I sometimes watch Mr Baffled with our little Button-Pusher and think, he’s so much more patient with her than I am, and I started to wonder whether dads’ buttons are different to mums’, or whether kids push them in different ways? Best way to find out: ask some dads.
David Round works alongside his partner Hannah Saunders, who runs Big Fish Little Fish, an independent, grassroots music and events crew, that put on family raves with all the freedom and excitement of a mini-festival, in venues all over the UK. The Guardian recently called it “London’s latest clubbing craze”. And for anyone who remembers their pre-baby clubbing days fondly, I can’t say enough about how much of a fantastically fun afternoon out for the whole family it is.
Mrs Baffled asked David a few questions about parenthood:
Mrs B: Where are you from and where do you live?
David: I grew up in Cambridge, then went to University College, London and have lived in London ever since. We’ve been in Brixton for 9 years now.
MB: What did you do before having children?
D: Wine buyer.
MB: And after?
D: Continued as a wine buyer for three years but now a wine buying consultant, Director at Big Fish Little Fish and primary caregiver for our children.
MB: How many children do you have and how old are they?
D: A 6 year-old daughter called Winter and a 4 year-old son called Atticus.
MB: B&TBP is written by a mum of a toddler, recently turned 3, which brings many challenges! When your children were this age, did you struggle with it?
D: I think everyone struggles with it, whether they admit it or not. But we all deal with it differently. I generally hung on by the fingernails during the day, trying to do things with them that they enjoyed and feed them things that they would eat. Mercifully, they slept well at night from an early stage, so once they went to bed, we could have a glass of wine, do a bit of work and watch Game of Thrones. It was hard work all of the time and brilliant fun some of the time. I was the most ecstatically happy I have ever been and the most miserably stressed I have ever been. All at the same time. It was most confusing.
MB: Does it make you smile thinking about what cheeky monkeys toddlers are?
D: Yes. But ours are at school now, and they are cheekier than ever.
MB: Does it make you nod your head in sympathy with other parents currently negotiating the terrible twos / threenager stage?
D: Yes, nod my head in sympathy, smile in sympathy, shrug my shoulders in sympathy and exude sympathy from every pore, because dealing with tantruming toddlers in public is excruciating. You don’t want to give in, but how long can you really subject bystanders to the collateral damage of your battle of wills? If I see a parent going through this now I just thank my lucky stars that it doesn’t happen to me now…quite so often.
MB: Your children are a bit older now: how do you remember that time? Fondly? Thankful you’re now onto the next challenge?!
D: I do remember it very fondly because they are so full of innocent curiosity and uncontrolled energy at that stage and even the relatively brief passage of time since then has given me the perspective to see much of what happened as completely hilarious. But I will never forget just how exhaustingly hard work it is being the parent of toddlers. It’s unrelenting and they make no allowances for your recent bereavement, rubbish day at work or impulse to post something delightfully witty but time-sensitive on Facebook. They just need that rice cake now, not in two minutes.
MB: What kind of things did your little ones do when they were toddlers that pushed your buttons?
D: Atticus refusing to wear a coat for an entire winter. I would layer him up in jumpers and carry his coat in a flamboyant, yes-I-do-have-a-coat-for-my-son-please-don’t-judge-me manner, occasionally asking him loudly if he wanted his coat on yet. It was a whole season of embarrassment.
MB: Anything then or now cause frustration? Guilt? Annoyance or anger? Tested your patience?
D: The most difficult part of the day for me is the children’s bedtime. This was the case from an early age and remains so now. We’re all tired, but still standing between me and a child-free evening is 30 minutes that would be more productively spent herding cats.
MB: What about things that may have caused embarrassment or shame, if they did it in front of your friends or family, or even just in front of strangers out in the street?
D: They have always had pretty poor table manners, and this is particularly awkward when we have company. My mother takes a fairly firm line on this, so when we visit her our mealtimes are punctuated by my attempts to get them to eat nicely, finish their food and stop getting up from the table. I don’t think it’s much fun for anybody, but I find parenting in front of others quite difficult.
MB: Did you find they pushed your buttons more when you were tired? Unhappy? Busy? Hungover?!
D: My children can smell weakness so, yes, all of the above. Or so it seemed at the time. Actually, they just wanted interaction, so if for any reason I wasn’t giving it, it would be a problem for them. And they didn’t want problems, they wanted solutions and they wanted them now. It was like having the two worst bosses in the world at the same time.
MB: What about the happy buttons they press? Pride? Love?
D: I feel my happy buttons being pressed more often now they are a little older, probably because I’m less shattered and am able to notice it more. I find myself watching them doing really cute things, lost in a little world of their own creation, and I feel an intense, burning feeling of affection.
MB: I now have a Threenager in the house – and people keep telling me it’s worse than the terrible twos! Now your two are older, what other stages, if any, do you think they’ve gone through and how’ve they managed to push your buttons in different ways as they grow up?
D: They probably both went through the Terrible Threes rather than Twos, in truth, and it seemed at the time that it would never end. But it did and, at 6 and 4, our children are the most fun and rewarding they have ever been – without a doubt. They have their awful moments – mainly sibling rivalry and disputes over property, but I think school has tamed them a little and given them a bit more social confidence. Our 6 year-old continually delights me by complimenting my new haircut or saying that a new shirt suits me. But then she sometimes has what seem like teenage tantrums, telling me that I’m ruining her life, just because I won’t let her do something completely daft.
MB: Any particular age tougher than another to navigate? Any particular age that you especially loved?
D: Actually I would say the earliest age is the most difficult. You spend all your time sick with worry that this defenceless little newborn baby will come to some harm, you’re massively sleep-deprived and (whisper it), they’re not particularly interesting at that stage. You’re propelled onwards by the conviction that he / she is the most beautiful baby imaginable, and then two years later you’re looking back at the photos and you realise it was just an illusion, a piece of evolutionary hard-wiring to stop you chucking in the whole parenting thing and running off to join the circus. But you’re thankful that you did hang around, because things are more fun now.
MB: Do you think how you manage the button-pushing changes as they, and you, age?
D: Yes. I think that I am less confrontational on the major issues and on the minor issues I let things go more often. Up until 18 months ago, my son used to be particularly difficult to manage when he wanted to do one thing and I really needed him to do something else, like leave the house, go to bed or stop shouting. My new approach, a slightly desperate one, was just to love-bomb him – cuddle him, tickle him, generally distract him until he was laughing so much he forgot what he was he really wanted to do. It worked a lot better and, who knows, maybe he will remember his childhood with more fondness if I haven’t spent all of it bossing him about? These days I find that expressing extreme disappointment with their behaviour can be very effective – they don’t like it and will remember it and seek my approval for their better behaviour later on. But this approach requires patience, which I often don’t have.
MB: Do you think it will be different when they’re in say, their late teens?
D: I was talking to a friend of mine recently who has children in their early twenties and he said that he had dreaded them being teenagers. But when it happened, he realised that he just wanted them to be happy, have good friends and do fun things. They were and they did. So I hope I can take the same approach and see the same outcome.
MB: Do you think, different challenges but the same buttons being pushed?
D: Growing up, whether you are 3 or 16, is all about claiming an increasing amount of independence from adults who struggle to judge the speed at which this should happen. It’s a constant struggle, but while the cause remains the same, the weapons change as they grow older. The latest development is our children’s use of logic and reason in arguments, pointing out inconsistencies in what I say or what I said. It’s as maddening as it is impressive.
MB: Do you think that because the ones we love the most have the power to annoy us the most, this means that our children will still create these crazy emotions in us when they’re in their 20s, 30s 40s?!
D: Only if they still refuse to do exactly what I think they should do. So yes, but with less intensity.
Mrs B: If you had one piece of advice to offer to mums of toddlers having their buttons pushed, what would it be?
David: Cuddle them and when they are sick of being cuddled, tickle them. So when they grow up, all they will remember is being cuddled and tickled rather than all the times you got annoyed with them.
Mrs B: That last piece of advice is definitely one to hold onto! And it sounds like dads have their buttons pushed in much the same way as mums do!
You can find out more about Big Fish Little Fish here, or can follow them on Twitter, Instagram or on Facebook. If you’re at Glastonbury this weekend you’ll find BFLF in the Stonebridge Bar, Friday – Sunday from 1-3pm ( Glastonbury Festival 2016), and they’re also hosting a free event this Saturday, from 2-4pm, in Golden Square at London Pride. For other dates including their end of season London spectacular on 23rd July click here.