OF GOD” This isn’t for snacks, it’s just for kicks people. 

9. The swimming pool is big and cold. When the instructor is not looking, head for the warm bubbly place with the “no children” sign. Get in, keep your head down and keep pressing the bubble buttons. You may get 5mins or so of chill time. Use this time to eat the bag of Monster Munch you smuggled in down your swimming nappy. 

10. Now we’re building up to the piece de resistance. Grab some attention by floating motionlessly and face down on top of the water. This excites the Ugly Giants. (NB an advanced technique in this regard is to collaborate with the other children in the pool and coordinate a Mass Face Down Float (MFDF). If nothing else, this allows you to see which of the Ugly Giants is paying attention) 

11. Alternatively sink to the bottom of the pool and stay there as long as you can. This is a sure fire technique to get the Ugly Giants away from their iPhones. They spend too long on them anyway. Bastards.

12. Now you have their attention, EXECUTE THE MISSION. Remove your swimming nappy and take a massive poo. Ideally it will be a two day stored up poonami. The bigger the better. (NB This is also a good way of testing the pool evacuation procedures. Anything more than a 60 second delay, report the bastards to the local council). Once out of the water, use this as an opportunity for naked screaming. This will yield a quick snack. 

13. The Ugly Giants understand that you are going to be hungry after swimming so once in the changing room use this opportunity to scream loudly until they have emptied their treat bag. Demonstrate how hungry you are by stuffing everything into your mouth at once. Including the buoyancy aids you have smuggled out in your swimming nappy. 

14. Spend as long as you can in the changing rooms. Changing rooms are either freezing cold or stiflingly hot. And the acoustics are amazing. The Ugly Giant’s resolve will weaken quickly under these conditions, so use this as an opportunity to scream loudly until you have emptied the treat bag and negotiated your way to a double showing of Toy Story and pizza in front of C-Beebies when you get home. What you do in the changing room echoes for eternity. 

15. Remember, collaboration is a key weapon in our armoury. The Ugly Giants are rendered useless in the face of a double toddler, steamy naked, screaming onslaught (DTSNSO). So if there are two of you, do what you can – drop your clean clothes in the puddles, make a naked break back to the pool, swan dive into the sanitary bin, lick the floor. Whatever you do make it noisy, make it big and make it quick. Those fruit flavoured jelly tots will soon be yours. Shock and awe people, shock and awe. 

16. And remember people, to keep those snacks coming, you need a repeat performance. Plant the seed by repeatedly and noisily demanding to go swimming again during the journey home. The Ugly Giants will be like putty in your hands by this point. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Over and out.

 If you are reading this, you are the resistance





Men and PND – time to talk

Today 6th February is #timetotalk. For more information check out the time to change website

Over the month of February I am going to feature guest posts from people offering a male perspective on post natal depression (PND), with ideas and advice on support and care.

The idea is to raise awareness and get people talking about PND, particularly men.

Which is why I just had to feature this excellent 18 minute slot on The Last Word, an excellent radio show hosted by Matt Cooper on Today FM in Ireland. 

This programme was shared with me by the lovely people at Nurture.

The programme features two men Ronan Kennedy and Owen McGrath, whose partners have suffered from PND, plus Nurture CEO Irene Lowry.

Ronan and Owen highlight brilliantly why it is so important that men are part of the discussion on PND, and that men who are supporting a partner affected by PND often need support themselves.

Irene provides some insightful context and some interesting statistics that suggest that PND is still very much a taboo issue.

Please grab a coffee, put your headphones on and have a listen

Men and Post Natal Depression (the Last Word, Today FM 28th January 2014)


(Nurture is an Irish charity founded by counsellor Irene Lowry and co founder Lilian Mc Gowan. It offers counselling and support surrounding pregnancy and childbirth mental health illnesses & emotional wellbeing. Check them out they are doing great stuff)

Moments that mattered

It wasn’t a beautiful day, but then again it wasn’t dreadful either. A typical English summer day; a little overcast, a little drizzle, the mercury hovering around 18C.

We had been invited by friends to go camping with them and their kids, which we had accepted.

The kids were excited and if I am honest, so was I.

The reason for this is that I love being outside. And I love being outside with the kids.

Outside there are no walls, no perimeters and no parameters. The kids can run free in a field and I can relax for a few hours, knowing that they are safe.

Everything is better outside.

For me connecting with nature is so important, and there is no better way to connect than being outdoors on a camping trip.

The sights, sounds and smell of a campsite are part of the experience too.

The high pitched rip of a zip, the flap of canvas and the pungent smell of fresh grass, woodsmoke and freshly brewed coffee all combine into a heady mix.

And when you are camping everything ebbs and flows with the rise and fall of the sun. And at night, as the sun drifts below the horizon, the infinite expanse of the universe unfolds with celestial majesty, mind-bending in its vastness.

Just one night out in the elements and the mind can become untethered from the daily routine, released from the shackles of the flickering electric box in the corner of the living room and the piles of bills, letters and reminders that enslave us on a daily basis.

Camping is communal living, how humans would have co-existed many hundreds of years ago, before office blocks, air conditioning and artificial strip lighting. For me this is part of the allure; to get back to basics, however temporary.

And we are fortunate in that we have a phenomenal campsite nearby. There is something magical about this campsite, nestled in the shadow of a white horse, carved in chalk on a hillside dotted with lush and ancient deciduous woodland.

Once we had arrived and found our friends, the tent went up reasonably easily and the kids got to run around, liberated, urgent and red faced, constructing imaginary universes and populating them with imaginative abandon.

The drizzle stopped and the afternoon blended lazily into the evening. As the sun went down groups of people began to gather around freshly lit fires. With the kids so content, some of our group chanced an early drink.

The bedtime routine went well, and the adults in our group had, by now, started to sink into their chairs around the fire, faces lit and glowing amber as the flames licked and danced. Only one child remained awake, my daughter.

It wasn’t the kind of awake that was problematic though. There were no tears, no tantrums. It was a gentle kind of awake, driven by curiosity and an active mind.

After a few failed attempts to settle her into her camp bed, I decided to bring her around the camp fire. It was a risk. By now we were firmly into adult time, and the addition of a child may have been looked upon dimly by my peers.

But within a few minutes it became apparent that my daughter was content to sit quietly on my lap, settling into the hypnotic soundtrack of the night;

There were snatches of conversations from around the camp fire; I could hear a story being shared, an offer of more food, a bottle being opened.

And there was also the sound of a guitar and a soft but beautiful voice singing a quiet refrain.

The sound of a tent zip punctuated the air, and a lone blackbird piped melancholy from the tree tops.

I could hear a peel of laughter from across the field, a group bonding over a joke or story, and all of this was set to the gentle hiss and crackle of our fire fanned by the night breeze.

My daughter cuddled in tight, her curls falling on my lap, and at once I felt utterly content, at peace, my heart melting into the fire.

I realised she had probably never seen the night sky like this before, pitch dark and bottomless, so I asked her to look up at the stars. She lifted her head and fixed her wide eyes on the sparkling canvas above.

It took her a minute to take it all in, and then the questions started; magnificent questions driven by the young, pure and inquisitive mind of a three year old.

I don’t know how long we spoke for, but it was beautiful. A father and daughter huddled close amongst friends, cuddling under a vast night canopy and warmed by a fire, repeating a conversation that humans have been having through the millennia.

I sat with her, talking in whispered tones, long into the night, not even moving when she eventually fell asleep on my lap.

It was too perfect, magic, and I didn’t want to move, lest the spell be broken.

And my enduring memory from the night was of my daughters angelic eyes, facing skywards, reflecting the embers of the fire, desperate for knowledge, her mind beginning to tangle with some of life’s imponderables.

And for me it was a deep and profound connection with my little baby, a truly rare moment in the normally frantic rat race of everyday life.

Since that night I have realised that my daughter is growing up fast, and these moments will become less and less.

There will become a time when she will leave my side and stride out into the big wide world on her own. And when that does happen, she won’t know it, but my heart will go with her.

But for this one night, I was able to savour this moment, a primal bonding between father and daughter, a moment so precious and pure that it will stay with me until I die.

This was for me the moment of 2013.

A moment that mattered.

This post has been created for the lovely Mummy’s little Monkey and is part of a competition she is running on her site designed to get people writing about moments from 2013 that mattered to them. If you have read this post, or any of the other posts in the moments that matter series on her site, and feel inspired to contribute your own moment that mattered, then please do. You could even be in the running to win an iPad mini courtesy of those good people at Lloyds who are doing a sterling job in supporting the blogging community.


The forty eight hours of me

Peace. Quiet. Alone

Peace. Quiet. Alone

It’s Friday night, I am 41 years old, I am home alone, and I have temporarily forgotten who I am.

Just a few minutes earlier the front door had closed shut. The muffled sound of small, crackly and excited voices faded. I heard the car door shut. The engine was started up, the car pulled out of the drive

And now here I am, left standing in silence, like a forgotten old sock on a radiator.

Complete silence.

My wife has taken the children away for the weekend and I don’t quite know how I feel, or who I am.

I turn and walk away from the door, a familiar paradox forming in my emotions – those uneasy bedfellows of joy and sadness jostle for primacy in my heart.

As soon as the family are out of the door I breathe a sigh of relief. But it is a sigh tinged too with the vestiges of regret. Regret that I am not going with them. Regret that I will miss all those little moments that have become so important.

That moment after dinner when we have a disco which always ends up with everyone collapsed on the floor in a panting pile of giggles.

That moment when my son puts his arm around his sister as she talks him through a book.

That moments when my daughter will whisper that she loves me in my ear.

That moments when my son fixes me with his gaze, stares into my eyes and somehow connects with my very being.

Moments when all the drudgery of the routine has been completed and we can glow in the precious embers of the day, nestled under the duvet sheets and cuddling close as the much loved and familiar bed time stories are told once again.

Moments when my wife and I look at each other and with one weary but happy expression, count our blessings that we have got them safely through yet another day.

They have been gone for a few seconds and I am already missing all of this and more. The house seems quiet. Too quiet. The toys are strewn across the floor, a multi-coloured legacy of what just was.

Children enter our lives in a whirlwind of noise, energy and emotion and from that moment on, there is no let up. As a father this is like a drug.

But it is moments like this, when the drug is taken away, that I miss it, need it, crave it back again. My personality has become so intrinsically linked to my children that it feels like my identity and character are collapsing without them. Again, I am home alone. I am 41 years old. And I have temporarily forgotten who I am.

But it doesn’t take long before I remember. The sadness begins to make way as a positive realisation dawns on me. I am home alone. I am home alone.

I walk over to the toys and start putting them away, one by one. And as I do so, a wave of nervous excitement passes over me. I start to think who of my friends I can call.

I can go for a pint. In a pub.

I can have dinner. In a restaurant.

I start to recall all the films I want to watch and make a mental note to check the listings of the nearby cinemas. I make a mental note to check the timings of the live football on TV. I start to think about the work that needs to be done in the garden and all the other things I find hard to do with children swarming around my ankles, pulling at my trousers and demanding attention.

I start to excitedly break the next two days down into units of time. Some units are about getting jobs done, but some units – in fact most units – are hedonistically and selfishly dedicated to me.

One and a half units will be spent on getting my hair cut. Two units I am budgeting for a lazy Saturday morning breakfast in our local Cafe and a read of the papers. Another two units will go on televised sport. I start to calculate how many units are left.

The weekend is shaping up. I am home alone. And already I am starting to feel like a man again. I am no longer a husband or a father. I am a man, it is just me, and it is starting to feel really good.

I catch myself and I feel guilty, but not so guilty to rein in the flights of fancy that are now coming in thick and fast. I could get the train to London and take in a show. Why not Liverpool? I’ve always fancied a night at the Cavern Club. Hell, why not get a last minute flight and check out Amsterdam…….?

I decide against these things. I am home alone. I have the weekend to myself and my primary goal is to wake up in my own bed, at my own pace, and to do those things that I don’t normally get a chance to do. This is “me” time with a capital ME. This is my one weekend where I can be selfish and hedonistic.

And I know that come Sunday evening the car will pull up the drive, I will hear the car doors open and the muffled sound of scratchy, excited little voices will get louder. My daughter will reach up and press the doorbell and run off screaming with excitement, my son will be jumping up and down on the spot, shouting unformed words, fingers coming in through the letter box.

Before I open the door and get bowled off my feet by a tidal wave of sticky hugs, noise and unbounded enthusiasm, I will breathe in the silence one last time.

And in that moment I know that there will be a tinge of disappointment. Disappointment that I didn’t get to do everything that I wanted to do during the 48 hours of me. Disappointment that my peace and quiet will be broken. Disappointment that Time will once again no longer be mine.

But there will also be joy as the old, selfish me makes way for the new improved me; the father, the husband, the carer, the anchor, the port in a storm.

I will be euphoric that they are back. I will acknowledge that being just me is great, but that actually my life has far greater meaning when my wife and children are around. They define me in ways that I never could on my own.

I will reflect and acknowledge that the only reason I can properly enjoy time alone, is by knowing that they are coming back. It is that, and ONLY that, which will make the next two days – the 48 hours of me – so precious.

Looking into the future

This final post in the #fathersdaymonth series comes from @LoveAllDads.

@LoveAllDads is a great initiative and a one stop shop for anyone wanting to peruse a fantastic selection of dad bloggers, dad voices and all things dad. It is basically a showcase for the best of Dad Blogs.

Go check out the website here and follow on Twitter @LoveAllDads

And I cannot think of a more appropriate way to close out #fathersdaymonth, with a cheeky little blog post from a guy who runs a platform for showcasing dad blogs. This post is from a man with two lovely girls and is a nod to the future, whatever that future may contain.

Even if it is boys.


Live for the moment, not the past, as you can’t change that.

What about the future though?

Well the future is scary.

Why is it scary?

Simply I have two amazing girls and I am grateful that I have them and I’m so lucky.  

The thing is this. They will grow up.  And THAT is scary.

As things stand the girls are blonde and blue eyes, and both could melt your heart…BUT this is a worry as they grow older; what if those horrible creatures known as BOYS start sniffing around?

I have already warned the girls that boys are off limits until they are 21 and luckily at the moment they respond 

“That’s ok Daddy boys are yucky!”

I do however think this will change at some point.

As tradition dictates, it’s up to the Bride’s Father to pay for the wedding, which if things carry on, with their expensive tastes and everything, could cost me a pretty penny.

Multiply that by two and you have…well it’s not worth thinking about.

I am hoping that it is still tradition for the hopeful chap to ask me for my daughter’s hand in marriage at which point I can simply say “NO!” and in an Eastenders way ‘deal with him’.

Is that allowed? 

Of course I am joking

(sort of)

With the guidance of their parents I know that my girls will grow up to be well mannered and polite and hopefully make the right choices throughout their lives and no matter what, they will know that we will always support them.

As Frank Sinatra said ‘regrets I’ve had a few but then again too few to mention’

Saliva, snot and tears; one man’s reflection on childbirth

This is the fifth guest post in the #fathersdaymonth series. This comes from a great dad blogger called The_iDad. According to his Twitter profile he is “…dad to a crazed toddler and another in production“. Go check him out on Twitter @The_iDad and you can find his great blog here

This is a lovely post that reflects on the need for adaptability in fatherhood (and in parenting in general) and demonstrates clearly that being prepared for childbirth is good, but that you also have to be prepared for the eventuality that sometimes EVERYTHING can change……


During the 40 weeks of pregnancy you have quite a while to mentally prepare for what life will be like when your baby arrives. A lot of that time maybe spent wrestling with flat pack nursery furniture, debating over nursery colour swatches or purchasing ridiculously overpriced novelty clothing.

Throughout the prolonged countdown I found myself spending more time contemplating life after birth than birth itself. My thoughts of labour constantly flip flopped between sheer joy and excitement, to utter panic and terror.

Could I be the man that my Wife needed me to be during the birth?

As I write this I realise how pathetic that may sound as I appreciate I am a mere passenger to the birth experience rather than the one actually having to give birth.

I hate to compare the role of the birth partner to that of a back seat driver but the catalyst that fuels the vocal reaction of the panicked passenger is that of lack of control.

I feel as though my fears of labour were stemmed through the feeling of being out of control. Whether or not the birth experience would be good or bad for my Wife seemed as though it had little to do with me. The speed of which I could mop my Wife’s brow or fetch hot towels seemed irrelevant to what my Wife would be going through.

As naive as that sounds I had never been around birth before or even babies so my understanding of it all was slightly out of date.

Having acknowledged my fear and prehistoric knowledge I embraced the opportunity to learn the way of the force and be the best birth partner a man could be.

As an open minded, hip hop, modern era kind of couple we jumped at the opportunity to sign up to 6 weeks of hypno-birthing classes. The experience was great and after the course we both felt empowered to go and pop the baby out with minimal fuss. After all, a pre-planned cocktail of relaxed breathing and a bucketful of oxytocin meant the baby would simply just slide out. Right?!


Yes, with my new found skills I could identify the optimum volume for the hypno music, light several calming candles with the precision of a pyromaniac and produce a knee wobblingly good foot rub; but what if something went wrong during labour? I would be unprepared.

And unfortunately in reality I was.

I found the ethos of hypno-birthing to be incredible and I would highly recommend it to anyone.

But when you find yourself in the stark reality of an emotionally charged emergency c-section situation, deep breathing isn’t enough.

The catchy tune of Elton John’s Rocket Man was still ringing in my ears as my pupils sharply adjusted from the dim sensual lighting to the piercing glare of the surgery room.

As I frantically tried to find the arm hole of an inappropriately ladies size 8 scrubs top that I had been thrown, my concentration was abruptly cut short by the sight of my Wife’s spontaneous projectile vomit coming towards my face.

My knuckles were whiter than my face as I clung on in confusion to my distressed Wife. My fear of being out of control was at its peak and my knee jerk reaction to regain it was coming across as desperate and weak.

It was time to put our trust in someone else and hope for the best.

Well the best couldn’t have been much better, the sight and sound of our newborn son was embarrassingly overwhelming.

Soon after cleaning our newborn son off, the staff were doing it again. But this time it was me they were cleaning as a combination of saliva, tears and snot congealed together to create an alien like emotional eruption that Mount Etna would have been proud of.

The best laid plans may have gone out of the window but the end result was the same.

I am now two and half years into being a Father and the feeling of not being in control still niggles away each time we reach an obstacle for the first time.

It may never go away but I know with each new experience I will learn from it and aim to be better for the next time.

I am thankful to say that I will have a next time as my Wife is 25 weeks pregnant with our second son.

How will I be different during birth this time? I don’t know is the truthful answer.

But I do know that I will be more aware of the various scenarios that can play out and I will support my Wife in every way I can.



One born every minute

It is actual Fathers Day! And this is the fourth in the series of #fathersdaymonth guest posts. This one is a second post from @dadvsthekids. You can read more from him on his new blog

It’s a post about childbirth. And I particularly like this post because it is funny. Really funny. But also that there is a great central message here. Kids dont play by the rules. Neither should you. Stick your hands out and get them dirty.


Hi. I’d like my coat dry-cleaned please. That stain? Yeah, it’s just my wife’s blood. Do you reckon you can you get that all out?”

Okay. Let me back up a bit.


Okay. Maybe I need to go back a little bit more. Because if you’re bringing a child into this world, you need to be prepared. But not prepared in the way you think you know right now.

This is the birth of our second child. I got this. I read all the magazines. I diligently attended all the birthing classes. I even managed to get in good with one of the staff on the maternity ward (ok, it was my mother-in-law) and secured a serene, private hospital room to welcome our latest ‘miracle of life’ into the world with the aid of the finest drugs the NHS has to offer. NAILED IT.

From the Dad’s point of view, as long as you’ve picked up the TENS machine, remembered the overnight bag, your ONLY job in the delivery room is to hold your wife’s hand, offering appropriate, positive commendation whilst resisting the temptation to take a hit of the gas and air whilst the midwife’s back is turned.

We’d been through this already with child no.1 – I knew the drill. I knew my place. So when the contractions started that summer afternoon in 2006, it was like the Rocky theme tune was playing in my head all over again. All those months of training has led to this.

 Mrs DvK calls her parents and we arrange to drop off our firstborn. Because who wants to traumatise a 2yr old child with shrieking contractions and profanities, right?

“Yep,” she breathes into her phone through the mild contractions. “We’ll drop him off to you Mum, and then we’ll go home and collect my stuff before meeting you at the hospital. The contractions aren’t too bad, so we should have plenty of time.” I make a mental note to pack myself extra magazines and maybe a Mars Bar.

An hour later, we’re back at home. Mrs DvK is on the sofa, wrapped up in the TENS machine, timing the contractions whilst I make the last few phone calls to friends and family.

Informing the maternity ward of our imminent arrival, I try my best to sound confident and jovial. Don’t be fooled – judging the window between “should we go in now” and “I can’t believe that moody cow sent us back home” is another rite of passage for all paranoid new parents. If you don’t sound convinced, then they won’t be.

“Did you call the midwife?”

“Yes hun”

“Did you put my slippers in the bag?”


“Have you put the car seat in?”

“It’s done.”

“Did you pack the baby vests?”


“The green ones and the white ones?”


Apparently no one cares if I packed my Mars Bars, but whatever. I take charge of the conversation. “Right, I’ll get everything in the car.” I slip my hands into my coat, help Mrs DvK up from the sofa and march ahead for the front door. “Let’s go!”

The first scream of pain hits me with brute force. I’m not supposed to hear that until we’re in the delivery room am I?

I turn around and for the first time, I see paralysing fear in my wife’s eyes. By the Power of Greyskull: THE LITTLE GIT IS COMING NOW.


“I can’t move! I can’t move! I have to push!” she screams. The sheer ferocity of the contraction is too much and Mrs DvK, in a hysterical panic starts to remove her clothes.

“NOOO! Not in the living room on the carpet!” My cry falls on deaf ears. But Mother Nature has taken over and gravity is the first to say hello. With one push, her waters break, spilling out onto the floor.

Imagine what you’ve seen in light-hearted romantic comedies and hilarious TV sit-coms.  But without the canned laughter. Nobody is laughing now. It’s EVERYWHERE.

“WIFE IN LABOUR! BABY COMING! SEND AMBULANCE!” My adrenalin fuelled stuttering to the 999 operator reveals I am way in over my head. This is uncharted territory.

My wife and I are alone, with no medical professional, no drugs, and no way out. There isn’t an app for this. Mrs DvK is about to endure childbirth cave-man style, and I didn’t even get to start thumbing through my fresh copy of GQ. Typical.

Despite all the odds, she’s still on her feet. Everything is a blur. The second push is more dramatic than the first.

And then it happens.

I can see my son’s head.

My stupid brain frantically tries to recall anything from the birthing lessons that can help in this situation. Nope.

One thing I can guarantee, new Dads: Time will slow down when you see your child for the first time. I don’t remember the exact moment I dropped the phone and extended my hands to catch my son. That primal need to protect him at all costs is something that you can never fully put into words. This tiny child is fighting for survival from his first breath and he’s relying on you to step up.

The umbilical cord is still wrapped around his neck. But he’s crying. That’s a good thing right? “Yes, yes that’s a good thing you idiot”, I think to myself, “that means he’s breathing.” Unwrap the cord dammit, unwrap the cord.

Mrs DvK finally crumples to the floor in a shock, tired heap. I remember I’m still on the phone to the 999 operator. “THE KID IS IN MY HANDS WHAT THE HELL DO I DO?!?!?”

“Get blankets. Keep them comfortable. Another midwife and an ambulance are on their way sir.” The reassuring tone of the disembodied voice make me think this is definitely a more regular occurrence than I’ve been led to believe. Did she just call me Sir?

Your child will shock and surprise you from the second they are born. Just when you think you’ve got them figured out, they’ll blindside you with an emotional uppercut and you’ll be left wondering why you weren’t prepared and begin to doubt your ability to keep another human being alive.

To those who have such trepidation, I say USE that. Use that fear to fuel that primal maternal/paternal bond, not shy away from it.

The books and the classes and the well-meaning (but sometimes conflicting) advice from family and friends have their place.

But you’ll be surprised what you’re prepared to do for your child when you use them as the measuring rod of your success as a parent, not the photo-shopped magazine version we all find ourselves aspiring to.

If catching my son mid-delivery taught me anything, it’s that kids don’t play by the rules. And neither should you. Stick your hands out and get them dirty.

The real professionals arrive less than 10 minutes after the delivery and do their thing.

Actually, one of the ambulance paramedics, built like brick house, and who’s probably seen more than his fair share of multiple car pile-ups, confesses he is squeamish at the sight of women giving birth. Outstanding.

He offers to make himself useful by putting the kettle on and making the bed. 

Mother and baby are eventually given the all clear by the midwife and within an hour they’ve gone, and our new son is already asleep.

Aside from the stream of text messaging well-wishers, the eerie quiet is a stark and bemusing contrast to the heart-stopping moments that preceded it.

I look at my blood-covered watch. It’s nearly 8:30pm.

“Fancy catching the last few minutes of Eastenders?”


This was originally a guest post for @ministryofmum. Go check out her superb blog at


Why yes, I happen to speak fluent parturition.

This third #fathersdaymonth post is a lovely meditation on childbirth and fatherhood. There’s also even time for a humorous reflection on the curious and beautiful oddities that we spawn.

This post comes courtesy of Shawn Brown whose lovely blogs and beautiful poetry can be found on his blog page Circumstantially Wonderful – – go check it out.

I hope you enjoy this post – please do feel free to leave comments and feedback


As I was tucking in the Easy Bee (3yrs old – our 2nd of 3);
making absolutely certain that no rough part of the blanket
was touching her face in any way, at all, she says:

Dad, your hands are cold… and they’re warm

My First Born (6yrs) feeling it necessary to contend this paradox
interjects with a voice muffled by her deep nest of covers:

“…that doesn’t make any sense

weellll…” EZB continues in a single breath: “they’re middle… they’re medi… uhhh… meti…
meady…ummmmmmmm…  meaty… meat. We eat meat. We eat fish. Mosquitoes itch us. Right Dad?”


My strange and beautiful children.
Where did you come from?

Oh right, I remember …

(eyes glaze dreamily, hand strokes scruffy chin):

… the muscles of my wife’s lower back rippled
(i didn’t even know we had muscles like that there)
she was turning a deep red with the effort
and still the midwife was demanding: push!

I thought: NO! she’ll burst! no one can do this. STOP!

but then…

I was called around to the front
and there was the top of our little one’s head
I teared up and I repeated: push.

In a moment the child rushed out into my hands
and I picked her up and put her on her mother’s chest.

Our daughter. Born under the water of an inflatable kiddie pool in my kitchenwhere you would sit, in fact, if you came for dinner.

I was no stoic hero (in this case or the subsequent two births)

I was trying to maintain focus on my wife

Trying to take care of the little logistical problems of having a swimming pool in the kitchen
(in which a baby is about to be born)

Trying to be as helpful as a man can be (when he’s long ago completed his required contribution for this somatic/biological process)

Trying to get the back rubs and breathing and moral support just right

Trying to be completely present in this horribly beautiful adventure

But also, I was trying to keep how terrified I was from showing
and adding drama where extra drama was definitely not needed –
hoping I wouldn’t freak out and run screaming from the room
with my arms flailing above my head.

Inside I felt like one of those tiny excitable dogs
dancing around pointlessly with their little nails
clicking on the linoleum floor;
all nerves – no steel.

My wife? Well, she was amazing, powerful…
at one point amidst the pain
she looked up at me clear-eyed and said quietly:
“this hurts more than I thought it would.”
I knew she was strong, but I was in awe.

The first birth was swaddled in novelty:
attending the birthing classes with all of their predictable hilarity
acquiring all the specialized terminology; the jargon of birth

Learning that an umbilical cord is gigantic!
(worth going to class for that information alone – I was pretty ignorant).
Entering into the culture and convictions attendant to home birth
(I felt like a spy from normal-land infiltrating a strange realm
where people very seriously consider consuming parts of their own body)

The whole time I’m thinking: well, sure, but this is just one day –
then what do we do?!
Well, no one can really answer that question.
And this one day?

Nothing could have prepared me for this reality of flesh and bone…
our lives are normally so sheltered, avoiding pain wherever possible,
but this was raw – visceral – utterly exposed
and no matter how hard I tried or what I did
I couldn’t save her from that

– nor would she want me to-
and I was afraid.
the most dramatic culmination of our being one
and we would be so dramatically separate.

Together, intimate but deep within ourselves; our experiences so different.
I was there for support, a hand holding hers, a body to lean against
but ultimately all I could do was stand by and watch her bear it;
which she did with determination and grace
and it was hard and it was raw and it was miraculous.

And then I fell in love.
I was overjoyed with all my tiny new babies,
they were unspeakably beautiful to me

And I swear I didn’t mean to think this:
but, wow, they were also funny looking.
being born is hard work and it showed…

The first debuted like a cross between Yoda and Gollum
I just kept thinking: which of those parts came from me?

EZB (our 2nd) was a little garden gnome;
bright red and fuzzy – a little girl version of the biblical Esau.
and the boy (8 months now), poor kid,
he looked like Roger Ebert after his jaw was removed
(I thought of even worse stuff but my wife said not to write it here.)

But then their tough elastic little bodies
recover from the pressures and trauma of the birth
and they slowly unfold into all of their exquisite oddness;

The wondrous strange combination of things which they inherit from us
and are stuck with for the duration of their lives
(whether they like it or not)

And the things that are their own:
the unique otherness which they begin to foster and protect
whether we like it or not.
from the beginning until now and on till then
they are all so very beautiful.

And as I knelt beside my wife and this other brand new person
my heart still dancing its irregular jig
I choked out: is she breathing?
that child picked her head up off her Mama’s chest
opened her eyes wide and looked directly at me –
calm down, Dad.


Childbirth – a superhero movie with an 18 certificate

This is the second post in the #fathersdaymonth series from a fine gentleman called Tom Briggs. I love this post because it rightly positions the woman in labour as a superhero, but describes how the man can also feel like he has taken on heightened senses and awareness during the process. Check out Tom on Twitter @tombriggs79 and go check out his website 


" was only when I was trudging down an empty road like the main protagonist at the start of 28 Days Later that it struck me that I was a dad....."

“…it was only when I was trudging down an empty road like the main protagonist at the start of 28 Days Later that it struck me that I was a dad…..”

If you believe what you see in films and television – which, unless you’re watching something like One Born Every Minute, probably isn’t the best way of preparing for a life-changing arrival in the first place – you’re in for a bit of a surprise when your first child is born.

These productions would have you believe that the mum-to-be has to push for about 20 seconds – barely breaking a sweat – before their bundle of joy emerges gracefully to the sound of uplifting music.

This is normally preceded by a comic dash to the hospital during which the feckless expectant dad demonstrates a ‘hilarious’ level of incompetence while trying to juggle driving, joining in with breathing exercises and panicking.

Now I can only go from my own experience here – so I’m sorry to anyone who has had a Hollywood-style birth and also to any hopeless but nonetheless loveable dads who may exist and be reading this – but it’s not quite like that.

For their part, my boys both arrived in an unceremonious fashion and the whole experience on each occasion was surreal to say the least.

Dylan faceplanted his way into the world following an agonising three-day labour, while Xander showed up a lot more abruptly and with such force that he saved me the trouble of cutting the cord. They know how to make an entrance, those two.

So, anyway, here are my perceptions on childbirth…

It’s going to be different for everyone, but it’s fair to say that the process – or at least the business end of it, let’s say – is a tad gory.

This isn’t something that bothered me at all; I think I’m so jaded by the borderline unhealthy number of visceral horror films I have in my DVD collection and, I suppose, considering the fact that the midwife didn’t look alarmed by it, that I was surprisingly quite detached from it all.

That’s not to say I was absent in any way; I remember every minute of both births.

I recall reminding my wife, Kate, that every push was bringing us closer to meeting our sons and telling her how well she was doing and she insists that I was very supportive. It’s just that I seemed to be a completely different me.

Normally, I can be relied upon to lose it over little things. In the delivery room, however, I suddenly adopted a zen-like demeanour and put the emotions firmly to one side until my sons were born. It was the same both times.

There’s no logical reason I should have been calm either; with both pregnancies we hadn’t had any useful antenatal classes.

With Dylan, there was a two-hour class during which the midwife spent most of the time talking about baby poo and its resemblance to a well-known yeast extract product.

Apart from confirming my theories about what’s in that divisive jar of spread, the session was a complete waste of time.

We weren’t taught anything about breathing exercises, when to call the hospital or anything.

We had also just moved home and our ‘old’ hospital had lost our records.Twice.

In fact, until I made a grovelling phone call to the hospital near where we had moved – during which I was told that my wife ‘probably wasn’t that far along’ and that we’d most likely be sent home again – it looked like we’d be having an unplanned homebirth. Yet I was horribly chilled out about it all.

Seeing Kate in pain was naturally distressing but I somehow knew everything was going to be okay. Even when Dylan came out with the cord around his neck, I could tell that he was going to be fine too.

I’m no medical expert, but I think I must have picked up on the lack of concerned body language from the professionals in the room.

It’s as if I temporarily had a heightened sense of awareness of everything in my vicinity. I’d be interested to find out if any other dads have had similar experiences – Spidey senses, if you will.

It was only once the boys had been born that it hit me. With Dylan, this was after I had basically been kicked out of the hospital when he and Kate were moved to the ward as he’d been born outside visiting hours.

I’d held him and spoken to him while Kate had a bath and done a bit of skin-to-skin bonding by giving him a shirt-free cuddle as soon as he was born, of course, but it was only when I was trudging down an empty road like the main protagonist at the start of 28 Days Later that it struck me that I was a dad.

Then the emotions hit me.

With Xander, I suppose I had the benefit of experience and allowed myself a happy tear or two as soon as he was safely in Kate’s arms.

So having intimated that there’s no such thing as a movie-style birth and then looking back at what I’ve written here, maybe I’m wrong. I seem to have unwittingly compared the process to a superhero film – albeit one with an 18 certificate.

An unusual way of looking at a happy ending, I grant you, but one I’m proud to call mine.

Daddy Day Care

It’s Father’s Day month! The first post is here!

This first post comes courtesy of Dad vs The Kids who has a seriously funny Twitter account (@dadvsthekids) and a great new blog at – go check him out!

I love this post and he is right, it does ALWAYS start off with the crayons……


if you ever wonder whether you’re ever doing the right thing as a parent, DON’T. Those rewards are coming

Parenting – if you are doing it right, they will let you know


In the beginning, Mrs DvK would coddle and hold our kids tightly. I, on the other hand, would count down the days until their neck was strong enough for me to throw the kids into the air and catch them like all the other ‘cool Dad’s’ did on the TV. The women would scream in horror. The men would secretly hi-five me for my reckless abandon. Good times.

This would be my downfall. The following experiences of calculated mischief and impossible mayhem can only serve as a warning to all Dads who think its ok to close your eyes for 5 minutes when you’re entrusted to watch your own children.


It starts off with the crayons. ALWAYS with the crayons. You didn’t buy them, but you accept them, not realising the full impact of what will eventually happen. Soon enough, you walk past a once pristine cream wall in your living room to find a piece of blue and orange wax wall art you don’t remember commissioning. And the tiny culprit nowhere in sight. Banksy?

The taste for wanton destruction escalates as your precious bundle of joy reaches each milestone of curiosity and creativity in their development.

My attempts to maintain my place as ‘cool Dad’ means, inevitably, I am the complicit accomplice in their misdemeanours, often hiding the evidence before Mrs DvK comes home.

As I fish out yet another brand new loo roll from the toilet, or wipe up urine and other unspeakable substances from every room in the house (except the bathroom), I give thanks to shows like CSI and Dexter for teaching me the finer points of crime clean-up.

One occasion finds me asleep AT THE DINING TABLE. I only wanted to rest for a few minutes, I swear. Seizing a rare moment of toddler independence, my two boys (about 2yrs & 3yrs old at the time) use this opportunity to find out what our large square cushions are made of.

You’ll recognise the moment when it happens to you. I jolt myself awake. Disoriented, I wonder where I am and why my usually noisy kids are unusually quiet.

Then I see the carnage.

Thousands of tiny polystyrene balls cover our living room floor like a beautiful, white, winter wonderland. Except with two small figures standing in the middle of it, one with the dustpan and the other with a brush, both working together to sweep up all the evidence to dispose of it in the kitchen bin. Busted.

In retrospect, that was the first time they worked together as a team. Brilliant, they love each other!

That was also the first time I remember regretting giving my eldest son a sibling-sidekick. Little gits.


These days my boys, now 7 and 9, are seasoned players of ‘The Floor is Lava’, leaping from dining table to sofa to coffee table with the enviable flexibility of a Parkour athlete.

In the early stages of parenthood, the house was baby-proofed, so my ‘cool Dad’ instinct is to leave them to their own devices and discover things on their own. It’s ok Mrs DvK – you go out and run those errands. I GOT THIS. What’s the worst that could happen?

Our first trip to A&E occurred when the youngest (again, probably 2yrs old at the time) somehow manages to traverse a flight of stairs, get into the master bedroom and attempt to climb up our giant chest-of-drawers.

Oh, did I not mention the enormous widescreen TV that was on top? Everything. EVERYTHING toppled over on top of him, the TV missing him by inches.

I’ll never forget the crashing noise and the mythical superhuman strength I suddenly possessed allowing me to flip the chest-of-drawers off of him in one desperate, determined motion.

Despite being stunned for a few seconds, to this day I cannot explain how he emerged from the wreckage without so much as a scratch or broken bone.

The years go by, and the kids get bigger. And rougher. We get complacent, because dammit, for the 100th time, if you fall out of that tree and break your legs DON’T COME RUNNING TO ME.

I’m home from work barely 5 minutes. The boys are about 6yrs and 4yrs, and the oldest is recreating cartoon fight scenes in the living room with realistic aplomb. I’m tired and don’t care, heading up the stairs to check in with Mrs DvK.

Suddenly the crying from downstairs hits that ‘level’. You know the one. The level that says “Okay, they’ve taken it too far; I better stop ignoring them and do some actual parenting.”

I head downstairs. The 6yr old sprints past. “I’M SORRY! I’M SORRY! I DIDN’T MEAN IT!” What? I turn back to see the 4yr old following closely, his head split open and blood down half his face.

It’s the prom scene from Carrie and I am freaking out.

My reaction does not help the already distraught youngsters.

We explain to the nurses at A&E that the 6yr old somehow managed to pile-drive his younger brother into the corner of the coffee table, bashing his head in the process. Both kids are quiet and feeling sorry for themselves.

The only fatherly words of comfort I can offer are “Chicks dig scars.” Mrs DvK is not impressed.

Why am I sharing these tales of fatherly incompetence with you? Because I look back and see that my kids are creative, problem-solvers, resilient, bold, independent and braver than I ever was at their age. And eventually, they give back.

On Sunday May 26th, it was our wedding anniversary. 12 years. We’re not big on celebrations or cards, and when you have kids, that energy to put yourselves first for once and kick the kids out for the day just isn’t in us.

I wake up and reach for the iPad and instead find a handwritten note on a small piece of paper:

“Dear Mum & Dad,

It has come to my attention that it is your anniversary. I try to keep calm and it is not working. I know you love me and Tavon although you shout at us. Please read this letter carefully.

Love, Tyrese.”

No prompting from us.

For the first time, he wanted to do something for his parents that meant more than any specially crafted card or present ever could. Acknowledge in his own way how he felt about us.

Great, I’ve got a lump in my throat and something in my eye.

Fathers: as your child grows, all your fears/anxieties come down to the one question. AM I GOING TO BE A GOOD DAD?

The rules sometimes go out the window, and you’re going to beat yourself up over it. I know, because I have.

But keep at it. If you’re doing it right, they’ll let you know.

They WILL surprise you every day. And if you ever wonder whether you’re ever doing the right thing as a parent, DON’T. Those rewards are coming. And when they’re from the heart, all your sacrifice will be worth it.