New Dad Ritchie Neville: Newborn Parent….Help!

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We’re really pleased here at The Dad Network to welcome, new dad Ritchie Neville as a regular contributor. He’ll be posting monthly about his experiences of being a dad to baby Ella.

Becoming a Father is hands down the most rewarding thing that I have ever done.

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Now that my daughter is smiling and more aware mornings are a true joy. The feeling I get when she looks up at me, her Daddy, right in the eye’s and beams from ear to ear is indescribable, I’ve never even come close to it before, to its purity. I also feel somehow that my place in the world, in the legacy of the human race and history and the long story of creation right back to amoebas in the ocean is somehow more valid. 

I’d heard it said BC (before child) that nothing can prepare you for parenthood but a part of me flippantly passed it off as “it’s tiring, lack of sleep, lack of social life, but you love them a lot, and that makes it okay,” which is true I suppose in short, but nothing could quite prepare me or indeed anyone with even a tin heart for the feelings it opens up. Just as she is experiencing her first few months alive in a way I feel like a newborn too, a newborn parent. I’m officially in the dad’s club now, its like a secret society, only dads know about it, its the knowing look from other dads or the older parking attendant at my local car park who is usually a man of few words, probably more of a grunter if i’m honest, taking a good look in the pram, raising his eyes to mine and saying so earnestly, “it changes you doesn’t it lad….fatherhood,” while he takes in one more good look of my pride and joy before getting back to the sport section of his newspaper. Yes Mr Parking attendant, it most certainly does. 
I’ve started contemplating things I never even realised I would contemplate. Some of these musings are the benign thoughts of the idiot I am like, “she’s not tasted anything other than milk, she doesn’t know, for example what an apple tastes like, something I can readily recall the taste of in my mind, she’s so new to the world, she has no idea about that crisp freshness and crunch, she has it all to come. Literally everything is ahead of her. Isn’t that weird?” 
I’ve started wondering who she will be, what will make her tick, what will be her pet peeves and how on earth will I cope when she becomes a teenager?! Hormones and door slamming, oh the joys. “Daddy, can I have some alcopops pls? “I’m sorry, I could have sworn you were just out of nappies?!” And a quick message to current baby and unborn boys, watch “Meet The Parents” and become very acquainted with Robert De Niro’s character, go ahead punks, make my day!
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Joking aside, it has changed me, its like I’ve pulled off the spectacles of a grown up teenager and put on the prescription lenses of a Dad. There are other things far more deep, heavy and far reaching. Things I’d rather not have to think about if I’m honest but never the less there my mind wonders now. 
Things like……..Kim Kardashians back side…… seriously. Or rather our obsession as a society to be so obsessed with sexualising women on a constant basis. Don’t get me wrong, I love the female form, that’s what got me into this mess in the first place! But still, do we and our children need to be force fed this junk on such a mass scale? I mean, surely on that day or week there were more far reaching (bigger lol), more important issues and news than that womans bottom? Or is that the point, “have a good look at this bottom while we don’t report on something that will really shock you because there simply isn’t the space in the columns…… because of her backside.” And don’t get me started on Paris Hilton! But seriously, is this what this generation of children will aspire to be? I guess time will tell but I hope and wish that my daughter and your children manage to find some decent role models amongst all the vapid attention seekers. It’s not what they are doing that concerns me to be honest, there will always be these types and they have the freedom to do what they want, I have actually posed naked once (but still covered!) so I would be a hypocrite on some level to have a problem with that, what concerns me as a father is society and the media’s hunger for it. Should it be celebrated quite as much?

 I worry, for the first time about magazines and the constant subtle conditioning from birth of how this “society” thinks women should look or be and what that can do to a young mind. I guess in this field its still a mans world, sex sells, as they say. I will tell my daughter every day that she is beautiful and loved as every girl likes to hear that but I will also nurture her to read between the lines and think out side the box and not follow the herd too much as the herd appears to have gone mad!

I recall the first time after a scan I heard that the baby was a girl, a strange and not completely easy and happy feeling came over me. Somewhere in my subconscious, unbeknown to me I had thought it easier to raise a boy. The knowledge that it was going to be a girl shone a light on this and I became a mute for about an hour with my other half asking me if I was okay? My answer was of course “yes, I’m over the moon.” Which I genuinely was but there was something else, something eating away at me. Maybe its because I’ve never been able to completely understand the way women think, being a simple and generally practically minded male. But I suppose it was because, in a way, I feel I have to make my daughter super savvy to the ways of the world and yet still strike a balance so as not to make her jaded or fearful and still fill her with the absolute joy of lives journey, maybe more so than if it was a boy?
Then of course there is the internet, what a mine field. And on this parents we are the trail blazers.

The worst part of this is the children seem to be more competent with a lap top than I am! I hate to say it but there are predators out there, predators who pose as minors and arrange to meet up with our little bundle of joy in a few years.
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All I can say is this, sometimes it may seem like the sense of community on the streets has dwindled since our parents generation but I assure you this, we, the parents of now are a community, we know there are dangers out there, lets keep constant vigilance for each others kids, call it “Parenthood Watch” if you like and make sure that all of this terrible stuff is kept at bay so not another life is affected by all these terrible things.

Now, I’m going to go back to being puked on and smelling like stale milk. I realise that all of these horrible things will probably not happen but in light of my new found feelings and responsibility theres nothing like a good risk assessment.
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  I have spilled out my deepest darkest fears in public and I’m now recoiling a little and hoping that you all don’t think I’m a morbidly morose kind of guy, I assure you I’m definitely glass half full so join me next time for “The dangers of waste disposal systems with toddlers and what if your child is abducted by aliens?” ;-)

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  1. Maryana Lopez O.

    This was a wonderful read Ritch. I would like to share you my perspective as the daughter of (in my possibly biased opinion) the best dad in the world.

    I feel lucky and thankful everyday for having the kind of dad that filled our house with love, laughter, and more important: books. My dad, being so fond of books, taught me himself how to read when I was 3-4 years old, he says he couldn’t wait to share the treasures hidden inside the pages with me. This, I believe, gave me a broader perspective of the world. I learned early about good deeds and consequences of our choices in fairy tales, later about adventure, friendship, strength, and humility from my first novels and youth books, and now books have contributed to the way I see the world and others, my own ethics and my understanding of society and the universe have been shaped by great authors and philosophers (as well as my incredibly wise dad).

    The other big gift I got from my dad was independence. I must say this has been a two way sword for him as I know it would have pained him to see me live an unfulfilling, conformist life, but at the same time, I see in his eyes how hard it has been to have me all over the world, far away from home, following my dreams and making a great life for myself, even if a continent away from him. It all started very early, he was always keen on being protective, but not on the point of me not solving my own problems, he encouraged me to make my own choices very early in life which he recalls gave him his first “what have I done?” moment when at age 5 I took my Minnie Mouse luggage and declared “I have decided to spend the summer with grandma, my best friend and her parents are traveling to that city too and I have arranged for them to drop me off already”. But the fact that he respected my choices, instead of letting his fears take over, is what has made me a woman who takes chances and believes in herself, just like when dad was the only person in my entire family who supported my decision to move to the other side of the country at age 16 to the only university that had the career I wanted. I was so scared to live alone, so far away, but he gave me the strength to believe I could overcome anything that came my way.

    And now life has taken me a continent away from dad. Tomorrow I will be traveling back home and when he picks me up at the airport I will see the immense love in his eyes mixed with the nostalgia of knowing our time together is limited to December. And I will also see the immense pride he feels (and constantly beams to me and everyone with ears), of having a daughter with a wonderful, adventurous life, being as independent as he hoped I would be, never giving up on my own dreams.

    My dad, is my best friend, my rock in this world, the wisdom in my head and what every dad should aspire to be.

    • Maryana Lopez O.

      * Sorry, I meant to say “two edged sword” (english is not my first language – is my excuse) lol *

  2. Marie

    Good on you rich welcome to the wonderful world of parenting it’s a real roller coaster with lots of twists and turns but one that a worth taking x

  3. Adventures of a Novice Mum

    It’s lovely reading a dad’s perspective … very easy to think that all the changes, fears, concerns, delights are largely happening to mums and not dads. O yes, you truly are never the same again once you have that baby and I don’t think you can ever be fully prepared for what it’ll do to you. It’s helpful to know that other people think about the kind of world their children will grow up in and the challenges that might lie ahead of them. And my, the joys of having them … nothing like it!

    Thanks for sharing, a very good read. :-)

  4. Alex@Dadrites

    Nice post man, and congratulations! Welcome to the heaven/hell of being a dad to a girl! So you’re going for the De Niro approach – when the time comes I’m going full Will Smith Bad Boys 2! ‘You ever made love to a man son? – you want to?!’

    Look forward to reading more.

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