ChangingDad

Making the most of a new life


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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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Blinded by the light

 

The last week has seen me thinking about those relatively small things about parenthood that annoy me, none of which I was aware before having children. So now having thought of them I think I need to get them off my chest. When I made a list I aimed to think of ten, but I fell short at seven (so it cannot be all that bad). However, seven is a good number for a short series over a week. So this week is now ‘rant week’ on ChangingDad.

I think what really got me thinking about these niggly issues was the clocks going forward last weekend. An hour less in bed aside, and that was always a small price to pay for light evenings, the arrival of British Summer Time was always my favourite weekend of the year heralding, as it does, a great deal more daylight at the right time of day. But now I am not so sure. It is a lot easier to get children to bed when it is dark, after all darkness equals bedtime, and light can mean anything but. As a result it has been hard to explain to Sam in particular why he should go to bed when it is still light, he somehow thinks it is morning.

I think that the light evenings also remind me that we cannot go out and do things in the light evenings like we used to, and it is certainly too cold to sit out at home in the evening at the moment (and I am not sure it ever was last year). While the thought of getting one of those patio heaters which pump heat anywhere but on the patio does not appeal.

So the clocks changing reminds me of past times and well as present issues; both of which, once again, come back to that recurring theme of having time to ourselves and the ability to do the things that we like (or liked) doing. For me it is probably the most obvious change about becoming a father; that as parents we have finite time but seemingly much more to fit into it. The light evenings meant that we could do more things away from the house. Having children makes that more difficult since the importance of having a bedtime routine cannot be overstated, and so being able to do things then means having babysitters on a regular basis. This is something which I do not think is totally fair on the boys who are clearly more comfortable with having one or both of us in the house when they go to bed.

I understand that some people find the winter months very difficult when there is not much daylight, and on balance I much prefer the summer months. Nevertheless, it is not as clear cut as it used to be and this time of year is definitely one of more mixed emotions than it used to be. That is, for me, one of the consequences of parenthood, and not one that I had particularly anticipated.

I wonder whether this is the same for other parents? Or is it just me?


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Reality nights

One of the first things people say to you when you announce that you are to become a parent is something along the lines of “well you better get your sleep in now”. This happens again just before the baby’s birth, and then you are constantly asked “are you getting much sleep” for months after the birth. So clearly it is a well established fact that babies equal lack of sleep. And while I know people whose children have pretty much slept through from birth no one escapes with their existing sleep pattern intact (no one who maintains any parental responsibility that is).

What existing parents do not mention so much is that their sleep continues to be disrupted, albeit in a less regimented way, beyond the point where the child starts sleeping through. This is where a couple of pictures that have been doing the rounds on Facebook and other social media for a while now come in. They suggest that the difference between the perception and the reality of what it is like to share a bed with a toddler. I think that they are brilliant, and the reality bit describes many nights in our bedroom pretty accurately.

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What perhaps is more telling is that the perception part of this illustration was what I had in mind before I became a parent. I imagined those idealised images of a mother coming into a bedroom and seeing the father and child snuggled up in a cozy and indescribably cute, yet somehow manly, manner. The reality is not like that, it is really really is not like that. But if it really is not like that then why do the vast majority of photos that I have of either Karen or myself asleep with the children more closely reflect the perception picture rather than the reality one.

Well it could be that when reality bites (or rather kicks, gouges and/ or burrows) I am in no fit state to start taking photos. Nevertheless, I seem to like to present some sort of idealised life through the photos that I post on Facebook, which, of course only perpetuates the perception to those not in the know. I also suspect that my friends and family want to see nice pictures of us being happy rather than some gruesome sight of us irritated and tired. Most of all, however, to post unflattering photos would not be fair to the children who do not have much of a say on such matters.

So while we present something of an idealised picture, the truth is that being the parents of small children means that a good night’s sleep cannot be guaranteed. Some weeks will go by without incident, while other weeks leave me wondering whether I will ever get a decent night’s sleep again.

As the youngest Sam is the most likely cause of disruption. On a good night he will slide in beside Karen in the early hours and go straight to sleep; and on a not so good night he will prowl about, toss and turn, and generally cause havoc for a couple of hours. He is also like a heat seeking missile and, particularly if there is only one adult in the bed, he will follow them around (generally taking up half the bed himself) ensuring that he gets his source of warmth. It has been know for me to be pushed out of one side and get back in the other on more than one occasion during a night alone with Sam.

Jake is far more settled these days, and tends to disturb us less; although he tends to find a night when Sam is settled just to keep us on our toes. Indeed, when they were younger I was convinced that they had a “disturb the parents at night” rota worked out between them.

The night becomes a very different place with children. It is busier, shorter and full of surprises. It is far removed from the perception illustrated in the above picture, and when I get seven consecutive hours of sleep I consider it a small, but very welcome, bonus.