Education – where do I begin?

There are so many differing opinions in regards to how we should educate our kids. As parents – it falls on us to decide what’s best for our little whippersnappers. I grew up in Northern Ireland and went to good old public schools and Lisa did the same in Canada. We feel like we got a pretty rounded education and don’t have a feeling that we got short changed academically. However, we work at a private school here in New Zealand so we get to see it from a whole new perspective. I feel that private schools have much better resources. Yes the teachers were trained the same as the public school teachers, but the resources seem to make the difference. 

Now .. we are told so many different things on what we should do with Finn. “Put him in private school education once he reaches high school as it’s a waste of money in primary school.” “It’s all about what school you went to in Christchurch, so pick carefully.” “Put him in private school for primary school and not high school as it instills good habits and academic skills from an earlier stage before they become teens.” 

The list goes on. But to be honest – there are so many factors we have to consider. Firstly of course is the financial commitment – private school is a little more expensive than a public school, actually a lot more. But can you really put a price on excellent education for your child? Next there’s the Finn factor. Where does he want to go to school? That has to be a huge deciding factor on where we enrol him. For primary he won’t have much inkling as to where he will want to go but for high school he will feel much more strongly about where he sees himself fitting in. We absolutely love the school we work at and think that Finn would LOVE it but I guess at the end of the day it will be up to him and what he wants for his life. 

The Happiest Kids in the World book reminds me that I shouldn’t put pressure on Finn to be successful at everything he does – it’s ok to not be the best at everything. And honestly, I see first hand, some students whose parents openly put pressure on them to be the best at everything they do. All too often these are the same kids who, in their teens, suffer from mental health issues, anxiety and some even rebel against their families. I’m a rookie at this Dad business, but I feel that teaching kids for 11 years has given me plenty of knowledge in terms of what not to do as a parent. The pushy, helicopter parent is not what I want to be. Don’t get me wrong, I want Finn to live a full life with lots of rich experiences but not at the cost of his happiness or our relationship. 

I’d be keen to hear from you parents and educators out there!

James

The Terrible Twos… a year too early!?

Who hasn’t heard of the “terrible twos”!? We’ve all heard of those tantrum-fuelled horror stories. Those supermarket moments where the little rascal lays down across the shopping aisle screaming bloody murder. I’ve even witnessed scenes like this unfolding and I’ve always thought that the parents need a wake up call and ought to learn to discipline their child. However, times have changed. I am now THAT parent being glared at by the mid-20s non-parent. Yup, role reversal is legit. 
For those of you who know me, you will know that I am merely twelve months into this parenting malarkey. A few months back I was told that Finn was “advanced”. It’s the old one-liner that every parent just loves to hear. But honestly, I think he is just downright outsmarting me. He is very switched on and knows exactly how to get what he wants. 
The Sky TV remote is like Finn’s little fix. It’s his mission to successfully pilfer the remote, and proceed to change the channel. If he notices that the TV channel has changed he will start scanning the room like a hungry Eagle spotting dinner, just so he can see who has his favourite toy. I often think I’m outsmarting him and try to change the channel then attempt to hide the remote under a pillow. But I swear he has eyes on the back of his head. Within 30 seconds he has tracked down his prey!
As of late, I have noticed Finn belting out his hideous scream. It’s frightfully unbearable. It’s usually when he’s munching on a cracker and he spots a Chicken Curry on my plate. Once he realises that I am on superior fodder it’s game over. Once he gets what he wants he instantly cuts out the screaming and seamlessly breaks into a little chuckle. 
How on earth do we sort this little rascal out? Honestly – it is so funny at times. But I don’t want to be that parent who constantly appeases their child. The last thing I wish for is a gaming-addicted, self righteous teenager. And I’m told 10 years goes by in a flash. 
If you have any genius parenting discipline tips for Hurricane Finn, please feel free to share!
James 
Modern Dad

Broken glasses and pee-throughs!

Have you ever had your glasses smashed to smithereens by your child? If you have, I’m delighted. I’m clearly not the only member of this club. However, have you forked out a fiddy dollah bill to get them repaired only to get them smashed by the same little perpetrator a few weeks later? Well that is my situation.

It was Finn’s first birthday and he decided to test out the new carpet in the living room – him and I were wrestling and laughing away – and the next minute he snaps my specs in two. My dad was in stitches – he could hardly contain himself. Me, well I was in a state of shock. How on earth could a 30 year old man let this happen twice – by a toddler!? Perhaps I have an excuse … I’m Irish!

It was really quite funny and I’m currently donning my spare pair of glasses. I’m trying to figure out if I should fork out another $50 to get the glasses repaired. Finn does have a savings account, and he was recently given some moolah for his birthday. At what point do I start making the kid pay for his actions? I’m joking, I’m joking! Funny idea though. Lol. I bet if you asked my parents how many things I destroyed then there would be a list as long as your arm.

As you will know, my little soldier turned one this week. ONE! That’s a pretty huge milestone. Not only for him, but for us. I feel like there should be a certificate or something. Somehow we have navigated this first year safely. Now let me honest, there have been a few scrapes and bruises along the way. A few (hundred) sleepless nights, the odd hangry encounter with Lisa and many many laughs later we are at the first big milestone. What has been so amazing? Where do I start!?

– Finns infectious little smile. That little smile has me melting every time. In fact, he is already using it to swoon the ladies. What a cheeky little devil!
– The morning moments. You parents will know what I mean. It’s that moment when you can hear him from his cot saying “da, da, Dada”. It’s even better than Adele singing her latest lullaby. Seeing his little boat race (please get familiar with Cockney rhyming slang as I tend to use it a tad) first thing is just indescribable.

– I just love sitting back and watching my family and friends interact with Finn. He has a magical magnetism and evokes so much love and joy.

– Finn has brought about a whole new way of thinking for me. It’s a whole new perspective on life, the purpose of my life and my key reasons for being here (some of those key reasons are slightly more mundane such as bum wiping and dishwashing … but hey, they are still essential!).

– I love nothing more than the look on Lisa’s face when Finn cuddles in to her. Finn is a rather active young lad – he never sits still. But every now and then, he will spend a moment cuddling his mum. It’s the best!

The list could go on and on. But I hope you get the point … the first year of fatherhood is truly epic. It’s simply one huge privilege, a gift. So lads, please make damn sure you invest 100% in your family. Love your wife, love your kids and love your life.
Just a little added extra for you … at no extra cost.

I was dropping Finn of to daycare (his most favourite place!) at ABC Merivale last week. I was chatting to Aimee and Ari with Finn in my arms. He was oddly quiet and non-wriggly. But I thought nothing of it. A few moments later I set him down to join his buddies in the nursery … and to my surprise and many other folks amusement – Finn has pee’d through this clothes and MINE! It was the perfect start to the week. So I have one suggestion for all you mums and dads who drop your child to daycare in the mornings … keep a spare change of clothes in the car for yourself!!



Note to self.

Happy Parenting you lot, and thanks so much for helping me get my Instagram account to the 5000 follower mark.

James
IG – the_moderndad

Breast is best. Right dads?

breastThe old saying Breast is Best is still a big catchphrase today in modern parenting. If you haven’t been to an Antenatal class and you are trying to figure out if it’s worthwhile – just stop thinking and get your butt along to one! The class is a little awkward to begin with but by the third class you start to make some connections with the other new parents. We learned a little bit, but mostly nothing we didn’t already know. The BIG bonus of these classes is post-labour. We have made some great friends through it, and because we are all going through the same challenges we tend to reach out frequently.  For the lads, that means consuming beer and sharing dad jokes. Lisa and the girls all message each other on a little FB message group – it has been golden during the tough times (and yes, we aren’t perfect parents smelling of roses, every now and then there’s a splash of fertiliser).

Feeding was a key element of one of the classes. However, they asked all the Dads to go to another room and think about how we can nurture our wives (or something warm and fuzzy like that). Honestly – I wonder why we weren’t included? Seriously though. What they don’t tell you is that as a Dad – you are the first responder to those feeding emergencies. The sweet granny hosting the feeding class isn’t standing by my bed at every hour on the hour ready to help with this new art of Boob-nutrition. You are the one helping your darling wife and new little cherub learn to feed. Let’s face it – the 2 day old human has no clue and is on a steep learning curve, not to mention your wife has never breastfed so she’s no expert either. Who’s the first person they look to – yep, silly old Dad. So – you learn how to squeeze, poke, prod, massage …yes boys, Im talking about your wife’s mammaries. But all of this action isn’t in the least bit romantic or fun! It’s serious business.

Now – to be fair to the New Zealand system, you are assigned a midwife from the moment you find out you are in the family way. Well actually, it’s more of a mad dash to find a midwife as you pick one from a website – Find Your Midwife. It’s kind of like Tinder for Midwife finding lol.

Your wife (and you, if you aren’t a dead beat dad) visit this midwife throughout the pregnancy regularly. She is also there to deliver the baby and visits almost every day for weeks after the birth. The midwife is a great resource when you are stuck or lost. Our poor midwife got bombarded with a million questions from me – the over-excited newbie Dad.

So, our little Finn, was not overly keen to do things the natural way. It just wasn’t working like the books said it would. Breastfeeding was hard for Lisa – lads we just don’t get it, but it’s a mom thing and we need to just support our darlings through this. Lisa tried so hard to make it work for Finn but it was just not happening and the little guy wanted more fodder. And seriously, more and more people talk about breastfeeding just not working for them now that we openly discuss it. However the midwives are anti-formula up to the 6 week mark. It’s like we are a total failure if we feed our babies formula. Yet I talked to a friend in the USA who said the nurses made up a bottle of formula within hours of the birth as the baby wasn’t feeding properly. I think we would have saved ourselves a lot of stress and anxiety had we been given the option. We were looked down upon and told it was dangerous to feed the baby formula. That’s where this new term “donor milk” popped up. We had no idea what it was. In a nutshell – some moms produce too much milk and have an excess. So they pump the excess into sterilised bags or bottles then freeze the milk. The milk then goes to a milk bank and is distributed to those who need it.

Dad Preparing Baby BottlesNow we have to be honest and admit this was a really hard decision. We were comforted to know that the milk donors go through some very thorough screening and testing to ensure they are healthy. However, it was still an emotional rollercoaster for us to give Finn donor milk. Looking back – it was a good decision. But we also would have went to formula a lot sooner had we not been rookie parents. About 6 weeks in – we shifted to Formula. It was the best decision we made. Finn was finally getting enough milk and was much more settled. Now, is Breast really Best? I think not. The best thing is whatever is best for mum and baby. Don’t let ANYONE tell you otherwise.

Breast is best, so we were told. New Zealand has a service called “Plunket”. It’s a government funded organisation and is one of the major providers of child health services. They offer free classes for new moms to attend as well. So Lisa rocked along to one of the classes only to be looked down upon from the group as she was not breast feeding. It was absolutely terrible behaviour – and the person doing the “shunning” was the old lady from Plunket who was hosting the classes. To me, this was beyond ridiculous. How on earth could she think this behaviour is acceptable? We have a perfectly happy and healthy baby who receives nothing but love and affection. The old girl clearly had her own fair share of issues. She also received an official complaint from the protective dad and hubby (silly old me) and in turn received some free training on how to relate to other people in general. What a twit!

So I say to all new parents out there… feed your baby what you can. Ensure they get what they need and that doesn’t necessarily mean breast milk. Let the haters hate. You will do the right thing for your baby to ensure things don’t go tits up. (my dad jokes are bad, right!?)

Keep on being awesome.

James

Founder, ModernDad.guru

Your child. Online. Smart idea?

1234Ok, so we all know a friend who is obsessed with posting photos and videos of their kids on Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat and whatever other options are out there. Right!? That’s all cool, but have they really thought through the consequences?

From Day 1 (actually as soon as we found out we were preggers, and yes “we” were both pregnant as I also developed a belly and indulged in man-cravings) I have been pretty staunch on the online side of things with Finn. I am not keen on posting any photos of him online. And yes, I think he’s thee cutest little ninja that this world has ever seen, but I don’t feel that 2 billion people need to see him. None of us know the full extent of what actually goes on in the background with these social sites. Who owns the photos? Who can share it? Whose hands do your photos eventually end up in? Have you read the full terms and conditions of your FB agreement? I’d be surprised if you have.

Our children rely on us as their voice and as their protector. Why oh why do we feel the compulsion to disregard that responsibility and share them with an online community? Some people have said to me that they only have close friends and family on their Facebook profile. But how do they know their “friends” aren’t sharing these images. When a friend “likes” a photo, can their friends now see the post?

Here’s a question – what if your child turns around when they are a teenager and asks you why did you post a bazillion photos of them online? Worse, what if they have a digital stalker who has been following them online through your photos!?! Scary stuff, but it’s reality guys.

Where’s the tipping point between sharing photos for the enjoyment of your family versus outright narcissism? I often wonder how many times a parent has taken a photo to get the ‘perfect’ shot? Why does every photo have to be so calculated? Is it for more likes? Is it to make them feel good about themselves (which is often the case)?

Some of my non-parent friends often comment about how they absolutely hate the constant child photos from their friends and family. But they are too worried to say anything to their friends incase they offend them. So in the end, they just unfollow them. It’s true that we think the sun shines out of our little whippersnapper’s backsides but come on, do we really NEED to post a photo every single day? Gone are the days of creating moments and memories for your family. It seems that anything cute that happens, needs to be shared. Over and over and over. I can honestly say I don’t know more than two people who actually live through the lenses of their eyes instead of the lense on their iPhone. The two experiences are VASTLY different. Dads (and Mums!) really need to live in the moment more often. Living through your digital device so you can watch the moment back on a screen is just a false illusion. For those of us in our 30’s, 40’s and beyond – do you recall your childhood memories in the yard with your parents? Throwing a ball, splashing in the paddling pool, wrestling around, learning to bike ride? All of these special memories leave a last imprint on our minds and souls. Now picture the child of today. What is the one common factor that they will remember through ALL of these memories… Mum and/or Dad holding their phone. Yes its nice to have the photo or the video, but are you really considering the impact it’s having on those moments? I recall a Phillip Pullman book I read at school – it talked about humans having a “spirit” or “animal” being a part of their soul and it would follow them everywhere. It’s scary now that I think this sci-fi book is becoming a reality. How many humans do you see walking with their phone in their hand, looking down at their phone whilst they are driving, sitting at a bar with their friends with their heads glued to their phones?! This world is losing the ability to interact socially.

Have you done a google search on the dark world out there of the creeps that gather photos from Facebook and Instagram? It’s startling.

So my question to you is – I have started a Blog on being a Daddio, is it essential that I post a photo of Finn (my 9 month old)? As yet – there isn’t one photo of him on my FB profile or anywhere on the internet. Lisa and I have however set up a ‘secret’ Facebook group where we invite Finns family to see our cute photos and videos of him. We probably post once a week, sometimes less. But I feel more comfortable knowing that his photos aren’t out there in the public domain. Well at least Facebook tells me that they are safe in there. I wonder has Zucks got a wee disclaimer in there somewhere … Check out Facebook groups if you don’t know how to set one up.

Check out this amazing article about how parents are putting their desire for “likes” above the happiness of their child. It highlights how some parents even video their children crying when they lose a tooth, rather than consoling them. What kind of sick world are we in!?

Please share your thoughts on this topic. It’s a huge part of our current society and I would really love to know where you stand. Don’t just sit behind your selfie stick (AKA arsewand) – get your thoughts out there and take some ownership for what you post of your child.

Thanks Dads (and mums!).

James

Founder of ModernDad.guru

Embrace the Poo.

123Prior to Finn joining us (aka turning our world upside down!), I had many male friends give me advice about being a dad, and what it involved. It varied quite a bit, but for the most part the gist of the advice was that the hands-on stuff was for the mum. Now, I have to admit many of my friends are a few years older (by a few, I mean a few decades) and I had been warned about the southern man syndrome – a New Zealand term for a rough and ready, partially chauvinistic male. This doesn’t apply to all my mates … I might be friendless pretty quick if I didn’t clarify that.

Here’s a few of the classic tips I received.

  • Don’t wake in the middle of the night to assist with parent duties. Once you do it once, you are screwed. Just pretend you are sleeping.
  • Don’t consider changing a diaper/nappy. This is not a man’s job. Leave the wife to it.
  • Continue to go about your life as normal. Go to the pub when you normally would, go out with your mates as always, and generally don’t let the baby stuff up your life as you know it.
  • Don’t show your son too much affection.

Now I have to be honest, life is a little bit like Monkey see, Monkey do. I was lucky enough to have a great Dad who was hands on from the start and gave my siblings and I the love and support we needed. My dadding style is largely based on what I experienced from my own dad. But let’s remember, not everyone had the same dad experience as me. So if yours wasn’t a positive one, then you can be the person to change the tradition. I know of a family who has a history of abusive, controlling, chauvinistic males. They have been this way for generations. The guys brush off their a##hole behaviour as a genetic trait, so all of a sudden it’s acceptable. And the women seem to enable them. The son’s born into this family have a small chance to get it right for the next generation. But they will have to stand up and turn the tide. They will be the “real men” in the family. Hopefully.

If you have only one shot to be a dad, don’t you want to do it brilliantly? Who wants to be that dead beat dad that sits on his iPhone and scrolls through his Facebook feed? I took all of the advice from the males around me, filtered it and flushed most of it down the dunny (a toilet, for you North Americans). A good dad wants to be a part of their child’s life, not just pick and choose the fun bits he wants to do.

When Finn came screaming and kicking into the World, I made it my mission to cherish every single moment with him and Lisa. Here in New Zealand, your wife and baby get checked into a “recovery facility” (and no, not along with the alcoholics!) for a few days post-birth. It’s an amazing service, funded by the government. If you are here in New Zealand, do not even consider turning this down. They rolled out a lazyboy for me too so I could be there to support Lisa through the first few nights. The best part of it being that I could ask as many questions to the experts whilst we were there. One of the key things I wanted to know was how to change that first shitty nappy. You know, the black tar nappy. And yes, I took a photo and Im still not sure why, but I did. And you probably will too. But anyways, changing that very first dirty nappy is what you need to do. Don’t put it off and say you’ll do the next one. Roll up your sleeves and get involved. Your missus will feel that you are there for the long haul, through thick and thin.

Here’s a few things I wish I had been told earlier :

  • Breathe through your mouth. That stuff is seriously potent. Like flatulence 22 hours after you’ve consumed a killer Vindaloo. Only twice as deadly.
  • If it’s a boy, cover that fire hose whilst your are changing. It can go off at any point and it soaks everything, and everyone, within a two metre radius. Including iPhones …
  • Pull out the flaps. This is the single most important thing you need to know about diapers and nappies. No sh*t! Literally. If you want no runny poos down the wee ones legs, up their backs, all over your clothes and furniture, then pull out the flaps on the diaper. Easy to spot – they are little white flanges. Once you have fastened the diaper in place, pull those things out. They are life savers. Just do it. Don’t try “living and learning”. But if you do have any hilarious poonami stories or explosions please do share.

A study has shown that Dad’s who spend time with their kids have happier wives. Enough said. Apparently your chances of getting laid, double. Now I’ve perked your attention… lol.

So Dad’s, embracing the poo is so much more than just taking your turn to change the diaper. It’s about bonding with your child and investing in quality time. You may think that your child will never remember whether you changed a nappy or not, and you are probably right, but in the long run you have missed out on HOURS of bonding time. This could have an affect on your relationship with them. Changing nappies can be fun, in fact it can be hilarious. Particularly when your son decides to do a 180 degree flip whilst his bum and legs are covered in baby curry – not fun, but in retrospect absolutely hilarious.

Get involved with the Nappies lads.

 

James

Founder of ModernDad.guru