I’m writing a guide for guys who are about to become Dads for the first time over four posts. The topics covered will be Pregnancy, The Birth, I’ve Got A Baby and Toddling. This is part four.

Disclaimer: This is aimed at Dads. It’s not meant to be flippant, condescending or demeaning. It is what it is. One Dad documenting and sharing what he has observed and learned. I would be interested, however, in hearing Mum’s views on these posts.

Here, then, is the

Looking for the Postman Guide to Impending First Time Dadhood
[Part 4] : Toddling

Newborn babies are cute and all but they don’t interact much. It’s also not unusual for a Dad not to get as attached as Mum does to a newborn because there isn’t that same bond.

Sure, you live the little critter but Mum has been making the thing for nine months and given birth to the mite. There’s a chance she’s still feeding them from her own body. How can you possibly, as some spare part, compete with that level of bonding? Until they are a toddling at least.

I’ve loved all my babies from day one. You love them from before birth in an odd way, but when you see them your heart melts. Mum has something deeper with them and you will get to that level, but it will take other things to get there. It’ll take interaction and time to make that connection.

By the time they are toddlers, you will be in full-on Dad mode, leading, disciplining, teaching, protecting, educating, caring and being a human climbing frame. This is when your infant is at their most destructive and terrifying.

ToddlingShuffling, crawling & toddling

They’ll do anything to move. When Eve began to crawl, she crawled backwards before she could go forwards. That was fine by her. She launched herself up on all fours, rocked backwards and forwards and then took a big, crawling step in the opposite direction to which she was headed.

Jenny took her first steps while her mum was in hospital giving birth to her little sister. She stood up by pulling herself up to the sofa, then turning and stumbling towards me. It was monumental. It was the beginning of the end of my possessions. If they can pull themselves up, they can reach stuff that was previously safe.

By the time babies become mobile, child-proofing your house becomes a priority. Now, if you think child-proofing means merely putting fasteners on drawers and soft pads on furniture corners then think again. Your child will, ninja style, manage to find your mobile phone in a nano-second and dunk it down the toilet, all before they can fully walk. You’ll turn your back for a moment and they will be on the other side of the room, looking innocent.

Losing stuff

We bought Eve a new pair of shoes. She wore them a couple of times and then one went missing. Two years later and it still hasn’t turned up. Shortly after it disappeared, she was caught putting something in the bin. We reckon that’s where the shoe went. Things will go missing and they will drive you insane. Did you misplace it? Did they hide it? Am I going to have to rake through bin bags? Yes, you are.

ToddlingBut it’s not just bins. It’s anywhere. Prior to having kids, the living room seemed like such a simple place. Two sofas, bookcase, couple of tables, tv stand with tv and various boxes. Simple. After a child comes along and they start moving stuff, you view your living room in a completely different way. You view it like a Borrower. You explore every nook and cranny, behind every cushion, behind radiators. Damn, your glasses have gone missing? Check amongst the dust bunnies under the sofa. Check behind the television. Check in the back of the nappy box. Check the bins. Oh, it’s jammed behind the DVD player. Of course it is. Toddlers do this to test you. It’s like baby teeth pick up radio signals from satan himself.

Having a toddler means a whole new world of things to do. From small things (sitting them in the trolley at a supermarket, which frees up your hands to do things like, I dunno, shopping) to giving them more exciting things to play on (soft play areas have toddler-only areas, not that it stops 12 year olds jumping around on it).

It’s also a whole new world of expense. High chairs, proper shoes, stair gates, bikes with long handles that don’t steer and you have to push it when the kid decides on a walk that they don’t want to go on their bike anymore. It’s no wonder that the average cost of rising a kid in the UK is £230,000.

Talking

Your child’s first word will most likely be ‘Mama’ or ‘Dada’. Jack’s was ‘birdy’. Jenny went through a phase for about three months of calling both me and Emma ‘Dada’. I don’t know why. She called Emma ‘Mama’ for ages then just changed her mind.

Children will also make up their own words which could stem from mispronounciations or just imagination. Jenny called juice “widdywee” for a long time. She also asked about ‘tertum’ for a long time but we never figured out what that meant. Maybe she was trying to tell us that Eve was putting shoes in the bin.

ToddlingEating

They’re still high maintenance at meal times. There’s a period between moving on to solids and being efficient eaters when every meal is a mess. Every childhood photo album probably has at least a few photos of the youngster with food smeared on their face. Cutlery? That’s for losers. Just smush your baby hand into the food and aim for somewhere near the mouth. That’ll do.

There’s also a pattern when it comes to what food they’ll eat. Younger children are more honest. They’ll either like something or they won’t. Once they learn to speak, they’ll start telling you that they don’t like particular things that they had previously waxed lyrical about. It’s not unusual to have a child screaming blue murder on Monday because they can’t have fish fingers, and then screaming equally loudly on Wednesday because they don’t like fish fingers anymore.

And beyond

This is still the beginning. You are still to encounter the major childhood bookmarks, like:

  • the first day of nursery.
  • first time they get lost in a shop.
  • first time on the naughty spot.
  • first time they say they don’t like a tv programme that used to be their favourite.
  • first tantrum in a supermarket.
  • first time they lock themselves in the car.
  • first time you have to hold them while they pee in public.
  • first Christmas when they totally get the Santa thing (awesome).
  • first time they talk about a previously unmentioned thing that they’d like off Santa, but don’t bring it up til Christmas Eve.

and I haven’t even mentioned toilet training, teething. teaching them to read, art / painting, grandparents, bathtime, holidays or any of the other wonderful things that are such a big part of parenting life. You’ll just have to discover that for yourself.

So that’s the end of the four part Guide to Impending First Time Dadhood. I hope that some of this has been of some use to you if you’re about to become a parent and of some amusement to those who have already been through this. May some of these words help you when your child is doing their best to humiliate you in public. We’ve all been there and most of us have survived.

Good luck and enjoy it. It’s awesome.