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



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.