The P Word

Muddling my way through parenting

Archive for the tag “care for the family”

Getting back in the game

Under the cosh. Swimming against the tide. Run ragged. These and many other clichés are over-used in sports journalism (a career I once aspired towards), and as I’ve suggested before many of them also crop up in relation to parenting.

Feeling a bit deflated?

Feeling a bit deflated?

And that’s how I’ve been feeling recently. Perhaps that’s the reason for my all-too-lengthy blog silence. But the clouds are beginning to clear and (quite literally) the sun is starting to shine again.

This week a couple of things which I’ve shared on the blog’s Facebook page have helped me feel like I’m getting back in the game. This post reminded me that I’m not alone, and the motherhood rap made me giggle.

Getting back in the parenting game

Sometimes it all feels like a bit too much. I’ve been grumpy dad, tired dad and various other kinds of dad which I don’t like seeing in the mirror in recent weeks. Mealtimes seem to have become the battleground that I thought we’d seen the back of after (just) surviving the toddler years. But hope springs eternal, as the saying goes. Although I certainly don’t feel completely out of the woods, there are some chinks of light if I look hard enough. A bit of a holiday certainly helped.

Getting back in the blogging game

I think I’ve always been certain that I’d return to this blog at some stage, although the three-month gap might have suggested otherwise. Time has appeared in short supply. Motivation has been lacking. The thoughts about potential posts have been there, but all too often they’ve dispersed without being put into action. With Father’s Day looming, a flurry of traffic to my contribution from last year has also helped re-awaken my interest.

Getting back in the training game

‘Facilitator’ is perhaps the least elegant word in the English language. However, to help people on parenting courses it’s a label which I gladly wear from time to time. And over the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to be back involved in a Time Out course for a group of parents of under-5s (if you want, see if there’s one taking place near you). The mums and dads I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the past few Wednesday evenings with have both challenged and inspired me. I am hugely grateful to them, and I can’t wait to do more of the same later this year.

So … if you’re feeling like a bit of a spectator – or maybe sidelined by injury, or just exhausted and need to be substituted by somebody with a bit more energy – I hope that you find some way of getting back in the game before too long.

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Is this ‘just a phase’?

Perhaps starting this blog was madness. Waxing lyrical about how great parenting is – hopefully seasoned with a dose of realism throughout – was always going to make life a bit tricky.

You know what I mean: that kind of self-fulfilling prophesy – or perhaps self-inflicted expectation – that in providing something which aims to support other parents, it was fairly likely to coincide with a bit of a crisis of confidence in my own parenting style.

You see, I reckon the past few weeks have been some of my hardest as a parent. No, I haven’t lost all perspective: those who know me well will be familiar with the fact that child #1 underwent major surgery on his head aged 19 months, that I struggled through several months of my wife’s second dose of severe morning sickness while juggling work/childcare/husband duties, not to mention the hidden (and flatly denied) strain of living through a wife with post-natal depression. More of that to come in a future post …

man pulling hair out

This isn’t me – although I know how he feels!

But nonetheless, these past few weeks have been tricky. Child #2 is testing the boundaries on all fronts. Child #1 appears to find it all very amusing, and is contributing the mini-rebellion with increasing gusto. My own tiredness, stress levels, and (perhaps) other non-work commitments have contributed to a lack of patience with both kids.

So, in times of frustration/pressure, where do I turn? Firstly, I look to the support networks around me, my family, friends (although usually not unless prompted) and faith (even though this morning’s church sermon reminded me how I all-too-often sideline this option until the circumstances become more extreme).

Perhaps this is also a good time to reflect on a couple of ‘lightbulb moments’ that I’ve had in my parenting journey so far:

1. I don’t have all the answers

This is perhaps an obvious one, and it’s hard to pin down to a precise moment. It might have come when I first struggled to put a nappy on, but it was definitely within those first 24-48 hours of dadhood. Quite simply, I’m nearly always out of my depth, I make mistakes on a daily basis, and I just hope that I’m muddling through well enough to not mess things up too badly for my kids. I guess most parents can relate to some of that.

2. Getting to know who my kids really are

Being trained by Care for the Family to run their ‘Time Out …’ courses was primarily to equip me to facilitate courses for other parents. But those few short days also taught me so much more about my own role as a father and has helped strengthen relationships with my children.

The ‘lightbulb moment’ that I keep coming back to was about children’s personality types. While acknowledging that children cannot be pigeon-holed into one narrow category (and most will reflect many contradicting characteristics as they grow and develop), the three most basic categories (which are formed as a combination of nine different personality traits, if you’re being more scientific about it) were divided into: easy, hard and ‘slow to warn up’ . The latter option doesn’t exactly have a catchy title, but it’s so true for many children.

I have to admit, before that day I had often mistaken child #1 as ‘difficult’, when he actually demonstrated all the hallmarks of a child who is slow to warm up. Basically, he is more prone to do as requested or respond in a positive manner when things aren’t just thrown at him (not literally, of course!). I had often mistaken his energy, passion and adventurous spirit as a child who could be ‘difficult’ just because it can be physically exhausting to keep up with  him!

If we want him to go to the table/bed/bath/school, if he’s given a five-minute warning we’re far more likely to have an easy transition to whatever’s coming up as the next phase of the day. Of course it’s not always that simple, but realising that he often needs a bit (OK, a lot) of thinking time to adjust to what’s about to happen has made life easier (for both me and him) on many occasions since then. It’s almost like as a toddler he kept on having these un-articulated thoughts of ‘Hey, Dad, just give me a chance!’

There’s a lot more to being ‘slow to warm up’, but it’s getting late and I don’t want to make this another lengthy post. Perhaps I’ll touch on other elements on this ‘type’ of child in the future.

So, this week I’m determined to be a bit easier on myself, I’ll re-commit myself to being more understanding of my children’s differing points of view – and hopefully enjoy some more chilled out, fun family times as a result.

But I’m intrigued: what have been some of your most helpful ‘lightbulb moments’?

First sign of madness?

People say that the first sign of madness is talking to yourself. A bit like blogging, really.

But what about parenting? Do you have to be mad to be a parent? Maybe not, but it certainly helps!

In this blog I will chart some of the ups and downs of life as Dad to two little people, currently aged 5 and 2. I may also pass occasional comment on topical items which are vaguely parenting-related in the news, things like the rising numbers of children being taken into care.

Primarily, I am doing this because I love being Dad. There you go, I said it. Perhaps you really do think I’m mad now. I’m an unashamedly devoted (some may say besotted) parent. They say ‘jump’; I ask ‘how high?’ Many of my favourite times in life have been in the company of my son and daughter. Being a parent is a huge, humbling privilege. I have found new meaning in what it is to love and to be loved. I have laughed like never before, and learned more than I ever dreamed possible.

But I am also a realist. I know that parenting is a massive challenge. As well as all the high points, during the past few years I have experienced extreme exhaustion, had my patience tested beyond its limits on countless occasions, and often felt hopeless, isolated and out of my depth.

But I have been intrigued enough to explore things further. My interest and passion (I’d even describe it as a vocation) led to me qualifying as a facilitator to run the Positive Parenting courses produced by Care for the Family. I went on the Time Out for Parents course myself, and have been a co-leader of a course for a dozen mums which we ran at my local church in autumn 2011. However, my real passion is to support other fathers. Hopefully, in time I’ll be able to run a course with some other dads, maybe even using some of the specific Time Out for Dads material.

So, why blog? Perhaps it just plugs the gaps between opportunities to help parents on the Time Out courses. But it’s more than that. I have to admit that my inspiration also comes from several others I know who have blogged with style and gusto, especially The Hungry Skier, B… and my own dear wife’s fledgling contributions to The Yarn Barn.

I hope that some parents may find sustenance, guidance – and maybe a touch of humour at the absurdity of it all – in the posts on this blog.

Whatever you feel about parenting – especially if you (understandably) sometimes struggle to enjoy it – I hope you find something useful or enjoyable here.

Thank you.

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