Friday, January 26, 2007

Becoming a Dad is the most sensational, life-changing thing most of us will ever do.

In a spluttering, wailing instant your life is transformed forever. Important priorities suddenly and brutally shift from wondering what topping to have on your takeaway pizza and the Saturday afternoon football scores to contemplating whether there are enough nappies in the house to see you through the night or if your MP3 player represents a serious choking hazard.

Nobody ever said being a Dad is easy, but then that’s the problem. Nobody said very much at all. There’s no instruction manual, no step-by-step guide to building the perfect father. You’ve pretty much got to make it up as you go along, discovering what bits fit, and what bits don’t.

That’s where this blog might help you.

Here’s a place you can come and share your own stories, experiences and thoughts about bringing up children. You can be as open and honest as you like (I have it on good authority none of your wives or partners know this blog exists).

If you think becoming a father has made you a better man, then tell us about it. If you catch yourself starting to talk to everyone as though they are a one-year-old, then share it with us.

If you walk around in a sleep-deprived haze barely able to remember your child’s name then we need to know.

Resentful over the fact that you can’t take a leak without leaving the toilet door open? We’re here to commiserate.

You see, you're not alone. These things are happening to millions of Dads all over the world right now.

Like me for example. My name’s Darren Packman, I live in northern Sweden (we’ll get on to that later) and I’ve got two small children of my own – Tom, aged six and Elli, aged four. I’ve also got a wife, Sara, who for some strange reason doesn’t want her age mentioned.

I’ll be posting regular articles about fatherhood over the coming months – so please send in your comments so this blog can grow into a useful resource for other Dads.

If you’ve got an article of your own you’d like me to post, then please send it to me at darren@marmalade.se and I’ll do my best to include in on this blog.

They say fatherhood’s the best job in the world. Looks like we’ve got some work to do!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

You'd have thought I'd learnt my lesson by now...........................

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Sick of English

Varecilla-Zoster. Have you ever heard of it?

Well in plain English it’s called Chicken Pox, and my son Tom’s got it. He looks like a bottle of tomato ketchup has just exploded all over him and his little sister keeps running after him with a pen trying to join up all the dots.

While reading up on this virus I’ve just discovered the following bit of cheerful news on netdoctoruk – “if exposed to an infected family member, about 80% to 90% of those in a household who haven't had chickenpox will get it”.

Therefore the odds my daughter Elli will avoid catching this highly contagious form of herpes virus are about as slim as the Algerian downhill skier Christelle Laura Douibi’s chances of a podium finish at this year’s Winter Olympics.

Incidently, have you ever wondered why Chicken Pox got its name? Thankfully it has nothing to do with the H5N1 bird flu virus, but it also apparently has nothing to do with chickens either. It is believed the name derived from the rather odd observation that the red spots look like chickpeas on the skin.

This is not something that immediately springs to my mind when I look at my son.

In fact they look far more like small water-filled boils. Which is why the Swedish term for Chicken Pox – Vattkoppor (water boils) - is considerably more descriptively accurate.

Indeed Swedes don’t muck about when it comes to describing medical conditions. They tell it like it is, rather than us English, who prefer to give things rather more complicated and convoluted titles.

Take urinvägsinfektion (urinal ‘way’ infection) for example. We call that Cystitus, which is more reminiscent of a Roman Emperor than an excruciatingly painful bladder complaint.

What about the remarkably straight forward Swedish lunginflammation (lung inflammation), known in English as the impossible-to-spell pneumonia.

Can anyone guess what hjärnblödning (brain bleeding) describes. Why yes, it’s a stroke – an English word that makes this sometimes fatal medical condition sound almost rather pleasant.

It all goes to prove you feel much better if you’re sick in Swedish. At least you know what’s wrong with you.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Trading Teeth

The tooth fairy is due to pay her first visit to our house any day now, which raises a bit of a dilemma in our multicultural household.

Firstly, is it the tooth fairy or the Swedish 'tandfe' who’s responsible for paying out when our six-year-old Tom’s first tooth finally falls out?

More importantly, what currency is she (or is it a he?) willing to accept?

Growing up in Britain I used to get 50p every time I put a tooth under my pillow. Taking inflation into account, that’s the equivalent of £3.39 in today’s money. I doubt if the tooth fairy could squeeze all that change under Tom’s pillow without waking him up.

When you consider he’s going to lose all 20 of his milk teeth, that’s a whopping £67.80 worth of enamel he’s got to trade. My son’s got more gold in his mouth that a South Side rapper.

In Sweden it’s more common to leave your child's tooth in a glass of water next to the bed. Some time during the night it mystically transforms into guldpeng (a gold coloured 10 SEK coin) – but this works out at a miserly 74p. A rather poor return for all that discomfort, don’t you think?

I wonder if the Tooth fairy takes Euros?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Children of the Night

Boris Karloff would have loved my kids.

They just don’t get tired. They’re relentless, like a pair of super-charged road-runners, both unwilling to submit to sleep every night, and once they finally do drift off, seemingly incapable of staying that way for very long.

It matters little that they play outside at dagis (nursery) all day long, that we only ever let them watch one hour of TV a day and that we make a supreme effort to try to expel their abundance of energy through regular ice-skating, in-door floor ball and swimming sessions.

They still wake up in the middle of the night.

Take yesterday for example. After a full day at dagis, including a morning spent skating and the afternoon playing outside, the wife and I took them to a local school gym hall in the evening along with a group of other neighbourhood parents for an hour and a half of controlled chaos, swinging on ropes, hanging from hoops and forward rolls.

The kids really enjoyed themselves too.

Come 7.30pm, we followed the same routine of pyjamas, välling, teeth and bed we have done since the day they were born. Elli capitulated quite quickly, but Tom, who seemed to sense his tag partner had retired early, kept going for the team until 9pm.

On the face of it – not a bad result. Until 2am that is, when Tom made his familiar grunting sound that means “wake up, get your arse into my bedroom and give me some attention so that I can fall straight back to sleep leaving you wide awake so you can worry about tax bills and watch re-runs of Buffy the Vampire Slayer”.

At 5.47am (after Tom had woken me for a second time) I passed the minutes until the morning alarm went off figuring out how much sleep I’ve missed out on since my children were born.

Calculating an average of 30 minutes of lost sleep per night over six years (and this borders on the conservative) I figure I’m owed 1,095 hours of shut-eye.

That’s like going to bed tonight and not waking up until Easter Sunday. Oh what a tempting thought that is….

But it’s not just lost sleep that’s the problem, it’s all that mumbling and stumbling around the next day feeling like someone’s thrown cat litter into your eyes.

Worse still is the undercurrent of irritability you carry round with you, turning you into a ticking time bomb liable to explode at any second at some poor person with the least provocation.

It’s another 5am theory of mine that many of the global conflicts today are caused by political leaders with children. The world would be a much nicer place if we could all just have a good night’s sleep.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Top ten Telltale Signs Your Wife or Partner is Pregnant (before she drops the bomb)

1. She starts taking an unhealthy interest in the names of all your nearest relatives.

2. She becomes very picky about what she eats, and introduces a new word into your relationship – listeria.

3. She can be amazingly affectionate, and just when you’ve cuddled up and start hoping for some tender loving, she steams into you for no apparent reason. Kind of like a cross between your mother-in-law and a female praying mantis just before she bites her mate’s head off.

4. She finds it increasingly difficult to brush her teeth in the morning without sounding like a cat coughing up a fur ball.

5. She’s reduced to tears every time a child/puppy/child with puppy appears on television.

6. Hello Boys! Her breasts (OK, this happens a little later on, but boy is it worth the wait!) magically and non-surgically transform into thr’penny bits* that would seriously give Eva Herzigova a run for her money. Problem is you’re not allowed to touch them because they’re too sensitive.

7. She suggests in a suspiciously off-hand way that perhaps it’s time to think about redecorating the spare bedroom.

8. She abstains from drinking (because she says she’s on antibiotics for a ‘women’ thingy) and starts offering to drive you back from the pub.

9. You discover a jar of folic acid in the medicine cabinet. When questioned about it, she responds it’s good for the skin/joints/piles – in fact everything except reducing the risk of serious birth defects. Strangely, she never mentions that.

10. This may seem obvious with hindsight, but her stomach looks bloated, exactly the way yours does when you’re all alone in front of a mirror and stop sucking your gut in and actually relax.

That’s my top ten. Are there any other Dads with telltale signs of their own?

*Thr’penny bits – old English rhyming slang referring to Threepenny bits, which were old English coins. Useful because they rhyme with tits.