Whilst I’m right on for a proper reconciliation between fatherhood and masculinity, I’m also willing to share some of the top tips* I’ve stumbled across as a father over three in my last 9 years in the role.
Tip 1: make use of your children when they are tiny for both brownie points and leisure activities
When you’re in possession of a new born, it’s a jolly good idea to let your partner have a rest in the evenings- some time baby free to either sleep or sob quietly to themselves. You can achieve this by putting the baby in a moses basket and playing FIFA on the Playstation while they’re asleep. It’s a win win situation as far as I’m concerned. I’ll tell you this, I was a ninja at FIFA 10 when it came out as I had to sit in one place and make sure a tiny baby was okay.
Tip 2: Perfect your regular, slow, deep breathing early on
This is a skill that has a multitude of uses. Now all our kids sleep through the night, it comes in handy when the cat wants to go out at 6am. I might get woken up but I reflexively manage to keep my breathing steady and level and more often than not pass for being asleep long enough to drop off back to sleep. It also helps when you wake up to find a child standing bedside staring at you in a very disconcerting manner. Eventually they will give up and go somewhere else.
Tip 3: Perfect replying to questions without explicitly answering them
Children’s priorities are very much different from adults generally, and me in particular. While I might think that 8pm is a super time to tuck them up in bed, my children might consider it the ideal time to discuss when they can theoretically watch Deadpool or something equally inappropriate. Learn to talk around a question, reply with a seemingly tangential anecdote or ask another unrelated question in return, and you’ll soon distract your children in to something entirely different that might make it easier to get them to bed or stop a major strop.
Tip 4: Pick your battles wisely
Some things are worth having an argument with your children over, some aren’t. There is little point in having you and your 8 year old screaming blue murder at each other over whether the broccoli is a fundamental part of dinner or in fact the nasal issuance of Satan himself. Likewise if the prospect of twenty minutes spent doing homework leads to two hours of rolling on the floor sobbing, with all the other children standing around as an audience offering awkward advice, just skip it and tell the school that you’d like your child to do it at lunch time if he must or not at all if that’s an option. Life is too short.
Likewise when a child demands to do something, rather than having a Mexican stand off, just agree with them but do nothing. They’ve not twigged how to deal with that and 9 out of 10 times it will flummox them.
Tip 5: Always remember you’re no longer a 12 year old
I was reading an interview that quoted one of the producers of Clarkson era Top Gear. He said, “I tell people I’m a holiday organiser for 12-year-old men. Men in general don’t really get much more mature after the age of 12, they pretend they do if they have a real job, but in actual fact, we’re all 12-year-olds.” which hits the nail on the head pretty neatly for me. A woman will know that being knackered from being up all night doesn’t mean that the laundry doesn’t need to be done or the washing up will magically go away, but a man will often apply the 12 year old’s approach of ignoring it until someone else does it, or doing it so badly he’s never asked to do it again. Or even make an achievement out of having to drink tea out of the gravy boat because nobody has washed up the mugs. That was cool when you were a student and everyone wanted to be Gary out of Men Behaving Badly, but not so much so now you’re a Dad.
Gents, it’s time to put away those childish things and accept that sometimes you have to at the very least do your impression of a responsible adult, if not actually being one. If it means scrubbing your child’s shit off the toilet bowl before it sets like concrete instead of “unseeing” it, then so be it. Call it character building.
Obviously if you’re a teenage Dad who’s just become a father at the age of twelve and you’ve Googled parenting tips, you can ignore this one.
So there you go, my five top tips to parenting success for Dads. Feel free to add your own in the comments to valid me as a blogger. Cheers.
*if you’re not my wife, please ignore this footnote, otherwise read on. Hello! This is a light hearted post and more of a satire on the endless list posts that seem to proliferate in parent blogging at the moment. I particularly wouldn’t (if I were you) pay any attention to Tip 2, that’s dramatic license that is. Honest.