ChangingDad

Making the most of a new life


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Cinema

I paid a rare visit to Chester, the city of my birth, last week. It is always strange to go back to places that you once knew so well but have, inevitably, changed in the intervening years. At one point I found myself walking past the old Odeon Cinema. It was all boarded up and looked rather sad. Now it is the subject of a preservation order, however, it is being converted into a state of the art theatre. I was very interested to see that as part of this process people are being invited to contribute their memories of going to the cinema there. This got me thinking about the times that I went there with my parents, and also about going the with Jake, now a veteran of two visits to the cinema.

Odeon Chester

Odeon Chester

Cinema has always held a certain magic for me and, while I do not get to go as often as I would like, I still see it as a great way to spend and afternoon or evening. I clearly remember going to see my first film, Jungle Book, in Chester and being amazed by the size of the screen: a huge window on another world. While I suppose I was spoilt somewhat with my first film I remember increasingly clearly going to see other Disney classics such as Pinocchio and Bedknobs And Broomsticks, and then the great anticipation of a new James Bond film. I also remember that I liked to have the same seat on the third row of the circle, and although we were in the no smoking section you could see the cloud of smoke invading from the other side. So the Odeon in Chester means a great deal to me, and I certainly want to contribute to the memories project.

Odeon Chester

Odeon Chester

These memories were ones that I was keen for Jake to have as well, but I was concerned that, in these days of multi-channel TV platforms, hard disk recorders and DVDs; the cinema may not hold the same magic for him as it did for me. In need not have worried because he absolutely loved it. He loved having his own 3D glasses (we went to see the re-print of Finding Nemo first up), and really embraced the whole experience down to having the popcorn. In fact I spend quite a lot of the movie watching him being wrapped up in the whole experience, and I really hope that both he, and Sam when he is old enough, will continue to love it.

My Dad always said that one of the things he missed about when I had grown up was not taking me to the cinema to see children’s films, and I can understand that now, although I did not at the time (why would I want to go and see Aladdin when Reservoir Dogs was showing) and I am so looking forward to seeing Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University this summer.

In many ways visiting the cinema is a very different proposition these days from when I was young, it is certainly competing with a lot more and our local multiplex with its IMAX screens, super surround sound and 3D offering is beyond anything I could have comprehended when going to the one screen cinema of my youth. But, like with many things, the basic experience is the same and taking the boys to the cinema is something I should savour because they probably will not want me along to see Fast and Furious 15 in a few years.

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Powerless in Yorkshire II

So the problems with the electricity were soon fixed and I re-composed myself for the rest of my weekend with the boys. We had a relaxing day on the Sunday doing nothing in particular, and then I had a good day with Sam on Monday while Jake was at school.

By Monday evening, though, I was shattered and the events of the weekend were catching up on me, and I was starting to recognise the old signs of sleep deprivation and the general crankiness that goes with it. As a result bedtime did not go well.

I was desperate for the boys to go to bed because I needed both sleep and a little time to myself before achieving that. I think that it was because of this, I probably pushed bedtime earlier than I should have, I also think that the boys spotted my desperation and saw it as an opportunity to buy some time, and get some attention as well. They were all over the place, running round the house, opening the blinds, jumping in and on each other beds, and generally creating mayhem. It was the first time that I felt that a situation with them had gone completely out of control and I had no idea how to get it back, and no backup. I felt powerless and I really did not like it.

After what seemed like an age, and after an awful lot of shouting, things finally began to settle down; but I felt really bad. Bad because I had got so angry, bad because I had felt powerless, and bad because I was too tired to feel good. I also knew that this bedtime may have set a precedent for future evening, and I really needed some sort of strategy to, what I saw at the time, wrest control back.

Now, as regular readers will know, bedtime is something of a recurring theme here (see ‘Bedtime hour’ and ‘Ok, so I was wrong’); and is an issue for most parents at one time or another, often for the reasons I have described already. So once Karen came back I was able to think more coherently about how I coped with what did become a recurring theme of boisterous bedtimes.

The answer was something that was surprising to me, and taught me something about my need to control every situation. I got the boys to the point where they were ready to get into bed and…I did nothing. I just sat on the floor of their bedroom, head bowed (I eventually did this because Sam thought it would be a great wheeze to lick my nose and it made me laugh), and I just let the storm rage around me; and after a while it blew itself out and the boys declared themselves ready for bed.

I did the same thing the following night and, starved of the oxygen of attention, the boys quickly decided that that particular game was not fun anymore and quickly settled down. I have to say that I was elated. Completely surprised, but elated.

Since then bedtimes have settled down again, and if there are any shenanigans they are met with indifference from me.

Do not ask me why this works at bedtime and not any other time of the day (when it would be far less appropriate to ignore the boys), but I am just happy that, for now, it does.


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Powerless in Yorkshire I

 

The other weekend I had the boys to myself while Karen was away. This is a situation which happens often enough as not to phase me, but not often enough as to make it unremarkable; and this time it was four days, the longest that I have had them on my own.

I was not too worried about this because I had got plenty planned out and the sun shined everyday. By the Saturday evening we had had two brilliant days and we got home in the evening tired but happy. Sam was straight into bed and asleep, and Jake wanted to watch a programme before settling down. We had only been back 15 minutes, however, when the power went off. Checking that the houses around us were still lit, I then realised that our lights were still on too (doh!) but that all the sockets were off and, when investigating further, found that I could not get them back on again.

Jake was very understanding about his programme and toddled off to bed, leaving me to wonder what to do next, and what happened next was very unexpected:

I freaked out a bit.

I started to think of things that I could do to rectify the situation, but they all involved using a phone or the internet; both of which were unavailable (and my mobile had no charge). I was freaked because I could not do this research, and I was freaked because I could not at least send Karen a text to tell her what had happened. This was stupid, annoying and irrational; but real nonetheless.

So I decided to wait until morning to sort everything out telling myself that the worst case scenario was that the food in the freezer would spoil. This did not help and after several sleepless hours I remembered that we had a phone charger in the car, so I sneaked out, switched on the ignition and charged my phone – hoping that no one would come along and seize a golden opportunity to steal both car and phone thus rendering the situation immeasurably worse.

Despite the risk I have to say that I felt a lot better with a charged phone, and was then able to look for an electrician to ring in the morning, and could send Karen that text. I started to feel in control again as if somehow the power in my phone gave me power too.

Part of me feels rather embarrassed to admit this episode, but I thought it was worth sharing because it showed me just how used I had become to having technology at my fingertips, how much it gives me the illusion of being in control, and how fragile that can be. I am sure that I would not have been so freaked out if Karen had been around too, or if I did not feel the responsibility of looking after the boys, or if I had not been so focussed on getting home and just relaxing.

I think it is fair to say that I am not the sort of person who usually worries unduly about things, and tend to be quite sanguine about change; but this incident somehow disturbed my equilibrium in a way that many more potentially impactful things would not. I guess I was caught off guard and although balance was restored when the power fully was the next day it still troubles me that such things can happen so easily.

I am sure that everyone has these bizarre irrational moments when we lose perspective and, as in my case with charging the mobile, make potentially bad decisions by taking unnecessary risks. These can be quickly rectified, or they can persist and get worse, even multiply sending us further off balance. I was fortunate that I had the personal resources to regain my equilibrium quite quickly, but can remember times in my life when that would not have been the case and it is striking for me that it was the lack of communication that caused me to freak the most.

So for me the key lesson is the importance of sharing issues and concerns and work through issues with others whether they be friends, family, or professionals such as coaches. It helps us to understand our situation more, and with that awareness comes a greater ability to not only solve problems, but find the sort of balance in our lives that we want.


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Food glorious food

It has been a couple of weeks since my last post due to a busy half term holiday, the upshot of which is that I seem to have a backlog of things that I want to write about. The first thing stems from an article that was in The Guardian about 10 days ago. It was an interview with Michael Pollan, someone I had not come across before who advocates healthy eating, and particularly that families should eat home cooked food together.

Most controversially he argues that families began to eat in a more fragmented way when women started going out to work more. This has courted criticism from feminist groups, although he claims that his point is more that food companies jumped on this trend and started producing the sort of unhealthy processed convenience food that made it more easy for us to eat separately.

This aside we are certainly trying to follow many of the things that he espouses. We always try to eat together in the morning, and usually spend 10-15 minutes together around the breakfast table. We then also try to eat together in the evening, and probably manage this on average 5-6 times a week. We also try to cook food from scratch, giving the boys ready meals no more than once per fortnight, and are quite choosy about which ones they have.

Sitting around the kitchen table together is an important time which is often quite chaotic, especially in the morning when we also have an agenda to get the boys to school and nursery on time. It is certainly not the easy option, but it is something that the boys are now used to and I very much hope that we can continue this as they get older, and that it becomes an important part of sharing and growing as a family.

I am also very conscious that we are lucky to be able to do this. Before I took redundancy from my job at the end of 2011, I would regularly be going out to work before breakfast (in fact the boys often had breakfast a nursery) and was back again once the evening meal was over. This was not something that I enjoyed which was why it was absolutely the right decision for me to make a considerable change to my lifestyle to be able to accommodate a more family friendly environment for the boys.

Such decisions are never easy or even obvious and I was very much helped by a life coach who enabled me to develop my own options and see that my future had more options than I thought possible. The irony has not been lost on me that, in the end, I chose life coaching as job which could enable me to do something that I both enjoy, while letting me have the lifestyle that I wanted. It has also given me the motivation to help other Dads, hence my setting up ChangingDad, who are in the same seemingly impossible situation that I was. I wish to help Fathers find a way forward that can be transformational for both themselves and their family life.

I think that I often take for granted the fact that I am home for breakfast and evening meals nearly every day now, but when I think back to how things used to be I am so pleased that I made the changes that I did. I have a great opportunity to watch my boys grow up in ways I could have never imagined, maybe you can too.