Dear Dave

Monday 7 January 2008

Happy New Year

Dear Dave,

Well, I guess that's the holidays over. I don't feel particularly rested, however. It's my own fault really - I shouldn't have stayed up late playing games and watching movies. In particular, Sarah and I really shouldn't have got sucked in by Love Actually on digital the other night. I don't think it even started until midnight and, what with all the adverts, it didn't finish until some ridiculous time in the morning.

And it's not like we hadn't seen it before.


Still, we were staying at my parents' house, meaning we knew there'd be help with the kids at breakfast time, so we just vegged out and watched it. It was kind of nostalgic watching a programme as it was broadcast rather than getting the TiVo to watch it for us, totally failing to watch it ourselves and then deleting it a month later to make room on the hard-drive. The ad breaks even gave us time to fetch more beer and munchies. The daft thing is that my parents have the film on DVD. The box was visible on the shelf behind the TV. We could have been sensible and watched the second half the next evening. Failing that, with only the tiniest amount of effort, we could have put the disc in, avoided the adverts and got to bed half an hour earlier. For some reason, though, that wouldn't have been as much fun. It was nice to not have to be sensible.

It probably does say something about the whole parenthood experience, however, when living life on the edge is staying up past your bedtime to watch the end of a romantic comedy.

I used to go to bed around eleven and get up at eight. After years of late-night nappy changes, broken sleep and whining children, I'm now at the stage of going to bed after one despite having to get up at half-past seven. I'm no longer forced to stay up because of the kids but I'm used to it and it means I get some peace and quiet to relax after the chores are done.

As I've said before, getting enough time to myself and enough sleep, given the limited supply of free time I have available, is a delicate balancing act - too little of either and craziness beckons. I've teetered towards lunacy in both directions over the years and, right now, I'm probably trying to squeeze too many hours out of the day. I dozed off in the middle of reading Marie a Bob the Builder story the other afternoon.

My New Year's resolution should be to get more sleep. It doesn't need to be much more - being actually in bed by one should be enough. I don't usually make New Year's resolutions, though. I tend to work on the theory that if something needs doing, then it should just be done. If I haven't got round to it already, then starting in the dead of winter and the middle of holiday chaos doesn't seem like a good move. To do so is simply asking for failure and guilt. Still, I suppose there are a few things that I need to have worked on by the summer:

I should probably get some more exercise, now that I'm not pushing a buggy around much. I should also be more pro-active in organising stuff for Marie to do rather than waiting for her to suggest one of our usual activities - there are things, like baking, which I used to do regularly with the boys that I hardly ever do with my girl. Partly it's down to having to fit clubs and school runs into the day but it's also partly because I'm running out of energy. Hopefully, once she's at nursery in the morning, I'll feel more invigorated for cardboard forts and pasta jewellery in the afternoon.

Maybe I'll be up for listening to Lewis more of the time, too. I suppose I should listen to him all the time but that's aiming too high. He's been talking incessantly for about four years now and, honestly, donkeys run away at the sight of him in a desperate panic to retain their hind legs. In the swing park recently, a mum asked him how old he was. He answered and then kept the conversation going by telling her about Super Mario Sunshine. She looked relieved after about twenty minutes when he started talking about 'the last level'. What she didn't realise was that he meant the last level in World One.

He was still talking an hour later.

I'll try listening more but it's not high on my list of priorities. Phasing him out on a regular basis is something of a self-preservation technique. Top of the list, however, is to not be baited by Fraser. Somehow, he's very good at pushing all my buttons. Even the simplest conversation can turn into an argument.

"What time is it?" he asks.

"Seven o'clock," I say.

"I thought it was six o'clock," he replies.

In an ideal world, I would like some confirmation that he's taken in the actual time. To me, all that's important is that the facts are straight. My instinct is to say, "Well, it's not six o'clock. It's seven o'clock," and to expect him to agree.

There is no chance of this happening. He will merely explain why he thought it was six o'clock. This, of course, will make me feel compelled to point out the flaws in his reasoning and, let's face it, there will be flaws, for the simple reason that IT IS, IN FACT, SEVEN O'CLOCK.

This will not deter him. He will continue to explain why he thought it was six o'clock.

To him, the discussion is no longer about the actual time. He doesn't want me to agree that it is six o'clock - he just wants me to agree that he thought it was six o'clock and that thinking it was six o'clock was a reasonable thing for him to have thought. Essentially, by this point, we're arguing about different things. I need to take a step back so that, when he says, "I thought it was six o'clock," I can affirm him and move on.

My response should run along the lines of, "OK." Deep breath. "Why's that?" Listen. "Fair enough." Change subject.

I must learn not to say, "But it's really seven o'clock." He knows that. He just doesn't know that I need to know that he knows that. I shouldn't expect him to. He'll have to learn to put up with the sound of me gritting my teeth for a while, though. I'm going to find it hard to establish my zen.

So: exercise, interact with Marie, listen to Lewis and not argue in circles with Fraser. It's not so much a list of resolutions, more the 'Requires Attention' section of my performance appraisal. I'll do my best, but I'm not making any promises.

Maybe I should get started by going to bed. A little more sleep would probably help...

Yours in a woman's world,


PS It's always possible that I may be pressured into making a resolution anyway in the next few days. If everyone else at parent and toddler lists theirs and then looks at me expectantly, I'll probably crumble. I'm already labelled as the anti-Santa; I don't need to be the guy who objects to New Year as well. Previous years, I've gone prepared with responses like, 'I'm going to eat more yogurt,' or, 'I'm aiming to suffer fools a little bit more gladly.' Nothing too strenuous but enough to make it sound like I'm joining in.

This year, if pressed, I'm resolving to make a self-fulfilling resolution.

Oh, hang on... Done.

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