2018 Review

Wow!! What a year 2018 has been!! So many positive things have happened this year for Heidi and I. Looking back, I think that it has been the best year for quite some time.

Holidays in 2018

2018 was the year when Heidi and I went on our first overseas holidays as just a two. Taking a 4 year old halfway across the world is both scary and exciting, but something that was long overdue! We went to Jamaica in February, and Spain in August and we have both got the confidence to do it again!

The highlight of the Jamaica trip was swimming with dolphins, which you can read here. You can read about our Spanish trip here.  If you’re thinking of travelling alone with a 4 year old, this blog post is ideal for you!

Swimming with dolphins
Amazing!!

Love in 2018

2018 was the year in which I started dating after separation. Whilst an extremely terrifying and stressful experience at start with, it does turn out that you can be happy after separation. Who knows what the future will hold. But right now, we are living in the moment, and enjoying being in each others company, when possible.

Having 2 single parents date each other is extremely difficult on the diary. We have had 2 child free weekends in the entire year!! However, both children love each other very much and get on really well. We will always put the children before the relationship and that is so important to us.

Best mates!
Walking together at Cannon Hall

If you’re thinking that 2019 might be the year of love for you, then these two blog posts might be just for you – Leeds Dad Starts Dating and An Update.

Sadness in 2018

Unfortunately, there was sadness in 2018, when our family dog, Jack, died.  Telling Heidi about his death was awful and probably the worst part of the year. You can read about how we coped, with some hints/tips to breaking bad news, in this blog post.

However, with most things, there is a happy ending to the story, and we have a new dog, Harley, and Heidi is besotted with him!

Heidi and Harley
Heidi and Harley

Days Out in 2018

Because Heidi turned 5 in 2018, it is a little easier to go on days out and be more impulsive. We did a random day trip to London, went to Chester Zoo, as well as Go Ape at Temple Newsam. I think the favourite was taking in the Operation Ouch stage show in London, where Heidi met her idols, Dr Chris and Dr Xand. I really hope that they bring that show elsewhere in the UK.

Heidi with Dr Chris and Dr Xand

Days Out are much easier now, and I hope that they give inspiration to those who have been in a similar situation. Life does get easier and there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Blogging in 2018

I always said that the blog is an online diary that I will give to Heidi when she is old enough. That will always be the case. However, I have had more and more fun with it 2018. We have travelled across the country with National Express coaches, been on a podcast and been invited to be on TV.

Perhaps the coolest thing was being in the Yorkshire Evening Post and when Heidi saw her face in the paper, it was amazing! She is starting to pick up bits about what the blog is and that her daddy is “Leeds Dad”, but I try to keep it separate from her.

Extract from Yorkshire Evening Post

At some point, she might want me to stop, or want to join in, but until that day, it will always be about creating an online diary for her.

Work in 2018

Whilst some people do blogging on a full time basis, I am nowhere near that stage, nor would I want to be! However, this year I got a new job, with a new set of challenges to overcome! It provides more stability for Heidi and me, and I’ve taken the step to be open and honest about my martial situation, which was a great relief. Also, I have been open about the blog and so most of the office knows what we have been up to over the weekend before Monday morning!!!

What Next??

We have already booked to go to Florida in 2019, which will be amazing as always. However, I just hope that 2019 is just as exciting, positive and enjoyable as 2018.

A lot of people have read the blog this year, and to each one of you, thank you. Every comment really does make it worthwhile and I hope that there are loads more positive things to talk about in 2019!

Happy Faces!
Happy faces!
Continue reading 2018 Review

Mental Health at Christmas

Christmas can be such an amazing time of year. However, it can be stressful, it can hurt, and it can be the worst time of the year. This post is all about how mental health at Christmas is so important, and how you can get any help you need.

Mental Health at Christmas

Stresses at Christmas

It’s no wonder why our mental health at Christmas suffers. There are probably 3 groups of people at Christmas:

  • Those who have the seemingly perfect life, without any stresses or strains. They like to post about 100 pictures on Facebook of their activities on Christmas Day.
  • Those who make compromises at Christmas to try and make as many people happy as possible. This can include spending time with ex-spouses or distant relatives for which there is a reason why they are distant.
  • Those who are separated from their loved ones at Christmas. It might be that relationships have broken down, or other commitments have caused a separation on Christmas Day.

I guarantee to you that each group of people will suffer with their mental health at Christmas. All three groups hide it well, we are British after all! But it doesn’t need to be like that. It is good to talk about these things. If we don’t talk about our feelings, we can’t improve our mental health.

You are loved

There is a wonderful quote in the film, “A Wonderful Life”

“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many others lives. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

I guarantee that every single person reading this blog post will have someone who loves, cares and thinks about them. A lot.

Despite what this blog might show, I have found the last 5 years, post separation, difficult. Life wasn’t easy, and it still isn’t. Perhaps it never will be. However, I know that I have the love of others to hold onto. Even though I may not see Heidi for a while, and it hurts, I know that she is there, and she needs me.

Whilst I know everyone will be in a different situation, it is so important to hold on. Hold on for when things do get better, conversations are easier and relationships better. I promise that fighting for a better day is the best thing to do, because better days do happen.

Dads are parents too
Happy times

Part of me writing this entire blog is to highlight the good times that can happen, eventually. A lot of people have gone through things a lot worse than me. However, I guarantee that those people can be stronger than I ever can be.

Public Campaigns

To be stronger, it is important to talk. Talking about mental health at Christmas doesn’t seem like the natural thing to do. We are programmed to talk about all the positive things about Christmas, gifts, family, holidays. However, if we don’t talk, we will never be able to reduce the stress felt at Christmas.

As such, it is good to see a public recognition of this by some companies and a realisation that things have to change.

Mental Health at Christmas

Virgin Trains have teamed up with the charity, “Rethink Mental Illness” to promote mental health at Christmas. They have a number of public initiatives, which include:

  • Painting the script of “A Wonderful Life” on the London to Glasgow route, along the platforms
  • A link will be embedded within the script to information, advice and support around mental health
  • “A Wonderful Life” will be available to watch on the BEAM app on Virgin Trains.
  • Volunteers from Rethink Mental Health will be fundraising in stations throughout December.

You can find out more by following this link: https://www.virgintrains.co.uk/its-a-wonderful-line/

Without such public campaigns, mental health at Christmas will continue to suffer and we won’t find it easy to talk about these things. Anything that makes it easier to talk is so welcome.

Why is it so important to  talk about Mental Health at Christmas … and every other time

Mental Health at Christmas

Want to read more?

Check out this post titled “It’s ok to ask for help”

Where to go for help?

Mental Health support can be difficult to find, but the following places can and will help:


Rethink Mental Health

Mental Health at Christmas

Tel:         03005 000 927 Monday to Friday (9.30am to 4pm, excluding bank holidays)

Email:    [email protected]

Web:     www.rethink.org

Samaritans

Tel:         116 123 Anytime and free. You don’t need any credit on your phone and it won’t show up on your bill.

Email:    [email protected]

Web:     www.samaritans.org

Whilst I am not a trained counsellor in any way, I am more than happy to help and support anyone who needs help.

Continue reading Mental Health at Christmas

Time To Read

As part of the Booktrust “Time to Read” week (17th September 2018 to 23rd September 2018), I have been asked to share our experiences of reading and how much it has benefitted Heidi so far in her life.

How and When We Make Time to Read

Our Time to Read can be summarised into two main categories; Reading for Learning and Reading for Pleasure

  • Reading for Learning

Usually school give us a book to read each week. We seem to be going through the Pearson’s Phonics Bug chart. Whilst some of the books are a bit strange (In a Pit, anyone?!) they are designed to be read with only a limited number of sounds.

When we are reading for school work and going through the intricacies of sounds and word formations, we tend to do that just before bath time on an evening. That way, Heidi is not too tired to read and is able to take things in.

Time to Read
The first school book Heidi read all herself

  • Reading for Pleasure

If we are reading for pleasure, we always do that in bed, before bedtime. Heidi will pick a book from her bookshelf and I will read it throughout.  Whilst at some point I know Heidi will be able to read on her own in bed, part of me hopes she will always want me to read to her in bed. Here, I try to be as creative as possible with the voices and actions, whilst being mindful that it is supposed to be settling down time!

What we Read

When we are reading for pleasure, I try to give Heidi as much freedom as possible. I feel as though it is important for her to want to read whatever story she wants to read, as opposed to forcing a book on her.

Time To Read - bookshelf
Heidi’s bookshelf

One of the promoted books this year is “Little Monkey” and this is such a good book for little ones entering school via Reception or into Year 1. This is because the child can relate to the world being seemingly so much bigger than before and being away from loved ones, for potentially the first time ever.

Time To Read - Little Monkey
Reception children will be receiving this book

This book is going to be given out to 700,000 Reception aged children in England this year!!

How it has benefited Heidi

For me, the highlight of Heidi’s ability to read was when she was in London as a 4 year old and could navigate her way to the correct Underground Line. Granted it wasn’t perfect, but she knew to look for the “P” for “Piccadilly Line”. It proved that it was all worth it!

Perhaps the best example of how Heidi has benefitted from all the reading she does are the following excepts from her Reception school report:

  • “She is becoming a fluent reader. She is able to confidently read and understand simple and more complex sentences.
  • “Heidi has enjoyed a range of book and can demonstrate understanding of a story when talking to others about what she has read, recalling main events and characters.”

Time to Read
We did the school reading challenge!!

How it has benefited us

Making Time to Read really does bring us closer together. The bedtime story is such a highlight, and not because I want Heidi to go to sleep!! It is a time when it is just us two. There is peace and quiet and no distractions. Whilst we are focused on the book, we are also close together having cuddles and getting relaxed before bed.

You may have noticed that there are no photos of us reading in bed. This is because I do not want the intimacy of the moment to be broken. Whilst blog posts are important, keeping that peaceful atmosphere is more important!!

Top Tips for getting the most out of Time to Read

Booktrust have kindly shared their top tips for reading with your child. They are:

Set aside some time – Find somewhere quiet without any distractions.

Ask your child to choose a book –  Sharing books they have chosen shows you care what they think and that their opinion matters. This means they are more likely to engage with the book.

Time to Read
Don’t choose a HUGE book to start with!!

Sit close together – Encourage your child to hold the book themselves and turn the pages.

Encourage your child to talk about the book – Talking about the characters and their dilemmas helps children understand relationships.

And lastly, above all – make it fun!  – It doesn’t matter how you read with a child, as long as you both enjoy the time together.

Time to Read

Continue reading Time To Read

It’s ok to ask for help

Whilst part of this blog is meant to celebrate all the fun and exciting parts of being a parent, it is also important that it is a difficult job, and it does have its effect on us. Being a parent is hard work. Being a parent does have an effect on us both physically and mentally. As a result, it is ok to ask for help. You can’t do “parenting” on your own.

Ask for help

Effect of having children

Remember when life was simple? Remember when you could go out without a care in the world? The effect on having children on parents’ mental health is massive. The stresses of having to look after a new person is huge. The stress that coping with bills, childcare arrangements and practicalities can be tough. All this is forgetting the part where you’re absolutely shattered because your child doesn’t sleep.

The vast majority of parents love their children to the moon and back and there is nothing denying that. However, it is ok to ask for help to give yourself a break. It is ok to ask for help to talk to someone. We can’t be parents in isolation; we need our support network in place.

How I have kept going

For me, the world of blogging has really helped me through some difficult times. Seeing the pictures of others, reading how parents were going out and about really helped me. It gave me a challenge. It gave me some hope that things were going to get better.

And they did get better. I would never say that I was near to having a breakdown. However, I was a new father going through a separation. Life was tough. Life still is tough. At times, I was close to giving up hope. But I didn’t, mainly due my support network as well as the fact that I saw other parents having a great time, and that gave me the strength to carry on.

Blogging is my release. Blogging is helping me get through the tough times.

We needed each other – both then and now…

Effect

Without going into specifics, I have seen the effects of someone who couldn’t ask for help. It is horrible. Even years and years later, the scars are still there. Yes, they have faded, but they are there. Even if you are the loneliest person in the world, there are still people who love you, who care for you. It is ok to ask for help, either from them, or for them.

These people would be devastated if you left them. Even more, there will be people who are too young or who haven’t even been born, who will love you when they’re older.

Children provide so much hope in life. They need support and guidance. They need us.

Statistics

Doing research for this article, I found a couple of really telling charts. The first one shows that men are about 3 times more likely to commit suicide than women.

It is said that this greater risk is due to

  • increased family breakdown leaving more men living alone;
  • the decline of many traditionally male-dominated industries;
  • social expectations about masculinity

The second one is that divorced men are over twice as likely to commit suicide than married men.

Divorce increases the risk of suicide because the individual becomes disconnected from their domestic relationship and social norms. Also, there is a strong cultural emphasis on achieving a strong and happy marriage. Those who divorce may experience a deep sense of disorientation, guilt and emotional hurt.

Ways to Ask for Help

There are many, many avenues for support out there. For some, local parents/child groups are ideal, however, they tend not to work well if your child is school aged, or you work. For others, NCT work well. If your child is school aged, then your child’s school will be able to provide support and advice.

However, if things are much more pressing, you can contact Samaritans on 116 123 (UK and Republic of Ireland; this number will not appear on your phone bill), email [email protected], or visit the Samaritans website to find details of the nearest branch.

My virtual door is always open if you need support. If you’re a mum, dad, or just someone who cares about another human being, it’s ok to ask for help, from myself or anyone else. Just make sure you ask for help before it’s too late.

Continue reading It’s ok to ask for help

Leeds Dad Starts Dating … An Update

In January 2018, I started dating, and you can read about how that came about in this post here, and it felt like an opportune time to give a little update.

Well, after going on the first date back in January, we had a second, a third, a fourth etc. It has generally snowballed into us having a really happy, stable relationship. Whilst 6 months seems a long time to be dating, in some respects it feels like early days still. This is because we aren’t seeing each other every day and spending every waking hour with each other.

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Kim’s first appearance on the blog!

The Children

The priority for both of us is our respective children, and nothing will change that. Kim has a now 2 year old boy and given that Heidi is also a single child, we are mindful of how well they interact with each other, with each of us together and each of us separately.

With Oscar being a bit younger, we felt that it was easier to get him involved into the changing dynamic to start with. As Heidi was 4 at the time, we took things much, much slower with her. (and still are). We are basically saying that Kim was just a few friend and it was good to hang out together at certain points. We have NOT mentioned that we are dating!

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Oscar-only date day…

We try to make sure we don’t overdo the interactions as well, knowing that there is no rush to any of this. The last thing we want is to have children not wanting to see each other or see each of us.

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Heidi only date night

All of this has meant that the children get on really well together and are seemingly best of friends. Oscar looks up to Heidi so much and gets really excited when her name is mentioned. Heidi looks after Oscar so much, whilst also enjoying playing with all his toys as well!!

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Walking together at Cannon Hall

The Dates

As both of us are clearly very involved with our children, most “dates” tend to involve either one or both of the children on a weekend. If you’re a regular reader of the blog on on Instagram/Twitter, chances are you’ve read about where we have been on a date with the children.

As the children enjoy each other’s company, it makes going out on trips a lot easier.  However, they can get too giddy and get carried away a little!!! The fact that we don’t get child-free weekends too often doesn’t affect us (apart from early morning wake ups!) as we both knew the childcare arrangements before we even met.

However, if we do have a child free weekend, or even just a day, we try our best to make the most of it. We had our first (and only!) weekend away in April, to London, which was lovely. However, it was also extremely strange to spend child free time with someone else! We did have a brilliant time and we tried our best to see as much as possible, just as if we had the children.

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Aysgarth Falls

There are times when dates have had to be cancelled at the last minute because of childcare arrangements. Even this week, Heidi wanted to stay at mine even though she was supposed to be with her mum, which meant a quick dash home from date night. It happens, but the pair of us knew all of this before we started. We both know that the children come first – that is the main thing to both of us.

The Future

Who knows what the future might hold going forward. The dating game is still in its early days, but it feels as though it is stable and has excellent foundations. We always said that the children come first and that is more true than ever. If truth be told, they are the ones who will decide how far the relationship goes. If either one is unhappy with it, then the relationship doesn’t go any further, and we are ok with that.

Fingers crossed it that is a bridge we never have to cross…

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Quite true – take from the Disney Store on Oxford Road, London


To read more of my blog, please feel free to:

“Like” me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/leedsdad (it will make me happy!!)

“Follow” me on Twitter @leedsdad

Email me at: [email protected]

Go onto my website: http://www.leedsdad.com

and @leedsdad_blog on Instagram!

The Daddy Tag Challenge

I was contacted by @Frenchiemummy on Twitter about this and thought that it might be a good little idea, and supplement the “About Me” post that is pinned to the front page.

The rules to the game are here (linked to save a huge long post) so without further delay, here it is:

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  • Are you a Stay at Home Daddy or a Working Daddy? Very much a Working Dad – all in all, work takes about 45-50 hours a week. However, it is Monday to Friday which means weekends are very much protected time. I am very lucky to have Heidi all weekend and also an evening or 2 during the week, but it is hard work
  • Would you have it any other way? Yes. I would love to be a SAHD or a home working dad. However, my current job is remarkably stable compared to others and it helps us do the nice things in life.
  • Do you co-change dirty nappies? Even the very smelly ones? Being a single dad, there isn’t much choice. However, even when things were different, I wanted to do everything and give everything a go. However, we are past the nappy changing phase.
  • A little fairy gives you the possibility of breastfeeding? Are you going for it or do you run away? This little fairy gives me boobs?! I want this fairy in my life forever!!! Seriously, yes, I would give it a go, but wouldn’t lose any sleep over it if it didn’t work out, or it wasn’t comfortable. 
  • What is the one must-have item for a daddy? The ability to go into a room full of mums and not be intimidated. There was a playgroup on a Tuesday and I had the day off and so me and Heidi went, and out of 40 kids, I was the only male. It was a “moment” for me as it was the first time I felt in such a minority but the important thing was that it didn’t stop us having a good time (oh and the queue for the toilets was short!) I think I wrote about it here and is a post that I am particular proud of.
  • How many kids do you plan on having? Very much one and done
  • Lads’ nights? How often do you have them? Never. Weekends are for me and Heidi and I’m not going to pass away the opportunity to do bedtime or miss an evening with her for a few drinks
  • Your children’s favourite achievement? Making friends. While it sounds a bit soft, as she doesn’t go to nursery, it is always a bit of a worry. However, she is unbelievably social and has made 3 really good friends and on the back of that, I have made really good friends too – the perfect wingman!!
  • What is your best memory with your kid(s)? It was probably at the Rainbow Factory in Leeds which is a story/education/theatre childrens venue (read about it here) and Heidi and another girl acted out Little Red Riding Hood with the aid of the members of staff. Heidi was 2 and obviously needed help, but she was completely at ease being on a little stage, acting out the story in front of a couple of parents.
  • Name one thing you miss since being a daddy? The time to be able to exercise/play football as generally it is work and Heidi...
  • Weight gain, before pregnancy, during, after and now? And we mean YOU DADDY, not the mummy! I probably put on half a stone after birth. The difficult thing is trying to keep it at that!
  • Dream holiday with your kids? Florida, Disney. (enough said really!)
  • Dream holiday without your kids or even without the other half? (You’re allowed to dream) Maybe the other side of the Florida coast – there is a beautiful area between St Petersburg and Clearwater on the West Coast of Florida, which is so relaxing. Either that or a city hopping/sports watching holiday
  • How has your life changed since having kids? Beyond recognition… Currently going through divorce proceedings and generally everything has changed. Some for the better, some for the worse, but what has happened in the past has happened and you can only move forwards
  • Finish the sentence “It makes my heart melt when…” When Heidi is out and about with me and she will say to someone “That’s my daddy” so proudly. It also makes me slightly embarrassed!
  • Favourite beers brands and football team? I don’t drink (see the question re weight gain!) Used to follow Leeds United, but this is certainly one thing that has fallen away simply due to lack of time, as well as the fact we do kiddie football training on a Saturday afternoon
  • Huggies or Pampers? Pah! I’m a Yorkshire Accountant – it was Tescos when we were going through that stage…
  • Have you always wanted kids? Yes. It wasn’t a burning desire because I knew I needed to do my accounting qualification, and all the other time consuming parts of my life first, and then things would be set. It did happen at the perfect time and wouldn’t change it
  • Best part of being a dad? It is probably going out and about and being a kid once again. We have gone to so many more places than I ever knew existed and had so many new experiences. Yes, it is hard work, but it is worth it and I know that I have only one shot at it and so I am going to take every opportunity with both hands

To read more of my blog, please feel free to:

“Like” me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/leedsdad

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Email me at: [email protected]

or go onto my website: http://www.leedsdad.com


the Frenchie Mummy Blog

Dadstastic!

Fathers Day 2016 was the inaugural Dadstastic event organised by Leeds Dads, headed up by Errol Murray, held at Leeds City Museum. I hope that it is the first of many more to come!

The event was celebrating all things “dad”. However, very little was “dad” focused. It was child focused, which is exactly how it should be. Hopefully mums felt as welcome as dads.

The event was also celebrating all that is good about Leeds (and the surrounding area) in terms of children’s entertainment and activities. When you look around, and hopefully my blog backs this up, Leeds has some wonderful things for children to get involved in. It should be something the city is proud of.

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In fact, one bad thing about writing this is not being able to link everyone in who made it a success, so please use the comments section! Truth be told as well, we were there for 3 hours and didn’t get round to most of what was happening. That shows how much there was going on at Dadstastic!

The Activities

Our little plan initially took us to a Frozen singalong with Suzie Sparkles aka Elsa. Now, I am very lucky as we have never seen the film. This meant that we were at a slight disadvantage! However, Elsa was wonderful with the children, young and old, and the ample distribution of lollies also helps! Even pass the parcel was a success with no-one getting upset over not being able to win!!

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After that we had our face painted (well, Heidi, not me!) and whilst challenging them by asking for a ladybird, it looked lovely and even Anna seemed impressed!!! What was also good was the fact that there was a number of face painters so the queue wasn’t long!

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So after a quick lunch stop, we went to the fabulous Boomchikkaboom. I have written about the fabulous times we have had with Faye and Natalie on numerous occasions (for example here), but they are truly brilliant.  However, Heidi seems to have been going to too many of their events as she seems to want to run the class!! The class was so good, we even had bubbles and foam. However, we did find out foam and face paint don’t go well together!!

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Straight from there we headed off to the Northern School of Contemporary Dance class. This class was a bit too energetic for all the parents sat on the side, as we were all every tired at this point!!! The teacher, Sam, was really good at involving all of the children, be they 2 or 10. I thought that Heidi might be a bit too young. However, it was ideal, except the fact that she can’t balance on 1 foot!!!

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A Dadstatic End

That took us to the end of the Dadstastic event, except for a big group photo to finish. All in all, nearly 2,000 people were in the museum on Fathers Day, which is amazing. The cafe ran out of most food, and there was lots of happy yet tired faces leaving the museum at the end of the event.

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Obviously, if Dadstastic happens in the future, please support it. It is a wonderful event, set up by a great set of dads, with the support of local organisations.  I am pretty sure the country hasn’t got a similar event and that alone makes it special. The fact is was held on Fathers Day was the cherry on the cake!

Continue reading Dadstastic!

Dads are parents too!

So this “Dads are parents too” post is a bit of a follow-up to my previous ‘reflective’ piece titled “Dads Involvement in Parenting” (link here). It is somewhat inspired by the “Dads don’t babysit” t-shirt that has been doing the rounds.

Dadstastic

When I wrote my previous piece, I felt somewhat alone as a single parent, and as a dad. I reflected on the fact that most of the time I went to groups etc, I was one of a handful of dads and I did feel as though dads should be doing more.

I still feel that is the case in some instances. However, thanks to the power of the internet, there are pockets of dads who do go above and beyond. There are the “main carer” (I hate that phrase!) and are the ones taking their child here there and everywhere.

Yes, the stereotypical view by the population as a whole that mum should be the main one caring and nurturing the child will remain for some time. Miracles don’t happen overnight.

However, there are groups out there of like minded dads out there. Some of whom will be in a similar position to myself. The fact that these groups exist give me great comfort and support, even if it is just reading the posts and smiling, knowing that I have been in that particular situation. Yes, being the only dad in a parent/toddler class of 40 children will never be easy. However, I know that the support groups are there. They are just a bit harder to find for dads than for mums.

Happy Heidi = Happy Holiday!

Also, it does get easier as time goes on. Confidence grows and as babies turn into toddlers, they make friends. That makes going out as a group so much more interesting and turns into the highlight of the week.

Yes, it is still difficult, yet life is difficult. Life as a single parent is more difficult, and I realise that I am very lucky to be in a better place than others. Times change and it might mean that those starting on the journey will find it easier. I know that I am now, even though I am 2 years down the path…

If after reading this and you don’t know where to turn I would try two groups:

If you’re a fellow Leeds Dad, join the Facebook/Twitter for the Leeds Dads group. They meet once a month in Leeds (although I have only been once due to sleeping toddler!), a really informal group and the WhatsApp chat group is a source of great comedy!

If you’re further a field, “The Dad Network” is an excellent free flowing Facebook group where dads around the world post thoughts on parenting (or parenting to be) and interesting discussions flow from there.

Dads are parents too
Selfie Time!

I would be foolish not to conclude the “Dads are parents too” post with a link to the “Dads Don’t Babysit” t-shirt page  (for UK dads). It is for an excellent cause so you’re doing more than just buying a t-shirt

https://teespring.com/dadsdontbabysitEU

Continue reading Dads are parents too!

Rhythm Time

The initial reason why I set up this blog was to share my thoughts and experiences of being a dad. There was a hope to inspire parents to see and do new things with their child(ren).  They say that the hardest part of a journey is the first step. That is certainly true when it comes to being a parent. For me, my first step was signing up to Rhythm Time classes.

Rhythm Time

Back in the spring and summer of 2014, my Saturday mornings consisted of taking a then 1 year old Heidi down to the park in her pushchair, walking round the park and then pushing her back up the hill, which felt like a mountain, while she slept! There was nothing particularly wrong with that in the nice summer mornings but we needed more. We needed to socialise, we needed to see other people (big and little!)

Working Monday to Friday meant that this was surprisingly difficult and we struggled to find something.  At this point Heidi was 16 months old and had just started walking in a straight line. In the class there were about 14 other children, all of whom seemed older, more developed and knew what they were doing! How would we cope?!

Heidi was still on a bottle and these other children were playing musical instruments and everything! Being a single dad in this situation, I reverted back to the best backup plan – I brought my mum along! Entering a new environment is stressful enough for adults, let alone children. As such, I felt no shame in bringing backup and it was a brilliant decision! It just made things a bit easier and more relaxed for all of us.

After the first Rhythm Time class, we were hooked! For the rest of the weekend, we were singing the songs we had in class, or at least trying to remember the words and tunes! As soon as I hit work on Monday, I would be looking forward to Saturday morning again. It gave us both something to look forward to and let us interact with others.

As Heidi didn’t go to nursery, she would potentially go all week with seeing a child her age. However, the classes have really brought her along socially as well as her confidence. The classes are really good in terms of sharing, tidying up and those kinds of things. One reason why Heidi has developed so much is because of what happens before and after the class…

As the venue is set up in good time, it enables the children is play in the open space before class. It sounds really simple. However, at another class we go to, the teacher doesn’t arrive until 5 minutes before the start. This means there is no time for social interaction and for the little ones to burn off some energy before class. Also, if they see that the teacher has taken the effort to set up and prepare, the children take it more seriously and get more out of it. Some of my best memories have been before the actual class watching the children have free play, while talking to other parents.

In fact, talking to other parents has been one of the best things about joining the class. Yes, breaking the ice is difficult but children are a great conversation starter. After all, you have something in common straight away! I have learnt so much from others about things that are happening, things to avoid, how potty training is going etc etc. That support is invaluable. There is a brilliant guide to “surviving” these classes, which is written from a dad’s point of view, but it applies to everyone I think  (Survival Guide for Dads). In fact, at the Saturday class, there is an even mix of mums and dads. This  is really, really good to see and means any dads don’t feel out of place!

I realise that I have not actually mentioned the class yet. Generally it is 30 minutes of songs, music and dancing/movement. We get a CD at the start of the term, which is a lifesaver on car journeys and generally most of the songs on there are used in class. We took the approach of “you get out of it, what you put in” and so we went through the CD time and time again so the songs were familiar. This also meant that we could spend the time in class enjoying the activities, rather than not knowing the words/songs! The CD is quite good quality.  However, I am not sure I would have it on in the car by myself!

Every Rhythm Time class is similar but different. The “hello” song is the same for the term, but generally a couple of the activities will be the same as the previous week. However, some will change as you work your way through the lesson plan (yes, it is THAT organised!). No two classes feel the same and the time flies! Oh, and the singing is actually singing from the teacher in the main and not just taped! However, parents are not expected to sing!

The general theme of the Rhythm Time classes is encouragement. There is no wrong way of doing things and there is no pressure. If the child doesn’t want to copy a rhythm pattern into the microphone, it doesn’t matter. If the child wants to look out of the window, it doesn’t matter. At the beginning, I was too stressed out that Heidi was going to be run over by an older child or cause a disruption. However, I have relaxed a bit and if she wants to play with her friends away from the group, that is fine as there is no pressure.

As time has moved on and Heidi is one of the oldest in the class, she has developed the confidence to do most of the activities by herself. She especially likes being at the front of the class, which is fun to see. However, she will always come running back with a huge grin on her face after doing her rhythm pattern or finding Arabella, which is a beautiful sight.

One thing that I had better say is that it does require some commitment. As you sign up for a term, it is obviously in your interest to make as many as possible, but also it helps the development of the child. Although you can swap classes, we have never missed one, partly due to good health (!) but because it gives us a reason to get up on a Saturday morning after spending the week at work!

For more information, you can either:

  • Facebook “Rhythm Time Bradford and Calderdale”
  • email [email protected] (you’ll be sure to get a response in super quick time!).

** UPDATE – Rebecca no longer runs Rhythm Time Bradford and Calderdale, so the email address is now [email protected] **


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