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Getting Glasses- what really sells!

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My son has to get glasses. Since he was around 2 we were aware of a difficulty he had with his eyes dropping focus off to one side or another when concentrating. Since then he has been monitored by the consultants in the Children’s hospital, with the probability that in the future that he may need surgery to strengthen the muscle. After his most recent appointment the consultants decided that he should get glasses to force his eyes to work a bit harder.

This presented a problem- not because we don’t want him to get glasses, but because he did’t want them. So when we brought him into town we first went to Specsavers, and were left to our own devices to see what glasses we were going to get him. We had serious problems to start with, with him not wanting to try on any glasses. With the usual combination of cajoling and all we got him to try some on to see what would suit him, but could we get him to say what ones he liked! In the end we decided what ones there we thought would suit him.

Specsavers is only one of several opticians in town so we thought we’d check in some of the others. Our next stop was in Eyecare Plus. Again we were left to browse and try a few glasses on but he again didn’t engage. We got (forced) him to try different pairs and there were some that we liked the look of but they were not in a colour he liked. Which was his next excuse as to why he wouldn’t pick any of the ones we offered him. His sister did dry to help, and she found a host of novelty children’s glasses cases and he did actually warm to one of these which was blue in the shape of a crocodiles head- typical boy.

The attendant came over to us as my wife had asked if a particular pair were available in any colour other than pink. And she was great- she noticed my son playing with the glasses case and made a big deal of it showing how it was a crocodile on one side and another animal on the other. She asked him what glasses he liked and she offered us some advice. He would try on glasses for her and happily show them to her so she could see how they fitted and looked and told her which ones he liked.

Given how well he responded to them and how he liked what he was being offered which was a first for many things we decided to go with them for the glasses.

Leaving the shop it reminded me of another shopping trip with the lad, but this time when he was much younger maybe only 6 months old. Again we were shopping around town but this time for my wife and he screamed the place down every women’s shop we went into. He was OK in the men’s shops, children’s cloth shops everywhere else apart from the women’s clothes shops. Now wither it was because we were spending more time in them, I don’t know. All except for one.

My wife saw a lovely pair of shoes in the window of a shoe shop which alas is no longer there and when we went into the shop to try them on there were two young, attractive women working there. And he was happy to smile and laugh with them as they gave him loads of attention. He complained when we left.

And the shopping trip for his glasses was the same, absolutely no interest until a nice attractive young woman was giving him her attention and then he was putty in her hands.

photo (1)

Now this doesn’t bode well for him for the future if this is how a pretty face can turn his head at such a young age, but it also shows that maybe it isn’t sex that sells but attractiveness, our minds just get dirtier as we get older.

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It’s looking up for Irish Parents

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The Irish Independent on Friday had more leaks concerning the forthcoming budget in the Autumn.  Announcements relating to the recent Government Report on Childcare have made a number of proposals which will prove beneficial for our children in the future.

While the report is not published yet it sounds promising with recommendations including:

  • extension of the Early School Year;
  • rationalising existing childcare subvention schemes to a single scheme;
  • six months’ paid parental leave in addition to maternity benefit;
  • paternity benefit paid for by the State of one or two weeks.

Commentators have long identified that 3 hrs of preschool care for the 38 weeks or so of the normal school year is in adequate at best.

Most promising however is the additional parental leave and the long over due introduction of up to two weeks specifically paid paternity leave. At present fathers at best get a few days extra leave from their employers when they have a new arrival. As a result most new dads will have to take their built up holiday leave to spend time with their new borns.

The additional 6 months paid paternal leave will be open to both mothers and fathers to take and will bring Ireland up to the accepted recommended first year where a child has the direct care of it’s parents. How we get these benefits to apply to people who are currently falling through the gaps in the existing child welfare laws such as the self employed.

The next challenge now however is to get more fathers to take some if not all of the additional 6 months of parental leave. How can we encourage parents that the “missed opportunities” from being away from work is worth it for the benefit of their children. Perhaps mothers and fathers will be in a good position to that sharing parental leave between them balances the opportunities for career progression with equal time missed. Even better if it encourages employers to find better ways to keep their employees engaged and to manage their absences better.

Equality

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I’ve been in Drogheda Toastmasters now for the last 3 years while I’ve been at home raising my children. The last few months have been a major change in our house hold. Not only have I now gone back to work but I’ve also given my Stage 10 speech and completed my Competent Communicator Award for Toastmasters.

Because of a small matter of an equality referendum here I didn’t believe it would have been appropriate for me to give my Stage 10 speech before the votes were cast as I didn’t want to be seen to be making a political speech or trying to sway peoples votes in one direction or another. It was a good speech, and an important one. Here’s the speech.

SoundcloudEquality Speech

If anyone can’t understand my accent and slightly slurred speech, I’ll put up the rough text for the speech.

Why should I bother?- it’s for the children!

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I woke Saturday morning feeling a little sorry for myself, a bit low and ba humbug.

Before going to bed last night I read Gerry Duffy’s article “Do the write thing” in the April/May edition of the Irish Runner. It’s all about setting goals, writing them down and making them targeted, all good advice I’ve heard before.

What has got me feeling low is that I don’t have any real goals that I’m currently working towards. I have my daily objectives that I want to get done… mop the floors, get the ironing finished, get the wash hung up, get something for dinner… the stuff that every body has to get done. I’ll maybe include going for a run or write a blog post, but not aspirational goals to strive for.

I have nominal aims, unspecific achievements that I am slowly working towards. I’d like to be able to run 5k in under 25 min (27:17 is current cross-country PB) but other than a notional this would be nice there is no driver for me to meet this target. I would also like to be able to run 10k in under 60 min, I’ve signed up to do the Boyne 10k in May to try and do it, but it still feels a bit of a nice to do.

Oldbridge Sept

I’ve made progress on going back to work, but its difficult to plan and set targets for myself, before I start or even talk to any future boss about what those targets might look like.

Perhaps this is what happens when you decide to focus your time on family and kids. Your life becomes a mix of  child minding, cleaning and cooking. I have to give a stage 10 speech to complete my Toastmasters Competent Communicator Award, but I’m struggling a bit to find something that I am passionate about.

That’s part of the reason I’ve never went into business for myself successfully,  I wasn’t passionate about what I was doing to really make it work, rightfully I compromised my ambitions for my family. My family has always been my main concern,  despite some of my stranger decisions in life (I am after all almost the living embodiment of a character in a Bazz Lurman/Mary Schmich song).

So as I was lying in bed Saturday morning, thinking I should really have got up at 7.30 and went for my run so that I’d skip the Parkrun and let my wife have a lie on in bed. Instead I lay on until after 8.30 thinking about how I don’t have any great passions in life at the moment.

But then something changed,  I got up to wash, and my daughter woke my wife, so when I returned to get dressed, I was told to go for the run, which I did and a nice easy run it was this morning. It kept me just focused on taking my time, working on form and breathing.

I didn’t solve any world or even personal problems, but I did lift myself out of the doldrums. But when I got back from my run I heard news that proved to me that I am passionate about something- family. I believe that it is important to be honest with your family, yes I know there are always some small secrets but you shouldn’t needlessly worry your family, to deliberately exclude them from the important things in life, especially when they try to be there for you and to support you.

I also believe that it’s important to try to set good example, which is probably one of the hardest things to do on a consistent basis. But that’s OK because no-one is perfect.

I quit sugar in my tea to set an example for my kids, but I still need to improve in cutting sugar out of my snacks, I suppose that should be one of my new aims. I also want my kids go grow up with a strong sense of family, to be there for their siblings and to support them when they need it and when they don’t.

And I seem to remember vaguely that that was the same reason for me starting running and looking after myself better. I want them to have good health habits, like taking exercise and be involved in organisations or clubs. It will help them when they are older to have a healthy body and mind. I have the chance now to give them the skills and habits which will give them the strength when they are older to hopefully face the stresses and hurdles that life will throw at them when they are older. I also want them to have the confidence to seek help and to know that they can get it, and expect it form a kind and loving family and good friends.

So I think I need to go now and find some new goals with targets and to include my children in setting these goals, because if they see me setting my own goals and working hard to achieve them then hopefully they will learn to do the same, wither I am successful in achieving them the first time, the second time, or the one hundredth time they can learn the value in putting in the effort, develop resilience and persistence in achieving their goals.

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.

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.

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