A letter to myself, from a father of three to a father of none

Simon over at Changing Dad put up this fantastic post yesterday in which he wrote a letter to himself before he became a father. I thought I’d try the same. Here goes …

Dear Tim (circa March 2007),

You may not recognise me, with the bags under my eyes and the expanding streaks of salt in my pepper-black hair – but I’m you. A few years older, several kilos heavier and none the wiser, but that’s what years of sleep deprivation does to a man. (Believe me, waterboarding feels like a lovely hot shower by comparison.)

I remember you, though. Mustard-keen to start a family. Holidaying all over the world because that’s what you do pre-kids. The California road trip. The Great Wall of China. Standing on top of a volcano and at the face of a glacier in New Zealand. Watching musicals on Broadway and football in Barcelona, Rome, Madrid, Florence and, er, Wigan. Not realising that the future holds in store Butlins, Eurocamp, farm cottages on the Isle of Wight and the unholy horrors of a thousand soft-play places.

It's a far cry from the Louvre ...

It’s a far cry from the Louvre …

I remember you moving into our current house too. Seven years ago this weekend, it was. Back then it felt palatial. More toilets than occupants. Wide, empty spaces ready to be filled with the wonders of V-Tech toys and Brio train sets. Now it feels like someone put the entire house in the hot wash and it shrank while you weren’t looking.

Little did you know then that – *spoilers* – Heather was already pregnant with Isaac, who would be born in a pool in the dining room. And that two years later you yourself would be delivering Toby on the living room floor. And two years after that you would be racing down the M4 at 120mph marginally above the national speed limit to get to the hospital for Kara’s birth with just a few minutes to spare.

Here’s another spoiler: you did alright. Not perfect, but then parenthood isn’t about perfection – it’s about survival. (Make sure you watch a sitcom called Outnumbered. It will be starting soon. You’ll learn a lot from it. Take notes.)

There’s really no point me telling you too much else because, quite frankly, you wouldn’t believe it. But I’m going to anyway. Here are a few things I wish I’d known when I was you.

1. Whatever people tell you to expect, whatever tips they share with you from their own experiences with their children, forget it. Your children will be different and unique and infuriatingly difficult to work out and they absolutely will not conform to ‘the rules’ (especially Gina bloody Ford’s rules). Just when you think you’ve got them sussed, they will change just to keep you on your toes. Get used to making it up as you go along. Improvisation is the name of the game.

2. You’re used to a luxurious 7-8 hours’ sleep per night and a lie-in with the papers at weekends. You’ll get by just fine on less than six hours’ sleep – and broken sleep on most nights at that. Big tip: never, ever, under any circumstances, complain to your breast-feeding wife about how tired you are. Not if you still value your life, that is.

3. Also, get a bigger bed, preferably one which comfortably accommodates five. Either that, or fix a lock to your bedroom door. (I know what you’re like with DIY jobs – just buy the bed.)

4. Never walk across the floor in the dark in bare feet. There’s always a stray piece of Lego waiting to get you.

5. Whatever crimes your kids commit – and they will be both many and heinous, such as dropping your iPad down the stairs or deleting half the contents of your Sky+ box – all is forgiven the moment they smile at you. It’s like the sirens’ call: no parent can resist it.

6. You can’t always be Hero Dad. Enjoy those moments where they look up to you as the Best Dad Ever, because there will be times when you also have to be the villain and say no to them. No matter how much they cry. Or refuse to go to sleep. Or say they don’t love you any more. Often all three at once.

7. Accept that 1-6 above will inevitably leave both of you perpetually exhausted and grumpy with each other. Stick with it – you’ll come out of it stronger. Or dead. One or the other. You’ll both be so tired (see 2) it’s hard to tell the difference anyway.

8. You probably haven’t heard of it yet, but there’s this brilliant thing that’s just been invented that will remind you that it’s not just you that keeps messing up, that other dads are in the same boat and that life is always worth laughing at – all in doses of 140 characters or fewer. It’s like having your own personal therapist on your phone. Trust me. You’ll grow to love Twitter like the friends you no longer have time to see.

There were about 905 other things I was going to tell you, but I’ve probably scared you enough already. Oi, come back. I’ve got one more very important thing to say to you.

Why it's all worthwhile

Why it’s all worthwhile

When I started writing this letter I thought I’d be jealous of you. That I would envy the life I used to have – the life you currently have. And yet I look at my three kids, and the reality is I’m not jealous at all. I love being a dad, and you will too.

I’ll see you in a few years.

Best of luck (even though I know you’re not going to need it),

Tim

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

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25 thoughts on “A letter to myself, from a father of three to a father of none

  1. This is great Tim, very much captures what it means to be a parent. As a follow up, I think you should write one to your future self – it would be an interesting contrast; we can write backwards in time with knowledge, but forward in a more inquisitive way.

  2. Great post. Very amusing. We love Outnumbered, in fact we watched the Sparticus episode tonight which was really funny….oh and I also trod on a piece of lego tonight which bloody hurt ;-)

    • Thanks for bringing the idea to my attention. I’ll be taking Vanessa’s suggestion above and writing to my future self at some point in the not too distant future …

  3. I don’t think “young Tim” would believe his eyes if he read this – nor should he. Parenthood is unbelievable – in all senses. Great post.

    • Thanks Jess, although it’s been a while since I’ve been ‘young Tim’! Parenthood is so rarely anything like what we expected it to be, isn’t it? Which certainly stops it from becoming boring!

  4. Pingback: A letter to myself, from a father of three to a father of none | Love All Dads – A Blog to Showcase Dad Blogs

  5. Great post. Popping over from Single Mother Ahoy blog hop. Kids bring their pluses and positive but mostly pluses. Our lives were different before them but with them brings much happiness and a new chapter in our lives to enjoy and treasure

  6. I was an avid traveller before I became a mum too and I’ve only just realised that I don’t really care any more! I am perfectly happy being wherever my little family is, however un-exotic that is!

    • I agree. We’re doing more local and short-haul stuff these days, which is great as really the priority is for the kids to have fun. As they get a bit older I’d like to do some more ambitious stuff to expand their horizons, but the days of us just booking a few days off and flying somewhere random at short notice are now long gone! Plus it’s a bit more expensive travelling as a family of five than it used to be when there was just two of us …

  7. What a fantastic idea for a post! So interesting to look back on what life was like then isn’t it? So care free. Did we make the most of it? No, not at all! I actually feel like an entirely different person. That old life is definitely not one that I want back. Love post.

    • Thanks Suzanne, that means a lot. I can only echo your sentiments. I don’t think any of us are ever quite prepared for how different life as a family will be – and, despite having enjoyed the freedom of life pre-kids, how little many of us miss that phase of our lives.

    • Thanks Vicki. It’s a bit of a cliche, I know, but nothing really prepares you for all the ups and the (few) downs of parenthood. I wouldn’t go back either.

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