Tuesday 18th April
One night last week panic struck the Hayden household. It was evening and my two daughters had just changed into their pyjamas and a few drawn out yawns meant they were ready to jump into their beds and get comfy in their duvets for roughly twelve hours of sleep. The bedtime routine seemed to be going smoothly. Off we travelled up the stairs and firstly into Alyssa’s room where she found her monkey teddy which will be her companion until morning and got into bed. One down, one to go. Next Caitlin, as usual jumped into bed and asked to be tucked in, but then she noticed something wasn’t right, something was missing. Her teddy, which she has cuddled in bed since she was a new born, was nowhere to be seen. Let the panic begin. Caitlin wouldn’t settle without her beloved teddy so it had to be found. The house was turned upside down and I was considering calling the missing persons helpline but thankfully the soft toy had mistakenly been out in the toy box with all the others. Panic over.
A study by netmums.com, a parenting website, says that TV dads are giving real life fathers a bad name. When they say TV dads, they mean characters like Daddy Pig from pre-school show Peppa Pig, Homer Simpson from American show The Simpsons and Fred Flintstone from classic kids TV show The Flintstones. Apparently these shows along with how fathers are represented in books and adverts are damaging children’s perceptions of fatherhood by showing them as lazy, childish and stupid. According to this study, almost a third of parents (twenty eight per cent) surveyed see this as a form of subtle discrimination against dads whilst a further eighteen per cent see it as a more serious problem making children think all dads are useless. So let’s look closer at this terrible TV dad who is giving all of us dads a bad name called Homer Simpson. Firstly let me say it has never entered my mind whilst watching The Simpsons that this fictional cartoon character could be influencing what my children think of me as a father. Homer has a confused and complicated relationship with his children. He often reprimands his son Bart but in a lot of episodes the two are seen to be allies and sharing an adventure together. Homers daughter Lisa is a talented girl, often overlooked by Homer, but when it is pointed out to him he makes up for it and shows himself to be a caring father. Like when he gave up his ride on the Duff blimp and used the money to enter Lisa in a beauty pageant just so she could feel better about herself and improve her self-esteem. Homer loves doughnuts and is a slave to his stomach, he also loves beer and can often be seen at Moe’s Tavern. He is often seen as lazy and stupid but ultimately with his heart in the right place and someone who would do anything for his family. My view on Homer Simpson is that he is one of the funniest characters on television and just writing about him makes me want to turn on the TV and watch an episode. Note I used the word Character, he isn’t real. We as adults may look into the character and analyse his traits, good and bad, but I believe that children do not do this. They will see it for what it is, a TV character on a TV show. A child's perception of fatherhood is never ever going to be moulded by the likes of Homer Simpson or Daddy Pig no matter how many times they are seen on TV. It will be moulded by one person only and that is the childs actual father.
Tuesday 11th April
What is the one thing that David Beckham and myself have in common? If you’re looking at my photo at the top of this page you’re probably thinking - a man in his prime, strikingly handsome, other men want to be him and women want to be with him, we obviously have our good looks in common. But I’ll stop you right there as this is not what I’m talking about, although of course you would be absolutely right in your assumption. Maybe you’re wondering if I have world class football skills and I can bend it just as good as Beckham? Well, I did play for Inter Milan. No not the professional Italian football club based in Milan who have spent their entire history in the top flight of Italian football and have won thirty domestic trophies. I was defender for the under elevens Portsmouth football team Inter Milandport, clever name eh? We were never top flight, but I did win a Trophy at the end of the season, engraved with ‘Most Improved player’. I think this meant I was completely rubbish at the start of the season and a bit better but still rubbish by the end. So no, we most definitely do not have our football playing skills in common. Last week the former England Captain and dad revealed that there is a big difference between his three sons and his only daughter. He says that as the boys get older he will allow them to be independent but joked that daughter Harper will be like Rapunzel – up in the tower away from any harm and by harm he meant boys. He is horrified by the thought of his little girl who is still only twenty two months old one day having a boyfriend. I only have two daughters but with I agree with his feelings of over protectiveness when thinking about my daughters one day dating, I fear that even if this boyfriend is intelligent, well presented and likeable I may still blurt out a series of questions on our first meeting such as “Why are you interested in dating my daughter”, “What do you plan to be doing five years from now” and the all-important “Why do you, of all the people in this world, deserve to date my daughter” and then glare at him until I get satisfactory answers. Of course when the times comes, not wanting to embarrass my daughter, I’ll probably just shake his hand and give him a look that means “Treat her nice”. Thinking of my daughters dating one day horrifies me too and that is the one thing that myself and David Beckham have in common, well, two things if you count the handsome good looks.
Being a dad involves doing some disgusting things, things you never knew existed in those days before you were responsible for a human life. Even if you were aware of these things, it was only in an observation capacity with no involvement needed. Of course the first is changing a baby’s nappy, that smell never ever gets easier. Then there is the time your child gets sick and they vomit all over the sofa and it gets into every orifice available and your left cleaning the sofa for weeks to come trying to get rid of that smell. Slightly worse is when the vomit lands on you and you are left picking out what looks like pieces of carrot from your favourite shirt. But I have since found out that there is something else that comes in higher on the disgusting scale. This is when your child, whilst barefoot, stands in dog muck. It is by far the worst smell that can ever waft up your nose, that will make you reach when cleaning it off your child's foot. Well, so I’m told. I was at work when this unfortunate incident happened so it was left to my partner Serena to deal with. I didn’t laugh. Promise.
Tuesday 4th April
Having children opens up a brand new chapter in every new parents life. Once your child becomes a citizen of Planet Earth things will never be the same again. They literally take over everything, from your sleep pattern to the back seat of your car. I’ve also found out recently that they also like to take over your mobile phone. Of course these days it’s more smart than just a phone, it’s a camera, camcorder, it provides internet access, it plays music and more. When I first realised my daughter Caitlin was taking a shine to my precious piece of technology, I bought her a pretend toy phone. This worked for a while but she soon realised that it wasn’t the same as Daddy's. So reluctantly I let her loose on my phone, but not before downloading the educational ‘Zoodles Kids Mode’ which locks her into the app and means she can’t accidentally make a call or text or access any other part of the phone. I just need to teach her not to eat an ice lolly at the same time… is there an app to stop your phone getting sticky?
Last week I went back to school. My eldest daughter Caitlin turns four years old in August which means she is starting school this September. Just a few days after receiving the email which gave confirmation of which Portsmouth infant school she will be attending, we were invited to a parents evening to have a look around Caitlin’s new daytime home for the next few years and to also meet her new teacher. Arriving at the school, my partner Serena and I were told to wander around and explore the school, which we did. Although I’m sure classrooms were given an extra special clean before us parents arrived, I was really impressed at how clean the place was, especially as it is home to over a hundred under seven years olds every day. The school as expected looked just like you would expect it too, tiny tables and chairs where the children sit down to do their work, lots of paintings by the young ones stuck with blu-tac to the walls and boxes containing milk carton lids and crepe paper for arts and crafts. Then we invited into the school gymnasium where chairs were lined up, thankfully adult size, for a presentation from the staff and the head teacher. We were told all about the school, curriculum and of course the all-important school rules. It got me thinking about those unwritten parent/child rules that everyone adheres too but aren’t often talked about. These rules were imposed on my parents by me when I was at school so I should be prepared for when my daughter enforces these. For example, all parents need to know the transportation rule. When arriving you must to park at least a road away from the school, it would be the end of the world if other kids saw you arriving at school with them. Then there is the pet names rule. If you have a pet name for your child, maybe used as a term of endearment, this is for home use only and must never be used in front of his or her friends as this will cause teasing and possible ridicule in the playground. You must also be aware of the clean face rule. If when arriving at school you notice as bit of breakfast remains on the face of your child, don’t try and wipe it off, just make them aware and they can do it themselves. The most important rule that any parent should know is the performing rule. Never ever sing or dance when in the company of your child and their friends, especially if it’s to a current chart song. Parents are too old to know what is in the charts and this will embarrass your child forever. Of course these rules probably wont kick in until the teenage years so until then, whilst I can, I will of course do all these things.
Tuesday 28th May
When was the last time you told a lie? Maybe you didn’t think of it as a lie, more like bending the truth? Well I’m happy to admit that I tell the odd porkpie from time to time and if you, like me, have young children, I bet you do to. Apparently most parents tell lies to their children as a way to change their behaviour. The most common is to threaten to walk away and leave them alone in public if they do not behave. Of course no good parent would follow through with this but it’s a tactic I’ve used when my daughters don’t want to leave the park and it works. Just last week when driving past McDonalds Caitlin requested a Happy Meal for her dinner. I told her that the restaurant was closed, of course it wasn’t. My favourite untruth was recently when my girls didn’t want to eat the sweet corn on their plate... but once I told them both that it was actually yellow baked beans, they ate the lot.
Along with supermarket shelf stacker, cinema popcorn seller and radio station presenter, I now have a new job I can type onto my CV. I haven’t got any qualifications in my new role and I haven’t actually been doing it for long but with it being a round the clock job that starts from the moment my eyes open in the morning and goes on sometimes for the entire day I feel like an expert in the field. My new job is extremely hard work but sadly doesn’t include any perks of a normal job like a pension, holiday allowance and a monthly wage into my bank account. So what is my new job, which sometimes breaks me out into a sweat and leaves me feeling like I need to head straight to the airport for an unplanned relaxing holiday but doesn’t give me a pay slip to open and admire? Well I am now a referee. My duties in this role include ensuring fair play at all times with a neutral point of view, addressing frustration and intervening early with a calming influence, solving any conflicts that arise and being prepared to show the red card to any behaviour deemed unacceptable. But in my new role of authority I’m not working with two rival football teams, I don’t even own a whistle or a stopwatch anyway, but I am refereeing two opposing teams. They are Team Caitlin and Team Alyssa, both teams consist of one player they have the rivalry similar to that of Pompey and Saints. My daughters aged two and three years old, like most siblings, don’t seem to see eye to eye on many things. The slightest little thing can create a war zone in the Hayden household. Like which chair they sit on at the breakfast table, even though both chairs are exactly the same and both will give exactly the same breakfast experience, it can cause a squabble. Or sometimes a book can be the cause of discontent, with both of them pulling at one side of the book with cries of “I had it first”. This is where I come in to try and restore calm to the situation. Every situation is not the same though, sometimes it’s better to leave them to it and work it out for themselves but sometimes it’s better to sit down and chat to them and sometimes detective work is needed to see who instigated the argument. What I find most interesting when watching them squabble, argue and fight with each other is the fact that as they get older the sibling bond will be the most strongest and will probably outlast all others. So even though it’s a struggle now and might be for a few years to come, one day the squabbling will stop... hopefully.
Tuesday 21st May
My three year old daughter paid me a compliment last week. It was dinner time and after eating her meal and looking full and satisfied she declared “Daddy you are the best cook ever”. You’d think that I’d be happy with this piece of appreciation thrown towards me by Caitlin, especially as in reality her mum is a much better cook than me but to be honest it didn’t fill me with glee because on that particular meal time, minimum effort was put into preparing and making what sat on her Peppa Pig plate. Throwing turkey dinosaurs and potato letters on a baking tray and placing them in the oven didn’t exactly break me out into a sweat. I found that my daughters compliment was very revealing into what type of meal she prefers, as when she receives a plate full of carrots, broccoli and cabbage the appreciation isn’t exactly flowing in my direction, in fact it’s not flowing at all. Interestingly though, the promise of a tasty chocolate ice cream after her meal if she eats her vegetables tends to do the trick.
Have you ever asked someone a question and then regretted asking it in the first place? You know, when the answer has left you even more confused and bamboozled than before you posed the question. That situation happened to me recently. My youngest daughter Alyssa has just turned two years old and reaching that milestone means it’s time to try and get rid of the nappies and introduce that child’s toilet commonly known as the potty into her life. So the potty training has begun. It’s not like it’s the first time we’ve done it. Less than two years ago it was my eldest daughter Caitlin who was the student of potty school and after a small amount of scepticism and reluctance from her to sit on the small white toilet in the middle of the living room she soon took to it like a duck to water and the potty training was complete. Well it appears that my two daughters are very different human beings and Alyssa is turning out to be a very stubborn student indeed. No amount of encouragement and persuasion seems to be doing the trick and it’s almost like she is superman and the potty is kryptonite and the two cannot mix. So I decided to turn to that fountain of all knowledge we all turn to when in need of assistance called Google. I simply typed into the search engine “potty training” and 0.18 seconds later I was given a choice of twenty four million websites. After clicking on the website at the top of the page I started to regret asking the question because this adventure known as potty training seemed to be a bit more complicated than I’d thought. According to the website the first step is to check that your child is actually ready to be potty trained, for example does she tell you when she has messed her nappy? The answer to that is yes, although my nose usually tells me before she does. The second step is to check you have the correct equipment. What? I’m not planning to climb Mount Everest, surely a potty is the only equipment needed? No it seems not, apparently without a potty chair, pull up pants, trainer pants, toilet steps and training seats, I’m hopelessly unprepared. Thirdly, I need to create a ‘relationship’ between Alyssa and her potty and they need to become ‘friends’. The best way to do this is give the potty a name like ‘Polly Potty’. Finally, as children learn by copying it is suggested you demonstrate how it’s done. This is where I hand over the responsibility of potty training to their mum.
Tuesday 14th May
We’ve had a few days of great weather recently and with hopefully more sunshine and warm temperatures on the way I feel I need to sit my two daughters down and teach them Ice cream etiquette. Like most children they love to eat the cold sticky stuff on a hot day but as I’ve learnt recently there is a right and a wrong way to do it. The first big don’t that they need to learn is when you are holding an Ice cream cone with a large dollop of chocolate ice cream at it’s peak, don’t lean in to give your daddy a cuddle, as this will leave a large brown sticky mark on his nicely ironed shirt. Another important thing to keep in mind is a dropped ice cream is a ruined ice cream and should not be eaten, although two year old Alyssa didn’t seem to mind the taste of grass and mud topping. Finally, make sure you lick any melting Ice cream that is escaping down the side of the cone, wasted Ice Cream is the biggest crime.
I was just ten years old when my teacher Mrs Atkins set our class the task to visit a library and research Queen Victoria and the Victorian era. So off I went with my dad to the Portsmouth central library, which I remember thinking was huge and a whole world of its own and I came home holding many books featuring the unprepossessing monarch. Since that day I have not set foot in another library and the only reason I can put it down to is being part of the internet generation and what I might have used the library for previously I now use my broadband connection, smartphone or EReader. Now, almost two decades later I was back in the library. My daughter Caitlin loves the Roald Dahl film Matilda, in which the little girl visits the library. We’ve watched it so many times I probably now know it word for word. In the film the friendly librarian tells Matilda that she can have a library card and take as many books home as she likes. It was after one viewing of this film Caitlin asked if she could visit the world of books. She loves to read and to be read to so I wondered why I’d never thought of it before. So a few days later we got in the car and drove to the Beddow Library in Milton, a place I had driven past probably hundreds of times but had never thought to enter. Upon entering the library I stereotypically expected to be greeted by a softly spoken female librarian at the reception desk and that’s exactly what happened. In fact there were two of them who made us feel very welcome and issued us both with our very own library cards. I was surprised at how different the atmosphere was compared to my last visit all those years ago. I didn’t feel the need to whisper or keep a check on Caitlin's volume, especially as there was a parent and child group in progress which instantly projected a fun feeling and made Caitlin feel at ease in what I’d expected to be an adult environment. Also young people are well and truly catered for at the Beddow Library with a large section dedicated to childrens books which Caitlin enjoyed wading through looking for something to read. After choosing which books to take home with us I was also pleasantly surprised at how technologically advanced the place is. No longer do you hand the books over to the librarian to be stamped with the date of return. Instead you just place the books into a scanner which picks up the microchip stuck to each book and prints you out a receipt and you’re done. Caitlin enjoyed her trip the library and is looking forward to returning soon.
Tuesday 7th May
I haven’t attended a schools parents evening for over thirteen years. Then I was sixteen year old schoolboy with teenage spots and a dodgy nineties centre parting haircut and it was me that was the subject of conversation between my teachers and my parents. Last week I attended a new parents evening, the big difference was we weren’t talking about my development or my behaviour but instead it was all about my daughter Caitlin at her nursery. I think I was more anxious this time round wondering what the verdict would be on her behaviour, her ability to mix with other children and her willingness to take part in nursery activities. I entered the world of little people and was directed to a tiny chair that was designed for a small child and certainly not a six foot man. For ten minutes I was told all about Caitlin’s time at nursery. Thank fully it was all good and I was even given some of her artwork to take home. I can’t actually make out what she has painted but it takes pride of place on the fridge.
I don’t really enjoy spending time with my children – certainly not my words but the words of Toby Young who is an author, a TV personality and a journalist. He recently wrote an article in The Telegraph titled “Why Men don’t want it all”. He claims that men's darkest secret is that they want to spend less time with their children, not more. I actually found this an interesting read and a fascinating insight into the mind of another working dad – especially as I have found it’s still not the done thing for dads to share their fatherly experiences with each other, even in the year 2013. To be fair, when going for a pint with a friend I doubt they really want to hear about how the latest round of potty training is going or how I juggle work and being a good dad. In the article Toby Young explains how when he is asked if he worries that his successful career is taking him away from spending more time with his four children , he always answers no. In fact he believes it is the other way around as he worries spending more time with his children means less time concentrating on his career. He openly admits that he would sacrifice some of the pleasures he experiences with his children, like taking them swimming at the weekend and sitting down with them at meal times, for more time at the office - seeing time at work as a refuge and a break from home. He goes on to say that he thinks this is true of most men with young children. Whilst I think it is a very brave thing to not only admit but also write about in a national newspaper, I wonder how much of the article was tongue in cheek and written to generate a response, like a lot of articles these days – therefore generating publicity for the newspaper (Samantha brick, anyone?). But if there really is truth in his words, I can understand where he is coming from, but cannot agree with him. I understand that great parenting is not only measured in the time we spend with our little ones and there is far more to it. But the first years of our children’s life are, without sounding like a narrator from a Disney movie, truly magical. Don’t get me wrong, when a two year olds temper tantrum lasts all day, getting in the car to go to work can be a well-earned relief, but I want to take in everything my children give to me, the good, the bad and the exhausting, because I know in a blink of an eye they’ll be grown up. It was a great article on the mind-set of working dads, but of course not all working dads think the same.
Tuesday 30th April
In October I will for the second time be taking part in this year’s Great South run. With just six months to go a recent experience showed me I really need to step up my training. Home alone with my youngest daughter Alyssa I decided we would go and visit her great grandparents who live just over two miles from us. As my partner Serena had the car at work I decided to put Alyssa in her pushchair and use my legs to get us there. So after packing up a bag with a few nappies and wipes for Alyssa, she was strapped into to her transport and off we went. Two miles didn’t seem like a lot before we left but as I was walking through Portsmouth breaking out into a sweat and feeling my heart pumping in my chest whilst getting slightly out of breath it certainly felt like a long distance. The method of transport changed on the way home from legs to taxi. If you see a red faced six foot tall English man, wearing a tracksuit and running trainers looking out of breath, show me some support.
A headline in a national newspaper last week, in large bold capital letters shouted “Why your second baby will get second-best of everything: Fifth of mothers spend less on child number two”. There are two reasons why I object to this article, firstly due to the use of the word ‘mother’, I don’t want to be picky but surely this should be swapped for ‘Parents’. For the sake of making a hands on dad feel less annoyed I will swap these words around when referring to the article. Apparently a first born child demands the best of everything and parents will spend a fortune on designer outfits, top of the range dinky shoes and the best toys you can buy. For baby number one the cheapest item will never be purchased, for example when in a store looking for a new cot for the new addition to the family, if your shopping as a new parent you will never go for the cheapest option, even if it meets your needs. With your first child on the way, you will also spend you hard earned cash on unnecessary baby items such as shoes which rarely get worn by new-borns and would just gather dust and toys which a week old baby can only look at. Also essential items will nearly always be the best money can buy with your first child, like brand nappies which can be twice as expensive as other that are available and most wouldn’t even consider getting the supermarkets own brand wet wipes. When it comes to money parents will spend £200 less on their second child and the main reason for this is the sibling to the first born will be wearing and using second hand goods and you realise you don’t have to spend a fortune. So the other reason I object to this article and it’s attention grabbing headline is because it tells me nothing new. Of course you spend less on your second child. We jokingly call Alyssa, our second child, the hand me down kid, because a lot of her clothes and shoes were previously worn by her big sister Caitlin. Imagine what a waste it would have been to throw all of these clothes away and think of the money we have saved by not having to buy brand new clothes. Also with our youngest daughter Alyssa, we realised we didn’t need to buy the most expensive nappies or the most expensive wipes as the cheaper supermarket own brands do exactly the same job and sometimes better at half the cost. Of course this doesn’t mean we love our second child any less than her older sister. Infact I think I may love her a little more, as the money I’ve saved can buy me that new smartphone I’ve wanted for ages.
Tuesday 23rd April
Last week I told you how I was put on the spot when my three year old daughter Caitlin asked me where clouds come from. This was followed by the question “Why are clouds white”. I’ve always thought I would do well and possibly win a nice amount of money on a TV quiz shows and have always been tempted to apply to take part, but with even more questions being fired at me by my daughter I’m questioning my general knowledge skills. After being somewhat stumped on the cloud question, my specialist subject is certainly not meteorology and as I’ve since found out nor would it be the human body. “Daddy, why do we have shoulders” was the next question Caitlin fired at me. After some research I found out the main purpose of this body part is movement, it’s the most mobile joint in our body. But when I had Caitlin looking at me expectantly waiting for an answer I just went with “So your coat doesn’t fall off”.
As I still don’t feel brave enough to travel on an aeroplane with a one year old and a three year old just yet, fearing a toddler meltdown forty five thousand feet in the air and being asked by the pilot to leave at the next cloud, a UK holiday was decided for a recent short break away. I haven’t got anything to worry about really, as I’m proud to say my children are on the whole well behaved, but with a UK holiday I can be at my destination in much less time than it takes to travel to the airport, go through airport security all whilst hoping there are no delays to our flight, then once you arrive at the foreign airport there is usually another journey on a coach before the holiday can begin. Not wanting the hassle a foreign holiday brings I started researching potential UK destinations on the internet and after checking review sites we decided to book ourselves some time away at a holiday park in Sussex, not too far away but far enough for it to feel like a holiday. We chose one of those long stretched out caravans, with the brochure promising a comfortable and quality holiday at an affordable price. After being woken up by three year old Caitlin shouting “Happy Holiday day mum and dad”, we packed up the car with probably way to much luggage and food for our 4 night stay and we set off. At the holiday park we were welcomed by staff who I’m guessing double up as the entertainment team because they were very enthusiastic, just like the presenters you see on children’s television programme. After getting settled in our accommodation and realising we had bought enough food to feed the whole holiday park for a month we decided to go and explore. First stop was the amusement arcade with lots of rides for my daughters. Although at one pound a time it got a little expensive. There was also a soft play area which made me want to be little again as it looked like so much fun. There was also one of those unbelievably addictive 2p coin pusher arcade machines. Now I’ve never been a gambler and don’t intend to become one but sitting on top of the hundreds of coins was a shiny pink money box that I was sure would drop down the hole after I’d inserted a handful of 2p’s. I hate to think how much money I put in that machine but Caitlin eventually got her shiny pink money box and my gambling days were over. Next stop was the indoor pool where splashing daddy was thought of as hilarious after which we went to feed the ducks by the lake. A brilliant holiday that, as always, went way too fast but gave us time together as a family, something everyone should make time for.
Tuesday 16th April
Where do clouds come from? That’s the question that was put to me by my three year old daughter, putting me on the spot and testing my general knowledge. In fact questions like this are now incredibly common. Caitlin is at the age where she is fascinated by the world around her and when she’s sees something that grabs her attention she often wants to know what it does, why it’s there and how it got there. Of course it’s up to Caitlin’s mum and me to feed her curious mind and provide her with the information she has requested. I instantly thought back to my school days when my teacher showed us a boiling kettle and told us that the steam coming out of the spout rises up to the sky and produces a cloud. I passed on this information to my daughter who responded with another question; “Why are clouds white?” What did parents do before the days of Google?
When I was at school I used to love the annual sports day. I didn’t have any aspiration to be a sports star and I certainly was not showing any signs of being the next David Beckham or Mo Farah, but it was a great day of being out of the classroom and in the sunshine. Ask any child whether they want to be in a stuffy room on a summers day learning their times tables or if they’d rather be out in the warm air on the school playground watching people running along with an egg on a spoon. The egg will always be the winner. I’ve always been tall and this is probably why my teachers decided to enter me for the hurdles race. So there I was on the start line waiting for the whistle that signalled I should start running. In front of me, to my left and right were a blur of parents who had come to watch their children make them proud. Straight ahead of me I could see the first hurdle I would have to use all my strength to leap over. I say hurdle, it wasn’t what you saw the Olympians jumping over last summer, but actually two traffic cones with a dent made at the peak so a bamboo stick would sit nicely on the top. As a waited, I glanced at my competitors either side of me and felt pretty confident I would be victorious as I was the tallest. The whistle blew and off we went. I didn’t win, I think I came in second place. I would have loved to have won and was probably a bit disappointed but I was happy I’d done it without knocking any bamboo sticks over and was quite pleased with my certificate congratulating me on being the runner up of the hurdle race 1993. Worryingly though, I’m reading that in some schools now there is no runner up, in fact there isn’t even a winner and there are certainly no losers. Apparently many schools are rewarding all pupils who take part and prizes are given to both winners and losers so that no one feels left out and no feelings are hurt. My personal view is that competition is good for children and that it can be a positive thing. We need rivals, if you want to compete with someone else you have to grow and get better and of course for someone to win someone also has to lose. If you have the right attitude you will turn your loss into something positive and gain from it. Competition leads to growth, so in the future I hope my daughters win at sports day, but I also hope sometimes they will lose too.
Tuesday 9th April
Something incredibly rare has been happening in the Hayden house over the last week. In fact so rare I think David Attenborough may want to come and film a documentary on this unlikely development. Why not? He’s put the spotlight on what seems like every species in the animal kingdom over the years so why not turn his attention to human children. The unimaginable occurrence that has taken place, for which I am truly grateful, is we have all had a lie in. I know, shocking isn’t it? Putting the clocks forward one hour as we entered British summer time seems to have had a strange effect on my two young daughters and if it continues I may have to plug in the alarm clock that hasn’t been used since Caitlin was born. For almost four years now, every morning, my daughters have awoken me from the land of nod with their noise and normally in the hour that begins with a six. I was shocked when I woke up recently and the hour began with an eight. I’m not complaining but getting two children bathed, fed and dressed and in their car seats in half an hour is not easy.
We now live in a world of emails, tweets and texts. When you want to invite your friends on a night out or a party, you no longer need to drop by their house and give them a piece of paper with a address or number to RSVP and you don’t even need pick up the phone and dial their number to see if they want to be on the guest list. Now it’s 2013 and we live in a world where you don’t need to talk to anyone ever. Need to invite friends to a party? Simple, just create an event on Facebook and invite all the friends who you want to come. They’ll receive the invite in their inbox and simply need to click whether they will attend or not. On the face of it this seems like a good thing, much simpler with less time consumed, but is it really a good thing? According to a recent article, modern technology is making us lazy in how we deal each other and we are horribly out of practice when it comes to face to face dealings with strangers. Put simply its stealing our manners, our social skills and making us less confident people. The workplace is apparently the biggest culprit with people preferring to send an email rather than talk to their colleague who is within earshot, something I have experienced many times. It was also revealed that people now have no problem having loud conversations on their mobile phone in places such as a normally quiet library, whilst at the checkout at the supermarket or even whilst eating their meal at a restaurant. We all know how annoying it is when you’re enjoying a film at the cinema that you’ve spent your hard earned cash on and you hear a mobile phone starts ringing, even worse when they stay in their seat and proceed to have a conversation, which I witnessed once. So, as a parent, although I want my children to grow up using all the technology that is available to them I hope that this isn’t at the expense of their day to day social skills. Things like greeting people with a “hello”, making eye contact when having a conversation, answering questions when asked and speaking respectfully. I also hope later in life, if they were in a library they would choose to go outside to have a phone conversation and that they would respect the ‘quiet zone’ on the train – something that is rarely respected in my experience. But of course, as a parent I have to lead by example which includes always remembering to always say please and thank you. If I forget, I have my three year old daughter to remind me which she did recently, “Daddy you didn’t say thank you”. I don’t think I have anything to worry about.
Tuesday 2nd April
Are you sick of eating chocolate yet? I’m not. I love the sugary brown stuff and as a self-confessed chocoholic I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which is why I love Easter. But since becoming a dad, this time of year puts me to the ultimate test. Apparently the average child has received one Easter egg from their parents and a further seven from family and friends. Too much chocolate for anyone but with a very large family, it looks like we have enough supply to last until Christmas. We’re in need of some more cupboard space to store the chocolate given to my daughters. This is where I’m put to the test. When it comes to chocolate, if a craving comes along temptation can get the better of me and off to the fridge I go (cold chocolate is the best). So I have to resist tucking into my daughters Easter eggs when they are tucked up in bed. Or I could use it as the perfect opportunity to teach them how to share.
The 21st of this month will mark two years since my second daughter Alyssa entered this world. It was a sunny spring afternoon in 2011 when I was just about to jump in the car and leave for work when I got a phone call from my partner Serena who was shopping in the city centre. The contractions had started whilst standing in the queue. Less than four hours later Alyssa was born in the bedroom of our Portsmouth home on the bed I still sleep in every night. Then she was a helpless new-born baby who I’d stare at for hours mostly because I was amazed at how perfect and beautiful she was but also like all parents do, I would simply stare to check she was breathing by watching her tiny little chest moving up and down when she was asleep. Now nearly two years on I have a little girl who I still stare at in amazement at how perfect and beautiful she is, even when she has a face full of spaghetti bolognaise at dinner time and is chasing me around the room wanting a kiss. So with her second birthday coming up I want to celebrate the occasion and not let it pass unnoticed, but how? Well we could go to the local toy shop to buy some birthday presents? Like most toddlers she loves anything to do with Peppa Pig, so that is an easy option. A Google search for ‘Peppa Pig merchandise’ gives me 248,000 results, so there is plenty of choice. But does she really need more toys? The answer to this is a simple No. She has far too many as it is taking up room we don’t even have. The other option that has been put forward requires a little more time and effort. Well actually if I’m being a bit more realistic, it requires a lot more time and effort. Yes, send out the invites, blow up the balloons and order the cake, it’s party time in the Hayden house. To be honest, inviting a dozen nappy wearing, toy throwing toddlers into my clean and tidy house doesn’t fill me with a great amount of excitement. Infact, I can feel my stress level rising at just the thought of it. But toddlers are at a great age where they can start to enjoy a birthday party with their little friends so I think I’m going to go with the party idea and see it more as a challenge rather than a chore. So decision one is the food. Do we serve organic carrot and celery batons with a sweet potatoes dip followed by cucumber and humus sandwiches or do we just chuck some crisps in a big bowl and put some hot dogs in the microwave? Hmmmm, what do you think?
Tuesday 26th March
An empty plastic bottle and a toilet roll tube are just some of the things that my daughters have used as toys whilst their actual toys that cost time and money are sitting there unused. Last week I told you about how an empty box gave them hours of entertainment. Actually it’s quite nice to see that fun can be had without a decrease in my bank account. Well my daughters now have something new they like to play with that doesn’t cost the earth, but to be honest I’m not as happy about this one. They love to play with balloons, the perfect toy as it’s fun, portable and inexpensive. But balloons sometimes go pop and this is where the problem lies. Alyssa decided to use her balloon as a chair and you can guess what happened next. How do you explain to a one year old that a burst balloon can’t be put back together? Of course I blew a new one up for her which she was happy with, until that one popped. I must remember to buy a balloon pump, I’m feeling faint.
I’ve lost something and I’d appreciate it if you could help me find it. I’m even thinking of making a sign, you know the one you see taped to a lamp post with the word ‘lost’ written at the top in big bold letters to catch your attention. Normally below this is a photo of a dog or a cat with a phone number to call so if you spot the much loved missing pet you can reunite it with the owner. Although my sign will be slightly different to what you might usually see as my dog Ralph thankfully is not missing at all. On my sign in place of a dog or cat will be a photo of me. I’d probably be wearing my favourite going out shirt and the new pair of shoes I got for Christmas that have not yet made contact with my feet. In my hand will be a pint glass containing some ice cold lager and after taking a satisfying gulp some foam from the lager head will leave a comedy foam moustache on my top lip. For the thing that I seem to have lost is my social life. A few years ago the biggest decision of the day was which genre of film to watch at the local cinema and Sunday night used to be pub night with my mates. In one particular pub I felt like a character in EastEnders walking into the Queen Vic when I’d arrive at the bar and declare “usual please” and they’d know which drink I’d be talking about. But as the years have passed since becoming a dad socialising has slowly ground to a halt. Maybe it’s because my friends have finally got tired of my not funny jokes (surely not true) but I’m leaning towards another reason; children. It’s very true that before they arrived I didn’t understand how much time and energy they take from you. From the very moment they wake up with bags of energy right up until the moment they go to bed. Of course I don’t mean this in a negative way, they are amazing and fun to be around and becoming a dad is the best thing to ever happen to me but I feel things are only going to get busier. Caitlin starts school in September, which I’m sure will include after school clubs and invitations to many birthday parties and of course this is where the daddy taxi service comes in. I’m quite happy with the way fatherhood has changed my life but I am looking forward to my next night out, in 2027, when Caitlin will be eighteen.
Tuesday 19th March
Last week I ordered a book for my daughter Caitlin. She’s really into the Winnie the Witch series of books so it was another one to add to her collection. After a few days a delivery man arrived with a huge box, way too big for a thin children’s book surely, I thought. When I tore the cello tape from the box and opened the flaps, sure enough sitting there underneath what seems like way too much polystyrene was Caitlin’s new book. Maybe the store had run out of small boxes on that day? I presented my pleased looking daughter with the book and for the next few minutes she was sat in silence turning the pages engrossed in her gift. The irony was that after those few minutes the book was no longer the subject of Caitlin’s attention, instead the huge box was and it remained her toy for the rest of the day. Her imagination turned the boring looking box into amongst other things a car and a house. I’m still picking up polystyrene.
Apparently internet shopping is more popular in the UK than any other country. According to research you and I spend about £1000 a year buying items on the World Wide Web. I’m not quite sure how much I spend online in a year, maybe its best that I don’t find out, but I admit that when it comes to shopping, the internet is always my first choice. Of course the main reason for choosing to shop online is the convenience. I can shop whenever I want, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week at a time that suits me and I’m not limited by any opening and closing times. Another major advantage is the pure amount of online retailers, which means when I find the product I want I can easily and quickly compares the prices and make sure I am getting the best deal. Even better is to type the product into one of those handy comparison websites which will find the cheapest price for me. To compare shopping in the same way on the high street would take hours if not days and would probably leave me exhausted. Another advantage is shopping in comfort; I can search for a bargain on my smartphone whilst lying in bed or even on my tablet computer during the ads on television. Obviously online shopping also has it’s disadvantages, like having to buy a product purely on its photo and description and not being able to touch it or try it out before parting with your money. Another disadvantage is when you need to return a product, instead of simply taking it back to a store you have to spend time repacking it and then taking it to the post office to send it back. For me the major disadvantage of online shopping is it doesn’t give you satisfaction in the same way going to a store does. I realised this recently when I visited a large toy store with my daughter Caitlin. It seemed to give her the same excitement as visiting Paultons Park last year. Her face lit up with a huge smile when we entered this children’s paradise and she saw more brightly coloured toys than she had ever seen in her life. All her favourite children’s television characters were there in toy form like Spongebob Squarepants and Elmo from Sesame Street and at every turn in every aisle there was another toy featuring a magical Disney character. Of course it was busy with lots of other parents with their children but this only added to the feel-good atmosphere. Having such a good time looking at the toys with Caitlin I lost track of time but I’m sure we were in there for more than an hour and of course there was a trip to the checkout before we made our exit. I’ll still be shopping online but when it comes to toy shopping nothing beats going to the store and seeing the look on my daughters face.
Tuesday 12th March
Last week whilst wasting five minutes and scrolling down my Facebook timeline, I noticed one of my friends had commented that she was annoyed at the amount of people who don’t have children with them but who still use the parent and child parking spaces at the supermarket. I have to admit this is something that has slightly irritated me in the past too. Many a times I’ve entered the car park with my two children sitting in their car seats and a pushchair in the boot trying to get to that one remaining parent and child space near the entrance before the car in front of me does. Annoying when it does take the last space, especially when I see them leave the car with their 15 year old babies or even worse invisible children. To be fair it can be confusing. Some signs state that the spaces are for parent and toddler, so I’d say that was up until four years of age. Some say parent and child, up until sixteen? And will I get a ticket if I risk parking in the mother and child space?
Life with young children is amazing, full of fun and laughter. But of course there are times when you feel like you could pull your hair out or more likely feel your hair falling out with the stress brought on by this little person you created being defiant. With my eldest daughter Caitlin turning four years old this year, I can confidently say that she is now out of that most stressful stage called the terrible twos. It’s that time of your young child’s life when a lot of their time is spent moaning, whining, crying and saying no to simple requests. Don’t get me wrong, she still has a tantrum now and then but now she is that bit older they don’t normally last long and she has realised that bad behaviour means that certain treats and privileges will be withdrawn. To be completely honest, although I think my first born is growing up way too fast and I already miss the days when she was smaller than she is now, I am really happy the terrible two days are over for her. It seems like only yesterday when the slightest little thing would set off a full blown temper tantrum and it could happen at any moment in any place. I remember when we were shopping in the supermarket in Farlington, it started off as a regular visit to get the weeks groceries much like any other visit to the supermarket. That soon changed. Caitlin sitting in the child seat of the trolley was holding the six pack of crisps we were buying, when I took this off her so the checkout lady could scan it’s barcode Caitlin suddenly had the mother of all tantrums. All control of her body seemed to be lost with her arms and legs flapping all over the place and a screaming sound that I’m sure could be heard in Scotland. All of a sudden I could feel that eyes were on us. For all the people queuing at the checkout we were suddenly the entertainment. Not an experience I enjoyed or wished to repeat, although these situations did crop up again I learnt that ignoring the bad behaviour and not giving in to my daughters demands was the quickest way to get situations back to a pleasant state. But as I say, these days are over I can’t see Caitlin having anymore supermarket meltdowns. Her sister Alyssa on the other hand turns two next month and it is now obvious the terrible twos have started early. Recently when her request for some chocolate was denied she proceeded to throw herself on the floor and flap around like a fish whilst crying loudly (but with no tears). Here we go again, it’s time for round two.
Tuesday 5th March
As no baby is born holding a set of instructions on how to look after them, it is of course up to the parents to learn about being mummy and daddy as they go along. Since I became a dad I’ve learnt so many things about babies and children I could probably fill up this newspaper with the information. Of course friends and family are always there to offer advice but most of the stuff is learning from experience. For example, with children the colour white should always be avoided. Carpets, sofas, cushions should always be a colour that will not show up stains created by little hands. Something else parenthood has taught me is that when I am sitting with one of my daughters watching children’s television always keep the remote control within arm’s length. I recently learnt this when 1 year old Alyssa fell asleep on me and the remote control was on the other side of the room, not wanting to move and wake her up I was trapped. Yes, that’s right, a twenty nine year old man watching CBeebies all by himself.
I recently had a flashback to when I was a child. I must have been about eight or nine years old and I was in the living room of our house in Fratton. I was sitting watching television, probably something like Fun House or the Power Rangers. I suddenly turned around and noticed my sister, who then would have been around three years old, had drawn the most amazing picture. To be honest I couldn’t quite make out what the picture was supposed to be, it was just a colourful mess of lines, shapes and scribbles but even though she wasn't showing signs of being the next Vincent Van Gogh or Pablo Picasso, she looked quite proud of her creation. Problem was, this drawing was not on a piece of A4 paper or in one of her many colouring in books, instead she had chosen the newly painted living room wall for her colourful creation. As it was summer the warm sunshine flooded into the room and made the walls look brighter than they normally do therefore making the drawing noticeable as soon as anyone entered the room. And shortly after our dad arrived home from work he spotted it straight away. To ensure she knew that crayons and walls were not supposed to make contact, dad told her in a stern and authoritative way not to do it again and as far as I’m aware she never did. This flashback occurred last week when I was presented with the exact same situation with my youngest daughter, it seems history is repeating itself. Alyssa, who turns two years old in April, loves to draw. She has many colouring in books which are full of various pictures such as an elephant, a tree and a mermaid and she sits quietly with her crayons colouring them in. Even though the she used the colour pink for the elephant and the colour blue for the tree, it’s lovely to watch her being creative. But it seems Alyssa has outgrown the faithful colouring in book that has entertained children for generations and wants to move onto the next level. Maybe she thought our living room could do with a new look or a splash of colour, who knows, but her next project took place on our living room walls. Just like my sister, more than twenty years earlier, I couldn’t make out what the picture was supposed to be, another colourful mess of lines, shapes and scribbles. Just like my dad did with my sister I made it clear to her that walls weren’t the place for her drawings. One thing I can’t recall from all those years ago is what my dad used to remove the crayon marks from the painted wall. So far wet wipes and kitchen cleaner haven’t worked.
Tuesday 26th February
Last week the world got to see the Duchess of Cambridge and her baby bump for the first time. Of course speculation is already high over what the new royal baby will be called but these photos of Kate has apparently caused many more people to head to the bookies to place a bet on the name. Obviously traditional royal names like Victoria and Charles are getting good odds and of course the name Diana will probably appear on quite a few betting slips as it was recently voted the people’s choice for the new-born. If the royal couple are anything like we were when we were expecting our daughters, choosing the name won’t be easy. Apparently half of all expectant parents will have an argument or disagreement whilst discussing baby names and then when you finally do agree a spanner is put in the works when you remember your friend has a dog with that name and so you’re back to square one. One things sure, with the whole world putting forward suggestions, they can’t be short of ideas.
Until recently, in my daughter Caitlin’s three and a half years on this planet there has been no reason to explain to her that human beings come in all shapes and sizes, we are all unique and we all deserve respect and recognition no matter what we look like. But I have always wondered when that inevitable point would arrive. I have heard stories about children who in a supermarket queue have asked their parent why the man in front has a large belly or why that lady is sitting in a moving chair with big round wheels on. These situations sometimes cause an awkward moment. Of course these questions are inevitable because children have very curious minds. I’m hoping the way my daughters are brought up will open up their minds to see everybody as equal, although it does concern me that as they grow older they might read magazines or watch TV programmes that encourage them be a certain way. There have been many arguments about the influence of children/teens magazines and how they promote the idea that all women should be slim with immaculate skin, perfect hair and flawless makeup. Of course I’ve got quite a while to go before my daughters are reading these sorts of magazines and hopefully when the time comes, the way they have been brought up will ensure they are comfortable in their own skin. But Caitlin is now at an age where she is noticing the differences between herself and others around her and the inevitable questions have now started. No questions at the checkout about the person in front of us in the queue but instead at home when watching the pre-school TV channel Cbeebies. There is a presenter on the channel called Cerrie Burnel who was born with one hand. Of course I have noticed this before but never felt the need to point this out to Caitlin and Caitlin has never pointed it out to me. Well, until recently. After seeing this presenter on TV many times, last week she suddenly noticed and asked “Daddy where has that ladies hand gone”? I felt a weight of responsibility as my response there and then would shape how Caitlin thought of disability and possibly how she would treat and react to people with a disability in the future. I simply, in a matter of fact kind of way, explained to her that some people have two hands and some people have one hand. She accepted my answer and continued to watch the television programme. Disability groups have applauded the BBC for employing Cerri and I agree. As a parent it creates the perfect opportunity to teach my children about diversity and for them to grow up knowing that everyone is different.
Tuesday 19th February
Having two daughters I’ve lost count of how many times someone has asked if we will be having more children in the hope we would have a son. Infact shortly after my second daughter was born someone shockingly said to me “I bet you’re disappointed as it would have been nice to have one of each”. I can honestly say I wasn't disappointed and don’t understand how anyone could be by their baby’s gender. But I do sometimes wonder how different life would be if we’d had two sons instead of two daughters. Is there a big difference between boys and girls? Recently our house that sometimes feels overrun by females felt a bit more equal when the girls male cousins made a visit to our house. They weren’t naughty, just very hectic and incredibly boisterous with bags of energy and slightly destructive when it came to playing with toys and each other. Completely different to what I’m used to as a father of two girls. I was exhausted just watching them play. Shortly after they went home Caitlin declared “daddy I don’t like boys”. That’s fine by me.
So it’s that time of the year again when it’s freezing cold outside, the roads and pavements are often icy, it gets dark really early in the afternoon and many people are suffering from that condition called seasonal affective disorder, otherwise known as winter depression. It’s brought on by the gloomy weather and a long period of time with no sunlight. Apparently the symptoms of this condition, which include feeling stressed, anxious and feeling irritable, are most common in January and February. Until recently my experience of winter has been the complete opposite of this, as it’s always been my favourite season out of the four and as soon as the outside temperature reached below ten degrees I couldn’t have been happier. There are so many things to like about winter. A Google search for “Why winter is great” will produce websites that talk about winter in a poetic style describing the beautiful sound of a bunch of leaves crunching underneath your shoes, the view of snowflakes floating and falling from the sky and the crackle of a burning fire in your living room. That’s great and I’m sure if I had a fire that made a crackle noise I’d enjoy it but for me the fire is more about the toasty warm feeling it gives you when you’ve just got in from the winter cold and your hands feel like they are going to fall off from frostbite. But I suppose when talking about winter in a poetic style ‘Toasty Warm’ wouldn’t quite fit. Well now my view of winter has slightly changed and it’s since I became a dad. I wouldn’t say I’ve got the winter depression disorder but I do admit that I’m longing for the warmer weather. After months of cold weather boredom sets in and we all get that feeling of cabin fever. All the ideas for entertaining the children have been exhausted and we’re all now bored of being bored. A few weeks ago when feeling brave it was decided we’d get out of the house and take a walk along Milton Common, so with plenty of layers off we went. Being the middle of winter we spent the whole time dodging gigantic puddles and walking very carefully to avoid slipping on the muddy grass. When we returned my two daughters looked like what can only be described as mud monsters, they were covered. As soon as they were dunked in the bath the water turned brown. So now I’m really looking forward to spring and summer and the days when the slide at the local park won’t have a puddle of water waiting for you at the bottom and Milton Common will no longer be one big mud bath.
Tuesday 12th February
It’s no surprise that many big companies see children as a big target for their advertisements with research suggesting that 75% of family’s budgets are being spent on their children. Apparently by the time children reach the age of ten years old they will be able to recognise at least four hundred brands. I suppose this should be expected when the average child will view an astonishing ten thousand TV adverts in just one year. Just hearing that makes me want to throw our television out the window, cancel our television license and go and buy some board games to fill the void left by no television. Big companies are spending millions targeting our children, but do these adverts really work? In my experience the answer to that is a big fat yes and I’d put money on you agreeing with me if you have children. Our children are an important demographic when it comes to companies marketing their product and the main reason for this is children considerably influence their parents and grandparents buying decisions. Advertisers rely on the powerful force they call ‘pester power’. This is when a child nags their parent into purchasing something they wouldn’t have otherwise purchased. Now I’d like to think that this is not true and I don’t succumb to this so called pester power. In an ideal world my three year old daughters pestering has no influence on anything my hard earned cash will be spent on, but when I look back to last December some of the presents on my daughter Caitlin’s Christmas list were as a result of her seeing the adverts for that toy on TV and she is already making suggestions for her birthday later this year. The advert is always nicely sandwiched in between episodes of her favourite children’s TV shows such as Peppa Pig and SpongeBob Squarepants. The adverts are always fast paced and brightly coloured and give the image that this toy is the answer to every parents prayers and your child will want to play with it all day. I can say with experience this is absolutely not true. The toys are never as exciting as they look on television and they certainly do not get used all day, more like fifteen minutes. I don’t want to take away TV from my children, especially as it can be a fantastic educational tool but how can I stop them being bombarded with advertisements which in turns makes them pester me. Well I thought that would be BBC channel CBeebies, with no adverts. That was until Caitlin was watching a show called Wooly and Tig about a little girl who has a toy spider. “Daddy can you buy me a toy spider” she asked… back to the drawing board.
Do you remember the excitement you felt when you were a child and your birthday was approaching? I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that the enthusiasm for the day wasn’t so much about being one year older but more about the presents I’d receive and the money that would fall out of the birthday cards. As you get older the enthusiasm drops and that eagerness for the big day just isn’t there anymore, especially when you know money won’t be dropping out of birthday cards anymore. Well last week I celebrated the anniversary of my birth and for the first time in a few years that childlike excitement was back, purely through my two daughters. I can’t remember the last time I was sung Happy Birthday to, but that’s how I was awoken on my birthday by Caitlin and Alyssa. They were eager to help me tear open my presents and they even convinced me to have a huge slice of chocolate cake for lunch. Of course I enjoyed every moment as this will be the last birthday I will celebrate, then I’ll be twenty nine forever and my birthday will never begin with a three.
Tuesday 5th February
Apparently reading in children has dropped significantly over the last few years and now only three in every ten children will read in their own time. Personally, I love to get lost in a book and it seems my children do to. In fact we have so many books in our house I could run my own library specialising in books for the under fours. My three year old daughter Caitlin loves story time before she goes to bed and now prefers to read the stories to me, not using the words but her memory from when I read the story to her. With one year old Alyssa it’s all about the picture books and she’ll give me the sounds of the animals she sees on the page, although I need to teach her the difference between a cow and a horse as she does a “Mooooo” for both of them at the moment. With a busy life it’s quite nice to sit down with my children and read together, even when it’s a Peppa Pig book and it’s the hundredth time I’ve read it.
If it was possible for a man to experience labour and the excruciating contractions that come with it, how long would he be able to put up with the pain before enough was enough and he requested the pain come to an end? I’m guessing the answer to that question will differ whether you are a man or a woman. When I asked some of my female friends what would be different if a man had to go through pregnancy, labour and give birth, some of the comments that came back included “Natural childbirth would become obsolete” and “There would be morning sickness wards in hospitals”. In my unscientific poll it seems woman don’t think us men would cope too well. But what if we could put it to the test and see if a man could really handle the same pain a woman feels? Well this question has finally been answered. Two brave male Dutch TV presenters volunteered to be hooked up to electrodes that when attached to their bodies will replicate the same pain felt by woman during childbirth and the ordeal was filmed for their TV show. Of course the big difference here was, unlike a woman in labour, they could stop the pain whenever they wanted. After doing a bit of research I found out the shortest ever labour recorded was just eight minutes, although not long I’m sure it was just as painful. But maybe not as exhausting as the longest ever labour recorded at 75 days. So how long did the two male Dutch TV presenters last with labour pains shooting through their bodies. Well after just two hours they’d had enough and begged for the pain to stop and for the electrodes to be taken off. You might be laughing at that but I think that is amazing. I watched both of my daughters being born and witnessed the pain my partner Serena was experiencing during the labour and it amazed me that a human body can endure so much pain and stress. I think if that was me I wouldn’t have lasted five minutes. I admit I have an incredibly low pain threshold. I stub my toe and feel like I need a visit to A&E for pain relief. Of course if a woman wants a baby then she will have to go through labour and the pain that comes with it. If it were the other way around and it was men who had to go through childbirth then of course we would, it’s the only way the human race would continue. But I think the hospital would need to add a significant amount of extra storage space to stock all the extra pain relief needed.
Tuesday 29th January
Remember when you were a young child and life was care free? The days when you weren’t bothered about any problems that cropped up around you. There was no job to think about, no bills to pay and simply no responsibility. Well actually thinking back to when I was a child, there was one thing that caused me a slight amount of distress and I can see history is repeating itself with my two daughters. When I was younger, like most children the only thing that that would create worry in my young mind was boredom. That emotional state when you are left with nothing in particular to do and your surroundings could easily be described at that moment in time as the doldrums. When I was a young boy I would regularly annoy my mum and dad by using those two words that when put together would put them right on the spot, “I’m bored” I would declare. I would look at them expectantly waiting for them to solve my one and only problem in life with a list of ideas that were high in entertainment value for my eager mind. Sometimes they would offer up something for me to do, but understandably sometimes they wouldn’t. Being a dad to two children I’ve learned that it’s just not possible to keep children entertained all the time. Now I have my children expecting the same sort of response from me when they declare they are bored and like my parents it really does put you on the spot feeling like you need to take their mind out of this state of stagnation and give them some instant entertainment. Especially now three year old Caitlin is at nursery where for her five hour session her mind is constantly kept busy. Whether she’s singing along to nursery rhymes with her friends or getting mucky with paint or having go after go on the slide there is no chance of her getting bored. This is great but that means the pressure is now on the make her time at home just as stimulating. Well that’s what I thought, but apparently boredom is not such a bad thing for a child. I’ve always thought that boredom in a child can lead to mischief but an Oxford University professor has claimed that bored children, if left to their own devises are more likely to pick up a book or write a story. Apparently unstructured time will give them a chance to be creative and use their own minds to relieve their boredom. But I do fear that when Caitlin declares that she is bored and I respond with “No you’re being creative” I’ll get a blank face looking back at me.
Last week I was feeling in a money saving kind of mood, brought on by an email from our gas supplier saying we’re using more gas than was predicted and our direct debit would have to increase to cover the cost. I must admit, the central heating has been on a lot recently. But with freezing temperatures outside and snow reaching Portsmouth it’s important to keep myself and my family warm. So, I set my self a challenge last week. I wondered if it would be possible to go a whole day without the radiators throughout the house getting hot and using other methods to stay warm. The start of the day was fine, we all had a hot bath which warmed us up and then it was all about layers. Wearing two jumpers at the same time is great but toasty warm it isn’t and after just two hours my mission had failed miserably. Anyway, the layers thing would never have worked as I found trying to keep a warm woolly hat on a one year old is impossible.
Tuesday 22nd January
Every person who is in a loving relationship has a disagreement from time to time, conflict is normal and it is highly likely that a fall out will take place at some point, its human nature. Recently this has been apparent between my two daughters. It’s obvious that they love one another when they’re seen holding hands in the car or when they share a kiss and cuddle, but sometimes I think they must just get bored with being nice. One minute they adore each other and the next minute they can detest each other. It’s seems the biggest cause of disharmony is jealousy which is what starts the squabble and bickering. It can simply be that they both want to play with the dolly and whoever gets it first is running around the living room trying to avoid it being snatched out of her hand from her sister. But like all siblings and one of the most fascinating parts of a sibling relationship is that as they get older they’ll probably still get on each others nerves behind closed doors but when they’re out and about they’ll be each others biggest supporter.
Did you have a good sleep last night? If you had at least eight hours in the land of nod then the answer is most probably yes. Apparently that is the right amount needed for an adult to keep our body and mind healthy and focused for the day ahead. As someone who loves sleep, when I’m having a particularly busy or hectic day I always look forward to that moment when I can collapse into my bed with my head landing perfectly on my pillow. When doing a bit of research into the importance of sleep I found out that it carries the same amount of value to our bodies as eating, drinking and breathing does. Put simply if you want to live a healthy and long life you must make time for a good amount of sleep each night. I know what you’re thinking, If only it were that simple? As of course, a good night’s sleep is not always an easy thing to accomplish. Apparently the most common things that wake us up during the night are either our pets or our children. We used to have problems with our dog Ralph waking us (and possibly our neighbours) with his noise at night. When he is lying asleep, all of sudden he’ll appear to be dreaming with his legs and paws twitching which is followed by what I can only describe and a series of loud yelpy barks. Now though his dog bed is placed as far away from our bedrooms as possible and his dreaming noises cannot be heard. So if the dog isn’t keeping me up at night what is? Well let’s move onto that other common thing that likes to disturb the nations sleep, children. An article I read revealed that half of all parents lie about their child’s sleeping patterns in fear that it will make them look like a bad parent. Well here is the truth from me. Sometimes I have a great sleep and my two young daughters will go to bed and not be heard from until they wake up in the morning and I feel like kissing them a million times as a thank you for my beautiful undisturbed night. But other nights just aren’t so blissful and will involve one year old Alyssa calling out “mum, dad, mum, dad” non-stop until she gets bored and falls back asleep or three year old Caitlin crying because she has awoken and can’t find the teddy she cuddles in bed. If you’re a parent I’m sure you’ll agree that after a night of disturbed sleep, the most annoying thing is seeing your children yawning whilst eating their breakfast. But of course, one day they’ll be teenagers, wanting a lie in and that’s when I get my revenge.
Tuesday 15th January
Ever since my daughter Caitlin was born I’ve wondered when it would be the right time to take her to the see a movie at the cinema or a show at the theatre. Through her baby and toddler years I didn’t see much point but now she is that bit older and can sit through a whole Disney movie at home I thought now would be a good time to attempt some away from the house entertainment. What could be more perfect than the local pantomime at the Kings Theatre in Southsea? I guessed that there would be lots of children and any noise Caitlin might make during the performance would blend in with everyone else so tickets were ordered online and off we went with some snacks in my pocket to keep her happy in the interval. During a quiet bit in the performance the whole theatre might have heard Caitlin declare “daddy I need a wee” but apart from that she loved it and joined in with the audience participation. After seeing a leaflet for another child friendly show, she’s looking forward to going back.
Nostalgia and the way it makes us feel fascinates me. You know, when our minds think back to a happy time in the past with a large dose of sentimentality and always whilst wearing our rose tinted glasses. Whatever the subject from history that is going through our minds it seems to create a positive mood. This feeling can be triggered by many different things. Like when you hear a song on the radio and it reminds you of your school days, the nostalgia starts and you can remember all the people you knew, the places you visited and the fun times you had when you heard that song for the very first time. Whenever I hear any version of the song unchained melody it reminds me when I starred in my junior school variety show at St Johns in Arundel Street. I was one half of Robson and Jerome. I’m not sure which one I was but I’m sure the audience were pretty impressed with my miming skills. But nostalgia can be brought on in other ways, like when I smell coconut rum which always reminds me of my first holiday with my mates to Tenerife when I was eighteen. I think it was the cheapest drink out there so it was all we drank throughout the whole week. If you, like me, grew up in the late eighties and nineties you might have enjoyed the recent ‘Classics weekend’ being shown on one of the children’s TV channels. It was showing many of the kids shows I watched as a child and as I tuned in I could remember exactly where I was when I watched them first time round, mostly sitting on the living room floor right in front of the TV. A whole weekend of classic children’s TV shows gave me the perfect opportunity to show my children a time when, in my opinion, kids TV was at its best. And if you’ll pardon me from using the all too often used nostalgic phrase which will make me sound much older than my twenty eight years, they don’t make them like they used to. With confidence I put on the TV channel expecting Caitlin and Alyssa to enjoy what they were watching just as I did twenty years earlier. After five minutes of viewing a favourite of mine, Woof, about the adventures of a boy that could turn into a dog they became restless and lost interest. Next came Fun House with Pat Sharp and his famous mullet. It was a dream of mine to visit the fun house, so surely they would be interested, sadly no. Not even the brilliant Count Duckula could hold their attention. I enjoyed a weekend of nostalgia but for my daughters nothing beats Peppa Pig and Spongebob Squarepants.
Tuesday 8th January
Two weeks ago today was Christmas day. In one way it seems like only yesterday I was sitting at the dinner table tucking into my Turkey Christmas dinner but in another way as we’re now in a brand new year it feels like a distant memory. But you’d think as the big day was only a fortnight ago, my two daughters would still be enjoying all the toys brought to them by father Christmas. If you opened our front door and walked into our house I’d like to think you’d see Alyssa attempting to ride her new red and yellow trike or Caitlin showing us she could be a future Leonardo Da Vinci with an impressive drawing on her new easel. But no, as I sit here and write Alyssa is sat on the floor ignoring the trike and is instead playing with my car keys and Caitlin is showing no aspirations of being a great artist whilst using a toilet roll tube as a trumpet. I have a feeling next Christmas won’t be as expensive.
We’re only eight days into January and already I’m being bombarded with adverts telling me it’s time to get fit and healthy. I have a feeling the universe is trying to tell me something as in just one morning last week I had multiple messages thrown in my direction telling me how I should kick-start my “new me” lifestyle for 2013. Firstly there was an advert on the television telling me I should eat their dieting product twice a day, first for breakfast and then again for lunch followed by a normal healthy dinner and in weeks I would lose a dress size. I wouldn’t even know what my dress size was and it sounds a bit sexist to me so I don’t think I’ll be signing up to that one. Then a few minutes later a pile of junk mail was pushed through my letterbox, one of which was a leaflet advising me to join the local gym. Apparently I can sign up to a weight loss programme that will make me flab free in no time. Of course meeting my needs means thirty pounds exiting my bank account every month for at least a year after signing the compulsory twelve month contract. I think I’ll give this one a miss and anyway, I don’t like the word flab I prefer to call it insulation. After putting the junk mail in the bin an advert on the radio from a celebrity I’d never heard of was telling me I should buy her new fitness DVD to make my abs, bum and tum look just like hers. I have decided to get fit and healthy for this new year as looking after my energetic daughters requires a decent fitness level especially after a recent game of tag left me slightly out of breath, but it certainly won’t involve diet foods, gym memberships or celebrity fitness DVD’s. I’ve took the plunge and signed up for the Great south Run. I last did it in 2008 and at the time got the running bug which meant I got anxious if I didn’t go out for my daily run. Fast forward five years and I still have the bug, but this time it’s a pretend tummy bug used as an excuse not to get my running trainers on. But now as I have the Great South Run as a target I’m hoping the training will not only give me the running bug again but also raise my fitness level so that I can play with my daughters without needing a break to catch my breath. So the new year means a new healthier me, of course that’s after I’ve finished off the tub of chocolates, the large bag of dry roasted peanuts and pack of cheesy nibbles leftover from Christmas.
Tuesday 1st January
So it’s now been twelve months since I started writing this column. I was a bit worried at first that I wouldn’t be able to fill this page with enough interesting tales of fatherhood and I’d have to request the editor use a much larger font but I needn’t had worried as my experience has been the complete opposite. With young children there is never a dull moment. Although I admit that sometimes a dull moment would be quite nice. So I thought this would be a good time to look back at some of the more interesting moments of the last year. 2012 started with Caitlin melting my heart by saying those four magic words “I love you daddy” for the very first time. For a few hours I felt like the luckiest dad in the world, that was until she directed her affection towards a white waist container when discarding her empty yoghurt pot, “I love you bin” she declared. In February Alyssa started to crawl which meant I had to get down on my hands and knees and pretend to be a nine month old to see what could pose danger. Electrical cords were put out of reach and sockets were covered up. Sadly we forgot about the nappy rash cream that Alyssa managed to not only open but also smear all over herself and the carpet. Later in the year I managed to turn Caitlin into a Worzel Gummidge lookalike when her mum was called into work early and I had the job of not only brushing her hair but also arranging it into a ponytail. With an unimpressed look on Caitlin’s face I learnt that from then on dad must stay away from the hairbrush. Springtime brought an embarrassing moment after a day out when I was trying to fold up the pushchair to put into the car. I pushed and pulled every leaver and it just wouldn’t fold down. Luckily I wasn’t the only one as my father in law had a go and couldn’t do it either, but then my partner Serena managed to do it with just one flick of her foot. Annoying. Later on in the year Alyssa walked for the first time and I was the only person who witnessed this milestone that she would not re-enact for weeks after making it look like I’d made the whole thing up. When summer arrived I spent hours blowing up the paddling pool after I stupidly forgot to buy a pump. Then more hours were spent filling it up with water. Let’s just say I was slightly annoyed after all my effort when the water turned brown after Alyssa decided to use the pool as a toilet. Hopefully 2013 will be just as interesting. Happy new year to you.
One job at Christmas, annoyingly, always seems to land on the shoulder of dads. As I now have two little humans calling me by the D word that means I can now add this laborious task onto my CV. Since 6am on Christmas day it seems like all I have been doing is putting toys together. I shouldn’t complain as I shirked out of the other boring task of wrapping presents, nicely done by my partner Serena, so it’s my turn to step up and do the job no one wants to do. I’m lucky to still have all my fingers remaining after fighting with unnecessary packaging, especially toys that are vacuum packed with that horrible hard plastic that have left my hands with a few unpleasant grazes. Then I grab the instructions that come with diagrams I’m sure were drawn by a toddler and step by step instructions that leave me even more confused. But persistence pays off and I put all the screws in the right places. All worthwhile when I see my daughter enjoying her new toy, until she hands me another box with another unassembled toy and I start all over again.
Tuesday 18th December
I told you a few weeks ago that my daughter Caitlin seems to come home from nursery with a new illness every week. If one of her friends has a cough, cold or runny nose she is sure to have it a few days later. I threatened to put up a big red cross on our front door to warn people to stay away or risk being infected. Well I think it’s now time to get the paper, pritt stick and red paint out and make a start on my sign as a nasty bug has entered the Hayden household. This time it’s worse than green nose mucus or a tickle in your throat that won’t go away. My daughters have caught the horrible winter vomiting bug that is “going around”. Apparently it only lasts 24-48 hours and I’m hoping this is true as it’s not at all fun seeing my children ill. It’s also not fun at 1am having to run a bath to get vomit out of tangled hair. I thought pooey nappies were the worst smell in the world… I’ve changed my mind.
I read somewhere once that all the past and current geniuses of this world have one thing in common. Intellectual giants like Albert Einstein, the famous physicist whose surname is now synonymous with the word genius. On a few occasions when my children have done something clever I’ve been known to substitute their actual name for his by blurting out something like “You clever little Einstein”. Well Mr Albert Einstein apparently shared at least one of his personality traits with other incredibly knowledgeable and brainy people. Like Thomas Edison, the American inventor who we have to thank for the light bulb and Tim Berners Lee, the British computer scientist who invented the world wide web. The one trait they all have in common was the desire to learn and know about anything and everything, summed up in one word – curiosity. There is a lot of confusing science behind why this trait is so common in clever people but put in a simple way that my not so Einstein like mind can understand, curious people’s minds are always active and always asking questions and searching for answers. As the mind is like a muscle it becomes stronger through the constant mental exercise. Well in about a hundred years’ time when a child does something clever their mother or father may be substituting their name with another by blurting out “You clever little Hayden”. I’m embarrassed to say this would not be referring to any of my achievements or my cleverness but instead my daughters. I think I may have produced two little geniuses. For they, like most little minds, are incredibly curious. From the moment they wake up at 6am to the moment they go to bed at 6pm their brains are working so hard I’m almost expecting steam to be coming out of their ears. Caitlin, at three years old, is asking a lot of questions and expecting detailed answers. I can’t fob her off with a quick explanation because with every answer given by me produces another question from her. Most subsequent questions are in the form of just one word – “Why?” With my youngest daughter Alyssa the curiosity comes in the form of wanting to touch and explore everything she sees. A few weeks ago when our Christmas decorations were put up I was incredibly proud of the result with our living room looking very festive. Let’s just say it’s now all looking a bit of a mess and the teddy snowman that stands next to the fireplace needs a visit to accident and emergency as he’s developed a broken arm. Who knows if their curious minds will turn them into worldwide geniuses, but one thing I know for sure is next year I need to put the Christmas tree chocolate decorations up higher away from curious hands.
Tuesday 11th December
At what point do you start feeling that feel-good festive glow inside you? I’ve always been in the “the sooner Christmas starts the better” camp. In fact I’ve been known to get the Christmas songs out in September when the suns warm glow means it is still T-shirt weather, frowned upon by my partner Serena who thought that a bit premature. But you won’t find me moaning about the supermarkets having all their Christmas stock on their shelves a whole three months before the big day or hearing Christmas songs on the radio when we’re still in a month that doesn’t begin with the letter D. If the feel good and magical run up to December 25th can be stretched out a bit longer, then that is good news to me. I’m more than happy to admit I love Christmas and everything that comes with it like driving past a block of flats and seeing one single window packed full of flashing lights and decorations or going to the local garden centre to buy yet another decoration to add to our already too big pile. Now with two daughters Christmas is about to get even more magical. I’m now feeling that festive glow and I’m looking forward to the big day with my family. I’m very lucky as the run up to Christmas for me includes hosting some of the light switch on events across the South Coast as part of my role as a presenter with Heart. I feel really honoured to be part of these events and being amongst thousands of families as they start their Christmas season. A few weeks ago I was on stage in Southsea introducing the entertainment and switching on the lights with a count down from ten to one and last weekend I jumped in my car and drove to Christchurch in Dorset to help light up their town centre. It was at last weekend’s event that I found myself not only feeling festive but also feeling slightly star struck. You see we had some of the stars from the local panto join us on stage. One of these was Hi-De-Hi star Su Pollard who is just as brilliant and flamboyant in real life with that amazing distinctive voice. But I’ve obviously been watching far too much kids TV with my daughters because I was more star struck by one of the other panto stars – Chris Jarvis. He is a presenter on pre-school channel CBeebies and his show is on in our house every day. Not only did I meet him but also Stuffy – a felt toy cube with orange hair from his show. Caitlin wasn’t impressed when I kept interrupting her TV viewing saying I’d met the man from the telly.
Congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge who announced last week they are expecting their first child. The couple are now at the start of a nine month rollercoaster that as we know hasn’t started well with Kate’s severe morning sickness. But because I’ve been through the rollercoaster twice, I’d like to give the Duke some advice. Firstly at all visits to the midwife, prenatal scans and even during the labour prepare to feel like a spare part. Just do whatever you’re asked to do by Kate and the midwives and you’ll be just fine. Also prepare to be asked your opinions on colours and materials for items such as prams and baby clothing. I found it best just to nod and agree. Finally, use the remaining months of the pregnancy to practice your tea making skills as you’ll be making a lot of the stuff for all the well-wishing visitors. Good news is it’s all worthwhile and once friends and family have gone you’ll get to be daddy. I’ll talk to you about pooey nappies another day.
Tuesday 4th December
There are many advantages to sending my eldest daughter Caitlin to nursery, the main one being the development of her social skills. Something as simple as interacting with other children has so many benefits. Including teaching her patience and the fact that sometimes she will have to wait, sometimes she will have to take turns and sometimes she will have to share. In the short three months she’s attended nursery it’s clear that mixing with other children has been beneficial for her. Sadly there is one disadvantage to mixing with all the other children and that is she seems to catch any illness bug that is going around. She’ll then bring that bug home with her and before we know it we’re all infected and I consider putting a big cross on the front door signalling everyone to stay away. As I type, on my right is a disgusting cold and flu powder drink ready for me to try and consume without the horrible taste touching my tongue. On my left is my youngest daughter Alyssa using me as a climbing frame. I’m not sure if the aches and pains are from the cold and flu or from Alyssa’s feet jabbing my ribs.
Did you have to learn a foreign language when you were at school? I attended St Edmunds School in Portsmouth where French and German were taught. Thinking back I probably would have preferred to learn French which could have been useful over the years when boarding a ferry from Portsmouth to Cherbourg for a day out in France. Although like most Brits, in the past I ignorantly just expected every French person I’d meet to speak back to me in English. Of course I’d still make a small effort by adding in the odd bit of French into the sentence like “bonjour, do you speak English”. If that failed and I got a puzzled face looking back at me I’d still talk in English but this time round speak slower, louder and with a French accent whilst trying to use sign language to demonstrate what I want. If I took a trip to France tomorrow I would still have to expect the locals to understand me because at school I was put into the group that learnt German. Thing is I got really good at it and by the time I left school aged sixteen I could hold a basic conversation in the language. Sadly in the years that have passed all those words my brilliant German teacher taught me are forgotten and now the best I can do is count to ten and say “My name is Warren”. But I’m pleased to inform you that I have learnt a second language for which I am now fluent. This time though it is not German or even French. I am now an expert in Toddler language. My one year old daughter Alyssa is going through a language explosion at the moment. She’s been saying “Momma” and “Dada” for ages, but now we’re getting a “Thank you”, “here you go” and she even calls her sister by her name and each day brings a new word. Of course sometimes her pronunciation requires a bit of working out, for example “Ow” doesn’t mean she’s hurt herself but means “Cow”. But it’s not just spoken language that requires understanding but also working out what her self designed sign language gestures mean. Some are easy, like when she drags her High Chair over into the centre of the room, which means she wants to be placed in it and for food to be put on it. Or when she points at the TV which translated means “I’d really like it if you turned on the big rectangle thing and put on the channel that shows Peppa Pig”. It’s really is lovely trying to understand what she wants through her words and actions. Well apart from when she threw her plate complete with baked beans on at me, which translated means “finished”.
Tuesday 27th November
Being a parent is one of the most rewarding jobs on earth. It is also, at times, one of the most exhausting jobs on earth. Thankfully though, any negatives are outweighed a million times (and more) by all the positives that my children give me. But if you’re a parent, you’ll know how important it is to have some wind down time away from the kids. This can be something as simple as putting the lock across on the bathroom door and lying in a steaming hot bath. Of course my ‘bubble bath for men’ makes this experience a bit manlier. But annoyingly my (manly) bath time and chance for a bit of peace and quiet has been hijacked. You see, I live with three females; my partner Serena and my two daughters and the site of a fresh hot bubble bath is just far too tempting for them. By the time I get in the water there are no bubbles left and I’m left fishing out bath toys. Lesson learned; When it comes to the bathroom it is strictly female territory, woman take priority over men.
In an ideal world, my daughters would have a healthy and balanced diet every single day. As night falls I would feel happy knowing they would have consumed just the right amount of vitamins and nutrients for their growing bodies and mind. When I did a bit of research into the importance of a good diet in children I was left more bamboozled than before and wish I never looked in the first place. Some advice websites were telling me how important it is to start their journey of healthiness young otherwise they will grow up overweight and unhealthy and contribute towards a worldwide obesity epidemic. Hold on a minute, I thought, I only wanted a bit of dietary information and now I’m thinking I should empty the biscuit barrel into the bin and replace them with carrot sticks. According to one website it is vital that children eat their vegetables and it is your parental responsibility to make sure it happens. Talk about pressure. Apparently fruits like oranges and apples are rich in vitamin C which will help the boost their immunity. After they’ve polished off the fruit and their bodies are ready to fight off any disease or infection that comes their way it’s time to move onto the green vegetables like broccoli or green beans. These are required for the magnesium inside which will help with help with muscle and bone growth. But it doesn’t stop there. Once the main course of green has disappeared it’s time for desert. This is where we take a leaf out of Popeyes book, literally, with some tasty spinach for iron – important for healthy blood cells to form. Then if they are still hungry they can have a portion of eggplant, full of healthy nutrients. Firstly I don’t think I’ve ever seen, touched or purchased an eggplant and wouldn’t even know what one looked like and secondly, as any parent will tell you, it’s just not that easy. Especially when it has been a tough meal time with food is all over the floor. It would be so easy to give in and feed them turkey drumsticks and chips every night, but of course that would be very wrong. There are some vegetables that my daughters will eat and there are some they won’t even touch. But I’ve also read that it takes more than twelve attempts for a child to know whether they like a food or not, not entirely sure I believe this as it only took one attempt for my girls to realise they like chocolate biscuits. But I’m happy knowing that one night they might eat pizza and chips for their dinner but the next it’ll be a cottage pie packed full of those vitamin and nutrient rich veggies. I just need to tell my youngest Alyssa that munching on grass from the garden doesn’t count as one of her five a day.
Tuesday 20th November
Are you one of the one billion people who have watched the Gangnam Style video on YouTube? It’s a song by a South Korean singer called PSY that has been a huge success all over the world, reaching the top of the charts in more than thirty countries. It’s now the second most watched video ever on YouTube and is catching up with the current number one by teenage pop star Justin Bieber. It has a highly entertaining music video that includes the signature dance move called the ‘Invisible Horse riding dance’. When the track was released this summer I didn’t take much notice of it, thinking it was just some novelty song that wouldn’t be around for very long. But after a few listens I’m now hooked on it’s ridiculously addictive lyrics and comical music video. But it’s also become a great parenting tool. Do you remember when you were younger and your mum or dad would declare that it was bedtime? I’d sit looking at the clock hoping my parents wouldn’t notice I was still in the room as I didn’t even feel tired and felt like I had at least an hour or two left in me to play with my toys or watch more TV before I needed to visit the land of nod. In my mind I never agreed when my parents told me I needed my sleep, especially as they would stay up far later than me, why didn’t they need as much sleep as me, I thought. But I’d always trot off up the stairs and in my bedroom with little protest. Well now the shoe is on the other foot and it’s me declaring to my children that its bedtime and it’s my daughter Caitlin who is replying with the words “I’m not even tired yet”. I now know what my parents knew back then, that a child who has had plenty of sleep is a much happier child to be around. This is where the Gangnam style video comes in. One day last week Caitlin was dancing along to the video, complete with the invisible horse riding dance. Highly amusing and recorded on my smartphone to show at her eighteenth birthday party. She was having so much fun she asked to watch it again and again and again. So if the music video does get more views than Justin Bieber, we may have played a huge part in the achievement as it actually feels like we have watched it about one billion times. That night so exhausted from all the dancing, Caitlin went to bed with no protest and slept through the night and woke up the next day in a jolly mood. Her first words that morning “can we watch the funny dance video”.
There are a few things that signal the Christmas season has arrived. The major one being when in early November you suddenly find yourself in a supermarket aisle that has signs wishing you a merry Christmas and is piled high with everything festive from stocking fillers to a book on how to make the perfect Christmas dinner. One thing that did catch my eye was the large tubs of chocolates that were labelled as being half price. The supermarkets job is to make me spend more in their store than I had originally planned and they had succeeded with my bill being £3 higher due to the tub of tasty looking chocolates. Problem is I’m not good at fighting temptation, I love chocolate and somewhat annoyingly so does my daughter Caitlin. All she had to do was ask me politely if she could have one and the plastic safety seal around the tub was open. I eat the ones I like and she eats the ones I dont. I wonder if they are still half price.
Tuesday 13th November
I just typed the words ‘Parenting manual’ into the internet search engine Google and as soon as I pressed the ENTER button before my eyes were a choice of over 14,000,000 websites. Each one containing advice on raising children and being a great parent. One site that I clicked on declared that “Parenting is the hardest job in the world, but read on to become a great and productive parent”. To be honest sometimes instructions for something simple as the toaster or the putting together flat pack furniture bamboozles my brain, so I don’t think I’d get on with reading a parenting manual, which I’m guessing would have far too many pages and be too heavy for my small but adequate muscles. So far, I’ve learnt as I’ve gone along and it’s worked just fine. Lessons like patience, when your baby interrupts your much needed sleep every two hours for a feed and nappy change, but not a problem if you have patience. Multitasking is an important quality too and one that every parent must learn without fail. Like when you’re trying to feed yourself and feed your baby and also keep your toddler entertained at the same time. Another important quality is forgiveness. Like when I’m ready to go to work and she flicks baby food onto my shirt. It’s not her fault and she hasn’t done anything wrong. She’s just doesn’t know yet what is right and what is wrong. But my favourite parenting quality that I’ve discovered since my girls were born is the ability to talk to children. Some people find it easy and natural to sit with a child and engage in conversation but before I had my own children I would always find it slightly awkward talking to them. It was almost like I was trying to have a conversation with an alien from a different planet. But in the just over three years since I became a parent I now have the ability to hold a conversation with a child and I’ve found I actually really enjoy chatting to children and watching their imagination through words. I recently hosted a fireworks event as part of my job as a presenter with heart. The venue was packed with families including children who wanted to chat with the man from the radio. No awkwardness and no feeling of talking to an alien. Instead lots of fun conversation with kids telling me about their favourite fireworks and I even indulged in some firework impressions with the kids. I thought my whizzing and whistling noises sounded like a real firework, but one young boy disagreed and proceeded to show me how to do it correctly. He was right, his impression was much better than mine.
The new Christmas advert for supermarket Asda has been causing some controversy and has been branded sexist by some. The advert shows a pretty blonde lady playing the part of mum who is rushing around at a hectic pace getting everything ready for the perfect Christmas. From choosing and decorating the Christmas tree, to wrapping Christmas presents, to cooking the Christmas dinner, mum is getting it done. The festive ad ends with the slogan “Behind every great Christmas, there’s Mum”. Basically the message is that mum works extremely hard for her family at Christmas time. Complaints that I have seen say the ad is stereotyping to both men and woman. Although I agree it could be viewed as sexist, for the most part it’s true. In my experience Christmas wouldn’t have been the same without mum and her amazing ability to do what seems like a million things at once. But equally dads are just as amazing too and it’s important to remember that the advert is just doing what every advert does; talking to it’s target audience (even though dads do the shopping too).
Tuesday 30th October
When our dog Ralph was a puppy, I loved teaching him new things. Most of the time it was just basic commands like “Stay”, “drop the ball” and “lie down”. Other things would take a bit more time for him to learn, like when I wanted him to take himself to the garden to do his toilet business. But he soon caught on and after I declared “Off you go to the toilet”, he’d wander off to the garden all by himself. Then when we had friends or family round I’d show of my dog teaching skills and Ralph would perform on command. If only my children were the same. One year old Alyssa’s grunts are starting to sound like real words. Last week when I handed her a toy, she replied with the word “thank you” for the first time. She’s obviously picked this up from her big sister. So when friends came to visit I tried to recreate this historic moment. I handed her the same toy and waited expectantly for her to say those two magic words. I’m still waiting.
Now that the clocks have turned back one hour and we now have the darker evenings I’m starting to think more and more about Christmas and more specifically Christmas presents. Especially as I have already driven past several houses in Portsmouth and have seen tinsel, Christmas trees and moving Santa’s waving at me in people’s windows. But this year I have decided to take a new approach to present buying for my two daughters. To be honest it’s about time we had a toy clear out and it needs to happen before the big day in December arrives. Since Caitlin was born in 2009 she’s enjoyed three birthdays and three Christmas days with her little sister having experienced just one of each, and with a big family they have both already accumulated a large set of toys. Of course these toys take up room in our house and I’m slowly running out of cupboard space, behind the sofa space and under the bed space to store them away when they are not being played with. And right now my daughters are only one and three years old, so as time moves on and we get through more birthdays and Christmas days I fear we’ll have to get rid of essential household items like the washing machine or the oven just to free up more storage space for the endless amount of toys. What’s interesting is on the present receiving days, when the toy is first discovered after the wrapping paper has been ripped off, the joy is clear to see on their faces. The look of curiosity turns into a big grin. They then look my way to remove that annoying hard to tear off plastic from around the toy so that they can play with it there and then. But I’ve learnt that this enthusiasm for the toy doesn’t always last very long and sometimes doesn’t last at all. There are some that were well and truly worth the money, like the Jack in the box, that no matter how many times the lid pops open and surprises Alyssa she laughs every single time. And for Caitlin it’s her educational toy laptop, which she will sit at and learn from for hours. But then there are things like the huge, almost larger than me teddy bear that sits in the corner of Caitlin’s bedroom and just gathers dust and the play-doh that makes far too much mess but only seems to keep her interested for 5 minutes. So this year any potential toys will have to pass the simple one question test; will it actually get played with more than once? Obviously most of the time it will be guess work but hopefully will save us a few quid in the process.
Tuesday 23rd October
If you’ve got children there is a good chance you’ve seen the movie Shrek, the movie about the green ogre who rescues the princess from the fire breathing dragon. In fact, thinking back, I watched this movie before my children were even born, so like me you may have seen it even if you don’t have children. Well my eldest daughter Caitlin loves this movie so much so that if the west end production of the show ever needs some stand ins, they could ask either of us as we know the script word for word. But did you know Shrek the green ogre lives here in Portsmouth? Well that’s what Caitlin thinks anyway. You see, in the movie there is a castle, this is where Shrek has to rescue the princess. One morning, when driving through the city with Caitlin sitting behind me in her car seat she shouted “Look Dad, there’s the castle, wave to Shrek”. What she was looking at was St Marys Church in Fratton Road. Now every time we drive past we have to wave to Shrek in his castle.
Do you remember when you were a child and you lived in a world of pretend? That magical time when life was as simple as it will ever be. All you needed to keep yourself occupied and far away from boredom was your very own imagination. The time when no friends were needed, no toys were needed, just you and your wandering mind. It’s quite ironic that when we are children it is the adult world that we look up to and want to connect with but once we become adults it is the wondrous world of being a child that we miss and would like to relive. For me as a shy seven year old dressing up in my new superman outfit I’d been given as a Christmas present made me feel like I could save the world from any disaster. Infact as soon as I put that suit on I thought I was a real superhero just like in the movies, especially when the cape was clipped onto my back and I’d run around the house pretending I could fly. Of course at just seven years old there was no way I’d be of any assistance at any world disaster and I’m pretty certain that to this day no human being has ever managed to defy gravity and take off into the air like a bird, but using my imagination these things were well and truly possible, if only in my own young mind. These days there are hundreds of activities my children can take part in, like going to the local park and playing on the slides and swings or playing hide and seek around the house or maybe playing catch with the ball in the garden. But I like to watch my two daughters playing and having fun without props and without toys and simply just using their imaginations. Sometimes I’ll be sitting on the sofa in our living room and my daughter Caitlin will declare “Dad, I’m going to shopping”. Although she is only three years old, I agree. This is because I know she is only going there in her mind. She asks me what I would like her to fetch for me from the supermarket shelf. I give her my list and off she goes. She’ll walk towards to the other side of the living room and I watch her reaching up and putting pretend items into her pretend shopping trolley and then wheeling it back to me. Although slightly concerned that none of these pretend items went through a pretend checkout and no pretend money was handed over, I play along and enjoy watching the delightful world of a childs imagination.
Tuesday 16th October
There are so many ways and means to try and get your children to do what you want them to do. Some work great and some don’t. It’s all about trial and error. Often though, the most common method of simply asking them to do something doesn’t always get the result that is wanted instantly. “Tidy your toys away” is a request that is often ignored by my three year old (going on thirty) daughter Caitlin. To try and coax her into doing as she’s told, I could say something like “Once all your toys are in the box you can have some chocolate” or “Once all your toys are tidied away I’ll take you to the park”, which I admit I have used in the past. But I have since learnt that there is one technique that works every time and so far without fail. It’s so easy to do and it doesn’t involve sugary treats or half an hour of pushing Caitlin on the swings. I remember that warm fuzzy confident feeling I got when I was a child and my parents or teachers would give me praise when I had demonstrated good behaviour and now when required I’m passing that on to my child. I simply praise Caitlin when she has shown genuine effort in the hope that she will also get that warm fuzzy proud of herself feeling and want to act in that way again. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean praise for praise sake. I’m not going to tell Caitlin how proud I am of her just for simply eating her dinner or just doing as she is told, There does have to be balance. I want to give Caitlin enough praise that she will feel a sense of self and confidence but not too much that she will become a big headed egomaniac. I believe that, although well intentioned, full on praise for every little move a child makes will become too normal and insincere and not at all special and I believe that there is one thing praise has to make the child feel and that is special. It could also have the effect that the child becomes overconfident and cocky and lets me honest, no one wants to have a brat for a child. But I believe that if praise is always sincere and honest and focuses on a childs effort and willingness to take on something new (whatever the outcome) it will produce good results and a confident child. I’ve also learnt it works both ways. When Caitlin noticed I had eaten all my vegetables on my plate she said “daddy I’m very happy with you for eating your vegetables, well done”. Yes, I felt warm and fuzzy.
Another moment in my life has been reached that made me realise how time is going way too fast and I need to saviour every moment of Caitlin being a little girl, because before I know it she’ll be all grown up. Next September marks a big change in our family life, with Caitlin starting school. Now that Portsmouth Council has opened the school admissions application process I’ve been doing my research into the schools in our area. Firstly, chatting with friends and family about their experiences with schools. It’s amazed me how many rumours and strong opinions there are out there on certain schools in Portsmouth, so I decided to find out the truth myself. After doing my research, which of course included checking many OFSTED reports, our three school choices for Caitlin are now registered. We don’t find out which school Caitlin will attend until April, but I hope the time between now and then slows down a bit because I know as soon as Caitlin puts on her school uniform her little years will be over.
Tuesday 9th October
I’ve been a dad for just over three years now. It was the summer of 2009 when Caitlin was born and my life changed forever. I went from someone who liked the bit when you hand the baby back to someone in charge of a human life twenty four hours a day. Then just 20 months later her little sister Alyssa arrived on the scene to make things a little crazier. Together Caitlin and Alyssa have well and truly taken over my life. From the amount of sleep I get, to the amount of money in my bank account, to the amount of time it takes to get the girls ready and out of the house (it takes an age). But I’ve realised recently that even when I’m away from the girls, at work or out with friends, the conversation is very different to what it was before I had children. I don’t know what myself and my colleagues and friends used to chat about before I became a dad but I’m sure it wasn’t about childbirth, Children’s television or brands of nappies. In fact I’m certain none of those subjects were ever brought up. Recently whilst sitting in the office at work and getting my radio show ready, the subject of childbirth came up as one of my colleagues is pregnant. As I had been present at both of my girls births I joined in with the conversation. Before I knew it I was talking about contractions, pain relief and umbilical cords. There were 4 of us in this conversation and I was only male and weirdly I had the largest amount of knowledge on the subject. I honestly walked away from the conversation feeling like I needed to go and change a car tyre or down a pint of beer in one gulp just to feel manly again. But if talking with a bunch of woman about the final stage of pregnancy made me question my manliness worse was to come. On another occasion I was chatting to a male colleague of mine who also has young children. Quite how the conversation moved onto children’s television I don’t know but we were discussing which kids TV show our children enjoy watching and which we enjoy watching too. If you’re interested, I find myself laughing at SpongeBob Squarepants with Caitlin but yawning when In the Night Garden is on. I walked away from that conversation feeling like I instantly needed to get on the internet and order myself the Top Gear complete series box set and tick the express delivery option. I’d tell you about more of the conversations I’ve had but I have things to do, like start watching my new Top Gear DVD.
Shopping with children can sometimes be a challenge. A trek up Mount Everest sort of challenge. When the fridge is looking more empty then full and there is no one else around to look after the little ones, it’s time to strap them in their car seat and head for the supermarket hoping it will be a stress free experience. From a child’s point of view, the supermarket is an exciting place to be. Lots of bright colours, shelves stacked high with sweets and chocolate bars and a free ride in the trolley. Problem is, their naturally curious minds mean they want to touch everything. To keep their minds focused I give them both a job. Caitlin is tasked with looking for a particular item, so instead of wanting to grab everything she sees she’s looking out for the box of tea bags. For Alyssa, she the likes to carry something like a box of cereal, keeping her hands away from anything delicate. But just incase, there’s an important rule, stay away from the crockery isle. Always puts me on edge.
Tuesday 2nd October
Driving has never been something I’ve particularly enjoyed, especially when traffic is busy. Many times I’ve been stuck in a jam on the M27 or the Eastern Road imagining what life would be like without my big metal friend that gets me from A to B. Thankfully most of the time, with my working hours, I’ve been able to avoid the roads when they are at their most busy but unfortunately a new stage in my eldest daughters life means I can avoid it no more. Caitlin now attend nursery in the morning which has created a new enemy in my life; school run traffic. I remember when I was younger and my dad would drive me to school, he’d avoid the clogged up main roads and use the side roads to get me to school on time. But in 2012 it seems even the side roads are now just as busy. In fact a few of my so called short cuts have ended up adding time onto my journey. I suppose we could walk. But with the bad weather looming, I’d better go and buy myself a brolly
It’s safe to say that summer is now well and truly over. I realised this when I was taking Caitlin to Nursery and I got soaked on the walk from the car to the nursery door, which is roughly about 10 steps. I remember at the beginning of this year it was reported in some newspapers that we would have a scorching late Indian summer which would last well into October. But as I look out the window, all I’m seeing is lots of dark clouds in the sky and lots of big deep puddles on the road. Looking back at the last few months I can say that I really enjoyed summer this year, even though it was apparently the wettest we’ve had in about one hundred years. I think I spent more time outdoors this year than I ever have done and I put that down to having two children who love the outdoors. If you see any ducks or swans around Milton park that are looking a bit overweight and bloated and are turning down bread as they’ve just started a new low carb diet , that might be our fault with lots of visits to the lakes with a small bag of bread. But although I’ve enjoyed every bit of summer this year I’m really pleased autumn is here and winter is on the way. This is my favourite season and always has been with lots to look forward to and now with two children it will be even better. I’ve never been one for Halloween and it’s always been the annoying part of the year when more people knock on my door in one night than the rest of the year put together but this year I’m really looking forward to it. We wont be knocking on strangers doors trick or treating as I don’t agree with asking someone I’ve never met before for sweets or money but it might be nice to dress them up (which my girls love to do) in some sort of Halloween costume and take them to see our relatives. Then there is bonfire night and watching the girls amazed faces as they look up into the sky at the exploding fireworks. Once the whizzes and bangs are gone it’s on to the best bit of this time of year; Christmas. With still over two months to go until the big Day, my three year old Caitlin has already started asking us to pass on her present requests to Father Christmas. Most of all I’m also looking forward to the darker mornings, with the sun not beaming into the girls bedrooms they’ll sleep for longer and give mum and dad a well-earned lie in.
Tuesday 25th September
Apparently the average IQ in the United Kingdom is 104. To be honest I don’t really know if that is good or bad or what you need to do to achieve that. But at this point in my life, as a dad of a three year old it feels as if my intelligence is being put to the test. Caitlin is asking questions, lots of them. Whilst we were watching The Jungle Book on DVD she asked where elephants came from. I remembered that answer from my school days, India and Africa I answered. I thought the next question would be where is India and Africa?, but instead she was satisfied with my response and the topic changed direction from wildlife to household cosmetics. Where does Talcum Powder come from? she asked. I answered that Talcum powder is made from the mineral talc and it is finely ground down into the powder form. That was of course after I typed the question into Google. I swiftly changed the subject before she could ask me where minerals come from.
As someone who loves his grub, being a parent and staying trim at the same time can sometimes be a challenge. Especially when my girls are feeling full after their dinner and there’s some tasty looking food still sitting on their plastic plates. Not wanting such good and nutritious food to end up wasted in the bin, I sometimes gobble up the leftovers myself. Also when we’re out and about and I buy the girls a treat from the Ice Cream van and of course not wanting to be left out treat myself to a 99 with a flake and sprinkles too. Or when we visit the girls grandparents who not only treat them to large portions of cake but treat me too. Surely by now I should be the size of a bus or at least a few stone heavier than that of my pre-dad days. But since becoming a dad I have actually lost over two stone and feel a lot fitter in myself. This is mostly down to an improved diet and cutting out a lot of rubbish and unhealthy food I used to eat. But I also think it’s because I’ve completed the equivalent of the Great South Run in my own home. Apparently children get between seven and ten colds in a single year so between Alyssa and her big sister Caitlin most of the year includes a constant stream of snot running out of both their nostrils and for the last week I’ve been chasing my one year old daughter Alyssa around our house with a wet wipe in one hand as I try and grab her with the other to wipe the green mucus away. Something no child enjoys, so as soon as she sees me walking towards her she makes a run for it and she is incredibly fast for such a tiny human being. Alyssa also finds it incredibly funny to steal one of my shoes and run off and hide with it when I’m trying to put them on. So once again I’m running (or more like hobbling) after her around the house trying to get it back. But the positive is more calories are being burnt. Then there is the times I roam the house upstairs and down looking for something the girls have inadvertently hidden. Apparently it’s recommended that we each take around 10,000 steps each day and it felt like I did a week’s worth when I was looking for the DVD remote control that Caitlin had misplaced. By the time the children go to bed I am exhausted. I would never recommend having children as a way to lose weight, but it has certainly worked for me.
Tuesday 18th September
Theme Parks and thrill rides have never really been my thing. I think I was put off by an experience at Southsea fun fair when I was a child. A go on the Walzsers ride ended up with my face turning a pure white colour and then I proceeded to be sick all over the floor. I was a travel sick child, many journeys in cars, coaches and trains would involve me carrying several sick bags and it has stayed with me into adulthood. When I was a teenager and I joined my mates on days out to Alton Towers and Chessington world of Adventures I was the one who stood behind the safety bars, holding bags and coats whilst they were being thrown and spun through the air on the latest thrill ride. I was completely happy on the side-lines as I knew how I would feel the moment I stepped off the ride and it wouldn’t be a nice feeling. Last weekend as part of my role as a presenter on Heart radio I was asked to join some competition winners at Paulton's Park and I was able to take my partner Serena and our two girls with me. This would be the girls first time at a theme park and I was looking forward to seeing how willing they would be to go on the rides or if they would want to go on them at all. Our youngest daughter Alyssa enjoyed some of the slower rides designed for young children (to be honest these are my kinds of ride with no travel sickness bags necessary) but our eldest daughter Caitlin was looking for something a bit more fast and she spotted something calling itself the dragon roundabout. As she is under six years old she had to be accompanied by an adult and feeling brave I stepped forward. This is a family theme park after all, so surely a go on this ride would not give me the same sick feeling as the Walzsers did all those years ago? Anyway I’d been on roundabouts in the playground when I was younger and they never made me feel sick so surely I’d be fine, although the word Dragon worried me a bit suggesting it wasn’t the same as the ones on the playground that you could jump of at any time. So we joined the queue and then took our positions on the ride. I was pleased that Caitlin loved every second of being spun around in both directions at a considerable speed and wanted to have a second go and then a third. Let’s just say my face once again turned an embarrassingly pure white colour. I think I’ll stick to holding the coats and bags.
Caitlin now attends nursery which means a packed lunch has to be made each morning to take with her. When I was at school I preferred the hot school dinners over bringing my own food with me. Mainly because by the time the school bell would ring at midday signalling lunch time, my lovingly made sandwich placed neatly in my lunchbox would have been battered by my bottle of drink and my packet of crisps would often have been squashed too resulting in a bag full of crispy crumbs. I don’t think I ever ate an apple without a big bruise on it. But now battered sandwiches are a thing of the past as lunchboxes have moved on since I was a little nipper. I bought one for Caitlin and was surprised to see they now have their own little compartments. The sandwich and the drink now need never make contact and even the banana has its own banana shaped bit of storage. I’ve thought about getting one of these modern lunchboxes for myself. But maybe I’ll get one without the picture of Minnie Mouse on the front
Tuesday 11th September
Time really is going way too fast. I knew it would happen though as I was warned many times. When Caitlin was born many friends and family told me to enjoy her first few years and take everything in as before I know it she’ll be heading off to Nursery. So that’s what I have done, every single moment with my first born I’ve made sure I enjoyed and I’ve probably taken far too many photos but still time has flown and she has gone from a helpless new-born baby into an independent three year old in what seems like the blink of an eye and now the time has come for a big change in Caitlin’s life; she is starting nursery. Although we prepared her the best we could, it was still a worry how she would react when we left her alone for the first time. All the preparation worked as after a kiss goodbye she wondered off to play with her new friends with no fuss. Seems she had fun as the next morning it was me waking her up instead of her waking me up.
We all tell our children little white lies sometimes and anyone who’s says they don’t are probably stretching the truth a bit. I remember my mum telling me if I kept playing with my ears they would grow bigger and bigger or if the wind changed when I was pulling funny faces I would stay looking like that forever. It seems that I have inherited the art of fibbing as I have to admit that the odd whopper has come out of my mouth too when talking to my children. Things like “the shop has run out of chocolate” when Caitlin has had a sudden craving for the brown stuff and “That’s a brilliant picture of a dinosaur” when what she has actually drawn on the paper is just a squiggly colourful mess. Of course a white lie is usually used for the greater good and is harmless in the long term but according to an article I read recently there is an even bigger lie that we all tell our children and that lie is when we tell our little ones that we don’t have a favourite child. Apparently according to a study all parents with more than one child have a preference for one of them and enjoy their company more than the other. I have to admit when my partner Serena was pregnant with our second girl Alyssa, I wondered how it would be possible to love this new child as much as her big sister Caitlin who I’d fallen in love with the second she was born. I worried that although she would be special to me, she would never be as special as our first born. Of course as soon as Alyssa arrived into the world I instantly had that same overwhelming loving feeling that I had experienced with her older sister and I can honestly say that I do not have a favourite child or feel more love for one of them more than the other. But I do sometimes worry that Alyssa might sometimes live in Caitlin’s shadow. Most of her clothes are hand me downs, she can’t do some activities that her sister can do as she’s not yet capable and she might miss out on privileges - such as staying up later. But of course there are advantages to being the second born, she will always be the baby of the family and can learn from her big sisters mistakes. Also in school any problems that arise she’ll always have Caitlin there to look after her. And of course, when Alyssa starts to get interested in stuff like fashion, music and makeup, instead of popping up the shop I’m sure she’ll instead pop into her big sisters bedroom to do some ‘borrowing’.
Tuesday 4th September
Independence Day has arrived for our youngest daughter Alyssa. At sixteen months old she now wants to do some tasks herself that previously would require help from mum and dad. The days are now gone when she would sit in her high chair and I’d pretend the spoon was an aeroplane with my best aeroplane like sound effects as it was making its way towards her mouth. I preferred my train sound effects but that wouldn’t make her laugh quite as much. Now Alyssa wants to feed herself. But as I learned when she was tucking into a bowl of spaghetti bolognaise, a survival plan needs to be put in place. Firstly if the food is likely to make a permanent mark on her clothes then she has to get changed into something more appropriate. Secondly food can be flung at great distances , so the high chair must be away from things such as the sofa and the dog. His white coat didn’t look so good with pieces of spaghetti dangling from it. And thirdly don’t serve spaghetti bolognaise too often – it gets everywhere.
It was February 1984 when I became a citizen of planet earth as I entered the world at St Marys Hospital in Portsmouth. Since then every major event in my life has happened here. I have moved around the city a few times, living in various places but have never left it. Of course I’ve been on many journeys across the Portsmouth borders but Whenever I leave the city for whatever reason; to go to work or to see friends or even go on holiday, there is always no place like home and for me Portsmouth has always been that place. I just can’t imagine living anywhere that didn’t have a PO postcode and don’t think I would want to. Especially now that I have two children and want life to be stable for them as nursery and school is looming. But I do think sometimes I take my hometown for granted and forget not only how lucky I am to live here and bring my kids up here but also how many things there are to do and see in this historic waterfront city. Miles of beautiful seafront, plenty of shops and importantly for all parents of young children, lots of parks packed full of slides and swings. On a warm and sunny day I could sit in the garden with an ice cold drink and let my two girls run around releasing their never ending energy and maybe if I’m feeling particularly energetic join them in a game of Tag or Hide and Seek, which we sometimes do but it is great to get out of the house and explore with them. We spend a lot of time on Milton Common, great place to take our dog Ralph and the girls love taking some bread from our kitchen cupboard to feed the ducks and the swans. It’s never busy on Milton Common, but such a beautiful part of Portsmouth I feel it’s one of the city’s best kept secrets. I’d also recommend you take a look at the beautiful people’s memorial if you haven’t already. A walk along Southsea seafront and then around canoe lake is another favourite of ours, sometimes finished off with some cake at the exceptional tenth hole tea rooms, the girls never decline cake. Just recently we made a visit to Staunton Country Park. In such a busy and hectic city it’s hard to believe just around the corner is a place containing all sorts of farm animals. Caitlin and Alyssa loved petting the pigs and goats and who’d have thought Portsmouth had its very own set of Donkeys. Sometimes it is nice to take a trip outside the city, but most of the time with my two daughters in tow; it’s nice to take advantage of what we already have on our doorstep.
Tuesday 28th August 2012
I’ve been getting that odd deja-vu feeling a lot lately. There is nothing out of the ordinary or paranormal going on though. What I’m experiencing has actually happened before, many times. I’ve learnt that children love repetition. If they find something they enjoy doing they want to do it over and over again, and then again after that. For example, Alyssa has got a toy Jack in the box and she likes me to twist round the handle and she laughs when the door pops open. I hand it back to her and she then hands in straight back with a grunt that translates into “More please”. Caitlin also likes me to play Hide and seek with her. An exhausting game, especially when you’re playing it for twentieth time that day. Both girls have also got many books but they always like to read the same ones over and over again. I know them word for word. My favourite though is when Caitlin says “I Love you daddy”, and then tells me again and again. I never get bored of that.
My two girls give me so much happiness and joy. There are so many times during each day when I get that proud parent feeling running through me. It can be when I see them do something for the first time, or when the girls give me a kiss or cuddle without me asking for it and It can even be when I’m watching them happily playing, sharing and interacting with each other. Although most of the time my girls are kind and happy, there are times when things are the complete opposite. As any parent will know, the smooth and joyous times come hand in hand with something every parent has to deal with – a tantrum. Not one, but many. Something I have noticed since becoming a dad, is that these tantrums are not often talked about. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because people want people to think that their child is always an angel or maybe it’s just because people are embarrassed to admit that even the best parents in the world cannot prevent this inevitable behaviour. Why would anyone want to tell their friends how naughty there child can be on occasions? Tantrums must be more common then we think as when I did an internet search for ‘child tantrums’ I had a choice of over seven million websites to choose from. I have to admit that before I had children I would see a screaming child in the supermarket and vow that my children would never get away with behaviour like that. In my mind I knew exactly how I would handle that situation, that was until I actually did have to deal with that situation and I can reveal I didn’t want to walk into that supermarket for at least another six months. As Caitlin has gone from a two year old into a three year old, she has now moved out of that stage in her life described as the terrible two’s, when the smallest thing can set them off into a crying rage. You might think I’d be pleased that the terrible two’s were over. Well now she’s reached the traumatic three’s and from what I’ve read this will continue until at least the age of five, so we have a long way to go. But whether it is whining, screaming, stamping feet or all at the same time, I’ve learnt through trial and error how to stop this behaviour without having to call in Supernanny. There are many articles, websites and books on how to deal with the tantrum but I can save you time and money. The key is to simply take a big breath and ignore the negative behaviour and they'll soon return to being adorable. It really is that simple.
Tuesday 21st August 2012
When I was a child our dog Bruno wasn’t just a pet, he was part of the family. Unfortunately the happiness of owning a pet always ends with sadness when they pass away. I remember being heartbroken when the dog who I’d known forever wasn’t there anymore. Last week my daughter Caitlin’s Guinea Pig who she named Scruff, because she looked like she could do with a good wash and haircut, went to Guinea Pig Heaven. I have to admit that my first thought wasn’t for the guinea pig but for how I would break the news to Caitlin. I could have rushed to the pet shop to get an equally scruffy one and hope that she didn’t notice the difference or maybe I could have told her that Scruff ran away. After much thought I decided to simply tell her that Scruff had gone to heaven to play in the clouds with her friends. She simply replied “I’m going to miss her and I didn’t even get to give her a kiss goodbye”. That’s when the lump appeared in my throat.
In our house the television is the absolute central and most popular piece of entertainment. We’ve all got our favourite TV channels and TV programmes. I’m into the more factual kind of programme like documentaries or investigations whereas my partner Serena is more into stuff like the soaps or reality TV. I often tease her about littering our TiVo box with recordings of The Only Way is Essex, EastEnders or some show about finding the next top model. Now even my two daughters at just one and three years old have their favourite TV shows. My youngest Alyssa would sit and watch the CBeebies show Baby Jake all day if we let her and Caitlin would probably do the same with Fireman Sam. I wonder sometimes what life would be like without the TV and if we would be better as a family without it. I’ve read and heard arguments that television can unite a family, getting them all in the same room together at the same time. But I’ve also heard arguments that television can isolate a family – yes everyone will be in the same room but all will be glued to the screen absorbed by what they are watching and not taking any notice of each other. As I’ve never been without television in my life I cannot give my opinion either way. But I remember a girl in my class at school telling me she didn’t have a TV set in her home and being puzzled, to me it was like someone having a house without a roof – odd. But now I’m a bit older and wiser I can see the advantages of turning the bright rectangle piece of technology off. Not just saving money on the TV license and TV subscriptions but having more quality time with each other and talking as a family. It may even get us out the house more. A few times over the last year Serena and I have discussed the experiment of turning the TV off for a whole week just to see how we’d cope and what would take its place to keep the whole family entertained. So far it’s never gone further than the discussion and the television has stayed on. But I think that this year’s Olympics have proved that I really couldn’t live without the TV. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy watching it, it was what everyone seemed to be talking about. So if I didn’t have a TV I may have felt like I was missing out. But the Olympics is over, so maybe now is the time to start our no TV for a week experiment. Oh Hold on… the Paralympics start next week. Maybe my non TV week will have to wait a bit longer.
Tuesday 14th August 2012
I’ve always loved gadgets. When I was young it was things like the cassette Walkman and the Sega Mega Drive. I’d get the 21 bus from Copnor down to Commercial Road in Portsmouth to visit Woolworths to buy cassettes for my new Walkman. I’d also buy a pencil whilst I was there to help wind the tape back in when the Walkman would chew it up. When I wasn’t bopping around to some nineties pop music on the go I’d be playing games like Sonic the hedgehog on the mega drive. I’d also have the odd novelty gadget like the keyring that would buzz when you clapped so you could never lose your keys. Obviously things have moved on now and the gadgets I used to play with as a child and teenager now seem prehistoric. These days my favourite gadgets include my iPod and my Sat Nav. But since becoming a father I’ve been introduced to a whole new world of gadgets that I never knew existed. In one shop I saw a pushchair that had it’s very own dashboard with lights, a clock, a temperature gauge, and a strollometer. I didn’t buy one but I have to admit if it didn’t have such a ridiculously high price tag I might have considered it. Most of the gadgets I’ve discovered are of the child safety kind and our house is now fully childproofed. Anything that could pose a danger to my two daughters has a gadget or clever invention of some kind in place to stop their curious minds in its tracks. For example we have safety gates sitting at the top and bottom of the stairs. We have little hooks on the kitchen cupboards that stop them opening so that Caitlin and Alyssa can’t help themselves to the contents. We have plugs to go into the electrical wall sockets to keep little fingers away. But what happens when your children get a bit clever and start to work out ways around the child proofing that has been put in place. The other day I wondered how a packet of crisps got from the secure kitchen cupboard into Caitlin’s hands. Then I heard the clicking sound of the stair gate being unhooked of the wall and realised it was Caitlin doing the unhooking. So now eyes and ears are even more important than ever. But surely in this day and age Stair gates should be impossible to open for even the cleverest child and cupboards should have more than a little hook to keep them away. I’m thinking stair gates and kitchen cupboards with fingerprint recognition so it only opens for mum and dad. I won’t say too much though, I may have to take my idea to the dragons den as I’ve just spent all my money on two new stair gates.
Caitlin has a lovely healthy smile and in the hope to keep it that way, this week she had her first ever visit to the dentist. Of course just like adults, children also have their good and bad days where they can be irritable and grumpy. I was hoping today wasn’t going to be one of those days and Caitlin would be in a good frame of mind when visiting this whole new world that would continue every six months for life. I was curious how she would react to sitting in the dentist’s chair and having a stranger poke around in her mouth. I imagined some sort of screaming tantrum and having to engage in a bit of bribery with a bar of chocolate to get her into position. To my surprise there was no need for any bribery at all as when the dentist started to chat to her she soon relaxed and allowed for her teeth to be inspected. Things haven’t changed since my childhood dentist visits, you still get a sticker from the dentist to wear with pride.
Tuesday 7th August 2012
Like everyone else, I’ve got Olympics fever. I’m really enjoying the non-stop sport after sport on the television. I love seeing the parents of the athletes in the crowd and can now understand how proud they must be to see their son or daughter compete on the world stage. Caitlin and Alyssa are already showing some sporting promise so in the future I may be one of these proud parents sitting on the sidelines. For example at the local swimming pool Caitlin has been showing off her diving skills. Well actually I wouldn’t call it a dive just yet. I think a bit of training might be needed to turn her ungracious belly flop into something worthy of a gold medal, but she’s on the right lines. Alyssa might possibly be of a standard to compete for a medal in the trampolining. Although at the moment she is using my body to jump up and down on, so like her sister a bit more training is necessary. They’ll only be 5 and 7 years old at the next Olympics, so no rush.
My eldest daughter Caitlin will be celebrating her third birthday on the 13th August. So as she begins her fourth year on the planet we’re organising something I’m slightly dreading – a party. It’s not just the party itself that I’m nervous about but all the preparation. I did an internet search to find out where to start and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing; So much to think about. According to one website, the planning should start six to eight weeks before the big day. Well I’ve already fallen at the first hurdle. But surely it can’t be that difficult, it’s not like I’m organising a wedding, it’s just a nice little party with some fun and games for Caitlin and her friends. Apparently these days, even nice little parties require some serious thought. I printed off a checklist from this website. First was to decide a theme for the party. Come on, this is a party for a three year old and I don’t think other parents will be happy with having to fork out for some wacky fancy dress outfit that will only be worn once. So I’ve decided, no theme. Next on the list is what sort of entertainer to hire. Well I think games like pass the parcel and musical statues will be sufficient to keep everyone entertained so I have no need to reach for the yellow pages. Then we have to decide on the food. I know the sort of party food Caitlin will like. Pizza, fairy cakes, Crisps etc. but what about the other kids? What if there are some fussy eaters. Well it’s Caitlin’s party, so they’ll have to eat what they are given. Who needs a caterer, as suggested on this list, when a visit to the supermarket to buy some large economy packs of party food will do just fine. Then we move onto decorations. Apparently the days are over when a few balloons could be hung on the walls with some cello tape. Now it’s all about streamers, confetti, banners, hats and masks. Sounds a bit expensive to me. Maybe I could actually have a theme; the 1980’s, when just balloons on a wall would do. Then there is the unnecessary party invitations, surely a text message to the parents would be ok? The most important part of the preparation is sorting out the birthday cake. Not only does it have to look impressive and be tasty but it has to be big enough for everyone to get a piece. Time to get the flour and eggs out the cupboard. The final note on the checklist is to sit back and enjoy yourself. With children running around hyper on sweets and cakes I have a feeling that is not going to happen.
Tuesday 31st July
Something strange is going on in the Hayden household this week. Things just aren’t like they usually are. In fact it’s all a bit unsettling and I’m not sure I like it. For example, Every night before I go to sleep I’ll set my alarm to wake me up in the morning so that I wont be late for work or any meeting I’ve got planned. I should know by now that since becoming a dad I don’t need to set any kind of alarm as I have my very own little human alarm clocks in the form of my two daughters Caitlin and Alyssa. Caitlin will wonder through to our bedroom when she’s decided she’s had a sufficient amount of sleep and Alyssa who seems to wake as soon as the sun rises (not good in summer) will be making a grunting sound which I’ve worked out translates into a request to be lifted out of her cot. But this week things are completely different. The first thing I’m hearing in the morning is not the sound of Caitlin's feet jumping out of her bed and making her way to our bedroom or Alyssa’s cave man like noises but instead the buzzing of my alarm. I finally get to press the ‘Snooze’ button and have five more minutes in bed. If Only the children had a ‘snooze’ button. Then when I clamber out of bed and make my way out of the bedroom and down the stairs the carpet is clear and there aren’t the usual dollies or toys left lying around for me to stub my toe on or trip over. The most unsettling thing is how quiet the house is this week. You could hear a pin drop. The reason for this is Serena and the girls have taken a trip away with their grandparents for a few days. Daddy, who had to work, is left behind at home. Some might say silence is golden, but I’ve got so used to a noisy house that, to be honest I’d much prefer a bit of noise. And I’ve got so used to dodging toys on the carpet, everything looks a bit too neat and tidy. Even though I don’t need to be, I’m still in child and baby mode. Putting my hot cup of coffee up high where little hands can’t reach it and thinking I need to go to bed early because I’ll be up early with the girls. You’d think I’d like having the house to myself and having a break from the madness. But, I’ve surprised myself as I’m quite missing all the noise and mess that comes with having children. I just wont be telling them that when they return and I’m asking them to be quiet or tidy up.
I’ve lived in Portsmouth since the day I was born and think I know the city pretty well. For example when there is busy traffic on the island I’ll know if there are routes that help bypass the jams so I can get to where I want to be without too much delay and if someone stops next to me in their car and asks for directions I’m pretty confident that I could tell them where they needed to go. But this doesn’t stop my two year old daughter giving me directions or giving me a commentary in my car. Sometimes I feel like I’m on one of those open top tour buses for tourists. Caitlin’s got a speciality – parks. The ones with slides and swings in. She can spot one a mile off. We’ll be driving along Queen Street and she’ll make me aware we are passing the swing park next to Sarah Robinson House or we’ll be driving through Goldsmith Avenue and she’ll let me know that we’re approaching Milton Park. I need to teach her the art of subtlety.
Tuesday 24th July
Next time I want a pay rise from my boss I am taking my little lawyer with me - my daughter Caitlin. She has discovered a new ability that I think may not only get me an increase in my salary but may double my earnings. When I turn down one of her requests, she doesn’t want to take “no” for an answer but wants to negotiate with me. Most of the time it’s just the sad puppy dog eyes look with a long drawn out “Pleeeease”. The easiest way to melt daddy’s heart. But luckily my head rules so I stay firm. But now she’s changed tactics from cute to mean. When I denied her request to raid the biscuit tin she responded with “Daddy you can’t be my best friend anymore”. Then when asking if she could watch some TV she announced “daddy I’ll watch my programmes first then you can watch yours later”. Maybe she’s just trying to see how far she can go before I give in or maybe my little lawyer is showing signs she might one day be a great big lawyer.
You may have heard the phrase “the family who sits together stays together”. This was the headline in a recent article I read online. It suggested that children who sit down and eat with their parents as a family tend to have a higher academic performance than those who don’t and those children will have better manners because they will imitate their parents when sitting together. Of course not good if the parents have bad table manners. I may be guilty of the odd elbow on the table but I hope my table manners are of a high standard. When I think about the perfect family meal time I imagine us all sitting round the dinner table. After shouting in a loud voice “Dinners ready” the children would instantly stop what they were doing and arrive ready to enjoy some healthy and nutritious food. Whilst tucking into the perfectly cooked food we’d be bonding and connecting as a family. We’d be chatting about the days events and sharing any news we’ve had. The mood would be relaxed and light but loving at the same time. My daughters Caitlin and Alyssa would show perfect table manners and appreciate where their food came from. OK, I know I’m asking far too much from a one and two year old but maybe they will learn these skills as they grow up and be thankful for what they are eating. Now though, it is as far away from the perfect family meal time than what I imagine. In fact sometimes meal times can become a bit of a battleground. First it’s trying to get them to the table. Then sometimes Alyssa and Caitlin will squabble. Other times it’s the food and drink ending up everywhere except their mouths and sometimes they just want to be roaming around rather than sitting with mummy and daddy. Now Caitlin has turned from a child who will eat almost anything into a child who wants to turn her nose up at some of the food in front of her. But the good news is there are ways around this problem. My parents tell me they changed the name of fish fingers to fish toes to get me to eat them and oddly it worked. So when Caitlin didn’t much fancy eating her mash potatoes I explained it was actually squashed up chips. Like most kids, she loves chips. This convinced her to eat it all up. Similarly she didn’t want to eat her carrots until she saw Rebecca Rabbit eat them in the kids TV show Peppa Pig. Hopefully as they get older meal time will be more civilized. In the meantime, if you have found a way to get your kids to eat peas or cabbage, please let me know.
Tuesday 17th July
You’ve probably seen one of those TV documentaries about people who have a wild animal living in their home and treat it like it’s their baby. There was one on recently about a woman who lived with a monkey. In the end she had to give it away because it naturally wanted to climb on the furniture and swing from the lampshades. I think I have a bit of an insight into how it feels to live with a wild monkey. All of a sudden Caitlin wants to climb on everything - The sofas, the kitchen worktops, the dining table. I’m hoping we put a stop to it before she decides to venture up the cabinet or even pull herself up the guttering. Her favourite thing to climb on is me. I’ll be sitting there watching tv and out of nowhere I’ll feel a foot on my shoulder and a hand on my head. It’s about time she found out about those monkeys from the nursery rhyme who jumped on the bed, fell off and banged their heads.
When I was a young lad, I wasn’t the tidiest person in the world. Imagine in your mind a stereotypical teenagers bedroom. That’s what my room looked like. An unmade bed with the duvet crumpled up in one corner revealing the bed sheet that only covered half of the mattress, smelly trainers obviously kicked off my feet as soon as I entered the room as they are about five feet apart and mugs that once contained a steaming hot cup of tea now growing mould. The thing I feel most guilty about is when my mum would give me a pile of my freshly ironed clothes and instead of instantly hanging them up I’d just disrespectfully dump them in the corner of my room. My room was tidy sometimes, mostly when I had girlfriends round as I didn’t want them to think I lived in a cluttered dirty mess but soon after standards would once again slip. I’m happy to report that now, years on, my standards of cleanliness have increased considerably. Sadly I can’t take the credit for this myself. I live with my very own Kim and Aggie and Monica from Friends rolled into one – my other half Serena. I read a recent article that revealed that one in three woman secretly love to clean. Serena is definitely one of these women. She’s not so secret about it, though. Not a day goes by without hearing the clunking and whirring sound of the vacuum cleaner or the waft of some sort of cleaning spray heading up my nose. Thing is, now that I’ve got so used to living in a clean and spotlessly tidy house I now can’t stand to be around mess or untidiness. But now living with a one and two year old it’s just not possible to have tidiness all day long. As I sit here typing these words in our living room, I have mess right in front of my eyes. I’m looking at the skin from the banana just consumed by Caitlin left on the shelf, shredded up paper from a colouring in book scattered all over the floor and a crayons that have been stood and have shattered into many pieces. To be expected with two young children but I have to admit I’d aching to get it all tidied up and restore the room to how it used to look. But if I do I know within the hour it will be messy again. After finally being converted from someone who doesn’t mind a bit of mess into someone who loves everything to be clean and tidy I now have to accept that young children and a tidy house just don’t go together.
Tuesday 10th July
Alyssa has now enjoyed her first ever holiday. A rare weekend off work meant an opportunity to book a few days away. I didn’t see much point in getting on a plane for just a weekend break and I didn’t want to spend my time off doing lots of driving so after a bit of research it was decided we’d head off to Haven Church Farm holiday park in Pagham. Not too expensive and only 40 minutes’ drive from home but far away and secluded enough for it to feel like a holiday. Although all the reviews I had read online before we set off were generally favourable for our destination, I was still curious and slightly nervous about what might greet us. I imagined a caravan holiday to be cold, draughty, cramped, and damp. I thought back to the tv comedy show Hi De Hi and wondered if we’d be greeted by entertainment staff who would either be keen and enthusiastic to see us or grumpy and miserable depending on whether working at the park was a step up or step down the career ladder. I’m pleased to report my stereotypical thoughts were all wrong. We did have a very enthusiastic welcome when we arrived, but it was not by any entertainment staff in a bright red or blue outfit. Instead it was Ray the security man who introduced himself and pointed us in the right direction. When we found our caravan (after getting a bit lost) I was shocked with what we found. It was neither cold, draughty, cramped nor damp. It was warm, spacious and clean and felt homely. I even think I muttered the words “you could live in a place like this”. Once I worked out how to put together the hired ‘Easy to assemble’ travel cot that turned out to be not so easy to assemble we left the caravan to explore and start our holiday. During the evening we set off to enjoy the entertainment. Apparently in the past they’ve had stars including Chico from XFactor and eighties pop star Sonia so I was curious to see who’d be on stage. No celebs but the parks very own blue coated ‘funstars’ who danced to classics such as the Macerena and the cha cha slide. I must admit on occasion I wished I had a Britain’s got talent style buzzer to press to move on to the next act but that’s because most of the entertainment was aimed at the children and Caitlin and Alyssa looked like they were having fun. Overall a fantastic holiday with my batteries now fully recharged and even though I haven’t even reached my thirties yet I’m already thinking about which caravan I’ll buy when I retire. I’d better get saving.
By the time Caitlin reached her first birthday, we’d already weaned her off her dummy. We knew that a dummy stuck in her mouth all day would discourage her from talking. We were right, as soon as we took the dummy away from her; she turned into a little chatterbox. Alyssa is now three months past her first birthday, so it’s now her turn to get through the day and night without her dummy. You’d think she’d be grateful having had the pleasure of it much longer than her big sister. But the last few days without her dummy have not been easy. Trying to calm and comfort her without it takes much longer and getting her off to sleep is much more difficult. It would be so easy to give in and give it back to her but in a few days she’ll forget she ever had a dummy. And best of all mummy and daddy wont be getting up in the night to put it back in.
Tuesday 3rd July
When I take a photo of Caitlin and Alyssa to capture a memory forever, I know that in twenty years’ time when we look back at these photos we’ll all be laughing at what we see. They will probably be questioning why we dressed them in such outrageous and embarrassing outfits. Of course, right now there is nothing outrageous or embarrassing about their clothing. In fact I always think my children are very well dressed, even if I do say so myself. But fashion changes fast. Not that I’m an expert, far from it, but it’s clear to see the difference between then and now as I look through old family photo albums. I know this far too well, as when I look at photos from when I was younger I wonder what my mum and dad were thinking. The photos of me as a baby give a clear indication of what decade I was born in. Surely they must have been under the influence of something to dress me the way they did. I know the eighties were a colourful decade for fashion but did they really need to dress me, a boy, in bright blue tights? My mum tells me all children wore them in those days. I’m not sure whether I believe her. Apparently they kept me warm in the winter. Thankfully the focus is taken away from my choice of leg wear when you look at my mum with her huge eighties hair. I think a lot of hairspray and mousse must have been used in our house. I remember once as a child we were visiting family in their block of flats. We pressed the button in the lift to take us up but it wouldn’t budge. My mum stepped back out and all of a sudden the doors closed and it started going leaving her behind. We blamed mums huge eighties hair for overloading the lift. It wasn’t just her though, all the other female family members looked exactly the same. How did all that hair not get caught in those eighties beaded door curtains everyone seemed to have? Well maybe it did. Any male family members that had their photo taken with me also take away some of the embarrassment of my bright blue tights. They all seemed to have a big thick Freddie Mercury style moustache and an earring in just one ear. It’s funny to look back at what we all used to look like and even funnier to think that back then it was all in fashion. So I wonder now, in the photos I take today, what we’ll all be laughing at in years to come. I just hope I don’t hear the sentence “oh look, there’s dad when he had hair”.
I believe laughter is the best medicine and If I want a dose of the chuckle dust it’s now easier than ever. I might put on my Ricky Gervais live DVD or maybe one of Lee Evans live shows to tickle my funny bones. Or I could type in ‘Funny dog’ into YouTube to get a quick laugh. There’s even TV channels dedicated to making me laugh 24 hours a day. But now the thing that makes me laugh the most is my daughter Caitlin. The best thing is, she is funny without even knowing it. Like when she asked if we could watch a DVD together and requested we watch ‘Andy’. I looked at her puzzled as I’d never heard of that DVD before. She was adamant she had watched it before. I asked her to tell me a bit more about the film. She said Andy was a baby deer. Turned out she meant ‘Bambi’. And when I asked her where milk came from and she answered “the shop”. Who needs Ricky Gervais when I have Caitlin Hayden.
Tuesday 26th June
In an ideal world any furniture I purchase will arrive at my house already assembled and the delivery driver will carry it to the exact spot where it will live forever. Of course that would be far too easy and anyway most items of furniture like that are usually hand crafted or antique and very expensive. I’m just not a fan of flat pack furniture. I always seem to get the one in the batch that has missing the all-important screw that holds the whole thing together and don’t even get me started on the instructions that always leave me even more confused. Well it was time to upgrade Caitlin from her cot bed to a regular single bed. As expected it arrived flat packed. As the man of the house and now a dad I feel it falls on me to try and fit all the pieces together. Luckily on this occasion it was actually quite easy and nothing was missing. I made sure every screw was fitted tight as Caitlin thinks it is multi-purpose – a bed and bouncy castle in one.
I’ve now been a dad for almost three years. It feels like I have blinked and gone from one extreme to another. A few years ago I was a man living with his girlfriend who could come and go as he pleased. I didn’t need to think about what time the girls might wake up and then count the hours backwards to see how much sleep I would be getting that night. I didn’t need to make sure hot drinks were put up high away from curious little hands and I didn’t need to sing songs in the car on long journeys to keep other people entertained, well maybe I did do that occasionally. But now I’m a dad with two children who does do all those things everyday. Time really has flown. I have enjoyed every moment of the last three years and it really is the best job in the world. I’d never want to go my back to my life before Caitlin and Alyssa arrived but in the last few years I’ve realised things aren’t always easy for dads. I believe most woman have a natural instinct for looking after children but us men have to learn from scratch. I was someone who had never changed a nappy before Caitlin arrived and now I feel I’ve learnt so much about being a dad that I could write a large book on the subject for new expectant dads who are feeling a bit nervous about being in charge of a little human life. I think one chapter would be titled ‘Listen to mums’. I’ve realised that mums know everything about babies and children. I’ve asked experienced mums in my family and friends circle questions ranging from baby clothing to baby constipation. I’ve always had an instant answer that has always turned out to be the correct one. Another chapter would be about planning. With children there is no opportunity to wing it, planning is essential. Children like a routine and work better with a routine. If you’ve planned the day out correctly you shouldn’t get any nasty surprises. Like the time Alyssa decided to fill her nappy and I had forgot to put some new ones in the baby bag. Although I was quite impressed with the temporary nappy I had created out of a towel. I’d definitely have to include a few pages about the park. It’s a magical place that has multiple uses. Not only does it provide entertainment for children and give them the opportunity to mix with other children, it’s also perfect to make them as exhausted as possible. So when bedtime arrives they’ll happily trot of to the bedroom with no fuss. Maybe I’ll call it Warren’s dad survival guide. I’m afraid it would be priced quite high, another thing I’ve learnt is children are expensive.
Tuesday 19th June
With the rest of the country I’ve been watching England play in Euro 2012. It was only during one of the games that I realised how much my life has changed in just four years. During the last Euro Championships in 2008 I had no children. It was just me and my partner Serena. She’s not much interested in the football so she’d go and watch TV in the other room and leave me to watch the game in peace. Perfect. Roll forward four years and I now have two very noisy daughters. This time I did exactly the same thing, got comfy on the sofa with snacks and drinks next to me ready for ninety minutes of man time. But different to four years ago, during the game I had to change a nappy, find a lost crayon under the sofa, share my snacks and keep telling the girls to move out the way of the television. I have two choices, try and get the girls interested in the football or finally get round to building that man shed (with TV aerial) at the end of the garden.
When I wake up in the morning, it takes me at least twenty minutes to wake up fully. I’ve never really been a morning person, more of a night owl. My ideal start to the day is pretty boring. On my own, sitting on the sofa with a cup of coffee and maybe the radio or TV on in the background. Of course, that doesn’t happen anymore and probably won’t happen for many years to come. When Caitlin and Alyssa decide to wake up at 5:30am and it’s my turn to get up with them I have to wake up my mind pretty quickly. Unlike me, they start each and every day full of life and energy. Caitlin is the biggest chatterbox around so a quiet start to the day is completely out of the question. At that time of the morning it’s so easy to get annoyed and grumpy with them. In the past I have been guilty of asking them to be quiet or requesting the noisy toys stay in the toy box. I even had to stop myself requesting Caitlin stop being childish. What a silly thing to say, as that’s exactly what she is. Most of the time I’m not grumpy, honest. But when I do feel like I’m getting a bout of grumpiness with the girls I stop myself and remember that it’s important my children are allowed to be children and it’s these moments that I need to treasure and take mental notes of. My parents tell me that the girls will grown up before I know it, so when that time comes I don’t just want photos to remind me off these times but also lots of memories too. This view has given me the opportunity to once again be a child through my children. I can’t think of any other reason why I would be crawling around my living room, hiding behind the sofa and making a “roar” sound other than when I’m chasing Caitlin and Alyssa as they try and hide from me. A game they would play all day if I had the strength. Likewise, I can’t think of any other situation where I would sit at the coffee table with Caitlin and together make a cake with no ingredients. Yes, a pretend cake. After we’d put all the pretend ingredients in a bowl we’d mix it with a pretend spoon and put it in a pretend oven. Then after the pretend cake had cooked we’d sit together and eat it. Caitlin even kindly makes me a pretend cup of coffee to go with it. I love her imagination. So from now on I will encourage my girls to use their imagination and act their age. And if anyone accuses me of being childish, I’d have to agree with them