Being a dad
My husband Charlie is a great dad. He wipes bottoms, cleans noses, dries tears, mops brows, patches up scratches and scrapes and makes the most mundane of chores fun. Whatever the kids throw at him (literally) he can deal with it – and then some. He’s funny and silly and creative but stern when he needs to be. Yeah, so he forgets that Tuesday’s are library day, that the kids should be wearing PE kit on a Wednesday and that there’s a parent-teacher meeting scheduled – but he’s involved 100% – from the dirty work to the fun stuff, he’s on it. With Father’s Day around the corner, I asked him a few questions about fatherhood…. (and then cried and laughed a lot when I read the answers)…try it with your other halves too, mamas!
Do you remember how you felt when you found out you were going to be a dad (all 3 times?!)
I will never forget the wonderful feeling of finding out about our three pregnancies. Seeing the pregnancy test kit and realising what it (and Kaya grinning absurdly) meant was a heart-skipping moment like no other – as if I had driven over a humpback bridge and then carried on flying chitty-chitty-bang-bang style. To be fair, before takeoff I probably just stared motionless for a while as the cogs in my brain processed it all – but quite soon that white plastic pregnancy test kit was the most triumphant of trophies and we were dancing around like champion loons.
All three pregnancies were complete unplanned surprises – and though with each moment there was a difference in location and understanding of what it all entailed – they remain the three happiest surprises ever.
What was your experience of each birth like?
Quite apparently the birth experience is not exactly a daddy-moment. On reflection those true ‘birthdays’ were for me an extraordinary mix of lemming-like ignorance of what is to come and an acute appreciation of the ultimate crescendo of human existence. The stark fact that mother and child survived still genuinely hits me on a daily basis – and I remember feeling it’s gravity then. But if you were to rewind the tape I have to admit that you would find comedic moments…
…As I over-exuberantly celebrated my child’s return from the care unit to be reunited with her mother – and totally wiped out several hospital staff as I failed to combine hospital bed pushing/ecstatic cartwheeling and iPhone filming and narrating/with navigating through hospital reception areas.
…As I first held my child with the long-armed, shaky-hands, staring-eyed nervousness of a novice juggler of live grenades.
…As I tried to help through the first delivery by offering bags of sweets/Prison Break DVDs/gym ball seat/whale sounds/Skyping iPad/breathing tips – before resorting to helping punch anaesthetists who didn’t move fast enough.
Our youngest, Violet, had to spend a lot of time under ultraviolet (for jaundice) – and my excitement at being able to reunite her with Kaya was most magical (with apologies to all hospital staff run over in the process).
Arthur, the middle one, had arrived in such an unorthodox hurry to catch out all but his parents and the ward receptionist – so there were only three of us in the room and at one point, inevitably, I could no longer busily hide from actual assistance and was left with instant-Arthur in my hands and a buffet heat-lamp to hold him under. I must have looked – and sounded – ridiculous as I talked to him in sometimes-soft, sometimes-whooping, always-sobbing, tears-streaming tones. And yes, I am still working on keeping those promises (but it is handy that England have improved at rugby and cricket)…
The first-born, Felix, of course, owns the moment when everyone realises the absolutes of this great crescendo. With his birth, it took me a little while longer to appreciate what was going on – and that my ‘breathe’ and ‘it’s only pain’ tips were inexpert, and that having sports commentary playing on the radio was insensitive (nope, didn’t even notice – Ed). Still, since that moment I remain in awe at my wife (and indeed all womankind) and, even more importantly, will never forget Felix’s first gasping breath and gargled cry of life. I perhaps cried muchly at that moment – and proudly.
Do you feel differently about being a daddy to your boys than you do to your daughter?
No – genuinely their wonderfully, absurdly different personalities preface any gender differentiations. Crikey, it is only at nappy change time that I notice – and I cherish and curse them equally at all those moments (although it was much more cursing than cherishing recently in Dubai Mall during no-nappy/potty-training malfunction!!!)
What do you love most about being a dad?
The access, privilege, insight and trust afforded to me by these three kids – well, it is the ultimate honour. An undeserved, under-qualified, under-researched honour in so many ways – but an everlasting contract and entry to the most exclusive of clubs. This club of ours – just them kids and their dad – is a place of excessive laughter, extravagant stories, uncomfortable camping, unnecessarily dangerous experiences, and absolute devotion. And somewhere in there is the real magic – a look, a moment, a hug, a chat, a something that could not ever exist anywhere else with anybody else. That’s what it is to be a dad.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
Every moment of parenthood is full of realising and learning new things – no sooner do I work something out than the kids develop and the rules change. The key recurring themes are wishing to spend more time with them – more one-on-one time – and to keep making magical experiences.
What are the most valuable and important things you can do for your kids (as a dad)?
Making those magical experiences for them – and enabling them to mine their own interests and personalities.
What are the funniest dad moments?
Nothing funny about not-wearing-a-nappy moments in shopping malls when all other males are in a pub watching a major sporting event!
Name three places you’d love to take the kids in the world – and why?
Deep jungle – to travel up an Amazonian tributary, to see the wildlife, camp, swim in the river, coral seas – for snorkelling, swimming and beach life, high mountains – to wildly explore, climb, ski. I want to take them everywhere.
Describe a typical morning of daddy daycare in your home.
4am: I am woken by one child to help rescue a lost teddy bear
4:11 am: another child needs toileting
4:23 am: another child needs water
4:39 am: children still occasionally wandering around like zombies but most lights and fights have been switched off – I have put the kettle on.
4:45 am: I am sitting down with a cup of tea to work
5am: I am questioned as to why snowmen don’t have ears – I have no satisfying answer
5:11 am: Why didn’t dinosaurs hibernate like other reptiles and so survive their great extinction?
5:17 am: I am definitely no longer working – instead am deep into google searches of snowman anatomy and dinosaur hibernation – as two children dressed as underwater explorers calmly tell me that it is time to go camping
5:18 am: It is a school day so they are put back to bed – other child is not in bed but snoring sounds coming from under bed are reassuring.
5:30 am: Bed sheets changed and rearranged, children sleeping again, – time for another cup of tea, and one for the missus.
5:32 am: Alarm clock strikes – child proudly reveals hidden alarm clock taken from grandparent’s bag and fiddled with to ensure now impossible to stop it ringing – now muffled in pillows am reaching for screwdriver/hammer to fix.
5:40 am: Return to desk to find a child lain across laptop, slowly deleting text from open document.
5:52: It is now clear that two of the children will not be going back to sleep so we head outside for some fresh air.
5:54: They find and we trap a redback spider
5:55: Head off to release spider in safe location – but young scientist wants to study creature-in-tupperware.
5:58: Now some distance from home – simultaneous urgent cries for toileting by both children lead to awkward moments in the bushes.
6:05: After cleaning up considerable mess – already wet kids run into sea
6:25: Return home post-morning swim to find third child dressed as Frozen princess and covered in paint – as are walls and furniture everywhere.
6:35: Following frantic cleaning – furniture and walls are saved – children eating bananas and crushed ice.
6:40: With kids on stirring duties – we cook up porridge, eggs and bacon
6:45: Their mother comes into the kitchen – and is very unimpressed with kids in wrong uniforms for that day’s school activities, cold tea, spilt water, spider in lunchbox, maple syrup bacon instead of organic celery sticks, why we not ready to leave on school run.
6:46: one minute to shower and suit up before herding children into car for school run.
6:50: still herding
7am: still herding – library book is lost
7:10: still herding – show-and-tell day means littlest has packed a trunk full of toys so big that it wont fit in car
7:15: leave for school with wife’s scolding still ringing in ears for being late and serving cold tea.
7:20: school run diversion to collect lost paraphenalia from early morning adventures – seems silly not to pick up croissants, juices and coffee while we are here.
7:32: at school – just in time – am sure show-and-tell of redback spider in tupperware
7:45: about to leave school when harangued by headteacher unimpressed by redback spider show-and-tell and wanting next exorbitant batch of school fees
8am: Ready to start my day.
…and that’s why we love you. Thank you Charlie! x