Pants party

Pants party

So, those of you that follow my Instagram @gavfitzsahd might well have seen ‘high’ lights of my weekend alone without the children. These included, but weren’t limited to, watching Breakfast Club, in my pants (as in ‘briefs’, or ‘Calvins’ to my American readers); drinking coffee whilst it’s still warm, in my pants; dancing around the kitchen to MY music without my demanding dictator/choreographer shouting at me, in my pants; playing the guitar undisturbed, in my pants; drinking Jim Beam, in my pants; and going to the gym. But not in my pants. They wouldn’t let me.

By 1pm on Saturday I realised I hadn’t yet spoken to anyone. I hadn’t been nagged or shouted at either so I thought, on balance, everything was AOK. By 5pm, post gym, supper eaten, in my pants, and ready to watch a box set of Peaky Blinders, I realised I missed my family something awful. This was compounded by a FaceTime conversation with Moo where she was screaming that she “WANTS MY DADDY!!!!”. Yes. I felt like shit.

Sunday started with pretty much more of the same. Except I added a dressing gown. I did more dancing around the kitchen. Some cooking. Some TV watching. Some fixing my guitar. Just, stuff really. The sort of thing I usually do with Moo around. Except I’d be wearing more than just my pants. She wouldn’t though. Of course not, she’d be naked. Always naked.

Another gym session. More Peaky Blinders. And then they all came home around 9pm.

It was here that I thought I’d be greeted with smiles, cuddles and unbridled love. Ha. How easily you forget Gavin. No. Moo was pissed at me and remained so right through the next morning when I was rushing around doing breakfast and sorting the dogs and her stuff for nursery and my stuff for the gym. Then, suddenly, she gets down from her chair at the table and say’s, “My Daddy!” and gives me the biggest cuddle ever. Once we got to nursery she was like a barnacle; but with better hair.

We’ve been rolling around the floor most of the afternoon and she has insisted on wearing a dress she grew out of 6 months ago and choreographing my dancing to the Moana soundtrack. The boy has been in my arms throughout and is very reluctant to be put down. It’s a bit like we’re a set of Matroyshka Dolls really.

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What did I learn from the weekend? That I love my own company. That it’s important for my sanity and my ability to not lose my fucking sense of humour to remember to take some time for myself when shit is hitting the fan with the kids. We all need that space to remember ourselves, of course. It just took me two years to realise… We could also translate this as – “I’m in a better mood if I’m alone and dancing in my pants whilst drinking whiskey…”. But that just sounds weird!

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Adult Time

Adult Time

It seemed like a good idea. Give it a title; separate it from the day to day things. “Adult Time”. Yeah. That’ll make sense to a 2 1/2 year old.

“No sweetheart, you have to go to bed now because it’s ‘Adult Time’…”

Cue the moment where I was expecting a gentle sigh, followed by her utter capitulation and realisation that, of course, Daddy is right. Daddy is ALWAYS right…

“But, what’s adult time exactly Daddy?”

Dammit. The fatal flaw when explaining anything to a toddler is not having a shit tonne of secondary explanations lying around to fend off the ‘Whys’. Imagine being an over ambitious Rambo trapped in the Vietcong hills, armed to the bandana, taking on a 1000 foes. I should be Rambo. My foes are the relentless questions. However my nap sack is devoid of kalashnikovs and the ‘whys’ are swarming the Hill!

“Well, it’s a moment, or a period of time when, well, we, that’s me and your Mother and, I guess, other adults too, when we… you know, we want to read, or watch TV and…”

Ya see, what I really wanna say is: I love you Moo but I bloody need a break and a glass of wine and not to listen to the Highway Rat song and not to be nagged and to eat MY supper without YOU stealing it and to listen to music that has more interesting lyrics than some witch who can’t fit a fucking Dragon on her broom and not to watch cocking Paw Patrol (yes I know it’s a Skye one. I hate her fake laugh)and perhaps even to sit on the loo and read the news or even watch some comedy videos on youtube and perhaps EVEN wipe my bum undisturbed…

But I’m pretty sure of two things about saying that –

1. It’s not very nice

2. Each bit would only be met with more ‘Whys’

So, in keeping with her surefire talent of Jedi-ism, she manages to once again turn shit around and get me to do her bidding –

“So adult time is time with you and Mummy reading books and watching TV? Can I come? Please, please pleeeeasssse????”

“Errrrr, well….”

Cue cute little puppy dog eyes…

“OK Moo. Come on then”

 

Oh, bugger

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The Last Word…

The Last Word…

It’s a familiar scene. You’ve probably even witnessed it today if you’ve been on the tube or train or bus; especially if you’re anywhere near Waterloo… Two people arguing, one trying to remain calm, the other just shouting and getting louder as if volume is the winning point to all disagreements; both desperately trying to get that final word in and, yes,     WIN!     Until, eventually, Mr Slightly-More-Calm explodes too and the whole thing deteriorates into a flurry of ill-chosen insults that make playground teasing look like two old dears gently quarrelling over a game of Bridge:

“ARRRRGGGGHHHH, YOU KNOW YOU BASHED INTO ME YOU STUPID SPUNK PUDDING!”

“YEAH, WELL, FUCK YOU… YOU… YOU… BABOON’S TURD!”

It’s fair to assume that outside of this argument those two people – we’ll call them Mr Lycra Cyclist and Mr Phone Starer (I don’t know why… it just feels appropriate…) are more than likely, in their everyday lives, absolutely lovely, family adoring, funny chaps who will, once the whole thing is over, hang their head in shame and embarrassment (well, Mr Lycra Cyclist probably won’t. But you get my point) and pray that no one caught the whole thing on their phone to post on Social Media with the likely tag – Two strangers go at it hammer and tongs and not in a sexy kinky way.

You see, even the most rational of people can sometimes lose it and find themselves behaving in a manner that they would ordinarily deem beneath them. We all lose our shit sometimes. Never more so than when you have a toddler. Today for example I have been screamed at, slapped, and closed-fist punched (which, by the way I had to stop myself from saying “well done” as it was the most impressive thing and makes me excited for her MMA future). This is even worse when you understand that I had only just come back from having an X Ray at the hospital and hadn’t even said anything yet. Apparently, having Mummy not let you have any elderflower cordial is reason enough to kick the shit out of Daddy – Hit Girl style

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I love her warrior spirit. But the bruises are starting to show…

 

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It’s easy to understand why she lost it like this. And to be honest it’s one of only a few times she’s done it. One of the others being in Waitrose when I wouldn’t buy her a Cbeebies magazine. I just smiled at her through it all until the check out lady intervened by saying, “perhaps you should just get her one?” to which Moo, quite brilliantly said, with palms turned upwards, head tilted and a shrug of the shoulders, “you see Daddy? Told you”.

I didn’t cave in though, you’ll be impressed to know. Instead I took her to a coffee shop and when she’d calmed down a bit she convinced me to buy her a Paw Patrol toy…

She’s a fucking Jedi!

No, it’s easy to understand really as she’s a bright girl with a lot of language and huge amounts of emotions coursing through her which she has no way of understanding yet. She’s also had to deal with M.o.M going back to work this week and a new found inability to sleep. Which, by the way, is so unbelievably fucking rude of her.

99% of the time she’s the most gentle 2 and 1/2 year old who shows massive amounts of empathy and awareness.

How do I handle the bad angry Moo though? Up until recently – bloody terribly. We’re as thick as thieves me and Moo and so when we’re good with each other all is right with the world, but when it goes awry there’s a dark, grumpy cloud that sits over us and affects all who come near us. I have screamed as loud as her. I have slammed doors too. I have shouted and tried to have the last word which usually ends up with me getting ridiculously tongue tied as I try in vain NOT to swear.

However, since M.o.M has gone back to work I have found myself having to find new ways of handling her and even more importantly – ME. I don’t know why but being alone with both the children has pushed me into a place of calm. I guess it helps that I am a control freak and that being alone actually frees me up to run things my way. So that makes me calmer. But, just holding her, repeatedly asking her to breathe deep and telling her I love her over and over again, works. Every time. If she lashes out? I  gently put her down and stand back. Within a short few seconds she will want to be picked up and then she will bury her head into me and apologise through her tired, snotty nosed sobs. It’s hard. Really hard. But it works for us.

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Moo’s idea to help stop the shouting was, and this is no word of a lie, if I shout I have to go outside and be chased by the Big Bad Mouse from the Gruffalo’s Child, and if SHE shouts she will be eaten by the Dragon from the Room on the Broom! Oh the temptation to threaten her with this…

So to link to my first point about Mr Cyclist and his battle with Mr Phone Starer. I guess perhaps they should just hold each other and breathe deep and tell each other they love each other… Mmmmm maybe not. Maybe’s it’s more about just developing a sense of calm, even when under vicious attack, all the while knowing that, ultimately, even the smallest person in our lives has emotions and worries that, to them at least, are absolutely huge; and they need our understanding and guidance to work through them.

PS If you’re wondering why I haven’t written about the boy yet, well, he’s basically just a bundle of smiles who is happy when his sister is singing at him and is, so far, the tranquil sea sitting amongst the dribbly Tempest that is Moo and me

We’ll see how that develops over the coming months…

 

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Relinquishing control…

So this week I was asked to contribute a blog to the fantastic site You the Daddy

My chosen topic this week is of the struggle I am having with letting go of the day to day tasks now that my wife is on maternity leave. That, and the dawning realisation that her maternity leave is not my excuse to stay up late watching box sets and shooting zombies on my PlayStation… Arse biscuits 

Anyway, here’s the link: Relinquishing control…

A never stay at home Dad

So I started on my ‘stay ay home Dad’ quest; with my noble dachshund steeds and my trusty companion Sancho Moo-za, back in September of 2015. I wasn’t nervous about having so many full time care responsibilities. Not at all. I wasn’t worried about how I would cope, or how I would keep us both fed and watered. I was only initially worried about the noise from our upstairs neighbours who were doing extensive building works at the time and so the banging and crashing was unbelievable! This meant it was impossible for any nap times to happen in the flat. Routine? HA! I laugh at the idea. Stay at home? I wish! I was very much a NEVER stay at home Dad. Oh for day time TV. Oh for time to prepare supper. OH FOR A MOMENT TO NOT WALK! Moo, the dogs and I embarked on more rainy walks than Bear Grylls. Except we didn’t have the luxury of sneaking off to some swanky hotel when it all got an ickle bit too much little Bear Bear*

One place we decided we could head to and that was dry, was one of the local Playgroups. The one we chose (because it happened to fall on a Tuesday and the day I thought about going was a Tuesday. Judicious use of planning as always Gavin), was connected to the local church – the Church that appears in the Omen no less. The bit when the spike falls off the roof and spears the Priest. Not foreboding at all. Not. At. All…

With hope in our hearts and a merry skip we made our way to the Playgroup; ever watchful up at the roof for any loose spikes that might impale us. With the mere crossing of palms with gold (£3 actually) with the door lady, and the filling out of forms, I de-clothed Moo of her winter garb and took a deep breath…

I was terrified of this whole adventure if I’m honest. Scared like a boy in shorts at his first day at school. I have danced in front of thousands. Sang and played guitar in front of audiences from London to Canada to Japan and back again. I’ve appeared on live TV, done stand up comedy and I’ve even taken my driving test three times (the first two were failures totally to do with the instructor. They had it in for me I tell you. IN FOR ME!), but entering into that room full of Mums and Nannies was the single most excruciating experience of my life.

Why so frightening you might ask. Well dear reader, because of 2 reasons I guess –

1. I truly believed there was some ‘club’ that only Mums are allowed into and they were going to treat me with hostility and contempt

2. I quickly realised my flies were partially undone and I daren’t put my hand down there but leaving them open was even worse and what if everyone thinks I’m a weirdo and… Oh God

I sat down on the rug and shrugged my shoulders at Moo who just looked at me with, I swear, pity, and I sneakily did up my fly. Moo crawled off to point and shout at inanimate objects and I was left alone. All alone. Alone as the deep blue sea. I’ve seen comedians die on stage. Actors corpse. Dancers fall (that last one was mainly me by the way). But I swear the intense spotlight that I felt on me right then made all those other terrifying instances look like fun. With a dozen pairs of eyes on me I felt I had to do something. So without a care for the environment I decided to change Moo even though she didn’t need it. Anything to give myself some distraction. Poor girl. How confusing. Sorry little one.

Back in the play room area I sat her down and found myself back to square one. Then. Out of nowhere, a lady Mum type person came up to me.

“Would you like a cup of coffee? We have fresh stuff over by the sink area” she said with a smile

“Oh, ye ye yess please. I’ll I’ll just go and make it” I stuttered

“No don’t worry” she continued, “How do you take it?”

After a cup of coffee and a biscuit I began chatting to this lady. She was so welcoming. She gave me a list of family activities to try out. Some handy advice about trying all the ‘free trial’ ones as there were many. Introduced me to some other people at the playgroup. Asked me lots of questions. Generally made me feel much more at ease.

“A stay at home Dad hey? Wow. What a lucky girl your daughter is!” she stated. I hadn’t considered that before.

“Listen. I have to go over and sort out something with my child who appears to be eating crayons. Just help yourself to anything you need.” she said. “Oh, and by the way; your flies are undone”

10 minutes later and my prejudices had evaporated. These ladies that I was speaking to were courageous, strong, funny people trying their very best to be parents and give their children the absolute best care and attention that they could. I was so moved by so many of them. Yes there were the more painful ones. The ones that like to compare kids. The ones that like to quote parenting books and tell you how wonderful everything is. But when you consider that, more than likely they are just as scared as the rest of us and just desperately trying to get it right; a concept so ever changing, a notion so frequently far beyond reach; when you understand that, then you realise they just need you to listen to them as much as you need someone to listen to you.

It can be so all consuming this parenting lark. So lonely. No matter how you find your sanctuary, your place to feel calm and breathe, you must let yourself be there. You don’t need dozens of friends and voices of advice. You just need a few good people around you, there to show you a friendly smile and to share part of your journey

Oh. One more thing. I found making sausage rolls and cakes and taking them along to playgroup really helps with making everything run a little.. err… easier. Especially if you lace the cake with calvados

* http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1558242/Bear-Grylls-faked-Channel-4s-Born-Survivor.html

 

An Instagram moment

Today has been an Instagram day. A Facebook montage. A Twitter status update of a perfect moment. If you could feel how I am feeling right now it would be encapsulated in a neat oh-my-isn’t-his-life-just-oh-so-perfect-and-look-there’s-a-picture-of-his-food-and-yes-there’s-a-selfie-at-the-gym-and-his-wife-is-amazing-and-his-child-glowing-and-perfect-and-I-wanna-be-him picture with a short, maple syrup sweet, smugalicious comment. Let me tell you about my enviable, perfect West London existence.

Moo woke up extra early. Brilliant. Most of her morning milk went on the sofa. The black sofa. The one with the wool throw on. Mmmm that smells nice. Albert (dachshund Number 1) decided to be sick. A lot. He’s eaten something bad. For a while I thought he’d eaten Hector (dachshund Number 2) but HE had just been hiding under our bed for longer as he is in a sulk about yesterdays visit to the Vets. Blame Mum! She took you.

Skip forward to my visit to the gym and Moo’s visit to the creche. It started idyllic enough as she was actually asleep when we arrived. By the time I had come down from my session where I had basically spent most of my time feeling old. And stiff. And weak. And tired. Fuck I’m tired. There she was, in the creche lady’s arms; screaming like I have not heard her scream since she first flew out of her Mum’s Bajingo. There was also a small 7 month old there who was screaming too, so I just assumed that he must have set her off…

I took Moo from the creche lady who has 3 missing teeth and as many piercings that would ensure that, if all else fails, we can use her as a curtain, and calmed her down. In between sobs and blowing kisses (just a bizarre combination. Like a ludicrously over dramatic 1920’s film heroine), I eventually got her quiet (despite Captain Jacquie Sparrow scaring the shit out of her…) Enter stage right: father of the 7 month old, wife in tow, all sweaty from mid post-babyweight squat session (that’s him by the way; she looked as fresh as a daisy) –

“What happened?” daisy fresh said.

“Oh some other child was crying and it just set him off” said BMW driving sweaty man.

Now. You can hear that sentence two ways. A statement of events delivered in a matter of fact way by a nice man. Or, an attack on my family as if he is some Albanian terrorist and I am Liam Neeson hunting down my daughter’s kidnappers. Guess which version I took to heart? “But what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you…”

I got her home. Fed her sardines on toast. Which the floor ate. Let her sleep for a couple of hours and then took her to the Garage where our car was being serviced. £1300 later, (which if you’re reading this in Europe is 43,000 Euros and equates to no 40th birthday present for me. Or even Moo in 39 years time) and then took her to the park. She was then pushed over by one of ‘those’ children and she landed on the black flooring stuff with the hexagonal holes in it with a thud. She now has a red hexagon mark on her forehead. She looks like she’s been branded like a cow. Good job I call her Moo I guess.

After a brief sojourn to Sainsbury’s to buy her a bucket and spade – I know right! We live in hope for good weather. We live in hope. We got home and fed the floor the delicious supper of lamb tagine that had spent the whole day bubbling in a slow cooker, to then have a tearful bath and a war over teeth brushing that makes the Syrian conflict look like a gentle game of Bridge.

She’s asleep now… All quiet and peaceful. It’s hard sometimes to look at her like that and remember all the frenetic energy of discovery that is her every waking moment. My God though, she can really surprise me sometimes. For instance, just  before I put her into her cot, she walked back into the kitchen because she had decided that the dogs needed one more gentle, loving hug. Walking away from them and getting to the doorway she turned once more, and blew one more flamboyant kiss back in their direction. Giggling, she then reached up to me to be picked up and put in her cot. It was time for sleep.

There are no real Facebook moments. How can you encapsulate your true life in a status update? A photo? A blog? You can’t. We all know that. I will never truly moan about my daughter. (God we really are lucky and it would be completely wrong of me to forget that, ever). No, I will only despair at the world around her and my inability to manage sometimes. The true wonder of my day was when, just before I put her down, Moo reached up, squeezed my cheeks and planted the sweetest kiss on my lips. She then turned over, put her bum in the air and leaned forward in her child pose sleep position. Just before I turned out her light I wistfully looked at her, with love oozing out of every inch of my very soul. I genuinely breathed a sigh of thanks to whoever I should thank for those moments.

Then she farted. Legend.