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





Mental health and parenting – some tips for dads

Over February I am running a series of guest posts on Post Natal Depresssion (PND) and Perinatal Mental Health from a male perspective.

The idea for this series of blogs came about from meeting the fabulous Rosey on Twitter (@PNDandMe) during an enlightening Twitter chat on #PNDhour.

It made me realise I know little about mental health issues, and that it might be helpful for other men to have access to information on PND, at the very least to raise awareness.

This first article comes from Kathryn who has first hand experience, and has written this extremely helpful post for partners of people suffering from perinatal mental health.

Kathryn (on Twitter @katgrant30) is married to Tom and mum to James, 15 months.  They live in London with their kitten Cat.  Kathryn tweets about her experience of mental illness and mental health services (as well as her love of all things baking) and has written a blog about her recovery from postpartum psychosis on the Sane charity’s website:
You can find out more about postpartum psychosis at:


Whether your other half is pregnant, just given birth, or perhaps running around after an errant toddler, there is one subject many dads would prefer not to think about, but definitely should.

Mental health. 
The perinatal (fancy speak for pre and post birth) period is an emotional roller coaster and (unsurprisingly) women are at higher risk of developing mental illness during this time.

The good news is, there’s lots a supportive other half can do to help.  Here are some tips from someone who knows (in no particular order):
1. Sleep.  However much your little darling baby wants to feed, make sure you step in at some point in the first few days to let mum sleep.  Whether that means some formula feeding, expressed milk or a few minutes of putting up with a hungry baby – that time for rest is gold dust for mum and nothing else matters.  She may not be able to actually sleep, but at least she might be able to rest her eyes.
2. On the subject of sleep, try to keep an eye on any real insomnia developing in your partner – not being able to sleep even while baby is, or nervously waiting for baby to wake up.
3. Same goes for decent meals – watch out for any loss of appetite. Labour is a massive deal, and it takes a lot to recover from. So eating well is a must for good health – mental and physical.

4. You know your partner best so are best placed to pick up on any unusual moods.  Be aware though that these can change quickly, and may not present as typical depression symptoms.  Other mental illnesses that can strike include anxiety, or even psychosis – so if your partner has any history of mental health problems, be on the look-out for symptoms such as racing thoughts, mania, paranoia, insomnia as well as feeling down.
5. Access practical help from whatever sources are available.  If you have hands-on family who your partner is comfy with then don’t be afraid to utilise them.  Especially if you have to go back to work.  Practical stuff like food shopping, cleaning, laundry etc but also support such as making sure mum and baby get out the house every day, attend appointments, hold the baby while mum showers and field calls from visitors and well-wishers.  If you have the cash, think about hiring a night nanny.

6. Unless there’s a physical reason why they can’t, make sure mum and baby get out the house, every day if possible.  Find out what groups are running in your area (the midwife or health visitor should help here) and encourage your partner to go along.  At the very least, your local children’s centre will run groups for mums and babies.  If she refuses to go out, even if physically well, this is a cause for concern and worth getting to the root of.

7. Mums, especially mums who’ve been excitedly planning for this baby for months or years, often have high expectations of how they will parent.  They WILL breast feed for at least six months.  They WILL use Eco nappies.  They’ve read Gina, or the latest attachment parenting manual and they WILL follow it.  Mums who set such high standards for themselves might be in for a rough ride.  PND or other serious mental illness was not part of their plan so as well as the illness itself they also have to deal with a crushing sense of failure.
It isn’t always possible to breast feed, however hard you try, and those first few weeks are such a blur you won’t be able to read a sentence let alone a whole book.  Support your partner in her choices, make it clear to her what a great job she is doing – the baby’s alive!  Those baby wipes are not going to burn your baby’s bottom, so stop with the faffy cotton wool and water dance!  The milk’s getting in there so it doesn’t matter where it comes from, it all goes down the same way!   The fact you haven’t hand-washed that new babygro before popping it on him is not going to give him a rash!  This thinking won’t make the PND go away, but having such support may help mum feel less like a “failure” (although be careful not to belittle her genuine concerns, whether warranted or not they are real to her).

8. On this point, keep a weather eye on your partner’s anxieties.  It is completely normal to worry about how much the baby is eating/sleeping/puking/poohing… But there is a fuzzy line somewhere between normal worry and over-anxiety or even paranoia. Support networks from other mums can help here, whether that’s online or through NCT classes or whatever.  It’s also a good idea to develop a good relationship with your health visitor and baby clinic. 

9. Don’t assume that because your baby is approaching toddlerhood that your partner is “out of the woods”.   Also don’t assume that because all seems well on the surface that everything must be ok.  It can take some time for mums to acknowledge the problem and seek help.  You can only encourage and reassure them that all will be ok – help is out there, and it doesn’t mean you have failed!  If you can come along to that all-important GP visit, even better.

10. I can’t think of a 10th tip to make this a nice round number so will just say this – mental illness is perfectly treatable.  The quicker your other half seeks the help she needs, the quicker she will recover – so don’t go along with anyone (your partner or a well meaning friend) saying things like “it’s just the baby blues”, “you’ll feel better once the baby sleeps better” 

A Red Demon Rising


There is a knot of tension rising in my chest.

My son is writhing and planking on the change table, his eyes screwed tight shut, screaming like a dentist drill. He is tired beyond logic and reason.

It’s been a really tough couple of months, it’s the end of a really hard day, and I am exhausted myself. But I am just about holding it together.

I try to put his pyjama trousers on and his flailing feet kick me in the stomach, right in the solar plexus. The pain makes me feel sick.

His screaming is bouncing around my head, and my brain is throbbing. I haven’t eaten or drunk enough fluids today. My needs are secondary these days.

But I am still holding it together.

I’m now trying to put his pyjama top on and he is getting furious. I try the usual placating moves, the false choices, the soothing voice, the singing, the tickling, but my patience is wearing gossamer thin and he is going nuclear.

Suddenly he lunges forward and hits me on the nose. It hurts. It really hurts.

Still he screams and writhes.

I’ve tried hard to suppress the anger but my skin is beginning to flush and my ears ringing. I’m starting to feel removed from my body.

I try to stay calm and in control. I’m holding him now, still trying to negotiate the pyjamas.

He opens his mouth and clamps his teeth down on the soft skin between my neck and shoulder.

The extreme pain causes a flash of bright red light in my head, and a surge of rage courses through my veins.

Now I’ve lost it.

I’m properly yelling at him now. The force of my voice scares even me.

There are flames burning up my back and neck, my head is swimming, my ears ringing and my heart racing. My boy is still screaming. My daughter has retreated to a corner. Her fingers in her mouth and her eyes wide open. She looks horrified.

But I am full of fury.

The red demon has risen.

The red demon is me.


My wife comes in and tells me to leave the room. But I am full of fury. I’ve snapped

And the demon is jumping up and down, gibbering manically on my shoulder, gleeful at the chaos.

My wife tells me to leave the room again.

Suddenly I realise what I have done. I take a horrified step back.

I leave the room, shaking with adrenalin.


I am out running in the cold streets. The rain is on my face. It’s refreshing. My heart rate is up and my breathing rhythmic. I am scanning my body and physically I feel good.

Emotionally however I am shot through.

The red demon is still present but with each step I take the flames are subsiding, the fiery rage dissipating. His embers are still glowing but the demon is skulking in the darkness now, whispering to the shadows in forked tongues.

But his legacy is strong. I feel filthy, polluted, toxic.

I am going over the incident in my head, reflecting and analysing.

I am making excuses. I know I am stressed. I know the last few months have been really hard. I know I am exhausted, and yes, my boy was acting up. But the one thing I keep coming back to is that there is no excuse.

There is no excuse for losing my temper. There is no excuse for yelling at a two year old child. There is simply no excuse.

Anger is an important reflex in the story of human survival and evolution, and if harnessed correctly should continue to play a role in inspiring us to strive to be better as individuals and as a society. But it needs to be managed.

The cold night air is in my lungs, in my head. I can see things incredibly clearly. I was totally in the wrong. There are no excuses.

Much to the demon’s disgust I begin to harness the aggression constructively. I am starting to feel grateful.

I am grateful for my wife’s understanding and quiet, calming presence. Not just tonight, but at all times.

I am grateful that this is the first incident where anger has got the better of me in close to four years of being a father.

I am grateful that this incident has made me determined to be an even better father. To love my little boy even harder.

I am grateful that I can use this to show my children how important it is to apologise when I have done something bad, to show them how truly sorry I am – to hug them, kiss them and breathe them in. To show them that I am also vulnerable and prone to error.

I am grateful that I can use this to learn and grow. I will be able to identify the warning signs in future. I will be able to harness the powerful emotion of anger correctly.

My feet are moving quickly over the concrete now. The demon is squealing and shrinking, and in its place a pure white light is growing.

I am running faster. I want to get home. I want to see my children. I want them to see my vulnerability. I want them to see me apologising.

And I want them to see a light burning in my eyes.

But instead of the red light of anger I want them to see a glorious, luminescent glow of pure love blazing from my soul.

Because that is what I feel right now.

The light of love in my heart finally engulfs the demon. I am sprinting to my front door.

The death of me, the birth of us; reflections on fatherhood

Close Encounters

Close encounters of the toddler kind; my children have been the catalyst for many changes in my life

I was generally happy after the birth of both my children. But deep underneath, once the initial euphoria, adrenalin and novelty had worn off there was something niggling away deep inside my subconscious.

As a father there are so many contradictory emotions. Part of the daily battle is to get the space to acknowledge those emotions.

For me, euphoria and sadness were emotional bedfellows for a long time after both births, but I am fairly confident that I was not suffering depression. I am fairly sure this was more about a reaction to change


Whether you are driving a new car, starting a new job, taking an unfamiliar bus route or doing something as simple as cooking a new recipe, change can often feel uncomfortable at first.

The unfamiliar requires us to adapt to a new reality, and adaptation requires a learning phase. And learning often pushes us out of our comfort zone and causes us to feel uncomfortable.

Becoming a father was the ultimate change for me – a head first plunge into the unfamiliar, requiring a massive learning curve and huge adaptation. I was (and arguably still am) way out of my comfort zone.

This process of personal, mental and emotional growth is bound to feel painful because change hurts.

But I wanted to know WHY it was hurting; and more importantly, why these contradictory emotions of euphoria and sadness persisted. The birth of a child is a cause for celebration. Surely it should be all about the euphoria?

I was cycling to work one day. It was one of my rare mornings without children. I was enjoying the cycle ride. I was enjoying the feeling of the wind on my face, the space, the liberty. I was enjoying the exercise.

I was enjoying taking time to look at the blossom, the lush green tide of spring and the milky warmth of the May sun on my face. I was being mindful, connected and centred; for once focussing on myself and MY needs.

Then it hit me. I had a moment of utter clarity so powerful that I actually pulled on my brakes and stopped my bike.

My subconscious had been screaming out, but I had not heard it. It had been jumping up and down, clamouring for attention but I had not heard it over the noise, confusion and chaos of fatherhood. I had not checked in, I had not interrogated my emotions.

Since becoming a father I had not realised something. And there it was.

I had lost myself.

So THIS was why when I became a father and had gained something so valuable, so precious and so priceless, that I STILL had this feeling that I had also lost something.

I had lost myself.

I had lost my old lifestyle.

I had lost the old me.

I began to come to terms with this realisation. I began to come to terms with what was effectively a death; the death of my old lifestyle and the death of the old me.

As a father I was no longer able to act on a whim and moments of spontaneity. I was no longer flexible. I could no longer fulfil many of my responsibilities at work. I was no longer able to get onto a plane at a moment’s notice.

I was no longer a responsive or proactive friend. I was no longer a supportive or present son. I was a useless brother and nephew.

I was no longer playing football. I was not keeping fit. I was no longer part of a thriving social scene. I no longer had the bandwidth to stay abreast of current affairs, music, theatre or cinema……..the list goes on.

I could no longer prioritise any of this. I could no longer pursue all of these elements that had made up my pre-fatherhood life.

I was now utterly defined by the needs of my children.

As with any moment like this, the important thing was the realisation. Because once an issue or emotion is understood, it becomes easier to deal with.

By reflecting on the death of my old self, I could begin a process of mourning.

I still dislike having lost parts of my old self;

The old me who used to stay fit and healthy playing soccer three times a week;

The old me who used to cycle everywhere;

The old me who used to go running;

The old me who always had time for people;

The old me who was in touch with current affairs.

The old me who used to be so spontaneous and carefree;

The old me who used to be an excellent friend, son, husband and brother.

But I was able to mourn the passing of my old self, and eventually set time aside to focus on more positive thoughts; to begin to celebrate everything great about my new role as a father.

In truth it has taken a lot of time for my own expectations, and those of others close to me, to adjust to this new reality – the reality of fatherhood.

I feel much happier now. The niggling sadness is still there but it is no longer such a strong voice inside of me. It has been identified for what it is.


And as a result it has become easier to rationalise, to instead look at all that is good about being a father and all the infinite variables of joy that come with the role and to be able to embrace the positive changes;

The wonder that is every new day;

The world that is viewed through the beautifully naïve eyes of a toddler;

The pure comedy that comes with listening to a child grasp a new language;

The change in my mindset to one that is more open, patient, loving and caring.

The growth of the desire to nurture that has risen like a spring sap in my soul.

To look into the beautiful eyes of my children and feel a connection so profound and so strong; to know that they are of me.

And while the old me has gone, I think there is now a new, better me. I can now embrace and positively rejoice in the fact that I AM defined by my children. This is a good place to be.

This is a place where I can both mourn the death of me, whilst celebrating the birth of us.





This was my father; he was my hero

It has been four years this month since my father died. This  post is a tribute to him and the legacy and footprint that he left. It is the hardest blog post I have had to write.


RIP July 2009Just seven days before my father died from cancer he had completed a 7km walk, had devoured a fish and chip lunch and sunk two pints of real ale.

He was by all accounts, despite being in remission from chemotherapy, in fine fettle.

In fact I cannot remember a time in my life when my father had been anything other than in fine fettle.

He was part of the original “keep calm and carry on” generation, a generation devoid of the insidious poison of celebrity and entitlement culture.

This was a generation that had lived through the trauma of evacuation, the horror of war and hardships of national service.

This was the generation that had peered into mankind’s stifling, toxic heart of darkness and had survived. A generation for whom work was not an option, but a source of pride and identity.

His resilience came from these formative experiences and was aided by the fact that he possessed a natural physical prowess, a genetic gift passed through the generations. He was quick and athletic, but strong too. He had an engine that would seemingly never give up.

Indeed there were days when I thought he was hewn from the mountains themselves, a man of granite, surely immortal. He viewed broken bones as “a bit of a nuisance”, glandular fever as “a bit like a heavy cold” and even his terminal cancer diagnosis as “a bit of a disappointment”.

Even in his retirement my father was incredibly busy, seemingly moving up a gear with every year he lived on the planet.

He was a keen gardener and continued to play tennis, squash and badminton to a decent standard.

He continued to march tirelessly up and down mountains leaving his wife and considerably younger sons trailing and grumbling in his gigantic wake.

He continued to plan and execute exotic holidays, marching his way through Amazonian river basin jungles, tracking big game on the savannahs of the Masai Mara and going off road on the vast sand dunes of the West Australian desert, trusty map constantly in hand.

And he watched me go off to work in numerous war and disaster zones. He presided over the marriages of both of his sons. He became a grand-father. He survived prostate cancer. And all the time he laughed and maintained his sense of humour.

Much of my memories of my dad are of a man with incredible energy.

A man with ridiculous robustness;

A man with a resilience and pragmatism that can only come from living through a world war;

A man with a quick and cultured wit.

A man with passion for sports of all shapes and forms;

And a man with a penchant for discussing anything and everything with sound opinion, knowledge and humour;

Many of my memories are of him up a mountain; tough, gnarly hands clutching a battered old map, eyes squinted, staring off into the distance, the quickest route to a cold pint flickering across his mind.

On his deathbed, my dad told my brother and I that he was proud of us.

The truth is that we are proud of him, and lucky to have had him as a father.

I love sometimes catching his traits living on in me.

For example I have recently taken quiet satisfaction in seeing my broad beans grow.

I have enjoyed tackling mountains and peaks for no other reason than that they were just there.

I chuckle to myself when I have found myself denouncing modern sat nav and GPS technology in favour of crinkly old OS maps.

To my father I am thankful for giving me his pragmatism, his natural curiosity, his desire to experience life in its fullest – ‘I would rather wear out, than fade out’ he once told me.

I am thankful to him for giving me his desire to travel and understand different ways of seeing the world; I am thankful to him for sharing his need to get up amongst the mountains and look down from his lofty perch, in order to get perspective on the world and the human condition.

I am thankful that he taught me to appreciate geography; society, nature and place. And of course maps.

I am thankful for him spending hours in the garden helping me to perfect a good forward defensive stroke, and a consistent line and length that has since sent numerous batsmen skulking back towards the pavilion. And I thank him for my ability to be able to throw a cricket ball into the middle of next week.

I thank him for teaching me how to bend a football round a wall and for teaching me the principles and importance of playing for ‘the team’.

I thank him for my right foot. I blame him for my lack of a left.

And even though it has been four years now I still miss him terribly. I miss talking to him about anything and everything. I miss his presence. His gentle nature. His sound advice. His desire to see me constantly improve myself. His poring over a bridleway or footpath on his battered old maps.

I miss talking aimless nonsense with him over a few pints and Match of the Day.

Such is my sense of loss that I miss him for the life events that haven’t happened yet, and for things that may never happen.

But my memories of him are rich and full and perfect, and I have no regrets.  The footprint he left behind is long and deep.

Given how terribly quickly his condition deteriorated, I was fortunate to be next to him when he passed away.

And strange that it may sound, we had some beautiful moments in those final days before he died.

Moments when the love in the room was electric, crackling and surging through us all, revealing itself as a primal and infinitely powerful force as old and as mysterious as the universe, lighting up the murk and temporarily dispersing the shadows of death itself with its brilliance.

I am thankful for those moments and for all those moments in my life.

My father died much in the same way that he lived his life – with grace, dignity and youthful humour.

This was my father. He was my role model. My gentle giant. My stability. My anchor.

This was my father.

He was my hero.


This post originally appeared on the Daddy Cool Project website. The Daddy Cool Project (DCP) is a London-based voluntary organisation which aims to help diminish negative stereotype of dads in the UK. It also highlights the importance and positive impact of fathers and male-role models living and working in today’s society. They do some really great work – go check them out at and follow on Twitter @daddycooluk

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’

Childbirth is painful, but have you ever been kicked in the nuts?

This penultimate #fathersdaymonth post comes from Stuart at @mvd_stuart. For those of you who dont know, he is one half of the dynamic duo that make up

With his wife @mvd_sarah they run a brilliant and innovative blog that provides a space for the often contradictory (and sometimes agreeable) mix of opinions between a mother and father which make up the rich tapestry of parenthood. 

If you need any more convincing, they were also BiBs finalists this year. Go check their blog site out and follow them on Twitter.

I particularly like this #fathersdaymonth post because it is utterly tragic and brutally honest. And yet somehow, Stuart manages to work a thread of mischievous humour throughout. For this alone it’s a brilliant post. 


Before meeting my wife Sarah, I had never imagined that some day I would become a father. I was a lazy, childish and slightly mental teenager who at the time found kids nothing more than irritating.

Having children of my own was ‘never’ on my life’s agenda and for me nobody was going to change that. But apparently things do change.

I was 23 years old when I learned that I was to be a Daddy for the first time. Despite my reservations from years gone by, I was ready to step-up for what was to be my little girl – but other plans were made for her.

My first experience of a hospital delivery suite was the 13 hours 50 minutes delivery of my daughter, with my wife and I knowing we would be leaving the hospital empty handed.

On April 24th 2006 my first child Ryleigh Jayne was born sleeping, and to my shame on that day I made the horrendous choice to not look, and to not hold my daughter before she was taken from my life forever.

To this day I consider myself a bad father because of my decision that day. I may try my best for the children I have with me now.

But the fact remains the first thing I ever did as a Father was turn my back on my daughter.

Of course I wanted to see and hold her, but I did not have the courage or strength to do it. I will forever be disgusted with myself.

Ryleigh was delivered at 4 months gestation, after being given just a 5% chance of reaching full-term but then a 0% chance of survival at birth. Before our daughter began suffering we had to do what was right for her, as heart-breaking as it was and will forever be.

Ryleigh had Cystic Hygroma with Fetal Hydrops, and Turners Syndrome.

She will of course always be my first child.

Needless to say the issues we had with Ryleigh made the next pregnancy with our daughter Rhianna all the more stressful. Both me and my wife were always worrying that something may again go wrong. Instead of looking forward to every ultrasound scan, we feared them, as it was an ultrasound which first revealed Ryleigh’s problems.

In the latter stages of the pregnancy with Rhianna she was measuring quite small, which added to our fear that perhaps something wasn’t right – but thankfully our fears were without foundation.

First impressions of the delivery suite this time around were completely different. This time I didn’t arrive knowing I would be leaving again without my child, although at the back of my mind, a little fear of that remained. I was after all yet to be a Dad physically, so this was still all new to me.

I did my best to stay positive as it goes without saying Sarah had so much more to worry about. Yet I proved to be pretty useless to her.

It turns out that my usual cool, calm and collected nature didn’t apply within the walls of a hospital. The experience of child birth took me by surprise to say the least.

I’m not sure what I was expecting. As a man, by far the most common comment I see and hear about child birth is how lucky men are, and that I as a man could never imagine (or stand) the pain of giving birth. Of course the comments always come from women.

To those women my response is have you ever stopped for a second to imagine just how much more painful it would be for a man to give birth? Excuse my phrasing, but our holes are tighter than yours, so of course we consider ourselves lucky that giving birth isn’t our role. But rest assured we appreciate what you go through.

I must admit that I myself have in the past asked women if they know what a proper, full on kick in the nuts feels like and placed it arguably up there alongside child birth on the top shelf of painful experiences.

Although I have always said it in jest, but with a straight, dead-pan face giving the impression that i’m being serious. Just for my own entertainment, it never fails to get a reaction.

In reality the pain women bear during child birth is incredible without a doubt, and as the very proud Father of four (plus my angel Ryleigh) my wife has shown her strength time and time again, not that I have ever doubted her.

For the want of a better description she has seemingly breezed through each delivery and I couldn’t be more proud of her.

As for me though, and my role as her “birthing partner” I have been pretty useless and overwhelmed every single time which surprises me.

I am and have always been a super relaxed man, I take everything in my stride but upon arriving at the delivery suite I fall into a corner and have become almost invisible until it’s time to cut the cord. But I have always been there and at her beckoned call if ever she has needed or wanted me. So I did my bit, albeit a very small bit.

Do I feel I should have done more during the birth of my children? Most definitely.

Do I feel like my wife needed me? Honestly, no.

Because when she needed to be the one to take things in her stride she went head to head with that pain threshold and won comfortably

Although perhaps comfortably is the wrong word!

The whole experience of child birth from a Dad’s perspective was for me far less traumatising than I expected, but far more overwhelming if that makes any sense at all.

Before you become a Dad for the first time all you know is what you hear, or what you have been told by friends or family members who have children. And if the people you know are anything like my lot they will say just about anything to try to put you on edge.

If you are an expectant Dad I would advise against you reading any baby books or asking people what it’s like because there is no routine for child birth.

Your experience of it will be unique to you, so do whatever you can to enjoy and make the most of it because once that baby comes squeezing out (or sliding, depending on the size and shape of your partner) that’s it.

But you can forget about silence, and forget about doing things your way ever again!

Inside the delivery suite you will see your partner in a whole new way, however long you’ve known her. She will not only abuse you physically, but verbally too.

She will at times give the impression that you’re needed, but as soon as you step within reach she will be clawing at your arm like a f****d off raccoon. You will also hear all kinds of new sounds. Just pretend it’s aliens, it’s less scary that way.

And as for the smells… sorry ladies, there are new smells in there too – ask your partner and the look on his face will tell you that he wants to say yes, but is terrified of doing so.

Finally, I want to remind the dads out there that the delivery suite represents your last chance to prepare your partner for Motherhood. She may find these following things irritating at the time – but it’s for the best.

Firstly, do not be afraid to poop yourself and scream for some clean pants.

Secondly, if you feel a bit sick be sure to get some in her hair – she needs to learn to cope with this.

Lastly but not least, if you fancy a cuppa, and the midwife is refusing to make it because she’s delivering your baby, you are well within your rights to throw a tantrum.

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


Woo Hoo! It’s nearly Father’s Day Month!

In celebration of Father’s Day on Sunday June 16th I am going to be featuring guest posts from some of the finest father bloggers on the interweb throughout the month of June.

What better way to celebrate all that is good (and maybe bad?!) about modern fatherhood!

I decided to go a bit out on a limb with the theme of the blog.

I wanted to hear male voices writing about the process of childbirth. Childbirth is not something I have read much about from a father’s perspective, so I wanted to address the balance a little bit.

And in case any of the guest bloggers were either not there (or not conscious) during that particular process, they have an escape clause to otherwise write about fatherhood in general.

I hope you will visit my site over June as I feature their writing. I am really excited by it and personally can’t wait to see their entries

Featured writers will include

–          Tom Briggs (Twitter; @TomBriggs79 and Blog:

–          Shawn Brown (at Circumstantially Wonderful

–          The iDad (Twitter; @The_iDad and blog:

–          Dad vs The Kids (Twitter; @dadvsthekids and blog:

–          MVD Stuart (Twitter; @mvd_stuart and blog:

And yes, there is at least one BiBs finalist there in the line up! Woo Hoo indeed!




 NB – This is an idea I got from Dean @littlestepstwit over at

Dean has been featuring guest female bloggers on her blog for some time now on her “chats with moms” categories and I really liked the concept. It is refreshing to read so many female perspectives in one place. Go check it out.

(In fact, although I am not a mum, I may also have an interview up there soon! Watch that particular space!)

Dealing with separation anxiety in toddlers

I travel overseas a lot with work. It is very difficult with two toddlers at home. I don’t like leaving them, they don’t like me leaving them and my wife doesn’t like being left.

I have written a whole blog on the contradictory emotions that leaving the family for work reasons provokes in me (I’m travelling abroad for work without my children – is it OK for me to be feeling this happy?) so I won’t go into that here.

Instead this blog deals with a technique that I have developed to make the separation more bearable, particularly for our 3yo daughter who is more conscious, vocal and assertive with her displeasure at being left behind.

Mrs Secret Father and I have, rightly or wrongly, always been really open and honest with our kids about what we are doing. We rarely get nights out together these days, but when we do go out we explain where we are going, how long for and when we will be back.

Initially my daughter would scream and refuse to go to bed on such nights, but after three or four such occasions, became more accepting that Mummy and Daddy might want to go out for a few hours.

The first time I went away for a sustained period with work (about 10 days) I explained to my daughter where I was going and how long I was going away for. This seemed to work initially and I was able to leave the house with my suitcase, relatively unscathed.

However with her only frame of reference being a few previous separations of a couple of hours, it wasn’t long before the questions came thick and fast for Mrs Secret Father to deal with and then eventually this resulted in a mega meltdown caused by frustration, overwhelming emotion and sadness that Daddy could so easily desert her.

We noticed that my being away also set her back in developmental milestones too – temporarily resetting progress that had been made on walking unaided, and more recently reverting to wetting herself when she had succeeded at potty training many months previously.

So a few weeks ago, before a trip to the United States, I decided this time to sit down with my daughter and create a chart to help communicate what was happening. I figured that “time” and “separation” are such abstract concepts to children that it might be easier to deal with if I made them tangible and visible.

So I sat down with her on the morning of my departure and got her to choose the colours we were going to use. I marked out the days I was going to be away and in each day we drew what was going to happen and who she was going to be with. She even helped with a few squiggles of her own.

I then gave her a sheet of stickers and told her to sit down with mummy at the end of each day and put a sticker on the chart to indicate that day was over. The idea was that mummy and her could sit and discuss the day, look forward to (and discuss) the next day, and see it all within the framework of me being away.

The first time we tried it was actually when Mrs Secret Father was away with work for a week and it worked a treat. It made the whole thing more predictable for my daughter gave her a notion of time passing and helped her visualise when her mummy would be home. It also helped to reaffirm routine, a key concept and safety blanket for toddlers.

And it also helped this time on my recent trip to the United States. The sight of me standing at the front door with my suitcase, a symbol and catalyst for so many meltdowns in the past, was no longer a threatening sight. Although my daughter asked many times where I was during the trip, Mrs Secret Father was able to sit her down in front of the chart and talk her through the situation.

Mrs Secret Father sent me a picture of the chart from the first night I was away. If you look closely at the sticker my daughter chose for the first Monday, you will see it is a spaceman. Apparently my daughter chose this to represent me flying to America. I have always fancied being a spaceman, but unfortunately I didn’t get THAT kind of an upgrade on the flight home.

this colourful chart really helped my 3yo daughter deal with separation

this colourful chart really helped my 3yo daughter deal with separation

I would be really pleased to hear about your techniques and advice for dealing with separation anxiety in toddlers.

Leave a comment on this post, tweet me @Secret_Father or email me;