The Last Day

After almost four years, today was my last day as a stay-at-home dad. And we marked it with a day trip involving two of G's favourite activities: going swimming and eating ice cream.

We drove down to Nantwich to try the outdoor pool there for the first time. It was great, although the water felt a bit cold when the sun went in. I say water but it's actually brine, a bit of a surprise considering Nantwich's non-proximity to the coast. Not that it was a problem, in fact I think the salt content helped G's buoyancy a bit as she swam around very happily.

When we eventually got out and started walking back to where our bags were, she realised she was leaving wet footprints on the ground. So that was a game we had to play for a while. Which was fine, because we weren't in any hurry.

I'd thought ahead and brought a packed lunch, just the kind of valuable life skill I've learned over the last four years. And after eating it I thought we could head back via one of Cheshire's many farm shops for a go in the playground and, inevitably, an ice cream. G had chocolate, as she always does.

So that's about that. Next week I'm going back to work full-time, so I'll no longer be a stay-at-home parent. And besides, G's approaching the age when regular online updates of her life will pass from 'cute' to 'downright embarrassing'. So I think this is the best time to bring this blog to an end.

We've done all sorts since she was born, all 9lbs 15oz of her, in September 2009. There were the typical baby things, such as the vomiting at social occasions, the rage-crying and the swimming lessons, Then there were the less typical things, such as the TV appearances, the meeting with the Prime Minister and the brief involvement in a political scandal.

A lot of people have asked me whether I found the whole experience difficult. I sort of want to say yes, because I think that's what people expect to hear. But in reality, the answer is: no, not really. G slept through from ten weeks, always ate her food and has hardly ever been ill. When she started going to nursery part-time, she settled in fairly quickly. She likes her football and ballet classes on Saturdays, and is looking forward to being a big sister too.

I'd like to claim this is all because of my superior parenting ability, but to be honest I don't think I could have had it any easier.

School Uniform

G's first day at school is still a few weeks away. But Mrs J came back from the shops the other day with a bag full of stuff from the Back To School aisles, which have already made a significant grab for territory in the bigger supermarkets.

Even though she's only joining the nursery class, G still needs a uniform. And she was extremely excited to try on her shirt and pinafore, as shown in the picture. "I'm going to school tomorrow!" she announced.

At the moment she uses "tomorrow" to mean any time in the future, while "yesterday" refers to anything that has happened in the past. So on that basis, I suppose she was right.

Paddling Pool

It can't have escaped your attention that the weather is still dry, sunny and hot. In fact, it's the longest heatwave we've had since 2006, which means it's easily the best of G's short lifetime.

But far from being confused at the persistent presence of a giant yellow orb in the sky, she's been thoroughly enjoying the sun. We had the paddling pool out again this morning, as you can see (I put G's hat on after taking the photo, a sunburnt little girl is one way to guarantee me a proper telling off from her mum).

Mrs J went for her 20-week scan yesterday, and we're having another little girl. This should have the benefit of saving us a few quid, because Mrs J's now going to struggle to justify doing much shopping for new baby stuff. Much to her irritation, no doubt.

However, considering my general non-pink policy with G, I'm sort of tempted to festoon her little sister with pink when she appears. As a social experiment if nothing else. And if it gives Mrs J a convincing excuse to go to the shops, maybe it'll be better all round.

Watching The Aeroplanes

Taking your child to the airport to watch the planes taking off and landing is a classic family activity. But I'd never got round to doing it with G, until today.

Since we moved to Salford I'd been vaguely aware there was an airfield nearby, and after driving past it recently I decided to go back for a visit. And so with the sun out once again this morning, I slathered us both in lotion and drove the short distance to the former Barton Aerodrome, now known as City Airport Manchester, and apparently one of the busiest airfields in the country for private planes and helicopters.

Almost as soon as we got there the North West Air Ambulance (the yellow helicopter by the control tower in the picture) hovered overhead then came in to land, which got G's interest straight away. But soon she was distracted by the playground in the viewing area, and set herself up in the toy house:
There was a little boy, slightly younger than G, also there, and G tried to get him to play in the house too. "Come inside my house," she commanded. He looked doubtful and didn't say anything. But G has obviously learned something from my parenting style. "Come inside my house and I'll give you a treat," she said, hopefully.

It didn't work, and the boy ran in the other direction instead. Maybe next time.

Outdoor Swimming

Continuing our recent tour of favourite places I've taken G over the last few years, we took advantage of the beautiful weekend weather by going across the Pennines to Hathersage and its lovely outdoor swimming pool. I've taken her every summer since she was little, so it's easy to see her progress from baby to toddler to last year's two-year-old.

On our past visits it hasn't always been as warm as it was on Sunday, but I made sure we got there in plenty of time so we didn't end up at the back of a huge queue. The pool itself was packed but we were in there for well over an hour, and G didn't want to get out at the end.

The whole scene was all so ideal I got to wondering why all towns don't have outdoor pools. As enjoyable as the drive over the Snake Pass is, it's not exactly convenient. I overheard two other people having just this conversation, and one said: "The problem is, we only get about two weekends like this a year". Few better ways to enjoy the ones we do get than by visiting a lido, though.

Back At The Waterfall

I'm going back to work full-time soon, and with my time taking care of G having been down to two days a week for some time anyway, I don't have many days left with her as a proper stay-at-home dad. So on Friday I thought I'd take her back to somewhere we've visited before, Lumb Falls near Hebden Bridge. 
Unlike when she was a baby and a toddler, she was able to walk most of the way down the path to the falls themselves. Which meant I could concentrate on carrying the all-important picnic, which naturally included mini pork pies.

The path to the falls from Haworth Old Road (if you ever want to go there you have to stop in an unmarked lay-by and trust to luck you've picked the right one, there are no signs or anything) has been improved a bit since we were last there, so G was thankfully able to walk most of the way back up too. Just as well, because carrying her for more than a few yards is tough going these days, particularly on a hot, sunny day.

Before heading back home I thought we could stop in at Hebden Bridge for a walk about and an ice cream. In the first sweet shop I asked G whether she wanted an ice cream. "No," she said very quietly, and perhaps for the first time ever, so we ended up leaving with a small bag of little white chocolate mice (another favourite).

Walking out, G then announced: "Daddy, I want some water... and then we can have an ice cream". Totally outmanoeuvred by my own daughter once again, we ambled to a newsagent for the water and then a second ice cream shop, and G got her chocolate cone.

It's a good job I like ice cream too, really.

Settling In At School

Well, here's confirmation that the march of time is continuing. G had her first visit to her new school yesterday. She's starting in the nursery class at a local primary in September, afternoons only, so it's not exactly proper school. But she's going to have a uniform, teachers, a schoolbag, all that sort of thing. So yes, she's going to school.

I picked her up from nursery early so we could go along for yesterday's settling-in session. G was very excited until we actually got there and saw the other children, when she went very quiet and started hiding behind me. I asked her whether she wanted to go and play, and she looked dolefully up at me and said: "No, I'm too shy."

This was sweet, but once I got her sat down at a table with some arts and crafts she was happy enough, and I was able to leave her while the parents went into a separate room for one of those question-and-answer things during which I never know what to say. The children had a story and a snack while this was going on, and G looked much happier afterwards.

"Look daddy, I got a sticker!" she announced, and this seemed to be enough to keep her happy on the walk back home. I don't know quite why young children find stickers so enthralling, but we've found several uses for them in bringing up G. So it's fine by me.