‘Mum has a boyfriend…’

This one is a mixed bag! strap in, keep up and enjoy!

The days between me last seeing the cubs and my weekend had dragged. The Thursday pick-up couldn’t come soon enough.

The after-school club collection was the usual long hugs and excited storytelling. The immediacy of filling in the last seven days crammed the next few minutes. Youngest however maintained his usual reserved stance.

How was school?

‘Good’

What was your most favourite part?

‘Some of it’

What was your least favourite part?

‘None of it’

Ok. Good to catch up.

‘So what’s the plan this weekend dad?’ eldest chipped in; recognising that her brother would yield no more for now.

On Saturday, we’re going to a Kung Fu lesson, then on Sunday we’re going to do a ParkRun. Youngest quickly found his tongue.

‘I already know Kung Fu dad!’ he replied cheerfully. I expected an explanation in line with his recent, I can drive now dad as I’ve seen you do it loads of times; you just press that button and turn the wheel a bit and hey-presto, but his conclusion hit even a well seasoned, left-field receiver like me.

‘When someone turns around, you punch them in the back; then when they turn again, you kick them in the stomach!’

Good. Grief.

His sister was reduced to hysterical laughter whilst I shook my head in disbelief. That’s not quite right darling; I think we’d better wait until class to learn the correct way. Until then, no punching or kicking anyone please. He tilted his head, before nodding ok.

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Saturday

As it’s the weekend, and training doesn’t begin until 13:00, morning routine is changed. Lie ins all round, apart from youngest, who found his into my bed bright and early. It was still dark outside so we decided to share an audiobook via headphones.

Everybody gets porridge. It’s going to be a high energy day so we all need slow release. They’re then headed into the shower, while I pull out some suitable fightwear.

Things seem to be taking a long time and despite beginning early, I feel the advantage slipping away. My ire rises and I start snapping. He’s ready; I’m in full uniform but she is in her underwear. I then notice a squeezed tube of toothpaste on her floor. I become extremely irritated. We’d had new carpet fitted a couple of months ago and I’d already chastised her for wandering around and brushing her teeth, dropping toothpaste on the carpet.

She’s scolded, and told to hurry up. Whilst she grabs her bag of bits, I pull the rest of our packed lunch together. Neither for love nor for money, will youngest put his coat on. Then he can’t find his shoes; I suggest that looking may help. Then she has no trainers, as they’ve all been left at mummy’s. I ensure that she has good socks on then give her some casual slip ons to wear. We head to the car.

As I strap her brother in, her tablet needs charging so her second action, after belting herself in is to seek out the USB socket in the centre console. To do this, she has to lift the soft armrest. I get in the car and hit my elbow on the now exposed edge. I snap..

YOU TWO ARE REALLY ANNOYING ME TODAY!


It’s fifteen miles before anyone speaks. They both had their heads buried in electronic devices but the tension was palpable.

‘Dad; I’m sorry that you find us annoying. We don’t mean to be’

Eldest’s words cut like a knife.

No darling; I’m sorry. It’s not that I find you annoying at all, it’s just that sometimes your actions can frustrate me; usually I can deal with it but today I had an outburst and that wasn’t right.

To complete the emotional triangle, youngest chips in;

‘Do you still like us?’

That hurt; a lot. And so it should. I’d fallen so far below my standards of parenting. It was a rapid reminder of the power of words on young minds. I had to repair this; fast.

Listen; I love you two more than anything and that never ever changes; I do get frustrated at times and very, very rarely, I say something like that that I immediately regret. It’s a reaction, rather than a response. A response means that I’ve thought before I’ve spoken; a reaction means I’ve spoken before I’ve thought, but never, ever forget this; there’s not a day that goes by that I’m not thankful for having you too wonderful people in my life and I will never stop loving you.

I learnt a lesson today and I have a theory. My words and actions will probably work to erase my harsh outburst but I fear that it takes a number of congruent actions over a length of time to build back that trust to 100%

Be mindful of how you interact with little minds.

School 1


On the way home

Kung Fu transpired to be a mixed affair. He had an abundance of energy and a shortage of concentration; exactly what you’d expect in a 5 year old. She was better placed having taken Karate lessons a few years back. We kept it at falling correctly, kicking and punching.

I decided to call time after the umpteenth time of being asked for snacks, a break, water, a pop to Aunty’s and anything else to get away from my instruction. It wasn’t bad for a first attempt.

A quick visit to relatives and we headed home.

All of us are chatty, discussing the lesson, the chocolate we ate at Aunty’s and what we were going to do tomorrow. Without trainers for her, the ParkRun was postponed. Not the whole thing obviously.

‘Mum has a new boyfriend! he’s taller than you and has a nickname!’

Good for mum. With the exception of wanting to know who is around my cubs, I have little interest.

‘The last one she had didn’t stick around too long though! she wants to get married but I’ve told her that I don’t want a stepbrother or sister! one is annoying enough!’

I chuckle. She continues.

‘I’m not sure about her plan is but she can’t just keep rummaging around in men like that; it can’t be doing her any good’

Admittedly, at this point I nearly crash the car for laughing. We’re driving on the motorway, through the narrow lanes of roadworks too.

The whole car is full of laughter, and nothing makes me happier.

Laughter is such a great sign and for us, as a family it seems to be our greatest medicine.

As for their mum, I wish her every success in her quest…

hand heart

BSD

Couch to OK…

Let me begin with a disclaimer.

I’m not what you would call a slouch. I like exercise. I’ve grown up around it and I’m vocal about the benefits of maintaining health and wellbeing through exercise. Recently, I have been a bit of a slouch.

In a way, I forgot the golden rule that exercise serves to callous an individual against most of life’s stresses and strains. Instead, I gave in to those stresses and strains. Both exercise and diet suffered.

One of the [many] positive outcomes of finding out I’m not yet on my final path, was that my cholesterol level was quite high. Not wanting to bring on what I had feared was ailing me, I decided to buck my ideas up and get back on track.

Running

I’m on week two of the ‘Couch to 5K’ training program. I began while I was still under the perceived heart scare as in my head, 5k wasn’t a massive distance as I’d happily run 12 miles before; admittedly, it was a few years ago. I figured that it could only do me good and if I did have a heart condition, that distance wouldn’t tax me too much.

The program is an app that you download to your phone. It’s backed by the BBC Sport as part of their ‘Get Inspired’ initiative, aimed at getting Brits to take regular exercise. You get a choice of coaches, who happen to be personalities from the broadcasting world. They tell you when to run, how to run and how often. The only thing not provided is will power.

It seems to be working and more importantly, I’m enjoying being out on my feet. They do a ‘Couch to 10k’ too, for those without perceived heart conditions..

Follow me

Leading by example is important to me so I’m also sourcing Park Runs for me and the cubs. School has notified us with mild concern about their body mass index (BMI) and whilst I’ve never held much truck for the system I have noticed that both of my darlings are a little on the big side.

Rather than beginning to stigmatise and label them at such a young age I intend to just make them more active when we are together. This weekend they are coming to a Kung Fu session with me. I can’t wait.

Killing me softly

This Christmas just past a friend, work colleague and neighbour of mine invited me to his house for dinner with his family on the 27th. He has three children of comparable age to mine and we occasionally have play dates.

For the meal, we were accompanied by his partner’s family; her sister, her mother and her father. Her father was doing the majority of the cooking so we sat in the kitchen keeping him company. He looked in his late 70’s and had noticeable poor posture. He revealed the reason in a conversation.

’40 years of sitting at a desk has rendered my abdominal muscles useless’

That scared me. My job used to be more practical, but promotions have meant that I’ve been more managerial for the last decade or so. Work does give us the option of using ‘standing desks’ but I’d always declined, favouring getting up and moving around every hour or so. The only problem with this approach is that I tended to get stuck into a task and by the time I lifted my head, two hours had passed.

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I set my watch alarm to the hourly alert. The annoying function that I had disabled many moons ago. Now, every time the double beep sounds, I get up from my seat, perform 30 star jumps followed by 30 squats. In time, I hope this will become a Pavlovian response that will pay dividends in later life.

If anything good has come of my near miss, it was highlighting the fact that I had been taking my health and welfare for granted.

I owe myself and the cubs so much more than that.

BSD

When hope isn’t enough.

Something’s going on and I’m not sure what.

About two months ago (maybe more) my body started to feel differently. When I say my body, I mean my chest. When I say my chest, I mean, the area where my heart is. I really couldn’t think of a better way to write that..

In the tail end of the last year, things started to really ramp up in both my personal and professional life. I changed roles in my workplace and was given a baptism of fire. It was more full-on than I had experienced in a very long time. My energy was being pulled in every direction; I had to relinquish some activities and my beloved BSD blog suffered neglect. I had to prioritise.

Two other elements of my life became neglected; my fitness and my diet. Skipping workouts became the norm as did convenience foods. Processed crap was back on the menu as contactless payments at a fast food outlet are a lot quicker than putting basic ingredients together into a decent meal.

I had my annual fitness test at work, which I scraped through. I put it down to age but decided that I would schedule some moderate workouts.

The intention to train three times a week was there, but the intent fell away to other pressures quite quickly. They were only short workouts too, but intense; I value HITT.

Dadding

Coparenting was failing. Apart from missing the cubs due to an inequality in access, things had taken a more sinister turn on the maternal side. Details aren’t for this entry, but I will disclose in time. It spurred me to take action.

More time; more energy needed; more stress.

The creeping realisation that my energy reserves were actually a finite resource was always a difficult premise; historically I’ve solved most things by going at them harder but this was getting more difficult as a game plan.

Something had to give.

Honesty

I’d been lying to myself about the pains I had been experiencing. Infrequent at first, then more regularly. A pressing feeling in my chest, towards the left and in the upper quarter. Easy to dismiss as anything too serious, but hard to ignore due to its persistence.

A gym session will shake it. Or a run. Or perhaps a bit of fresh air.

It didn’t.

At Christmas; it became almost impossible to ignore, worse still, I was now getting irregular, but strange sensations in my left arm. Then, one day, into my jaw. Even without any medical training, this should be a red flag to anyone. I went to see the Doctor.

Well actually, I registered with a new surgery and undertook a general assessment, as is the norm. I told the nurse of my pain; she immediately strapped me in to an electrocardiogram (ECG). It took longer to connect the leads than it did to take a reading.

The nurse ripped off the ticker tape, took one look at it and left the room. I didn’t take it as a good sign. She returned quickly, apologised and informed me that she had taken it to the Doctor for a quick look. we did the rest of the assessment, which turned out to be questions before she left the room again.

On her return, she said that the Dr wanted to see me in a couple of days. This reassured me slightly, as an appointment in a couple of days would be futile if I was in immediate trouble.

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The National Health Service (NHS)

Later that evening, my phone rang. It was my new Doctor. That worried me. He told me not to worry, but he was making sure that I was going to attend the appointment with him in two day’s time. Absolutely I was.

Later that week, sat in front of the General Practitioner, he went through a series of questions.

  1. Do I smoke?
  2. Do I exercise?
  3. Does the pain increase or decrease with exercise?
  4. Do I suffer from anxiety or depression?
  5. Do I suffer from pain in my calves?
  6. Do I have dizzy or vacant spells?
  7. Had I ever used drugs?
  8. Had I ever taken steroids?

Strangely, I took the last question as a compliment. I guess I hadn’t slacked off that much. Men’s minds.

He then asked me about what I did for a living, and my working hours. When I told him the hours I worked, he put his pen down and stared at me.

“Mr (enter real name); imagine you have a brand new car and over the space of two years, you put 150,000 miles on that car; what sort of state do you think that car will be in at the end of those two years?”

Is it a Toyota Hilux or Landcruiser?

He stared through my attempts to deflect from the truth.

“I would seriously consider reducing the hours you work”

Easier said than done. He then booked me in for bloods and a chest X-Ray.

Fear

Having answered ‘yes’ to a lot of the wrong questions I was asked, I went home to stew. What if the pain in my calves that I had experienced during training sessions wasn’t muscle soreness but thrombosis?

Had I been neglecting something obvious or had six month of prolonged stress (probably longer) finally started to take its toll?

Whatever the outcome I admitted to myself that I’d left it far too long before seeking help. So many ailments can be treated successfully with early intervention. I knew that, but had neglected to act in my own best interests early on.

Bloods done I was slightly annoyed that the nurse stuck me in the arm that I hadn’t mentally prepared. I hate needles. But, I’m pretty fond of being alive so I sucked it up. I had the day off so I immediately presented myself to hospital for an X-Ray. After driving round looking for a parking spot, I went home and transferred to two wheels. I was in and out extremely quickly.

The next day the Doctor rang me. Again. I think I might store him as a regular contact. My bloods were back and my Cholesterol was high. Very high. I reflected on a Christmas of biscuits and rich cakes. I was relieved.  High Cholesterol was a precursor to more serious heart conditions, but it was also treatable with lifestyle changes.

My Doctor, who was clearly not taking any chances and was an extremely thorough man had also referred me to the Rapid Access Chest Pain clinic at my local hospital. I was worried again.

I realise, and am reminded time and time again of how good the health service is in the United Kingdom.

Message

I don’t usually end a piece with a direct message and in fact, this is not the end as I have my appointment at the clinic tomorrow but, I want to ask anyone who reads my words to  make sure that you act early on any health concerns that you have. Don’t leave it, don’t try to walk it off and don’t wait. Modern medicine can do amazing things if given an early opportunity and dedicated health professionals will bend over backwards to ensure your wellbeing.

You only have to do two things:

  1. Be honest with yourself
  2. Don’t give in to fear.

 

To be continued…

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BSD

 

All in good time

It hasn’t been plain sailing in the BSD household recently, and I’m squarely to blame.

Youngest cub has made the quantum leap to being potty trained. A real milestone in the transition from toddler to child. I’m ever so proud of him; he even goes to the bathroom standing up, after observing daddy in some uncomfortably candid moments.

I was conscious of this milestone as he entered the schooling system last September. His birthday is in late August and he had only just turned 4. Personally, I think that this is too young to enter full-time education, but such is life. I wanted him to be dry by the time he entered the system.

There is no shortage of reading out there with useful hints and tips. I knew what I wanted to achieve and set about doing it. I had the appropriate discussions with him and we spoke about what we would do to achieve it. We were both quite excited.

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At first, things went quite well. He would excitedly run up to my room in the morning to proclaim his dry night. Great success!

He then had a couple of slip ups, but this was fine; the road to success is rarely a straight one. We could handle it. Bed changed, cub washed, no harm done; on with our day.

We then had a frequency shift; the dry days were beginning to lose out to the wet days. As we awoke in the morning, the disappointment in his voice was heartbreaking. More cuddles and reassurances that this was okay and that he would get it in time were administered.

I changed tactics slightly. Both cubs usually bedded down with a bottle of water to combat nighttime thirst. This stopped. We also watched the volumes of drink that we consumed in the pre-bedtime hour. This was restricted too.

It didn’t help.

We then tried a reward system. The star system that was already established was utilised. A star would be rewarded for more dry nights than wet nights.

This was wrong.

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Things seemed to be getting worse.

Not only were we experiencing more wet nights but his skin also began to suffer. He’d clearly been peeing early in the night and then sleeping in it. The damage was visible.

He was also getting damaged inside with feelings of regret and shame of not doing as was expected of him.

I had a paradigm shift.

It  followed some soul-searching on my part and answering a few questions.

  • Why were we doing this?
  • Who would benefit?
  • How was it making him feel?
  • How was it making me feel?

The answers, were quite damming.

  • We were doing this because I had decided that we should do it.
  • Whilst we would both benefit, primarily I would.
  • It was clearly making him feel bad; he was neither dry nor earning rewards.
  • This made me feel bad.

Time for a change.

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We stopped. We had another chat and more importantly we re-bonded.

This took the form of a huge cuddle whilst watching his favourite film and eating popcorn. Eldest wasn’t left out; she got under one arm (and near the popcorn). I could, quite literally feel us all renergising in each other’s company.

There were some big learning points here and they were all for me.

I realised that I had let outside influences decide on what was best for my cub, rather than let him tell me.

Please understand, I don’t mean that I expected a 4-year-old to vocalise what he wanted; our children tell us things in so many other ways. We, as adults have to shut out the external noise and truly listen to what they are ‘saying’.

I was guilty of comparing him to his sister, to his classmates, to books e.t.c and in doing so, I ignored the only one I should’ve really listened to; him.

Attaching desired behaviour to a reward system is an age-old methodology but I applied it incorrectly. I’m still not sure I should have applied it at all.

He’s fine now. His skin shows no traces and he’s his usual, cheeky self. He’s back in the training pants for bed as the realisation that he is a deep sleeper will most likely mean that he takes a little longer to get dry.

I have every confidence that he will be; all in good time.

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BSD

And I’m stuck. Again. x 2

I’ve been quiet. I’m sorry.

The rules have changed and I’m in the process of seeking legal help.

Whilst there’s no good time to do this, now is a really bad time.

It’s also necessary.

When I have the energy I’ll write about it as objectively as I can.

Whilst I’m emoted and have a taste of fire in my mouth, the keyboard stays silent.

Every day, find a reason to smile; counting your blessings is the best way.

BSD

A weekend to remember

The centenary of armistice is upon us.

I write this 100 years to the day, of the end of the great war. The war to end all wars. From an early age I was brought up to respect the 11th day of the 11th month. It’s importance indelible in my memory as my parents gently introduced me to the futility of the human condition.

I’ve eased the cubs into some sort of recognition of events, sparing them the sheer volume of life lost not just in the great war, but in the following war and subsequent conflicts. There’s so much to unravel in there but there’s no rush.

Eldest, at 8 year’s old has a good understanding. The school has done a good job there. For her part, she took things into her own hands when she began to take on in-depth, self learning about Mary Seacole. She became inspired.

On friday, four of the local schools came together to pay their respects at the principal church in our town. It’s a majestic, ornate building, that I had only ever driven past. It dates back to the time of the civil war and the Reverend delighted the gathered children with a story of how a cannon had been placed atop the church to fire upon a nearby castle. Collective gasps echoed.

He then pointed out that the ceiling was adorned with symbols from the Islamic faith, delighting in his house of worship’s multi-cultural appeal.

The school children were given pride of place in the front pews duly shepherded by respective teachers. They were bursting with energy

Parents were welcomed and as I had the day off, I wouldn’t have dreamed of being anywhere else. Of course, I broke protocol, went over and made sure that she knew I was in attendance, before taking my seat at the back.

A headteacher took the reigns and began proceedings. Calling the schools up one by one, the children paid their respects in different ways.

Cub’s class got up and expressed themselves, to music. With the odd monologue thrown in for good measure. One soliloquy punctuated the passing of a giant poppy and they were done. I was up and applauding; Eldest cub delivered her lines beautifully and projected across the 400 strong audience, wearing and wielding her poppy with pride.


Remembrance Sunday

Eldest’s Brownie Pack has been asked to lead a procession from the local church to the war memorial.

The pack, church and memorial are all in the village where we used to live and next door to the cub’s school. We awoke early to make sure they were both properly fed and looking smart.

Daddy made the effort too, with very shiny shoes.

The Brownies had the first two rows; the Scouts on the opposite side. The church, more compact than friday’s affair but full nonetheless. I had my concerns about youngest cub. Whilst he’s lively, he’s also quite well-behaved; but I had concerns about the two minute’s silence.

As it transpired, I did my boy a disservice.

A smartly turned out gentleman behind us, with his equally attired family walked forwards to read the names of local servicemen who had passed in both conflicts. His wife kept hold of twin girls, aged about 5.

As dad began to read, the girls began to giggle. Then chuckle; then laugh aloud. Mum tried her best to quiet them but they were having none of it. Dad pressed on, his disdain etched on his face.

Youngest cub, standing on the pew to oversee proceedings turned to look at them, gave a long stare, before looking at me and shaking his head. Mum ushered the girls out of the church.

A second of judgement rushed into my head, before I remembered where I was and dismissed it.

The moment was upon us. The last post played and as the bugle fell silent, so did the congregation.

Youngest became a statue, to the point that he physically jumped when the bugle broke the silence. I gave him a big hug and kissed his forehead.


We walked the short distance to the local memorial. Youngest couldn’t believe his luck as we got to walk down the middle of the road, hand un-held. We are spoilt by the weather. It’s unseasonably warm and it’s bright. Earlier, the heavens had opened.

Having young children, we took pride of place near the front. We read another short sermon before the last post played again. This time, youngest smiled and nodded at me, showing that he knew what to do.

Giggles breakout. It’s the usual suspects. Their dad is glaring..

The bugle blows on.

Brown Owl had given youngest a crucifix with a poppy on it to place on the memorial. We watch everyone else before taking our turn. We begin well but the sense of occasion begins to get to him. He clings to my leg and buries his head in my thigh.

We press on, to compassionate sighs from the crowd and cameras snapping. He begins to fold, but I steady his had, and we place the crucifix together. A respectful departure from the memorial is nigh on impossible with the level of entanglement but we give it a go.

As the service ends and we depart, several couples say how proud I should be of my children.

I think my face said it all.

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Ps, extra stars all round, chocolate and a brief spell in the park showed my appreciation.

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