The Casual Father: New year arrives with kicks in the back

Michael Steward

Michael Steward - Credit: Archant

I’ve never been one for new year resolutions. I have endeavoured on many occasions to stop biting my finger nails, or drink a bit less alcohol. But in truth, even my best efforts have died off by the first week of February.

However, in terms of trying something new, 2016 has already seen a few fatherhood firsts. Although sampling these things has been less enjoyable than a January dryathlon ever could be.

Firstly, the wife has stopped breast feeding. Immediately I knew the consequences of such a decision and strove to prolong the inevitable.

“Do you think you should try a bit longer?” I offer to the wife, “It’s just that they do recommend six months don’t they?”

The question is met with a scathing response, and the first night for Elizabeth off the breast brings the words I had been dreading.

“You can do the 4.30am feed.”

My first foray into night feeding comes a little bit earlier than expected – at 3.30am – and I also experience what I have since referred to as the ‘Death Nudge’ from the wife for the first time.

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Just to clarify, the ‘Death Nudge’ consists of the wife’s knee or foot being placed, quite firmly, into my back, leg or buttocks depending on how I am laying.

If no movement is seen after the first nudge, they then arrive at more regular intervals and with greater venom.

Trust me, the act of feeding Elizabeth in the early hours is a damned sight more pleasurable than being awoken with the wife’s foot up my backside.

In fact, if Elizabeth would go straight back to sleep afterwards, the whole process would be quite painless.

But she doesn’t.

She has the excited, “I’m ready to play” look written all over her cheeky face, and at 4am in the morning, I really don’t want to play.

On top of new night feeding duties, the wife also finally got round me to attend a post-natal group at our local community centre, with the assurance that all dads would be attending on a working day.

“You’d better be telling the truth,” I moan, “If I’m the only dad there, I’ll look like an unemployed bum.”

After wrangling a morning off, I am joined by one other dad only, and that is Steve, who lives next-door-but-one with his wife Kayleigh.

“I thought you were all bringing your fellas?” says the wife to the other mums sheepishly.

“They’re at work,” is the reply, almost in unison.

I spend the next hour sitting with my legs crossed on a rock hard floor, around a blanket, listening to the women compare sleep progress of the little ones.

My mood is not enhanced when our neighbours drop the bombshell that their child, who is only three weeks older than Elizabeth, sleeps through the night.

When the group leader asks if we’d like to do some painting, I give the wife a look to suggest that this will be my first – and last – baby group.

So actually I have got a couple of new year resolutions – to seek more advice from the neighbours and remember to wear cricket pads to bed.

Happy new year!