Out of the Games Cupboard

A random assortment of reflections, musings and a running commentary on life.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Chronicles of a Stay at Home Dad #4

We've all had a lovely weekend. Ellie appeared shattered after her 3 days at nursery last week. On Thursday we spent the Morning at Wacky Warehouse with Evie and Tracey. They had a great time. Ellie can now pull herself up onto almost everything and seemed to relish this new freedom. She wanted me to play with her more than usual which meant that I got to go down a big blue slide with her sat on my lap -not something we've done for ages. She also pushed me down a bendy slide when I thought she was going to sit in my lap again.... I was surprised how strong she was! She loved it when I fell backwards into the ballpool, although I made a mental note to check for small children buried in the balls before I do it again! There was a little (18 months?) boy who hadn't been before. It was quite entertaining in a "thank god he's not mine" kind of way as he refused to permit other children anywhere near him or to use the equipment he wanted to. This nearly resulted in a couple of injuries...the closest, and most dramatic, being when he pushed a small girl off a ladder 7' above the ball pool...fortunately a grown up caught her just in time!

Ellie slept nearly all of Thursday afternoon and then helped do housework until Lisa came home. Lisa worked from home on Friday and Ellie loved having her nearby. I can't remember what we did but Lisa and Baby Emma (now walking!) came over in the afternoon. It was lovely to see them and Ellie was very attentive as usual.

We all had a relaxed, restful Saturday, with Ellie having another long sleep. We read books and watched a Disney movie or two! Ellie currently loves 'Cinderella' and the 'Aristocats'. We then had a great evening at Ellie's friend Elen's house. The girls played and ate together before retiring. The grown ups, Lisa and I and Elen's parents Jason and Annette, then had a gorgeous meal, with good wine. It was a wonderful, relaxed evening of good company and good conversation. We took 'Diamant' with us and Annette and Jason appeared to enjoy this gentle introduction to Eurogaming! (They'll be playing 'Caylus' by Christmas!).

Lisa took Ellie swimming on Sunday morning which they both enjoyed. I stayed home and tidied around and cooked lunch ready for the arrival of Ellie's godfather, Steer. Ellie fell asleep before he arrived and so didn't get to have lunch with us. This gave the grown ups a good chance to catch up and chat. Steer enjoyed reading to Ellie once she did awaken.

We then headed off to Pizza Hut to round off a pleasant weekend. Afterwards, with Ellie tucked up in bed, Lisa and I snuggled up on the sofa to watch CSI:NY taped on Saturday. We agreed it had been a perfect weekend.

Lisa was concerned that I had missed out taking Ellie swimming. But I explained that I was happy to stay at home and do some housework, thus giving her the chance to spend quality time alone with her daughter; sometimes the skill of being a stay at home dad is to know when simply to stay at home!

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

EEG = exasperatingly empty gesture!

As some of you will no doubt know, I recently headed off to hospital to have a 2 hour EEG. The hope was to capture one of my absences to see what, electrically, is happening in my brain at the time. Lisa wrote fluently on this experience. I had three absences on the bus to the hospital. I had one at the bus stop after my appointment. But did I have one during the EEG.....of course not!

Following this I had a meeting regarding the future of my employment. I lose my job at the end of March. To be honest I feel relieved now that this has been sorted out. It has been hanging over us for sometime and whilst I have often hoped that something would change and allow me to return to work it had become increasingly clear that this was unlikely to happen. I now feel less pressured about this.

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Chronicles of a Stay at Home Dad #3

Well, I've finally recovered from my four days with Ellie last weekend. Eleanor is definately trying to assert her independence more of late. She is spending more time occupying herself and it is possible, at times, for me to feel a little redundant. Our new approach to toilet training (in which she has responsibility for her wees and poos) underlines this. We do not prompt her to go (although we do periodically remind her that she is repsonsible) as this upsets her; it challenges her image of herself as a 'big girl'. Our role has been reduced to helping her get changed and clean up after she has chosen to not take the responsibility! It has been fairly effective but has felt fairly stressful. A large part of this has been because there has been a shift in the power dynamic within our family; she is definately in charge of this process. It is a clear reminder thht she is growing up and that one day she will not need us as much.

We had a busy few days as we had a fairly full schedule, as usual. We went to Wacky Warehouse with Evie and Vin. Both girls were quite demanding of their daddy's attentions so Vin and I spent most of the time dodging sharks in the ball pools and being pushed down slides....not that we wanted to of course! Ellie and I also walked to the library and spent over an hour reading and looking at books. For some reason Ellie chose a couple of English/French dual language books (one of which we've borrowed before). I was a little embarrassed when one of the librarians came into the kids bit and praised my French accent! We also walked to our local playground where we, again, dodged sharks! We had a great time...until some louder, rougher and bigger children arrived. Ellie worked really hard at avoiding them! Before we left she looked dissaprovingly at them and said "They're loud - the sharks will eat them". This was said with a chilling certainty.

Lisa's 8-year old god daughter, Maisy, was due to arrive on Friday afternoon, so Eleanor was instrumental in helping with all the tidying and cleaning in preparation. She really enjoyed changing the bedding, vacuuming and particularly folding the towels - strange child! Ellie's excitement about Maisy's arrival was uncontainable; if she had arrived later than expected it was feasible that Ellie would have exploded!

We did all have a lovely weekend. Maisy was delightful company and was superb in her role of surrogate big sister. Ellie was like her shadow, although we did manage not to make Maisy feel that she was responsible for Ellie when they were doing things together.

On Saturday we all trooped off to Dig - a sort of archaeological experience for the whole family. We all loved it! Four real excavations from around York have been carefully recreated and covered in rubber chippings. You are guided by an archaeologist to see what you can find armed with a plastic trowel and a small brush! The kids all loved it and the grown ups seemed to relish the chance of recreating the Time Team experience without getting muddy! The last few minutes of this were a frantic hunt for a stash of Roman coins....

Then, with the aid of the archaeologist, you were asked to sort trays of artefacts and bits dug up around York, using tweezers. These were mainly animal bone fragments and oyster shells (key components of the Viking diet!). Ellie loved using the tweezers, and was surprisingly deft at sorting out the pieces of bone, brick and charcoal (she did the shells with her fingers!).

We were then shown real animal skulls which had been dug up and then several artefacts, including a well-preserved leather shoe-sole. Maisy got to touch a mineralised Viking poo - which she was quite disgusted by. After this we were free to look around the displays and play with all the interactive stuff. The kids' attention was not as strongly held by this and so we headed off to lunch.

We dined at the Spurriergate Centre; a converted church in the middle of York. It was fun showing the bell ropes and stained glass to Maisy and explaining how it would have been different a few centuries ago.

We then trooped off to the Jorvik Centre where there was almost no queue! This was good fun, although the kids interest flagged rapidly after the ride through the recreation of Viking York. This bit was lots better than I'd remembered it being, but the museum-bit afterwards seemed much smaller and linear than before. It barely held the kids' interest at all, so we soon departed. Given the admission cost it all seemed to be over rather quickly!

We had a roast leg of lamb for Sunday dinner with the rest of Maisy's family. It was nice to all sit down and chat over food and wine. Later, the house felt emptier than usual once Maisy had left. Ellie was a little upset that she had departed and is keen for her to visit again.

I had been impressed with how happily and ably the girls had played together. Lisa and I commented that we had felt a little redundant at times over the weekend as they were happy to play together for the best part of an hour without our intervention. I think this has prompted me to think about the role of "parent" a little differently. I miss how dependent Ellie was as a baby. She is now not a baby and is forcibly asserting and exploring her independence. Sometimes this can feel like she doesn't need us or even want us there sometimes. But I've realised that this is one of the many "balancing scales of parenthood"; she does need us and often wants us to be there to help, support, engage or simply observe. Other times we need to be in the background. The balance tilts. As she grows up I expect that the balance will tilt more towards her being independent - the severing of the apron strings! But I think it will be a fluctuating balance - it will not inexorably move towards complete independence. Even in adulthood it will tilt back and she will want and need us to be there to help, support, engage and simply observe. Knowing when to step back and when to get stuck in is a part of the art of parenthood.

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