Saturday, February 25, 2012

My Dad - He's a Hugger not a Fighter

Inspired by this blog post by @relucthousedad I've been getting all misty eyed and rose tinted about growing up (and hugs, obviously).

My dad is a big bear of a man, all barrel chested and beer bellied.  He has arms like tree trunks as a result of spending almost all his working life lugging around bits of trees.  He did an apprenticeship where the reward for completion was his colleagues stripping him naked, covering him from head to toe in PVA glue and then coating him in sawdust, followed by being tied up in the workshop toilets until the end of the day.  He's the kind of man who people refer to as "big man", you know, like that vigilante hero who threw the alleged fare-dodging scrote off that Scottish train recently?  Yeah, big man.  

All of which would suggest that I grew up in a hug free cocoon, a world of handshakes and scarcely comprehensible manly grunts in place of communication.  Possibly, as a treat if I'd done well at something, I might get tarred and feathered, or something else of a similar nature to my dad's colleagues bizarre ritual.

Thankfully my dad doesn't live up to the expectations that his appearance set out for him.  It's as if when the genes were put together to make him the supervisor on the assembly line had pretensions to physical comedy, placing an entirely inappropriate personality within those physical features.  Which is why my dad is a lovely, loveable, complete and utter softy.  The only man of his age and background I know who actively seeks out hugs at every opportunity.  When me and Mrs L visit we are welcomed with a hug.  If I (or pretty much anyone) happens to be stood up at the same time as he is and gets within range there's a good chance they'll be getting a hug.  He even asks for hugs, and it is rare that he's turned down.  He's always hugged us, and he probably always will, and we've nearly got him to stop doing that manly hug/pat thing too, which makes the hugs even better.

A Far More Photogenic Father and Son Hug Than I Will Ever Manage

I'm pleased to say my dad's love of a hug has been passed on to me and my brother (nature or nurture I wonder; my sister, who he was and is equally affectionate toward, is an awkward recipient of any physical contact) who will enjoy a hug with each other, with parents, with family, with friends. 

So I know our little boy won't ever go without a hug from his dad, or his grandad, I just hope I can pass on the love of the hug to him.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

On knowing nothing, and realising it...

I once heard the following quote, or something similar, being said to a non-parent who had just given a parent some advice on parenting. 
“Enjoy the time before you have kids, it’s the only time when you’ll have all the answers”Someone cleverer than me.
If it is a quote from some clever and well known sort then I can’t remember who, sorry about that.  All I know is that it stuck with me.

Me and Mrs L have often found ourselves chatting about other people’s approaches to parenting, usually not long after their child has done something delightful, like kick me in the shin or drop a mobile phone into the hole at the back of a speaker, never to be seen again.  Why, we wonder, has the child not been taught that these things are UNACCEPTABLE?  Why, following the event, do the parents roll their eyes, adopt a facial expression which somehow speaks the words “C’est La Vie” and shrug in a manner which suggests utter defeat?  Why, why, why aren’t they seeing the obvious solution that we are discussing?

To a non-parent it all looks so simple!  We, the childless many, who can hand the baby back when it begins to cry (or, if we were feeling particularly brave/cocky and tried to console it, when we’ve worked out we don’t know how) are often at a loss to the reasons for this apparently shoddy and slapdash parenting.

Well, with seven weeks left until our baby is due to arrive I have finally shed my naivety.  The realisation has dawned: having a baby is not easy.  Having a child is going to be a challenge.  Parenting well will be the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do. 

I’ll be honest, I knew that anyway.  I’m a bit of a “head in the sand” sort of guy though, so I’ve been ignoring it.  But now the realisation has hit me, and I can’t un-realise it.  So I’m crapping myself.  Oh well, once the baby is with us I’ll probably be too busy dealing with him crapping himself to worry too much about it, right?  Maybe.  All I know now is that there’s another side to this adventure we’re about to embark on.

So tell me parents (not my parents, they’re not reading, I mean you), what jewel like snippets of advice would you give an expectant dad who is only just taking in the enormity of the task ahead?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Preparing the Nest

Another day, another coat of paint.  I've been off work all this week; I had grand ideas of decorating the baby's room in a couple of days, then doing lots of cycling (which everyone tells me will be out of the question once the baby is born), reading, relaxing.

This morning I put the second coat of blue paint (apparently I have no problem with a little gender stereotyping) on the "feature wall".  It still needs a third, as did the three other walls, which are "baby white", which isn't really white at all.  Decorating is not something I usually enjoy, quite the opposite in fact.  The seemingly endless hours of wallpaper stripping, of sanding down and filling in, of masking off and rollering on.  It's not my idea of fun.

One coat of blue, patchy and streaky wasn't the desired effect...

But this is different, this is decorating for our baby.  Our first born, our little boy.  I've loved doing it, I loved going to B&Q and picking out the colours with my wife, I've loved loading up the brushes and roller and the splatters of paint all over my clothes, loved watching Kate doing as much as the extra weight of a thirty week bump would allow.  As the room started to turn from a storage area/dumping ground I have pictured what it will look like with a cot in (being picked up on Tuesday, exciting!), with a selection of shiny new furniture (IKEA, today, nightmarish) and cute baby paraphernalia.  But most of all, I have imagined it having a baby in it, our baby, and I've loved that thought.

The great thing about our baby at the moment is how quiet he is, how perfectly behaved, and (with the exception of one particularly messy dream) how remarkably clean and poo free he is.  But as much as I'm loving the current, prospective, version of our baby, I truly can't wait to have the real thing in my arms, and decorating his room has been fantastic pre-birth bonding.

I'd love to hear how other dads-to-be have experienced nesting, or whether how I've found it is similar to all the mums out there, so leave a comment below!

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Dad is Born - The BBC's Take on Fatherhood

Last night BBC2 treated its viewers to something unusual - a look at becoming a parent from the Dad's perspective.  Obviously, with just a couple of months to go until I join the parent club, I made sure I was settled into the sofa with a mug of tea.  I was expecting a heart warming hour of modern dads-to-be sharing the run up to the birth of their child.

What I actually got wasn't too far from that; Jamie, a recruitment consultant from London, was first on the screen.  Like most dads he's been seeking out and digesting all the information he can on what to expect, potential problems, necessary purchases.  His biggest worry is that he won't bond with the baby in the early days.  I can relate to Jamie; he worries himself into sleepless nights when the baby is late, wonders when he will actually start to feel like a dad, is very obviously a caring husband and dad who wants to do right.  He's also clearly completely terrified.  Yes, Jamie, you were pretty much what I was expecting.

Next up was Victor, immigrant from Hungary and worker of long hours driving a mini-cab in London.  Victor's dad wasn't there for him when he grew up, except to administer beatings.  Victor is endearing, but not quite the "new man" (is that even a thing any more?) that Jamie appears to be.  With statements like "I can't take a woman seriously if she doesn't cook" and his description of how he used to view women (synopsis: too many women, too little time) Victor was clearly not out to get the female viewership onside.  Still, he says he's changed, and there's a good display of teary blubbing to accompany the birth of his daughter, followed by a palpable sense that, though he's not sure what he can do to help with the baby, he really wants to.  Unlike Jamie, by the end of the programme Victor is looking and sounding confident, he considers himself a dad and has a mission to be a better example than his own.

Father number three is Greg.  Greg is a motivational speaker, a multi-millionaire who teaches other people how to make money.  Greg has a Lamborghini Murcielago with the number plate PR05PER.  Greg also has a Range Rover (his baby car) in which he spends equal time looking at the road and the screen of his laptop, which he uses to inform the viewer of how much money he's making.  Greg is in the middle of a divorce from his wife (and mother of his three year old son) and is expecting the birth of his second child by his current girlfriend.  Greg is utterly detestable in pretty much every way, and therefore compelling.  I think Kira Phillips, the film maker, even tried to make him look like less of a tool.  But by doing things like directing the camera crew on where best to shoot from and bemoaning the loss of money from being present at the birth (£3.5 million, which I'm sure even the staunchest lefty would regret not having) he does absolutely nothing throughout the whole programme to make me think he is anything but a completely vile individual.  At least he seemed to like the baby, though I'm sure he won't see much of him anyway.

It was an entertaining enough hour, and if I can say I'm as thoughtful and caring as either Jamie or Victor once my wife and I have our own little one I'll be happy.  Thankfully there's absolutely zero chance of me being like Greg, I simply couldn't afford to be.

If you missed it, you can watch it on BBC iPlayer here

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

9 Weeks and Counting…

We’re over three quarters of the way there!  Finding out my wife was pregnant seems like a long time ago, but it was only at the beginning of September last year.  I was driving home from work and my phone was ringing in my pocket, repeatedly.  I’m not in the habit of taking calls while driving, so was suffering that horrible feeling that accompanies an unanswered phone.  I sneaked a glance at the source of the missed calls when sat in a queue of traffic.  Three calls in the space of five minutes, all Mrs L.  Then a text message arrives wondering when I’ll be home.  It’s unusual because I’m not running late, and Mrs L isn’t one of those insane women who needs to know where I am every moment of every day. 

It was at this point that the obvious reason for the calls dawned on me – the tone of the text had implied impatience, rather than distress, so it wasn’t anything too urgent – clearly there was a spider which needed to be dealt with.

Five minutes later and I’m back at the house.  Confirming my suspicions I’m greeted by Mrs L shouting "oh good, there's a MASSIVE spider in the bathroom, go and get it!"

Up the stairs two at a time, bursting through the bathroom door expecting to be confronted by Shelob herself, I am disappointed to find that "MASSIVE spider" is nowhere to be seen.  My wife is behind me in the doorway now.  "There's no spider" I say, "Yeah, look, right on the edge of the bath" she replies.  Either I have developed spider blindness or my wife has lost her mind.  There is no spider...

Oh.  There is something else sat on the edge of the bath though...

The penny finally drops; there is no spider, but there is a pregnancy test!  Positive!  It's one of those moments where the right thing to say is hard to get hold of; I am massively surprised, but in a very good way.  I've known I wanted to have children for years, but the moment you find out you actually will be having one is amazing, I don't think anything could have prepared me for how happy I felt, or how nervous.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Hello, I'm new here...

Welcome to my new blog.  As the name suggests (to Bristolians at least) it’s going to be about a baby.  My first baby.  It’s also going to be about me, and how I cope with the aforementioned baby. 

Anyone who is already a parent will hopefully see the potential for good material here; since announcing to the world that my wife and I were starting off on the nine month journey to parenthood I’ve lost count of the stories I’ve been told by people who have already trodden that well worn path.  Many of those stories have been hilarious, many more have been horrific, and a small number of them have been heartbreaking.  I’ll be honest, I’m hoping, wishing, that the stories I post here will only ever be one of the first two.

I don’t know how this blog will pan out, just as I have no idea how my baby will turn out, or how my new role as a Dad will turn out, but I hope that I’ll entice a few readers on the way.  If anything I write can help anyone out, that’s great, if it can raise a smile on the face of one person doing battle with a newborn at 3am then I’ll be happy (even, perhaps especially, if that one person is me).

Well, that’s an introduction then, on with the story so far…