Sat in the Boathouse pub in Putney (good for a glass and gleaming steel structure, best river view not in Wetherspoons) watching the crews practising for the Head of the River races this weekend. This being about as close to actually sitting by the Thames it is possible to get anymore, something to thank modern embankment builders for, this seems like a fitting moment to reflect on the last 2 weeks. Two weeks which will stick in my memory forever, for all the best reasons, and the odd slightly less positive!
I knew that this wasn't going to be easy, and definitely not a holiday. What I hadn't fully thought through was how having to use a completely new feeding method was going to add difficulty. We're still nowhere near figured out how to get enough food into him, and this is having impacts on all of us (including Mum). I reckon it's added about 15% (time, complexity and effort) to doing things over Mum. Before I started I thought I could imagine what it was like to be at home with him full time when he was younger. But I'm dealing with Junior at a stage where he is able to amuse himself for at least some of the time. As a result my respect for the job done by Mum has gone up even higher. Amuse himself like now, where we're playing a game of fetch – he crawls off and I go fetch him when he goes too far…
So what are the big things I've learnt? Here they are:
Lesson the First – Sleep is your Friend. Junior is the non-sleeping type of baby (there appear to be the 2 sub-types. For reference, Junior typically naps for 1 1/2 to 2 hours a day). I knew this before I took over. But until this week I didn't fully understand why it was so important to get him his naps. On Tuesday Junior had only had about 45 minutes nap, in the morning. When Mum returned I'm not sure she could tell which one of us was more tired and distraught. I think it was me, because I can't just sit their and cry. Or at least not if Junior's got there first. Lesson learned the hard way.
Lesson the Second – Play is really fun! We've done a few things in the past fortnight that he hasn't done before – art (finger painting), mountaineering (climbing on cushions) and experienced different viewpoints and gravity (backpack carrier and stuck things to the floor and got him to pick them up). All ideas off the internet, obviously. He might not always be smiling, but the pleasure he has in trying new things is evident from the serious look of concentration on his face. We even had a hello wave going for a few hours!
Lesson the Third – Little boys really do miss their mummy. While he is more than happy with me, and doesn't mind when Mum heads out the door (except for a couple of days where he'd hold her leg for the preceding 5 minutes then be right as rain once she'd actually left) the smile on his face when Mum comes throught the door is defintely wider than the one I used to get….
Lesson the Fourth – Dads do stand out. It is definitely still unusual to be a dad at home and I don't think this stereotype will go away quickly. “Mother and baby” is used to describe everything. You get some friendly and….lets go with sympathetic looks mostly from older women.
Lesson the Fifth – Other dads aren't like Morris Minor drivers. I used to drive a Minor, and you would always wave at any other Minor you saw on the road because (a) it's always good to see another one and (b) you both understand it might all go wrong at any moment and need help. Barring the guys at Dads and Littluns, when walking past other a Dads, even if they're not full-time, I expected a bit more engagement. Rarely even a smile.
Lesson the Sixth – You really can't do things you want when you want. For instance I'm now trying to finish this post at home, before Mum gets home, as we didn't last long enough in the pub.
Here endeth the lessons. But not the fun – in summary its been amazing. In 2 weeks I feel like I've got to know Junior better than ever before – I better understand his moods, even if I'm still not sure what to do about them. I think I've seen him develop based on things I've taught or encouraged him to do. We've been lots of places and done stuff that some/many/most dads don't get to share with their kids.
Let's see what happens in the next 2 1/2 months!