Not a particularly auspicious start – not the fatherhood bit (or I hope not), more the lack of any missives or updates. I doubt this has been noticed by anyone of course, and I did suggest I would write “a couple of times a month at most”, but I have found myself to have minimal time to do anything much over the last month. This is not what I expected – perhaps I did not devote much time to really thinking about what I would actually do on a day to day basis, but my days seem to swing between stuff I have to do (feeding kiddos, doing laundry, trips to nursery etc), stuff that I should be doing (learning and development, reading, trips out to the park etc) and stuff I want to do (cycling, watching TV, DIY etc). This is particularly true on Wednesdays and Thursdays, when I have both children all day – I know, I know, break out the violins – plenty of parents (mostly mums) look after 2, 3 or 4 kids all day every day. Such people are truly miracle workers and I am nowhere near them.
The last month saw an important personal milestone for me when I actually left the Royal Navy after 17 years (6,214 days to be precise). This was significant in many ways, not least the security (and income) that such a job brings, but also the realisation that the path that we have chosen as a family is no longer wet concrete and that there is no going back. This certainly made me think (again) about whether this is the right choice, quickly followed by the requirement to snap out of it and stop thinking such thoughts (too late for that now). But the whole point of the crazy plan is securing the happiness, welfare and development of the girls and, so far, that is going well. They both seem very happy, love the house and are developing their own mini social circles. As for the parents – both adjusting to complete changes in location, employment, friends, income, weather (pretty much everything) – it is hard. Humans are creatures of habit and big changes akin to what we have done are rare, although not unprecedented of course (many military families face complete upheaval every two years or so). Children definitely seem quite unfazed by it, at least at the young ages that ours are – they just get on with it and make the most of all the opportunities available. But I would recommend leaving any job (you will do eventually, unless you are Royal or Papal) – your mates turn up for lunch and you get presents! And a hangover.
One thing that has been starkly apparent in September has been how unusual I am in my role as a stay at home dad. At the various groups and clubs I have attended there is occasionally one other father, very rarely two; as usual, the kids are not bothered in any way by this but I think the mums’ union that tends to prevail probably are, subconsciously at least. I am the hairy-faced, sometimes grumpy, often late or just-in-time man who turns up with two girls, normally dressed in inappropriate clothes*. This is out of the ordinary and (human nature again – habitual creatures) I suppose it is easier to keep chatting to the people you know already? Except that I don’t know anyone (maybe one or two), cue feeling a bit sorry for myself on the first few occasions. With two kids and no wedding band (I don’t do jewellery) it is quite possible they think I am a single dad? But the onus seems to be on me in any case and I have started to get on with it, it’s not so bad. Asking advice is normally a good starter, together with the obvious “how old is your little boy/girl” (sometimes it really is boy/girl and I cannot tell, which normally just means “how old is your little one?”). But it all boils down to being a bit more friendly and getting out of the normal comfort zone, and others usually follow. If they don’t, I’m ok with talking to someone else anyway.
Final (and only cycling related) anecdote came from a trip the the Cycle Show at the NEC in September. At the event I watched an interview with Martyn Ashton, a British and World Champion mountain bike trials rider who has made some amazing videos (I first saw him in Road Bike Party which has to be seen to be believed). He was paralysed whilst riding in 2013 whilst doing a display (someone asked “what did it feel like when you had your accident?” and he replied “well, nothing really”). There are plenty of examples of people overcoming adversity but Martyn Ashton is right up there, and is now riding bikes again – this is the first time. Certainly an inspiration whenever I think life as Deputy Dadd is a bit tough.
*Not always down to me – Daughter #1 is infamous for knowing what she wants to wear.