ChangingDad

Making the most of a new life


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London eyes

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Ever since he was very small Jake has always liked crowds. His first word was ‘Hiya’ and he used to say it again and again as we went through a city centre, or popular tourist places such as York. Most people found very endearing, including our fellow passangers on a flight to Abu Dhabi (well for the first 15 minutes anyway).

We are lucky enough to make frequent trips to see family in Berlin. Jake loves this, and has had a real hankering to visit other big cities such as New York and London, and it was because of this I thought it would be a great idea to go to London for a couple of days. We have been there before, but he was really too young to appreciate it then, but, at nearly six, I thought he could.

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But what to do there? I contemplated all sorts of trips to museums and plans to keep him entertained for two days, but in the end I asked him what he wanted to do (an idea so obvious I am amazed that I had not thought of it before). The answer was that he wanted to ride on as many different forms of transport as he could. Well, I thought, I can cope with that.

So that is what we did. We went on buses (old and new), trains (underground, overground, driverless and express), a taxi, and cable car. We had to give the river boat a miss because of the horrendous queues to get on at every stop, but Jake was fine with that. In the process we saw most of the sights that he wanted to see: Big Ben, the London Eye, and Buckingham Palace. The highlight for both of us was the new cable car that goes high over the river from North Greenwich giving you a completely new perspective on London.

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It was great to spend a few days with him and I enjoyed his enthusiasm for everything as well as his great thirst for knowledge which seemingly knows no bounds. He is at a stage now where he not only wants to know about something, but whether it is faster, higher, longer, or more powerful than anything else. A vicarious competitiveness for inanimate objects it seems.

Our trip was helped by the fact that, in my last job, I travelled to London on a regular basis, so we could find our way around relatively easily. What was really amazing, though, was how I got to see the familiar through Jake’s eyes and got to see London in a completely new light. For him it was like a big transport playground where he soaked up every little feature: wires in the middle of the track, cables on bridges, buttons on trains, and many many more. Yet another new perspective for me.

What I also realised was how much I had changed from the crazy London commuter always in a rush from one meeting to the next trying to save every vital second by catching that tube, even though there was another one in two minutes. Jake was not going to be rushed, and that suited me just fine: he thought the idea of people running up and down escalators was when they moved anyway was hilarious; and when you think about it…

So our two days in London was a very different experience for me, and in some ways quite a salutary one as well. They provided a benchmark for how different, and for me better, my life has become since I took redundancy; and they also provided a concentrated dose of seeing the world through a child’s eyes. I enjoyed the view!


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A tale of two Mondays

For several years now I have had one day per week when I have looked after the boys. This is, firstly, so I can spend more time with them, and, secondly, to help Karen to get some work done (she has a weekday with them, too). Since we have moved house two things have changed, I have moved the day from Friday to Monday, and I now just have Sam for most of the day since Jake has started school. The last two Mondays could not have been more different.

The first Monday was a beautiful sunny day so I decided to take Sam on a long walk exploring the local countryside. It was an amazing day exploring new footpaths and looking at lots of great things on the way. The route that I had chosen followed a river and we had great fun looking at the water, and what was in it. Part of the way followed not one but two train lines, so Sam had a whale of a time looking for trains, shrieking with delight when one went past, something that involved much waving. We encountered a heard of cows, and Sam tried to count them and made mooing noises. We sang endless verses of ‘Wheels on the Bus’, ‘Old MacDonald Had a Farm’, and ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’. Sam spent some time looking at the books we had brought along, and playing with the few toys he had chosen to bring with him.

After a while he fell asleep and I had a quiet coffee beside a lake before heading off again. Once he woke up we went into the city on the tram (something he loves) where he entertained some of the other passengers with his antics. We had lunch in a cafe where he was entertaining me with his cheeky smile, and we then went home on the train; which he waved off at our local station and was very happy to get a wave and a toot back from the driver.

Contrast this with the following Monday. For a start the weather could not have been more different. It was sheeting down with rain and was due to do so all day. Rather than get cabin fever in the house I thought it would be a good idea to drive to one of Sam’s favourite museums. The motorway was terrible with massive amounts of spray coming off the cars and lorries, and it was not long before we began to get warning signs of trouble ahead. So we got off the motorway and tried to get to the museum using back roads. A bit annoying, but Sam fell asleep and all seemed well. Suddenly there was a loud vomiting noise from the back seat followed by a cry and a little voice saying “Daddy. Weetabix.”. At that very moment I joined a traffic jam on a road with high hedges and nowhere to stop with poor Sam in the back continuing to be sick.

When I finally did manage to stop, with the rain still pouring down there was certainly more than Weetabix in Sam’s lap. I managed to get him out of his car seat and plonked him on the ground, forgetting that he had taken his shoes off earlier. So there he was crying away covered in sick from neck to toe standing in a puddle with no shoes on, in what I realised was the car park of a well known baby product warehouse (oh the irony). Not my finest parenting moment, but surely that was as bad as it would get.

It seemed so as I quickly went about changing him and getting him warm and dry so that I could then clean his car seat. It was at that moment that I realised that there were no wipes in the changing bag. After a short period of swearing under my breath (we ALWAYS have wipes in the changing bag) I cleaned things up as much as I could with Sam’s dirty clothes, popped him in Jake’s car seat and headed off for a covered car park where I could get us sorted out more and try to exorcise some of the smell from the inside of the car, the museum trip well and truly abandoned.

While perhaps at the extremes, these were two not untypical days in the life of a parent, and I have certainly found that life has become less predictable since I became a Dad. With children life is rarely dull, and requires me to find new ways of doing things, develop new skills, and makes me more resourceful.

Looking back now, both days were special in their own way, and were certainly memorable. Let’s see what next Monday brings, but I have to get the smell of last Monday out of my nose first.