Today is his fourth Father’s Day. In those four years, all four members of our family (and the cat and the fish too) have changed beyond measure.
I find the rate of change in children between birth and two years astonishing. So quickly you love from cradling a helpless bundle in your arms, to them leading you by the hand, chattering away, to show you their latest creation.
We’ve been lucky enough to observe this astonishing process twice in just under four years. Very different personalities, challenges and rewards, but equally enthralling. At times the parenting process has gone oh-so-slowly (18 month sleep regression was probably the slowest month of my life…twice). But even looking back at that now (which was only 6 months ago with Boybug), it is hard to remember just how painful those night wakings were, how tired we were, how slowly time went. Because, in the here and now, the 3 years and ten months of parenthood have absolutely flown by.
But it’s not just the kids doing the changing – we have too. In a whole load of ways. I’m (a little bit) more patient, a bit more organised around the house, less organised outside of the house. My husband plays a lot less computer games, pays the cat less attention and gets drunk more quickly.
Surrounded by all this change, it’s not hard to see why relationships falter. There are huge stresses put in all members of our family (the fish and cat included). But luckily we all seem to cope with the ever-changing situation.
So, in celebration of his fourth Father’s Day, and in recognition of my husbands efforts to keep me sane, here are four things that I’m hugely grateful for. There are many more, and perhap the biggest one is the way he loves the children, and the time he spends with them, but these smaller acts keep me sane.
1. The Swiss ball effect
Girlbug was a screamer in those early days. She liked to let the world know her slightest discomfort…and loudly. Very quickly my husband discovered that if you held Girlbug while bouncing on a Swiss ball, she would calm down and eventually nod off. I owe my sanity to the many hours my husband sat bouncing on a Swiss ball, cuddling Girlbug, counting reps.
2. Sharing the sleep regressions
In the early days, when it was milk, I was on 99% of night time duties. His night time duties consisted of either listening to me complain that I had been feeding the baby for 3 hours straight and my nipples hurt, or once or twice taking Girlbug for a drive so I could catch an hour of precious sleep!
I was grateful for the support, it was what I needed. Gradually the sleep got better. Then, with both kids, just as we thought we’d cracked it, and it’s safe to finish the night with a whisky…BAM! Another sleep hiccup. This is where my husband really helped. I tried to get up first, to do the longer stints, but he was always willing to take over. Rolling over, torn from his slumber by my barked command: “Your turn”, he sometimes grumbled, but only because he’s always grumpy when he first wakes up! I owe my sanity to his willingness to get out of bed at 2am.
3. Being interested
Of course we should expect fathers to be interested in their children, husbands in their wives. But I’m thankful that even when I’m recounting the minute detail of our day, with tales that begin to bore myself, my husband looks genuinely interested. Maybe he’s just a good actor, or maybe it’s a welcome relief from the more serious world of work. But either way, it makes me feel good. After a day of running around with the kids, I need to talk to an adult…and mostly what I have to talk about is which child woke up first, which one threw their food on the floor, or who refused to hold my hand. I do sometimes muster the energy to hold a proper adult conversation, but those are more dangerous – parenting we often agree on, politics not so much (though we’re at least aligned for the EU referendum – in). I owe my sanity to him taking an interest in all of us, and listening while I talk for an hour.
4. Being a pack horse
We’ve been on a Father’s Day walk this morning. For me, that was a nice stroll through local countryside. We saw butterflies, birds of prey and pretty flowers. For my husband, it involved carrying Boybug most of the way in a rucksack carrier. No easy task in itself, but I also like to be prepared. So I loaded him up with jumpers for all four of us, some snacks, water, rain coats, sun hats, sun cream, a cuddly toy, nappies, wipes, tissues, plasters, my wallet. The list goes on. Not once did he complain, and though he clearly knew we would use none of these things, he kept that observation to himself. This is nothing new – he frequently carries all our gubbins while the rest of us run around unladen. I owe my sanity to our weekend day trips, and I’m grateful that he makes them so easy!
Happy Father’s Day to my husband, and all the other great dads out there!