Sunday, 1 August 2010


Juggling being a dad with writing a blog, running a household and trying to write a novel isn't easy at the best of times, and I must admit I need to spend a month focusing any "spare" time on finishing the 3rd draft of my novel.

So in exchange for a quiet time blogging in August I will promise a sneak preview of the novel by the end of the year...

Now that my son is just two weeks from his first birthday, plans for his parties are well under way.  Also his record for number of steps he can walk unaided has shot up to 16 today - very fluid and we'll no doubt be running together very soon!

Now to dust off that Netbook...

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Double or Quits

Imagine you're just recovering from flu and eat out with your partner and one year old son to save time and energy.

Conjure the scenario where you have a discount card for 50% off that you both think the other has brought, and only discover this at the end of the meal.

It's a 10 minute walk home.  You are full and borderline ill.  Your partner can't run well and you could probably walk faster.

Do you jog home yourself, take your partner up on her offer or just settle for paying twice as much at the meal?

I chose to jog home - paying double would grate too much for that distance.  Plus no matter how much physical energy you save by sitting, being "on duty" with a restless little boy would be much more sapping, never mind the anger welling up with every second your partner would be dawdling.

Now where are those antibiotics?  And the indigestion tablets?

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

TV Programmes

Television is one thing parents develop strong strategies about.
It is easy to put violent or adult programmes in the "not while the kids are in the room" category, but what else should we consider?

On the positive side, there is a programme called Special People on one of the Sky Children's channels.  It includes a few sign language gestures every episode and is aimed at children with special needs.  However because of the signing accompanying simple phrases this is ideal for pre-verbal kids and children learning one or more language from birth.  I'm certainly trying it with my son.

Again for the multi-lingual attempts we have Dora the Explorer serving us Espagnol tapas.  Similarly there's now "Ni Hao Kai-lan" a young Chinese animation that drops in a few words of Mandarin each episode.

I really feel that there should be more of these cross-cultural programmes available - hopefully there soon will be!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

What Not to Believe

Being a new parent is a minefield of conflicting information, so how do you filter out some of the guidelines that maybe aren't quite so imperative?

1) Ask where advice or guidelines come from - does the source have a hidden agenda or slight bias?
2) Ask for how long the advice or guideline has been in place - some were read as "facts" during NCT lessons yet when I asked, they said that had only been their advice for 6 months!
3) Ask your parents - okay, the world has moved on, but still we did manage to survive on their neanderthal 20th Century flimflam!
4) Use your own judgement - tricky at first but learn to back your judgement, and each other.
5) Don't read too much, it will just create uncertainty - you will find a book or approach that is more suited to you and your baby - stick broadly to that.
6) Listen to other parents with an open mind but don't let their opinions knock your confidence - use them for ideas only, as they don't know your child anywhere near as well as you do - all babies are different!  (I've been in a room with my 1 month old boy and 7 experienced older mothers who all said they thought my boy was upset because he was too cold - I felt hot, I know my boy feels heat like I do, so I took him outside to cool down and he was fine in a few seconds - that did my confidence the power of good!)

Monday, 26 July 2010

An ice-cold learning point

We're not all perfect, we all make a few mistakes.
Arguably one of my early ones with my son was on a very hot day when he was clearly overheating  whether in our flat or outside in the breezeless shade.

I was alone with him for one of the first times but knew that intuitively that if his head was hot enough to fry an egg on, I needed to cool him down - and fast.

So amidst wailing and soothing and the usual one-armed filling of the mini-bath I poured out a cooling bath.  It refreshed me, at least, as I splashed it over my over-anxious forehead.
I forget exactly whether or not their was any hot water in the bath at all - suffice to say it would have suited only penguins and polar bears.

Now remember my goal was to reduce his temperature.  Remember that and evaluate accordingly.
I caressed my boy in my arms before plunging him into the icy depths.
For a wondrous second his wails abated; more accurately they paused while the shock shook the air from his lungs.  Amid deep breaths the crying returned and I realised he did not like it at all, but also that his temperature was dramatically reduced by the 5 second dunking.

It was a tricky dilemma but one I faced with courage - I dunked him again.

Some might say I should have re-run the bath with warmer water but realistically his wailing would have continued all that time.
Yes, he was invigorated as much by the second soaking as the first, and the sobbing did continue for a short while afterwards, but the dangerously high temperature had been returned to normal levels.
Unorthodox?  Yes.  Wrong - I'd like to think the jury's still out on that one...

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Man Flu

As I hinted at yesterday, I now have a full-blown case of "man-flu".

Symptoms: slight irritation of the throat, weakness of leg muscles and severe fatigue.

The former could just have been down to excessive readings of The Gruffalo or Tiddler to my son, spiced up with zany accents that strain my delicate vocal chords.  But even overdosing on Tyrozets like they were Smarties and gargling salt water hasn't helped much.

Granted my muscles in this state are comparable to most office workers' but when carrying a toddler and pushchair up and down flights of stairs all day you really feel it.

The latter completes the hat-trick and allows me to justifiable call all emergency lines, shuffle pitifully to the nearest shop for armloads of Lemsip, and fall asleep whenever released from childcare for 5 minutes by my wonderful wife.

Now I do feel feverish which reminds me to eat as much as possible - unlike the worst cliche I've ever heard: "Feed a cold: starve a fever."

That's advice that I heard a lot from many different sources in childhood.  Advice that could kill you!  Even at a very early age I thought it tricky advice to make use of: how on earth do I tell a cold from a fever?!

Only many years later did I hear an explanation that made any sense at all: that thecliche I'd heard was an oft mis-quoted one.  The real version is, allegedly: "Feed a cold to STAVE OFF a fever".  Well, that makes much more sense, doesn't it!

And people wonder why I am slightly suspicious or sceptical of common advice!  It's got to make sense people!

I'll quickly close with 5 signs that a careful observer might have realised I was ill today:
1) My hair had that immoveable patch of bedhead from not being subject to a morning shower
2) I took the lightweight Maclaren buggy out for my walk with my son today rather than the larger all-terrain one
3) My "five o'clock shadow", often more a two- or three-day shadow, completely blurs the borders of sideburns and stubble.
4) My shorts and t-shirt combo are just a little too optimistic for today's weather - perfect for yesterday's conditions and clearly the first items I could drag on today.
5) Stumbling slowly through the park, using my son's buggy as a zimmerframe, swigging a bumper bottle of Lucazade - sure, it might be no better than sugared water, but when I'm ill I'll take even psychological factors that might improve my health (it wasn't just me who received Lucazade as a child whenever he was ill, was it?)

So yes, man flu makes me not so much lazy as efficient, conserving energy better than any left-wing recycler (who is after all completely wasting their time, as our councils are too inefficient for effective recycling - would love to be proved wrong on that point).

Off to bed now - 7.30pm is the new midnight.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Dog Owners

Dog Owners is another of those categories that get maligned for the anti-social behaviour a small minority of its members. But knowing that, I still cannot help retain an underlying prejudice against the whole group.  Much like overtly patriotic England fans.  And religious zealots.

Today we were enjoying a quiet picnic with a couple of friends in a rare dog-free grassy enclosure.  There aren't many places to let my 11 month old crawl and walk freely without being terrorised by a beast twice his size, so I'm very fortunate to live so close to this one.

Just as one of my friends sits down, we each notice a fragrance.  An unpleasant fragrance.  Now because we are in company and have two toddlers present, nobody says anything initially.  I think it might be a passing "natural" smell and leave it to my wife to check our son's nappy if she sees fit (she is currently "in possession" so has full responsibility).  Our friends without children suspect each other of passing wind and look hopefully towards the two babies to subtly lay blame.  The other mum present checks her baby's nappy, which is spotless.  A mystery!

Not so.  The mum continues her search with her shoes and see the blatant imprint of dog poo browning the soles of her shoes.  Her shoes with improbably complex tread which, in all likelihood, will now contain dog poo hereafter.

Worse still.  As she rises she shows the imprint of her sole on the back of her thigh - cream trousers with a clear dog dirt tattoo almost certainly imprinting through onto flesh.  I am almost physically sick as I calmly pass her wet-wipes and nappy sacks to attempt a clean-up operation.

We've all done it, made that mysterious mis-step.  The worst are usually those you don't notice until spotted by a "friend" in a noisy way in a very public place - my favourite was always in a school classroom for ultimate humiliation.  But getting it on your legs as well - it just makes me hate.

Yes, hate.  A strong word.  And as I began, largely mis-directed at most dog-owners.  But I can't help it and I won't apologise for it.  Dog mess ruins people's day, it is potentially dangerous to the many children who are most likely to get smeared in it, and it is just plain anti-social!

Fines aren't a bad start for offenders, but does anyone actually get fined?  Who knows.  I'd love to see a "name and shame" section in local papers for such people who refuse to clean up their dog's poo.  For that matter, such a section really should be in evidence for many other so-called "petty" crimes.

Maybe then groups such as dog-owners won't be wrongly branded alongside the worst of their creed.  Not that I see that as a priority, but at least it would be justice.

I'm cutting off the dog-hating now but will assuredly resurrect it next time I step in something unfortunate...