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Sunday Miscellany

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One of my strange likes, one my own wife and parents cannot get their heads around is how never mind why I love listening to a Sunday morning radio programme on RTE Radio 1 Sunday Miscellany.

It’s a radio show which is a mix of music and prose -either poetry, historical tales or opinion/commentary. But I love it because there can be great tales and interesting talks. Whilst the tales are often only of mild interest, occasionally a great tale arises, or a piece which touches a nerve.

Last Sunday, Declan Collinge read a piece “In praise of Peppa” and I admit as I am planning to go back to work and will no longer spend time with my kids in the morning watching Peppa it did make me feel a little nostalgic.

So what do the Irish do on St. Patrick’s Day?

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One day a year the Irish get a day of their own, celebrated around the world with many of the World’s Monuments going green for the day as part of an international tourism drive for Ireland.

The whole celebration of Ireland’s patron saint originated in the US by ex-pats, and never ones to turn down a good opportunity or excuse for a party, we’ve jumped on board full hog.

Since 1904 it has been a public holiday, it used to be a dry day (no alcohol sales) but we did away with that in the 70’s. Whilst the stereotypical image of the Irish would be that we’d spend today in the pub or at home drinking I don’t think that this would ever have been nationally the case. It’s probably true that plenty of people in their late teens and twenties, who don’t have either families or work on the 18th might go out on the lash but most don’t.

Up till about 30 years ago you’d probably find a sizeable portion of the population at Mass this morning, these days you’ll probably find more of us in bed, enjoying the lie in. Which is exactly what we did, some how I managed to lie in till 8:30, before depositing the youngest downstairs to have his breakfast with his brother and sister and returned to bed to share breakfast with my wife and relax enjoying the morning.

Eventually at around 10 we got up, all changed and a quick picnic was made for lunch.

There has been a parade in Drogheda since before we’ve lived here, and even before we had kids we would come into see it. Even more so now that we have our own children, we get in early to get a good spot to watch it pass. This year my daughter was not taking part (too much on in the last few weeks for her to make it to rehearsals) so we got to start a little later than normal and to relax.

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Our position was on Fair St.  near the top of the town and on one of the quieter streets where we got a good position above the street.

As always there was a great turn out of people to watch the parade. The other roads tend to be so busy that the kids need to be lifted up so that they can see past people pushing in front of them.

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The parade in Drogheda, doesn’t have any of the big shows and performances which typify the parade in Dublin or other major cities, but it is a chance for some local companies and more importantly local groups to advertise and attract new members.

It’s a true collection of the good and the great of Drogheda life, such as members of the council and their invited guests, one of whom I think is the Turkish Ambassador.

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Drogheda is a town with 2 different brass bands  (the Drogheda Brass Band and the Lourdes Brass Band) who perform every year and provide a great opportunity to the youth of Drogheda to learn to play musical instruments.

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Drogheda being one of the main coastal towns in Ireland straddling one of the main rivers, the Boyne has alas had a long history of suicide and accidents through drowning. As a result the people of Drogheda have risen to this challenge and every year the 3 rescue groups based in the town show off their equipment during the parade.

The Drogheda Coast Guard.

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Drogheda River Rescue

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Drogheda Fishermen River Rescue

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There are a few companies who put on a bit of a show.

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Integral fitness always try to put on a good show, and this year they tapped into the film all of our kids have been pestering us about, which was very suitable for the day, it was dry but we were…

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And of course there was the collection of local groups.

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Although it went on for around an hour and 20 min everyone had a great time.

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After the parade, we did as lots of Irish people did and went home to have dinner, which we shared in my wife’s cousin’s house with her family. Of course we had a good traditional Irish meal… Pizza, chicken nuggets and chips (its a tradition in our house now the last 6 years)

I did have one beer, but then I have kids and have to get up in the morning.

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.

The weight of the world.

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The past week has been really tough. I had one job interview last Friday for a company 40 min away, with a reasonable wage. Reasonble but still 10k less than I was last getting when I stopped working two and a half years ago.

Once that was over I got asked to step in for a friend and take the topics session at Drogheda toastmasters on Monday evening. Which was great, I love my nights off and a bit of non domestic – or child related chat.

The rest of the week till thursday was preparing for an afternoon at an assessment centre for a place on a training course. I did a lot of prep for the competence based interview, and researching the different things we could be asked to do during either the group activity, the presentation or the written assignmment.

I didn’t realise how stressed I was getting till after the day, a full 5 hrs feeling under near constant scrutiny. And then traveling by bus to my father in laws before heafing on home.

The worry that the salary might be less than what I had originally hoped for, as none has been discussed anywhere as I have progressed through the interview and assessments. The fact that someone thought it might be half of what I was on before, got my wife understandably anxious about how we would cope as she knows that I really want to move in to this kind of work. But here is me almost 40 starting out again on a mediocre wage that is great for a single person with no kids or house to pay for. I know that there are a lot of people earning less, but because of my wife’s salary we get no supports and that is just enough to keep us afloat now.

So more than ever since Thursday evening I have been feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders, the feeling that I’ve taken advantage of my wife, that I’m,  being selfish and already wasted a loaf of money pursuing a new career, and a failure at not being able to get back to work again because my career path has brought me in ever decreasing circles of opportunity.

But last night as I came home from a night out with friends (the one chink of light I’ve felt this week, having friends who wanted to spend time with me) I discovered that Oren Millar, founder of the Dad Bloggers group on facebook has been fighting stage 4 cancer since he was diagnosed 9 months ago. Its a dose of reality. This man, almost the same age as me with a wife and 2 kids has left all these same pressures that I have behind. It reminds me of that I do have, a wonderful wife who is a constant source of love and support, some great friends, who will drag me out for a drink at 10 o clock at night or mind my kids while I go for interviews, and of course 3 wondrful kids. Kids who I have been very lucky to spend a lot of time with over the last 2 1/2 years, to form who they will be when they are older and to love and support them. I’ve been there to bring them to the doctor, health worker for checks, ballet, library and a whole hostof other events that a lot of other dads don’t get to do.

But Oren did more than just raise his kids like I have been doing. He has left a lasting legacy, through the Dad Bloggers group, he has made a positive impact on so many fathers lives, creating that sense of community,  mutual respect and support that dads need as not everything is easily discussed with loved ones or advice is needed.

I have been lazy the last few months, written little and not been as proactive as I could and probably should have been. So its time I sorted myself out, find out what my legacy will be and to start to make it happen.

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Oren Millar and his family, from the Huffington Post.

Dad’s in the Delivery Room

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I was asked a few months ago  by a parenting magazine to write a bit of advice for dads in the delivery room and about bonding for the Ultimate Maternity Guide that they were producing. The guide is now published but I don’t think that they ran my contribution. So here it is in full. I probably should have published it 2 weeks ago, before my wee brother went in with his wife to have their first. I put it down to being too busy with the kids and job applications.

Our new family relaxing in the Anti-Natal ward in 2007

Our new family relaxing in the Anti-Natal ward in 2007

The role of Dads has changed a lot over the last 40 years, you’re no longer expected to wait outside, it’s time for you to get right in there and claim your right to parent as equal to your partners.

There will be loads of advice during the pregnancy (this whole guide is for you as well as for your partner.) Take it on board, some of it will be good, some of it conflicting but you need to decide for yourselves as a couple what you want to follow.

At the beginning…

Your partner may only suffer mild nausea or you may end up holding her hair or emptying basins several times a day. Regardless which you can start from the very first weeks to provide support by doing as many as the jobs that need to be done from housework, cooking light meals, and supplying cups of tea and glasses or water to keep her energy and fluid levels up.

During the later months attend anti natal classes, discuss with her the plans for the labour so that you are aware of what her wishes are; discuss possible baby names and even what style of parenting that you want to follow when the bay comes home. You might also have to do (finish) some redecorating as she begins nesting.

In the hospital

The labour can be a long process and you’ll end up being in the hospital for a long time. When preparing the bags, bring food, proper food (sandwiches) as well as snacks, chocolate for both you and your partner. Bring something to read, magazines or a light book for your partner and something for yourself. Reading the newspaper or magazine is somehow less offensive than if it looks like you’re playing on your phone.

Find out how to properly install the car seat (40% are installed wrongly in Ireland according to the RSA), and understand how to put the buggy up and down.

The labour can range from a wonderful to a frightening experience for your partner, it’s part of your job to make it the former. You might feel like a lame duck there but holding her hand, rubbing her back, supporting her to walk if she needs to pace the corridors, fetching her book, water or whatever else she needs is all invaluable.

If your partner considers changing her plans support her and ask the midwifes to act on it. If she decides she wants an epidural, it will take at least 1 hr 40 min, with blood tests and surgery for it to be effective.

During delivery focus on your partner, tell her she’s doing well, help her with the breathing (breath, pant, push with her) and remind her she’s beautiful. Listen to the mid wives and communicate well with your partner so she feels reassured.

If she can’t make skin to skin contact because she needs stitches or had a section then you take your top off and do it. It is truly the most amazing feeling you will ever have. Don’t be afraid.

Don’t wait or leave it to someone else to change your baby’s nappy and if your partner is not breast feeding be there to feed the baby while your partner sleeps, or gets cleaned.

Back home

It’s perfectly natural to feel unsure of what you are doing and it’s OK to ask other experienced parents for advice they are always happy to share their experiences. You can find other dad’s, bloggers or on some discussion boards as well as your own social network who will be happy to get to chat about their kids, failures and successes.

Post natal depression is a very common illness so be aware that she might need help, it’s not a failure. Help your partner get a good night’s sleep by doing night feeds and helping the baby settle when they awaken. Yes you might have to get up in the morning to go out to work, but until you actually spend 24 hrs a day minding a baby on your own you will never know how draining it is.

Bonding

It’s perfectly natural not to bond instantly with your child and it might take a few months but like anything the more you put into it the more you get out.

The best way to bond with anyone is spending time with them. Hold your child a bit while they sleep, feed them, change them and play with them (when they are awake) as much as you can. In particular have a time of the day which is yours to spend with them. For example, at night time give them the last feed, tell them a story and sing them a song to help settle them to sleep. You’ll find as the baby grows that this routine will help them settle at night, and help them get back to sleep quickly if they waken.

By doing the night feeds it also gives you a very personal time with your child. No-one else is there with you, it’s nice and quiet and you can give them un-distracted time to get to know you. The down side is for the next 10 years when they waken at night it’ll be you that they call for at night, but sure it’s great to know that you’re loved and needed despite what they will tell you during the day time.

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.

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