A Study On Naps

There is a joke about Santa Claus specific to parents that I always smile at. It goes like this: There are three stages in a parent’s life. When they believe in Santa, when they don’t believe in Santa and when they become Santa.

It’s as true as true can be. The same joke can apply to naps, however. You just tweak it slightly. It would go something like this: There are three stages in a parent’s life. When they used to take naps, when they get the kid to take a nap and when they fondly remember when the kid took a nap that last longer than fifteen seconds.

Don’t get me wrong, hanging out with the kids at the weekend is a highlight and something that I defend when the world tries its very best to make it not happen. But by whatever imaginary super powered being in the sky you believe in; naps are just brilliant.

See, in the beginning, before parenthood (or PB to use the parental archeological term) naps were a luxury. You might have had a hard week at work, or just been on the lash (that’s getting well and truly intoxicated beyond all human needs for any non-Irish readers) the night before. Energy levels are lower than one of those competing bunny rabbits in a Duracell advert on the telly. You stretch out on the sofa, maybe pull a hoody over like a blanket, or if you are in the pro league you climb the stairs and get back into bed. The eyes are closed and a nap takes place. Good for the body and the soul, setting you up for the rest of the day.

Hell nap time at work would be a wonderful thing…must mention that to my boss.

Anyway, once you have kids you enter a strange limbo place. See at the start you’re zonked from one end of the hour to the next. Sleep deprivation is a thing and if you mainline any more ground up coffee into your nostrils your next sneeze is likely to look like fossilised dino snot. Every bit of advice, from nurses to grandparents to friends to books written by strangers, says the same thing: when baby sleeps the parent should as well.

So that’s what you do. However, this begins a vicious cycle because when baby is awake you can’t really do much other than look after baby. If you are sleeping when baby is sleeping the chores, those pesky things that need to be done in order to maintain a house and stop it turning into a self contained garbage dump, build up. Sure you’ve loads of energy…or rather a bit more than you probably had before the nap…but that doesn’t really help put away the laundry or wash the dishes.

Then comes the fun part…the balancing act. As the kid gets older they need fewer naps. In fact, hilariously, their very own DNA will tell them when to ‘drop’ a nap. What this means to any non-parents reading this (welcome, by the way) is that the kid who used to require two naps a day suddenly only needs one. But they decide, at some genertic level, when this is going to happen.

With no forewarning to the parental unit at all.

Now you’re screwed. Some parents would have gotten into the routine of having a nap during the first nap time and maybe catching up on some of the housework during the second one. But now you’re down to just one nap and it is anyone’s guess as to how long that nap may last. Will you have enough time to put away the washing, but on a new load of dirty clothes, straighten the house out a little, wash and put away the dishes, take that poo you’ve desperately needed to take for five hours but couldn’t because, you know, ‘parenting’?

You’ve to roll the dice and do what you can – ironically all the while using up what little energy you may have gotten left over from the night before. Because that’s your life now, you believe with all your heart that sleep is something you store up in some magical, invisible, container. A well of power that you can pull from whenever you are tired at different points in the week.

It’s a lie…but a lie we all share. So don’t go spoiling it.

Then, right as your ass hits the sofa with a cup of well earned caffinated beverage, you hear it. The siren song of the parent, coming from the baby monitor. The first little grunt that your darling is awake.

You climb the stairs, go into the room, only to be greeted by the smile of your little cherub as they reach out their arms and say ‘Up’. Lifting them from the cot, their little legs wrapping around you, you return to your cooling drinking and take a sip. Five minutes later you sit and wonder how in the Hell a toddler has just undone all your cleaning and returned the house to a chaotic state. Toys are all over the floor, clothes strewn about and their is a faint hint of poop in the air even though nobody has pooped. The walls of your sanity come crashing down, right as the kid climbs up on the sofa beside you, snuggles in, and gives you a big old hug.

And you think to yourself “Screw the house, this is cuddle on the sofa is what it’s all about.”

The Interrogation

I hate circular conversations, they are the worst. Nothing feels more like a complete waste of time than asking the same questions back and forth and getting nowhere.

Circular conversations are the verbal definition of madness: trying to do the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

“What do you want for dinner?”

“I don’t mind, anything really. Whatever. Honestly I don’t mind, you choose.”

“Ok, let’s get Indian.”

“No I’m not in the mood for Indian.”

“Then what are you in the mood for.”

“I told you, anything at all.”

Scene fades to black as a single gunshot echoes out in the night.

I can’t remember how long we’ve been here, but I know it feels like forever. The interrogation started like they always do: with a question.

“What do you want?”

“Mark.”

“Mark?”

“Shop.”

“We’re not going to the shop, we just got back from the shop.”

“Noooooo.”

The drama in this last part is almost a physical thing. Head thrown back, mouth opened at a strange angle that only sword swallowers can manage in later life. All it does, really, is reset the conversation.

“I said no, we’re not going to the shop.”

“Daddy!”

There is a line about never arguging with a fool, because people outside the conversation may not be able to tell which is which. The same applies to having these types of arguements with a pre-two year old. Using my language skills against those of Jellybean are always going to end in disaster. We speak the same languge, just wildly different dialects.

“I don’t get what you want. Are you hungry?”

“No.”

“Do you want me to play?”

“No.”

“Do you want to play football? We play some football?”

“No.”

“Do you know what you actually want or are you just defaulting to no?”

“No.”

We’ve entered circular conversation mode now. I can feel the small atoms of my remaining sanity disappear into the void. He clearly wants something. He knows that I can get it to him. But neither of us is speaking the same lingo so we are at an impasse.

“You’re not hungry, you don’t want fruit or a cracker?”

He smiles, that devilish little grin he has that I know will cause us trouble in the teenage years. It is a smile that immediately disarms and most of the time gets what he wants. Cuteness on steroids.

“You want a drink?”

“Shop!”

“We’re not going to the bloody shop.”

“Mark.”

“Uncle Mark isn’t here. Do you want juice?”

“No, daddy. No juice.”

I think I have just about grasped the thing he wants. A drink, maybe. He got very excited when I said drink, but I’ll be damned if he is getting into the habit of asking for a drink that requires a trip to the shop. You do that once and they remember forever more. It ain’t happening. Not on my watch.

Picking up a nearby kid cup, I hold it out in front of him.

“Drink, right?”

That smile again. He is happy that the language barrier between our two peoples has broken down slightly.

“Shop!” he says, nodding.

“No shop!” I’m slightly stern with my tone. I need to nip this shop shit in the bud.

“Daddy!” he moans.

“Water?”

“No water.”

“Juice?”

“No juice.”

“Orange juice?”

Both kids call dilutant ‘juice’ but consider orange juice to be something else entirely.

“No juice!”

This is his stern tone now. It sounds like a leprechaun on laughing gas, but at least he tries to be intimidating.

I’m reminded of all the scenes from Indiana Jones were the Nazi’s are asking him questions. They peel off a glove and give him a slap to the face, then repeat the question. Only for child protection services said you’re not allowed to do that sort of thing any more I’d be off looking for my gloves.

“Right,” I said, exasperated and still holding the cup. “You want a drink, right?”

“Shop. Mark, please.”

I’m about to abandon all hope, when the lady friend walks in.

“He wants a drink of milk,” she says, passing through the kitchen like a train of logic en route to different lands.

“What? He never even said anything that sounds like milk.”

“Mark, he uses Mark for milk.”

“Well how the hell was I supposed to know that? Kids need to come with phrase books, each one is different. Is that it, you want a drink of milk?”

He smiles and claps his hands together. The caveman has finally understood.

“Shop!”

“We’re not going to the bloody shop.”

“Shop means yes,” herself shouts in from the living room.

I feel my shoulders sag, defeated by a language barrier of my own creation. Since fifty percent of this cute demon child is me, so he had to get the skills to understand from somewhere.

“One milk, coming up.”

“Thank you, daddy,” he says, taking the cup of milk from me and running away delighted with life.

I update my mental Rosetta Stone for future conversations and continue cleaning the kitchen.

Kitchen Kick-about

The first rule about kitchen kick-about is: you don’t tell mummy about kitchen kick-about.

Most folk that no me longer than five minutes are aware of my dislike for all things related to football. I can’t stand watching it on telly,  so much falling over blades of grass with more drama than you’d see in a Shakespearean play. Not to mention the total lack of respect for the ref, I mean what is that all about?

Then there is my utter inability to play the game. My hand-eye-foot co-ordination is utterly atrocious, I wasn’t built for that sort of sport. I can run pretty well, but that’s not much use when you need to kick a ball.  This all means that I never enjoy playing the ‘sport of kings’, because I completely suck at it.

Along comes Jellybean, the little ray of chaos in the sunshine of my day. He, for some reason, absolutely loves all things football related. One time when we were out for a family meal he spotted a match on the overhead screen and was glued to it. The lad isn’t even two and he would not take his eyes off the match. I’m not sure he even knew what the rules were, but it got us thirty minutes of silence to eat our food so that’s a win. But when we’re at home he is constantly asking me to play football with him.

Now, Jellybean isn’t so great with the words just yet but he does know how to get his request across to the adults. He walks up to them with the football and then puts it down on the ground, doing a little run up to the ball before kicking it. You get the message pretty quickly.

Being a modern dad I know that you need to overlook somethings when it comes to parenting; so if the little lad wants a kick-about with his old dad then a kick-about with his old dad is what he will get. After dinner we put the ball down between us and kick it back and forth for nearly twenty minutes. He loves it. There are screams of pure joy as it sails past him and he has to chase it. When he lines up his next shot there is the low battle cry of a child in his element.

We’re not playing out in a field. It is indoor football. There are walls, tables and counters to factor into all your kicks. This let’s me get a little creative with how I try and send my shot past the youngster. I don’t have to worry about a straight line, I can bounce it off the back of a chair then into a wall.

Basically we play pinball football in an unspoken attempt to mask just how poor my kicking skills really are.

To be honest I secretly love these little sessions, because I never thought I’d have them with anyone in my life. But what they do, sometimes, is make me forget how shit I am at football. In particular kick-abouts. It isn’t everyday that I get the phrase ‘No ball in the house!’ shouted at me, let alone from my wife.

The hilarious bit of that is when Jellybean stops dead in his tracks and puts his hand up to his mouth, looking at me in faux shock.

Of course that doesn’t stop us having our nightly little kick-about sessions. Only the other night we had one, but the dinner dishes hadn’t been cleaned away when we started it. Forgetting for a second that I was not, nor ever had been, a good footballer, I put a bit more mustard on my kick than I should have. It bounced off a wall, crashed into a chair, then flipped up onto the table and sent a glass of water flying through the air. Luckily the glass didn’t break, but water did spray the wall nicely like some sort of sucky modern art installation.

I stopped in my tracks and looked down at Jellybean. He was staring at the wall, hand to his face in the faux shock position.

When he clearly remembered the modified first rule of kitchen kick-about: you don’t tell mummy about kitchen kick-about, unless it was daddy who caused the carnage to take place.

Without a second thought the little Judas was running past me out into the hallway, declaring at the top of his little lungs “Mummy! Daddy spilled water!”.

I guess there is a lesson in all this, even for me. The first rule of kitchen kick-about is important, but there is a rule before it that nobody speaks of. That maybe, just maybe, these little sessions are something which the kids will carry with them fondly for the rest of their lives.

If that isn’t worth a few glasses of spilled milk, nothing is.

Snot Son Salute

I wake up later than usual. It is a weekend, my work alarm hasn’t gone off. I am in that blissful limbo of not knowing what is going on. I know it is later than normal because I check my watch and see it is reading past eight.

Past eight, at the weekend! Something has gone horrible awry.

We have kids, this can’t be a thing. We can’t ‘sleep in’… can we? It doesn’t make sense.

I slowly roll to the side, being sure not to wake the ladyfriend, and listen.

Something woke me, of that I am sure. A noise, some sound. I did not just wake naturally, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what it was that woke me. A normal person would roll back over, try and get more sleep before the kids wake up. But I’m not a normal person, I’m paranoid as hell and now my ears are straining to listen for anything that could have woken me.

The dog isn’t barking, that’s good. People trust alarm systems in their home, I trust Frodo. He sounds like Cerebus when he starts barking and barks at the slightest thing that is out of the norm. How we still have a postman using the letter slot is a mystery. But if the dog isn’t barking, then it isn’t something outside the house. No car door being opened or house alarm going.

“Heh…”

I hear it then, but it happen so quickly I’m not sure if I actually heard anything.

The kids are definitely not up. There is no movement from their room at all. No sound of teddies being force fed imaginary tea or a book being bashed against crib bars like a tin cup in a jailhouse cell.

Maybe I’ve finally gone crazy. Crazier? More crazy? The lack of sanity in my skull is a near documented thing at this stage, but still anything is possible.

“Heeh…”

I definitely hear it this time. There is no mistaking it. This is what woke me. I’m a paradoxical sleeper. I am fairly heavy when I need to sleep and yet after a night of sleeping I’m so light I can hear a pin drop three streets over.

“Heeh…”

It’s louder this time, but just barely. I get out of bed and tread across the floor quietly. Stepping out onto the landing I wait for a few seconds.

“Heeh….”

The kids’ room. Whatever it is is coming from in there. I think maybe the smoke alarm battery is going and wonder how we got lucky that the battery is going during the morning time. How often do those things go at 2 a.m.? It’s like a design feature of the bloody things, I’m sure of it.

Stepping into the room I first look at Nugget and find her sitting up, pressed into the corner of her bed, head tilted back. Her beautiful brown eyes lock onto me with a mixture of happiness and pleading.

“Heeh!” she says, barely moving her head.

The reason why she is barely moving her head becomes obvious as my eyes adjust to the gloom of the room. Spreading out from her nostrils, extending just past her top lip, dangling precariously over her open mouth, are two snot-cicles.

What is it with kids? They sneeze and somehow produce these two strings of snot like walrus tusks of slime.

Nugget has a book open on her lap. She obviously has been awake for a while and then the sneeze happened. Like all children she lacks the ability to wipe her own nose and as the snot-cicles formed she just tilted her head back. It’s all like a very strange Bond-esque style death trap. I’ve no idea how long she has been like this, but she has been too afraid to call out for help for fear of dislodging the snot-spikes into her mouth.

“Oh honey,” I say, taking off my night t-shirt and using it to mop up the snot.

I’m a dad…clean sleeping attire is not required in emergencies like this one.

“Phew,” Nugget says, moving her head. “Thank you daddy. I sneezed and then I had snots.”

“I can see that,” I say, kissing her on the cheek. “All clean now.”

“DADDY!”

The cry is from the youngest. He is standing up in his crib, looking over the rail at me. When did he get so tall, I’ve no idea.

“Morning, buddy,” I say to him, smiling.

Before anything else happens he puts his hand up to his mouth, then sneezes. Not once, not twice…but thrice. Three full on sneezes, with his hand under his nostrils the entire time. As he stops he looks up and smiles at me, then pulls back his hand.

He has given birth to Slimer from Ghostbusters. The hand is covered in green gunk and there are strings of it stretching from face to hand.

“Daddy!” Jellybean says again.

“Oh dear Dagda,” I say, cleaning his hand and face with my snot-shirt.

The glamorous wake up call of the parent, a snot gun salute.

It’s The Job

You never interview before becoming a parent. Sure, in most cases, when you hear of the dead beat parents out their that should do better by their kids, you think to yourself “Maybe you should have to interview before becoming a parent.”. After all you don’t need a lot in the way of qualifications to be a parent (regardless of how the kids appear in your life) but you do need to be capable to ‘parent’ once you take on the responsibility of tiny little lives.

As usual, pestilence and plague have landed in our house and it is doing the rounds between the four of us. As even more usual, Nugget is the one worst hit with it all. With her bronchomalacia any sort of cold, flu, sneeze, basically becomes a hundred times worse. We get her over the first illness, but then she develops this horrible whore of a cough that we can’t get rid of. She has inhalers, we get steroids to help her, but effectively we have to ride it out. Which is grand and all, except she coughs so much she will get sick, her throat becomes a war ground of pain and she barely sleeps.

And as any parent knows, when your kids don’t sleep you don’t sleep either.

Over the years we’ve investigated and tried various things to try and sort it out for her sooner, but nothing seems to work. We have some tricks that help alleviate the problem, but nothing that resolves the cough so she is back to fighting form. It is one of the downsides of having a great creche. Nugget loves going to creche to see the staff and her friends, a fairly ringing indictment that the creche is doing a fantastic job if the kids can’t wait to go there. But if some kid brings anything at all in we are at Def Con Cough in the house because it is a waiting game for Nugget to catch the bug, then have her cough flare up.

It’s a pain in the ass.

As she is in the middle of a cough bout right now, we’re doing the usual. Meds, fluids, sacrifices to long forgotten gods for better health. Nothing is working, as usual. The poor girl is exhausted. In order to get her to sleep we put her in the parental bed and opened the window.

Cold air helps. I guess it helps with the throat and cause less irritants or something. I dunno, I’m not a doctor. All I know is it works and she can get over. The only problem is that it means she cannot sleep in her own bed as she currently shares a room with her little brother. We don’t want him getting a cold, because that’s just shooting ourselves in the foot. We’d no doubt just get her sorted and next thing he is down with a cold and we are playing countdown again.

Typically when we do this cold air trick it isn’t that big a deal, one of us sleeps with her and the other sleeps in the spare room. But we had guests over during this session so the spare room was gone.

“I’ll sleep on the floor,” I said, getting a spare blanket from the hotpress.

“No, I will,” herself says.

I smile.

“I’ve a bad back and an ability to sleep anywhere, the floor is grand. You won’t be able to sleep on the floor then I will have to listen to you complain about being tired the next day.”

This is met with a dirty look and a slap to the head with a pillow. Uncalled for, maybe, but it is an indication that we haven’t reached breaking point yet if we can joke like this.

“Get into the bed beside us,” herself says. “The bed is big enough.”

It’s true. Recently the CEO of the Marriage informed the CFO that a new bed was required. Apparently a double bed just isn’t big enough, you need a Gaza strip between the sheets to allow for wedded bliss sometimes. I look over at the starfish child that is taking up two thirds of the bed and shake my head.

I don’t want to risk waking her. She has been asleep for about two hours now, cold air clearly helping, and if I get in there will be mattress earthquakes that will disturb her from much needed slumber. The ladyfriend weighs about the same as an angel’s feather, so she is the better option to get into bed.

I take a spare pillow and toss it down on the ground beside the bed. I lie down, sausage rolling in the duvet since I don’t have to share for a change, and take up my place at the foot of the bed like a giant deformed guard dog. Herself stands near my head, looking down at me.

“You’re serious?” she asks.

I’m not sure why, we’re together long enough for her to know just how stubborn I can get. Particularly when I want to ensure my sick family members are comfortable.

“Go on,” I said, snuggling into the pillow and finding the floor strangely comfortable. “It’s grand, honest. Sure it’s part of the job.”

A job that I wouldn’t change for the world, although the terms and condition around sick periods could be improved a bit if possible.

Give Peas A Chance

Everyone knows the deal with Santa: he makes a list, checks it twice, figures out who is naughty and nice. They also know that if you’re on the Nice List you are meant to get the things you ask. For some parents this can be a real nightmare as kids of ever decreasing ages ask for things that are near insane. Like a six year old asking for the latest iPad, it puts the parents in a tricky situation. How do you go about explaining that while it is true the child has been good all year, an iPad is definitely not something Santa can bring?

Some parents use the age-old trick of ‘present suggesting’, starting before Halloween even happens. Ads on the telly or maybe read online are pointed out as ‘interesting’ for the kid. “Wouldn’t that be cool?” they ask, while jotting down the reaction of the kid in question to see if the suggestion has landed or not. Most of the time this sort of thing is a resounding success and the gifts are in the house before the first decoration goes up. It helps takes the stress out of the situation for the parents, no longer required to explain why the mystical magical man from the North Pole with near godlike abilities is unable to bring along the latest games console.

We’ve been pretty lucky so far with Nugget. Her first Christmas there was a distinct lack of speaking abilities, so we just got what we thought she would like. A bouncer that took up most of the sitting room floor. Her second Christmas she wasn’t really clued in on what was happening and the arrival of a little wooden kitchen set (complete with a fridge that spat out blue wooden ice cubes no less) was met with shouts of delight. She still uses said kitchen as well, although sections have been re-purposed to suit her needs these days. The fridge, for example, now is a stable filled with a herd of My Little Pony.

Her third Christmas, that’s when things were going to get interesting. As her speech was up there with most moody teenagers, we expected her to be asking for stuff from Santa. Given that she was two we weren’t worried it would be insane, but kids have an innate ability to throw curve balls at parents.

I’m fairly certain it is a Darwinian thing, keep the previous generation on their toes so you can learn just what will push them into the grave early.

Anyway Nugget asked for normal things. A doll, a teddy and a dollhouse. The last one had been one of those ‘present suggestions’ I mentioned earlier. It was obviously well received and despite it taking us the better part of a month to restore an old dollhouse, Santa was, to quote the main woman, ‘Amazing!’.

Except, she wasn’t talking about the bloody dollhouse.

No, see when we were getting her to write out the letter (little more than chicken scratches on a sheet of paper but you get the idea) to Santa, Nugget kept saying over and over again that she wanted peas. Now, being absolutely hilarious, I kept making my joke about ‘Giving peas a chance.’ (like ‘peace’, get it?) but it still raised a serious question.

Did Nugget want peas from Santa?

We had been watching a lot of Toy Story 3 in the weeks leading up to the letter writing, so I got it into my head that she wanted the three little teddy peas from the movie. I searched Dublin high and low for the little bastards, but find them I did because being Santa is a sacred oath.

Christmas Eve we’re setting up the presents and I placed the peas down, thinking we had just created a magical memory, when I doubted myself. I said the ladyfriend that maybe, just maybe, our kid was crazy enough to actually want peas in a bowl. We poured out some frozen peas and left them in front of the house. The next morning, as we went through the motions of it being totally normal for your house to be broken into at night and find new belongings, Nugget bypassed all the toys and went straight for the bowl of peas.

She really wanted peas.

Not one toy, doll, teddy or house was looked at until the peas had all been eaten and all she told anyone about was how Santa had brought her peas. Even the three teddy ones I found, near having to sell my soul to get them, were discarded. The next year peas made it onto the letter again, although this time to keep things fresh they had to have sweetcorn added in. Team Santa (for it is a team effort in our house) did not fail to deliver.

This year? Oh peas made it onto that letter again, although it was now peas and grapes. Why peas and grapes? Who knows? But after all the presents had been put out for child one and two we dropped down a bowl of peas and slice grapes, because the magic has to continue.

Of course this morning, as we brought down the terror twins so they could see what all their good behaviour had earned them from Santa, we realised that one thing had not been factored in. Both our kids are savages when it comes to food. In a room that looked like a small storage locker from Smyths Toystore, they fought over the solo bowl of peas and grapes. Ignored all the toys and battled it out like street urchins who hadn’t eaten anything in weeks.

Peas and bloody grapes. Nugget even declared, upon seeing the bowl, “Peas and grapes, my favourite!”. I mean can you even…?

I suppose there are worse things to argue with your sibling over, but that definitely has to be the stupidest of things to argue with your sibling over.

Traditions Die Hard

Being Irish, traditions are a big part of my background. It goes with the territory. Who knows, maybe it is something in the Celtic DNA. But who am I to argue, I’m as much a stickler for tradition as the next person.

One tradition that Ireland partakes in along with large portions of the world is that of Santa Claus. Sure he is a fictitious character, apparently based on the real St. Nicholas (boat still out on whether or not he was real), but it is a nice tradition to be involved in. The magic of a gift giver sprinkling wishes and joy to all the well-behaved children. Who wouldn’t want to get behind that?

I remember reading a line on some website or blog or newspaper (still a thing at the time of publishing this article for any future kids reading this on holo-screens) that I thought summed up the tradition of Santa Claus nicely. Sadly I can’t remember who said it exactly, so I can’t give due credit, but the line went something like this: There are three phases in a person’s life. When they believe in Santa, when they don’t believe in Santa and when they are Santa.

I always thought it was a nice sentiment. Not everyone becomes a parent, but those who do get to join in on the fun of being Santa. Sneaking presents into the house during the month of December so that the Littles don’t see. Hiding said presents in locations the Littles never go to ensure the myth of Santa is kept alive for as long as possible. Threatening the kids into good behavior by telling them that Santa sees everything. I mean you have to hand it to the Christian religions, they know how to make a reward system based on voyeuristic invisible beings. Hilariously God doesn’t seem to cut it for kids, because the rewards for being good are all in the Afterlife, but Santa can put the fear of God into them to behave.

It’s a clever system.

What’s even more fun about the whole Santa tradition is how parents can go and make their own traditions based around it. These vary from house to house, family unit to the family unit, but you can be damned sure they happen.

For example our tradition from back before the Littles was that it wasn’t officially Christmas until I had seen Die Hard (I’m not getting into why Die Hard is a Christmas movie, it just is. If you don’t agree well jog on dear reader) on the telly box. This used to be a nail-biting affair for me, it has to be said. Back in the day of appointment television you really had to pay attention to what was showing on what channel. But now, thankfully, in the age of digital streaming you can watch Die Hard whenever you want.

Since the Littles appeared on the scene (as if by magic that only took nine months) our family tradition has been to do the present setup on Christmas Eve with Die Hard playing in the background. To be honest it is a dicey choice of background movie, since the noise can drown out the gentle pit-pat of kids coming downstairs when they should be tucked up in bed. But traditions are tough, you have to do them and do them right or they aren’t traditions. I even set myself a little challenge, to have the presents all built and setup before Hans falls off the tower. It adds a little time sensitive pressure to an already intense situation.

If you don’t think setting up a handful of toys perfectly, along with fake snow footprints and half-eaten carrots, all why acting like a Black Ops marine trying to go undetected is intense then you haven’t lived.

Now that Nugget is a bit older we’ve added a little to our Christmas Eve tradition: a Christmas movie before they go to bed. This year I’m going to suggest that we watch Die Hard Junior (aka Home Alone) to ease them into watching a movie about a solo hero saving the day against insane odds all during Christmas. That way when they get a bit older the watching of Die Hard on Christmas Eve will still be part of our family tradition.

Daddy Bear Asked The Right Question

I’m lying on my back, in bed, staring at the light coming in from the landing through the open door. Myself and the lady have long since outgrown the need for the landing light to be on, we’re no longer scared of the dark. We’re adults now, there are much scarier things to worry about than the dark: like taxes. In truth the light isn’t even on in the landing, it is from the floor below. Neither of our little ones need the comfort of a night light to sleep, we’re lucky with that. But my echo-location skills are on par with those of a door nail; utterly non-existant. When a Little shouts out in the night it helps if you don’t walk into evey wall and bit of furniture on the way there.

I’m lying on my back, listening to the deep breaths of people sleeping. It’s early, at least for me. Eleven at night was when I’d only start doing stuff, back in my younger days. I’d code, game, watch a show, read something or maybe even attempt to write a few words down. Eleven was when I’d be sauntering into the comedy club, preparing to get up on stage and try make strangers laugh. Now eleven is prime ‘get some sleep before one of them wakes up’ time. But I’m hearing the deep breath of two people sleeping in the marital bed, yet I am awake.

I’m lying on my back, sleep evading me for a change because I wasn’t in work during the day, so the mind is not tired. I turn and look at my bed buddies. The lady, sleeping like a beautiful work of art brought to life, eyes fluttering as she dreams. Wrapped under her arm, reminding me of a bear cub in the warm embrace of its mother, is the youngest. He lies there, looking like the cat who had not only got the cream but also the cream from several other cats. He has won this round. Our parenting rule had always been ‘No kids in the bed’. We had heard the horror stories from friends. Kids come into the bed once…then twice…then every other day. Next thing you know you have a five year old in the bed who refuses to leave.

I’m lying on my back, wondering how we lost this battle once again. I saw ‘we’, but that is meant purely in the Royal use of the word. I can stick steadfast to the rules, but motherly instincts work two ways. They are rock hard, unbreakable, when somebody does something to the young. Yet collapse at the slightest hint of a cough, when the Little just needs mummy.

I’m lying on my back, trying to turn without making too much noise onto my side so I can attempt to go to sleep. I fail, the Little’s eyes open and stare directly at me. I’ve disturbed his slumber and he, like a demon from cute Hell, is going to let me know that this will not stand.

“Up,” he declares, pushing at my shoulder.

“You want up?” I ask in a whisper, not wanting to wake the lady.

“No,” he says in that moaning way that grates on the nerves at 2am when you’re trying to console him. “Up, daddy. Up.”

More pushing and the message is clear, he doesn’t want up. He wants me up. Up and out of the bed. The battle is over before it even begins as he starts to get worked up and herself begins to stir.

I look at the Changeling in my bed, cute cherub face definitely a natural defence from Apex Father, and give in. It isn’t worth ruining everyone’s sleep to try and sooth him, attempting to barter for my spot in my own bed. I get up and pad across the floor, passing the open door of the bedroom my son should be sleeping in with his sister.

“Daddy,” comes a little call from the doorway. “Thomas isn’t in his bed…I don’t want to be alone.”

I’m lying on my back, staring at the light coming in from the landing through the open door. The bed is but a distant memory. I have an Iron-Man teddy as a pillow and something that is blanket shaped. A satisified sigh from the bed above signals that the daughter is happy with our new sleeping arrangement.

I’m lying on my back, thinking: Daddy Bear was asking the right question ‘Whose been sleeping in my bed?’. Since, right now, the answer is most definitely not me.

Hobby Time

As stupid as this post might sound, it’s important for parents to get a little down time. Particularly if those parents have hobbies. Raising kids is equal parts insanity and joy, with a dash of questioning what you did with all your spare time pre-kids since post-kids. People tend to have hobbies, things that bring them happiness outside of what they do during the week to pay the bills and all that boring adult crap.

Post-kids hobbies and social lives are definitely the two things that suffer the most. In fact you’d almost feel like printing off some ‘Missing Person’ posters and putting them around the place in the hope somebody can find them for you again.

They never do, by the way. Those are gone forever.

But if you’re lucky to have a partner in parenting that supports your hobbies, while having some of their own, then you can pretend to still be young and carefree. All you need to do is barter hobby time back and forth.

With me and Karen there are a collection of hobbies. We both run. I write comedy books and have recently started kayaking. Karen was heavily involved with the local drama group. There are others, but these are the ones that are time consuming.

When I tell people in work that I manage to run about four 5K runs each week they look at me like I have told them the moon is made from cheese. They can’t figure out how a father of two has time to run. The answer is simple, Karen and I trade off bedtime with the kids.

See the night that Karen goes running, I take the bed duties. Both changed, teeth brushed, story read and tucked into bed. While Karen goes out for her run. Then the next night we swap around and I run for freedom (at least twenty five minutes of it) while herself deals with the terror twins.

But that’s just a system, it can be bent. Like today for example. Tonight was my shift to put the kids down (not in the ‘old dog’ sort of way, but the thought has crossed my mind) but I had a day-from-hell in work. I was in a stinker, worse than a stinker I was just down right in shitty form. To which Karen goes ‘Why don’t you go out in your kayak and I will do bedtime tonight’.

Let me tell you I didn’t need to be asked twice. I was floating up and down on the water without a care in  the world while I left Karen to put chaos 1 and 2 (as we affectionately  call them when they are in ‘hair pull out’ mode).

Bliss.

The important thing though is to know that while the bedtime system works for parental units, it has to be flexible. When Karen was involved in the play I had a few back-to-back nights of putting the terror twins down for the night. That’s just how you roll and as long as both parents roll that way you can keep a glimmer of sanity in your head.

Just long enough so that when somebody wakes up a 3am screaming because she can’t find her dolly you don’t immediately consider mass murder.