The Power of Routine

Of all the changes in my character since I’ve become a father (and there are many), none seems so violently opposite to the way I was before than my newfound respect for routine.

I hated routine. I considered it to be the death of inspiration, the dead-end of creativity and the rut into which all must fall eventually, therein to stay for the rest of their days, endlessly performing the same vacuous rituals in a sad and desperate attempt to find meaning.

Yeah. I wasn’t pro-routine.

The other day I was explaining how we managed life with two daughters to a friend of mine who is a more recent dad than I.

I was trying to toe that delicate line between telling someone what you’ve found that works for you, because it might be helpful, while desperately trying to not sound like you’re handing out advice. As a parent, everyone wants to give you advice. Especially non-parents. It’s exhausting. So I try not to do it too much.

Suddenly, it was as though I was having an out-of-body experience. I could hear myself speaking, but there was no way the words could possibly be coming from my own mouth.

I was praising the virtues of routine. Explaining how we put the girls to bed at exactly the same time every evening. How once the evening routine started, we had to execute it exactly the same way every night, and it more or less guaranteed that the girls would be asleep in a few moments.

I explained, with enthusiasm and pride that we had been doing this for over a year.

Clearly I’ve been possessed and need an exorcism.

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The New and the Old

I loved this shot of my daughters sitting inside the Abbaye des Chateliers on the Ile de Ré in Vendée, France.

We were lucky to find it. We were driving to our hotel when we just saw it there, a few hundred yards from the road, in the middle of a field. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision to stop, but that often ends up being the some of the best moments of a holiday.

There were very few people there. Only a couple of other cars in the makeshift parking space by the road. The ruins have been modified to allow them to be both preserved and illuminated at night, with spotlights set into the ground around it.

There’s a little square garden to one side, which is well maintained.

There was a little wind, which is why V is holding on to her hat, but other than that it was a wonderful moment in the middle of a wonderful day.

We were recently on holiday on the west coast of France, in the Vendée region.

Who knew this part of France had so much to offer? I’ve plenty to tell you about and I’ll write it up gradually over the coming days. Before I begin, however, allow me to share a little photograph we took of V, enjoying the outdoors on the Île de Ré.

Continue reading “Poppies in Paradise”

Poppies in Paradise

Hand-me-downs

Nowadays, a mere telephone is sufficient to give the owner access to unlimited entertainment. The little slabs of condensed electronics we all carry around are the ultimate platform for the delivery of content, be it audio, visual or interactive.

The smaller version of me so many years ago didn’t have such things. But I had what I thought was the ultimate in digital entertainment at the time.

A Japanese game designer, sitting on a train, saw another passenger playing with their digital watch in an attempt to relieve boredom. Inspired by this, he decided to create a combination device that could be both a game and a watch.

Manufactured by Nintendo, and their first real commercial success, the Game and Watch series of handheld digital games are a childhood memory I share with a great many people my age.

A little research indicates that Nintendo sold 43.4 million units of the Game & Watch series, and a total of 49 different models were created. At their peak they were being released at a rate of one model per month.

My younger daughter with three of my old Game & Watch games
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Little People, Big Dreams

Men become feminists as soon as they have daughters.

Me.

I’ve always appreciated* the fact that certain aspects of the game of life are easier to play when you’re a boy.

That’s not to take away from some difficulties that boys may face, and that girls do not.

That said, the balance is unambiguously in our favour. In our society today, there are many more difficulties girls face that boys become aware of only through long observation and the testimony of female friends. These difficulties are not isolated in youth, as many of ours are, but grow more challenging as a girl grows older, becoming forces that constrain their lives in ways that are hard to truly appreciate when you’re not subject to them yourself.

There are, however, many successful female role models alive today and throughout our history upon which to draw. They demonstrate that each obstacle can be overcome, co-opted, circumvented, ignored or defeated, given the will, the character, the example of others and (hopefully) the support of our friends and loved ones.

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Book Review: Little People, Big Dreams

We read to our girls every evening at a minimum. Often during the day too.

The books we read them are a medley of gifts, impulse purchases and carefully chosen material that we thought would be enrighing. Intellectually, philosophically, spiritually.

Oh? Two-and-a-half years old is too young for that sort of thing? We’ll have to disagree. There’s a wealth of children’s materials out there designed to open their minds to possibilities and new ways of thinking.

In this case: female role models.

The "Little People, Big Dreams" collection of books.

I’m very fond of the Little People, Big Dreams series of books, and I thought I’d share the series, and my reasons for liking it, with you.

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Improvising the Dress Code

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They look good, these dresses, don’t they? I’m quite fond of them.

I can’t for the life of me remember where we bought them. My wife has a better head for that sort of thing.

The bows are tied from two long, single-sided liberty-style printed pieces of fabric that come off the backs of the shoulders. My wife handed me the girls with these untied and said, “the fabric’s only printed on one side, see if you can do something nice with it”, so I did what you see in the picture and felt pretty good about myself.

We had a nice day, I took this picture, and in the evening I was looking at it and thought, “Hey, this is good enough to Instagram!”

The nice thing to do is to find the manufacturer of the dresses and give them a shout out on the platform, so I googled a little and found the company that made them : “D.O.T. Baby”, from Portugal.

I wanted to link directly to the dresses, so I started to flicck through their website and their instagram to find them, and I began to realise something odd.

None of the pictures had the bows tied the same way as me. See below.

They’re actually supposed to go under the arms, and tie in a bow at the front.

How did I not know this? It’s not like the dresses came with a manual. There were long strands of fabric, I made a bow. The strands were really, really long, so I made a really big bow. Problem solved!

Feeling embarrassed at my inability to understand the most basic of things – how clothes work – I almost decided not to post it.

Then I thought, “I haven’t slept in pretty much over 2 years, people will understand.”

And I thought they looked good.