ChangingDad

Making the most of a new life


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An audience with Daddy

It is ChangingDad rant week, where I have been having a bit of a moan about those things that have come to annoy me as a parent. While they are relatively trivial in the grand scheme of things it is also good to share them and get the views of others on them.

So here goes with today’s issue. If I was to say what was the one thing that I have found hard to get used to more than any other since becoming a parent it is the fact that, these days, I frequently have an audience when I am sitting on the toilet. The toilet for me, and I think that this is typical of many men in particular, is a place of sanctuary. It is somewhere that I can spend a few minutes away from the cares of the world and do some thinking or light reading; and more often than not it still is.

There are, however, plenty of times when I am nicely settled into my special place only to be disturbed by a little person wanting information, help or support in a dispute with another little person. Indeed, my sitting down often seems to be some sort of indirect catalyst for the outbreak of strife in the playroom; especially when I am the only adult in the house. I really do not like having to curtail my time in there, and it is often not something that I can especially leave in a hurry. But my sanctuary invaded and the moment broken.

I think that this is probably something that is representative of a wider issue about personal space, something which is markedly reduced with the arrival of children. I lived on my own for many years before Karen and I got together, and even with two in the house there was always plenty of room for personal space. I certainly would not go back to such a life now, but I do occasionally miss the solitude and find my lavatorial escapism to be a good way of mollifying the problem. Which is why it annoys me when it is threatened.

It amuses me that Jake is copying my behaviour and now often takes five or six books into the toilet with him, and can easily spend half an hour in there. It is the only time that he really looks at books on his own so I am not discouraging him. Coincidentally Sam also decided to read a book on the toilet for the first time this week, so it looks like it is a good job that we have more than one toilet in the house.

I like it that the boys want to do this because it is important that we all have a bit of ‘me’ time now and again. After all they do not get much time to themselves either. So perhaps they will come to realise that my toilet time is sacred too: a ritual to be enjoyed alone. Not an audience with Daddy.

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Confidence

We have just come back from a week’s holiday. We deliberately chose a place where there would be lots to do inside should the weather not be so good. As it turned out it was unseasonably good weather for Northern England in February, but that did not stop us from taking the boys to the swimming pool every day.

We bought them arm bands, got them changed and headed for the water. I am not sure what I expected with this, but I was certainly surprised by what happened. This is perhaps because, since Sam was born, on the rare occasions we have taken the boys swimming we have tended to hold on to them and rather lead the activities.

This time, probably because it was a daily event for a whole week, we witnessed something of a transformation for both of the boys. Sam began by treating the whole thing with some trepidation, he was very wary of the water and, even with arm bands on, was reluctant to leave one or both of us even when in very shallow areas. Jake was a little more adventurous, but only wanted to go down the slides with one of us, and would not consider doing anything that was remotely out of his depth.

Switch to the end of the week and Sam was happy playing in the toddler pool by himself for ages; pretending to surf around on a float and having enormous fun going down the slide again and again and again and again. Jake was even more of a revelation and, by the end of the week, was swimming across the pool by himself and whizzing down the big slides on his own into the splash pool.

These things did not happy suddenly but over a week-long period, but the transformation from start to finish was remarkable, and it was an amazing thing to see their confidence build from day to day as time went on.

But I do not think that it was just their confidence that increased, but Karen and my confidence grew too. We were increasingly willing to let them go and let them get on with their own thing. We were less concerned with being directional, and that really paid off for us allowing one of us at a time to go off and do our own swimming programme; and spend more time in the hot tub (which was fantastically relaxing).

So it struck me, in the increasingly long time that I had to think for myself that week, that this week of swimming was probably something of a blue print for the future: how we can help the boys increase in their confidence to do things, and how their becoming more confident is inextricably linked to our capacity to let go. We need to help them, but we also need to give them space to develop and learn.

This is yet another balance that we need to find; this time between suffocating them and giving them space, between supporting them and letting them have their own independence, and in trusting them to the right degree. Last week we got that just about right and that was a lesson learned. But I have a feeling that it is a lesson that we will need to learn over and over again.