Soft Play Is Hard! – Published in The Good Men Project

The first thing that hits you is the smell; a sickly mixture of Haribo, vomit and antibacterial spray. I knew there was no time to dawdle. We made a bee-line through the blur of children – zooming around like souped-up Speedy Gonzaleses – to our allotted area. I’d been pre-warned, you see, by some soft play veterans, to go straight to the ‘0-4’ zone and avoid the ‘4+’ section like the plague. Good advice. Even from a distance, the ‘big kids’ area looked like a vision of hell – only louder, day-glo and with more of an emphasis on slides.

via Soft Play Is Hard! – The Good Men Project

There are only two types of parents in this world. Those who hate soft play and those who don’t know what all the fuss is about.

I’m in the former category. Why do I hate it so much? Because it’s a hot house environment where your sole job is to defend your kid from the sugar-fueled, unattended offspring of those who don’t know what all the fuss is about.

That’s what makes it SO DIFFICULT: parents who leave any responsibility for their feral children at the door.

My God, is soft play hard. 

For more of my thoughts, have a read of post above.

Chris

The Out Of Depth Dad

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The Top Of The Slide: A Parenting Journey

It had been a few minutes, three maybe. I looked at him, as encouragingly as I could, and spoke.

“OK, that’s good. It’s easy, just one, two, three and push.”

I’d tried to hide any stress (rapidly growing within me) from my voice.
My son looked back at me, seemingly unconvinced.
“Cuddle?”
“We can have a cuddle when you come down the slide.”
“Cuddle now?”
“Just go down!” chimed in a boy, about twice the age of my son – part of the growing queue for the slide forming behind my little one.
“He’ll go when he’s ready,” I said, once again trying to appear calm – reminding myself that empathy isn’t a skill kids are born with. “Just one, two, three and push!”
Still nothing.
It was going to be a long day.
Two years as a parent have taught me:
  1. Kids do not have an accurate view of their own ability. Their enthusiasm always focuses on something that’s just beyond their reach.
  2. As a parent, there is nothing quite like the thrill of watching your child achieve something today that they couldn’t do yesterday.
As such, I find myself in a constant quandary – how much room should I allow for growth, without allowing my son to bite off more than he can chew? Yes, I know parents have wrestled with this question for millennia – but it doesn’t make it any easier.
So, back to the slide.
For some time now, on our regular trips to the soft play, my son had stood at the bottom of the slide (causing an obstruction) watching the older tots scoot down it. It was, we agreed, ‘too big’ for him – a ‘big boys’ slide’. Yet, since his second birthday, his interest in the apparatus had markedly increased. The area where the slides reside is allocated to tots of ‘2 to 4’ and my little one now fitted within this boundary. So, when he decided to climb up the nest of blocks that took him to the top of the slide, I resolved to let him continue.
The thing is, this slide can only be accessed through a hole in the floor of the first level of the soft play centre. A hole that (as a large person) I struggle to squeeze through. Essentially, once through this opening, he was on his own, I could only cheer-lead from the bottom of the slide. As it was a quiet day in the facility, and we were the only people in this area, I felt we had the time and space to negotiate this clear rite of passage.
I was wrong.
As soon as I arrived at the bottom of the slide, where I watched my son seat himself at the top, an alarmingly large group of large (compared to my son) children vacated the more advanced section of the centre opting for the sedate pleasures of the tots area. Just our luck.
Evidently troubled by the sudden and vocal queue of ‘big boys and girls’ that had formed behind him, my son froze – deciding the best way to cope was total inaction. Leaving me with limited options:
  1. Make a fuss, and climb up to (through the tiny hole) retrieve him. This would necessitate getting the entire queue to move to allow me to enter.
  2. Make a fuss, and climb up the slide – hoping it would bear my weight – to retrieve him. This would likely not go down well with the centre staff.
  3. Stand my ground and wait until my little one was ready to slide. This might take some time.
I opted for the last option – endeavouring to maintain my best approximation of an unconcerned grin as I gently coaxed my son.
It will be no surprise to you that he did (eventually) come down. It took a LONG TIME, but he did it. His rapid descent was met with both happiness and relief from me – along with disgruntled mutterings from a selection of kids who were struggling to learn a lesson in patience.
In retrospect, I’ve got the feeling that I, rather than my son, gained most from the experience. It seems to me that growth can only be facilitated when a parent is willing to allow a child the flexibility to stretch themselves, enter a new environment, leave their comfort zone – while offering the security that comes with being a perennial safety net.
Overcoming the desire to solve every issue my son experiences for him, rather than letting him discover an answer for himself, will be one of the most challenging aspects of parenting in the years ahead. Of that I’m sure.
It’s bloody difficult to stand at the bottom of the slide – but what a thrill it is to watch the little one’s conquer the descent.
“Again, again!” shouted my son, on reaching the ground.
“Yes,” I replied, “but not today. Daddy needs a sit down.”

5 things every stay-at-home dad knows – FQ Magazine

From soft play purgatory to the ‘W’ word, The Out of Depth Dad salutes the job of every stay-at-home dad.
It started with a sixth sense. I could feel she was there – just in my blind spot, hovering. I turned to discover a lady, of indeterminate age (somewhere between 70 and deceased) watching me, evidently with growing displeasure. Not knowing what to say, I smiled. She didn’t reciprocate, instead she chose to tut. I took this as my cue to vacate the supermarket aisle – so began to push the pram away. This, it would seem, was the wrong thing to do. The lady grabbed my arm.

“He won’t like that,” she said, snatching a pouch of organic baby food from my basket.

“Excuse me?” I replied, shocked and confused at the presumption that seemed the catalyst for this encounter. “Could I have that back, please?” I said, holding my hand in her direction. She tutted and shook her head.

After briefly considering trying to wrestle the pouch from the woman, I dismissed the idea. One of the issues of being a large man is, if discovered fighting with a Miss Marple look-a-like in the Co-op, few people are likely to believe that you didn’t start it. So I took another pouch from the shelf and began to walk away. She muttered something as I left. I ignored her (and the stares of the other customers) deciding instead to take refuge in the cheese aisle.

Since sharing this incident, on my blog Outofdepthdad.com around a year ago, I’ve received some very interesting responses. I’ve been accused of lying – that I made up the story. I didn’t, it’s all true. I’ve been told I’m attention seeking – I’m not. I’ve been told that I’m weak – for not physically battling with the lady. Weird. I’ve been told it’s my fault for being in a domestic situation only suitable for women. If nothing else, this incident (and the reaction to it from readers) shows me that stay-at-home dads (SAHD) really aren’t understood. Fathers who are stay-at-home parents are, in my experience, some of the most interesting, insightful and culturally maligned people I’ve ever met. It’s not an easy job.

Here are five things every SAHD knows…

via 5 things every stay-at-home dad knows – FQ Magazine

Why not head over to Fqmagazine.co.uk to read my latest piece on life as a stay at home dad?

Go on. You know you want to.

Outofdepthdad.com

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Time to get serious…

The funny thing is, when I started writing as The Out of Depth Dad, I never contemplated putting up a post like this.

That’s life. I suppose.

But it’s slowly started to dawn on me that the way men are treated (by our society) when they take on a child-caring role, isn’t funny.

Not funny at all.

The daily ebb and flow of negativity and ignorance that stay at home dads (and the like) encounter on a daily basis is having a genuinely detrimental effect.

What am I talking about?

For our society to be truly equal – for both men and women to get out of life what they want, not what is arbitrarily expected of them as a result of their gender – our attitudes toward children must change.

The raising of the next generation is not the sole responsibility of women. It seems an obvious statement – but so many of the structures that surround us still imply that this is the case. As we know, great work is being done to liberate women from these binds and not a moment too soon.

The thing is, there’s another part of this equation that must be addressed. Yes, women shouldn’t be compelled to take the lion’s share of parenting duties. They should be free to follow their own path without fear of censure. But, equally, men should be allowed to take on a greater role in raising their kids – without meeting a host of prejudices and outdated perspectives.

It’s time to lift the stigma around men in child-caring roles. Schemes such as shared parental leave are never going to be successful if men are concerned about taking them up.

Men feel that becoming a primary provider of parental care will effect their status, their career prospects and, frankly, their manliness. As long as these beliefs are held by a majority of men, there will be never be true gender equality around childcare.

I’m proud to be taking part in Vilo Sky’s ‘Managing to be dad’ conference.

I’ll be speaking about issues SAHD’s face and the solutions that need to be found in order to change the way fatherhood is viewed by our society.

The time for taking fatherhood seriously has come. 

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Vilo Sky 2

For book tickets to Vilo Sky’s  ‘Managing to be dad’ conference, click here.

 

What did he just say?

“You should write that down!” a friend said, the other day – after my son said something absolutely baffling.

I sighed, it’s not like the exploits of my kids haven’t been overly reported already.

Apologies if you’re sick to death of my parenting stories… although, TBH, if you are, why are you reading this?

That said, my friend had a point.

Kids do say the funniest things – which I believe was also the name of a terrible ITV gameshow that I didn’t watch.

So, with the desire to record these juvenile utterances for posterity, here are some of the funnier things my son has said to me (NB, make sure you don’t split your sides with laughter):

Trump

  1. Nothing, and I DO MEAN NOTHING, would dissuade my son that this photograph – of which he caught a glimpse on my Facebook feed – wasn’t a snap of his Gramps. “It’s not Gramps,” I’d protest. “It’s another man.” “No, it’s Gramps!” he’d respond, becoming more and more determined. I knew the Gramps in question wouldn’t respond well to the comparison with the American President, so put a lot of effort into ridding my son of this belief. It hasn’t worked, which means anytime Gramps is in our company, and the news comes on, I jump up towards the TV to change the channel – just in case.
  2. “I’m a big boy, I don’t sit on mushrooms” was the, rather strange, utterance that greeted my other half and I over breakfast with our son recently. What do you say to that? Nobody, to my knowledge, had ever accused our little one of taking a seat on fungi of any form. I replied in the only way I knew: “Of course you don’t sit on mushrooms, or toadstools either.” In saying this I inadvertently opened another a can of worms, he had no idea about what a toadstool was. I tried to explain, while all the time battling the desire to explain it was the poo left by a large amphibian.
  3. “I want a baniana!” For some reason, for as long as he’s been verbal, my son has always mispronounced the word ‘Banana’ as ‘Baniana’. That rogue ‘i’ may not seem like much, but it means his pronunciation, with its extra syllable, causes giggles whenever it’s used. I don’t know why, but somehow the word ‘Baniana’ is funny. Worse than that, I’ve started to use it myself – in a totally involuntary manner – while out and about. If a child gets funny looks for saying ‘Can I have baniana shake please?’, you can be sure than a 40-something is considered very strange indeed!
  4. “It’s a little bit funny thought isn’t it?” Picture the scene: my son, just 3, is doing something naughty and quite cheeky – perhaps jumping up and down on a chair blowing raspberries. Dad (me) walks into shot, to calm this overexcited tot. “Get down from there,” I say. “It’s not funny.” To which my son replies “It’s a little bit funny though, isn’t it?” Which it is. Next thing I know I’m running from the room trying to find somewhere out of sight to rid myself of the laughter his cheekiness has generated in me. Telling off a kid who’s doing something genuinely funny – it’s not easy!
  5. Finally, for some reason, my son has decided that various parts of the human body are all detachable. God knows where he got that from. So I’ll frequently be halfway through a conversation when he’ll say: “Daddy, can you take my arm off, please?” The earnestness of the request is amazing, so I’ll struggle to explain that his arm is very much attached and going nowhere. A few hours later, it’ll be ‘Daddy can you take my head off please?” It’s amazing how disappointed he is when I explain that I can’t do as requested – that he isn’t some Lego man with removable parts.

My son says a lot of funny things, but I’ll leave the rest to another day.

Chris

The Out Of Depth Dad

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