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This evening I lost two games in World of Tanks, pretty poorly, and shut the game down. I spent a few minutes completing a few tasks in a couple of other games, on one Facebook and the other on my smartphone, which took about fifteen minutes at most. Then I pretty much just started at my monitor screen. Occasionally I navigated to a webpage, even more rarely I read a story. This lasted for the best part of an hour.

Depressive episodes like this can be a little bit worrisome – they were very frequent during my descent to being ill. On the other hand episodes like this have always happened with me. Also to be fair a few things are going on right now which would make me a bit morose – the general disruption of routine that I mentioned previously, a continuing intensely busy situation at work, and then also over the weekend my mother had an emergency admission to hospital (back at home now convalescing, everything appears under control). In other words I have ample good reason to feel a bit “spaced”.

Nevertheless, they can be very vampiric, sucking life and light out of the moment. They are not periods of relaxation or restoration. There is no easy way of getting out of a dark mood for me once one has caught hold. It requires effort, work, and frankly half an hour to midnight is not when I generally have the energy to be attempting that.

Today though the mood interrupted by the sound of my daughter waking up, a bit unhappy. I went to her room, and as expected she needed some water. The weather continues quite muggy here, and so Melian needs an extra drink of water once or twice most nights. So in I went, felt around the cot for her (since my eyes do not adjust that quickly to the night-light we have in there), picked her up, gave her a cuddle, enabled her to have her drink, cuddled her some more, gave her a second drink at her request (lack of speech does not mean lack of communication) cuddled her some more again, and eventually put her back down. The entire time in the room, perhaps five minutes at most.

Yet it was exactly what I needed, a cuddle with my daughter to help me finish the day with a smile.

Now, Melian did not know her daddy needed a cuddle and so woke up – it was just a fortunate co-incidence. However, I have noticed since becoming a husband and a father it is amazing just how wonderful such fortunate co-incidences are – and how often they happen if one is aware to them. To be sure none of the reasons that contributed to my dark mood have dispersed – they are all still very much present. On the other hand, I have just had a cuddle with my daughter and helped her go back to sleep. It does not sound like much, but it has changed the entire perspective of the day.

Just one extra reason to love being a father.

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Hi all

Just a quick note to say that I am expecting the current slow rate of posting to last for all the rest of this week, before hopefully getting back to normal after the weekend.

I know in the past I have talked about how social gatherings can be quite exhausting for me. The same can also be true of periods of change. Of course, changes can be pretty tiring for most folks, but in people in my situation it sometimes seems to have a more intense effect. The change this last week has been redecorating part of the house, with family staying at the same time, including a rather chaotic weekend just gone with my brother and his 3 young children staying. Three toddlers does not equal a quiet and relaxing time!

In addition during my lunch-breaks, when I often write up blog-posts, I have now been enjoying outside taking advantage of this wonderful weather we have been getting. That has also impeded the blogging.

This week is proving quieter – and I am on holiday. We are not actually going anyway, just enjoying some time not going into work, with the odd day-trip. Also it is my birthday on Friday, so really looking forward to spending the day with my wife and daughter. Presents are all well and good – getting presents with my daughter helping me open them is even better!

Monday though it is back to work and to the ordinary routine of life, and I expect more regular blogging to resume.

Two years ago I became a husband. I never thought that I would. Until I proposed to my wife, I had never even had a girlfriend.

However, over the course of several years of playing EVE Online I had gotten to become a friend with a corp-mate, and I travelled to Denmark to meet her. This was hardly the first time I had met someone I had first known online – I have two good friends in the States whom I had also visited that I first met via the Paradox Interactive forums. We exchanged photographs a week or so before so we would have some idea who to look out for in the airport.

We met for the first time in the arrivals area of Kastrup, Copenhagen’s major airport. Before I left to return home I had asked my friend to marry me, and she had said yes. Single to engaged in nine days. Two years ago today we exchanged our vows.

Five years ago this month I started back at work, having been off work for a year as a result of my illness. Five years ago I never expected to be a husband, or a father. I never thought I would be fortunate enough to have those words applied to me.

Today they are – and there is no way that the written or spoken word can convey just what those two simple words mean to me. Today I just want to give thanks that my wife and I did find ourselves, at first in the unlikely place of a noob-corp chat channel in EVE.

 

Sorry for the lack of posting the last few days. The reason is simple enough – I have been incredibly tired. I have always had tendency to burn the midnight oil – even when I was as young as five and six I would go for spells when I would find it difficult to go to sleep. I used to be able to regain some sleep on the weekends – but of course just over a year ago a new person entered my life in the shape of my daughter who generally is awake between six and seven in the morning. Lie-ins are now a rare and precious commodity 🙂

Most of the time this is not actually all that big a problem. Going into Melian’s room, peeking around the door, greeting her with a happy voice and smile – these are not hardships or forced joy. No. Seeing me daughter in her cot, and watching her realise her daddy has come to get her up, and to see her often erupt into joy with giggles, laughs, legs and arms waving about – that lifts me in a way no energy drink can. Also Melian is generally very good at entertaining herself for a time, so after seeing to nappy it is often possible just to lie on the sofa dozing as she goes about her investigations and excavations of her toys – knowing that she will let me know if she needs me.

Sometimes however everything builds up. Melian, unfortunately, has suffered from occasional nightmares since she was only a few months old, and last week we went through a really bad spell. Add in a bad spell of nights for me, and a very busy situation at work and you have a recipe for tiredness. After all of that arrange two weekends in a row with social engagements – Melian’s two parties – and my ability to rest more or less goes out of the window.

As mentioned before I have Asperger’s Syndrome – but long before I was diagnosed I often described myself quite accurately as an introvert. One of the classic characteristics of being an introvert is that social gatherings are very tiring. The precise reasons for this vary, and for any one person there are likely to be a number of different factors. For me one element of my Asperger’s comes very heavily into play, and that is that I do not naturally read body language.

Think a moment about how you know if someone is sad, angry, happy, or even tired – without them speaking. How do you know if the person you are talking to is engaged or bored? It all comes down to those many tell-tale signs in stance, posture, body motions and facial expressions. Most folks pick up on these pretty intuitively, their subconscious doing the heavy lifting. Mine, on the whole, does not. Oh to be sure, over the thirty-odd years of being on this Earth my conscious brain has trained itself to try to compensate, and the person who diagnosed me reckons that this ability to use my intelligence as a crutch is one reason why I generally integrate with wider society better than many people in my situation. Since my diagnosis I sometimes catch myself thinking “this person’s mouth and eyes are twinkling – they are enjoying themselves” or (perhaps more often) “the person I am talking to is slouching a bit, their eyes look a bit tired, and they have checked the time thrice in the last few moments – probably should stop wittering on about history”.

This also has a negative side – in that it is extremely easy to over-interpret things as well, and start imagining that people are angry with you, or that you have upset them, when in reality they are just really tired.

Anyway, one-on-one this process of trying to get pick up on these social cues is relatively easy to maintain, but in a group it starts to take up a great deal of energy. The group does not actually have to be all that large either. All that energy expended trying to notice the changes in face and posture, and paying attention to the sound of voice too, is one reason why being social tires me out.

This happens even amongst those I have known my entire life. When my now wife started to introduce her then financeé to her family at a quite large family gathering, she mentioned that I might at times just disappear off for a while. She then explained that even amongst my own family I did this (she had seen me do so). Essentially I retreat to my own space, to try to find a little solitude to allow myself to regain a little sense of self. Likewise after a social gathering I often find it very difficult to sleep because I am over-stimulated, as it were, by tracking all this social data and I just need to time to relax before I can sleep.

Melian’s two parties were generally small affairs. The one the weekend before last was smaller, but did have an impact even so. Then came Melian’s nightmares, including one particular bad night where I only got through the next day at work thanks to a tin of Monster. This weekend just gone my brother unexpectedly stayed with us on Saturday, which on one level is very enjoyable. On another it was something of a surprise (even pleasant surprises require me to take some time to adjust, unpleasant surprises can have much more negative reactions). Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed having my brother around for the night. We had a very good time, but good times sometimes later present a bill.

Then on Sunday the party itself, which was a great success. Melian had a really good time. We did a massive Sunday Roast, more or less. Both my brothers and their families, and my father and his second wife, and one of our friends who is turning into an “uncle” for Melian were all present. Three pork leg joints, masses of roast potatoes, roast parsnips, carrots, cauliflower, leeks, stuffing, and a delicious creamy mushroom sauce kept everyone well fed – not least of all Melian. My little girl ate her way through two whole plates of food. Seriously, this is a lady who REALLY likes her roast vegetables – especially if they have been dipped in aforesaid mushroom sauce. Then later in the afternoon we all had cake. Really a very great time, but I realised towards the end of it I had not “timed-out” at all, and then later that evening, and yesterday, I paid the price.

So over the weekend I played a bit on my new game, yesterday I played a little World of Tanks (I did not get to take much advantage of the special), and mostly I just did very little caught in a half-way state of being very weary but not actually sleepy. To some degree I am still wrapped up in that – it is now 2330 where I am and I still do not feel sleep calling, despite the fact that is what I pretty desperately need. Indeed in writing this article I am in fact being quite selfish – I am partly hoping that by writing about all of this I do enable myself to get some sleep – though there is a serious point as well in trying to explain at least one element of my Asperger’s.
Oh, and another which is to tell a little about how wonderful it is to be a father, and how much fun Melian had at her party. Nevertheless, hopefully I have not bored anyone still reading this to tears, and I think you for your indulgence.

Hopefully good night.

As readers of this blog should probably realise by now, my wife is Danish. As anyone who has ever had an international relationship will know that this means you encounter many situations where traditions for the same thing are different to a greater or lesser extent. One of these differences between the UK and Denmark is Mothering Sunday and Father’s Day. In particular, Mothering Sunday / Mother’s Day and Father’s Day occur on different dates. We had a long discussion about which date to observe for these little events, and have chosen to honour both the British and Danish days. This has the wonderful side effect of getting two sets of presents each 🙂 .

So it was that last Wednesday – Father’s Day in Denmark – my wife let me know that she and Melian had decided to give me a very special present – a trip of Tankfest that is being held at the Bovington Tank Museum at the end of this month.

Now, I had asked for a trip to the museum as a birthday present later in the year, but I was not expecting to go to Tankfest. So this was a really great surprise, and I have to say I am really very excited. The present includes a ticket for myself and my brother (I cannot drive, he can, but we all agree probably best not to take Melian for actual Tankfest given the numbers and expected loud noises!). So on Sunday 30th off down to Dorset to indulge in gaming and history at the same time – a perfect combination!

However, as mentioned I am expecting a lot of people. This can create some problems for me – I do not always react very well to crowds and have had minor panic attacks sometimes in busy places. I am hoping, however, that given the circumstances I will be able to keep engaged enough on what is going on and with stuff to look at rather than focus on the crowd.

Meanwhile I am immensely chuffed.

As I write this, exactly one year, my wife and I were in the Maternity Unit of our local hospital. Our baby (we did not know if our baby was a boy or a girl) was a few days late. Our midwife had visited us (a planned visit) to check on my wife, and to go over a few details for an induction if our labour had not started by 42 weeks. During the visit however she became concerned that my wife might be entering pre-eclampsia, so she arranged for us to go in that afternoon. Indeed, we were in hospital within an hour of her visit, and the decision was made to induce. The process of induction can take a long time, and the midwife who initiated induction fully expected to the midwife delivering our baby the next morning. Life, however, had other plans and the labour kicked into high gear very rapidly.

Given I have been quite harsh about health visitors, I should say that our experience of the midwives during my wife’s pregnancy, and whenever we were in hospital, was generally exemplary. Our main midwife could be the very example of how to help make a husband/partner feel involved with everything that was going on. She always spoke to me, taking an interest in how I felt about becoming a father. She was also perfect given my mental health. She said from the start “I do not know very much about mental health, so you are going to have to tell me what you need”. It was just so refreshing an attitude. So we talked through various scenarios, and she arranged that I would be able to stay with my wife on the Ward in a separate room (usually they kick fathers out at 10pm, but we were very concerned that in the emotional overload of just being a new father I might have a panic attack if I were told to leave, or have one at home, or otherwise have difficulties). Indeed the entire attitude was just perfect, respectful, open, and wanting to help. During labour itself, and on the post-natal ward the team were also excellent. This was even more so after we were told that my wife and Melian would have to stay on the ward for 48 hours instead of the 12 or so I was expecting – for reasons that they could have communicated to us in a meeting we had with the doctor months before the actual birth. In a tired, overwhelmed state, I basically shut down for several hours. The staff on the ward just accepted my wife’s word that it was nothing they had done, until I was able to come to terms with the situation. They just gave me space, and it was an amazing kindness. I doubt they understood precisely, but they took my wife seriously and accepted her word, and for that and other reasons we later made plain our thanks and admiration.

From that night I have a number of clear memories. Being worried when labour started, much earlier than anyone expected, when we did not really know what was going on. Helping my wife with the gas thing to help alleviate the pain of contraction. The moment of actual birth. The sense of chaos, but never panic, as Melian entered this world, was whisked of to the special table they have to do all the immediate things that ensure there are so few deaths in child-birth these days. Cuddling Melian on my bare chest for a long while after the MCA took my wife to get washed. That memory in particular is very special – and in a sense all cuddles since are just the next stage in that cuddle that started when she was perhaps two hours old.

Melian has grown a very great deal in the last year of course, but right from the start there was something. A while back I posted a photograph (below the fold) of Melian when she was about seven hours old – awake and curious. The expression she has on her face then, looking out, trying to make sense of things – I see it all the time even now. Back then though she was so small. She wanted nothing more than the snuggle on my wife or myself and sleep. Those first few weeks were very sleep-deprived, but were also full of joy (health visitors and the only incompetent midwife we ever had notwithstanding). I had resigned myself to probably never being a father – of never getting married – and here I was both married and a father – and it was wonderful.

It is still wonderful. When I get home after work, and see Melian smile when I enter the house … or even sometimes when I have just been to a different room, my heart sings. Being a father to Melian is just incredibly natural. I will not always say easy – there are still times when I go to work and the first thing I do is acquire a can of Monster or something similar to help get me through the day, for example. There are also plenty of times when I worry about being a good father, of the examples I am setting from the small (just good personal habits) to the large – and of allowing Melian even now the space she needs to be her own person. After all, Melian is Melian first, and her parents’ daughter second. Even at one year she is still a person, and needs to be allowed a space to choose or her own thing, even if at other times we are more directing.

One of the great things about being Melian’s father is that she has helped me look at the world anew. I have written of her joy in her first visit to an airport, but the truth is that she gets fascinated by just about everything. Her enthusiasm encourages me to take a moment to look at a horse, for example, and just consider for a moment truly how magnificent horses are – or how delicious a sausage is – or the simple joy and passing a ball back and forth. Melian laughs, but she also claps now – especially when she is very excited at having done something. It is a sure sign she is enjoying herself, and she claps often.

She is no longer the little baby I first cuddled, even if in my mind she is still my little baby girl. These days she is starting to get properly mobile – in the last 3-4 days she has just started to crawl forward short distances. It feels like a whole new period of discovery is about to begin, a new chapter in her life, and I am awed, honoured, excited, and a little scared to be able to share it.

So many people remark “enjoy it while it lasts”. Part of my gripes a little at this, though I know there nothing ill intended. It is just a statement of fact that Melian will grow older, will become a toddler, go to school, enter double figures, become a teenager, and in due course enter into adulthood. The entire process is one of change, and change is naturally unsettling. On the other hand part of me thinks there has to be a little bit of false-cynicism in all those comments – given how enthused many parents seem to be about their children even when fully grown, and all the stages inbetween.

However, all that is for the future. Tomorrow my wife and I are going to celebrate the birth of our daughter, and hopefully we have planned something that she will enjoy. I think she will. She is too young to understand birthdays yet, or why she is getting presents, but she is old enough realise the day is special – and it is.

Back in February the oven in our cooker stopped working. Actually we had a week where the oven gave up the ghost, the Foreman Grill surrendered to entropy, the central heating packed in, and the gas fire lost its spark – the last two on the same day just before three really quite cold weeks! Anyway, since then our cooking has been limited to what we could do on the cooker hobs, and subsequently on a replacement Foreman, and a microwave, toaster, and kettle. Now, one can cook a range of meals on all that, without resorting to supermarket ready meals. Never the less, after several weeks, you start to get cravings …

A joint of pork (or lamb, or beef) with crunchy roast potatoes, roast parsnips, and stuffing, and some carrots, all smothered in a rich gravy …

Anyway, last week the new cooker was installed, and we gave it full power trials with the above – and it was glorious.

However, the best thing about this Sunday dinner was not the good food (which was very good indeed, if I say so myself, as the totally unbiased cook), but was the fact Melian, my wife, and I all sat down and had Sunday dinner together. The same Sunday dinner, together. It is not quite the first time we have had a meal together as a family, but is the first “traditional” meal we have all had together where Melian at just what we ate. Well, we also mashed up some potatoes in case she did not like the roasties, but otherwise it was all the same.

A few posts back I was talking about the Danish concept of hygge, and this was a good example of a hygge moment. We all sitting at the same table (albeit Melian in her high-chair) eating together, and all enjoying ourselves.

Melian especially. She has a particular set of vocalisations she tends to use when she eats, signifying great approval. This is a little lady who really enjoys her food. The pork went down a treat, but best of all were the roast potatoes – and once we had dipped them in the gravy they became even better! Watching Melian is often a good way to remind oneself of just how enjoyable simple pleasures can be, and roast potatoes in gravy is probably one of those pleasures we should celebrate more.