Was a lad (easy). Now a dad to Daisy & Seth (less easy).


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The Wanderer Returns (Every Flippin’ Night)

It all started with a *THUD*.

This was probably two months ago when we moved Seth from a cot into a bed. I’m not sure what the opposite of taking to something ‘like a duck to water’ is, but whatever the phrase… that’s Seth and his new bed.

In fact, he just can’t seem to get his head around the basic idea of falling asleep there and actually staying in the thing until morning. Surely that’s a fairly simple enough concept to grasp?!

At first, the problem was understandable; Seth had been so used to rolling around in his sleep that it was inevitable he’d keep rolling out of his bed.

We’d hear the nightly *THUD* and would go and check on him, to be faced with a sight like this!

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The bed was low (so no damage done to the little fella) and he was totally disinterested by the whole thing, simply sleeping  through the debacle as we hoisted him back into his bed and tucked him in once more.

After a while, Seth got the hang of staying in his bed, but replaced his nightly ‘roll out’ with a much worse nocturnal habit…

WANDERING ˈwɒnd(ə)rɪŋ/ adjective the act of leaving one’s bed, travelling down the hallway and waking up ones parents at unthinkably selfish, hugely inconsiderate, horrifically-early hours of the morning.

(That’s the parental definition, not the Oxford English Dictionary!)

Everything you will read from here on in will leave you thinking ‘well Rich, you’ve kinda made a rod for your own back…’

I KNOW. Truly, I do.

The first night this happened we were fast asleep in bed. All of a sudden, from outside our room I heard someone breathing which was fairly disconcerting. Turns out it was our little bundle of joy(!), timidly peeking through the small gap in the door. Naturally we picked him up, plonked him back into bed and went back to sleep until the morning.

The next night… the same thing happened. It’s 2.15am and The Wanderer has returned. This time, he is less willing to go back into his bed.

My wife and I looked at each other; without exchanging a word we both knew exactly what the other was thinking.

‘First night is a one-off. Handle the second night badly and you’re screwed.’

I went to pick Seth up and he started crying. Daisy was asleep in the next room, if she woke up it would spell disaster. My wife took over instantly.

(I always know things are serious if my wife deems it necessary to cut me out of the parenting responsibilities!)

After ten minutes of remonstrating with him, Seth finally dropped off to sleep in his bed.

The next few days and weeks followed a pattern that – in hindsight – was obviously going to happen. Ten minutes turned to twenty minutes. Twenty minutes turned into thirty minutes. Thirty minutes turned into my wife lying in the bed with him until he dozed off.

And so the escalation continued.

After a while, Seth knew that if he came into our room at night and walked up to my side of the bed (which is nearest to the door) then he wouldn’t receive a warm welcome. Instead, he started tip-toeing past my side and walking to the far side of the room to go straight to my wife. The kid’s not stupid; he knows he’ll get far more sympathy from mummy than daddy.

One night, my wife was in such a deep sleep that he woke her up by manually lifting up one of her eyelids as she slept. Imagine having one eyelid gradually lifted up by a toddler whilst the other remained shut. My poor wife.

And things have got worse. Recently, because quite frankly we can’t be arsed getting out of bed anymore, he’s been coming into ours.

I’d say he’s in there at least every other night at the moment as you can see from the picture (taken at 3.35am).

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And he always seems to make his way over to MY side of the bed. I spend my nights squished up, hanging off the side of the mattress, clinging onto any remnants of duvet that might still be within grabbing distance, shivering my way through the deepest, darkest hours of the night until dawn. If I try to take him back to his room, he cries.

And, as always, we don’t want Daisy to wake up.

If you look at the picture, it’s his recklessly swung, outstretched arm that pushes me further into the abyss.

I’ve got to hand it to Seth; the kid is a GENIUS! He’s managed to negotiate his way into our bed whenever he wants. Not only that, it’s not just him. There’s an array of paraphernalia that accompanies him. Teddies, blankets, dummies… you name it. My wife and I are now separated from each other in our own marital bed by aisle 14 of Toys R Us!

I went for a coffee with my mum the other day and mentioned the situation. She responded with “I’m not sure it was a good idea to let him stay in your bed that first time”.

Thanks mum. Super-helpful.

And when I do manage to get into the bed and try to nod off, I have about an inch of air between the two of us.

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If the close proximity between us doesn’t make it difficult enough to drop off, then the constant sniffling, snuffling, spluttering and shuffling guarantees that I’m in for a shocking night’s sleep.

However, there’s a sort of catch to this situation. As angry as I get and as claustrophobic as I feel, every so often he rolls towards me and that loose arm of his (that bugs me so much) falls onto my chest and instinctively he snuggles up to his old man.

It’s the best. I instantly forgive him. And every time he hops into our bed, I secretly hope we’ll have that special moment together.

I know eventually he’ll grow out of this phase, as he has with every other phase he’s been through, and although it will mean a swift return to unbroken spread-yourself-like-a-starfish-in-the-bed sleeping… I’ll miss those cuddles.

What a soppy sod I’ve become…

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Let’s Hear It For The Boys

At the start of this weekend, something truly remarkable happened.

It’s not the first time it has occurred, but this kind of thing is infrequent, at best. Like when there is a solar eclipse; just because you see it once doesn’t mean you should expect to see the same thing the following day.

The event in question took place on Friday morning at the playgroup I take Seth to every week. The age of the kids is mixed, so there are babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers there. One of Seth’s little pals goes and they seem to have good fun.

We arrived a few minutes after 10 (when the group starts) and I looked around the room to see the familiar faces, both kids and adults, who regularly come.

Seth Starbucks

As I scanned the room, something didn’t quite seem right. Something was different; there was a radical new look to the landscape I could see before me.

I didn’t actually know how to react to the strange sight before me. I always knew there was a chance that this might happen but it didn’t make it any less shocking.

In front of my very eyes – which I’d vigorously rubbed to check I wasn’t imagining it – stood… another DAD.

Yes.

A real life dad.

This made no sense to me. In the nearly five years of being a parent, and the countless number of playgroups I have taken Daisy & Seth to, so rarely have I ever seen another dad. It’s always been mums, without fail.

Now, the issue of being the only dad in a playgroup full of mums proves problematic in its own right as I blogged about in MFZ: The Man Free Zone.

You are the odd one out. The black sheep in the playgroup field. Not only do you feel a bit awkward, you also know that the mums feel they have to slightly modify their conversations so you don’t feel too awkward.

Quite frankly, the majority of mums – if they had their own way, and not through any malice – would find it easier if you were female.

But this was a totally different experience.

Once the shock had dissipated from my facial expression, I gathered my composure and glanced over towards the other dad.

I smiled.

(It was like the awkward glance Hugh Grant would give for the first time to his unsuspecting love-interest in a below-par chick flick.)

He smiled back.

My instinctive reaction was to rush over and blurt out how excited I was that I might get to have a conversation with another human being which didn’t involve talking about kids. I thought better of it, and decided to play it cool. No one wants to be the one to come on too strong.

So instead, I made myself a cup of tea whilst firing over the odd glance to check he was still interested in some sort of liaison. And it seemed like he was.

It suddenly occurred to me that I was indulging in a spot of flirting; something I hadn’t really done since I met my wife, 13 years ago. Although, in a way, this seemed more important. If my flirting with her hadn’t worked back in 2002, I could have always moved onto another woman.

If I lost this guy, there might not be another fella on the horizon for months…

Eventually, after what felt like hours of mild flirtation (it was probably around 3 minutes), our paths crossed in the middle of the room.

“Hi, I’m Rich”.

“Hi, I’m Lee”.

Strong start.

Of course the blaring irony here is that when you go to a playgroup as the only dad in a world of mums, the one thing that connects you together is parenthood. So naturally, the conversation centres on that subject.

Here we were though, two dads, kindred spirits, united against all the odds, and what did we talk about…?

KIDS!

The conversation wasn’t (as I’d imagined it would be) drastically different from all the other chats I’ve had over the last few years with hundreds of mums. There was the odd mention of football, daddy day care and the housing market(!) but that was about it.

One thing I did find out is that this was a one-off for him. His wife was working so he was in charge of the kids for the day.

There was to be no second date.

This casual affair had ended as quickly as it had begun.

So next week it will be back to being ‘one of the girls’ and smiling and nodding at the tales of motherhood.

But for one day… if only one day…

I had Lee.