Father and son - NZDadsBarrack Obama is frequently referred to in the media as ‘the most powerful man in the world’. Being the father of a 19-month old son, I disagree. I am the most powerful man in the world, to my boy, right now.
Before he was born, I worked from home. A disciplined Monday-to-Friday of writing or researching books projects. Now, with my wife having been back working half-time for a year, I know I really WORK at home.
For me, the key to getting through some of the tough days, is trying to remember to have fun. That’s hard when a child is really out of sorts due to teething or a cold. Or when you feel really mentally tired after long periods of broken sleep (more due to a cat sleeping on my legs at night than a waking baby). Some of those days seem interminable and minutes can pass like hours in the late afternoon.
But, it is not about me: this time is all about my son and what he needs. I tell myself that this stage of his life will be over before I know it and I will no doubt be looking back on it through misty eyes missing the time spent poking in the garden with a stick, playing hide and seek in shops or watching him start to tap his knee to music in the car. Emptying the nappy bucket of re-usables for washing…that won’t be missed as much!
Everything can be fun. Try and entertain yourself, too. I make funny faces in the way I lay out my son’s lunch and have seen a great improvement in my crayon drawing of late. Even a short walk up the drive-way or along the street can be entertaining. Firstly, in the wetter months, it is fresh air for both of you but as boring as you might consider the verges around your house, they are new territory for your child. They can find a multitude of things to be fascinated by: letter boxes, grass, fences, trees and shrubs. Five minutes playing peek-a-boo around a lamp-post…why not?
You just can’t do things in a hurry with a toddler. I remember how much I looked forward to him being able to walk so that getting to and from the car with armfuls of baby and bags would be so much easier. But then before I knew it he was walking and getting to and from the car got so much harder because there were so many distractions for him between the back-door and the carport. Be careful what you wish for!
Just going into the supermarket for milk and bread can take half an hour because he wants to touch every item on the low shelves and stop and feel the temperature of the dairy chillers. That’s fine. Your child is learning all the time about colours, shapes, textures, smells etc.
Visits to the post-office to clear my mail box can take even longer. There are a lot of boxes and locks to touch or try to open with my keys!
Tell your child what you are doing and why. They don’t automatically know where you are going, what you are picking up, why you have stopped walking and so on. It helps them understand our behaviour, even more so if you can include your child in what you are doing. For instance with the shopping, we start off by getting him to pick a piece of fruit, be it a mandarin or a banana, put it in a bag and tie a big knot in it. He then has something to carry around the shop and feels that he is not only copying me, but helping me.
Day sleep is so important for both of you. If you are having trouble cracking the code of how to get your infant into a regular sleep pattern – very important for them and you – Sheyne Rowley’s Dream Baby Guide: Positive Routine Management For Happy Days and Peaceful Nights proved indispensable to us. Our boy had always been a good night sleeper, but began being very resistant to sleep during the day. An old family friend, and retired Plunket nurse, talked us through the importance of day sleep and a plan on how to get our boy into a routine of sleep and the advice in Rowley’s book really helped us cement in the routine. It takes some work. You have to commit to a routine, but waiting for your child to sleep when they are exhausted is no good at all.
It took a while for me to get used to the fact that when my son had his midday nap, I just wasn’t going to be able to get all the work done that I expected to. I have come to realise that if I get to check my emails that is a bonus. So, I now consider the days when I am home alone with our boy my days off from ‘my job’. We call them ‘Daddy play days’. And they are. For me and him. The days when my wife is at home again are the boring days of me being a grown up!
Of course, I’m speaking from the experience of only having one child. If you have two or more young ones, it is much harder to juggle their individual demands and routines. But they are important.
If you are a first time dad, and a stay-at-home one at that, hang in there. Sure, the crying and grizzling can make you feel like your brain cells are being fried but the magical moments you will have with your child – first steps, first words, time to play – the things that other dads miss, make it all worthwhile. Treasure them.
Finally, I have to share this encounter from one day when we were out and about, a ‘Should have gone to Specsavers’ encounter at our local big red shed. The woman serving us looked at my son, smiled and said, ‘Having a day with grandad?’
I said, ‘Dad…’
She said, ‘Oh, lucky girl.’
I said, ‘Boy…’
She said, ‘Have a nice day.’
I said, ‘I’m sure it can’t get any better!’

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