Monday, 25 January 2016

Life's little worries

I regularly worry about whether or not I'm a good dad. I read somewhere that if you worry about being a good parent then you already are a good parent. There might be some truth in that, I suppose, but it doesn't stop me worrying.

I'm a natural worrier. K often tells me to stop worrying about what might happen and instead focus on what is happening. Sage words indeed, but easier said than done. Sometimes I'll overthink a situation so much, planning out every possible eventuality, that I often convince myself not to do things before I've even begun. This is no way to live and something I'm actively trying to improve, but until that time, I worry.

I particularly worry when it comes to ET.

Do I play with my son enough? Do I show him enough attention? Am I too hard on him when it's time for discipline? Am I too protective of him? Do we let him watch too much TV? Am I teaching him the right behaviours? Am I helping him to forge strong, positive memories?

Life's a happy song when there's someone by your side to sing along

All work and no play makes ET a dull boy...
When it comes to playtime in our house, ET is quite content to play on his own; we're happy with this as it encourages his imagination and lets him know that he's fine when there is no one to play with. Both K and I are also more than happy to roll about with ET on the floor, or colour, or read stories, or build bricks or any of the other random activities we can think of in an effort to keep him occupied without overly relying on the TV. I am concerned I'm not very good at playing, though, or that I don't do it enough.

My young padawan

On the flipside, I also worry that we don't do enough in the way of literacy or numeracy at home. We encourage ET with his letters and numbers and indeed, he can recite A-Z and count from 1-20 with ease, but is it something we should be doing every day? Should we set aside time each evening for learning? I have no idea. To me he seems incredibly smart for a two-and-a-bit year old, but then I don't know any other children his age so he might be a complete dullard for all I know.

We often ask his nursery what they're doing with him and what we can do to support him at home - imagine my surprise when they said they were concentrating on getting the children to count to five and name the primary colours when ET could already count to 20 and name not only the primary colours but also colours like orange, purple, brown and pink. The other day we were almost convinced he could read after he pointed to the correct part of his nursery day sheet and said 'I ate banana and custard today, it in my tummy'. Genius, I tell you!

Hey, you're a clown fish! You're funny, right? Tell us a joke!

Beware the daddy dinosaur...

K often said that I was the one ET came to for fun stuff; whacky voices, singing, spinning and generally acting the eejit. K was the one ET came to for the practical stuff: wiping his hands, making him dinner and so on. Occasionally ET would act up and I'd also fall into the role of disciplinarian.

We discovered somewhere along the way that I was the most effective 'bad cop' in our little family. K prefers good cop; she's good at good cop and she's not a convincing bad cop (and that is in no way a criticism, believe me) and ET responds 'better' to my discipline than hers. But this led down a slippery slope where suddenly daddy was the threat; 'eat your dinner or I'll tell daddy' or 'brush your teeth or I'll call daddy'.

ET quickly came to learn that those kind of threats would see me stomping up the stairs in an exaggerated manner, often when K was struggling to get him to get into bed, and as a result he would whizz right into bed, lie down and pull the covers up like he hadn't spent the last 20 minutes pissing about. And it worked. Only  too well. I should interject here and point out that ET is genuinely a very well behaved child 99% of the time, his fondness for the word 'no' notwithstanding; but I became very aware that I was the secret weapon in the war against tantrums, misbehaviour and cheekiness.

At first we were so glad we'd found an effective way to combat such situations that we didn't consider the consequences, but slowly I began to realise it was having a detrimental effect. ET was misbehaving for mummy, mummy would call daddy, daddy would stomp up the stairs, ET would get upset because he was being reprimanded, mummy would give him lots of cuddles and save the day. I began to worry that I wasn't just bad cop, I was now just the bad guy, and I didn't like it at all.

Look out, it's the mummy monster!
Luckily K and I discussed it and agreed that not only did I need to knock it down a notch but she also needed to step it up when it came to discipline. It's a tricky balance and not one we always get right. Sometimes a look is enough, other times it seems nothing but shouting will do - these are the bad times, though they're thankfully few and far between, but, even then, I worry I shout too much. Should I even shout at all? Some would say you should never raise your voice to a child, but sometimes a quick bark of my 'cross daddy' voice as a last resort will stop ET in his tracks and put an end to whatever mischief he was getting up to.

Don't worry, be...happy?

Overall, ET seems like a healthy, happy and intelligent child (again, I have very little experience with children his age and I am slightly biased). But still I worry. I can't help it - I even worry that I worry too much. But as long as ET keeps smiling, giving me cuddles and laughing when I make stupid faces, and as long as everyone keeps telling us what a lovely child he is (as opposed to looking at him wide eyed, gasping and crossing the street when they see him), I think I'm probably worrying for nothing. He's my little man and I'm incredibly proud of him...even when he is being a little git.

Aww...all's forgiven
P.S. 'Daddy dinosaur' and 'mummy monster' are the nicely alliterative names we have when we take it in turns to chase ET about as his giggles and squeals in a bizarre mixture of terror and delight. He particularly likes it when daddy dinosaur does his big roar which simultaneously scares him and makes him go into fits of giggles and, on occasion, fart in shock. Kids are weird like that.


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