Parenting Challenges – Part the second

As I post this, we have celebrated our son Will’s first birthday. It’s been an interesting first year of his life, for all concerned, so I thought I’d invite Becky to write some of this post, and we’ll share some of the advice / comments / tips / “helpful” words we’ve road-tested in the last twelve months, and how they went down…

  1. “Sleep when he sleeps.” Becky says; Easy! We did this quite well I reckon. I remember going to church about 3 weeks after he was born, very pleased that we managed 5 hours of uninturruped sleep in the night. A friend looked at me pityingly and said “Oh how I remember those days!” I thought we had done rather well. 1 year on though, we get sad if we have to wake before 6:30, because he is such a good sleeper.
  2. “Going back to work is hard.” Very true. I had the mandatory 2 weeks of paternity leave off, and going back after those weeks was a horrible thing. Not only was my body clock out of whack from 14 days of patchy sleep, but I now had to go back to my pre-baby routine, leaving Becky on her own with Will. Soon enough though, this became easier, as both Becky and Will were able to cope without me, but occasionally it would still be a bind, especially if Will was playing up, or Becky wasn’t feeling too well. One year on, we’re nicely settled in a routine, though some changes had to be made when Will became mobile…
  3. “Don’t read any parenting books” Becky says; I disliked this piece of advice; 3 days into having a small baby, and being a good, law abiding citizen, I wanted to do what I’m told, so I tried to find someone who could tell me what to do. I read a lot of books, but only one satisfied my desire to do what I’m told. That’s right folks! I’m a Gina Ford Mum! I love her straight-forward, no nonsense style of… dictatorship! However, I do just take on some of her advice. I’m not a robot. My advice about books is to read a few, and see if any of them resonate with you, and if they help you, not judge you.
  4. “Keep a muslin handy.” An invaluble piece of advice. At first, I baulked at the idea of having random bits of cloth lying around the house, but when the bodily fluids start appearing, often at speed, a handy bit of muslin is a blessing. Better that than the t-shirt you’re wearing.
  5. “Do whatever works for you.” Becky says; As a law abiding citizen, I hate this piece of advice, but in parenting there really is no right or wrong way of doing things… but get back to me when William is 2 and I may have changed my mind!
  6. “Be there.” I don’t think anyone every said this to me, but I’m putting it out there for all the expectant and new fathers that might be reading this. Just be there for your wife and child. Even if being there means a 2am run to the 24-hour supermarket to get nappies or formula, or letting your wife lie in on a weekend even after you’ve had an exhausting week at work. Being there means that your child has two full-time parents, not a full-time mum and evening-and-weekend dad, and your wife has the supporting partner she deserves.
  7. “Enjoy him while he’s so small.” Becky says; Looking back I should have tried to enjoy the first few months more but parenting is such a shock to the system I was just getting to grips with how my life was no longer in order, and how I no longer had much control over my day, time, energy, sleep etc. I was also convinced that I was not going to enjoy having a ‘baby’ that I did not allow myself to enjoy the good moments when they came. This time last year, there were lots of tears, from all of us, and 12 months on there is more laughter by far. This is good.
  8. “Don’t be precious.” We have a lot of “stuff” about the house. Will gets into that stuff. Will gets other stuff all over that stuff. We’ve protected or moved the essential stuff, but the other stuff is just stuff. Don’t worry about it. Otherwise all your child will hear for the first years of his/her life will be “no”, and that’s not a great way to start…
  9. Finally, Becky says; As for tips, the extrovert I am would advocate the many many baby and toddler groups there are out there. I get out as much as I can with Will and I am conviced that he is a friendly outgoing sociable lad because of it. He loves to be with people and chats up any girl / mum that comes his way. Toddler groups were my lifesaver and I would strongly recommend you get out and about to keep you sane!

Well, that’s about it for now! Here’s hoping that some of these are of help to you. Feel free to add any tips you’ve picked up in the comments, and let us know how you’ve been getting on!

Parenting Challenges – Part the first.

Our son Will is nearly 9 months old, and has brought the first really major difficulty for me as a parent.

Sleepless nights? Pah. I start really waking up at 10pm.

Nappies? Easy!

Feeding? He takes after his parents. He likes his food.

No, the challenge involves walking…

Walking...

Someone likes walking…

Not the helping him learn to walk, that’s just back strain and general exhaustion. It’s the changes around the house that are challenging, especially… gulp… re-organising our DVD collection.

We have hundreds of DVDs, which I have taken great pains to organise, all in alphabetical order. In one small bookcase, we have TV shows, followed by children’s TV shows, with a special shelf for 30 Rock, Seinfeld, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and The X-Files.

In the large bookcase sit our feature films, again, alphebetised. Following those are the few music and stand-up comedy DVDs we own, and the blu-rays.

Becky’s (very sensible and logical) plan is to move the small bookcase upstairs, then clear the bottom rows of the large bookcase out, and use them for Will’s toys. I approve of this plan, mostly so that I can get to the windows again without tripping over various plastic coloured “things”. However, how do I do it?

I have three options;

  1. Choose only the DVDs that will be watched frequently. Box up all the rest. Downside; what happens when I decide I’d like to watch Children of Men or Adaptation again?
  2. Choose the DVDs that both of us enjoy. Box up all the rest. Downside; all my favourites will get boxed up. Bye bye Blade Runner (all 5 versions), adieu Alien, so long Star Wars and ciao, um, Batman.
  3. Choose only the DVDs with suitable BBFC ratings for Will, U and eventually PG. Box up all the rest. Downside; both of the above (with the exception of U rated Star Wars).

Of these options, I believe number 3 to be the most sensible, parental and practical solution. When we want to watch something that isn’t U or PG, we’ll dig it out of the currently-unspecified-storage-solution once Will’s in bed.

Which option would you go for?

Why drive?

Like a large number of people, I have to drive to get to work. I live in Salford, and work in South Manchester, and any public transport route would involve a number of changes, and/or traveling into Central Manchester and out again, or on a really, really indirect bus route during rush hour.

So I drive.

A car, yesterday

Learning to drive was part of a deal with Becky. I learned to drive, she did her ABRSM Grade 5 Theory of Music exam. I’ve been driving for 8 years, she has yet to learn the bass clef. But that’s another story…

At times, I enjoy driving. When the traffic is clear, the sun is shining, and I have some good music in the CD player, it can be quite a pleasure.

Unfortunately, this a rare occasion.

Usually, I experience several things that, uh, drive me up the wall, including, but not limited to;

  • Audi / BMW / Mercedes / VW / Lexus drivers tailgating
  • Audi / BMW / Mercedes / VW / Lexus drivers with headlights on in broad daylight
  • Audi / BMW / Mercedes / VW / Lexus drivers changing lanes on the motorway without signalling
  • Audi / BMW / Mercedes / VW / Lexus drivers not signalling on roundabouts
  • Other drivers sat at 50mph in the middle lane of the motorway
  • Cyclists running red lights
  • Cyclists turning right immediately in front of me, without signalling
  • 4x4s

You get the idea.

When I see any of these things, the red mist descends. While I’m not one for confrontations, in the car, I become a screaming ball of rage. I assume that these reckless drivers have at least had the same driving lesson structure as I did, have looked at the same Highway Code as I did, and have the same basic devices (indicators, speedometer, lights that turn off…) as I do, but choose not to remember, adhere to or use them respectively.

I’m not bothered by being held up; I’m very rarely in such a hurry to get anywhere. I’m more concerned with the danger these drivers are putting themselves and others in.

Oh, and me.

So, if you’re an Audi / BMW / Mercedes / VW / Lexus driver, and you come across a navy blue Ford Focus on the road, like the one above, please bear this in mind. I’m only concerned for your welfare.

Why dedicate?

William's Dedication cake

On August 18th, 2011, Becky and I levelled up.

At some time after 11pm, with only a few minutes to go before the end of the day, my son William Robert Kelly was born, on his due date, and we became parents.

Yikes.

6 months later, we are still parents, and, despite the sleepless nights (more for Becky than me I’m sad to say), I’m grateful for it every day.

On Sunday 19th February, we were joined by family and friends at our church for a service of dedication for William, but why a dedication service, rather than a Christening or baptism?

In a lot of churches, children are baptised. In our church, while we do practice baptism in water, we reserve it for later in life, when people can decide for themselves whether to be baptised. Instead, we dedicate infants, formally welcoming them into the church family, and, as parents, we promise to bring them up in a Christian household. If there are Godparents present, and in our case, praise God, there were, they promise to be a support to the new family. The church too, as part of the service, pledges support to the child and parents.

The parents are then presented with a certificate, which includes a specially selected Bible verse for the child; William’s verse is Romans 15 v. 13.

For some traditionalists in the wider church, this non-baptismal service can seem odd, especially as so many non-church goers will request a baptism or Christening from their local church. For us, it’s part of our church life, and our way of demonstrating our thanks to God for providing us with a child, and to welcome him into the start of his Christian life. We can save baptism for a later date, and celebrate with William then too!

It’ll be up to William, when he’s older, to make the decision as to whether he wants to be baptised or not, and I pray that, as parents, Godparents and church family, we’ll be there to guide him in the right direction and help him know the same loving God that we do.