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Home / Parenting

Why my toddler might be part of a generation actually benefiting from the lockdown

 Richard with his boys, Ben (three) and Freddie (one) (Photo: Courtesy)

Trying to find something positive to say about parenting during lockdown is a bit like trying to get a toddler to instantly decide on the book they want at bedtime.

A challenge.

Given that I’m an ‘easily irritated’ dad at the best of times, the relentlessly negative nature of the current situation means my normal approach to writing about lockdown parenting is to rant, rave and occasionally offend my wife with my furious ‘insight’ into our family life.

HOWEVER. I’m pleased to report that I think - THINK - I might have stumbled across something that is not entirely awful about raising kids amid this madness.

I’ve got two boys: Ben, who turns four soon, and Freddie, who is 20 months. When Ben was Fred’s age, he knew me to be the Daddy that many dads were a couple of years ago - namely, the guy who was around at weekends.

 My children have been my biggest priority since the day I became a father (Photo: Courtesy)

Don’t get me wrong, my children have been my biggest priority since the day I became a father. I’d be there when Ben woke up, I’d be there for bathtime and I’d be there to read him a story, tuck him in and tell him how much daddy loved him before he went to sleep. But add that up and it could often mean I’d spend a grand total of 300 minutes with him over the course of a working week.

Sounds insane now, doesn’t it?

After a year of being full-time at home, my focus is now never off my kids. Sure, I’m often on a laptop or pretending to listen to a video call (note: if my boss is reading this, PLEASE DON’T FIRE ME), but in an average working week, I’ve now spent that 300 minutes with the kids by Monday lunchtime.

For Freddie, my youngest, that makes Daddy a very different presence. For nearly half of his entire life, I’ve just been THERE. He literally has no idea or concept of me ever being absent. And while that means I get to see a lot of the stuff I would otherwise have missed - the development in his walking, talking and personality - the more interesting thing is the difference in what HE sees of ME.

Ben grew up knowing that Mummy was a more regular presence than Daddy, but Freddie sees us both equally. He feels he can rely on us both equally. And that feeling that he depends on me as much as his mum? It’s been a gamechanger.

 Freddie, the younger of the two brothers, is growing up with a different experience of his dad… thanks to lockdown (Photo: Courtesy)

I remember getting SO frustrated when Ben was little with the way he would always want his mother when he was upset. All I wanted to do was help; I desperately wanted to be needed… but he would nearly always shun me and run for the comfort of a mummy cuddle. I’m sure loads of dads know that feeling: the one where it’s all kicking off - but because the kids want mummy and mummy is the one in control, you feel like it would make no difference to anyone if you weren’t there. It’s horrible.

With Freddie, I get that FAR less. There are occasions when he does one of the several million things that currently make him cry and decides that he actually wants ME, not his mum. And although I am now far more regularly covered in that wonderfully sticky concoction of baby tears, saliva and snot, the fact that he sees me that way - instinctively as someone who is there for him just as much as his mum - makes me genuinely happy.

Given the enormous numbers of parents with very young kids who have also gone from commuting office worker to full-time homebody, I can’t be alone in this. And it does make wonder if there are thousands of toddlers who are going to come out of this awfulness with an experience of BOTH parents that might be significantly different - and better - to what their older siblings knew; that they might all grow up with a greater sense of security and confidence in their family unit as a result.

Wow, that really did end up being pretty positive, didn’t it? Right, back to ranting about why I’d like to turn the entire Peppa Pig family into bacon sandwiches…

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