The Happiest Kids in the World

We all want our kids to be happy, right? Generally we always reflect back to those fond memories – the fun-filled ones with siblings, parents and grandparents. But is it just those fun family times that shape a child’s happiness?

The new book from Penquin publishing “The Happiest Kids in the World” has opened my mind to a whole new side of parenting. I’ll admit, I haven’t finished the book yet. For good reason – 1) I’m a parent so I’m rather busy from time to time and 2) I’m taking to time to process the amazing ideas presented in the book. 

The book focuses on two mums who have moved to the Netherlands. They are married to Dutch men and the idea of bringing up children in this beautiful country is somewhat different to that in other Western cultures. 

So far I have gathered that Dutch children are encouraged to be incredibly independent from a young age. They are permitted to go to the park for hours, unsupervised. They seem to get into sleep routines much quicker than their American counterparts. Schooling is not a deal breaker. People don’t push their kids to get the best grades, instead they encourage them to be good enough. They don’t make their kids start reading and writing until they are good and ready – often that can be at 6 or 7 years old. But … The Netherlands has some of the most intelligent adults, it creates some of the most incredible technologies AND they are ranked the happiest kids in the World.

If you are a parent and you aren’t now rushing out to buy this book … you’re an idiot. It was the best $30 I’ve spent this month. I’m certainly not the best parent in the world – but if I can do a few little things to help make Finn happier in his childhood then I will damn sure do it. I’ll keep you posted as I discover more awesomeness in the book. 

James 

P.S. Thanks to Rina Mae Acosta and Michele Hutchison for co-authoring the book. You guys rock.

Parenting, Navy Seals and the Village…

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They say it takes a village …

We all know the saying. “It takes a village to raise a child”. Now honestly, I’ve often rolled my eyes when I hear that, thinking it’s some kind of hippy one-liner.  But more recently I’ve experienced first hand just how vital it is to have help from others.

Lisa and I are in somewhat of a unique position. Lisa is from Canada, I’m from Ireland and we live in New Zealand. We have no family here whatsoever, and yes that can sometimes be a good thing if there’s some family drama going down, which means we either tough it out in isolation or we build strong bonds with close friends.

As a parent, you want to prove to yourself, your partner and everyone else around you, that you are indestructible and independent. You don’t want to show any signs of weakness, tiredness or emotion. But in reality, you will implode if you take this approach. We are all human, and we all have breaking points. We need rest, we need alone time and more often than not we need a glass of vino. Don’t feel bad, you are part of a pretty huge club.

Finn had a big night last night. You know what I’m talking about. Coughing every few minutes, awake more than he was asleep and throwing up anytime you give him milk. These are those character building moments they tell you about. And I hope to Jesus (Mary and Joseph!) there is some positive outcome – because I’m not sure how much “character” was built for me last night. Today I feel like a mere shadow of my previous self. Sleep deprived, grumpy and lacking my usual redbull-esque energy levels.

And of course Murphy’s Law is one shit of a thing. Ironically, today is St Patrick’s Day. It feels like the Saint thinks it’s April Fools day – maybe he started on the sauce a few weeks too early. Today also happens to be the start of my work’s centenary celebration. (And when I say celebration, please don’t confuse that with a day off “work” and enjoying nibbles and bubbles – oh no, this is one of our busiest and most important days of the year, or should I say century!!). And here’s me sitting at the doctor’s clinic with Finn. Not ideal. But that’s just how the cookie crumbled today. Thankfully I have some pretty awesome co-workers to pick up the slack.

I sometimes think about the Navy Seals. They are put through such an intense training program, often where many of them just break. Well, I think parenthood has its “navy seal” moments. You non-parents probably think I’m being a muppet. But I shit you not, this daddy-business is serious stuff. Let’s compare notes with Americas finest.

  1. The Seals run two marathons in a day. Us parents run only one in a day, but with an 11kg babyweight, a jam-packed diaper bag, taking a phone call in one ear and getting the other ear yanked by a screaming ninja.
  2. The Seals are forced to live on a diet of nettles and kale. Us parents have to power through with only half a wine-biscuit and two spoonfuls of baby porridge.
  3. The Seals have to lay under a bush for hours at a time, no pooing and no eating. That’s just child’s play compared to us daddy’s and mummy’s! We sit motionless on the couch with our little ton-weight cherub in our arms fast asleep. We dare not breathe too heavy, cough, sleep, talk or move for fear of the sleeping beauty waking!!

In conclusion – the Seals aren’t a patch on the parents of the World. (No disrespect to the Seals as I think you are bloody amazing). When you non-parents are enjoying your extra hour in bed, your quiet stroll in the park or your uninterrupted episode of Catching up with Kardashians, please spare a thought for all of the parents out there bravely going to war each day.

Now don’t get me wrong – being a Dad is my most favourite thing in the world. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t trying times.

Uncle Jason and Aunty Donna are those people in our lives that stop the wheels from falling off. They have been absolute legends. They aren’t blood-relatives, but man oh man you wouldn’t know it. They have taken Finn in like one of their own. They nurture and support Lisa and I like we are their children. They are two extremely loving people – two of earths finest humans. They do it all from pure love and they have no clue just how much of a difference they make to our lives. They are living examples to me of why it does takes a village to raise a child. Without them – the wheels would well and truly have fallen off the old wagon.

For those parents that are out there and don’t have family support, fret not. Let the village do it’s thing.

James

Founder of Modern Dad.

A dad’s perspective. Is it right or wrong?

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Daycare. Right or Wrong?

Day 1 at daycare. That dreaded moment when you have to drop your little ninja and rip off the band aid, leaving him there and closing the door behind … for a few hours anyways.

Lisa and I are pretty “busy” people, well we certainly don’t get bored. We both work, run an online business, partake in hobbies, and once in a blue moon we get to hang out with each other. And to be honest, we both enjoy going to work. So when Lisa’s maternity leave (she got an amazing 18 weeks, but can take up to a year not fully paid) was coming to an end I wondered whether she might be keen to stay off longer. But she knew that the best thing for Finn, and for her, was to go back to work. She loves the interaction with her co-workers and the students at school, plus she knew the experience of daycare would be great for Finn.

So we started searching around Christchurch for the perfect place for our little legend.  We had no clue what we were even searching for. We checked out a handful of early childhood centres and they were all somewhat different. But our number one factor, was gut instinct. We knew from the moment we walked into a place whether it had a good feel or not. The other factor was location – being close to our work (500m) means we can pop across pretty quickly if required. And living in an earthquake-prone city this can be pretty handy. A few friends really quizzed us on our final choice. They wanted to know why we had went with that option, instead of another, or why we didn’t like the one that their kids went to. But to be honest, we went with the place that felt right to us. Who cares what your friends have to say about it? At the end of the day, do you have your steak cooked the same way they do just because they think you should?! Hell no! (Sorry vegans).

Finn started ABC Merivale at 5 months, and it has been seriously amazing. We do not regret one thing whatsoever. In fact, we feel it has boosted his development so so much. The staff are 100% invested in Finn, and in us. They are here to support us, and they go the extra mile. The very first day was so hard. I remember feeling like bursting into tears as I walked to work (yes, Im a bloke and I still have emotions). It felt like I had deserted him. And yes … I rang several times on the first day to see how he was settling. It appeared that he was settling much quicker than I was lol.   I suggest you take your baby in several times a few weeks before their first day. You can stay with them and help them (and you!) settle. The great thing about starting your baby under 6 months is that they aren’t overly-attached to you, so when you leave they aren’t crying! Well Finn wasn’t anyways. He just loved being surrounded by other kids, loving staff and a stimulating environment.

We filled out a form or three when we enrolled Finn. The one thing I recall being asked was “What would you like your child to learn”?. And that is one bloody good question to ask a rookie Dad about his 5 month old son. Lisa and I thought about it, we were tempted to write “Mandarin, Sign Language and the Violin” … but we were just new to the place and didn’t know if people would get my Irish humour. In all seriousness though, the most important thing for us was that we wanted him to learn to share with others, be kind and to be disciplined. If Finn can have these traits instilled at home and at daycare then we feel that he is going to have a pretty solid start to his life. And to our delight, a month ago Finn decided he would take a nibble of his biscuit and then proceed to share it with us. It was soggy, covered in baby drool and not very appetising but it was simply epic. He’s learning to share, and loves it!

For those of you wondering if you should get your child into daycare, just give it a crack. If it isn’t for you, then you can un-enrol your child. But I really feel there are just so many benefits. Yes your child will pick up a few coughs and colds (Finn got one pretty bad) but is that a bad thing? The only way to build up their little immune system is to catch the odd bug and learn to fight it. What’s the use in wrapping them in cotton wool? Eventually they will come into contact with other human beings … won’t they!? Here’s hoping!

Maybe mention also that putting him in day care has helped with separation anxiety, Finn still needs us but isn’t 100% reliant on us, he has learned to trust other people, socializes easily with other babies and adults.

We feel that ABC Merivale really works well for us. They have a great structure, but are also open and flexible in trying to suit each child’s needs and requirements. They are most definitely a part of our family and we are so grateful for what they do for Finn.

A few things I hear from some friends about avoiding day care are :

– It’s too expensive. – Now, of course there is a cost but when you weigh it up, it’s amazing value for what you get. Some parents say that a whole salary goes towards paying for daycare. But I think that’s exactly true for most cases. If you are in a position to work part time or shorter days then it could actually work out brilliantly. I think there is a lot to be said about mental health for mums, getting back to work can actually be a great thing!

– It’s bad for the baby as they can’t breastfeed if they are at daycare. – But the argument here could be that the milk could be pumped and sent in each day, or frozen in batches at daycare.

– It will take away from the mother/child bonding. – This is a pretty personal one and everyone of course is different. But I can’t see too much disadvantage to your child being at day care, maybe even just a few hours each day, so that they can learn to bond with others too – and to reduce any potential separation anxiety.

So if you are feeling guilty for looking at daycare as an option, don’t. If it’s good for you, it’s good for your child.

James

Founder of ModernDad

You the Daddy!

12I have thought about Dad-blogging for the last 9 months… but I just haven’t managed to take the step. Well, I figured it was time to man-up and get it out there. Actually, the wife gave me a swift kick up the proverbial to get my ass in gear. My son Finn is almost 9 months old and is keeping me on my toes! My wife Lisa is an amazing mum and has so many great resources online that cover everything about being a new mum. Forums, FB groups, FB chat groups, blogs, Vlogs. And the list goes on. It makes us Dad’s look useless, when I started looking at the same resources for Dads, I was utterly disappointed. There are a few options out there – but they are few and far between. And to be honest, I’d rather watch paint dry than read the majority of boring blogs.

Today’s world is so different than it was a few decades ago. The role of “dad” has also evolved and the expectations placed on Dads is ever-changing. I want to do my bit to share my dad-experience with any new dads by blogging, in the hope that I can establish a fun and engaging online community for Dads to unite, share, impart and most of all have fun. And I have to be honest, I stuff up often – so bear with me. I’m Irish too – so I’m not sure if that means I have another slight disadvantage lol.

I never imagined just how amazing it was going to feel to become a Dad. It’s seriously an awesome experience. That very first moment that I met my son was simply divine. My world changed forever, and no one could ever have prepared me for that. Now I have to be honest, it’s not all plain sailing. There are tough times, tired times, shitty times (literally!) and everything in between. But all of the trying times are far outweighed by the joyful experiences. Watching my baby grow into a little character is hilarious and exhilarating. And I am learning every single day! ModernDad.guru is my way of doing my little bit for those dads out there who care to go the extra mile for their baby and their partner. Otherwise, for those men who actually give a damn.

 

Please help me, help other dads, by sharing your experiences and getting other dads to join the FB group and subscribe to the blog. Being a dad is simply thee most important role a man has in his life. You get one shot. Make it count.

James

Founder of ModernDad.guru