The epic battle that has raged between parent and child is one that has claimed the souls and sanity of countless parents over the millennia. In recent years, technology has aided us in our quest to even these seemingly insurmountable odds, but our adversary is one that continuously learns to adapt and overcome our futile attempts at resistance.
However, some of the more fortunate among us have found a few key items that have helped us tame the savage beasts, and it is here that I pass on the knowledge of the secret relics that helped me in my quest so that you too may stand a fighting chance against these agents of despair…
…Ok, so it wasn’t that dramatic (and I’m lucky enough to have a pretty awesome daughter 99% of the time), but there were definitely some vital pieces of equipment that made my job easier, especially when parenting in 1 Player Mode. So listed below are the top 5 weapons that helped me conquer fatherhood in those first years of the parenting campaign:
One of the first lessons of parenthood that you learn is that newborn poo can seep through nappies and clothing like hot magma through butter. Surely not, you think. Look at how tiny they are, there’s no way they could pee/crap through those big nappies, right? HAHAHAHA!!! YOU FOOL! Clearly you have never faced the fecal onslaught of a newborn poonami (like a tsunami, but more…let’s say ‘tangible’). I too attempted to futilely prevent the inevitable outfit destruction that comes with a newborn until I happened upon the most useful piece of equipment during those first few months – the overnap.
Apparently these things aren’t that well-known, because everyone who i’ve preached the virtues of them to have no idea what i’m talking about. They’re not always so easy to find in baby stores, and are also known as pilchers so they may go by a few different names depending on where you are in the world. So for the uninitiated, here’s what they are: an outer shell made of non-permeable material that goes over your baby’s nappy (get it?), preventing bodily waste from breaking through to the other side.
Prior to using overnaps, nappy changes would also require a full outfit change when the load exceeded the capacity of the nappy (which was more often than not in those initial newborn stages). However, once the overnaps were in play, an important barrier was placed between said overflow and clothing, reducing the likelihood of needing to change my daughter’s whole outfit, reducing washing, saving mess, time and sanity.Yes, you have to wash the overnaps when they become dirty, but better to wash one overnap than a whole outfit. Seriously, for that first few months, overnaps were a lifesaver. Buy them. Use them. Send me cash gifts in appreciation.
2. Lay-z-boy/recliner in the baby’s room
When my daughter was around 1 year old, her usual bedtime routine involved a warm bottle of milk and falling asleep on me. When I was sure she wouldn’t wake up, I would carefully transfer her into her cot and tiptoe out of the room, praying that her hypersonic ears wouldn’t be alerted to my escape efforts.
When I was setting up my own place after entering 1 Player Dad mode, one of the things I did to make putting my daughter down to sleep easier was to put one of the Lay-Z-Boy recliner chairs from my lounge suite (that I got online second-hand for about $200) into her bedroom so I could give her a bottle and wait for her to fall asleep in her room before I put her in her cot for the night.
Not only did having the recliner chair in the room allow an easy transfer into her cot (rather than feeding her upstairs in the living room, waiting for her to fall asleep then taking her downstairs to her room, increasing the risk of waking her in transit), it also allowed me to kick the foot rest up and get some good snuggle time in with my daughter before she fell asleep, which was much-needed after working all day and going straight into 1 Player Dad mode with a little toddler, cooking dinner, playing, and getting ready for bed.
I often fell asleep waiting for her to drift off, and would sometimes wake an hour later with her happily snoozing away in my arms. I eventually learned to harness these naps to help me get through the rest of the evening (which will be covered in an upcoming post on sleep in 1 Player Dad mode).
As I mention in the 1 Player Dad Strategy Guide, one of the unforeseen difficulties of living in a split-level apartment with a toddler is that I spent a lot of time carrying my daughter up and down the stairs, which gradually worked my back into a lovely array of knots and painfulness. And of course, when you’re in 1 Player mode you’re not likely to have anyone around to massage those knots out of your back, or have a lot of money to pay a professional to do the job for you.
The cheap solution, which I wish I got a lot sooner, was a foam roller. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this piece of equipment, a foam roller is a cylinder of foam (or a plastic cylinder covered in foam/rubber) that you can use to perform self-myofascial release – or, give yourself a massage (not like that).
Often seen at gyms, physiotherapy or being used by yoga practitioners, foam rollers are great for releasing tension (no, not like that), loosening up muscles, and increasing blood circulation. My brother is a personal trainer, and he uses a foam roller as his main method of warming up before a workout session. You can get them at fitness/sports stores, online (much cheaper), or you can even try to make one yourself (google “how to make a foam roller” – I looked into it myself but couldn’t find any decent PVC piping that would hold my weight).Once I got a foam roller, I was able to attack those aches and pains that were plaguing me on a daily basis, and after regular use I was able to get ‘back’ to my old self. I now use the foam roller at least twice a week as part of my regular gym routine, and my back is in pretty good condition while still carrying around a child who’s growing by the day and isn’t fond of the whole ‘walking under her own power’ thing.
4.Plastic floor mat
Carpet in a dining room. I mean, really? Sure, for adults that isn’t too much of an issue, but when you’ve got a toddler that’s just asking for trouble. Unfortunately beggars can’t be choosers, and this was a relatively minor point when I found the apartment I eventually ended up renting so I had to find a way around it or i’d be cleaning the carpet after every meal.
My first solution, when I just moved in to my apartment in 1 Player Dad mode, was to feed my daughter in her high chair in the kitchen, where there were tiles that were much easier to clean than carpet. While this worked, I wanted to have my daughter eat at the table with me, so I needed to find another solution that allowed this.
Solution two was simply a tarp on the carpet at the end of the table where my daughter’s high chair sat. It was cheap, efficient, and stopped and dropped/spilled food from damaging the carpet underneath, but it wasn’t the most visually appealing solution (a blue tarp that stuck out like a sore thumb at the end of the table).After doing some hunting around various homeware/department stores, I finally came across my final solution, which was a clear plastic table top protector which I could purchase by the metre. It was thin, but thick enough not to break under the weight of the table or my daughter’s high chair, and it was clear – so it wasn’t immediately obvious when you walk into the dining area.
It’s still sitting under her end of the table today, and has saved me countless headaches from food and drink spillages.
This last item is from the ‘should have got it earlier’ files. My daughter has always had a clear preference for sleeping in my bed rather than her cot, and on the nights when she started out sleeping in her cot, she’d wake up halfway through the night and ask to come into bed with me. When she got older, she would climb out of her cot and come into bed, which saved me getting out of bed, and even when I bought her a new bed to replace her cot, she still prefers my bed to hers.
As much as I enjoy the cuddles with my daughter when she sleeps in bed with me, her presence introduced a risk that I had not encountered since my own childhood – wetting the bed.
I had a mattress protector for her cot, but I didn’t prioritise getting one for my bed. Some nights her nappy just couldn’t take the liquid volume, or the nappy had become misaligned, resulting in a wet mattress and a half-asleep zombie bedding change/mattress cleaning attempt with a happily sleeping/conveniently pretending to sleep child in one arm. The following days were usually a bit ‘zombie mode’ due to interrupted sleep. This happened sporadically, not enough for me to do something about it but enough to be an annoyance and something to be wary of whenever she clambered into bed with me.
Only a few months ago did I actually get around to buying a mattress protector for my bed after having the spare funds to do so – and just my luck, the mattress wetting all but stopped. It’s happened once since then, and changing sheets was much easier without having to clean and dry my mattress as well, but looking back on the hassle not having one caused (having to clean the mattress as well as change sheets/bedding) I should have invested in it a lot sooner.
Those were the five items that made the biggest impact for me in 1 Player Dad mode, so feel free to harness their power to help you win the battle with your little one(s).