Tag Archives: parenthood

It’s Really Not Good To Be Back

I really couldn’t be bothered this past week.

I’ve been even less in the mood for work than usual and even the thought of going running hasn’t appealed to me.  My lethargy is the result of returning home from a week abroad.  We spent our holiday in a villa, with our own swimming pool and glorious sunshine with the weather warm but not too hot.  Perfect.

For my wife and me, this was our first overseas jaunt for several years.  We used to go on foreign holidays regularly but hadn’t done so since when MM was a baby.  As you can imagine, four young children aren’t quite as portable as one.

However, when my in-laws suggested a week in the sun, we decided to give it a go.  If nothing else it would be a change from caravans and holiday parks.

With regards to travel, we had no real concerns for the kids – they can just about behave most of the time and we knew we could keep them occupied during the flight.  We boarded the plane armed with two portable DVD players, a Nintendo DS and enough colouring books and pens to last a month.  For the boys, the excitement of their first time on a plane was enough in itself.

The biggest issue was the twins’ egg allergy.  I’ve written previously about this problem and while never far from our thoughts, it was always going to be one of the best challenges we faced when going abroad.

It was also one of the reasons we opted for a villa – as well as the obvious benefits of privacy, extra living space and our own pool, we also had facilities to cook our own meals.  This meant we didn’t have to ask restaurant staff about the ingredients of each meal – and didn’t have to rely on their knowledge and/or honesty.

There was an added bonus in that our place was equipped with a pretty impressive barbecue – I wonder when will be the next time I dine outdoors?

Our other concern was the swimming pool.  Four overexcited little ones running around on wet tiles close to a pool is a recipe for disaster.  At least one adult had to be on ‘lifeguard’ duty at all times, though to their credit, the kids were surprisingly well behaved.  Unfortunately the pool was not guarded or fenced off in any way, though it’s location to the side of the property did help.

Once these challenges were overcome, we never looked back.  Lazy days were spent at the beach or by the pool, with lots of eating and the ‘occasional’ drink thrown in.  In the evening we took the kids to local fairgrounds and then for a game of pool in a local pub where the staff went out of their way to make our four monsters feel at home.

The time of year also helped.  Not only was the temperature less than it’s summer peak, the holiday season was only starting so our resort was relatively quiet.

Of course good times like this never last, and we were given a swift dose of reality as our flight landed back home – big, angry black clouds and heavy showers.  We also realised that within the space of around six hours, the temperatures we were experiencing had dropped by around 20 degrees.

I don’t want to turn into one of those people who spend their life counting the days until their next holiday.  Sometimes, though, it’s hard not to.

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The Car

When we got together, my wife already owned the house where we now live.  I, on the other hand, had a flat close to the city centre which I subsequently sold.

Sometime after making the move I remember a conversation where I explained to someone that I didn’t drive.  Being a city boy, I didn’t think this was a big deal – while most people where I’m from were motorists, it wasn’t unusual for people not to drive or have a licence but not own a car.  However, the attitude out here is very different.  This chat proved not to be a one-off.

“What? You don’t drive? Why not?”

I don’t think I could have provoked a stronger reaction had I said that I throw bags of puppies in the river on a regular basis.

Everybody out here drives, usually from the age of 17.  It’s the way things are.  I’m not talking about some rural backwater either, our village is close to the motorway and has decent facilities and amenities for a place of it’s size.

What it does lack, is decent public transport.  Hardly any buses after 1800 and no trains on a Sunday – yes I’m writing this in 2011.  I was left with no real option but to take driving lessons and fortunately (or should that be somehow?), I managed to pass my test.

Given our remote location, we miss our car when we don’t have it, as has been the case this week.  The gear linkage cables (they link the gears you know) need replacing and the parts have to come direct from the manufacturer.  This means over a week without the car and we get to pay over £300 for the privilege.

On a personal level, it’s not the end of the world.  I often run to work anyway and I used to take the bus every day in life.  I had a couple of driving lessons at 17 and wasn’t really that interested.  In my younger days any social activities I was involved in (mostly nights out or football related) usually ended up with me having a beer or two anyway.  My motivation for getting my finger out and obtaining my licence (around 4 years ago) was twofold: first, I wanted to be able to take my kids out and second, as I’ve already mentioned, I was now living out in the sticks so it would make life easier.  I’m by no means a natural when it comes to being behind the wheel, but I got there in the end.

I’m not one of those people who need to drive everywhere: for instance our local shop (small supermarket) is a 5 minute walk away and I wouldn’t dream of taking the car.

However, even I can see the disadvantages of life without wheels, particularly our 7-seater.  Though it’s only for a week, trying to attend after-school activities, hospital and dental appointments, and deal with four kids, isn’t easy.  Our logistical nightmare hasn’t been helped by some of these appointments falling at the same time, this week of all weeks.  Having said all that, there is always someone worse off – my mum was one of seven children and they never had a car of any description, so it kind of puts our situation into perspective.

A combination of buses and the loan of my father-in-laws car has helped us to overcome any problems, and we appreciate our ‘bus’ more than ever.  I’m never going to be one of those people who enjoys long drives for the sake of it, it’s more about getting from A to B.  However, while I’m no lover of cars, I will be glad to see the return of ours in the next few days.

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Doodle

Where do I start? My oldest boy is quite a character – gentle, caring and fun-loving, yet angry, aggressive and emotional at the same time.

For the most part, he is well behaved.  He can be kind and sensitive, is reasonably polite, and plays well with his siblings.   He’s also a popular kid at nursery and seems to make friends easily.

However, it’s not always like that.  Every now and then, the red mist comes down and Doodle becomes Mr Angry.  He lashes out and follows up with a tantrum when he’s told that his behaviour isn’t good enough.

While he saves most of this stuff for home, there was a recent incident at nursery.  At the end of a visit to the library, Doodle wasn’t happy when asked to hold hands with another kid.  When the teacher tried to reason with him, our boy kicked off, so much so that he started bumping into classmates.  One other kid was knocked over and suffered a small cut to his head, meaning he had to go home.  The scene was described by one witness as being like “domino rally”.  Once one child tumbled, others started to follow.

My wife had to sign the dreaded incident book, which parents are required to do when any of their little ones seriously misbehave.  Thankfully, it’s the only time we’ve been asked to do this, and hopefully, it will be the last.

It was because of incidents like this that we had some concerns about sending Doodle to school.  He is old enough and will going into Primary 1 in August.  However, because of when he was born (January), he only just makes the cut-off and will be one of the youngest in his year.

The school also had concerns.  When my wife took Doodle to enrol him at the school, the Head Teacher strongly recommended deferring his school entry for a year.  It wasn’t anything personal – she didn’t know anything about him – it seems that they encourage any kid born in January or February to be held back until the following year.

This was a bit of shock.  We had considered deferment but decided against it, yet now, it was suggested that we think again.  The led to more talking: with each other, with nursery staff who know him well, other parents who have been in a similar situation and a couple of former teachers.  We also did some more reading online to help weigh up the pros and cons.  Eventually we came to a decision – he’s going to school.  We feel he needs the discipline that school provides and another full year of nursery could leave him bored and lacking stimulation.  Doodle’s nursery teachers agree with the last point.  Most important of all, we asked the boy himself what he wants.  

We still have concerns about whether he is emotionally ready but he has come on a lot in recent months.  While he does not appear to be as ‘academic’ as his sister, he is also making strides in this area.  Previously, he wouldn’t hold a pen or pencil but he is now drawing and making attempts to write.  The nursery staff have also been a big help with regards to this.

Outwith nursery, Doodle’s very much a typical boy.  He’s really into super heroes, Buzz Lightyear, dinosaurs, all the usual stuff.  He’s also likes Ben 10,  although some of the later episodes are a bit violent for our liking.  We used to play at being super heroes as well, but perhaps not surprisingly, Doodle found it difficult to differentiate between playing and fighting.  It started out with the two of us blasting out ‘laser beams’ from our hands but he was getting carried away and starting to hit.  We think cutting this out, along with some cartoons he wanted to watch, have helped his overall behaviour.

Doodle, like the rest of our kids, loves being outside.  He’s happy plodding about playing in mud and puddles.  His other favourite is a watering can, though he has to be reminded to pour its contents onto the grass, rather than the steps at our back door.

He’ll kick a ball around as well, though he’s in no way obsessed with football.  Well, not yet.

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The Changing Man

I believe becoming a parent changes everybody in some way.  Whether it’s in terms of attitude, personality, finances or even just the amount of spare time you have – the minute a kid arrives, life becomes very different.

In my case I would say all of the examples above apply to me, with my life being transformed over the past 5-6 years.

Let’s start with the day-to-day stuff.  I had a decent job, with good money, reasonable prospects and worked office hours.  Now, I work night-shift in a role that is very much a job – I don’t see any career in the offing but for the moment, that suits me fine.  I will go into more detail about my working life in a future post.

My wife isn’t working and we have four kids so, as I’ve talked about previously, money and time are impacted upon.  I’ve covered these issues before so I don’t want to repeat myself.  I’m boring enough the first time.

I now spend a lot more time at home.  When I’m not working, I want to be spending time with my kids, which means a social life goes out of the window.  This is in no way a complaint – I love it when we spend time together as a family, whether it’s a day trip somewhere, or just plodding around the house or garden.

Before I settled down, I used to spend a large part of my weekend out and about in the city centre, but now I wouldn’t even contemplate it.  While that’s partly down to my circumstances, it’s also because of the random acts of violence I hear and read about every week.  Incidents involving stabbing, slashing and other attacks are the norm and I would rather steer clear.  Such trouble is not new – it’s always gone on, it’s just that when I hear about it now, I feel I have too much to live for.  Why risk your safety in pubs or clubs full of boozed up nutters – I’m probably too old for half of these places anyway.  I also think ahead about 15 years when my lot will start venturing out to pubs and clubs.  It’s a worry, though obviously I have a wee while before the kids are going on nights-out.

Going out less has one clear benefit – I don’t drink nearly as much as I used to.  I like a beer now and again, and probably enjoy it more, but my ‘responsibilities’ and the hours I work mean 12 hour sessions on a Saturday are, perhaps fortunately, a thing of the past.

Other than drinking, most of my other previous social activities involved sport or exercise.  I played 5-a-sides twice a week, but stopped shortly before I got married.  No, I wasn’t under orders – some of the guys who played started to fall away and finding replacements was difficult.  When I wasn’t playing football, I could often be found watching it, with my season ticket costing over £500 per year.  You won’t be surprised to know that I’ve given that up.  It’s hard to justify an expense like that when you have four kids, regardless of how much you earn.

Since I rarely have the opportunity to sit in the pub talking about football, I now another means of expressing my point of view.  Guess what, I also have a football blog – it’s nearly as good as this one!!!

I grew up close to the city centre and also worked there, so driving was never high on my list of priorities.  Truth be told, I had a couple of lessons at 17 and hated it.  I was 30 by the time I passed my test.  I was motivated by two factors: since i now live out in the sticks public transport isn’t the best, and more importantly, I wanted to be able to take my kids out without relying on my wife every step of the way.  I had set myself the target of passing before Doodle was born and achieved my aim with 3 weeks to spare.

When it comes to personality traits, I feel that my concentration is not what it was.  Perhaps it’s because I’m not used to it, but when I sit down to read a book or watch a film, I find that I’m quickly distracted and rarely sit still for long.  I put that down to always being on my toes, never able to fully settle and ready to deal with whatever drama my kids create

I think (hope?) that the biggest change is that fatherhood has helped me to grow up a bit.  I’ve coped with the responsibility and enjoy being a dad.  In many ways, I’m completely unrecognisable to the person I was 5-10 years ago, but that’s not a bad thing.  Whether this means I’ve developed into a mature, sensible, adult, or I’m simply not as big a kid as I used to be, is debatable.

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