I’m not ashamed to admit that I was terrified about becoming a Dad. First it was the famous ‘sleepless nights’ syndrome. Like most blokes I get grumpy if I don’t have my beauty sleep. I used to have visions of waking up on the last line of the metro with a lovely dribble stain on my jacket, or even dozing off in class to allow my students to cover my face in red board marker.
Having the responsibility of looking after a baby boy who can only communicate through crying was a definite worry too. My biggest concern questions were: how are you supposed to bath a slippery baby? What about getting it dressed? And how do you change a nappy without getting splashed with wee and poop?
After nearly five months of being a Dad I have to say that all those worries seem like a distant memory. Sure, the first two weeks were mental. Neither of us slept much, but the responsibility of looking after our son gave us extra energy. I soon got the hang of bathing and getting my son dressed and, as of yet, no poop has met my clothing, wee has, several times, but no poop.
It’s true what they say; your life does change dramatically. Gone are the weeks where I could write for up to 15 hours, finding time to run three times a week is impossible, romantic evenings with the wife are definitely harder to swindle, nights out on the lash with mates are a distant memory, and every now and then I get a ‘travel bug’ pang where flashes of my adventures whizz through my mind and my heart cries out to jump on a long distance train journey across Russia. But I wouldn’t change a thing, he says.
The reality of being an expat Dad has set in and I have to say it’s been one of the proudest and emotional moments in my life. The whole concept is quite bizarre. One minute I was on a plane set for Seville to find a job teaching English, and the next I have a lovely Spanish wife and little boy bouncing up and down in a swingy chair smiling and making funny noises (my wife doesn’t fit in the bouncy chair by the way).
There’s an expression they use over in Spain which I fully appreciate now. They say that when you see your baby each day ‘se te cae la baba’ which means you smile so much that you start dribbling (it sounds better in Spanish). That happens to me several times a day now. In the morning when he wakes up cooing, when he grins at me when I make funny baby noises, and when he smiles when I get in from work.
As an English teacher I’m fully aware that my son should grow up to be bilingual. However, I worry he won’t pick up English perfectly. I hope I don’t turn into one of those annoying teacher Dads who constantly tests their children. I’m already reading to my son in English, always have English music and cartoons on in the background, and have watched several Premiership games with him (he has a habit of pooing just before Spurs score). Next week we’re going to start learning the phonetic chart. Okay, I’m joking, but I feel responsible that he grasps both languages well. Any tips from fellow expats would be great!
It’s funny, but even though I try to speak to him in English, every now and then Spanish phrases slip out. ‘Pero, que te pasa?’ ‘What’s the matter?’ ‘Que haces?’ ‘What are you doing?’ ‘Donde esta mi niño?’ ‘Where’s my little boy?’ and ‘Has hecho caca?’ ‘Have you done a poo?’ all seem to come out in Spanish. I’m not sure why, I think it may be because I have a dog and usually speak to her in that sort of baby talk way. Does that happen to you?
The fact that I don’t get in until about 10.30 p.m. every night doesn’t help, but we rarely get our son down to sleep until about 1 or 2 a.m.. Compared to babies back home, who I’m sure are wrapped up and dozing by about 9 p.m., it’s quite bizarre that the last bottle isn’t until midnight. I’m not sure how long we’ll be able to keep this up, and when we pop back to England it’s going to be strange adjusting to the different times. I suppose it’s just different. I remember when I first arrived I used to have my breakfast at 7 a.m., lunch at 12 p.m. and then my dinner at about 4 p.m. because I didn’t want to eat late. Weirdo.
So, life has changed, for the better. It’s great being a dad and I feel less grown up than I did a few months ago.I It’s funny to think I spent a few years panicking about how being a father would affect my life, but it’s all positive and if you’re thinking about it then just go for it. It’s also lucky that I have such an amazing wife too. I know her life has changed a lot as well (obviously more than mine). Maybe I’ll get her to write the next blog. It would be great to hear from other dads and mums, expats or not, and share your thoughts. Right, time to go, someone is crying…