Stand-up comedian Sam Avery (aka the Learner Parent) started his award-winning blog when his twin boys were born. Here, Sam shares some of the important lessons he has learnt about life after kids and the joys of fatherhood…
You know you really love someone when you can’t wait to change their nappy. I’d never changed one before. I once helped my mate Craig get into a giant pink one that we’d bought on his stag do, but I was pretty sure that didn’t count. Plus he’d not messed himself. We’d probably have been asked to leave Wetherspoon’s if that were the case. I’d always turned down every opportunity to change nappies before the boys came along. I know some dads pride themselves on never ever changing their own kids’ nappies but, fellas, if you choose to act like an out-of-touch chauvinist from the Jurassic era you’re really letting the side down. The first nappy I ever changed felt like a rite of passage. I was supervised by a very patient nurse who shouted encouragement and advice like an amateur boxing coach. What I learned from that initial dalliance is that the absolute golden rule is: Before you start a nappy change, for goodness sake make sure you’ve got all the bits you need! I can’t emphasis this enough. Nothing induces terror more than realising that the cotton wool is out of arm’s reach and you’re going to have to use your sock.
When you have kids, other parents become your lifeline to sanity. Paediatricians talk about the importance of adult-child conversion for development of the child, but what about the importance of adult-to-adult conversation to prevent total brain disintegration? Too much time with only toddlers for company will see your first adult conversation of the day grabbing the other person’s cheeks and blowing a raspberry. There’s also often an unspoken bond between fellow parents, even if you’re strangers. When the boys were about seven months old I passed a fellow twin dad in the park who was also struggling to contain his effervescent offspring. We exchanged a few words and wished each other luck. I felt like I was in Fight Club. Sometimes another parent may offer words of encouragement or advice. My advice, should you come across this yourself, is to listen to them, smile, and then feel free to discount everything they’ve said.
Lack of Sleep
Sleep has become the most valuable commodity in our house. We use it to barter with, like cigarettes in prison. When I told my wife she could go back to bed yesterday she looked happier than when I proposed. Halfway through a conversation with anyone who isn’t my wife I crumple like a papier-mâché armchair. I’m fine for the opening hellos and small talk but as soon as they ask me an important question my brain turns to mush quicker than a frog in a blender. The only question that I definitively know the answer to is, ‘Do you want a cup of coffee, Sam? Sleep is now just an old friend I’ve lost touch with. Things I have learned while the Land of Nod was closed: 1. Phase 2 of parenthood is when an episode of a kids’ show comes on and you think, “Ah, pants, I’ve seen this one.’ 2. I now time my morning routine by CBeebies theme tunes. If I’m not running the shower by the time Octonauts is starting, I’m in trouble. 3. There’s more chance of visiting Narnia than seeing the bottom of your laundry basket.
Hardest (and) Best Things About Becoming A Dad
I used to have standards. Now I have kids. I used to wonder what that aroma was – the whiff I smelled when I used to visit friends who had babies. Now I know. It’s a cocktail of nappies, baby wipes and desperation – and by six months our house reeked of it. And there was stuff everywhere. Crossing our living room made you feel like a contestant on Total Wipeout, and, infuriatingly, it was all essential stuff. I had thrown a diva strop the week prior and announced that we couldn’t continue under these conditions and we needed to eject any unnecessary items. An hour later I’d put a magazine and a mouldy banana in the bin and rearranged the cushions. I always wanted kids – but then again, I always wanted a loft conversion. Both are pretty easy to put off as they’re very expensive and tend to wreck your house. However, I’ve learned so much over the past two years – mostly about myself. Life is full of moments, but when your kids are born, especially when they’re small, those moments swarm around you. Sometimes it’s a landmark – taking their first steps or saying their first word. Other times it’s just a smile, a glance or an unexpected hug and for that one short moment the entire world makes sense. I love my kids more than anything in the world… but I’d love them more if they’d stop pooping in the bath.
Read more… A million nappies, Peppa Pig episodes and a lot less sleep later, Sam’s highly anticipated first book reveals his highs, lows and hilarious in-betweens of his experiences of first time parenthood. His honest and messy account of trying for a baby and figuring out what to do with them once they arrive will have you crying with laughter between your own nappy changes and nursey runs. Published by Seven Dials RRP HB £12.99 or eBook £6.99.
You can download a new episode of Sam’s ‘Things I Learned’ podcast every Monday on iTunes. Read Sam’s blog at samaverycomedian.co.uk