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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 22 October, 2019
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Diary of a First Time Dad: Night-time protests and second helpings

Our young girl is now 10 months old and has developed both a strong personality and a roaming nature.

Patrick McCarry

IT IS AMAZING how a marvel becomes the norm and how a norm becomes your daughter crawling over to the DVD collections and mangling 13 Going on 30?

Caitlin, who is fast approaching 10 months old, went from an army crawl to a fully functioning whirr of hands and legs. She now follows us from room to room, makes dashes for open doors, climbs into fireplaces and will bang on the toilet door if we are ensconced inside. I have taken to leaving the door slightly ajar, resulting in it being yanked wide open. Delighted, smiling face meets vulnerable adult.

She stood up for the first time about five weeks ago, during bath-time. As the sole person over nine months old in the house, I was on bath supervision duty. I had also decided to read a chapter of Joking Aside (the Donncha O’Callaghan autobiography) as Caitlin busied herself with her three duck buddies.

I must have got far too engrossed with a Heineken Cup adventure because the next thing I heard was a couple of high-pitched hollers. I looked up to see Caitlin standing with mouth agape. She was as shocked as I by the feat. I told my wife, Cat, the good (amazing daughter) and bad (irresponsible, book-reading husband) news that evening. Caitlin was asleep, so she dealt with the bad news first.

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Get up, stand up

Back in May, we had a ropey ‘Baba’ to celebrate. That word has been joined by ‘Dada’ and ‘Mama’ or ‘Mummmmm’ when she really wants something. First thing in the morning –we are still getting good stretches during the night – she will appeal to her Dad, then Mum (or reverse order) to release her from her cot.

Up until now parenting has mainly consisted of keeping her alive (fed & watered) but as her personality has taken shape and her ability to assert herself has bloomed, we have had to teach her right from wrong. Our coping skills have improved since we lost the first Battle of Sallins Bridge. I had a rare Saturday evening off and we settled in to watch a film and enjoy a home-cooked dinner. Caitlin had other ideas and there was no settling her. It was the first time she had literally called the shots. We surely made trouble for ourselves by trying to reason with her each time (or sing a song or read a page from a fairytale book).

Three hours after the first vocal salvo and 50 trips up the stairs we had little appetite for awful Josh Brolin films [Gangster Squad – what a waste of talent]. Now, we are a lot more Super Nanny. If she is up, one of us will go up and place her back down with “It’s bed-time.” The stand-offs have become less protracted, less Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon.

Digital love

Considering that there are only three of us, and one of us has a small social circle, keeping track of our movements was proving to be very difficult. Once Cat went back to work and a full-time childminder out of spending reach our lives dramatically changed. We often resorted to our ‘Before Children’ ways of saying yes to commitments, only to find we’d over-stretched and have to rearrange or postpone.

Cat, the researcher and reader, found an smartphone app, Cozi, and it has made life a lot simpler. Now, when we both know our shifts and how the days of the week will fall, we sort the child-minding days, ask the occasional grandparent for a babysitting favour and the app does the rest. It also saves myself and Cat from actually having to speak to each other. This is not the Ordinary World Duran Duran sang of.

Caitlin, too, has an independent life of her own and is fast developing her personality and character. We found it tough, at the start, to leave her with a childminder two or three days a week, and snatch an hour or two with her in the morning and evenings. You have to let go a little but, we’ve found, it has been great for her. She has come on leaps and bounds and revels in the sports-mad company of our childminder’s own children.

Do over

This may very well be my last Diary of a First Time Dad post as I move on to new writing pastures but there is good news to sign off with. Myself and Cat are also expecting the arrival of our second child in mid-December.

We will soon join the ranks of parents that say ‘Wait until you’ve had two’ to glee-eyed first-timers.

@patmccarry is a sportswriter and playwright of shows that have appeared at Vicar Street, Electric Picnic, Bulmers Comedy Festival and New Zealand Comedy Festival. He is a Dubliner, living in Kildare. Happily married for 23 months and counting.

Read: Diary of a First Time Dad: Sleeping with one eye open

Read: Diary of a First Time Dad: Teething time and becoming Don Draper

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Patrick McCarry

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