The End of #dadtime Days…era closes on my last day of #sharedparentalleave. I’ll miss it.

I’m sat on the sofa, contemplating the day ahead. A day back at work, into the routine I’ve been in since I was 21. Except, it is different. I know that it is highly (astronomically) unlikely I’ll be in this situation again, potentially until I “retire” (ha, aka die on the job).

And it feels different to last time I went through this. Partly this is the experience of going back to a less ideal situation than before – I’m going back to the same job – its time for a new challenge, but haven’t got round to finding that yet…whereas last time I had something different lined up. But in large part its simply because this time has been different and somehow more, well, fun! I think partly that’s confidence, in terms of my parenting skills, but also the different personalities I’ve been dealing with. 

No.2 is just, well, delightful. She is fun, she wants to be the life and soul already, and is simply more….engaging than Junior was at this stage. Even though she is over 2 weeks younger than Junior was at this stage in the process. She has been happier to do things that don’t involve constant entertainment, and doesn’t need quite the same attention he did. Except when she tries to crawl up the stairs! 

Junior is still pretty hard work at times, as the “terrible twos” have been exactly that, but as a toddler he is starting to come into his own. His plain will to do things clearly has been and will be a major feature of his life, and he is really only now becoming able to put into practice the things this mighty willpower wants. As his potty training, eating, playing and socialising show, he is able to express and act in ways that help him make the world more how he wants it to be. A pattern that will continue, and he will only get better at. Gods help the world…

As I’ve mentioned, all parents of two+ told us that children are very different, and that these differences are obvious – but I simply didn’t believe how great and apparent they would be. I assumed that it would be small things – the age or order they did something, the food or toys they liked. But no, it is much, much more fundamental. I haven’t time now, but looking back at the personality projections I did for Junior, I think I was fairly well on the money, and can and will write the same for No.2. Using that really does show how different they are.

Anyway, as I say, this is the end of an era, and one I have enjoyed immensely. My relationship with both of them has developed. No.2 didn’t really know or care who I was before, but now I get nearly as much interest and attention as Mummy. Her smile and upstretched arms are the cutest thing on earth right now. And to Junior, while I am no Mummy, I think I became a bit more relevant, as we have got up to some fun stuff on our own, and I think I’ve helped him come to terms with No.2 a bit through my struggles to create times and activities that are clearly directed at one or the other. However as he’s now at the stage of forming memories that he will still have when he’s older, we’ll find out in a decade or two if all I’ve succeeded in doing is scarring him for life…

I’ll return later to what my key lessons are from this period, but my feelings at the moment are that 2 months on my own wasn’t long enough – unlike last time we never really got into a routine, because we didn’t need to. But this is really a minor thing, as overall I’m just so glad and grateful that I’ve got to do it. And that we all survived of course!


A Dad, toddler and baby walk into a hairdressers. Hysterics, phantom poo and a bowl-cut later, still no joke…

I have recorded a few low points and down days in my time off, but today we reached a new, I don’t know, tragi-comedic apogee today. It did start like a bad joke. And then it got worse. After a promising start I should have guessed it was going too well.

There is a hairdressers at the end of our road, called Juniors, that caters especially for children, with lots of toys and exceptionally patient staff, and it turns out a whole back room for parties. And my Junior and I (because they also do adults, and it’s easier to do it together) were booked in for my pre-return to work haircut.

No.2 didn’t have a good nights sleep last night, but had slept in later than normal, and seemed fine, right up until we were about to leave, but I thought I had some leeway, and anyway was trying to keep her going to an afternoon of settling in. Where nursery was going to try napping her (good luck, they’re going to need it…). So I sent Junior up to get his haircut first, while I played with No.2 to settle her, before I thought I could get mine done.

The first half of the plan went pretty well. Junior didn’t like the electric trimmer much, but had a good haircut, and looks much smarter. No.2 hadn’t settled as much as hoped, but was fairly quiet, and had enjoyed the dolls house (note for Grandad there…). So I got in the chair. First mistake, hubris. Who do I think I am leaving both children behind me? Fool.

No.2 then rejects the toys she’s been playing with and comes to hang off the hairdressing chair and is whinging about 5/10. Which is a lot for her. The hairdresser says she doesn’t mind her being on my lap. BIG mistake. I think it was the hair. She was rubbing it into her mouth and eyes, and this made her rub them more, etc. She goes up to about 8/10.

Junior, who until this point has been quietly playing, starts acting oddly – walking round and round the room. Didn’t think too much of it until this fella appeared:

Yes, the Phantom Poo. Junior uttered the dreaded words: “Daddy my need a poo”. I get up, showering hair everywhere to rush him to the lavatory in the back room. No.2 put on floor too unceremoniously, goes to 9/10. Get him to toilet, but as we didn’t have his special seat, no poo, but clearly desperately needs one. Hairdresser has picker No.2 up to try to calm her. She’s now at 10/10, and clearly going to stay there. Sit back down to try and finish haircut.

Now the next customers walk in. Great, an audience for Act 3. Or possibly guinea pigs for the sound weapon that No.2 now is. 

Junior now insists this time he will poo, get him there carrying No.2 really uncomfortably for both of us. Gets to 11/10. “It’s stuck” declares Junior. Back to the chair, tell the hairdresser just to finish it. At this point I actually look in the mirror, and realise she’s already completely removed my sideburns, which with amount of hair I have means it looks like a bowl cut. Nothing I can do by this point, so I get out as quick as I can. 

(NB There is some artistic licence in this statement, and Tracy did an amazing job in extremely challenging circumstances, and I will be more than happy to go back!  And I learnt how to get matted hair off skin – talcum powder.)

Obviously, the minute I take off the gown, No.2 goes quiet. As I write this, Junior is in bed calling for Mummy after a far longer nap than his younger sister had, and No.2 is covering the house in hair despite a complete change of clothes. 

And still no poo….good job I love them so much!

What a difference a 2nd baby makes – why #dadtime hasn’t been blogged as much on 2nd #sharedparentalleave

I’ve become conscious that this blog is starting to read like a bit of a good-pub-guide to East Surrey, with a couple of posts pending that feature a walk/cycle and a pub (though one of them was excellent). And I think there is a reason for that. Somehow, despite No.2 sleeping “better” (at least more predictably and with less walking) than Junior, I actually have less time to blog!

Part of this is obvious – it simply isn’t possible to do it when Junior is at home as well, especially as he no longer naps in daytime at all, except the odd catnap in the car on the way places. In addition, No.2’s consistency with me of only sleeping for 30 minutes simply isn’t long enough to really get into the swing of things – by the time I’ve decompressed slightly, if I start writing I have to stop long before I’ve finished. Which may indicate I’m writing too long posts, but it is catch-22 – the less I get to write the more I have to say!

The other impact, and why it’s become a pub guide, is that this means I don’t have the reflective time to write some of the more introspective posts as last time. And I think that is my main reflection on having a second child. You simply don’t have the time (at this stage) to be truly reflective, you have to be much more reactive and immediate. Which neither Mummy nor I find easy to sustain for long periods of time. It is also having an impact on Junior, and I think to some extent leading to his behaviour issues, although that is also the direct constraints on the time and quality of time we get to spend with him.

Needless to say this hasn’t been the only difference – one of the posts I WILL get round to writing is about how different the characters and interactions with the two are – every multiple parent warns you about how different they will be, but you don’t really believe them until you’ve got two and you see just how different two superficially similar crying-eating-pooing machines can be.

I just heard a rustle…break over!

The Nursery Conundrum – what makes a good nursery after #dadtime?

One of the things that has struck me since moving to Surrey is that Relatively unusually Junior has been in two different nursery settings, which has given us a breadth of comparison that most people don’t have – you pick a nursery at the starting stick with it, almost certainly for all your children. So herein some learning points from me. 

First thing to say is that both nursery school we’ve used have been good, and we have been happy helped Junior prosper and develop. But there are definite differences, and our current, Surrey nursery is definitely better. And I think it is that comparison which is interesting. 

I should declare a conflict/bias at this point – as I didn’t go to nursery, and my parents were rightly proud iof having been able to raise me and my siblings at home, I’ve been reluctant about nursery, although knowing that in the current economic cl mate, even for two pretty well paid parents we can’t afford to do anything else (despite the costs). 

The similarities: both are private, go from 9 months to 5, and have at least 3 “rooms” (age groupings). Both relatively large, but not massive – Wimbledon was about 40 places, and Merstham about 55, as it also has a term time-only room for 2+. 

What Should You Look For?

  1. Leadership. Wimbledon had a really good manager when we started, but she was overworked as she was expected to both education and admin. She left, and the vacuum was huge. They had difficulty filling the post, not their fault, but despite the owners’ best endeavours the nursery lost focus and drive. Merstham clearly had this from the very first time we viewed it, and they have strengthened with another leader since.
  2. Find out about staff turnover. Neither setting was bad, but again Wimbledon comes second. Mostly because of the greater choice of employers. Mind you I wouldn’t do their job, and they earn peanuts. Change is unsettling for kids and if you lose a key worker it is even harder. 
  3. Outside space is great. Merstham has the space outside as well as great equipment (slide, house, sandpit etc) that you can’t afford in Wimbledon. Junior is a ball of energy and this is great for him, and most boys. 
  4. Mixing of classes. Difficult to compare as Junior went from baby room to toddler room, and the babies don’t mix with the older kids in either, but again Merstham has the space to allow this in a way I don’t think Wimbledon could. And it’s important as it allows a wider range of interaction and friendships. As well as know Junior is nearly out of the toddler room for him not to have to nap.
  5. Look at the walls. These will give you an idea of how much activity is carried out in the classes, as opposed to less directed play. Wimbledon had an edge here initially but the additional leadership has moved things on in Merstham. You can also get other extracurricular activities. Junior did French in Wimbledon. Unsurprisingly doesn’t remember it now…
  6. Don’t ignore the admin. Neither is amazing at admin (except taking money), but this was a bit of a sign of the troubles at Wimbledon. You can quickly spot this from early engagement – take a long time to reply to queries? Ask some questions.  

As I said, neither was a bad choice, but with hindsight these are the questions and things I’d wish I’d known. And awake….

Bad day follows bad night – double #dadtime at its hardest.

A short account of yesterday, which was the counterpoint to the mostly successful and enjoyable days I’ve had so far on my own. But building on the sleep post I made yesterday, it was almost entirely caused by a bad period of sleeping. 

Junior has got a new routine, as he’s back in nursery 3 days a week, Mon-Weds, which he’s finding tiring. Coupled to this the general disruption of Mummy going to work, and a new intake of younger children into his class, and his sleep has for disrupted. Again. He’s been going to sleep earlier to bath with his sister (very cute),which means he’s waking up about 5am. And he doesn’t understand why everyone else isn’t up… Last night he then also woke up about 3am for a bit, before going back to sleep and waking up properly at 5.30am. Which resulted in a very grumpy family, No.2, Mummy and I all got woken up.

It being Thursday, we couldn’t hand the problem to nursery, so I was staring down the barrel of a very long day with two tired babies. And long it proved to be. 

By the time they both crashed out at about 10:30 No.2 had already fallen down the steps into the kitchen – no damage, but not nice for anyone and left me feeling really guilty as it happened when I was literally 2 feet away but too quickly to stop. Then I had to wake Junior up as it was time for the weekly Joe Jingles class, which meant he didn’t get enough sleep – and this was an exceptional time for him to sleep anyway. He’s mostly stopped napping, but when he does need one (every 4-5 days typically) it’s in the afternoon. So he was still grumpy. See if you can spot him in the below picture, this was how I found him after getting No.2 off to sleep!

We made it to Joe Jingles, but late as Junior wanted to do a poo after waking – which was 2 days after the last one, as although potty training is going well, he does wait a while between poos, so it takes a while to get it all out (grim, as know, but the internet doesn’t transmit the smells so you are spared that at least). 

While we had a pleasant lunch at the Pilots Hub at Redhill Aerodrome, when we got back Junior started talking about doing a poo again, and I foolishly ignored him, thinking there couldn’t be anything in there as we’ve never had more than one in 24 hours. No.2 and I sat in the garden while he went upstairs to get something – shortly after he runs off his head appears in his bedroom window, I thought waving and saying hello – he even started to read one of the books on his windowsill. But in fact what he was trying to communicate that he’d done a huge poo in his pants. Cue emergency shower with complete clothes change, and a crying No.2 while I ignored her to achieve this. 

The knock-on delay to dinner then that meant they were both so tired that they didn’t really want to eat, particularly Junior who is fussy at the best of times (although in fairness he did eat nearly 4 chipolatas, he refused everything else without tasting it). Safe to say I could not wait for Mummy to get home. Fortunately Southern Fail actually haven’t been too bad since she went back, so she was on time.

But we all survived with no harm done, and I have to remember I had a few rough days last time round too. But I was mostly left feeling guilty as it was all things I could/should have avoided. Oh well, Must Try Harder!

Note to self: get out more…although little choice from tomorrow! #dadtime times 2!

I think my main reflection on the couple of days I’ve done so far is that No.2 needs more external stimulation than I’ve been giving her so far. 

Looking back at posts from my time with Junior, I came across my amateur effort at trying to define some of his personality traits. I haven’t spent enough time with No.2 yet to comment on all of the same aspects, but there has always been one very clear difference between the two long those lines. While Junior does get his energy from outside, it very much comes from doing things and going places. Whereas No.2 has basically from birth been an entirely social animal. 

When I took her yesterday to the very nice West Central coffee shop in Redhill, she clearly was trying to join in the conversations of some of the ladies that lunch who were sat around us! Whenever anyone started talking,she’d immediately reorient to them and start babbling. It was very cute, but has underlined the fact that in a typical week Mummy was taking her to a class of some sort up almost every day. We do have Joe Jingles (another Gymboree-a-like) tomorrow, so that will help, but next week I must get organised and keep up the baby-signing, as well as some more local things such as rhyme-time at the library.

In addition to Joe Jingles, we will be driven out of the house anyway as Junior is at home tomorrow for the first time with me. He is in fine form at the moment…meaning his energy levels are very high, and we will need to find ways to burn at least some of it off! Given how keen he is to go back to “Grandad’s House” after the weekend (it’s very sweet, he keeps asking if we can drive there), I suppose we could walk the ~100 miles there!

A frantic finish to work and a quiet beginning to parental leave – but that’s unlikely to last all of #SPL…

My latest and last adventure in parental leave  started on Thursday. Frankly it was a massive blur. 

Leaving work was not as smooth or well planned as last time. I think the fact I am more confident about the childcare (I.e. Have no illusions about how hard it is going to be…), and being a parent already simply having less time to mentally prepare. This meant that I was working 100% right up until the last second. Not aided by various new joiners to my teams in my last few weeks, but mostly my own fault. 

If I were to do this again, what I’d do differently is mostly not try to cram as much as I have into the weeks preceding the start of SPL. Coming back after Xmas was a bad idea, although I didn’t have enough leave to do anything else. Also you don’t get much control over when the baby is born! It doesn’t help that I had been covering for 2 vacant team leader jobs for about 5 months. 

There is a key contrast with maternity leave here. It becomes very obvious when a woman is about to go on maternity leave, and good ol’ (inverse?) sexism means that as a man I’m going to be very cautious of overworking a woman in such a condition, and towards the end it usually gets pretty obvious when a woman is in such a condition!
Add to this having my phone stolen while on my leaving do, and my stress levels on Thursday were pretty astronomical. It wasn’t until Friday afternoon that the whole “not going to work, chill” vibe kicked in, with some help from Mum and kids. And it properly has now while I sit watching the NFL Divisional Championships safe in the knowledge that (a) I’m not going to work, and (b) it’s my turn for a lie in! 

Buts it’s not all fun and games – my first major goal for the joint time off is to decorate No.2’s bedroom – she’s not in it yet, as her sleeping doesn’t really warrant it, but we’d like to try settling her in it before the 9 month sleep regression hits (see what happened when Junior went through this. More to follow on sleep, obviously.) Looking forward to that one, obviously.