Mother’s Day: Mark II

So much of parenting is about looking forward. What will their personalities be like? What will the do for a career? When will I be able to lie-in on a Sunday morning again?

What you don’t always realise is just how much of parenting is looking back.

From the moment you discover you’re pregnant, you enter a weird sort of short-term nostalgia. Suddenly, you find yourself getting misty eyed at things you’d otherwise take for granted.

It’s not about being ungrateful or regretting the change in your situation, it’s just that, before you know it, you’re fantasising about how easy it used to be to go out for coffee (even though you never did it much in the first place).

Now your wife is pregnant, she can’t have caffeine, the seat she uses must be comfortable, and if the heating rises even slightly above room temperature, you’ve practically got to take her outside and hose her down.

And it’s the same after pregnancy, you spend nine months dealing with discomfort and flatulence (which, oddly enough, is the name I would choose should a publisher wish to turn this blog into a novel), only to miss it the second it’s gone.

It’s hard to explain the sensation, but when you find yourself fighting back tears for the time your wife couldn’t lie on her right hand side for fear of firing out a child in her sleep, it’s fair to say your sense of perspective is somewhat skewed.

And so it is that I come to today. Mother’s Day. It feels like a massive milestone in our children’s lives – and Lucy’s too. Her first Mother’s Day.

Only, it’s not her first. It’s her second. Somehow – and completely without our knowledge – a whole year seems to have flown by and we find ourselves wondering where all the time went.

We are so happy with where our daughters are now – growing up healthy, happy, inquisitive and far more manipulative than we ever thought possible. And yet, as happy as we are, we still look back at a year ago with a sense of longing.

Sure, back then involved a lot more impromptu nappy changing, and living your life in a three hour cycle of feeding, winding and wiping is no one’s idea of a party, but we still miss it.

Lucy and I tend to look back at photos from this last year with ridiculous frequency. It’s not that we’re unhealthily obsessed with our children (though we would probably be diagnosed that way), it’s just that we like looking back to see how much Ruby and Willow have changed. And it’s a lot.

You only need to go back a couple of weeks to a month, to see massive changes. Where once you thought your child was this fully-formed being full of personality, wisdom and life behind their eyes, you look back to see little more than a slab of sausage meat with a pulse (sorry girls).

You distinctly remember seeing their characteristics forming in front of your face but, on reflection, it’s too hard to discern. It’s understandable why so many parents feel their child is smart enough to take on world chess champions, or to sit their MENSA entrance exam aged 4, it’s because you become so blindsided by love, that you don’t realise they’re just like every other baby – small, pink and full of wind. Or to put it another way, a little bit naff.

Another reason for the nostalgia trips is down to change. With a baby or two, things change so much that you’re always looking for that constant. The one thing that remains unchanging throughout so much evolution. Yes, the regularity with which we use our JustEat account could pass for a benchmark, but when it comes to your children, you’re looking for something a little more obvious, something that doesn’t come with a free 2ltr bottle of Pepsi.

With Willow, it’s her smile. From very early on she seemed to develop a very distinct smile; cheeky and knowing with a slightly patronising hint. It’s still there to this day, though one suspects that the thoughts going through her head have become somewhat darker.

Now, with Ruby, it’s here eyes. It took her personality a little while to shine through, certainly in contrast to Willow’s devilish grin. But even in those quiet, expressionless days, her eyes were a laser beam burning into your soul. She would look at everything with the same level of intensity as she still does. Fascinated by you, you mouth, the lights, the light switch, plugs, sometimes empty corners. She has always stared, and I suspect she always will (as long as she doesn’t do it on public transport).

When I try to find other constants, I struggle. Babies change so much, and so often, that as soon as you’re getting used to one tick or routine, it all moves on again. Like messing up during a game of Tetris, you slowly start to see things building out of all control. It’s hard to keep up to it, but thankfully, by having Lucy at my side I feel we’re doing so much more than just keeping up.

In fact, if I had to pick a constant throughout this whole thing, it would be Lucy. Looking back, from that first moment when we pissed on a stick and declared it a winner, Lucy has been unshakable.

That’s not to say she hasn’t come up against difficulties. It’s not to say she hasn’t had moments where she’s struggled. But despite the challenges that being parents to twins throws up (and we have to admit we’ve been ridiculously fortunate with the luck we’ve had) Lucy has remained strong and confident in not only us and our abilities, but in our girls and how brilliant they are.

Through the entire pregnancy she took it all her stride. During a labour that many would have been too terrified to contemplate, she didn’t falter (and she kicks up a fuss if she’s got to make her own toast) and since then, as we’ve had to navigate a new life with two little girls, she has embraced each new challenge wholeheartedly.

Put simply, Lucy became a mum the second she peed on that stick. And each and every day since then, she has grown in confidence in ways that still amaze me.

I look back at last year, and the year before, and I see myself slowly developing into the sort of father I want to be for my daughters, but Lucy has been there since day one. A brilliant mum, a perfect parent and the only person I would want to do this with.

And I hope, as the girls get older and look back at how far they’ve come, they will see what I see: their mum. Being brilliant. Always.

Happy Mother’s Day, Lucy. Again. x

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I Hope You Like Jabbin’ too

This week, a little later than planned, we took the girls to get their 12 month jabs.

Later because we wanted to find a week where both Lucy and I were available, should the girls not take well to them. And let’s face it, who does take well to needles? I’m no heroin expert, but I’ve seen Trainspotting at least twice, and I struggle to remember a scene where Ewan McGregor looked delighted to be injecting himself with enough crack to take down a bull.

I know the jabs are important and they immunise my girls against a number of horrible illnesses, but at what point does turning your child into a human pin cushion cease being responsible and start being neglect?

Obviously, these are not the first injections they’ve ever had. No, it’s fair to say my little girls have seen their fair share of the sharp end of life. Initially, it was in hospital. Apart from a touch of jaundice – that’s always a nicer way of saying your child looked like they were auditioning for a guest spot on The Simpsons – they were very healthy in that first week, and yet, it didn’t stop the midwives checking their blood at regular intervals.

This process took the form of some sort of medieval torture, as an array of hospital specialists would come in, effectively hole punch my daughters dainty pink feet and then proceed to squeeze drops of blood from them. If this was the man from Del Monte portioning out some new orange juice, you’d think he was a little over zealous, but for a healthcare professional, it’s downright barbaric.

It’s hard to imagine how you would act if you knew someone intentionally set out to inflict pain on your child, and in that first week you’re even less prepared for it. But I swear down, there were several moments where I could have swung for the midwife. I’m glad I didn’t, she was obviously just doing her job. But on the flip side of that, so was Harold Shipman apparently, so you never know when these things need nipping in the bud.

These horrible moments punctuated that first joyous week, as tiny little cries would ring out around the ward. Luckily, our girls are made of tough stuff, and in minutes they would be back to normal. The real challenge was the eight week jabs.

Eight weeks, that’s fifty six days of my new daughters’ lives I spent not knowing what it looked like to see them properly shed a tear. Then the injections happened. There’s nothing you can really say, when your child turns to you, their face red with pain and sadness, their mouth open but voiceless as they look at you with disappointment in their eyes and one, lonely tear trickles down their cheek. That’s what I had to face the first time Ruby had her jabs. It’s hard not to think she’s partly to blame, after all, she’d just witnessed her sister going through the exact same thing, and still never thought to head for the door. You can’t help thinking your child isn’t all there, when the sight of their own sibling in distress isn’t enough to make them sit up and pay attention. But that’s eight week olds for you.

Mind you, we should have expected the worst. In preparation for the jabs, we’d brought them to the doctors, stripped them down to their vests and attempted to give them Calpol. Now any British person with a beating heart and a throbbing pulse will know what Calpol is. It’s basically crack for kids; purple, syrupy goodness that heals all illnesses, and cures your soul. You know you’re addicted when some of your happiest childhood memories feature you recovering from a fever. Honestly, for anyone who hasn’t experienced it, it’s hard to express the magic of Calpol. And no, before you ask, I’m not being sponsored. Although, if the good people at McNeil Products Ltd. want to sent me a lifetime supply of the purple nectar, then feel free (not the orange stuff, it’s shit), though I can’t promise it will end up with the kids.

So anyway, in order to prepare our little ones for their jabs, we dosed them up with Calpol – or at least we tried. Not only did they both spit it out, but they both broke out into inconsolable bouts of crying. It was at that point we realised that if they weren’t taking to well to liquid sunshine in a plastic syringe, it’s unlikely they’ll enjoy a glass one full of infected cells.

What followed for the rest of that first year, were two more attempts to jab metallic needles in their legs. Each time it got harder, and more heartbreaking, as we slowly watched the girls develop a more robust consciousness. They started to understand, if not what was happening to them then at least that whatever it was hurt.

As the cries became louder and those chubby grips on our arms became tighter, life has ceased to be like a blissful family movie, and more like The Marathon Man.

There is really no way you can ever get your child to understand that, what is happening to them, is not only important but essential. You will always be the bad guy who introduced them to that stab-happy stranger.

In the moment, you feel like both a helpless bystander and a monster. In the following hours and days, you’re reminded of your crimes when you spot the little round plasters adorning their legs like blood-soaked nicotine patches. When the time comes to bath them, and the plasters inevitable fall off, you drain the bath to find that it looks like a scene from Hannibal. Your plug hole runs red with their blood, and Johnsons’ Baby Shampoo.

From the moment of those first jabs, I’ve had the 12 month injections in my mind. Like a time bomb waiting to go off, or a guff soon to be smelt, the reality of bringing two one-year-olds to meet their certain doom, was not lost on me.

I had been dreading this moment. They were going to be older, a little wiser, still not able to comprehend what was happening to them, but enough to know you are to blame. I was not looking forward to it. So it was a little surprise that I felt so calm when the day finally came round.

The hardest part of this whole to-do, is the contrast. The spectrum of pain runs from blissfully ignorant girls, smiling and waving at people in the doctors’ waiting room, to inconsolable wrecks twitching from medically-induced PTSD.

While I can never say the jabs went well, the girls were unsurprisingly distraught, I have to be honest and admit it could have been a lot worse. The nurse was swift and no-nonsense. No sooner than we’d stripped our unsuspecting girls down, they were immunised and being re-clothed. Now with added tears. And yet, even considering how upset they were, they still managed to bring themselves round with little fuss.

You might think that that’s it. It’s all over. Nothing to worry about. But that isn’t true. Now, we wait. We wait to see if these jabs bring with them all sorts of nasty side effects. You never know if it’s going to happen, and previously we’ve been very lucky. Yet this time felt different, the risks felt bigger and the fallout even worse.

Initially, the girls were fine. After a good nap, they woke bright and happy with seemingly no memory of the assault. But as the day wore on, we started to see a change in them. Their temperatures rose slightly, their mood seemed to drop, and before we knew it, they were both crying. They refused to crawl anywhere, as if their legs had been crushed in an industrial accident, and their normally placid demeanours became ones of unsettled upset. It was horrible.

At the time, your mind races and you suddenly start to elaborate wildly on what it all means, and if your child is doomed to contract a horrible disease. After than initial flurry of panic, you start to justify things to yourself, and be a little more pragmatic about what it all means. You dose them up with Calpol (after 12 months, they’ve finally embraced the sugary nectar – from disgust to addiction in twelve easy steps), put them to bed and keep an eye on them.

These last few days have been a little up and down, as the girls have seemed subdued or been off their food, but luckily nothing as bad as that first day.

I’m gradually coming round to the idea of vaccinations again. After all, it’s in your child’s best interests and, despite the upset, it is worth it. Thankfully, we’ve got a long wait before the next batch, which should give us just enough time to concoct an elaborate reason for stabbing our children. For now, it’s my job to make sure my girls are comfortable, happy and slowly getting over these side effects.

Mind you, the latest one seems to be very loose stools. And so I begin to question the validity of these jabs all over again. After all, who are they really hurting? Because, right now, as I try to roll up this soggy nappy, like some sort of shitty burrito, it feels like I’m the real victim in all of this.

And Words Are All I Have…

I’ve never been a big fan of mimes. I just don’t get them. First off, why do they dress like a human barcode? Secondly, the depressed monochromatic clown is never a strong look. Finally, and some would say most importantly, why the hell don’t they speak?

Surely, if you’re trapped in a glass box, a voice is going to come in handy. OK, it might be sound proof glass, but in that case I’d say there’s nothing anyone can do to save you or your beret. So you might as well pipe up – who’s going to know?

That’s the problem with mimes: they don’t speak so it’s hard to understand what the hell they’re going on about. I suppose, in that sense, they’re a lot like babies. Except – and I could be wrong, my knowledge of mimes is limited at best – they don’t get bum rash.

But if mimes and babies are so similar, why is it that mimes freak me out, and yet my wordless bundles make my heart soar?

I’m guessing it’s because even if I don’t know what’s going on in my daughters’ heads, I still have a pretty good idea. Plus, they don’t look like someone’s genetically spliced a French man with a zebra.

Although my girls still aren’t talking, it feels like I’ve been communicating with them for a long time now. It definitely goes back to those days during the pregnancy, when I would lie next to Lucy’s bump and chat inanely about nothing particularly important. Very soon my ramblings started to get a reaction – nudges, prods, the odd kick every now and then. Suddenly I found myself talking to two little things I’d never met face to face but who used incredibly elaborate gesticulations to respond. It was sort of like a prenatal chat room – actually, scratch that, we might be heading into some pretty dark territory, there.

Talking to my girls quickly became my number one thing to do. To be fair to them, they were usually pretty relaxed during the day and then, at night, just before bedtime, they’d come to life. Tossing, turning, performing acts that would make an Olympic gymnast weep. And the more I talked to them, the more they seemed to do it.

As a father to be, it can be tricky in those early days, to feel like you’re actually of any use. With the exception of picking up the odd McDonald’s, the occasional massage and – in those very early days – nipping into Boots for a piss stick, there isn’t a whole lot a dad can do to actually feel physically involved. If I had a free cervix to lend, I’d be all over it, but as I only have man-glands, my body isn’t much cop.

That’s why communicating with the babies was so important to me.

I was in no doubt that they girls would fall in love with their mum as soon as they met her. I’ve only met her the once, but it’s fair to say it made a lasting impression. But what were they going to make of me, especially when they were first born? I was wearing scrubs. There was little to differentiate me from the hospital staff, and to be fair to them, they probably looked far more at home in the environment than I did.

I wanted my girls to know who I was, before they’d seen the light of day. So I talked to them, most nights, with only a thin barrier of skin, muscle and some goopy bits between us. Trust me, it was more adorable than that sounds.

I think it worked because, when they arrived, they seemed not to be repulsed by my very presence – which I took to be a good sign – and it didn’t take long before they seemed comfortable enough to relax with me, especially when I would talk to them as they drifted in my arms.

In fact, that first week in the hospital, I remember having one such incident with Ruby. She wasn’t sleeping for some reason, but Willow was spark out. Lucy – tired and running on low thanks to the three hour feeding routine – was desperate for sleep. So there we sat, Ruby and I, discussing all our plans together. I did the majority of the small talk, I won’t lie, but it was a special moment, the first real connection between my daughter and I.

It wasn’t long before I was doing the same with Willow. Unable to sleep in the early days at home, I found myself cuddling up to her on our bed, while the other two incredible women in my life slept soundly. We didn’t say much, but we didn’t need to. I think we both knew where we were coming from, just by listening to the silence.

Soon, the silence turned to faint breathing, which became the occasional gurgle or murmur, and not long after that – a full blown noise.

Like a particularly uninhibited fog horn, our daughters soon learnt the beauty of shouting, and did so at every possible occasion. Far from being upset or in pain, it was a shout of joy, of excitement. Only, when they’re doing it as you walk around Tesco, it’s hard not to feel a little self conscious. It was though they were the Cox and Lucy and I the rowers, frantically pushing against the tide of the cheese aisle.

They certainly take their talking in turns. Willow was the first to really get the hang of her vocal chords and, just as we expected her to really come to life, Ruby caught up. And then overtook her. It’s hard to pin down exactly what profession your child will have at such a young age, but if we had to pick one for Ruby, it would be one of those old men who used to shout indiscriminate nonsense while trying to flog local papers in town. Willow didn’t exactly hide her voice under a bushel once Ruby started, so much as hold it hostage until her sister wasn’t around.

Soon, Willow regained her confidence and found her voice again. And before long, the two of them were shouting at each other. Since then, I’ve watched my girls, over the last 12 months, slowly growing in confidence when it comes to communicating. Now, it comes easy. If they’re not imitating Lucy and I on our phones (not a good sign, surely?), they’re shouting – loud. And if it’s not that, they’re shrieking with joy at, well, it could be anything, a wall, a hat, air…

Those tiny noiseless lumps have grown into these expressive little creatures that laugh and smile and talk shit and cry. It is quite something to behold.

I always wondered what their first word would be. Obviously, you want it to be your name. Daddy, or Mummy that is, not Rob. It’d be a little disconcerting if their first sign of advanced communication was to approach you on first name terms. It would seem slightly formal, as though it should be followed with some sort of legal procedure.

But you do hope it will be Daddy. You fear if it’s not Mummy, your partner may feel neglected, but it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the popularity contest that is parenting twins. At once stage, I had grand hopes that the word would defy all predictions. Something extravagant and regal – indubitably perhaps, or perhaps, perhaps. Wouldn’t it be great if they hit you with something out of the blue – vestibule or inconsequential. After all, this is speaking. This one word could start them on their journey to educational achievements. If they’re first word was judiciary – should we book them a place on a law degree now? If it’s ‘hi’, probably just sign them up for the nearest telemarketing role.

Whatever this first word was, the expectation was unbearable. And then it came. It was Willow first, but it wasn’t long before Ruby followed. Just like that, seemingly out of nowhere, they made their first utterances into almost-adulthood. They looked up and said…

‘Woof’.

OK, so not the top of anyone’s list. For a start, we don’t even have a dog. Never mind ‘mummy’ or ‘daddy’ or even a simple ‘hello’, they went straight for an animal noise, specifically the noise of an animal they only come into contact with on occasion.

To be fair, the noise came from Lucy’s parents. They have a dog, Barney, and the girls love him. He’s not quite so smitten, but things could change. They do see him most weeks, and it’s this fascination with him that led to their first word. While we won’t be registering their place at the local College of Music, or signing them up to Mensa anytime soon, at a push we could dress them up and try get them some work rustling sheep or shepherding the blind.

I like talking. I talk too much. It often leads others to the conclusion that they don’t like me talking. Quite often, I find myself feeling shy, often saying very little in large groups, but when I find people I’m comfortable with, it’s hard to shut me up. I’m glad my girls seem to have developed that passion for communication – even if all they can muster is dog noise and sounds you could only spell by throwing a Scrabble board across a field.

Gone are the days of me talking into a silent bump with no response. My little girls are no longer the silent ones. They’re talking now, and for once, I’m enjoying being the one that listens.

Bottle it up

Do you think the Milky Bar kid worked on commission? That said, he was an outlaw. Aren’t they freelance? Come to think of it – he never actually sold any Milky Bars, he used to give them away. ‘The Milky Bars are on me!’ Why would he buy other people a product he, himself, was marketing?

Once you start to really analyse it, the idea of a short-sighted Aryan albino cowboy distributing sickly sweet chocolate bars to children, it all starts to seem a bit odd. All I’m saying is, I don’t think Nestle thought it through.

You might think that obsessing over an old TV commercial is strange, but trust me, being a new parent; your mind has lots of time to wander, especially when you’re preparing bottles.

In those early months, you find yourself stood over a bottle maker at three o’clock in the morning, contemplating things that would otherwise never pass your mind. Like, why does Duggee the dog, off of Hey Duggee, have a pet cat? I mean, what sort of inter-species slavery is that? It may only take a matter of minutes to make a bottle, but it’s surprising how far your mind can go when you’re sleep deprived and tripping on the saccharine smell of baby formula.

I don’t really want to get into the ins and outs of whether you should breast or bottle feed your child as, A: it depends on each individual case, B: it wouldn’t make for a very funny blog and – most importantly – C: as a breast-less man, it’s not really my place to be swinging round opinions as if they’re gospel. As far as I’m concerned, as long as you’re not strapping a rubber teat to a bottle of Tia Maria, what you feed your child in those early days only really boils down to what works for you.

That said, if you can get them to drink 8oz of Tia Maria, then why not?

What I do want to talk about, though, is the act of preparing bottles. Sure, it might sound no more funny than the ‘to nip or not to nip’ debate, but as a new dad, it’s something I became very accustomed to, very quickly.

It started in the hospital. As we stayed there for that first week of the girls’ lives, a lot of our initial routines were shaped by our time there. We very quickly got into a steady 3 hour routine. It’s funny to see your life suddenly go from an endless span of time, in which you may do some stuff or you may not, depending on whether you can be bothered, to seeing it become instantly regimented by a strict routine that doesn’t even work around your wants or needs. You want to eat? Sure. Just as long as it’s not time for the babies to eat. You need sleep? That’s reasonable. But are the babies awake? They are?! Then no sleep for you, buster. Start scooping that powder, or there’ll be trouble.

Your sleep patterns in particular take a hell of a battering. I still remember the days Lucy and I wouldn’t get out of bed until 11am. ‘Weekends’, we’d call them. Sometimes we’d stay up late, binging on Netflix or getting drunk and discussing casting choices for the latest Marvel film. Now we had kids, we’d be lucky to get an hour’s sleep between the last feed and the next. Your life becomes one long Groundhog Day of feeding a baby, winding them, changing them, putting them down, tidying up, maybe eating something, sleeping for twenty minutes before waking up and doing it all over again.

I sound bitter, I’m not. I’m actually very proud of how quickly we adapted to the routine. Obviously, in those first couple of weeks, trying to stay awake while feeding your baby was like trying to whistle your way through a carbon monoxide leak. Not a feed went by where one of us would hear our name screamed out, before feeling that swift snap as your drooping head flips back up straight. You’ve never really experience parenting until you’ve given yourself whiplash while feeding a child.

Pretty soon, though, we got used to it. We had our help, obviously. We took to binging some of the most intense crime dramas while feeding, in order to keep ourselves awake. Is it weird if your overriding memories of the first few months of your children’s lives also feature scenes of graphic murder? I hope not. All I can say is I hope the girls weren’t taking it in, or else it’ll cost us a fortune in counselling bills.

But, as I say, we got used to the routine. We became a well-oiled machine, with both of us taking on set roles. It was mine to make bottles. Now, I don’t want to brag, but I was shit hot at it. Within weeks, I’d nailed it, scraping the peak of the powder with a butter knife, while at the same time washing the last round of bottles ready for sterilisation. I was like Tom Cruise in Cocktail, only with a bottle of Milton’s fluid. Over time, bottle prep became my unofficial job. While we did our best to divvy up all of the jobs equally, it became routine that, when I wasn’t at work, I would prep the bottles as Lucy got the girls ready. And do you know what? It’s the proudest job I’ve ever had. I got so in the bottle zone that not only would I ace it, but I would be constantly refining my process. If something was slowing me down, I’d look for a quicker or more convenient option, and at the next feed, I’d implement the change and review its success. Honestly, if I could have held a monthly appraisal process for myself, I’d be ‘exceeding’ every time.

OK, I lied, it is getting boring. I am just talking about preparing baby formula. But here’s the thing, my time as chief bottle maker is coming to an end. You’re always aware of the things that have to change as your children gets older, and at what point you have to start phasing them out, but it always, always, always creeps up on you. You can prepare all you like, but you’re never truly ready to stop.

As the girls approached their first birthday, we knew we’d have to start weaning them off the formula. And eventually, their bottles. Sure, we’re replacing it with whole milk in a cup, but where’s the fun in that? Bottle making is an art form. It’s in the scoop of the powder, the glide of the knife, the shake of the bottle – and it’s the same with sterilising, you’re not washing the bottles, you’re improving them, giving them new life as a cleaner, safer, healthier bottle. OK, the numbers might start to fade on the side, but the magic never does. Until, that is, you have to stop for good.

It seems silly getting so sad over such an inconsequential thing. It might seem big now, but soon my girls will be walking, or starting school or dropping out of university – in comparison, this is a tiny bump in the road. But, not for me. As a dad, it can be hard to find your place in your new life, especially in the early days. Your partner becomes a mother, and her role seems pretty clear, but you’re just the guy without the uterus taking up oxygen in the room. It’s certainly easier with twins, because you really do get to share every single moment, but even still, you can feel like everything is out of your control. Bottles gave me that control. They gave me something I could put my energy into, for my girls. I knew that by making those bottles, not only was I looking after our babies, but I was giving Lucy the time she needed to bond with them.

At some point, my daughters will become strong, confident, independent young women and they won’t rely on me half as much. Soon, I will become redundant.

And then I’ll have all the time in the world to contemplate things…

How did we end up here?

At some point in our lives, we all have to stop and ask ourselves the same question.

“How did I end up here?”

It’s a profound question, and often not an easy one to answer. Anyone who has enjoyed incredible successes often evaluates their life, accessing each decision and how it played a part in their journey to victory.

Likewise, people who have experienced deep loss scour each memory to see if they can root out the source of their pain – the actions, thoughts, words that ultimately brought them to their lowest ebb.

For me, I asked myself the question in the car park of a Home Bargains as I tried to strap two large Twirlywoos into the back of a Fiat 500.

How did I end up here? For me, the answer is simple: my children.

My children got me to this point. Because a year ago this week, my wife gave birth to our two incredible daughters and, it is more than fair to say, my life has never been the same.

First off, how the hell has it been a year already? It feels like two minutes since Lucy and I were getting ready for bed and a look of panic flashed across her face as she thought she’d soiled herself. Little did we know at the time, but that was the beginning of what was to be the arrival of our two little sproglettes. And from that precise moment, there really hasn’t been any let up.

It’s funny, but you can prepare yourself for the impending birth, run through scenarios in your mind about how it will all play out, but ultimately you never know at which point your whole world will change. It’s a bit like winning the lottery, though one that involves a prize largely made up of sleep deprivation. At some point, your life goes from not having babies, to having them and working constantly to make sure you keep them alive. Oh yeah, the stakes are high. You can never really prepare yourself for that change, because you can never predict at what point the change will come. Like IBS, it really does strike when you least expect it.

Not that I’m complaining. I look back at that moment we chucked the hospital bags in the car and set off – and it feels simultaneous like a life time ago, and like yesterday. My memory isn’t great at the best of, um, whatsits, and yet I feel I could recount most of this last year almost to the second. And for each of those seconds, I felt as though I could never be happier.

My daughters have brought be so much happiness in this first year, that I worry they won’t be able to live up to such a high standard. But that’s not on me, that’s on them. If they can’t raise the bar, well then, they’re out on their ears.

It’s funny, looking back at photographs taken this year – and there are a hell of a lot of photographs – but you can pinpoint the moments your children change. The way they look, their personalities, their movements; you can look back and see every tiny development. And yet, when they’re sat in front of you, it’s as though they’re the same two tiny babies the midwives handed us on day one. It’s like ‘Friends’. You think about that show, and to you, Ross, Rachel, Monique, Chanderlerderler, the blonde one and the chubby one never aged a day. Then you catch an old episode on Netfilx and you can clearly see just how much the sands of time have ravaged David Schwimmer’s face.

To me, Ruby and Willow are just that: Ruby and Willow. They arrived fully formed and full of personality. Yet, looking back to the beginning, you just see these two minuscule creatures blinking away with little behind the eyes. Those first smiles that warmed your heart now look like the results of chronic stomach pains. Those first gurgles that spoke to you on an almost spiritual level sound like farts in a plastic beaker.

That doesn’t make them any less special though. In fact, it’s the opposite. Each and every one of those memories it etched into my mind forever. Like bookmarks of happiness.

My daughters have become such a big part of my life, that I struggle to remember a time when they weren’t around. They’re like that mole on my thigh, they’ve been a part of me for longer than I can remember.

Actually, I take it back. They haven’t become a big part of my life, they are my life. They are literally my everything.

Sure, I still obsess over who does the voice for those Tesco Mobile adverts, and spend an inordinate amount of time going over the inane storyline in the first Transformers movie, but now everything is centred around my daughters, and how it can make them happy. Namely by figuring out the Tesco voice over (current speculation: Danny Wallace) and making sure they never have to sit through Transformers (a message in a pair of glasses? What a load of bollocks!), and as long as they’re happy, then I’m happy.

A lot has changed in this last year. My daughters have grown from two helpless babies, into two strong, independent little women. Sure, they can’t speak yet and they sure as hell can’t be bothered walking, but that doesn’t mean I’m not proud of them. I am. I can already see the young women they will become. I can see the risks they’re going to take, the jokes they’re going to make, I can see them at their happiest, and can see them at their lowest points. I’m not Confucius (shame, as I think it’s a rollover this weekend), but every day I can predict a little more of who my daughters may become.

They are two little girls who love to laugh, aren’t afraid to cry, can’t stop exploring and embrace meeting different people. I know I must have had a hand in that, at some point, but it is honestly all down to Lucy. She has changed a lot in this first year too. I have watched her blossom into an incredible mother, with confidence, belief in her own abilities, and the strength to stand up for what she believes. I wrote, last year, about how proud of her I was, for giving birth to the girls so effortlessly. I think I said I’d never been prouder, well, that’s changed. I am prouder. She is brilliant.

And finally, I’ve changed. I’m a little bit stronger (mentally, not physically, I’m not kidding myself) and at the same time, I’m a little bit weaker. I cry far more often now, but always happy tears. I’m not sure if I’m doing the right thing as a father, but my girls have given me the strength to just get on with it and trust it will work out. And so far, it has.

I never really thought, in my life, that I would end up where I am today: a married man and father to twin daughters. It’s not that I didn’t want it, just that I could never fully picture myself in this role. Life can be funny like that. Sometimes you find yourself somewhere different to where you expected.

For me, it’s in a car park, attempting to squeeze two obese children’s characters into the rear seats of a small Italian car. And I couldn’t be happier.

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New Year, New Experiences

 

The New Year is here. And with it a raft of half-formed promises and enough leftover turkey to make Bernard Matthew weep.

I’ve always loved New Years Eve. I don’t quite know why. It’s only an annual reminder that you, and the world, are gradually decaying into nothingness. Still, I love a bit of Jools Holland, so why not celebrate it?

Unlike Christmas, New Year doesn’t come with the pangs of guilt and pressure related to present buying. You can set your credit card down for a night and not worry that the expensive thing you bought doesn’t look like much, or the handcrafted gift you made will probably get chucked out with the empty Thornton’s box. You can get on with the most important part of the festive season – celebrating.

And so it is, that I looked forward to New Years Eve 2017 with a sense of hope and optimism. I mean, let’s not ignore what’s going on in the wider world. It is, by all accounts, turning to shit, but because most of the year was spent in that slightly fuzzy glow of becoming a new parent, I was able to see past the political instability, social unrest and Nazi-lovers, to appreciate what I had. So I felt that, for me, 2017 had actually been a pretty brilliant year.

At the top of the year, my wife had (still not sure how) given birth to not one, but two gorgeous girls. We had spent the remainder of the year trying to keep them in one piece, and largely managed it until a few days after Christmas when one of them fell off the couch. I felt Lucy and I were closer than we’d ever been, and what’s more, we’d managed to avoid many of the issues new parents face – colic, sleepless nights, difficult feeding. It was like our girls took one look at us, post-cervix, and decided we needed all the help we could get, so eased up on the baby habits. They are, in every way, perfect: patient, happy, unfussy and independent. We are ridiculously lucky.

With all this in mind, we never planned to do anything major for New Years, we much prefer a quieter, more intimate evening (I don’t mean swinging). So we invited a couple of friends round (I really don’t mean swinging), dug a couple of board games out and put on a spread (again, not swinging) that consisted mainly of left over cheese and stale crisps. The stage was set for an enjoyable, if uninspiring, evening. Then it came to putting the girls to bed and. All. Hell. Broke. Loose.

As I say, we’ve spent this last year being incredibly blessed with the way our girls behave. Sleeping in particular has been one success after another. The girls settled into a strong 3 hour routine right away, and within a couple of months, we were only waking once in the night for a feed. A few weeks later and they were sleeping through. We spent the rest of the year with both of our daughters going down for bed about six in the evening and not waking until seven in the morning. We were stupidly lucky buggers. How we achieved this is anybody’s guess. I’d love to say it was genetic but even with their perfect sleep habits, Lucy and I would still find ourselves trawling Netflix at 11 at night for something to drift off to, so they haven’t inherited it from us.

So it was some surprise when, on New Years Eve, they didn’t quite go down without a fuss. That’s putting it mildly, the put up the Great War of all fusses. Admittedly, with Christmas in the rear view mirror it had been a busy week for them, but even on Christmas Day they managed two hour+ naps. So their unwillingness to drift off at New Years was a bit peculiar.

Of course, this wasn’t helped by the fact that neither Lucy nor I were dressed to accept guests yet, and the house was still in a state of disarray. It was fine, the girls were going down at six and we weren’t expecting friends until half seven – enough time for me to run round and do the house while Lucy got ready and listened out for the girls.

Seven o’clock came and the girls were still awake. Happy, unfussy, but awake. Shouting mainly. They’ve taken to doing that. In some ways, I wish they’d just cry – all babies cry – but when it’s a loud and protracted shout it seems far more judgemental of your parenting skills. Can babies be sarcastic?

We tried all the usual tricks – white noise, mobile music (despite one of them being on their last legs and sounding like a dying robot forcing out an avant garde rendition of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’ on a knackered xylophone), dummies and even bringing them back into our room to finish the bottles of milk they’d had no interest in earlier.

Half seven arrived and Lucy, the house and I were just about passable – but the babies would not sleep, and the shouting slowly turned to whingeing. As they were Lucy’s friends visiting, I took the bullet and stayed upstairs with the girls. Jumping in and out of the nursery every few minutes to re-start the mobiles (why manufacturers feel 30 seconds if enough melody to send a child off to sleep, I’ll never know).

Eventually, 8 o’clock came round and Ruby began to drift. Not fully asleep, but too drowsy to feign distress. The attention fell to Willow who seemed enthused by a new sense of energy, as though she’d downed two cans of Red Bull and snorted an entire packet of sherbert Dib Dabs. The whingeing turned to crying and became much, much harder to ignore…

We’ve got pretty good at listening to babies crying and letting them self soothe. It’s a horrible process – one that adds an air of interment camp to your home – but it is important, and the girls have never been so fussy that it has become an issue. But on New Years Eve that crying was unbearable and, against my better judgment, I was in there, picking up Willow and rocking her in no time. She nestled into me and settled. Ten minutes went by, I tried to put her down and the crying started again. I picked her up and resumed the rocking motion. Twenty minutes passed, I put her down, crying. Thirty minutes, down, tears.

Throughout all this, Lucy kept bobbing upstairs concerned she wasn’t doing enough to help. But there was nothing she could do, besides bringing me that glass of amaretto and cranberry. Willow had given up playing dead and was now trying to pass her dummy through my cheek, like an infant David Blaine. I put her down, the crying resumed. And woke Ruby, who also decided to join the unhappy chorus.

Now we had two sleepy babies crying their heads off. Even Pink! would struggle to get this party started…

We’ve always tried to be respectful of other parents. We’re very aware of how lucky we’ve been this last year, and never want to appear smug that our children sleep with little fuss. But now, here we were with two screaming babies and friends downstairs listening to every sob. We were convinced that they assumed this was our lives, that we’d been lying to everyone about how well the girls went down, and now we’d been revealed for the frauds we were.

Eventually, we had no choice but to bring the girls downstairs – the first time we’d ever resorted to this. Our friends found it funny, but we couldn’t help feeling resentful towards these two little monsters who’d decided now would be the time to show us up. And in true manipulative fashion, as soon as they saw our friends, they were all smiles and laughter. The bastards.

We kept them up twenty minutes or so, tried to tire them out then gave them a bottle and put them down again. After a little crying, they settled down to sleep.

It was now 10 o’clock on New Years Eve and we hadn’t sliced a brie or nibbled a Wotsit. We did our best to explain to our friends how it was all a fluke, but their dead-eyed smiles were clear: they pitied us. And who could blame them?

Eventually we had a bit of food, the drinks began to flow and we cracked open the first board game. Before we knew it, the monitor was screeching at us. Ruby had woken – farting. Always my favourite element of parenting, a fart so violent is shakes your sleeping child awake, but now my heart sank. Lucy went up and settled her. Twenty minutes later, a gassy Willow did the same. I’ve never resented a night-time guff quite so much.

Finally we were able to resume our evening with just enough time to acknowledge that it was almost midnight. And like that, this momentous moment, this changing of the years, this annual milestone was gone with a tired sigh and a frustrated whimper.

It was at that point our neighbours let off the loudest fireworks in the history of the known world.

And the monitor once again crackled into life…

 

So for 2018 I have decided not to make any New Years Resolutions. With the girls’ newfound disdain for bedtime, that’s surely enough newness to last me all year.

Guilt Trip

Last time, I discussed our first attempt to go out without the babies. Between the crying, the panic attacks and the general feeling of having chopped off a limb and posted it to a distant relative with a Paddington-style note outlining parental responsibilities, I think it’s fair to say it went rather well.

Although, if we’re being honest, it wasn’t the first time we’d left them. The first true time was a couple of days into life as new parents. Our midwife had suggested we take a break and go to the hospital café for an hour or so. Being dutiful parents, we declined at first, but being easily guilt-tripped by others, we soon accepted against our better judgement. We went for a long walk around the grounds and settled in the coffee shop for a drink. I’m never the biggest Costa fan (too hot, bit bland) but that was a particularly uncomfortable visit. After an incredibly anxious hour, we headed back to the ward, only to discover we’d been gone a little over ten minutes. Ah, well.

Above all the emotions flying round at that time, and there were a lot – feelings more potent than a film about a Christmas puppy with an incurable wasting disease on the Hallmark Channel, in fact – the overriding sensation was one of guilt. Deep, unshakable guilt.

While that feeling is understandable in the context of abandoning your little ones, it doesn’t explain why the feeling of guilt never fully goes away. Ever, in fact.

You could be stood, looking over your little ones with puma-like reactions, ready to tend to their every need, and yet above all the joy and pride you feel, there’s that guilt again. Sitting in the corner of your mind, niggling away at you like that unopened tub of coleslaw that remains warm and untouched at a family buffet. No matter how you try and ignore that feeling, you can’t. It’s there. Always.

Why do we feel so guilty as new parents? Granted we all make mistakes, but isn’t that just part and parcel of figuring out our new role? I guess, though it’s fair to say that the stakes are demonstrably higher than if you’re… I don’t know, learning to drill a hole in a wall. Sure, once that wall plug is in there, there’s no getting it out, even if it now protrudes from your wall like a third nipple on the landing. But at least you can cover it with a picture. If you screw up while you’re parenting, it’s much harder to hang an out-of-focus holiday snap on it and call it a do-over.

If you misjudge something when it comes to your child, who knows what will happen. You could inadvertently teach them that spitting is to be applauded, and open flames are to be embraced. You could stunt their physical and/or emotional development, setting them back days, weeks or even months. The worst case scenario doesn’t even bear thinking about, but it’s a damn sight more permanent than a peeping Rawlplug.

The problem is, no matter how careful or considered you are, you’re always bound to second guess yourself. For all my wife’s many talents, notoriously she’s the sort of person who orders food at a restaurant and endures the rest of the meal in a constant state of regret. Myself, I deliberate for hours over an outfit and then spend my evening surreptitiously tugging at my shirt so it doesn’t shape itself around my substantial curves. Between us, we can’t really be trusted to settle on clear decisions. Now imagine that dilemma, every five minutes when you’re deciding whether these pink squishy bundles need another feed, or more sleep, or a nappy change. The mental gymnastics we go through to settle on an answer we, deep down, knew made sense all along is frankly embarrassing. But it’s par for the course, I suppose. You don’t make an omelette without carefully choosing then re-choosing your eggs, before smashing them onto the rim of a bowl and scooping up the overspill with your sleeve.

When you’re struggling to know how to do things, the obvious answer is to ask for help. However, it’s never quite that simple…

The frontrunners in the advice steaks are obviously: your parents. They’ve been here, they’ve done that, heck your dad’s probably got a hideous t-shirt he printed himself with his office inkjet printer for your 21st birthday. Yet, here’s the problem with speaking to parents – you feel you’ve got to take their advice. And if you don’t? Hello guilt! I was starting to miss you for a second, there.

And it’s not that parents don’t have good advice, they do. It’s more that, they can’t always see when it doesn’t apply to you. Everybody parents differently, and that’s great. But when you tap up your loved ones for advice, they’re always quick to assume their way holds the key to unlocking those stubborn feeds or disruptive nights. When really, like almost anything with parenting, it’s all down to blind luck and whether or not your child will deem it acceptable to humour you on this occasion.

That said, once the advice faucet is turned on, it’s very hard to turn it off again. Or at least turn it down to a gentle trickle. Parents – for all their many wonders – have an indescribable knack for upping the guilt. They don’t mean it of course; they’re really just trying to do their best, like all of us. But it’s odd, once that guilt takes hold, it shapes the way your mind processes information. A relatively innocuous suggestion that you should maybe try rocking your crying baby, soon sounds like an earth-shattering criticism in the style of Carmina Burana as played on a symphony of vuvuzelas. Before you know it, you’re questioning whether you’ve ever rocked your baby, or if you’ve rocked them too much (imaginary criticisms can be sarcastic, you know?). As I say, it’s never meant in this fashion, but before long your defences are up and you’re rattling off a series of reasons why it’s a good suggestion but maybe not appropriate in this setting.

Parents, more than likely, don’t care what advice you use and what you discard, and yet that cheery jingle of shame plays in your head and tells you that not only are you a bad parent, but a bad child for rejecting your own parent’s good ideas. That’s exponential guilt, and that’s quite an achievement on less than three hours sleep.

So if you can’t turn to your loved ones, who can you turn to – parenting books? Those people on This Morning who rock up for a phone-in on breastfeeding in public? Bloggers?

While any of the above may be a good suggestion, they too will hit that guilt button faster than a tiny-handed Trump in the War Room. Especially bloggers. No offence to bloggers – of which I’m admittedly a poor imitation – but their often perfect-looking lives can have a bigger effect on you than seeing them struggle. However, a lot of these bloggers live their lives through a filter, a sepia-toned veneer of competence that’s easy to create but not so easy to follow through on. Not all of them, I have to say. The conversation around parenting seem to have shifted from one of joy and lightness, to one of frank, honest discussion around its hardships. But that too can be tricky. Sometimes when all you need is a solution, you’re left with a greater sense of hopelessness. And yes, I see the irony.

The fact is, guilt will never go away. No matter what you try, or even how successful you are with your parenting, you’re always left feeling like you can and should be doing better. So what’s the solution?

I wish I had the answer. I don’t. My wife and I feel very fortunate to be in charge of two sprogs that are very little fuss from day to day. But that in itself produces guilt. We feel guilty when we talk to other parents who are finding it difficult; guilty that we should probably be doing more to get ourselves to that stage as well – as though we’re freewheeling this whole thing. And then of course, there’s feeling guilty about all these feelings of guilt we harbour. But this is too late in the post to get into double-decker disappointment.

There will always be guilt. But I think eventually, you have to learn to embrace it. I’ve learnt that there is nothing I can do or think, that won’t, at some point, make me doubt myself. All you can do is make the best choice you can in that moment: if it all works out, you’re laughing (and probably crying), if it doesn’t then thankfully you’re already brimming with guilt, so what’s a few more shovels-worth on top of that?

Guilt is like terrible flatulence. If you learn to cope with the suffocating atmosphere it creates, then eventually you’ll be able to shrug off each and every guff.

Become one with your guilt, because it’s not really a feeling of culpability. It’s the feeling of being a parent.

Babysitting: Two for One

As I write this, it is Friday morning. Tonight marks a momentous moment in our daughters’ lives. Tonight we will be handing them over to the grandparents for not one, but two nights away. Tonight we will regret everything.

It’s not the first time the girls have been babysat, but it’s the first real experience of spending a lot of time away from them, and we are not looking forward to it at all. That’s the problem with guilt – it doesn’t lessen with distance. But a few drinks might help drown it out.

As I say, we’ve had other experiences of being without the girls. The first instance happened far sooner than we’d have liked. The first week home, in fact. Just before the girls arrived, we’ve bought a new car. We weren’t trying to be lavish, it’s not like we didn’t have enough to pay out for at the time, but that’s the thing with twins. While most new parents can agree to upgrade certain essentials – their car, their house, their bank balance – if they come to have a second, third or fourth child, if you’re expecting multiples, then suddenly you find your self having to upgrade things before you’ve even had chance to… grade them.

So with that we bought a new car – one that, unsurprisingly still wasn’t quite big enough for a ready made family of four. God help us if we have another. That glove box really isn’t as big as it looks.

We’d placed an order on the car and were just waiting on a collection date from the garage when – as casual as you like – the girls rocked up. The first few days in hospital were that busy with not accidentally killing these two newborns that we didn’t even realise we hadn’t yet picked the new car up. The sudden realisation hit us the day before we were discharged.

They say that you need a car seat by law before you bring a child home from the hospital. The midwives are even supposed to check that the child is in safe and that you can fit them. Nowhere does it say anything about letting people leave in what is effectively a gun-metal grey clown car. The four of us piled into a Renault Clio with a week’s worth of clothing, toiletries, gifts, balloons, boxes of Milk Tray (I blame the hospital gift shop for not stocking a wider selection) and set off on our journey home.

I don’t know if you’ve ever steered a car with your knees, but it’s certainly not an experience I’d recommend. You wouldn’t catch Jeremy Clarkson testing our the new Alpha Romeo with his seat pulled so far forward he could use his lips to change the settings on his dashboard clock. But that is the journey we experienced. It wasn’t even that far from the hospital to our house, but the journey seemed to last forever. It’s a widely recognised experience that that first drive home with your new baby is the slowest and scariest drive you’ll ever make, but I was doing everything in my power to floor it. I was too worried about getting pulled over by the police trying to strike the Kurmasana yoga pose while driving. The only thing stopping me from going faster was the lack of blood rushing to my ankles.

Anyway, I digress. We’d got the girls back home safe and sound, but a couple of days later we had to go pick up the new car.

Ideally it would have been just one of us who needed to go get the car, but inconveniently we had purchased it under my wife’s name. It’s almost like we didn’t expect our two children to show up at 35 weeks. So she had to go. Now, I would have left her too it but, as capable a driver as Lucy is, even she’d struggle to get very far a week after pushing out one half of a pub quiz team. In the end, it was decided that I would drive her, Miss Daisy style.

As a new parent, you want your child’s first moments out in the big wide world to be filled with colour and life, all the beauty that makes this place we call earth the amazing, magnificent, breathtaking experience it is. An Arnold Clark showroom doesn’t really cut it. Sure, they’ve got a Nespresso coffee machine but would that really impress an 8 day old? It’s debatable.

So, it was decided that we would leave the babies at home. Not alone, you understand, we’re not heartless. We took the monitor with us.

Actually, my mum and my sister agreed to look after the girls. I say ‘agreed’ that sounds as though they accepted under duress. They couldn’t have been happier. We’d had to stop my mum from sneaking one of the girls out of the hospital in her handbag. And my sister had been offering her services as a babysitter before the dust had settled on Lucy’s fertilised eggs. So we knew we were in – if not safe, then acceptable – hands. Because that’s the big thing about leaving your newborn children with someone else, It doesn’t matter who they are, what your relationship with them is, or what qualifications that have, you can never fully be sure that they won’t accidentally lose or maim your child. Sorry mum.

Handing over the girls that night wasn’t easy. In much the same way I imagine a drug mule would become attached to that rubber Johnny full of crack in his anus, we weren’t quite ready to part with our twin daughters. They’d definitely grown on us.

But needs must, and if we didn’t pick up the car, we’d spend the rest of our days driving round in a car resembling a fairground dodgem – albeit one that’s ISOFIX-ready. So we left the girls and it was… odd. Like forgetting your wallet but knowing there’s more of you kicking around in there than just a Costa loyalty card, we were on edge from the minute we left until the minute we returned.

I mean, we did try and take our time with things. We thought we could be the grown ups and not let our emotions cause us to act irrationally. We tried to treat it as a bit of ‘us time’ but no matter how much we attempted to shrug it off, or play Heart FM at full blast in the hope of drowning out the sense of loss with Roxette’s ‘It Must Have Been Love’, all we could think about was our two little girls at home in their Moses baskets.

What would happen if they woke up? What if they couldn’t see us? Could they see us at this point anyway? What would they make of the weird, overly enthusiastic strangers looking after them (sorry mum)?

The worry and doubt was all consuming. We sped through the final contract taking no prisoners. Never have I seen a car sales man close a sale faster. At one point his biro kept drying up. I was all for signing the thing with my blood. Yes, that may have meant we’d bought a car on finance from Beelzebub himself, but if it would have gotten us home quicker, it was worth the risk. We’d also agreed to pick up McDonalds on our way back. We hit that drive thru like it was a stick up. Barking orders for Quarter Pounders with Cheese while simultaneous rubbing our debit card against the contactless pad with furious abandon.

We sped home (still within the National Speed Limit, in case the rozzers are reading this), desperate to see the girls. Neither of us saying a word, but telepathically knowing we were cursing ourselves for thinking this would be possible. ‘Can’t Fight The Moonlight’ by Leanne Rhymes blasting away. Alright Leanne, maybe we can’t fight the moonlight, but we can sure as hell run a red light if no one’s looking.

We made it home. Bursting through the door with more success that Jack Nicholson in The Shining, we rushed straight to girls and stood, panting, over their baskets. They’d barely moved a muscle. I think my mum had just about managed to take her coat off. What felt like it had been hours, days, weeks, was – at worst – a 40 minute trip. The girls hadn’t stirred once. My mum and sister were disappointed they’d had no actual two-on-two time with the girls.

We didn’t care. We were home.

That was us running a small errand after a week of life as a parent. And now we’re here, 10 months of baby under our belt and staring down the barrel of two nights without the girls.

‘It’ll be nice to get away for a bit’, ‘Oooh, lovely – a date night’, ‘You do right, treat yourselves’. These phrases meant nothing to us. If we were treating ourselves, we’d be staying at home with the girls, locked away from the rest of the world with only our Netflix account and our Just Eat delivery guy for company.

The girls will be fine. They’re confident, content and easy going. They’ll have the time of their lives. Us? I’m not so sure…

 

Where did all the time go?

The plan when I started this blog was to keep up to it as often as possible, to chronologically chart my experiences as a father of newborn twins. The reality of being a father of newborn twins is that there’s precious little time left to blog about it. As such, I find myself with two daughters, aged 9 months, and a blog that just about covers the first 3 weeks of their lives.

You don’t need me to tell you that it’s going to take an age of writing to catch up with them, especially at this rate of one post every 20 months or so.

It struck me that, without really even noticing, my daughters have already grown up so much in such a short space of time. And while I had the best intentions of documenting the many changes that happened, life wasn’t prepared to wait.

That is probably the hardest part of parenting – how can you chart every experience your child has, if you’re too busy enjoying them?

I think about it every time I reach for my phone. In the past my camera roll used to consist of photos of meals I was unnecessarily proud of, rude-sounding street names and screen shots of the rare times someone remotely famous retweeted me. Now, hardly an hour goes by where I’m not rushing to grab my camera in order to catch those all important moments; that first projectile vomit session, the time they woke up sucking each others faces, or those sneeze/farts that shake them to their core.

But sometimes I stop myself.

Do I really want my overriding memory of these moments to be me, face squashed up behind a Sony Xperia while one or both of my daughters is chucking up like a proper legend?

The answer is obviously no, and yet nothing scares me more than ten, twenty, thirty years passing and suddenly finding I haven’t taken enough photos or videos, and all these moments are lost in the annals of time. Still, at least I’ve got that picture of a cheeseburger from my first visit to Five Guys, and a poorly cropped image of Sabrina the Teenage Witch ‘liking’ a joke on Twitter. They’ll be worth something one day.

As I come to write more about my family, I’m struck by the fear that I’ll soon start to forget things before I’ve had the chance to make fun of them on here. I mean, it’s hardly worth being a father if you can’t write snarky blog posts about milestones in your daughters’ lives.

I look at my girls now, two happy, smiling, content little bundles, and I couldn’t be more proud. I just feel bad I haven’t documented all the various developments. Like poo. I could write a whole book about the constantly shifting textures and tones of baby shit. (If any publishers are interested, hit me up, working title: ‘Changing Faeces’.)

I don’t want to get philosophical about time. No one wants that. But how quickly it goes has become increasingly clear to me as I recently turned 30.

I honestly don’t know how that happened. I still feel like I’m about 14, and not in a cool and cocksure teenage way, but as though I’m a child that’s hanging round with adults waiting for them to get bored of me before I take myself off to bed. But now I’m 30, there’s no getting away from the fact that I’m a grown up. And if I need any more confirmation, I have a wife and two daughters to prove it. In no time at all, I’ve gone from an absent-minded fool who spends his money on Ghostbusters memorabilia to a father and husband, who admittedly still spends what money he has on Ghostbusters memorabilia.

OK, when I say memorabilia, I mean toys.

Our girls have stopped being this novel development in our lives, and have become the default. As though life found a sharpened pencil, pressed the tiny rest button at the back, and now this is it: the norm. I can just about remember what it was like before we had children, but when I think of those past moments I’m hit by a wave of ‘Crap. We’ve lost the girls’. I’m suddenly starting to empathise with David Cameron, and of all the changes fatherhood has brought about, this is the most terrifying.

All of this is to say very little indeed. If anything, this is a waste of a blog that could have been about what my daughters have been up to over the last eight months. But it is a wake up call, a reminder of why I first decided to do this: namely, a chance to make cheap jokes at my family’s expense, and possibly a content deal with Jacobs’ Crackers.

I am setting myself a challenge: to keep up to this blog once a week, at least. To write about each and all of the experience my girls have so that they can look back over these pages in 30 years time and think ‘Why didn’t the Social Services step in sooner?’ I want to remember every possible moment of my life now, and what’s more, I want them to be able to remember it too, even if it is second hand.

Life is moving fast, and it’s about time I got a little bit faster.