Dads are parents too!

So this is a bit of a follow-up to my previous ‘reflective’ piece titled “Dads Involvement in Parenting” (link here) somewhat inspired by the “Dads don’t babysit” t-shirt that has been doing the rounds.

When I wrote my previous piece, I felt somewhat alone as a single parent, and as a dad. I reflected on the fact that most of the time I went to groups etc, I was one of a handful of dads and I did feel as though dads should be doing more.

I still feel that is the case in some instances. However, thanks to the power of the internet, there are pockets of dads who do go above and beyond, who are the “main carer” (I hate that phrase!) and are the ones taking their child here there and everywhere.

Yes, the stereotypical view by the population as a whole that mum should be the main one caring and nurturing the child will remain for some time. Miracles don’t happen overnight.

However, there are groups out there of like minded dads out there, some of whom will be in a similar position to myself. The fact that these groups exist give me great comfort and support, even if it is just reading the posts and smiling, knowing that I have been in that particular situation. Yes, being the only dad in a parent/toddler class of 40 children will never be easy, but I know that the support groups are there. They are just a bit harder to find for dads than for mums.

Also, it does get easier as time goes on. Confidence grows and as babies turn into toddlers, they make friends and that makes going out as a group so much more interesting and turns into the highlight of the week.

Yes, it is still difficult, yet life is difficult. Life as a single parent is more difficult, and I realise that I am very lucky to be in a better place than others. The latest press coverage will surely help and it might mean that those starting on the journey will find it easier. I know that I am now, even though I am 2 years down the path…

If after reading this and you don’t know where to turn I would try two groups:

If you’re a fellow Leeds Dad, join the Facebook/Twitter for the Leeds Dads group. They meet once a month in Leeds (although I have only been once due to sleeping toddler!), a really informal group and the WhatsApp chat group is a source of great comedy!

If you’re further a field, “The Dad Network” is an excellent free flowing Facebook group where dads around the world post thoughts on parenting (or parenting to be) and interesting discussions flow from there.

I would be foolish not to conclude with a link to the “Dads Don’t Babysit” t-shirt page  (for UK dads) It is for an excellent cause so you’re doing more than just buying a t-shirt

https://teespring.com/dadsdontbabysitEU

Sheffield Life Festival – 23/4/2016

The sign of a good day out is when you can’t stop talking about it afterwards and that was certainly the case with the Life Festival in Sheffield we went to!

With Heidi being completely obsessed with all things medical and a particular focus on radiology (can 2 year olds specialise?!) it felt like going to a medical research event was a must do, even though it was in Sheffield and it certainly was!

Although it was in the slightly strange location on an indoor market, it helped create a good atmosphere and I dare say people who didn’t know about the event were drawn in and hopefully increased the impact of the event. As a dad of a toddler, it helped as it was inside (read: dry and warm!)

So the event was 9 or so stands dotted around the market all showing different aspects of medicine and medical research. While a few of the stands weren’t really appropriate for toddlers (and that is completely understandable) there were some which were absolutely brilliant.

The dentistry stand run by the dentist students was brilliant as Heidi is into brushing her teeth (thanks to a Minions toothbrush!) and hearing her talk about how she brushes them was an absolute joy. The students were absolutely fabulous with Heidi too, showing her and teaching her about fillings and being interactive with a drill.

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Learning about teeth

We moved on to the stand run by the medical students and given Heidi’s obsession with all things medical, I knew that this would be a success! We used a mock MRI machine and then we looked at real life x-rays before playing a game trying to put internal organs in the right place (not real!) While this final bit was a bit advanced for both of us, it has given me ideas how to teach/stretch Heidi’s learning going forward.

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Scientist Heidi breaking bones!

The other stands were not quite as toddler friendly, although we did enjoy the chicken bone experiment  (it would take me an age to describe it!) but just getting Heidi used to science, experiments and safety goggles is all good. Oh, and Heidi kindly got an ice lolly to help with her calcium, obviously!

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"Healthy" option

There were some really cool things for slightly older children, which we tried to have a go at, including using microscopes 🔬 which was on the “to do” list after going to the Be Curious event in Leeds previously (link here) and so that was really good to do. We also saw some futuristic companion pets, although I think that was somewhat lost on Heidi!

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Companion pet

All in all, we spent an hour and a half there which was really good and we would have spent longer if we weren’t getting a bit hungry and had to head back home. Even after seeing everything, Heidi wanted to go back to see the x-rays and the dentists again!!!

After a quick bite to eat, we continued with the toilet training (last update here – and we are making progress!) with Debenhams toilets being the place to go! As the snooker championships are on at the moment, there were a few activities on the go, with one being a mini-football court set up, which Heidi had a little go on…

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I said at the start that the sign of a good day was went you can’t stop talking about it and Heidi was mentioning it all day yesterday and even wanted it as her bedtime story. Another sign that it was a good day was when Heidi fell asleep straight away for the journey up the M1, absolutely exhausted  (after a mild, rare tired related strop!).

I’m sure we will be back in future years and take in more activities from the festival as this was just one part of it, albeit the most toddler friendly!

Swithens Farm – 18/4/2016

A bright and dry spring Sunday took us to Swithens Farm near Rothwell to spend a couple of hours with the farm animals!

Getting there via the M62 is relatively easy although there is a long dirt track which makes you wonder if you have gone wrong somewhere and doesn’t do anything for the car’s suspension!

The farm is such good value for money (£3 adults, under 5’s free!) and because of this, I would certainly recommend buying a small bag of carrots (30p!) to take round and feed the animals with as it is a good way for the animals to get close up to the children!

It took us about an hour to go round all in all and there are cows, calves, goats, sheep, lambs and pigs all in their pens, but they are all wanting to be stroked (or are they are the carrots?!) and while you have to be careful with them as you would with any animal, there isn’t anything to be particularly scared about.

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Friendly cow

We also saw some lambs wandering amongst the visitors which was lovely for the little ones although not sure if they were meant to be loose! Given the time of year (and good fortune with timings) we also had the chance to bottle feed the lambs which is such a fun toddler experience to have!

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Ready to bottle feed the lambs

There is also a climbing frame, trampolines and bouncy castle included in the cost as well as a couple of pay attractions (hook a duck, roundabout and mini golf) The trampolines have seen better days but given that it is outdoors, to be understood (I wonder if the animals go on there!)

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Heidi on the roundabout

Afterwards we went for a drink/ice cream and we managed to get a table just before 12 but it was packed by 12 o’clock both to go into the farm and to order food so it might be an idea to avoid that time… We didn’t have any food but the full English breakfast looked amazing! There is also an indoor play gym that you can pay to go in, but Heidi was exhausted at that point!

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Loose lambs!

Just a word of “warning”; the farm is a working farm and so it does get muddy and cold so dress appropriately and perhaps leave the buggy in the car, especially if it has been raining. The hand washing stations were difficult to find as well so if you find one, use it!

All in all, it was a lovely hour or so at the farm and brilliant value for money, especially compared to some of the other farms in the area!

Update: I knew I had forgotten something! The cafe has a really good baby changing room in the disabled toilet. Lots of room and the changing pull down mat looked in good condition so would have no problems using the facilities there.

 

 

 

 

Toilet Training (part 2)

So it has been a couple of weeks since the last update (found here) so it felt like an appropriate time to revisit and reflect…

Well, it is safe to say that progress is being made and it is also safe to say that it is slow going! There are times and days when it works perfectly, there are days when doesn’t happen … at all!! This weekend being a case in point, Saturday was a nightmare, part of it was Heidi having too much fun with her friends and subsequently not being “into” it.

However, a slight positive was when she was playing in a washing basket (as you do!) and realised that she had wet herself in there. The downside to this is that it is very difficult to clean the bottom of a 3ft high washing basket with holes in!

Sunday was a much, much better day, without a wet nappy all day. We were out and about in the morning and while she didn’t go while we were out, when we got back home, Heidi felt comfortable enough to go. She went a couple more times at home in the rest of the day although I am slightly concerned that she isn’t drinking enough because she doesn’t want to go to the toilet.

The “standing up” phase appears to have passed and using a small table to support her feet seems to have helped quite a lot. However, there are times when Heidi seems scared to go into the toilet, although this might be her way of saying that she doesn’t want to go.

Either which way, things are very much slow going, but things are slow going.  One thing is for sure, this is probably the hardest part of raising Heidi so far!!

 

Fashionable Toddler?

After we went to a junior fashion show last weekend, my thoughts wandered to the issue of dressing Heidi, and making her look her best.

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At the fashion show

The initial thought was that it doesn’t matter and it didn’t matter whether Heidi was dressed as a girly-girl or a bit of a tomboy. This was particularly true for my first few months of weekend-parenting as pretty much what was clean, ironed and fit was fair game!

However, as I have developed as a parent, and developed my confidence, I have started to think about it a bit more and as Heidi is becoming her own person with her own thoughts, I have tried to match what she wants and particularly, what she doesn’t know she wants until it’s too late!

Every parent wants what is best for their child although I am a bit behind the game on this one as I am a) not interested in fashion and b) a dad! So what do I do?

And I don’t know the answer….

As with most of parenting, there is a lot of experimentation aka trial and error! Do I put her hair up, down, pig tails, pony tails or plaits?! Or will she actually let me comb it in the first place…?! I’m proud to say that I have attempted and somewhat succeeded in doing a plait…once, but it is so hit and miss! (Dad tip: wet the hair well and watch YouTube videos!)

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Not my greatest hair achievement!

And as for clothing, I am completely out of my depth! My approach was that anything in big-brand supermarkets would do as it was a safe choice and while you can’t go wrong, I am not sure if they are the most toddler friendly clothes out there.

I have started looking at more “unique” shops online in order to get something a bit different, to tip my toes in the water and gauge the reaction. I bought the ones below from Funky Rascals and they are bright, funky designs which are what I was looking for to see how both of us would react to them!

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From Funky Rascal

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Again from Funky Design

However, the overarching sentiment behind this somewhat rambling post is that I don’t have a clue what I am doing in this regard! Heidi is happy and looked after in terms of the clothes she wears now and that is obviously the main thing, although I dread to think the conversations that we will have in a few years time!

In some of my sillier moments, I do wonder if fancy dress is the way to go…

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Anna!

But as with most things in this parenting roller coaster, I seem to be making it up as I go along, and having a blast doing it!

Preview of the weekend (9-10 April 2016)

When I initially set up the blog, part of the idea was that I was going to preview the weekend, hopefully giving people ideas where to go etc . However, it didn’t really pan out, but looking ahead we have a busy weekend ahead and there are quite a few cool things happening as the weather gets warmer.

Saturday

We are starting out our weekend with the fabulous Rhythm Time (my open hearted review is found here) and then we are off to the Donkey Sanctuary in North Leeds as it is the Spring Fair. (https://www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/event/9954) We went this time last year and it is lovely to see the donkeys  and the kiddies can get to ride them, which means a much shorter drive than to the seaside!

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There are a few stalls there and while it isn’t too big, there is enough for an hour or so, although it does get busy at times! We are coupling it up with a walk/picnic to Golden Acre Park, which is 5-10 minutes drive away…

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Sunday

Sunday is going to be a hectic day with us planning 3 daddy/daughter activities. Firstly, we are planning on going to The Hepworth in Wakefield, in part because they have some arts/crafts sessions running. I am certainly not the most creative (or tidy!) person and so I tend to like to do these kinds of things out and about, in the presence of other people who know what they are doing!! I/We have never been to The Hepworth and while I’m sure that we won’t be admiring the artwork in great detail, it will be a different experience.

Hot footing it from there, we are going to the Table Tots sale to hunt out a bargain at Wakefield Queen Elizabeth Grammar School! No idea what to expect, but will give it a go and take it from there!

Finally, we are going to the Accent Clothing Junior Fashion Showcase on Sunday evening in Leeds, which is something like that I have never been to before, and maybe never again! You have to confirm your (free) attendance, and there seems to be plenty for the kids to get involved it, so it could be an interesting evening, and hopefully I’ll pick up some fashion tips for the future!!

I’ll be hoping to write a follow-up to all those in the week following, which is certainly going to be some task!

Hope you have a good weekend too!

Toilet Training

So while I like/love writing about days out and exciting things like that, sometimes real life takes over, in this case, toilet training!

Toilet training has never been forced onto Heidi, she has taken her own pace to it all. In fact, the first time she used a potty was in public, when one of her friends went and she decided to copy.

That was 2 months ago and after being caught a bit behind, we started doing the right things and things have been up and down. The holiday to the South Coast (read here) put the breaks on before we could really get into the habits, and we have good days and bad days.

In fact, yesterday was a good day and she was dry throughout for the first time. Success!

However, within that was an occasion where she went stood up (yes!) and once where I had to bribe her to sit on the training seat with sweets!

Today has been a disaster with wetness throughout and the only way I would have got her to sit on the toilet was by forcibly restraining her on it! (I didn’t, by the way!)

As a result, I don’t know what to do. She is physically scared to go to the toilet at times, both at home and out but at times she is a happy little toddler who takes great pleasure in keeping herself dry.

I’m sure that it will get better and maybe part of this is me being impatient, as all of her peers have pretty much mastered it. However, any advice is much appreciated (either in comments or Info@leedsdad.com) and I’m sure I’ll post an update in due course!

Update: I have written an update here