Living the Dream
Charting the highs and lows of being a Dad for the first time.
Living the Dream
‘You’ve missed a bit mummy…’
5 months of being a parent has massively tested my natural inclination to over react. It’s gradually becoming clear to me that jumping to worst case scenario and being an effective dad are mutually exclusive.
This week Joshua had his first bout of illness. Predictably it was a cold and the fact we’ve gone so long without having to deal with it shows what a great start in life Laura has given him. The shock to the system was how distressed he was. Happy and full of energy is Joshua’s default setting, yet here he was crying incessantly and listless. For the first time in months he was clingy and wanting to be held rather than entertained. It should’ve been a welcome rest from performing 24/7 but it wasn’t. It felt wrong to be holding him close at 5pm rather than singing old McDonald.
Panic stations started to come into view as he refused to feed. Suddenly calculations of how long we were willing to wait for a wet nappy before we went to the doctors. My plan for a run was shelved as it was a given that we’d be up most of the night comforting the boy with the streaming nose. I managed to soothe him to sleep but fully expected it to be short lived respite from snot and tears.
As it was, the night was one of his better efforts. 2am wake up. Fed. Up at 6am. Despite our fears of a tough day ahead, Joshua was soon back on form.
We needn’t have worried. It’s a fact we’ll never stop worrying when he faces challenges in his life, but we’re starting to learn to trust that our little man is made of tough stuff.
‘Just checking my Facebook Dad, be with you in a minute…’
Is it frowned upon to recommend having kids for the lolz?
Clearly bringing up a little human person has its fair share of challenge and trauma: lack of sleep, unscheduled code browns at ridiculous times, inexplicable grumpiness and tantalising glimpses of a less taxing schedule followed by the day from hell.
But above all, the thing I’ve done more of than anything since Joshua took over my life is laugh.
I’ve been fortunate to know some pretty funny people - the school common room and my front room at uni have been the settings for some of the greatest comedic moments in history.
But Joshua tops the lot. Whereas in the early weeks I would watch him with wide eyed wonder, nowadays watching him for any length of time is guaranteed laughter. Even moments which you’d think would cause distress actually end up being hilarious. Last night at the point of going down to sleep, J filled his nappy. Then peed all over his change mat. Then was sick all over the back of his own head (before you ask, no idea). Then added the coup de grace; a fountain of wee all over his mum. He found it hysterically funny and remarkably so did we.
I’m not saying its better, just different.
‘5 months today and still Daddy won’t let me have a breakfast brew, what is that about?’
The photo that accompanied this text from his mum today: ‘Hear crying from the garden as I’m hanging out the washing. Find him trying to burrow under the blanket - when I left him he was lying on his back laughing at the ceiling!’
Hooked on the marathon. Definitely his mum’s boy.
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world."
Fred Rogers (via thedaddycomplex)
What a fortnight.
Week One’s family tour was matched in enjoyment by Week Two’s domestic bliss.
The sense that I’m missing out when stuck at work was confirmed by spending a few days with my own little family. Being able to share in Joshua’s weekly routine was really special - whether rhyme time at the library or settling him down for his morning nap - I’ve loved every minute. Not that it counts as a restful holiday; I’m overwhelmed yet again by the amount of selfless energy it takes to give my boy the best start possible. Laura was born to be a mum.
So now we’re at an end; I don’t need to look at a calendar to know its time to go back to work, the knot in my stomach that has become progressively tighter is all the indication I need. I hate the fact that tomorrow I won’t be playing Dad all day.
The truth is far from hating my job it is by far the most enjoyable I could do. Despite the stress it causes me, despite how every part of my being wants to be at home with L & J, I have to work. I want to provide for them whilst maximising the amount of time I have to spend with them; short of a lottery win, teaching is the best option. I get challenged every day, I work alongside some of the most generous spirited people you could wish to meet and I am never more than eight weeks away from a week off with my family.
The problem of my anxiety remains; I won’t sleep well tonight as I didn’t last night. I’ll have frequent moments of panic over the next few days and will feel trapped in a tunnel . I know this. I’m continuing to engage with ways of combatting it but changing the way I am wired is unlikely to happen. Heightened anxiety is part of who I am.
However my aim is to cope with it. A ‘functioning neurotic’ if you like. Accept how I am and not let it get in the way of the good things in life. Today was a good start - waking at 5 am, with the black dog barking, raised the spectre of a dismal day of worry yet I was determined to achieve positive outcomes in spite of the ever-present knot of worry. Whilst J napped and Laura was at church, I cleaned the front room. Being occupied with something useful was a welcome alternative to feeling sorry for myself. I then prepped for Sunday dinner, went out for a family walk, cooked Sunday dinner, etc. A mundane list I accept but for me a series of small victories. Today hasn’t been a write off and I’m ending it enjoying sofa time with my incredible wife.
Six weeks until half term…