I Am Your Father – Part 19: Baby’s First Birthday

Well, we’ve officially kept a baby alive for one whole year! Maybe we’re not as bad at this parenting thing as we thought…

Reminder: This blog is the work of a sleep-deprived, first-time parent, trying to talk frankly and honestly about his experience. I make no apologies for the language used.

General Update

He’s getting much more confident in his walking now. Last month, he was still walking towards things to grab onto and regularly falling on his arse, but now he can walk along holding your hand quite happily. Oh, and he’s finally discovered how to crawl too. It’s like the software update was delayed and just got patched in along with the next big update. 🤷

Like, I suspect, most parents, we are now exhausted again. After months of encouraging him to walk, now all we want is for the little bugger to stay still for just a few minutes, rather than constantly walking towards the nearest table corner, road or fire.

He’s getting cheekier and developing more of a personality every day. There’s a lot more laughter and curiosity which, coupled with reliably sleeping through the nights is making the whole thing a much nicer experience.

Getting Out

The weather is starting to pick up and I’ve just managed to wrangle my first vaccination, which is hopefully a sign that things are beginning to return to normal. (Personally, I suspect that this thing is going to go on longer than most people seem to realise, but never mind.)

We’ve been able to spend more time in the garden, in local parks and we’ve revisited the nearby playgrounds. He’s getting more confident and seems to be enjoying it more, which makes it a more enjoyable experience for us too. He loves the swings and laughing like crazy if I pretend to let him kick me in the balls. A little sociopathic, maybe, but making him laugh is just the most amazing thing in the world, and I’ll quite happily make an absolute tit of myself in front of total strangers to make it happen.

M’wife has also, finally, been able to take him to some baby classes. He goes to a local group called Tumble Tots, where they get to play with a variety of gym equipment. Everyone has to wear masks and take turns while stuff gets sanitised, but it sounds like fun and apparently, he’s learning useful skills like balance and climbing (as if he wasn’t enough of a menace to himself and others already!)

Baby’s First Birthday

The big news, of course, is that m’boy had his first birthday a few days ago. We had a small garden party for him with both sets of grandparents and a couple of friends who’ve been helping us out. He got a cake and some toys, including a slide, and generally had a great time being the centre of attention.

We’ve also just got back from a trip to a local farm/wildlife park, which he loved too. Hopefully, it was a fun week for him and, although we, of course, know that he won’t remember it, we had a good time and it was good for him to spend time with other people for a change.

Mental Health

I’m not going to lie, things got pretty dark back there for a while. The combination of Lockdown, pressure at work, the lack of sleep and everything else that was going on pushed me to the edge of sanity and to confront pressures I’ve rarely dealt with before (and prayed I would never have to contend with again).

Parenting is hard. It doesn’t matter what I say or how much I try to emphasise that fact, it will be harder than you can possibly imagine. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad without Work Pressures, Fatherhood and the Pandemic striking all at once. But I am currently on medical leave as a result of a full-blown anxiety attack, something I’ve only really experienced once before in my life (which, given my history with mental health – well-documented on this blog – is frankly miraculous!). Don’t get me wrong, it is magical and I love the little guy more than I ever thought possible as well, but there’s no glossing over it; parenting is hard.

As a result of all this, I plan to spend part of the rest of this blog post (and future ones) talking about mental health for new parents, and fathers in particular. I think it’s important and hopefully, you can avoid some of the things that happened to me. If I’d managed things better and taken my own advice, perhaps I could have avoided the worst of the last few months.

My first big tip is this: It’s super important to get out of the house, even if it is just to walk the pram around the block for an hour. It really breaks up the days, which otherwise can really drag on. Plus, I can only re-emphasise what you surely already know: fresh air and exercise are essential for your mental and physical health, even if you’re a nerdy introvert with borderline-Aspergers like me. It can be difficult to force yourself to get out, especially when the weather is grim. It can also be hard to leave your partner to look after the baby. But it needs to be done, for your sake – and for theirs. Of course, you need to look after your partner and make sure they are getting what they need as well. But you’ll be happier, have more energy and be better able to cope with all the shit that comes your way if you look after yourself.

Book Recommendations

I don’t have anything new to share, I haven’t had time to read anything new, but I did dive back into Dummy, by Matt Coyne, which I mentioned in an earlier post. That book continues to be – and there’s no other way to describe it – fucking hilarious. It’s even funnier reading it once you have a child, so I’d extend my recommendation to parents to be, new parents and previous parents who want to have a good laugh while also getting an honest and frank review of the experience (much as I tried to do with this blog!). It’s good to be confronted with the truth of childcare, but it will also raise a smile and boost your mood, which is important.

Having finally finished that, I’m moving on to “Man vs. Toddler”, the sequel, which – just from the first chapter – seems to be just as brutally honest and hilarious as the previous book.

Final Thoughts

So, one year into m’boy’s life – 21 months into the adventure – and things are… OK!

They were very not OK for a while, but thanks to my amazing wife, and our family and friends, we’ve got through it and can hopefully look forward to happier times ahead. I know it will probably always be hard, but having made it through the last six months, in particular, I’m fairly confident that together we can now face anything life throws at us.

Parenting is hard. It will test any relationship to the extremes. But, fellow “dads” (whatever gender you may be), if you remember to look after yourselves, as well as looking after your child and their mother, then the dark times will pass and I can promise you that there are happier times ahead.