If you’re like me you’ll be reading this with your trousers (pants) around your ankles, an imaginary Hamlet cigar on the go and a gradually fading pneumatic thud from the bathroom door. It’s not getting quieter, Your just getting better at zoning it out. I am a full time dad with a full time job. That doesn’t leave much time. In fact the only time it does leave is when I’m saying goodbye to whatever kids leftovers I’ve been able to down. I write a blog. Very occasionally. This has to come out of my sleep account. I’m writing this whilst on holiday at 1:20 am when I have a 480 mile drive tomorrow so I should definitely be sleeping. I make YouTube videos too. So far I think there are 7. I had planned more. Filming them is relatively easy. Just film stuff on my phone while out with my boy. He’s 3 by the way. They then go on the hard drive and wait for another caffeine affected night when I can attempt to edit something together.
It all started when my wife went back to work after maternity leave. I got injured at work around the same time which I now consider to be some kind of divine intervention. Part of my recovery was walking. A lot. The little man’s stroller acted as a good support so I would just put him in and off we’d go. I now believe it was so important in his development and subsequent sense of adventure. We were always out in the fresh air. We’d always try to go somewhere different. Exposing him to different sights, different sounds, different environments. He learned to walk soon after (11 months). As my mobility improved we started going to soft-play areas. I’d be getting involved as much as him. Mainly because he was one of the smallest/youngest kids there and I’d supervise every step he made, but it was also good for me being able to stretch and strengthen in a safe environment. It’s also a lot of fun. I’d get some funny looks from the mums who’d typically be sitting at a table drinking coffee and catching up with work/social media on their phones (don’t judge, that may be the only chance they get. Think where you are right now…)
As he got older our repertoire grew. We built in options for rainy days, sunny days, mornings, afternoons, family days. A Daddy Day would typically be dropping Mummy off at work then finding something fun to do for a couple of hours before nap time. Nap would be usually 2 hours which is when I could get the essential home chores done before he’d wake for lunch then we played at home before we had to go to collect mummy again.
I have known people that concentrate on teaching. Drumming in colours, numbers, letters, etc… In my opinion, there’s plenty of time for that later, at school for example. The most important thing now is activity, ACTIVE-ity. Get them moving, getting stronger. Exploring their surroundings. Exploring themselves. Their boundaries, their limits. Talk. Talk all the time. Point stuff out. Explain stuff. Anything. The sound of your voice, your tone, your enthusiasm, your body language. It all goes in WAY before they can answer. They learn by watching, observing, listening. You are the show. Do as much as possible and if as much as possible isn’t much for whatever reason, make sure it’s good. HAVE FUN! TOGETHER! There really is nothing better. As they get older and you notice the difference your influence has made you’ll know it has all been worth it.
If you are worried about being on your own with your little one, simplify things. Make lists. Plans. A baby cries for 4 reasons; hunger, discomfort (poo & wee normally), tiredness or illness. All (except the last one) are easy to fix and don’t worry when it IS the last one, you’ll know and you’ll know what to do. If in any doubt you can always ask. No-one knows what to do to start with. If you are going out you’ll need to take stuff with you to prevent crying. Food, Drink, Nappies (Diapers), Wipes, Bum-cream, and somewhere to sleep (stroller, car seat, blanket… whatever) …and a mobile (cell) phone (in case of emergencies, not Pokemon-GO). Babies like cuddles too, but then so do you so that’s okay. As they get older they might have a favourite toy. They are probably going to want to take that with them too. This will become an extra thing to keep an eye on because losing it is dramas. If you don’t want to take it then it can “look after the house”. That usually works.
I guess in summary what I am saying is “GET OUT”. It doesn’t really matter what you do once you’re out so long as it is child specific. Google will tell you what’s local, what’s on and what’s open. Soft-plays are a great place to start because everyone there will be in the same boat as you (not that they’ll want to let on) so they are a good place to get ideas from other parents and they are pretty safe. Outdoors parks need a bit of extra vigilance due to their favour with non-child types later in the day. If it’s a family day, you can step it up a pace as there will be twice as many parents. A zoo, an adventure park a theme park? There’s no need to rush though, just do what feels right. It’s actually quite hard to go wrong.