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Fears… The times they are a changing… again

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When my son Aidan was born I was out of work, an involuntary stay at home dad. I went off and studied, I did a course to set up my own business. but for the majority of the first year and a half of his life I was the go to person for him and my daughter who I was minding as well and bringing to and from play-school every morning.

Aoife and Aidan enjoying dinner out before I went back to work.


Then I went back to work, and he went to a child minder for a bit and then on to preschool. He is one of the nicest lads you will ever meet, kind, considerate to his friends and  quick to forgive. But he can also be a bit lazy, has little self control, can’t sit quiet or behave during times when you need to be still, and when he feels aggrieved he becomes (or at least his behaviour) is quite rude and sullen.  His behaviour last week made me realise that when I do things that he finds really embarrassing in front of his friends when/if he becomes a teenager it will just be karma coming back to him for all of the things he did as a child.

It is perfectly illogical that I should blame myself for his misbehaviour, my rational brain tells me that 1. he is a child after all, and it’s not easy for them to have the attention span to behave as I would always like him to and 2. he is a boy!. Now parents of only girls will not understand the reason for this possibly un-PC separation of the sexes, especially on this World Women’s day. But having observed my sons, my daughter and other nieces and Daughters friends there is a difference. And boys need to keep moving, cannot settle and calm themselves as well as girls, cannot concentrate as well at least until they are older and catch up in maturity. (If anything this could be a basis for all those objectives of the women’s rights movements- Boy’s never grow up- they just get taller)

I worry though that perhaps that his behaviour would be better if I had been there with him longer, those critical years from 2 till 4 when I I was there for Aoife. Is it perhaps that genetically there is no difference between the behaviour of boys and girls and that my daughter has more self control etc because I was there during those formative years. How much is nature… how much is nurture?

For the last two and a half years now again I have been a Stay at home Dad, but this time it was more out of choice, I have fully engaged in my role, and focused my time on the kids more than ever before. I’ve maintained this blog much more than I did before, I take Tomás to parent and todder groups, I’ve ended up running one and I have really enjoyed this time.

My son has too, OK he has still managed to turn into a bit of a TV addict (I blame his big brother who gets up early in the morning to come down and see the start of rtejr  or Milkshake on Channel 5 before he gets his breakfast), but he is confident, happy, mixes well with other kids and has no fear or feeling of limitation.

But alas I need to go back to work again both for myself and for the family. We need to have a bit more financial security of having both of us earning and the longer I stay out of the work force the harder it will be to get back into it.

And this is were the new problems start, not just the activity and work and worry about getting a job but then what job. I can try and go back to doing what I was doing before, working in plastics manufacturing and recycling. However I lack experience in one of the most common machines and also in medical devices which is the highest growth area in the sector in Ireland, so I’d have to retrain (again) and take a job on a much lower wage than I was on before. Or go for shift work in a factory as a supervisor or similar, which is a challenge with a young family. But that’s what I might have to do in the end.

Alternatively I could go and do something completely different, possibly with better hours, but due to lack of experience the salary would be lower. I’ve no hope of getting what I was earning before, not just because the recession has reduced wages, but because employers look at my CV and question- so what have you been doing for the last 2 years… the longer out… the longer it will take me to get up to speed is probably their thinking.

So that’s fears 1 and 2; Will I be able to get a new paid job? and Will the salary be enough to cover the cost of going to work?

But I also worry about my family, how will the kids cope with me going back to work, they have all enjoyed the security of having me close, collecting them from school and doing things with them (they would probably have an easier life if I go back to work) especially Tomás who has seen me around nearly 24/7 since the day he was born. Would he settle with someone else on a daily basis? Will he grow up like his brother, restless or feeling aggrieved that I’d abandoned him?

Making the kids do their homework.

Making the kids do their homework.

I also worry for my wife, she finishes work around 4, but pressure would be on her to collect the kids, to cook their dinner and do all those jobs that I had to do, but at least I had the advantage of having more time to get them completed and didn’t have to do a days work first. She says she’ll cope, and I know we all will, we have to. Doesn’t stop me worrying about them though.

I eagerly await the release of Fathers, Work and Family’s new book Working Dad’s Survival Guide and I hope that it will provide me with help to be the best father that I can be even when I’m not there 24/7 for my wife and kids.

Getting back to work

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It’s been 2 months since I’ve posted a blog, I could say that I’ve been busy, which would be partially true. Between my wife and kids being back at school, Toastmasters, Parent & Toddler Group and looking to go back to work I have been busier. However not so busy that I couldn’t have written something. I did write more in my journal with the intention of transcribing them into blogs, and I might again as this was an attempt to improve the quality of my writing by putting it down on paper first.

The biggest reason why I haven’t written however is one that all of us can be guilty of at times, the lure of the TV and general tiredness causing me to get out of the habit of writing. I never could keep a diary as a child for more than a few days before I would forget about it and stop for a while before trying again.

But it is good to take a break and focus on other things for awhile. I’ve spent loads of time with the kids, made big improvements with how I look after them, slightly less shouting, a lot more patience and understanding. I’ve been reducing Tomás sleep time during the day to ensure that he sleeps at night and spending quality time with him, encouraging him to speak, play and make animal noises. And he’s been making great progress.

The weather has been unquestionably great (for Ireland) and after collecting Aidan from school we hang around to collect his big sister an hour later. We’ve used this time to get some of his homework done and to allow the 2 boys and some other kids who are around for the senior school pick up to play together.

But now after this sabbatical from writing it’s time to get back to work. I’ve spent the last 2 months getting everyone adjusted to the new regime of school and playgroups, homework and job hunting, now it’s time to get back to the other things that I have to do, writing, developing my own skills and capabilities.

Bundoran- A promise broken

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I know I should have written this around 4 weeks ago but with the summer, the kids and too much else to be done I’m only getting to it now. Hopefully I’ll make better progress over the next few weeks while the kids go back to school.

It’s terrible, but we promise our kids that they can do things that they look forward to and then the world conspires against us and the best you can hope for is to make the best out of a bad situation.

Well like every year we took a trip to Bundoran during our break in the North-West.

Bundoran caught on to this tourism industry early and has been a resort since 1777. There are lots of amusement arcades so as kids my parents tended to avoid it as they didn’t want us wasting our money on slot machines and rides.  

In the last 20 years there has been an improvement in facilities and attractions in the town, with the development of Waterworld and the Adventure Park as well as the whole town getting a bit of a facelift and clean up.

Bundoran is also a major Mecca for surfers with some of the best surf in Europe and a host of Surf shops in the town.

We’d promised to bring the kids to Waterworld for the day while my father in law went for a walk and then we’d all go for lunch.

We got to Waterworld at around 11 and I’ll not bore you with labouring over the full hour and 30 min we were waiting to get in. Suffice to say that we were initially told we couldn’t be let in due to crowding in the pool and the changing rooms, finally we were informed that there was a problem in the pump room but they couldn’t tell us what or how long it would take to fix and there was never a problem with crowding. It turns out that there was a problem with high levels of chlorine in the water causing major discomfort to the bathers, many getting their money back as they left. Why they left people queuing for hours, telling us false tales on the delay while still letting more people join the queue I can only put down to no respect for their customers and bad customer service.

We left Waterworld and met with Orla’s dad to get some lunch, heading straight to Stakes on Main St. near the bridge.

We’d eaten here before and while it’s not fancy food it is good decent grub, well priced and very family friendly. I had a burger which was lovely, my Father-in-law was very pleased with his fish and everyone had a great feed. Again.

Since the pool was off for the day, Orla brought the kids down to the Adventure Park while I brought Tomás on a walk to do some shopping so that he could have his nap.  Purchasing the multi-ride tiny tots wrist band which gave them loads of access to rides over a few hours for €11.95         

Aoife and Aidan Enjoying the rides at Bundoran Adventure Park

Aoife and Aidan Enjoying the rides at Bundoran Adventure Park

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Although I don’t enjoy this kind of thing my older pair loved it and had a great time on all the rides. No sooner was one finished than they had run off completely ignoring me or Orla to the next one to get in as much as they could. It was well worth it and the price.

In the end we couldn’t keep our promise of going to Waterworld but the kids had a great day in the Adventure Park so everyone left Bundoran happy.

Lough Navar Forest Park

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During the great weather in mid July we headed off to South Donegal for a few days bringing my Father in Law on a break from Dublin.

There is lots to do around the region covering, South Donegal, Fermanagh and Leitrim. This week however we kept it near to base so that there were no long car journeys to stress out my Father-in-Law.

We made two trips to Lough Navar Forest, my Father in Law is an avid walker and we like to do it when possible and the Forest Park offers a range of different walks.

Lough Navar Forest is undoubtedly one of the jewels in the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. Located approximately 5km outside the village of Derrygonnelly, this spectacular forest extends across 2,600 hectares.

Photo of Lough Navar Map

Photo of Lough Navar Map

The first trip was to the Magho Cliffs, a 9km long limestone escarpment dominating the southern shore and skyline of Lower Lough Erne on the northern edge of Lough Navar Forest. The spectacular view is arguably one of the most dramatic on the island of Ireland. At a height of 300 metres, the viewpoint offers a bird’s eye view across the lake far into counties Fermanagh, Sligo, Tyrone and Donegal and even as far as the Atlantic Ocean. A path brings you a short way along the cliff which broadens the view. There is also a walk up from the Shore Road along the Erne but it was closed for repairs when we visited. This was our second trip to Magho Point but our first to do the walk and it was great to look down on an area of the Irish country side that I’ve loved for my lifetime. We were able to look out and spot the Atlantic ocean, the hills and mountains of Donegal and Tyrone, Belleek and the islands on Lough Erne. There is also information on the history of the Erne, from its formation due to Glacial Movement at the end of the last Ice Age through to it’s use during the 2nd world war and the unfortunate aeroplane crashes.

This was a short visit to the park as we had no food in the house this trip to the park before we headed on to Enniskillen for lunch, then the kids went to the playground while I did the shopping.

Our second trip on Friday was to be a more testing one for us. Well that was the plan. I’d proposed to do a longish walk of around 6km, however my father in law was concerned that the kids wouldn’t be able for it. So we opted for a shorter walk through the Correl Glen Nature Reserve which is easily missed on the other side if the road from Lough Navar Forest.

It is a beautiful walk along the river before rising up to look over the Fermanagh country side. The kids moved the walk with Aidan leading the way, and climbing to the top of the hill when we got that far.

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By the time we got back to the car the kids were warmed up and ready for more so we drove on around to Lough Achork. The smallest of the upland lakes situated within Lough Navar Forest, is accessed via a looped path that hugs its shore line creating a beautiful 1 mile walk.

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We stopped at the first of the picnic tables for a snack,shorter before stalking on. The kids rushed on a head with Grandad while Oral and I took our time with a nice leisurely walk. Last time we were here the flowers around the lake were teeming with wildlife, dragon flies and damson flies. This time however we only seen one or two. So we told the kids that there were badger and otter tracks going down to the lake so they set off to inspect ever hole along the path for signs of life.

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It was another beautiful day and a great run around for the kids who were starting to get tired as they climbed the hill back to the car.

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Messy Play – an analogy for life?

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Recently Mamacourage initiated a Messy Play Linky, which has been so far taken on by Wonderful Wagon and Where Wishes Come From.

Mamacourage wants people to write about doing messy play with their kids. Messy Play…

grants children a precious kind of freedom. There are no rules; there is no goal that needs to be achieved. They can choose to create, dismantle, transform or destroy. Children are met with boundaries in almost every aspect of their life. They are told what it “right” and what is “wrong”. They are constantly trying to meet conscious and subconscious expectations. A lot of this is necessary in order to function in the real world, but it is also lot of pressure to impose on a young, creative brain. What a beautiful gift it is, then, to offer them a session of free, unstructured chaos.

Whilst the opportunities for messy play do have to be created, or at least allowed to happen they don’t have to be organised actively. Sometimes the best moments of education and happiness for kids is when you just let things happen on their own with out our interference.

This morning for example Tomás played for ages with our Sand/Water box while I hung up the washing. (Who knew I could be so adventurous- hanging up washing in this weather). Now at the beginning of the summer the sand pit had been filled with nice new and clean sand for the kids to play with. However as kids are over half the sand has now been spread around the garden and flower petals, leaves, stones and other bits and pieces of dirt from the garden have contaminated the sand. Add to this the recent rain fall and you have what would be best described as an accident waiting to happen when a 1 year old gets at it. But as he played, I remembered Mamacourage’s post and thought to myself that if we were at the beach I wouldn’t stop the kids playing in the sea, which is infinitely dirtier than our mix of sand and water.

Looks like the sea side in a box

Looks like the sea side in a box

By stepping back and letting him play he had a great time pouring the water, yes getting some sand in his hair but he experimented with what happened when he lifted the sand in the shovel, how the water poured etc. before he moved on to something else to play on.

Which lead me to consider how messy play is a bit like life. If we relax and let it happen, there will be mess, broken hearts, dreams and promises. Things will not always happen as planned and sometimes your better not planning otherwise your own hopes will be dashed. But life when we let it happen has a lot to teach us.

Even as I write this the mess which is our home life, caused an enforced break as Tomás firstly wanted me to swing him and then as we sat down and played with each other got into hysterical fits of laughter as we blew his dummy to each other from our mouths. He only got up and left me when he heard my wife and daughter singing in the living room and they sounded more interesting than me trying to throw a ball to him. And even as I finish this now he’s back to me, wanting to play or get fed, or both.

A Promise Kept: The Great Outdoors

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Do you ever make a long term plan to do something with your kids.  Well long term is not the right word, but something in the distant future? You know, maybe buy them some floats with the thought of going to the pool, or buy a tent so that you can “in the Future” go camping.  Which is grand, you can prepare to do these things at “some-point-in-the-future” with no specific time frame in mind and you can spread the cost.

Which is all great until the kids find out; because then it’s “when can we go camping?”, “Can we go camping tonight?”, “Are we going camping this weekend?” and on and on and on…

For the last few months I was able to fob them off with we’ll do it “during the summer”. Then it as we got to the summer holidays it was “the tent is too big for our back garden” (it is) “We’ll have to wait till we’re in Granny & Granda’s or Donegal. Now it wasn’t a sudden aversion to camping which made me stall, but the knowledge that they would not settle well in the tent till late at night, likely would be up early and then cranky the rest of the following two days. I didn’t want them being tired and cranky, along with the school term.

Finally a few weeks ago in mid July, I packed the tent and new sleeping bags into the car to go and visit my parents. I did inform the kids that camping this weekend could only happen on the 13th July, depending on the weather and how things were going outside the garden (12th July in N. Ireland)

The 13th came along and it was dry and the streets were quiet, so the tent was pitched, mats rolled out and sleeping bags readied. My Mum seen it as her chance to mind Tomás for the night, but I argued that he’d be fine and that I wanted to see how he did sleeping in the tent before we tried taking him else where.

Camping out in the Great Outdoors

Camping out in the Great Outdoors

Aoife and Aidan were very excited. They were changed for bed and out in the tent long before I was going to put them down for the night. So stories were read,prayers said and they were left out there for a bit on their own to chat. There was no point me staying with them at that point, I’d get no peace and still had Tomás to get ready for bed.

Someone had already beaten me to giving him his bottle before bedtime, in fact they had given him two! As I settled down on the couch with his PJs and a clean nappy he clambered over to me with that look which can mean one of two things. Either he was very, very tired or he was not feeling very well and wanted a cuddle. Unfortunately it was the latter.

After a few minutes contently sitting in my arms he stood up, to climb on to me and promptly brought the whole two bottles up all over me. My dad fortunately was there to run and get some towels to clean up the sick off the couch and off my clothes. Dad then took Tomás to get him cleaned down while I went and changed into my PJs. Of course Tomás was now full of energy and wide awake again. So I got myself a bowl of cereal for supper, which I had almost finished when a well aimed swing of his arm and Tomás sent the bowl of cereal all over me.

So as soon as I was changed again, we were out the door for me to try and settle him in the tent, and miracle or miracles after tell him his story, he settled quickly in my arms. I was able to transfer him to his own sleeping mat and sleeping bag with out disturbing him. Aidan was still chatting and messing but gradually getting quieter and eventually asleep.




Tomás slept soundly all night

Tomás slept soundly all night



Eventually Aidan slept soundly

Eventually Aidan slept


Once asleep everyone slept well a part for an early morning run to the bathroom (Great Outdoors one) by one early riser.

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But she settled back down quickly and it was after 8:30 before anyone started to waken.

Aoife had a great sleep too

Aoife had a great sleep too

The camping trip was a great success, everyone slept well and the kids had a great time. Much to my mothers disappointment Tomás slept better than he had when he was inside the house in the travel cot. Just goes to show you can’t always tell what they prefer.

So my only regret is that we didn’t go camping sooner. The fears that Tomás might not settle or that the kids would want to go back into the house as soon as it got dark didn’t materialise. So I’m all encouraged to go and take the kids to one of the many great camp sites around the country. That’ll be the next hurdle to cross.

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