Dad First, Coach Second

We’ve finally reached that stage where all four of our kids attending after-school (or nursery) activities.  Doodle started a karate class just before Christmas, with his sister already going to cheerleading and gymnastics and the twins at weekly football sessions.

I haven’t been to see MM at any of her classes – she insists it’s mum only and I’m not offended in the least…honest.

However, I do normally take the boys to their clubs and I really enjoy doing so.  It’s great watching them get fit, learn new skills and interacting with their peers. That’s not so say though, that there aren’t problems along the way.

Taking up a martial art was Doodle’s idea.  We had been looking for a while for some kind of hobby that he would not only enjoy, but perhaps help with his aggression and his discipline and behaviour at school.  Overall, it’s been a success – he’s learned a few of the basic moves and at the start of each week the first question he asks is when can he go back.

Our two youngest kids are enjoying their football.  They attend coaching for kids of their own age group and have a great time.  The coaches are very imaginative and deliver enjoyable, well planned out drills and exercises each week.

Of course, the boys are very much of the stage of learning their new activities.  It’s perfectly natural then that they will make mistakes or take time to learn new skills.  Thankfully, their coaches are not only experts in their respective fields, but they are also experienced in working with young children – they therefore know how to motivate them and get the best out of them.

Sitting on the sidelines, I watch with great interest as my three boys are put through their paces.  While I’m proud of all them (and my daughter when she attends her classes) and I try to encourage them as much as possible, there are times when I become a bit frustrated.  This is usually as a result of one of the boys not listening or paying attention to their coach or instructor.  At such times, I will try to catch their eye with a wave or, if they are close enough, I will call out their name in the hope that they will come out of their daydream.  Sometimes it works, but on other occasions, you just have to let them get on with it.

Not all parents have the same attitude.  At the football class in particular, one or two parents – ok, fathers – are just a bit over the top.  I’ve seen a couple cheer loudly when their little ones do something well, yet seen the same people berate their kids when things don’t go to plan.  Such extreme reactions don’t sit comfortably with me at all.

I do offer bits of advice post-training, though with the karate I can only really repeat what the instructor has said as I have no experience of martial arts.  I also encourage all of my kids to practice their skills, as I think understanding the importance of regular exercise, hard work and trying your best are vital not only for extra-curricular activities, but for everyday life.  However, unless an individual is qualified to do both, then the roles of parent and coach should remain separate.

I can, up to a point, understand why parents become so wrapped up in their children’s sporting ‘careers’.  Every parent wants their kids to do well, particularly when up against their peers.  However, putting too much emphasis on victory and success at an early age, could lead to youngsters being put off and missing out on the most important element of all – enjoyment.





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A Growing Boy

Doodle turned six last week.  Despite having to go to school on his birthday, he managed to make the most of his big day, enjoying his presents and a small gathering of family in the evening.

I haven’t written about our oldest boy for a while and in that time, much has changed – for the better.  Don’t get me wrong, he can still be grumpy when he wants to be and he still has a temper, but his behaviour has improved a hell of a lot over the past twelve months.

One of the biggest causes for concern was school.  His first year regularly saw him in trouble for hitting, disruptive and even refusing to do his work.  Thankfully a very patient – and talented – teacher managed to build a relationship with him.

At home he wasn’t much better:  Angry, aggressive, fighting with his brothers and often overreacting when things didn’t go his way, Doodle could be a nightmare when he wanted to be.

Thankfully, there has been notable difference in recent times.  At school, he is more settled – not only is he coming on academically (his number work and reading are impressive), but he seems to be getting on better with his classmates.  His class is small with only three boys, which sometimes limits his opportunities to play at being a superhero.  Unsurprisingly, he can’t wait for his brothers to start school in August.

Away from the classroom things are better too.  I’m not saying he’s not still a challenge – he still fights with his siblings (he’s just turned six after all), he refuses to look for toys or anything else that he can’t find and as for bath-time….well that’s a whole other post.

However, he’s less, aggressive, pays more attention to what he’s told for the most part, is a lot more pleasant to be around. He’s also found himself a hobby that doesn’t involve toys or games consoles – he attends a local karate club every week, but more about that next time.

Whether Doodle’s improved behaviour is a sign that he’s maturing or the words of ‘wisdom’ from parents and teachers are having an impact, isn’t clear.  Either way, long way it continue.


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Shouldering On

We managed to have a very enjoyable family Christmas despite my wife having a minor accident a couple of days before.  She fell in the garden and injured her shoulder – as I write this she is still in a sling.

Although she was released from A&E that same night, her shoulder wasn’t reset correctly, leaving her in agony for several days until her follow-up hospital appointment.

She is still in considerable pain.  A first physio appointment, this week, dashed any hopes that she would quickly be back to full fitness, with their advice being that the sling remains in place for the next few weeks at least.

Of course, the most important thing is that my other half makes a really recovery and doesn’t impact on her long-term health and wellbeing.  However it’s not easy for her – she is an active and independent person who isn’t used to sitting around, and certainly not resting.

We had already bought tickets for the pantomime and we still managed to go.  Although she had taken some strong painkillers, I’ll never know how she managed to spend most of the day out and about in a busy city centre while being in complete and utter agony – I wouldn’t have lasted 10 minutes.

Probably most frustrating of all is that she can’t drive.  Although she has now managed a couple of very short journeys, the car has been pretty much off-limits.  As a result, we’ve had to resort to desperate measures – I’ve been going shopping.

Going to the supermarket isn’t amongst my strengths so we have been making use of on-line shopping, but I have been trusted to pop along to the local shops for a few essentials.  I don’t know how she manages to remember on which aisle the items we regularly buy are kept, but I muddled through.

The kids were a bit thrown by the whole thing at first, but they understand that mum’s just hurt herself a bit and needs time to recover.

For the next few weeks at least, it’s a case of wait and see.  We don’t want to book holidays – or commit to anything else for that matter – until we are certain that she is on the mend.  We’re also trying to keep things in perspective – although she’s suffering a bit at the moment, at least she hasn’t hurt her head or broken a bone.

Easy for me to say, I suppose.

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Ten Hopes For 2013

I’ve probably mentioned somewhere before – most likely around this time last year – that I’m not a big fan of new year resolutions.  Most people seem to have no intention of following through on these and it all seems like a bit of a waste of time.

However, at the risk of contradicting myself, I have written down some hopes and wishes for 2013.

  1. Our family remains healthy and happy (obvious I know)
  2. MM continues to show the increased level of confidence she had gained during 2012.
  3. Doodle’s behaviour at school improves further.
  4. Our twins enjoy their last few months of nursery and settle when they start school.
  5. We have plenty of opportunities to spend time together as a family.
  6. We are able to get away on holiday a couple of times during the year (nothing fancy)
  7. My wife has plenty of time to study but also time to herself away from the demands of being mum to four kids.
  8. MM learns to swim and her brothers start to move closer to doing so.
  9. I have some idea about where my long-term career lies.
  10. I continue to write and enjoy it.

Happy New Year

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Moving On and Saying Goodbye

My mum recently moved house.  She and my step-father decided that the house they lived in was too big and moved to a smaller flat a short distance from where they were.

It’s the right decision.  Since my sister and I moved out, quite a few years ago now, the old place had seemed a bit big for two, particularly as they approach retirement.

However, that’s not to say the news hasn’t had an impact on me and my family, and will continue to do so.  Naturally, the kids are excited – they like the new place and the room where they will spend future sleepovers.  They seem happy enough, though they have insisted on there still being a DVD player available for their use.

I’ve no doubt that the kids will miss their grandparents’ large garden during the summer months but given that we live in Scotland, summer can be as short as a handful of days.

The other big difference for our little ones is the amount of noise they will, or more to the point won’t, generate.  Staying in a flat with downstairs neighbours means our lot won’t be able run, jump and shout the way they do at home or as they do at their grandparents’ previous abode – that may prove to be something of a change for our three boys in particular.

I must admit that for me too, it will be a strange feeling visiting a different address to see my mum.  We moved into the old place just over twenty years ago.  I was in my early teens and although relocating meant that I was further away from my school and some of my friends, the promise of a decent sized bedroom of my own won me over.

In recent years, that room was used as extra accommodation when someone was staying over.  However, every time I walked through the door it brought back loads of memories: the football themed room I first stayed in, the time I damaged the ceiling practicing my golf swing (don’t ask) and the many hours I spent in there where I was supposedly studying, but actually seemed to spend more time staring at the TV or changing over the CD in the hi-fi.

There were also some times that I don’t remember so well: staggering into the room and falling asleep still fully clothed as a result of one beer too many (late teens and early 20’s of course) and the numerous occasions where I pulled the covers over my head because it was time to get up for school, university or work.

Wandering through the rest of the house conjures up images every bit as vivid.  My late father passed away a few years after we moved in – he spent his last few months in a bed set up in the living room, so that he wouldn’t feel isolated in an upstairs bedroom.  Out in the large back garden, my sister had a specially built ‘house’ for her pet rabbits.  I also spent many mornings at the kitchen table, listening to the radio and being so tired that my face could have ended up in my cereal bowl at any minute.

I eventually moved out to a flat of my own when I was in my mid-20’s.  By then I had been promoted at work and was finally in a position to buy a place of my own.  A few weeks before I went to my own place, I got together with my now wife and I was very quickly thinking about settling down.

Of course it’s not just the house itself that provokes strong emotions – it’s everything in it.  My mum is not what I would call a hoarder, but over the years she has accumulated all sorts of things owned by my sister and me.  Most of these items were kept in her loft but with space in the new flat at a premium we either have to take or dump it.

I have to admit, I was a little hesitant about looking through possessions which were bound to bring the past so vividly back to the present.  After all, we were back talking about a handful of cardboard boxes which contained my childhood.  However, it turned out to be an enjoyable couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon.

My first computer was always going to be kept.  I mentioned in a previous post about my Commodore 16 and it’s still in great condition, 28 years after it was purchased.  There’s a few games and a couple of joysticks (remember them) with it.  I’m going to set it up, even for only an hour or two, to see how the kids think it compares to the Wii and their tablets.

I’ve also brought home my old football tops.  There are some 1980s classics in there, including a Spain home top with a large red collar and the Brazil jersey from the ’82 World Cup.  I’m hoping the boys will take more notice of these as they become more interested in football.

MM has already had a look at some of my jotters from my early years of primary school.  She particularly likes reading my ‘news’ page and the continual references to football.  She’s less impressed by my attempts at drawing.

There are also some books I won for school performance or behaviour and a copy of the Tin Man by Ted Hughes – I won that at my local library during the summer of 1985, for reasons that nobody can remember.

I have hung onto some other things from school, including my tie.  There are also some photos, including a school football team picture from when I was around 10 or 11.  It’s hilarious looking at how many people had ‘spiked’ hair.  It’s also obvious that some kids’ didn’t have enough gel on, their spikes coming together to form a small mound on top of their heads.

There were some other toys and books that weren’t worth saving, and some other stuff has gone to local charities.  I binned quite a few school reports – I can’t imagine anyone (myself included) will want to look back in future years at bland sheets of paper detailing how I was progressing at learning the different swimming strokes, particularly the individual grading for arms, leg-kick etc.

As fun it has been to bring all of these items over to my own home, they won’t all be on permanent display, with much of it being stored in our loft.  I wonder when the time will come for us to do something similar with our kids and the pictures, toys and other bits of theirs that we have kept.  It’s quite a few years away, but no doubt the time will fly by.

It’s funny to think that possessions which are such a big part of their lives at the moment will eventually be no more than a distant, but happy, memory.





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A Full Christmas

I’m sure I’m like many parents when I say that I have mixed emotions regarding the build-up to Christmas.  There’s no doubting it’s a great time of year: Christmas lists, nativity plays and putting up the tree are great opportunities to spend time with the kids as their excitement levels steadily increase.

The downside, for us, is trying to organise presents for four kids.  We have to identify suitable gifts, then find time to order them (thank goodness for the internet) or buy them and when all of that’s done, we need to store them all somewhere.  That’s before we even consider extended family.

Thankfully we (ok, my wife) are on top of things this year and at the time of writing we only have one or two purchases to make.

On a personal level, this is probably my eagerly anticipated festive period of recent years.  Due to job, and the unsociable hours which go with it, this will be first Christmas Day off in three years.  I have the added bonus of also being on days off on Christmas Eve and Hogmanay, though New Year does little for me.

I’m sure for many, working on Christmas Day is second nature, but I still find it a bit weird, despite having done so several times.  While the first-half of the day is great – the opening of presents etc – as early evening approaches I start to think ahead and I’m careful not to eat too much or become too relaxed.

So this year will be a pleasant change.  Having 24th December off too means I will wake up fresh on the big day, though if previous years are anything to go by, the kids will be up as early as 6am.  There will be no appeasing them either, if they know Santa has been and gone.

On Christmas Eve, the six of us will be attending the afternoon show of a pantomime.  Christmas Day itself will mean a meal at home and seeing other family at different points during the day.

While the whole day will be a wonderful experience, I’m also looking forward to night-time.  When the kids finally go to sleep, I’ll be lazing on the couch watching TV and eating junk, rather than going to work.

Merry Christmas.

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It’s the Winning That Counts

Celtic and Rangers.  Federer and Nadal.  The Celtics and the Lakers.  Ali and Frazier.  All great rivalries which are hugely competitive and where defeat is unthinkable.  It’s hard to believe that, in our house, we have an event which is every bit as intense as these great sporting duels.

Snap is normally such a fun and easy game to play – a friendly card game, ideal for a rainy day when the kids are bored.  However, we are reaching the stage where it might be time to call in a referee.  It’s not just that each of our kids is desperate to outdo their siblings, it’s the lengths that they are prepared to go to in order to be victorious.

Take MM, our intelligent, sensible, caring daughter.  When the cards come out, she’s a very different character and employs her own tactics.  Her favourite is to let her hand linger after she has played her card – only when she confirms that the top two cards don’t match does she then lift her little fingers away from the pile.

Doodle meanwhile, likes to have a quick glance at the card he is about to play, just before it reaches the pile.  Defeat is not an option for our second oldest, he’s even been reduced to tears when things haven’t gone his way.

Then there are our charming little twins.  So sweet and angelic, it’s enough for them simply to have the chance to play with their older sister and brother….not.  Both little ones sneak a quick peek at their next card, or even one or two after.  It’s not unheard of for them to then produce a card from halfway down their pile, if it’s going to give them a winning hand.

When it comes to full on snap aggression however, nobody can come close to Thing 1.  It’s not just when he is defeated over the course of a game, as even a losing hand can bring out an extreme reaction.  He often gets to his feet and jumps over the cards of anyone who has just beaten him.  Possible anger management issues there I think.

Thankfully card games are not played every day in our home, I don’t think I could handle the stress of that.  I suppose we should take the positives in that all four seem to be reasonably competitive – that will stand them in good stead as they grow older and have to deal with different situations in their lives.

As for the overreacting when they lose?  Well, I suppose they’ll ‘snap’ out of it.  Get it?


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