Categories
Blog On

Men's Fitness

I know it’s not very British to talk about your achievements (and to all non-British people reading this: that really is true) but I am so OVER THE MOON to be featured in this month’s Men’s Fitness magazine that I have reproduced the entire 22 line article here.
It’s all about fitting training around family commitments. As a stay at home dad who has trained for marathons, triathlons and other endurance events, this is something I know a LOT about.
Hooray!

Categories
Blog On Uncategorized

Why won't my daughter smile in photos?

My daughter Liberty has a beautiful smile. She smiles and laughs a lot. And yet something strange happens when you point a camera at her and actually ask her to smile.
You get either Exhibit A: The Aardman Character (or “More tea Gromit?”)
Image
Exhibit B: The Hitman (or “I could smile but I may have to kill you”)

Or Exhibit C: The Bouncer (or “Your Name’s Not Down and You’re Not Coming In”)

Oh, I could go on.
Just to prove that she is actually a bobby dazzler, here’s the picture of her before I said ‘smile’. To see what happened when I did utter that word, see Exhibit A above.

Are there any keen photographers out there that can offer me some advice about how to get my little girl to smile at the camera?

Categories
Blog On

Memories of 9/11

Tuesday September 11 started much like any other day. It was my day off work and I walked my pregnant wife Tara 20 blocks to her office. It was a beautiful clear, sunny day. When I got back to our apartment I put the TV on (sound down) and started pottering around.
My wife called me around 9.30. She was very shaken and her first words were ‘don’t panic’. I immediately thought it was something to do with our baby. She asked me if I had the TV on and I replied that I had, and some film about the Twin Towers was on. Then she told me the terrible news – it wasn’t a film. It was real. She was watching it from her office window and saw the second plane go in (although she still thought it may be a bomb as she was watching from further up the island so didn’t see the plane, just the explosion). She told me that her bosses had said that they couldn’t guarantee any one’s safety and so she had been told that she must go to a place she felt safe. She wanted me to come and get her straight away.
I ran all the way. The subways were all running but I didn’t know how long that would last as everyone suspected a terrorist attack.
When I got to her, things had advanced. A plane had hit the Pentagon and news had reached us that there was another plane but we didn’t know where. Rumours spread round her office that it was coming back to New York. She didn’t want to go back to our apartment as it was right by the United Nations, which she thought might be a possible target. So we decided to go to her sister Sam’s apartment which was near her office.
As we walked there, we passed St Vincent’s hospital, the nearest hospital to the Twin Towers. Doctors and nurses were out in the street with gurnies, ready to receive the casualties that never came.
We all sat in Sam’s apartment round a television watching it unfold, Sam, Tara, me and Jennifer: a friend who lived in Brooklyn but who couldn’t get home as they closed all routes on and off Manhattan. After a while we felt we needed to get out – we all just felt we wanted to be with people.
We went to buy water as we had been told that the water supply to Manhattan may have been contaminated, and then to our local diner. It was absolutely packed, but very subdued. Everyone was just stunned and shocked. It is hard to articulate how unusual that was for New York. Much later when we walked home to our apartment, there wasn’t a single person in the streets. There are always people out on the street in Manhattan – the ‘city that never sleeps’ – but that night we didn’t see another soul, despite the fact all the commuters had to find places to stay, and some people estimate that figure to be 2 million people. And there wasn’t a single homeless person on the streets either.
The next morning posters had started to appear ‘Have you seen this person?’ with a picture and a name, and contact details. Thousands of them. Everywhere. People still thought then that there were survivors wondering around dazed, or perhaps in hospital with memory loss because of the trauma. We didn’t really know that there had been so few survivors – yet. Shrines with flowers and candles had sprung up overnight outside the many fire stations that had lost men. The FDNY funerals started very quickly after that. Many went along to pay respects to the brave men who had done their best to rescue people from what they must have known was an impossible situation.
Me, Tara and Sam volunteered to help – together with everyone we knew – the rescue crews that were down at the Twin Towers. But there were too many volunteers. We went to the Park Avenue Armoury and people were queuing around the block to register as volunteers. Great crowds of people started to gather alongside the West Side Highway to cheer the crews as they went back and forth. Over the following weeks and months the crowds dwindled, but never completely disappeared.
In the following days, people started to arrive from all over America to visit the site, to be in New York and show their support. But they were just as powerless to help – or to change anything – as we ourselves were.
I worked at the UK Mission to the UN at the time, and I was called in the next day. I took the calls from hotels all over New York who had British citizens staying that had not returned. The Mission had to coordinate collecting their belongings and contacting relatives to return them. I am not articulate enough to explain what that felt like.
By then the stories about the victims calling their loved ones on their mobile phones started to filter out too. It seemed at the time like tragedy was being heaped on tragedy. It hung heavy on all of us.
When people ask what it was like to be there, I can only say it was like being in a surreal film. It didn’t seem real – we just couldn’t believe what we were witnessing with our own eyes. It was too terrible. It was too big. I feel emotional writing about it 11 years later. It has taught me an important life lesson though – I never leave my wife or troopers without telling them how much I love them.

Categories
The Book

Commando Dad to be deployed in Italy: Italian publisher Mondadori to release Commando Papà in 2013!

Mondadori logo
COMMANDO PAPà to hit the  Italian shops in 2013

Italian publishing giant Mondadori is going to publish an Italian language version of Commando Dad next year.
Wow. I just want to say a huge THANK YOU to all the dads (and mums!) in the UK, Australia and New Zealand who have bought the book and made it such a success. I put a lot of time and effort into making Commando Dad the basic training manual that every new dad needs. But if you hadn’t bought it, I wouldn’t be on this adventure. Right, that’s quite enough emotion there!
And to the Italian dads, I’d like to say, remember the first rule of being a Commando Dad: Un papà commando è una mano su papà. I really hope that means ‘A Commando Dad is a hands on Dad’.
Over and out.

Categories
Blog On

Olympians Must Begin at Home

After Team GBs fantastic showing at the Olympics, and as we gear up for the Paralympics, there has been a lot of talk about getting more sport on the curriculum. Hooray! I say – but with a caveat. I think we can’t only rely on the schools: Olympians must begin at home.
As a PE teacher (and now as a supply teacher) I see countless notes excusing pupils from PE. Now while some of these are genuine, I’ve been in situations where nearly half of the pupils in the class have been excused from my lesson. My personal low was a pupil that handed me a note explaining he couldn’t do PE as he had lost his trainers. He was wearing them. But without the rest of his kit, and without the jurisdiction to override a note from home, nothing could be done.
We need to address this issue now, or it really won’t matter how many more lessons in the curriculum are devoted to PE. Hopefully, pupils – and parents – will have been inspired by the Olympics and PE teachers up and down the land can get on with the business of teaching their subject and helping every pupil reach their potential in sport – not juggling a depleted class and non-participants.
And of course, participation in sport is not just about creating Olympians. Sport can give you so many benefits in both the short, and long, term. Not only will it make troopers physically fit, but also give them a sense of belonging, teach them how to work well in a group and individually and hopefully also be a lot of fun. And the lessons that sport teaches you can help you in whatever career you troopers decide upon. Ray Winstone, a former boxer, said in a recent article in Men’s Fitness: “Boxing helped me mentally. I’ve bought that discipline and determination to acting.”
With so many potential benefits, should we as parents be writing notes to excuse our troopers from PE for anything other than medical reasons? I, for one, don’t think so.

Categories
Blog On

Why the Sidelines are No Place for Dads

In 1970, on a warm summers evening in July, my dad dropped my mum, who was in labour with me and my twin brother, off at the hospital and asked her to call him when she felt ready to cope with visitors. There didn’t seem anything unusual in that to either mum or dad, that was just how things were done. When their wives were in labour, men went off to work, or sat in the waiting room with flowers like in a Carry On film. Oh how times have changed.
I couldn’t wait for the birth of my children. I read the books, attended the ante-natal classes and got to know the midwife. I was convinced that if my wife went into labour unexpectedly I would be able to deliver my son (tying off the placenta with a clean shoelace – I looked it up). Luckily, my emergency delivery plans never saw the light of day as we made it to the hospital in plenty of time.
I was right by my wife’s side throughout, offering what comfort and support I could. And words cannot explain the feeling of finally holding my brand new baby trooper in my arms. It is an amazing experience, as any dad will tell you.
But then something really strange happened after the birth. Without any warning, I disappeared. I became completely invisible to doctors, nurses and the midwife. I think my wife could see me, but I was finding it hard to get to the side of her bed to double check.
So perhaps I didn’t physically disappear (although that would make a good story) but it certainly felt like it. And that’s when I first realised that it’s very, very easy to become sidelined as a new dad. And not only in the delivery room, but beyond it too. The vast majority of advice, support and care is geared towards mum. Don’t get me wrong, parents need all the advice, support and care that it is possible to give them, but dads are parents too. And we have a crucial role to play, right from the minute we welcome our trooper into the world.
We need to provide physical support, such as taking on night feeds, keeping the house squared away, buying supplies, getting meals on the table, washing clothes and generally keeping on top of everything. But most importantly, we need to make sure that our partner has everything she physically needs, from time to take a bath to healthy food.
We also need to provide emotional support, essential to keeping morale high. Sometimes, our partners can feel as if life has become all about the baby trooper. Reassure her and let her know you’re in this together. Having a new baby is tiring for everyone, but your wife and trooper have been through labour too. Tempers can get frayed in the beginning when you’re both adjusting to a completely new lifestyle on limited sleep. Keep calm.
And our trooper needs us too. Don’t believe that we aren’t biologically programmed to be good carers. We may not have the ‘maternal instinct’ but I can assure you that the minute my troopers were born, my wife and I both had a huge instinct to love, protect and care for them. We got the ‘parental instinct’. And in terms of physically caring for a baby, we can do everything but breastfeed. It might not seem like it at the time (well it certainly didn’t for me) but with practical experience, you will easily master the basics.
But of course it doesn’t end there. Even after ten years as a stay at home dad, I still consider myself a Commando Dad in training. It is worth the effort. To a trooper, their dad has many roles, often falling somewhere between Hero, Role Model and Protector. When you become a dad you step into those shoes and you owe it to yourself – and your troopers – to be the best dad you can be. So don’t let yourself get sidelined, dads. You are simply too important.
I wrote this blog for The Baba Blog, a great blog full of practical advice and tips for new mums…..and hopefully some new dads too.

Categories
The Book

Commando Dad won a silver LovedByParents award!

The category was ‘Best Gift for New Mum/Dad’.
Tina Summers from LovedByParents said:

“We are delighted that Neil has won a prestigious Silver Lovedbyparents Award and it is a testament to how hard he has worked on his wonderful book, Commando Dad. It will make a great gift for any new mum or dad.”
Cheers Tina! And of course HUGE THANKS to everyone who voted for Commando Dad!

Image

Categories
Videos

How to Make a Bottle of Formula Milk

Categories
Videos

How to Clean and Sterilise a Baby Bottle

This is the second video to support ‘Surviving The First 24 Hours’ chapter in Commando Dad. I was a bit nervous and I think you can see my hand shaking at times (this was because of the camera, not because I am frightened of baby bottles). Please let me know what you think

Categories
Blog On Family Album

The Spooky Tale of How I Named My Daughter, Liberty


Naming your baby trooper is a tough business. There’s the whole issue around any name needing to be a good fit with your surname, as well as avoiding acronyms and all the names you have negative associations with (the kid at school with unsavoury habits, annoying colleagues with unsavoury habits, any boss you ever had, unsavoury habits or not etc). But the naming of my own troopers is an increasingly unusual story.
First, Samuel Robert Sinclair. Named after my wife’s granddad Samuel Lucas (or more accurately, Ernest Edwin Samuel Lucas, but that’s another story) and her dad, Robert ‘Bob’ Lucas. Both great men and two great names. Job done.
Then Jude Bonaparte Sinclair. Yes, you read right. Jude was originally destined to be called Peter Edward (using my own dad and
granddad’s names) but my wife took a bad fall when she was pregnant and we thought that she may miscarry. Then one day soon after the drama was over, she said, “I think we should change the name of this baby you know. He’s a fighter.” So we looked up the patron saint of second chances and his name was Jude.
We got Bonaparte from my other granddad, Napoleon Bonaparte Sinclair. Yes, you read that one right too. When my granddad was born there was much ado about which family names he should be given. In the end his dad declared he would be named after someone he admired to end the argument. I should add at this point that the whole family is from Thurso, Scotland.
Finally, Liberty Maeve Sinclair. Now this is the kind of story I need to preface with ‘I have witnesses’.
Naming a girl is difficult, because not only are there millions more names to choose from but every noun can plausibly be a girl’s name (Willow was in the running for a long time, for example). We knew her middle name was to be Maeve as my wife’s nanny had been of Irish descent (Florence O’ Rourke from Cork) and her auntie is a Maeve and she is a Tara. But we went through every first name under the sun and couldn’t agree on a single one.
Then one night I had a dream (stay with me) that my wife handed me a baby and said: “This is your daughter and her name is Liberty.” Now, I should tell you that we were living in Hoboken at the time and I thought, well maybe I have just picked up the idea from the Statue of Liberty and didn’t give it much thought.
Then later that morning I heard my wife talking on the phone to her sister. She too had a dream. In a very brightly lit room our son Samuel had said to her “You have to call the baby Liberty mom. Two beings made of light told me.”