On the way home..

I haven’t done one of these for a while, but eldest was on form again.

It’s a thursday catchup as we haven’t seen each other in a few days. The darker nights and the motion of the car tend to be the gentlest lullaby for youngest cub, who is asleep before we hit the main roads. His sister is in full flow.

‘So dad…’ she begins

‘I’ve been thinking about Egypt a lot as we’ve been studying it in school. We talked about the great pyramids of Giza and the curse of the mummy’s tomb. Do you believe in the curse?’

No; I tend to…

‘I don’t believe in the curse. I think it was, wait for this, you’ll like this one; bacteria!’

I’m impressed. Do continue..

‘Well; my friend and I are now scientists who don’t believe in God’

Wait a minute; you go to a Church of England School. You pray every day.

‘I don’t really pray any more; I just think’

Ah so you reflect?

‘No; I just think about things that have happened recently….’

Well it’s fine to challenge beliefs darling; I encourage you to take nothing at face value but, be prepared to come up with an argument, both for and against. And be prepared to respect the views of others, without being dogmatic.

‘That sounds like a lot; I’m only 8. Anyway, a dead body locked in an almost air tight building is bound to generate some bacteria. Either that, or the bodies were coated in something that we can’t detect, that became airborne during the course of decomposition. Once the tomb was disturbed, the entrance of new air caused a reaction and the bacteria was breathed in. Boom’

Are you sure you’re only 8?

‘I told you; I’m a scientist.’


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‘What would happen if the Universe shrunk?’

It depends on how quickly it happened; we probably wouldn’t notice. It could be shrinking now.

‘I don’t believe in aliens. Little things running around out there’

Well it’s hard to discount other life forms. The Universe is infinite, and expanding.

‘Not shrinking?’

Definitely not shrinking. It’s still expanding from the big bang.

‘How many other galaxies do you know?’

Just Andromeda.  I think. I’ll have to check when we get home. Think about this; each star that you can see in the night sky is probably a sun. Each of those suns could, potentially have planets orbiting around them. Any one of those planets in the Goldilocks zone, could support life similar to ours. Now imagine this; all the stars that we can see, in the expanse of the sky above us, are a fraction of the stars out there. For scale, it’s not even equivalent to me placing a pea in our garden, but we can only see one-quarter of the pea. To travel to the other side of that pea, would take millions of light years; do you know what a light year is? It sounds like a measurement of time but it’s actually a measure of distance. It’s the distance that light can travel in a year. Light travels at 186,000 miles, per second. PER SECOND. Times that by the number of seconds in a year.

What do you think of that?

‘My friend at school said he rode his dad’s motorbike down the road one night. I don’t think that’s true’


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‘Do you believe in mythical creatures?’

I’m a fan of cryptozoology, which is the study of mythical creatures. My favourite was Bigfoot, but you have the Loch Ness monster amongst others.

‘What others?’

I’m stumped.

‘A unicorn?’

Yeah; why not.

‘What was so good about Bigfoot?’

Strangely, it was the most plausible of all of the stories, and there was video footage.

‘I’ve seen it; do you believe it?’

No; not really. There’s not enough strong evidence. Where are the bones of the deceased? hair samples? scat?

‘What?’

Scat. Poo. It’s what you look for as evidence of existence. It can tell you loads.

‘I don’t like the sound of that. Maybe it poos out of the other end?’

Which other end?? It’s head?

‘Yes. It could all build up inside and then come out later’

I’m not sure you’ve thought that one through. It would still have to come down and hit the floor.

‘Not for a while though. That’s probably their secret’

dadplusone

BSD

Learning Lessons

It’s difficult

Not being around the cubs 24/7. They spend the majority if the time with their mum. This is tough.

I read a twitter post from a single dad a while back  where he admitted that he broke down in tears the first time they went away and stayed with their mum. I really felt for him. I also immediately wondered if I should have felt more when they first went?

Solipsistic thoughts aside, I realise that in this situation I have been quite fortunate. Although things aren’t a bed of roses between me and the ex, she’s stayed local and realises the importance of me being active in the cub’s lives.

I adore them; I really do. They are everything and I’ve always tried my hardest to build and maintain a strong relationship with them. It’s good for all of us.

The difficulty comes when you start to see the values of the other partner enacted in the cub’s behaviour.

We have differences. Obviously. If we didn’t or they weren’t insurmountable, we’d still be together.

We have; they are and we aren’t.

As parents, we always think we’re right, right? We sometimes find ourselves looking at other parents in scorn. We might not always say something, but we think it.. ‘You don’t do it like that…’

Well when a family splits, you can’t help but judge the other parent in the same way. I try not to.

Honestly.

But some times….

Money

I’m a values based individual; sometimes it can be my undoing.

I can turn off something or someone if they don’t share my values. My principles guide my actions and it tends to be a golden thread in my life. I struggle with those that don’t. I don’t understand them, or what drives them. That can be an issue.

I see my job, as dad, to teach and guide. I prepare the cubs for a future in an uncertain world.

A world which, despite Trump, Brexit and emerging far right threats is a lot better than it was a generation ago.

That said, some things don’t change; determination, fortitude and a positive mental attitude will overcome most obstacles. So will knowledge of self-worth. Never, ever, sell yourself short, nor let anyone undervalue you.

Early days I know, but have a plan.

They’re too young, so it’s our job to keep them on the right path. Respect for others, humility and honesty are rewarded, as is telling the truth. My daughter gets it and there have been several, teary confessionals. More often than not, she’s been rewarded for that honesty, or at least not punished as much. My son, well that’s work in progress.

Here’s the challenge.

They learn so much more from what we do, than what we say. Not only do they pick up on the incongruous but they will mimic whatever it is that they see. I’ve written about this before, but our children are the mirrors that we hold up to ourselves.

Make sure you like what you see.

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BSD

All thats Holy..

I’m a Godfather! and I’m so very happy.

A dear friend and work colleague’s daughter, whom I’ve known since she was a baby, has asked me to be the Godfather of her first child, a beautiful daughter. I was both humbled and honoured by the request and accepted gladly.

They live near my old stomping ground, just over an hour’s drive away. The journey provides a good opportunity for a discussion with the cubs.

I explain the concept to them both. Youngest, unconcerned with my happiness is more concerned with the replica snake, which he has somehow managed to smuggle into the car. (He’s in smart clothes and has been patted down. My game is obviously off..)

Eldest, is listening intently and joining the dots.

‘But you already have me..’

She’s not replacing you.

‘Do you have to do anything, in general?’

It’s about spiritual guidance

‘Ghosts?’

No not ghosts. You go to a Church of England School. More the Holy Ghost.

‘So ghosts then?’

Ok Ghosts. It’s more about taking care of her spiritual upbringing, should anything happen to her parents.

She’s silent. That can only mean one thing; the processor is in full tilt.

She eventually looks at me.

‘So how many people have to die for me to get a sister?’

Well, if it’s down to me and your mum, every other person on the planet, I think but not say. I chuckle to myself anyway.

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We hit traffic; I’m worried about the snake charmer. He’s not long out of nappies and is still prone to the odd accident. He’s 4, so I don’t expect miracles. Journeys such as these are now bookended by toilet breaks.

He assures me that he’s ok.

In all honesty, the drive is taking twice as long as it should, and I could do with a …. break myself. The cubs are starting to unravel. Not prone to ‘are we there yet?’, they begin to ask.

SatNav is rarely my friend and it chooses today to renew our ill blood. Even with the contingency time I built-in, we may be late. I call my friend, who directs me to the Church, and into a parking space outside. Thankfully, I text them when I left home, so they got a sense of the traffic issues.

We all walk in.

Key players are in the front pews. It’s an intimate service; family and a few friends. The cubs are loving it. Eldest has been tasked with holding the Christening presents. Youngest, has energy to burn. He spots a play area off to the left. It’s immediately embargoed. My mistake..

Whilst the Vicar is delivering the sermon, I notice something unusual on her cassock. I can’t, quite, make it out. It looks brighter in one square patch. Within that square patch appears to be a shape. I look a bit harder. I think it’s a picture of some description.

What in the world…

It appears to be a T-Rex.

The Reverend catches me looking at her robes. I look up and catch her catching me. Without losing her stride, she looks across to my son, who is shining his prized, dinosaur slide show miniature torch directly onto her.

My pat-down game is way off. He’s allowed into the play area.


Post Service, we have a buffet at the local public house. The Jurassic incident went unnoticed by most and my blood pressure is almost back to normal.

Across a couple of tables I noticed the wife of a friend. I haven’t seen her in a while so we smile at each other. Even though it’s October, it’s unseasonably warm and she’s wearing a lovely, flowing maxi dress. As I’m smiling at her, I tilt my head in curiosity. I reinforce the tilt with a congruous gaze. I head over.

Ooh I say! Looks like you guys have some good news!

‘Eh?’ she replies, slightly confused.

I make some eye gestures at her bump.

‘Oh….. no. I’ve just had a few too many pizzas and pies over the summer….’

Oh boy.

What felt like a month later, but was actually a split second, youngest cub ran past, dropped some sweets and bent down to pick them up, exposing a poo stain that went up his back.

Thank you Jesus.

I scooped him up, made my excuses and left.

Best Christening I’ve ever attended.

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BSD

I did this..

I’d heard about people doing this before and had cringed at the mere thought.

I saw it happen in a tv show; it was awful; truly, truly awful.

Now I’ve done it, I can confirm that the reality is just as bad.

Yesterday I was at a Christening of a long-time friend. His daughter has had her first child, and has asked me to be Godfather. I’m so pleased and honoured that I’m writing about it soon.

At the after celebration, it was a chance to catchup with friends I hadn’t seen in a while.

The wife of a guy I used to work with was standing to one side, wearing a gorgeous maxi dress and enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. I smiled at her, she smiled back. I then tilted me head, and adopted a curious look.

I made my way over, expression fixed.

Oooh I say, something I should know? I asked.. she looked puzzled.

Are congratulations in order? I asked.

‘Oh right!’ she said, catching on…

‘No; just too much pizza and pie over the summer’

Now I’m on Ebay looking for a time machine.

BSD

You really are what you eat..

As you know, the cubs and I almost always have porridge for breakfast.

This day was a bit different. The wake up and shake up had taken too long and as such, we were slightly behind schedule.

Against my better judgement, I changed our breakfast menu. I do have alternatives to porridge; 2 packets of Rice Crispies (poor stock management) and a packet of Honey Hoops. They’ve been there a while, as I’ve said, we all prefer porridge.

Ok, confession time; my poor stock management included not shopping for more porridge in time, so I was left with a portion that wouldn’t satisfy anyone.

I duly dished up 3 bowls of honey hoops which we all hurriedly ate. Very sweet, was my only real thought.

Once finished, off we all went.

Youngest cub is now at big school so there’s only one drop to do. I go to work at hit my desk 15 mins later.

I catch up with my office chum, who’s been on holiday for a bit. She’s left a small, LCD projector on my desk as she couldn’t get it to work. She asks me to check it. I do; it works. I mock her mercilessly. I start to pack the projector away.

Inexplicably, I drop the projector under her desk. I pick it up; check it still works, then pack it away.

A little while later, she’s bringing me up to speed on office matters (I’d been away for 2 days) and I take the opportunity to clean my glasses.

Clumsily, I drop them on the floor. She stops mid sentence and asks if I’m ok..

I’m gonna grab a coffee; want one?

Finishing my coffee at my desk, I stare at my dual screens. I can’t concentrate. I take my glasses off and rub the bridge of my nose.

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She notices.

“You are not right; what gives?”

God alone knows but she’s right. I feel so out of kilter I can’t explain how I’m feeling. I do know however, that working is the last thing on my mind.

“Have you not had breakfast?” she asks.

It hits me.

I had a bowl of Honey Hoops…..

“What?? you my friend are having a sugar crash!”

Nail on the head. Eureka. Epiphany. That sugary, carb nonsense that I’d substituted my normal high fibre, high protein breakfast for had turned around and bitten me in less than 2 hours of eating it.

My mind immediately went to my cubs. If a bowl had that affect on my massive frame, what the hell would it do to their tiny bodies? The effect on my coordination and concentration was huge.

Nationally (globally?) there has been an unprecedented increase of behavioural disorders in young people and children.

Just how much of it is down to the modern diet?

There are now 3 packs of serial in my bin.

Mike on Cliff light sky

BSD

And, I’m stuck.

It’s been a busy year so far. I’ve taken a lot on and although it feels good, I’ve become stuck.

Two things have struck me recently;

Firstly, it’s nearly Christmas. I’ve got to prepare and this year has flown.

Secondly, in 15 years, I’ll be 60. This thought was bought on by a tweet about Angela Bassett (60) at an award ceremony.

That’s just the way my mind works.

The first 8 years of my eldest cub’s life have shot by which brings my mind to the passage of time, and how I could be wasting it.

Or at least not making ‘enough’ progress.

That voice is back.

‘Surely I should be there now, rather than where I actually am, here’

The internal coach. Eternal critic.

This time, I have an answer. Where I am now, is exactly where I’m supposed to be.

It’s easy to listen to this critic who will make you forget just how far you’ve come, both personally and professionally.

I’m learning two new skills. They’re big skills that can’t be rushed, but at the grand age of 45, I’m restless. Both skills have ground to a halt; one financially, one technically.

Again, the critic inside thinks I should be further forward.

That is, until I look back 12 months and see that then me, and now me, are strangers. If now me had told then me where I’d be now, it would appear a tale of pure fallacy.

So I take a breath and a break, and relax.

I’m writing this on a windy hilltop, enjoying the sunset. And smiling.

Push

Angela Bassett looked amazing, by the way.

BSD

Tough love?

I taught my boy a tough lesson today and it almost broke me.

Youngest cub has now joined his sister at big school. The change in educational level has done wonders for him. His language has come along in leaps and bounds and so has his interpersonal behaviour.

He’s not the finished article yet and at 4, neither should he be.

We do have some challenges. He gets frustrated easily and when he does, he can lose it quite badly. Foot stamping, screaming and saying no to everything.

On Saturday, I had said that we’d finish the day with a trip to the park but this had to follow him cleaning up his room. His sister will maintain her’s on a regular basis, but he plain and flatly refuses, or states that he can’t do it without help.

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Again, given his age I don’t expect much, just a token effort.

At times I help him, at other times I get on with other aspects of housework to show them what is required to maintain a home.

As he’s grown, we quickly (and sadly) moved from the response to the tidy your room request of ‘No thank you!’ to plain and flat ‘no’.

We never made the park.

As I had no wish to punish his sister, I told them both that we’d go after breakfast the next day.

Next morning, after a hefty porridging, they headed for the bathroom. A quick wash and then out, was the plan.

All went south after hair washing. Water in his eyes was too much to bear and foot stamping began. Followed by screaming, and then kicking his sister.

At 4 years old, he seems to be experiencing the terrible 2’s.

I won’t stand for kicking so tell him he’ll lose a star. ‘I DON’T CARE!!!’ he screams, and kicks out again.

I pick him out of the bath. He screams and stamps. I ask him to apologise to his sister. He’s in full flap and now cyclically repeats that he’s not listening to me and he never will.

Admittedly, I can feel my blood pressure rising, so I decide to remove myself from the situation. I leave him dry, but naked.

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Eldest cub gets ready and I shave and brush my teeth. She does her hair, which takes a while. He eventually stops screaming and comes in to my room. I’m now reading and pay him no attention.

He climbs on the bed next to me and slowly attempts to capture my gaze. I change position away from him. His sister declares that she’s ready.

Right; let’s go downstairs.

‘Dad! I’m not dressed yet…’

I walk down the stairs, telling her to put her shoes on.

In his nakedness he’s smiling and laughing as we get ready. He asks me a few questions, which ignore.

He persists. I stand firm.

His sister opens the back door and heads into the garden. Still in a state of undress, he puts his coat on.

I walk away from him and step into the garden. He screams…

I stop and go back.

I bend down and hold him tight.

We have conversation about what it feels like to be ignored; I do my best to keep it simple. He says he understands.

His sister, a witness to the entire charade, comments on my ability to maintain the ruse.

As I said; I don’t believe in striking a child but I do believe in discipline.

I’m not sure if what I did was any better.

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BSD

Written in the Stars

I’ve hit upon an idea, and it’s a good one.

Okay, okay, total honesty time, my daughter has hit on an idea which was actually a re-hash of how we used to do things before the split.

With her being 8 and he being 4, the usual rivalries etc. rear their heads from time to time. A household can descend into a lawless wasteland if behaviour is left unchallenged.

We’ve been going through the normal challenges that children pass through, where they exercise the human condition of testing boundaries. I am a disciplinarian, but also a humanitarian. Being brought up by a strict father (including corporal punishment) I decided way before I had the cubs that I wouldn’t be that kind of guy. After all, what does beating a child ever teach them, that the bigger and stronger person is always right?

Wrong.

I could never hit my cubs. Such outbursts smack of frustration, a lack of control and revenge for not being obeyed.

In a technique honed with my daughter, I prefer to reason things out in conversation, with age appropriate language. Tone of voice and cadence also came in to play, supported by changing facial expressions. It seemed to work. She’s well-adjusted and appears to be quite rational.

He’s a little different. He gets frustrated quickly which I suspect is linked with his rough start in life and the fact that his diction isn’t quite where it could be for a child his age; he struggles to be understood at times.

His sister can also press his buttons pretty easily and she does so often.

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We had just emerged from a period of them sniping at each other, where my techniques weren’t working. I resorted to separating them and temporary banishment to respective bedrooms.

She broke the embargo to come and talk to me.

‘You know dad you should maybe bring back the star system. Every time we do something good, we get a star. When we’re not so good, you take one away.’

This was something we used to do regularly and it worked particularly well. Great idea, I told her, and gave her a hug. I also asked her why she winds her brother up all the time.

‘Because he reacts!’ she states, before heading back to her confines.

The notice board in the kitchen now has two sections. One for her and one for him. Stars are drawn for good behaviour and removed for violations. I’m not too specific as what constitutes what, as I don’t want them to escape on a technicality.

It’s been in force about a week now and seems to be working. I added the further incentive that if either got to 10 stars, I would convert those stars into pounds, or an equivalently valued treat.

If only my dad had been as inventive.

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BSD

 

 

Great Expectations?

Today I’ve been reflecting

On a conversation I had with a ex-work colleague some time ago.

Knowing me to be a doting dad, she always asks after the cubs. I give her updates whenever we catch up.

I take great pride in recalling a recent shopping trip my daughter and I had, where the command of the morning was that the only way to make progress through the shopping mall, was by stepping on rectangle floor tiles and only rectangle floor tiles. She was quite specific in this.

We held hands, shopping bags evenly distributed and made our way gingerly through the centre.

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We moved with the accuracy of a Suisse timepiece. A watching Police Officer nodded his approval with a smile, whilst a retired couple commented that ‘it may take us a while’ to get where we were going.

We don’t care. This was our moment and where was the harm?

All was going well until we happened upon a large area of circular tiles. Our expedition ground to a halt. Very, very poor and inconsiderate architecture. What were they thinking?

We stood in contemplation for what seemed like an age, before I turned to her and asked, well now what?

We decided to turn back. Rules are rules.

My ex-colleague seemed puzzled. ‘Sounds like she has you wrapped around her little finger!’

Perhaps, I smiled.

I then told her that we dance a lot too. It doesn’t matter where we are. If we hear good music, we dance. We’re quite uninhibited.

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‘You do realise’ my colleague said, ‘that you’re setting the standard to which she will judge all men…’

Yes I do.

‘She might be disappointed if her partner doesn’t respond to her needs in a way that she’s become accustomed’

Perhaps.

But my daughter will also know her worth. She’s not a princess; she’s a determined individual. She will know that if her partner doesn’t give her butterflies in her stomach, knows effortlessly how to make her smile and is comfortable enough to show her his true feelings, then he’s probably not the man for her.

I’m sure I’m not growing a monster so for now, we dance, we pathfind and we make memories. This is what life is about.

After all; she is only 8.

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BSD

3 years on; I’ve figured it out

Why single parents are so tired.

Questions!

They come thick and fast and at any time. Now I’m a great believer in educational opportunity so I aim to inform as much as possible.

When I’m tired though….

Questions asked

What I  should have said What I actually said
What’s your favourite colour Adults don’t tend to have favourite colours Blue
Who’s that? (TV weatherman) I’m not sure; his name will come up shortly Alan
Who’s your favourite Power Ranger I don’t really have a favourite, as I’m an adult Alan, the Purple one. You may not know him as he only fights crime on a Saturday
Where are they going (car driving the opposite way) I couldn’t possibly know that Primark
How fast can you run (after watching Usain Bolt) Fast humans can do about 20 mph Just a little slower than him
Where’s that sheep’s mum Not too far away Driving that tractor
Why’s Saturday It just is ?????
Why are those birds on the roof It’s a safe perch away from predators They’re keeping an eye on you
What keep the planet spinning Interactional forces of the magnetic poles Children eating their vegetables
Why can you see the moon during the day It’s a satellite of earth that orbits independently to our rotation It’s keeping an eye on you

I’ll set them straight before they do any exams.

BSD