Posted in I'm the Daddy

Hoochie Coochie Man

In case I haven’t made enough of a fuss or some of you forgot, I turned 40 last year. It happened and I was fine. One of the many things my lovely wife did for me was to make a slide show of photos from when I was a child with more recent ones of me and George. The sound track was ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ by Muddy Waters because I sang it to George when he was in hospital, particularly the line ‘a gypsy woman told my Papa/before I was born/you got a boy child coming/he’s gonna be a son of a gun’.

DJ GeorgeShe was pleased that I loved her choice of music as she had found finding a good song about being a Dad really hard. Her second choice was ‘Father and Son’ by Cat Stevens which a great song but is about a troubled relationship not a happy one. I started to realise I couldn’t think of any positive songs about being a Father or tributes to a much loved Dad. The first tunes that popped into my head were ‘Papa was a rolling stone’ (womanising thief), ‘Papa don’t preach’ (over bearing authority figure) and ‘Coward of the county’ (starts with Dad dying in prison and gets worse).

Finally, the first verse of ‘Kinky Afro’ by the Happy Mondays jumped into my head which has to be the lowest point.

Son I’m 30
I only went with your Mother cos she’s dirty
And I don’t have a decent bone in me
What you get is just what see, yeah

Where do we go from here? I need you, the people of the internet, to help me compile a playlist of songs about Dads. There must be some great tunes out there that I haven’t thought of. Post your suggestions in the comments below or tweet me your suggestions.

I’m relying on you.

Advertisements
Posted in I'm the Daddy

You’ve Come a Long Way Baby

This month I passed my one year blogging anniversary or blogiversary if you will. So yay for me! I have been wondering about how I should mark this occasion as nothing seems appropriate. My first thought was to write about what I have learnt about blogging so far, but to be frank, my insights would not be particularly revealing. I may have found my groove but I doubt I have much of interest to share with the world.

I read through my first few posts, laughed at the memory of those early days and thought about how much had changed. It was only after reading an article on twitter that I remembered that my first post was written before I started this blog. It was titled ‘We are not always the boobs . . . . . and that’s OK too’ and appeared on a site called ‘We are the Dads’. I wrote it after reading my first experience of well-meaning but ill thought out (and since deleted) comments about the benefits of breast feeding. Lactation may be beyond me but I remember how defensive and angry I felt at the time. It felt like a personal attack on my little family.

It is more than a year on and I have read similar comments, countless times while watching the debate rage away on the internet. Thankfully most people have a ‘live and let live’ approach and want to support all parents but the blinkered views never really go away. I wish I could wipe away the guilt my beautiful wife still feels about having to stop breast feeding as easily as the zealots make claims that ‘all you need is better support and education’. As I said in my original post ‘anything that makes her feel like she isn’t the most amazing Mum in the world should be vigorously rejected’.

All of this is taking my train of thought away from what I actually want to talk about as this isn’t really about me. We all know who the star of the show is, the reason why this blog exists and my number one obsession; it’s George. In the year I have been writing he has put his shaky start behind him and grown into the noisy, funny, caring, perpetual motion toddler I love with all my heart. I can’t begin to catalogue all he has learnt in the year I have been blogging but it certainly puts my development to shame. So this is for George, Daddy loves you little boy x

George on the beach

Posted in I'm the Daddy, Sport & Fitness

A Bicycle Made for Two

This weekend we passed another milestone with George, our first family bike ride. After inspiration from a post on the Babberblog and a few twitter chats I bought a Yepp Mini for my mountain bike. We took advantage of the sunshine on Friday afternoon and went for our first ride together. George loved being at the front where he could see what was going on and got very excited when his Mama cycled alongside us so he could shout and wave at her. From his vantage point he could easily spot the horses in the field we rode past although I think he was shouting ‘dog’ at them. I loved having George so close to me and he seemed to like stroking my leg as we rode along. I hope this was the first of many family outings.

This isn’t a sponsored post but if anyone is considering getting the same bike seat or similar then I would happily recommend it. When you put it on your bike it doesn’t look like you will have any room at all but it is very deceptive and George was lower down than I expected, almost like he was in my lap. I was also concerned about banging my knees or having to ride bow legged but that isn’t a problem either. I did have to keep my knees further apart than usual but it wasn’t uncomfortable at all. The only annoyance about buying this seat is that is designed for Dutch style bike with a long stem. I have a more modern mountain bike and need to buy a separate adapter which had to be ordered separately and took two weeks to arrive.

I hope this post inspires a few more parents to venture out their bikes and pass on the love of cycling to the next generation.

Bicycle made for two

Posted in I'm the Daddy

Man Bags and Dad Rags

Dad fashion. What’s that all about then? There seem to be plenty of blogs dedicated to style for Mums but no one wants to talk about what Dad is wearing. We seem destined to wander blindly around shops without guidance, ignored by the fashion industry and mocked by the media.

It gets worse. As this excellent post on ‘Diary of the Dad’ points out, we live with tiny little style icons that have the clothes and attitude to outshine us whatever we do. A friend of mine has his t-shirts selected by his 2 year old daughter before he is allowed to put them on; he is on a slippery slope. So what’s the answer?

If you were to believe a post I read on ‘The Simple Dad’ the answer is to try not to be embarrassing. I always thought that embarrassing your teenage offspring was one of the perks of being a Dad so I have no intentions following that rule. The author goes on to list a series of tips that I could never agree with.

Don’t Wear Clothes Out Of Your Age Group – What does this mean? As I am no longer a toddler I don’t have handy age ranges on the label of my clothes and I’ve never seen a ‘going on 40’ range in any shop.  Who wants to be pigeon holed like this?

Dress Neat and Slick – Why? I’m not at work. Don’t I get to chill out now and then? I don’t like dressing smart and I don’t think it really suits me anyway. My style is casual and it’s not going to change.

What to Wear

 To counter this I have feverishly worked on what I think Dads in their veeeerrry late thirties are wearing this season.  Obviously I mean me.

Rocking the self shot
Rocking the self shot

Hoodies – They’re comfy, they go with anything and they look vaguely sporty. And young people wear them, right? I do love my hoodies but I will be the first to admit I that I look a twat in this photo. I took it while I was bored on a work trip and I keep as a reminder to not take self-shots unless I have George with me.

Cargo Pants/combat trousers – Shortly before George was born I bought what I refer to as my ‘paternity trousers’ – a pair of green ‘combat’ trousers – and I have noticed several of my Dad friends wearing something similar. The attraction is obvious as they have loads pockets for random Dad stuff, they’re roomy and don’t show the puke stains too much. I do love mine but I’m coming round to the idea that they are not that stylish. Oh well!

Converse
Pub shoes maketh the man

Pub shoes – I’m talking about the sorts of trainers that have no athletic purpose and are only really any good for wearing down the pub.  We all have our favourites and as retro styles are still popular I see no reason to kick out your Adidas Samba or Nike hi-tops. A few weeks ago I wore my Converse All-stars to a wedding mainly because I had broken my toe and couldn’t get shoes on but ended up with strangers complimenting my style. In my head I looked like Dr Who.

T-shirts with words on – In my late teens and early twenties I loved t-shirts with the names of my favourite bands emblazoned on them and developed an addiction to low quality bootlegs. Now I am older, I appreciate finer quality garments but can still indulge in all manner of geekery thanks to the internet. I am particularly fond of Last Exit to Nowhere and the plethora of geeky design on sites like Red Bubble.

What Not to Wear

When it comes to ‘what not to wear’ there are a few things we can exclude.

Boat/deck shoes – Do you own a boat? No? Well jog on, landlubber.
Blazers – I haven’t won the Open Golf and it isn’t the 70s.
Twat hats – Any hat worn to make a statement. Watch audition rounds of The Voice or X Factor for guidance.
Crocs – We all know this one, right? Wrong! Recently I was forced to have a conversation with a man wearing leather fronted Crocs without screaming at him. So wrong.

I have no real conclusion to this post. Dads: wear what you like, don’t change your natural style because you have kids and don’t ever feel embarrassed. Let’s stick together and develop our own style. I’d like to thank Tom Briggs for giving me the title for this post and apologise to Han Smith for not making it a vlog where I sing Rod Stewart tunes while eating salt and vinegar crisps.

I need your comments more than ever.

Posted in I'm the Daddy

Dadvertising Extra

I started this post last year but I’ve only just got round to finishing it off. It is a small addition to a post I did for the mighty Kraken about how badly Dads are portrayed in most adverts. I’ve seen very little improvement since I wrote this but I feel it is only fair to mention there were a couple of adverts that I was impressed with.

Piri WeepuThe first featured New Zealand’s World Cup winning scrum half, Piri Weepu. The advert was part of anti-smoking campaign and featured the rugby star, bottle feeding his daughter Taylor.  Anyone who has seen Piri leading the All Black haka knows what a fearsome and intimidating character he is so I loved seeing this paternal side to him. Sadly you can only see stills from this advert as it was pulled after pressure from the La Leche League who felt their agenda was more important.

The second advert I liked was from VW which surprised me as I normally hate car adverts. It manages to steer away from too many clichés and most importantly portrays a Dad who isn’t an idiot. The theme that links these two adverts is Dads and their daughters.  The advertising world frequently struggles with complex concepts and has very little idea how to depict a father/daughter relationship.

I can’t find the advert now but recently I remember being infuriated by an advert for Disneyland Paris whose central premise was ‘Dads – You can’t possibly understand your daughter so buy their love with a trip to Disneyland Paris’. It made me want to drown Mickey and his mates. Money and taxi rides are the only thing a father can give his daughter in your average advert.

I think reality is somewhat different and as usual I look to my friends for inspiration. One friend has two daughters and I’ve always joked that he is the least important decision maker in the house but we both know he is central to lives of his little girls. Another friend has taught his daughter the words to ‘Flower of Scotland’ so they can sing the national anthem together before Scottish rugby games – it is beyond cute.  The most broody I have ever been in my life was when I saw the man who taught me ‘where real men piss’ holding his 2 week old daughter with a look of total adoration in his eyes. His daughter is 8 years old and I have never seen that love waver.

If I can find inspiration this easily why do the people behind our adverts find it so hard? Maybe they don’t have kids. I have a Mad Men style image of sharp suited men trying to work out if babies like smoking and whiskey while tedious jazz plays in the background.  I don’t know.  You can probably see why I haven’t finished this post before as I have left myself with nowhere to go. I don’t know the answer and boycotting all products with a poor advert is virtually impossible. I hope things will change eventually and the odd marketing bod will realise that Dads are different now but we may have to wait some time.

I will leave you with what is neither an advert for milk or sippy cups but should be both.

Posted in I'm the Daddy

Looper

LooperHas anyone seen the film ‘Looper’? I won’t try to explain the whole plot as it does get quite complicated but there is one key element I would like to talk about as it has got me thinking. In the film, two actors – Joseph-Gordon Levitt and Bruce Willis – play the same character at different points in his life. Bruce Willis gets sent back in time and tries to change the future for the Joseph-Gordon Levitt version of himself. They are the same man but they are very different, time has mellowed Bruce and his experiences have left him a changed man.

Now I’m not one for giving out advice to other people but what if I could go back and talk to myself? What if I could back exactly one year to the day before my son was born? What would I say? If I could go back, I imagine the conversation would go something like this.

For the purposes of this blog post I will be played by Bruce Willis and me from a year ago will be played by Joseph-Gordon Levitt.

Bruce Willis (BW): Hi Andy, I’m you but from the future.

Joseph-Gordon Levitt (JGL): Really? You look like Bruce Willis.

BW: Yeah I know. I would have cast someone else but what can you do? Anyway, I’m sure you’ve guessed by now it is all about to kick off.

JGL:  I’m really nervous, I could do with some advice. Have I done enough to prepare for childbirth? Will I be able to help?

BW: Well kind of. Nothing you’ve done will be any use but  . . . um .

JGL: But it’s going to alright isn’t it?

BW: Not really. It’s going to be awful. None of that ‘best day of your life’ crap.  You’ll get through but that’s the best I can say about it.

JGL:  But once the baby is born, then it will be alright?

BW: Sorry mate, not really. It is going to be hard especially in that first week. I don’t want to say too much as you have got to find out for yourself. It will get better but not for a while.

Silence

BW: Anyway, this isn’t why I came back to talk to you. I came to warn you that things are going to change, you’re going to change.

JGL: Change how?

BW: It’s difficult to explain. Everything you feel, everything you see, everything you do will be different. You won’t be able to separate the different strands of your life, everything will come back to the little life you helped bring into the world.  Things that used feel important won’t anymore.  Clearing your head will become one of the hardest things you do. Don’t underestimate the emotional impact this will have on you, there is no going back.

JGL: I don’t understand. How do I prepare?

BW: You can’t, you just need to know it is going to happen. Changing a nappy is easy and you will get used to waking up in the middle of the night but no one tells you about the emotional changes, even though it is the hardest part. The highs will take your breath away, you will not believe me if I tell you how many happy tears you will shed in the next year. The smallest gesture, smile or noise will make your heart swell with unconditional love. All these feelings come wrapped up in one and you have no control over any of it.

JGL: I’m still not sure I understand.

BW: Let me think of an analogy. Have you seen the film ‘Looper’?

JGL: If you are really me from the future you know that I haven’t.

BW: Oh yeah, never thought of that. That’s a shame, I had a really good idea where you could be played by Joseph-Gordon Levitt.

JGL: Oh I like him. Look I’d better go. Have you got any advice for the next 24 hours?

BW: One thing. If you get asked to wear some shoes that pinch a little, don’t make a big deal about it. There is going to be someone else in the room in much more pain and you may come across as a bit of a princess.

JGL: Thanks mate.

BW: Good luck. I know you are going to be OK.

End scene

This post might make more sense if you read my original post about the day George was born.

Posted in I'm the Daddy

A Day in the Life

I work compressed hours so that I can take every other Monday off to spend with George. I love this time with him and look forward to our days together. I take photos of him all the time mainly to show his Momma what we have been doing all day but also so I can look at them when we are apart and relive our day. This was our day.

Posted in I'm the Daddy

It’s a Dads, Dads, Dads, Dads World . . . .

George in the ball poolOver Christmas I spent a wonderful day with two of my oldest friends and as we all have families now the day was full of fun. As I sat and watched the grin burst across George’s face when one of my friends dropped him into a ball pool, I started thinking about what great Dads all my friends are. I am at the age now where all of my friends have at least one child and some have been Dads for a number of years. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that every one of them has something that makes them stand out as a great Dad. Then I started to think why this is true.

There is little doubt that I am part of a generation of Dads who are more involved in raising their children than ever before. I have also accumulated a set of friends who can summon their inner child so readily they have no problems relating to their own sons and daughters. Who would have thought being so immature could ever be useful? They are there for the difficult stuff too and share the sleepless nights, nappy changes and child care with their partners as equally as they can.

I have read several blog posts claiming that the modern Dad has a big barrier holding them back and attempting to exclude them from the world of parenting. I am talking about sexism. I find myself agreeing with many of the points raised by excellent bloggers like John Adams on Dad Blog UK except for this central point that we are victims of sexism. Although sometimes I have been treated differently for being a Dad in situations usually dominated by Mothers, I have always put this down to inexperience.  Most of the time this negative treatment comes from well-meaning people who have just got it wrong.  In short, I don’t feel there are any barriers to being a more involved Dad and I have never felt restricted. There are massive opportunities for us to get involved and it is up to us to go and grab it with both hands.

In contrast I think Mums have to put up with far more than I ever have to as a Dad. I have never been made to feel guilty about what sort of milk my baby drinks, never been questioned about if I am planning to lose weight or had my career choices questioned. I have blogged before about how my wife is only asked about George’s weight when I’m not there, as if I don’t exist. I saw this in action last week when she actually had to point to me to illustrate the sort of size George is likely to grow to. It’s sad to see that most of these questions come from other women seemingly lacking in a little empathy.

I’m not going to feel held back as a parent by my gender and I plan to correct anyone who makes assumptions about me based on my lack of ovaries. Likewise, I don’t expect my wife to have justify her decisions when I don’t have to.

Do you think that Dads are victims of sexism? Do you think my experiences represent the men in your life? How long can I continue to butcher song titles for my blog posts? Comments in the box below.

Posted in I'm the Daddy

Night of the Living Dad

Last night I spent a joyful (and rare) evening down the pub with three of my closest friends. We talked about many things but as we are all parents the chat turned to our experiences as Dads. I thought I would share some of this conversation as I found it interesting and I would love to know your opinions on the same subjects.

If there was a change in rules about paternity/maternity leave would you split the time 50/50 with your wife? – Two of us were in favour of 6 months each, one opted for 2.5 days each per week and the fourth was happy for his wife to have all the leave. I have no idea if we are typical of average Dad across the UK but I imagine the idea of more flexible leave would be popular.

Was the day you first child born the ‘best day of your life’? – We had consensus on this answer: No it certainly was not. Any day where you are grateful you got through without losing someone you love can never be called a good day. We could happily name plenty of other days that were pretty amazing though.

Baby namesZero consensus. We couldn’t agree on the best way to pick names, who should do it or even the hardest part of the process. Just don’t ask us.

How have you changed since you became a Dad?I found this really hard as initially I could only thing of how I have changed for the worse. My temper constantly bubbles under the surface and my patience with people who annoy me is paper thin. Maybe by being patient with George I have nothing left for other people but I doubt it. I think the others found this equally hard and we could all pick things about ourselves that weren’t very positive.  I feel I have more empathy with other parents than I used to; in the past if I saw someone losing it in public and screaming at their kids I might have silently judged. Now I understand why even if I don’t agree with what they are doing.

Stay at home Mums – One of my friends was keen for his wife to stay home with the kids even though he felt this was an ‘old fashioned’ view. For most of us the decision came down to money so ideology pretty much goes out of the window.

Other conversation starters that were rejected included:

  • In The Night Garden: Is it?
  • Cloudbabies: Are they?
  • Lance Armstrong: Did he?
  • The Six Nations: Will they?
  • The French: Should they?

Please post your opinions, personal experiences or questions in the box below.