bookmark_borderHow NOT to make a smoothie

I work in an office 3 days a week and, on those mornings, I prepare a smoothie to take with me for my breakfast.

I make it the night before, as buzzing up a smoothie at 6am is likely to wake my toddler and I’d rather not do that to him, or my wife. So I blitz it up and pop it in the fridge and take it with me to drink at my desk. I also make a coffee for the train journey but that’s not the point of this story.

A while back my old, Aldi, smoothie maker was starting to die so I bite the bullet, literally, buying a Nutribullet as the reviews suggested it was the best one for my needs (thanks, as always, to The Wirecutter review team). I have the large cup for it, with the ‘drinking lid’ add-on which means I can just make my smoothie, pop the drinking lid on and go. It’s fab, I can’t recommend it highly enough, it’s handled everything I’ve thrown in it with ease; frozen fruit, walnuts, spinach leaves and more.

Once it’s made and in the fridge, the bladed section needs cleaned (you screw the ‘cup’ onto it, then invert it and push down to activate the WHIZZZZ). Once cleaned, we’ve just been popping the bladed section back in the base unit out of the way; and yes the unit sits at the back of the counter out of reach of our toddler.

The ingredients for my smoothies vary a little but mostly consist of a banana, oat or almond milk, protein powder, milled chia seeds and a lingonberry mix, and from there sometimes a bit of peanut butter, some frozen mango or avocado, maybe some strawberries, a splash of apple juice, it really just depends what’s available. The cups come with a separate lid too, so I find myself, particularly on a Sunday, just popping bits and bobs in in the cup, snapping the lid on and putting it back in the fridge. It’s where all the bits of fruit that Jack decides he doesn’t want usually end up (or takes one bite off, I’m not fussy).

The other morning, I’d been compiling my shake throughout Bank Holiday Monday, and on Monday evening whilst Becca gave Jack a bath, I got ready to blitz it up ready for Tuesday morning. I glanced over at the base unit, with the bladed section already sitting in it, waiting for me to lift it out and screw it onto the cup.

A teeny tiny part of my brain reminded me NOT to tip the cup ONTO the blades. Gravity would not be my friend. I even giggled a little at the thought. Hey, I was tired, it had been a long (good) Bank Holiday weekend.

I fetched the cup from the fridge, unscrewed the cap and, despite having laughed at myself about it a few seconds early, actually had to catch myself to NOT do what I’d just told myself not to do!!

Even as I got the bladed section out of the base, and screwed it down onto the cup, part of my brain was STILL thinking .. this isn’t right, is it??

The moral of the story is, whilst I did not tip a full smoothie cup of ingredients onto the base unit (and the kitchen counter and likely the floor), my brain was very close to doing just that.


No, YOU are tired.

bookmark_borderThe Guilty Father

It’s early Sunday morning, it’s been a ‘night’ and my plans for Sunday were looking a bit rocky. I was up early, drinking a coffee and going over all this in my head. I felt conflicted, and a bit desolate as I couldn’t seem to find a good solution. It’s something I’ve noticed creeping into my thoughts more and more when it comes to pretty much anything to do with my son and my wife. I am old enough to be wise enough (which isn’t all that much) to know that there is rarely a clear path when life throws up the little hiccups it seems to enjoy.

A quick summary then:

  • Dad guilt: my son woke up on Saturday night at midnight and was wheezing and crying and threw up (a little, just cos he was coughing). He wanted his Mum, so she “slept” on the floor with him next to her last night. She was up at 5am to go to work. She was already exhausted, now this.
  • Friend guilt: I convinced my mate to sign up to cycle 55 miles at Etape Caledonia. I got injured, couldn’t train, so he’s doing it solo. His first cycling event. Ugh.

The plan on Sunday morning was for my mother-in-law (AKA Granny Morna) to stay over and look after Jack while Becca is at work, so I can head up to Pitlochry to surprise my mate at the finish line. But if he’s ill, despite the fact he went back to sleep ok, he still lost a couple of hours of sleep so at best I thought he’d be a tired and grumpy, at worst he was getting ill again. The revised plan was to let him sleep as long as he needed and take it from there, and trust that he’d be ok so I should head off to Pitlochry. He normally gets up between 7 and 7:30, but we thought we’d let it go to 8:30.

My train was at 8:20am, so I would have to leave the house at 8:10 at the latest to get the train.

Now, I know mother-in-law can handle a tired toddler (she raised two kids of her own after all) but if he was ill then I decided to cancel going to Pitlochry. I wanted to be there to help.

My problem was that, if I wanted to get to Pitlochry in time to catch my mate finishing the cycle event, then I’d have needed to leave before he woke up so I had no way of seeing how he was when he woke. Becca was convinced he would be fine, but without seeing it for myself I knew I would just feel awful if I’d taken off and then it turned out he was ill.

After all, my plans were optional. It was going to be a nice thing to do for my friend (he’s one of the 3 I’ve had for 30 years!) and it would mean a lot to me to support him. Plus he didn’t even know about it as it was to be a surprise so I figured that while I’d be personally disappointed, my mate would’ve been none the wiser.

There I sat, going over all the scenarios in my mind (I know, I know) and then a noise from upstairs. Jack was awake! 7:20am. I went upstairs and he was sitting there, smiling at me as I knelt down next to him. I asked him if he wanted to come downstairs with me and he throw his arms up ready for me to pick him up. He seemed fine, he was fine! I made his breakfast, fed the dogs, Granny Morna came down and that got even bigger smiles from Jack and then, content that he was fine I announced that was going out (technically I said I was ‘going to work’ cos he seems to accept that when either one of his parents has to leave the house). He said ‘bye bye Daddy’ and we waved at each other through the window as I walked down the garden path.

On the train to meet another friend who was going to drive us up to Pitlochry, I sat and pondered how I get my head around making decisions when there doesn’t seem to be a ‘good’ one to make. Logically I can tell myself that sometimes making the decision is the only thing you can do, and then adjust to the consequences. Logically I can tell myself that the vast majority of the time, no matter what scenarios I think through, by and large things work out just fine. Logically.

But I still felt guilty. Guilty that Becca ended up sleeping on the floor, when it was me who went through when Jack first cried out. Guilty that Morna might not have a great morning with Jack and it would be a struggle (even though he seemed fine). Guilty that Becca would have Jack until I got home mid-afternoon and she does so much.

Logically, again, I can tell myself that I’m a good Dad. I do what I can, when I can. I spend time with him as much as I can. I work full-time but start super-early just so I can make it home in enough time to play with him after dinner, before bed. I look after him on Saturday and Sunday mornings when Becca is working, I love him more than anything in this entire world.

But that guilt, wow it weighs heavy. And whilst I know all of this will pass, and that whilst he has yet another ear infection and we will have another week or so of struggling to get him to take his antibiotics, that too will pass.

It’s probably been the hardest part of learning how to bring up our son. Always the feeling of doing more for him, doing things differently, learning and growing whilst I fumble from day to day. I’m bad for not setting time aside for myself but right now this is the most important thing I’ll ever do, so why do I need time for me? Why shouldn’t I concentrate every spare minute I have on our amazing child? Thankfully my wife keeps me in check but that also brings a level of guilt, that she is having to ‘mother’ me as well when she was so so much to think about all the time!

The title of this blog wasn’t an accident. I am very happy, and very aware of my imperfections, and whilst I don’t settle with them, I do sit with them, study them and try and find ways to improve upon them to at least iron them a little flatter, file the sharp edges a little more every day. It’s been my mindset for a long time now. And having Jack arrive in our lives brought it into sharp focus, all those little things I didn’t like about myself, not the big scary horrible things, but the ones I notice but let slide because they weren’t hurting anyone (else), suddenly become things that I could pass on to my son.

So I strive to be better, and yesterday that meant sitting with all those guilty feelings and understanding them. shrinking them down to what they actual were, feeling them get smaller and smaller until they disappeared.

There will be more times like these, but I am more and more confident of being able to navigate them, of showing up and dealing with them with an assurance in my own mind that I will do the right thing most of the time. And when I don’t? I’ll apologise, learn, and it’ll be better next time.

Not easy but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

bookmark_borderBusy busy

I’m almost approaching my first year at Allied Vehicles and I’m busier than ever but, looking back I can see how far things have come since I joined. It’s a very small team, in a very fast paced environment and a lot of what I’m trying to do is help mature our own processes. With a couple of new people joining our team it’s brought a lot of this into focus, both how far it’s come, and how far we have to go. And that’s before we get into all the Business Analyst work I’ve got going on. I was sad when my time with Virgin Money came to an end but in hindsight this new job has been a boon!

It does mean that between my work, and having to be in the office 3 days a week, and spending time with my son, that I’ve not always been the best at finding time for me. I’ve barely been out on my bike, nor managed more than a few runs as, barely halfway through Couch-to-5KM I developed a bit of a niggle in my knee which meant I had to rest for a few weeks, got a physio session to sort it but still means I had to out of doing Etape Caledonia this year. I feel doubly bad for that as I’d talked two of my friends into it and, as one of them also dropped out, my mate is now doing it on his own, his first organised cycle too!

Elsewhere, Jack continues to amaze and delight. He is enjoying a daredevil stage at the moment which is wonderful and terrifying all at the same time, and he flits between being barely a toddler to a young child in an instant, it’s quite startling. We are very lucky that we have a good routine that he understands so for the most part (I mean, he’s a toddler) meals, bath time and bed time mostly go without a hitch. And I’ve just jinxed it…

In a couple of weeks we are heading up north, and will be sleeping with him in a tent. It will be his first time (technically his second but he was still a baby the first time on Mull) so it’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts to it, and how the adjustment goes when we get back. That said, with all the fresh air, and the fact that Granny and Grandpa will be there too, we are pretty confident then sleep won’t be a problem for him as he’ll be exhausted.

Heading into the summer months and on into October, I’m aware that my son is heading towards his 3rd birthday. He’s increasingly independent and we trust him and can leave him ‘unattended’ (in the next room!) to happily play with his toys, or stoating about the back garden looking for ‘wee spidurrs’ and ‘weuyrms’ and hopefully a ‘wee ant!’.

And, inspired by my unstoppable force of nature of a wife (who’s currently smashing her C25K, and slotting in the odd yoga session when she can), I’ve even managed to sort out a few cycles for myself and will be signing up for the local gym soon too. I’m 50, not getting any younger etc etc and definitely not getting any more flexible, or stronger, or lighter with my present, very sedentary, lifestyle. I want to be around for many years to come to enjoy watching the person my son will grow up to be so I need to start taking better care of myself. And yes, I’m posting this wholly for accountability purposes!

Fit for 50 was a goal but I’ll take Fit for 55 if that’s what it takes!

bookmark_borderOpen the mic

This is my first time
At one of these
and I find myself willing,
that it won’t be shit
no withering on the vine

But it will be shit
say the voices in my head
loudly spoken
filling me with dread

Stop looking at me, but please
side eye me your approval
slide it along the floor
so I may stoop
and bowing, fall to my knees

They call it imposter syndrome
and sitting THERE
I can see why
From THERE it looks easy to
ignore the nagging despair

Before now I sat
Casting an eye over the words I had writ
In my head hearing them delivered
with poise
a hint of Shakespearean wit

So a seasoned pro to issue forth
Someone else to lend a voice

I hope that the words will fall on sound ears
And darkened faces watching
Silently waiting their turn
Will shift from patience to attention

But now
I am standing HERE!

And it will be shit
the voices say.

It. Is. Shit.

The words are too simple
The cadence is off
There is no desire or passion
Just words that tail…

Sentences drip from my mouth
To the approval less floor
a growing pile of noises
that gather no moss

Song lyrics I may steal
Float in my vision
Is better than this

It is shit


I am standing HERE
Faltering so

Eyes on the door

I am speaking
Aren’t I?

Slide your approval quickly now
My nerve is fading

But the voices elsewhere
Are slowly jading

The dreaded cackle and jeer
Is no longer near

And even though I am writing this before
on a train in the dark
I jostle from that line to this
Settling once then writing more

I know that these words may find a home
Some where
They are not shit

This is something
Not great
Not best
Just a thing
All it needs to be

The delivery is key

I will stand there
I tell myself
And I will do it, I will
and I will not care
for that voice in my head

It shouts me down down
I will rise up and beyond
And deliver a crown
of achievement and glory

All from these words

Typed on a screen
Rarely seen

Never spoken

Until today

This is my first time
At one of these
I hope ohhh I hope
I have been able to please

If not, it is shit
And yet for today
I will own that, and hold it
For I did this TODAY!

So I will take that, and own that
And go on my way.

bookmark_borderOur Gentle Parenting

It was probably a few months before he was born that I really started to read up on the various aspects of what being a parent would mean. We bought books, read them in-depth, made notes and held study sessions so ensure we absorbed every morsel of information we could.

Except we didn’t do that. We did attend a couple of courses – hypnobirthing (which wasn’t what it sounds like), and an NCT ante-natal course – all online of course as we were still in the end days of COVID. I did read a fair few articles as I tried to get a grasp on what being a Dad would be like though, with the aim of mentally preparing myself, particularly because I’m an older Dad and I wanted to get some shared experiences if at all possible.

One thing that we both, naturally, gravitated towards was the idea of gentle parenting.

As a child I was spanked once, I think. I don’t remember it, but it was talked about in semi-hushed tones with my parents for years as it was such an outlier. That said, I was brought up in the ‘children should be seen and not heard’ world so a lot of my behaviours were to be still and quiet, rather than act out and be wild. It likely explains why my ‘go to’ as an adult is still to be quiet and alone.

For our son we were both keen to make sure he was brought to up to understand his own emotions, to be able to process them and have some tools to deal with that himself. That is what we think of when we discuss ‘gentle parenting’. It doesn’t mean we aren’t strict, we hold boundaries where needed, and it doesn’t mean he gets to do whatever he wants, we have worked hard to get a good routine in place around eating and sleeping, and we are proud that he’s growing well, eating healthily, and sleeping consistently well. It has not been easy to get here but this was part of what we were aiming for.

For me, a feminist bringing up a boy, gentle parenting was especially important as I want my son to understand his privilege and help him learn how to conduct himself appropriately. I’ve written about this before and taking the approach that gentle parenting embodies was key in helping me understand HOW to raise my son to be a good man.

There are many definitions of gentle parenting but one of the early exponents of the phrase itself, said this:

“Gentle Parenting is a way of being, it is a mindset. It’s not about how you wean your baby, or what type of education you chose. It’s not new, it’s not trendy. Gentle parents come from all walks of life, all ages, all ethnicities and most don’t even realise that their style of parenting has been given a new name, it’s just the way they have always been.”

Sara Hockwell-Smith

Becca and I, when we were discussing the types of things we’d have to handle as parents, quickly realised that we were both of a similar mind and, without even having heard the term, were destined to be ‘gentle parents’. That’s likely as much to do with our upbringing and world view as anything, but it means we are able to be consistent with Jack as he grows, that we have empathy for everything he is going through (all the new things he is learning, so much going on every single day!), we respect his feelings and moods (some days he just doesn’t want to go out, so we don’t), we do our best to understand what is going on for a boy his age and factor that in to our thinking, and we hold boundaries through the routines we’ve worked hard to implement (he always brushes his teeth before he has his bath before he goes to bed each night).

It’s not always been easy, but we are determined to give him the best start to life that we can and we believe giving him the emotional capacity he will need as he grows, will give him confidence in himself, and he too will be able to show empathy, understanding, respect and hold boundaries with others when needed.

Throughout this amazing past 2 and a half years, I’ve learned so much about what it takes to be a good Dad, and more importantly I’ve learned so much about myself and all of that is down to gentle parenting. I know I have always been empathetic to others and saught to understand and respect other people but the depth of those emotions have grown since Jack came along and, I think, the more I can understand those feelings within myself, the better an example and father I can be.

And THAT’S why I believe in our gentle parenting approach and, so far, the proof is in the pudding and we have a thoughtful, kind, silly, curious little boy who likes hanging out with his Mummy and Daddy. We have tantrums that we deal with, we have behaviours (hitting) that we calmly assert aren’t acceptable and then ask why he’s hitting, and we talk about all of our feelings, sadness, happiness, love, and don’t shy away from any of our emotions as a family.

When I read about people saying gentle parenting is ‘soft’ and ‘taking it easy’ on the child, I’d suggest they think about how hard it is to remain calm, and consistent, every single day. How much effort it takes to figure out and understand what my toddler is going through, and how it translates to a boy who loves snuggling and cuddling, rather than a terror who is kicking and fighting when he gets tired.

Gentle parenting is hard, it is tough, but I firmly believe it’s the best way to raise a child, to give them a grounding that they can take with them as they grow and mature, into adulthood where the hope is that they’ll be able to handle themselves and their emotions in what is becoming an increasingly negative and hated filled world.

We give our son love, we make sure he knows he is safe and cared for, in the hope that he will expouse those simple virtues to everyone he comes into contact with as he makes his way in the world.

That’s our gentle parenting. What’s yours?

bookmark_borderDad friends

I am very very lucky. I live with, I married, I have a son with, my best friend. We don’t fight (occasionally disagree) and we talk a lot about our thoughts and emotions, call each other out when it’s needed, we support each other, we hug, we laugh, we kiss, we cry. We are good together. We are good for each other.

I am very very lucky. I have three very close friends that I’ve known for over 30 years, the type of friends that remain constant in your life even though you don’t see them all that often throughout the year. We mostly communicate through a WhatsApp group for our own little Formula One predictions game. I love them dearly, they’ve been with me through every major event in my life, marriages, divorce, deaths, and the birth of my son.

None of them are Dads.

My son is fast approaching 2 and a half years in age and this last couple of weeks it feels like the “terrible twos” have finally descended on us. He is a curious, active, emotional little guy. We encourage all of this, gentle parents that hold firm lines where we must.

As Jack starts to try to understand his place in the world, and starts to control more of his own actions, he is (rightfully!) pushing boundaries to help himself figure out what is acceptable and what is not. Which is a nice way of saying that he has developed a very strong will for some very specific things that he does not want to do.

One is changing his nappy, but that one seems like a soft pushback that he eventually caves to. More recently though bedtime has become a battle, with the act of putting on his sleeping bag being the line he will not cross.

Since he was about 8 months old or so, when he stopped co-sleeping with his Mum and I was able to do bottle feeds at night, he’s had a great bedtime routine. Dinner, some fruit, some milk, brushing his teeth, then a bath, then into his room to wind down before bed. Mum does his bath, I do bedtime.

For months now it’s been the same, after his bath he comes into his room where I am waiting for him, we play a little (as quietly as possible with a toddler who likes ‘getting dizzy’ and doing ‘big jumps!’), we read through books, we cuddle. I talk about what he wants to do, does he want to put the big light off himself or will Daddy do it? When he goes into his bed, does he want Daddy to stay in the room with him (“lie down”) or leave (“Daddy go ‘way”). Then around about the same time every night – I tend to watch for the signs he’s ready – we put on his sleeping bag, he pulls the zip up, then it’s lights off and into his bed.

But not recently.

I’ll admit I’ve not handled it all that well at times. Losing my temper more than once (not AT him, but he can tell I’m getting annoyed/angry) and it kills me that I’m struggling with this, struggling to process my own adult (exhausted) emotions whilst he quietly lies on the floor and fights and kicks if I try and pick him up, until he finally gives an inch and concedes he will go to bed but not in a sleeping bag. Which means he’s likely to wake through the night as he’ll get a little cold and so one of us has to go through and comfort him and get him back to sleep.

I work in the office 3 days, which means my days start at 5:45am. Becca works a Tuesday evening and Saturday and Sunday mornings, so we try and split the night time responsibilities depending on that. If Jack allows of course, sometimes he doesn’t want one of us at all so we ‘tag in’. It’s what he needs, that’s always our mantra no matter how hard it gets.

And boy has it been hard. I’ve been feeling so useless at times. On the days I work in the office I don’t see him in the morning, and have only a couple of hours before it’s bedtime and it’s pretty much the ONLY thing I have to do and I can’t even do that? What a failure! Useless!!

Which I know isn’t true. I know we are doing a good job bringing him up, I know this. I am not useless, I am a Dad who turns up for his son every day and night, I am there, I am present and helping him grow.

But… I’m the Dad, I’m the provider, the one who puts a roof over our heads, the one who protects his family… and so on. These views are draconian, patriarchal and outdated and, when I step back and look at my life as it is today, not even remotely close to how we live our lives, yet these are the entrenched ideals I have in my mind, the values I was brought up with.

I am not trying to be my Dad; god bless him but he always pushed emotions away (he was, like I am, an emotional man but I think he was brought up to feel shame if he showed them). I don’t do that, I want Jack to understand that sometimes I get sad, sometimes I cry, sometimes I will be distant but I will always be there for him, and I want Jack to know that all of those emotions are valid in that hope that when he starts to understand them and can recognise them in himself (he’s already feeling them) he won’t feel ashamed and will have the tools to figure out how do deal with them.

I am also the ‘male’ figure in his life, so my actions and comments towards others is something I’m very aware of, even though I am confident in the example I am setting him in terms of respecting people, being nice, being good (and being a bit cheeky too).

All of these thoughts and emotions and hopes and dreams swirl through my head as I hold my son, gently talking to him, trying to coax him into his bed whilst he clings tighter and shakes his head. I pull him tighter and reassure him that everything is ok, that Daddy is here for him, and that we will figure this out together, that I love him, and feel so lucky to be his Daddy.

All of this is in my head and, no matter how much I talk to Becca I realise more and more that I need some Dad friends.

I have no idea how to do that, but I sometimes feel like I need people with similar upbringings (so around my age) and similar world views to mine (no right-wing homophobes please) that have children. Essentially, I need my best mates to have kids except one is 55 and single, one has his two ‘children’ already (dogs), and the I think the other hopes to have kids one day but hasn’t managed to get to that point yet.

That said, I got to know some other Dads through the ante-natal class we did before Jack was born, we had our own little WhatsApp group, sharing 2am ramblings and gripes but that fell away after the first few months. I did reach out recently and posted a message to the group (the first anyone had in over a year) just to reach out but it was more a ‘hi, how are you guys getting on’ kinda thing. I didn’t want to dive straight into a chat about Dad worries and how everyone else was coping with them… don’t be that guy, right?

But that is the point, I should be that guy, I can’t keep all of this to myself. Men are notoriously bad for talking about their feelings and emotions, something that I do well here (because I am constantly aware I am writing to one reader), but still struggle with in real life. I don’t make friends easily, less so with men, so I’m unlikely to start an outpouring of emotions to someone I barely know.

But I will talk to my friends about this, and I talk to Becca about all of everything, but unfortunately the one voice I’d love to hear from is no longer with us. I channel him every day (more than I even realise I’m sure) but oh how I’d love to hear how he dealt with his exhausted Dad demons. My parents went through some horrible, hard, stressful times and it speaks volumes that, for the most part, I was completely unaware and happy, whilst they struggled to pay bills and dealt with miscarriages. Maybe I should’ve known a little more? It’s hard to say, and hindsight blah blah blah..

I’ve heard of some of this from my Mum, but now that I am a father too, I wish mine were here.

I will talk about these things to my friends and family and, as he grows up, I will continue to talk to my son, continue to be open with him, emotional in front of him, and make sure he understands his place in my world and how important he is to me. I hope that he will become my friend too.

It’s not easy being a Dad.

But I wouldn’t change it for the world.