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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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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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.