ChangingDad

Making the most of a new life


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Boxes, boxes, boxes.

So we arrived at the new house, all freshly painted: a blank canvas for us to make it into a home. We had first seen it ten months previously, and a couple of times since then. But the more we thought about it the smaller it got until we were getting worried about how we were going to fit in all our stuff. When we got inside we were slightly relieved that it was bigger than we remembered it, and certainly bigger than the house we were leaving.

Then the removers arrived and started bringing in box after box after box after box after box. Standing in the kitchen at one point I ask one of the movers whether they’d actually brought us someone else’s stuff as well. To which he replied “everyone thinks that”.

So then the task began, getting the house in a liveable condition before we went to meet Fritz, Frieda and the boys from the airport in just two days time. The task seemed completely daunting, especially as we found out we would have to collect and assemble shelving that should have been in place before we moved in, to the point that is seemed impossible to do in time. It was not just the fact that we wanted to be able to live there within two days, but we wanted the boys to feel comfortable in it as much as possible straight away. We wanted to see the look on their faces when they saw their new play room and their new bedroom (and in Sam’s case a bed rather than a cot).

With this as our main motivation we went from seeing it as an impossible job to being on an absolute mission to get it done. I got up at 4am to open boxes and get stuff on shelves. Karen went off to get the furniture and with the help of friends (you know who you are, thank you) got it put up. Karen got the boys playroom looking fabulous within a very short time and working right until the last minute (we were only ten minutes late at the airport) we managed to get the house into a state that we were happy with.

But now the big test came. What would the boys think? How would they react coming back to seeing all their things in a new house? How would they cope with change?

As it turned out it was a bit of an anti-climax. Jake was so tired from the flight that he fell asleep in the car and was transferred to bed without ever waking up. Sam woke up but was so dozy that he hardly ever noticed at first.

As we showed Fritz and Freida round though, I realised how proud I was, and what a sense of achievement I had that we had achieved so much in such a short period of time.

In the end Sam was so excited about his new playroom that he couldn’t be persuaded to go to bed until 10pm, and the next morning we got that look of wonder from Jake as he first set foot in his new playroom, it was that look he gets when he comes downstairs on Christmas morning.

All in all then it was quite a few days, and I’m not sure I want to unpack another box again in a hurry. But to get the boys reactions in that way it was worth it. 


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Moving memories

So the day of the house move finally came, the packers arrived and we saw all our possessions being boxed up and put in the back of a lorry, and there certainly was a lot of stuff. No wonder we hadn’t been able to move in our own house.

Within a day it went from being our place to a collection of empty rooms, devoid of our things. That’s it I thought, onward and upwards. Then a very strange thing happened (and I can feel the emotion rising just writing this) while I was vacuuming the upstairs landing, which effectively is a corridor. I suddenly got a vision of the boys running up and down it laughing, joking and tumbling. It was such a strong image and, for me, so evocative. I remembered lots of different times when, just after bath time particularly, I have sat at the end of the corridor and caught them as they tried to run past. Suddenly our empty house came to life again.

Thinking about this, and I’m as surprised getting emotional about it now as I was at the time, I realised that while we have a lot of memories invested in our belonging, the place that we live in carries so many memories too. I also realised that I had been so focussed on moving to the new place, that I hadn’t really thought about the old place.

After all this was the house where Karen and I moved into after we were married. The house in which we have got to know each other more and more over the six years we were there. The house that we brought Jake and then Sam home to. The house where we struggled with the early weeks and months of parenthood. The house where we found out that Karen was pregnant with Sam. The house where both boys took their first steps, and did so many other things for the first time.

It’s no wonder then that I got emotional at that sudden memory because it was representative of so many other memories, good and bad, over a six year period; possibly the most changeable period of our lives. It felt a little like a bereavement, because for every change there will be a sense of loss; a certain amount of letting go.

I had been so excited and pre-occupied with the move and all the good things that were to come, I forgot to reflect on the things that had gone before and how special they were; I hadn’t realised how much we had invested emotionally in the place that we were now saying goodbye to. In a sense I think that I probably couldn’t have realised this before the house was empty. By taking out all the paraphernalia the house was stripped down and there was nothing except the house to think about, and this leads me to think about the importance of breaking through the clutter sometimes. Perhaps then we can see what’s important.

So leaving our house was a moving experience in more ways than one.


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We really need some education

One thing that Karen and I didn’t think we were going to be stressed about with our house move was finding a school for Jake. After all the school local to where we are going to live has had good reports, but has also had places every year. This confidence has turned out to be misplaced and with less than two months to go until the start of term, he still does not have a confirmed place. I shan’t bore you with the ins and outs of why this is except to say a mixture of council mistakes and a baby boom have left us in this situation, which I’m sure will ultimately be fine but doesn’t feel like that at the moment.

Until taking redundancy at the end of 2011 I had worked in education for fifteen years, and so know the utter dedication of the majority of people who work in it. I also know how hugely transformative it can be. I went to University as a mature student after having worked for some years straight after school, and the experience really did change my life giving me confidence, skills and knowledge that I have put to good use over the intervening years. I am now enrolled again at a different University and am finding this experience to be equally transformative, but in different ways. And I am reminded of this today because I begin a three day workshop which I am looking forward to hugely because, on the basis of the previous ones, is going to be an amazing experience.

This is why I so desperately want the boys to have the best education that they can so that they can have the lives that they want to have. So that they have options, and the confidence to grab opportunities when they come up.

We have been lucky so far in as much that the nursery that they have been going to has been excellent. They have been so happy and well looked after there, and after this good start we are really keen for them to carry on thriving. This has been brought home to us recently when doing ‘Jake’s day’: something we do every night with him when taking him to bed. Until recently we used to take him through the day, but now he’s started to tell us everything that happened as nursery that day. It is so great to hear him recounting in quite specific detail the things that he has done.

It shows he’s happy, he’s changing, he’s learning and he’s having fun. Surely these are the ingredients of a great education. It’s what Jake experiences at nursery, and it’s exactly what I am experiencing with my course too. It goes to show that you are never too young or too old to learn, and I for one hope that I never stop learning both formally and informally.

Here’s to great, transformative, education.