Note from Naomi: Today's post is a guest post from the first blogging daddy to take part in my Parenting YOUR Way series. He and his partner are parents to one little one, and he has been blogging for around 18 months over at DaddiLife. Be sure to go check out his blog!
When Max first arrived in my life, I don’t mind admitting that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Sure, I was changing nappies, giving him the feed, looking after him, and taking take of his wellbeing, but only as he’s reached the toddler years (or the rollercoaster tantrum years I like to call them), am I beginning to realise what I really need to do as a dad.
It’s very little to do with just his physical wellbeing, it’s all about being ‘present’ for him. I’ll never forget the day – Max was coming up to a year old, and I was playing with him in the lounge – or at least I thought I was. Do you ever have that strange out of body experience where you suddenly look at a situation through someone else’s eyes? Well, in that moment I saw the world through Max’s eyes momentarily and I wasn’t playing with him at all – I was physically there in a room with him, on my phone, answering emails, looking through emails, checking that latest notification…while he was looking at me, or the back of my phone more precisely!
There was literally no real interaction. I was failing him as a dad. I was physically there for him, but I was far from present. Ever since that day, I’ve sworn by 3 things to be a really active parent.
Put digital in its place
As parents, we’re increasingly ‘always-on’ to something in the world – a notification on social media, a little buzz of an incoming email, a reminder to do something – all things keeping from the moment of now.
Our children don’t have ‘things to do’ – they just live in the now – they rule things, and don’t let things rule them.
Whenever I come home from work, the very first thing I do is put my phone away. Literally – I put it in a corner and I don’t look at it for at least 2 hours. It’s amazing what you can learn, teach and enjoy with your children when everything else is just silenced for a little while. Nothing else matters to me for those hours before his bedtime.
I know about his favourite toy, his love of aliens in underpants (especially reciting ALL the different underpant styles), how holding the Snoopy toy the wrong way means he’ll get sick, and how much he just loves a cuddle.
Turns out that Active play is a mindset as much as anything else, and one I’ve loved embracing. I try and take Max out as much as possible. Even when the weather makes things tricky, there’s always a way to get outdoors and embrace the world a little differently.
Whether it’s going to the park, or the local farm, enjoying a walk in whatever conditions, climbing a wall, or just visiting a local monument; getting outdoors and active is something I’ll continue to do with him for as long as possible.
It’s that 1-on-1 time that I’ve realized is vital in not just looking his wellbeing but his introduction to the wider world – or at least starting with the ‘dinosaurs’ in the park.
A bit of humour goes a long way
I love a dad-joke, who doesn’t really (deep down), and I know I can always rely on a dad-joke thinking to really keep present.
There’s never a moment, where I can’t pull a funny face, tell a funny line or have a classic dad joke move ready to lighten things up. That certainly doesn’t mean a lack to discipline, far from it, but I’ve found that part of being present isn’t about all being serious, it’s about seeing the light side of life too. I want Max to laugh just as much as I do, and so this Dad-joke principle is really important to my own giving of as much presence as possible.