I hung up. I’d have to go in. Work had called and something urgent had come up. The magic sponge of restarting the PC obviously hadn’t worked…
I had taken a ‘day off’ to mind Thing 1 who was then only 6 months old. My wife was away with the girls (hence the day off), my Mum was at golf which only left my newly retired Dad. I phoned him. He was in Lidl filling his trolley with sh*** that he didn’t need (the flippers and riding gear are still hanging up in the shed).
These stores are a daytime Mecca for retirees; You walk in aimless, walk out feeling like MacGyver.
Result, Dad could be over in 30 mins. I fed Thing 1, quickly got changed and bang on schedule the doorbell rang. “You’re a lifesaver”, I said as I opened the door to be presented with newly purchased wellies for a child who wouldn’t learn to walk for another 8 months. Thing 1 grew into them two years later.
I had taken a ‘day off’ to mind Thing 1 who was then only 6 months old.
I’ll be honest, my Dad wouldn’t have been my first choice to mind Thing 1. Not that he’s incapable – quite the opposite as it turns out now – but he’s old school. Like many men of his generation, he was the breadwinner, the worker, not the stay-at-homer.
He provided for the family; brought us on trips, played with all of us, cheered from the sidelines, showed us how to do things, make things, mend things etc. But a homemaker and babysitter he was not.
I told him that I’d only be a couple of hours and I showed him where everything was and suggested that he take Thing 1 for a walk in the buggy as he’d most likely ‘conk’ out after just being fed. As I looked at my Dad I sensed the trepidation. He’d always been fine holding the baby and playing with him but minding a child on your own, especially one that young is a daunting enough task for anyone. “It’ll be grand” (I tend to say this a lot). His biggest fear was the nappy change. I’ll be honest it’s probably still my biggest fear. Not necessarily changing it but the ‘Kinder Surprise’ element of it…never knowing exactly what you might find inside.
Dad had never changed one. “It’ll be grand” I said. “I’ve just changed him so he should be good, but if not here’s how to do it”. I demonstrated quickly and bailed.
I left it an hour and phoned him. They were back from their walk but there was panic in his voice. Thing 1 was crying in the background, Dad was talking to Mum on Skype via my laptop (a job in itself) and he was telling me that all was OK and he was in the process of changing Thing 1’s nappy.
This wasn’t a three person job (or even a two person job) so I hung up.
I got home a couple of hours later. What greeted me was a trembling wreck but a smiling face none the less. Dad wasn’t bad either. He was chuffed with himself, and rightly so. He had successfully babysat, made a coffee, eaten most of the Jaffa Cakes and had mastered the art of holding down two conversations at once while changing his first nappy.
“You can do it again so”, I said. Never have I seen a grown man grab a coat and exit a building as fast as he did that day.
He’s not aware of this (yet) but after he left I picked up Thing 1 to make sure that he still had all his fingers and toes. Something didn’t look right and something didn’t feel right. I held Thing 1 in my outstretched arms and noticed that he had a somewhat bloated midriff.
I stripped him down to see what the problem was. In the panic of changing the nappy and holding down the two conversations, Dad aka. Mr Multitasker had somehow missed that there were two adhesive strips on the nappy, one at each side. On not seeing this he proceeded to pull one strip all the way over to the other side of the nappy as if fitting the baby with a corset. Don’t ask me how the strip didn’t break and don’t ask me how he managed to do it but he did. It was like something from a Rowan Atkinson script.
Poor Thing 1 must have thought he was an extra on Downton Abbey. The poor sod had been this way for a couple of hours. MacGyver me arse, MacBean more like…
Apart from the endless mess and the countless trains, planes and automobiles that you’ll have in your home, here’s what to expect and what you should know if you’re a Mum or Mum-to-be of a boy. I have three…
1. Tolerate the Fart (and burp)
Thankfully my good wife grew up with two boys, so she’s well equipped to deal with the potent mix of various human gasses. Kids think farting – or ‘whizzpopping’ as we call it – is funny, end of.
Obviously, there’s a time and a place to fart/not to fart and we try our best to teach our boys this valuable etiquette. For instance, try not to fart in public and if you do, apologise (where appropriate) and try to get out of there quickly without laughing, and never fart under your duvet unless you 1) don’t mind retching and passing out or 2) don’t like the person next to you in the bed.
Regardless of whether you personally find farts funny or not, they will happen so get used to it and learn to tolerate the little people that do.
2. Willy fascination will start early
Boys practically play with their willies from birth. It’s there, it’s dangly and it’s flexible. What more could they ask for?
For the rest of his life, this could be your son’s best and most treasured friend (why do you think we have pet names for them?). Don’t worry about this early fascination. It kind of never goes away (it’s his manhood after all) so be thankful that your son is inquisitive and no doubt thankful to you for his ‘dangly donger’.
Unfortunately no matter how fascinated they are with their ‘little soldier’ it’ doesn’t compute to them learning how to pee in the toilet properly…aka. the Tinkle Sprinkle
3. Get used to the Tinkle Sprinkle
Boys will sprinkle when they tinkle – i.e. urinate – on the toilet seat or bathroom floor etc. You’ll have to get used to this. In fact, boys and pee go hand in hand (pardon the pun). Pee can go and will go everywhere and anywhere – e.g. floors, walls, plants, toys, shoes etc.
The older they get, the better their aim becomes, but with age comes greater range which in itself can be a problem. Keep wipes beside the toilet and whatever you do DON’T keep a toilet rug.
4. Safety standards go out the window
OK, so I’m the type of Dad that laughs and shouts ‘hooray’ when one of my boys falls or walks into a table, door etc. I don’t do this because I’m mean or I enjoy seeing them hurt themselves. No, quite the opposite actually. I do it because like most kids, as soon as your child has an accident they turn around to see what your initial reaction is. And if it’s a reaction of horror, angst, worry, or a complete overreaction, well then your child is going to overreact too – and most likely burst into tears.
I instead pretend it’s a game, so that my reaction when they look at me is one of fun and silliness. No, it doesn’t always work. Yes, your kids will most likely cry anyway, but your reaction will help massage the perceived seriousness of the accident.
Boys will be rough and tough. They’ll climb furniture and trees. They’ll jump off chairs and tables. They’ll shoot each other with Nerf guns and most likely give each other wedgies when they are older. This is part and parcel of being a boy regardless of how odd and weird you think it is. Rethink your safety standards and try not to wrap your kid up in cotton wool, unless he needs it obviously.
Just keep the Band-Aids handy.
5. Accept the Full Monty
This goes hand-in-hand (sorry again) with the ‘Dangly Donger’. Boys love to parade around in the nude – well at least my boys do anyway – whether it’s the full monty or just panning out watching RTÉjr in their boxer shorts.
As soon as they are able to dress and undress themselves, their inner Chippendale is released and unfortunately there’s no going back. Embrace it and let them have fun.
Just don’t ask where they got it from.
6. Don’t compare Apples to Oranges
Boys tend to be a bit slower and lazier than girls when reaching milestones. Apparently, I was 21 months old before I started to walk and guess what – Thing 2 was 18 months old too. My goddaughter was only 12 months before she started to walk, so give your little man all the the encouragement, support and time he needs.
This goes for potty training too – we still have a nappy loving 3-year-old who hasn’t cottoned on.
7. Compare Apples to Oranges
…when it comes to drama and tantrums.
Boys, just like girls can throw the ultimate hissy fits over the smallest of issues. ‘That’s my ninja turtle’, ‘no that’s my Ninja turtle’ or ‘I wanted to sit there…’ etc etc.
A tantrum is a tantrum and my boys are experts at stomping, shouting, door slamming, crying and ‘you’re not my friend-ing’. True, boys can be more easy-going and agreeable but don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that they aren’t dramatic.
8. Stock up on food.
Boys are active. Active boys get hungry. Hungry boys get cranky. Parents hate cranky. Cranky loves food… this is an endless cycle.
As your boys get bigger and bolder, they become little eating robots and they’ll want to eat more and more. the fridge will be continually raided so keep it stocked up and keep cranky at bay.
9. They will adore you.
When our friends heard that we were having a third boy, nearly everyone sympathetically patted me on the back and said that my wife lucked out and that she would be spoiled by ‘her boys’ for forever and a day. Me, on the other hand, would be tossed to the ‘old-age scrapheap’ because I don’t have a daughter and thus I’d be feeding off scraps for the rest of my life.
A slight exaggeration of course (I hope) but my three boys absolutely idolise their Mum (and rightly so) and there really is no bond like it.
I’ll no doubt be relegated to the point where I’m being bought crappy socks for Christmas and my birthday while mum gets pampered but I’m OK with that, kind of.
10. Expect the goofy
If you watch Modern Family, then imagine a mini-Phil Dunphy. Boys will be goofy, quirky, weird, and eccentric – and that’s perfectly OK. Be prepared for it. I guarantee you’ll be called (or have been called) poopy head, poopy pants or smelly pants at least once. Am I right? Sure I was called Moo-head (a first for me) only last week by Thing 1 because I forgot to put a spoon in his lunchbox. Silly Daddy.
Boys will have the oddest conversations with other kids and they’ll play the strangest games but again that’s OK. I love quirky. I love eccentricity and you’ll find me laughing all day long at home (and even joining in) with my crazy boys.
Vigilance is a word often used when discussing parenting because the key role for any parent is to safeguard and protect your kids as best you can from the inherent dangers that life throws at them. The internet is no different.
The real world is one thing but the digital world – an ever-changing landscape – opens up your kids to a new wave of potential vulnerabilities and threats.
Instead of continually worrying about it, or worse, worrying your kids about it, my advice as a parent is to immerse yourself in the digital world, educate yourself and in-turn, educate your kids.
I’m a father of three and already I’m teaching my 5-year-old about the internet – what it is, how it works, how to use it and what’s good and bad about it – and like a sponge, he’s soaking up everything.
I believe in educating rather than scare mongering so here are some of my tips for educating and securing (as best you can) your kids online.
Step Into Their Digital World
Get involved – the internet is a digital playground and it’s inevitable that your kids will want to access it so find out what they are interested in and what are the best websites and apps for their respective ages and interests.
Be their co-pilot and learn about what they are doing, what they have access to, and what they like doing. Guide them and teach them about the rights, the wrongs and the dangers of using the internet and instil in them a sense of responsibility.
Show them that you are open, interested and enthusiastic about their online hobbies and interests and you’ll find that they’ll be much more responsive to you. As they get older, let them ‘fly solo’ but frequently check in on what they are doing.They are kids after all.
Note: There’s a multitude of free parental control mobile apps available to download that protect your child from accessing potentially harmful content online.
Establish House Rules
Decide how much time you’re comfortable with your children being online and which sites or apps they may go on. I introduced mobile apps to my children when they were three.
I allow them 30 mins of shared time on my phone each day – mainly Lego, driving games and puzzles – and an hour of shared time at the weekends. This is all on the proviso that they have behaved themselves during the day and that they have completed their chores.
Talk about the rules and explain them to your children but don’t be averse to negotiation.
We do not under any circumstances allow our kids to go online unaccompanied or without our permission. We have multiple devices in our house but we have them all set to forget our Wi-Fi password so that they cannot get online without either my wife or I present.
Teach Your Kids to Protect Their Privacy
Depending on their age, children won’t really understand the consequences of sharing or revealing personal information online. Sure even adults struggle with this so from an early age educate them on the ‘Dos and Don’ts’ of sharing information and make sure that they know the following:
Never to give their name, phone number, email address, password, postal address, school, or picture without your permission
Not to open emails from people they don’t know
Don’t accept friendship requests from people they don’t know
To verify requests if they look to be coming from someone you do know
Not to respond to hurtful or disturbing messages
Never agree to a private chat with a stranger
Not to arrange to meet up with anyone they “met” online.
Educate them early and educate them often.
Beware of Strangers Baring Gifts
From an early age, children understand the concept of ‘cops and robbers’ so if explained simply to them they too will understand the concept of a hacker being a type of ’burglar’ that breaks into your house via the computer rather than through the window.
My kids are too young to have email accounts – we’re still at the Jolly Phonics stage – but kids are always thought never to accept sweets, gifts or lifts from strangers so it shouldn’t be a big leap to educate them on the dangers of accepting ‘gift’s from strangers online. Gifts in this instance could be unsolicited email attachments such as viruses, worms, phishing applications and so on.
If it looks suspect then it usually is. For example, while I write this I received the following text message from ‘Irish Tax’ with an accompanying web link
Teach Your Children to Log Out
Simple I know but you’d be amazed at how many people forget to log out of their computers. This is particularly relevant if they use a shared computer or device.
Logging out will prevent siblings or friends from posting or emailing from their account, even if it’s done as a joke.
Be Careful What You Post or Say
Children (and adults to some extent) need to remember that the online world is the real world. Just because a screen separates you from the people that you’re talking to or the sites/apps that you’re interacting with doesn’t make it any less real. Think of Donald Trump’s use of Twitter!
Teenagers, in particular, should be regularly reminded that everything they do over the internet is captured forever and could come back to haunt them at a later date. Nowadays, schools, universities, and employers look at social media profiles when researching candidates.
So make sure that your children understand from an early age that anything that is put online should assumed to be permanent.
Some Rules For Securing Yourself Online
So now that your children are online how do you protect them from hackers, cyberbullies and identity thieves? In truth, there’s no single or simple answer to this. Everything within reason can be hacked so again you just need to be vigilant and follow a few basic rules.
My advice is to put down the ‘Nasa’s Encryption Techniques for Dummies’book and focus, instead, on the mundane everyday stuff that you might not realise you should focus on.
Here are a few simple tips to get you started.
Secure Your Wi-Fi Network
Start with your entry point to the internet.
WiFi Encryption – First and foremost make sure you’re using WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protection Access) encryption on your Wi-Fi network. WPA2 provides government grade security by implementing various encryption algorithms. If you are using WEP security I’d recommend changing it so refer to your user manual for making the quick change.
Router Password – A Wi-Fi password is one thing but make sure your router is password protected too. Change the router’s default password (usually ‘password’) so that you don’t give someone access to it. With access to the router, a person could change your router settings, including viewing any security keys. Refer to your router manual for making the necessary changes.
Disable remote administration – If you never plan on wirelessly connecting to your router, I recommend disabling remote administration. Again, refer to your user manual for making this simple change.
If someone has access to an open Bluetooth connection they can potentially switch on your phone’s microphone and listen to you. Most people think that hackers have to be within a close range to do this, but in some cases, they can be within a mile radius.
Again just be vigilant. If a device that you’re paring with is giving you the standard 0000 code then it’s vulnerable. If it’s giving you a unique code then it’s a lot more secure.
Secure Nanny Cams
It’s horrible I know, but if you have an unsecured Nanny Cam (or any connected device for that matter), hackers can potentially gain access to it and spy on your little ones. According to security experts the two most commons methods of gaining access to cameras are:
Google Dorking – This is just using regular Google searches to find open cams. For instance, if a camera always has a public URL + camera number, hackers can run some quick queries and search for more open URLs. There’s even a search engine for internet connected devices called Shodan which has a section that lets users easily browse vulnerable webcams.
User Manuals – Another simple, but overlooked way to get access. Every camera owner is going to forget their password at some point, which is why manufacturers put that reset info in the manual. Now those instructions are sitting on their site waiting to be exploited.
To protect yourself from this type of hacking, look for a camera that has the following features:
Administration settings – Get a camera with a lot of administration settings and change the username and password as soon you set up the device.
Remote shutdown – Get a camera that will allow you to shut it off remotely without being physically there.
Private URL – Get a camera who’s URL isn’t public. If you’re able to easily watch your kid online, chances are other people can do it too.
Geotagging is the act of tagging your photos with geographical information about where a photo was taken.
By default, the camera application on your smartphone has the ability to add GPS coordinates to the image file so potentially this could put your children at risk. For example, let’s say you post a picture on Facebook of your child’s first day at school, a hacker can now scrape that photo for information and tell exactly where the photo was taken.
The easiest way to prevent this is to turn off or change your location settings on your phone.
Hopefully, this article has informed you of some of the risks associated with being online. Could you get hacked? Sure. Are you likely to be hacked? Not particularly but there are always opportunists waiting to strike so it’s better to be vigilant than ignorant…
If you have any comments, tips, stories or you like/don’t like what you’re reading feel free to get in touch. Likewise, if there are any topics that you’d like me to cover please feel free to ask.
So before ‘Baby Burpalot’ came on the scene 9 months ago I had established somewhat of a daily fitness regime albeit only after the other two kids had gone to bed and I had let my fajitas digest.
Nowadays however, as much as I try to curtail my sugar consumption, I find myself running out of time in the evenings; what with coming home from work, feeding the kids, changing the kids, playing with the kids, reading to the kids, chasing the kids who have now hidden on me, finding the kids, invariably nursing Thing 2 (who probably ran into a wall), brushing their teeth, wiping their butts noses, wrestling them into bed, prepping for the five further rounds of wrestling them back into bed and finally cleaning up the house.
Oh parenting, it’s such a blast…
I’ve contemplated the get-up and go early morning jog but honestly the kids would probably latch onto my ankles before I even left the house. They’re great like that; “Ha what’s daddy doing trying to get out for a jog? Oh, silly daddy. Let’s hit him in the privates with a Nerf Blaster and jump on his back when he’s bent over. Once we’re on his back, let’s elbow him in the ribs…he loves that”.
Ok, so I’m embellishing slightly but only slightly. I do walk around the house with a Nerf gun holstered to my leg purely for self-defense.
Anyway, I know I’m not the only parent to struggle and juggle with their time and if you are one of these people then keep reading because I’ve come up with some very effective home fitness techniques to whip you back into shape.
1. The Cavity Kid
This is a very simple one. If you have a spare cavity block or two lying around the house, don’t let them go to waste. Place your child on one of the blocks and run around the garden with it. It’s great for the glutes and enhancing your shoulder definition.
If your little one moans about it being sore on their little legs just place a few paper towels underneath them. Likewise, glue is very handy if they keep slipping off!
2. The Sugar Rush
Give your child lots of sweets before they go to bed. You’ll spend the next couple of hours chasing them back into bed. It’s fantastic cardio especially if your kids sleep upstairs. Your calves and thighs will be toned in no time.
3. The Numb-bell
This is an easy one, although you’ll need the right type of nappy for it to be effective. As the name suggests, place a 10lb dumbbell in your child’s nappy and rock them to sleep in your arm.
Regardless of whether they sleep or not, you’ll thank me for the long lasting effects it’ll have on your numbing arms. I’m still struggling to type this after last night’s session.
4. The Insomnia
If you want to increase your stamina, simply lie awake worrying about all the things that could happen to your kids over the course of their lives. The list will be endless and If you want to add some extra stress, turn off the baby monitor and lie there wondering if they are OK.
5. The Horseback
If you’re good at multi-tasking then this one is for you. Lie flat down on your stomach and let your kid(s) straddle your back. Slowly raise your body up and down using only your hands, always being careful not to drop your child.
If you have long hair sometimes your child might like to pull at it. Also if you’re hungry you could put a plate of food on the floor and eat off it using only your mouth.
6. The PopCake
You’ll need a large bag of popcorn and some rice cakes for this one.
Step 1: Get the kids all riled up about watching a movie and eating delicious popcorn.
Step 2: Give them said popcorn along with some nice delicate rice cakes.
Step 3. Tell them that they can eat them on the carpet, the couch or anywhere in the house for that matter.
Step 4. Hoover frantically for the next hour.
Repeat daily for effective bicep and tricep definition.
7. The Moan
Complain to your wife/girlfriend, who has just had a baby, that you feel fat, overweight and tired. Prepare to run, very, very fast.
8. The Flatpack
It doesn’t matter what it is but buy something that needs to be assembled and then Invite your children into the room while you unpack it and attempt to put it together. You’ll break into a great sweat while you chase after them for the screws, the tools or the now ripped instructions.
I spent nine hours on Saturday putting half a bunk bed together. NINE HOURS, and I’m only halfway done. I kid you not.
9. The Relaxer
This is a close relative to ‘The Moan’ above.
While your partner is working to the bone cleaning up after everybody, simply sit back on the couch and kick up your heels. I won’t tell you what happens next but you’ll definitely break a sweat…if not a leg.
10. The Dodger
This one is fantastic for enhancing your coordination. If you find your partner slaving over a delicious home cooked meal, simply complain about the mess they have made. Believe me, you’ll be dodging flying cups, plates, tins, cutlery, you name it.
As I said, it’s great for your coordination.
Best of luck with them.
Ps. The above ‘exercises’ are meant as a joke and in no way adhere to any health and safety standards….just in case you get the urge to try them! #LegalSmegal