Family Life & parenting

The ‘mothership’ category. This is where I place the majority of my blog posts that focus on parenting, family life and many lifestyle issues.

Daddy does hair care

Imagine getting a comb through THAT...

Imagine getting a comb through THAT…

I’m quite bullish about my belief that gestation and lactation are the only things men cannot do as parents. I do however, recognise there are skills that have to be learned. If you are a father with daughters, hair care and hair styling are probably two of them.  

For many men it’s uncharted territory. The majority of us have never had shoulder length hair. Looking after someone else’s long hair is entirely foreign to us.

In the interests of equality, yes, there are skills that mothers of sons have to learn. I know of a mother who had to seek the advice of male relatives in relation to looking after her young son’s penis (but we’ll leave that story for another time).

A little while ago my daughter was having a play date with one of her friends. Her mum and I were chatting about swimming and mum made a simple remark; “I find it’s best to put a French plait in Holly’s hair before she goes swimming.”

I think the blank look on my face said it all. I had no idea what a French plait was. When I thought about it, I’d never even attempted to plait my daughter’s hair and she was forever accusing me of failing to remove the knots from her beautiful, shoulder-length locks.

I resolved to learn more about girls’ hair and what I should be doing to look after both my children’s hair (in the case of baby Elizabeth, there isn’t much to look after, but she’ll get there eventually). I’ve spent some time trawling the Internet looking for hints and tips.

I present a few of my favourites here. If you have any more then please do leave a comment. Trust me, any advice will be very gratefully received!

Use a comb, and accessories

This is a great, very simple video put together by a dad facing the same issues as I do. I shall probably come across as a complete oaf for admitting this, but it had never occurred to me that a comb could be used to define my child’s hair parting. I’d always relied on a hair brush. Also, check out the crochet doo dah thingy that Mindy uses. I want one.

Use detangling shampoo

My daughter’s life changed for the better when my wife introduced me to this stuff. I’ve learned that the trick is to work the shampoo into the hair really well and leave it in for several minutes. Wash it out too soon and it just doesn’t do the job. Believe it or not, I’ve heard that some of this shampoo is based on detangling hair spray for horses! If you’re interested in the science, here’s how detangling shampoo works.

How to plait hair

This should be simple but I still have a way to go to perfect my plaiting (braiding) technique. I’ve watched numerous YouTube videos on this subject and the one common theme is spraying the hair with water before starting to plait it. This will stop stragglers breaking away from the plaits and make the job easier. This video demonstrates the whole process very simply and the father involved claims it was the first time he’d ever plaited his daughter’s hair. Damn it, he even finished the plait off with a ribbon which seriously puts me to shame.

What not to do

I shall finish off with a video I came across demonstrating how not to look after your child’s hair, although the schoolboy in me did find it very funny. Watch and be amazed as this dad creates a perfect pony tail using nothing more than a hair band. Oh, yes, and a vacuum cleaner. 

Fun at the dentist

I don't like to think what would have happened if my daughter had got hold of any of these tools.

I don’t like to think what would have happened if my daughter had got hold of any of these tools.

I often find the most enjoyable moments with my children come entirely unexpectedly. I had one such moment the other day in the dentist’s surgery of all places.

I’d booked a check-up for our eldest, Helen, and I. Our baby daughter Elizabeth was too young for a check-up so she sat in the corner and stared in wonderment at all that was going on around her. To my great surprise the little one didn’t even jump or flinch when big sister sent a high-pressure jet of water streaming past her head, but more about that in a moment.

Helen had been quite excited about this appointment. She wanted two things: 1) a sticker proclaiming she’d been to the dentist and 2) to sit in the chair and get lifted “up and up.”

Helen was seen first so both her wishes were quickly granted. The dentist proclaimed there were no signs of decay and that she had a good set of teeth. This was a very pleasing moment. I always get paranoid that we don’t get Helen to brush her teeth for long enough or that she consistently misses patches when brushing so being told all was in order was quite a relief.

With Helen’s teeth inspected, this dentist’s visit descended into a delightful, comedic scene. She asked for a “pink drink” and a glass of mouth wash was duly provided. I told her not to swallow and to spit it into the bowl.

She followed my instructions enthusiastically. About a third of the mouth wash actually ended up in the bowl while the remainder was accidentally spat with some force across the floor. Thankfully the dentist and dental nurse saw the funny side and Helen was given a Disney Princess sticker regardless of the puddle of mouthwash lying at her feet. Little did I realise the fun had only just begun.

It was now my turn to sit in the chair and it was duly lifted into position so the dentist could get to work. The children were both silent and I was feeling quite relaxed.

All of a sudden, however, a familiar face appeared over my left shoulder. My daughter had decided to have a look in daddy’s mouth. What else could the dentist do but ask her to join in so they both had a good look at my teeth.

Eventually my check up was complete and the dentist delivered his verdict. I would require two fillings. This wasn’t the news I needed but my immediate concern was with Helen who was now wielding one of the dentist’s tools and mucking about with a foot pedal that controlled goodness knows what.

“What happens if I press this button?” she asked while playing with a tool that I couldn’t name.

To my great surprise the unflappable dentist replied: “Go on, give it a try.”

Helen was only too happy to do so. It turned out the tool in question was an air hose. Anyone with sensitive teeth will recognise this device as a shot of air to the right tooth can give you quite a wake-up call.

Having discovered what the tool did, Helen promptly used it to blast air into a set of model teeth the dentist gave her. She then asked if she could blast air into my mouth. I couldn’t say no and so I got on my knees and allowed a four year old to blast cold air across all of my teeth, the look on her face one of intense concentration.

By now the dental nurse was in hysterics. It was obvious the job wasn’t usually this unpredictable. Her laughter was a tad premature because yet another mess was about to be deposited on the floor that would be her job to clean up.

This tool that Helen was holding had two buttons. Having discovered what one button did, she now wanted to see what the other small, metal tab would do.

“Daddy, what does this other button do?”

I wanted to tell her it was time to leave. I was about to say something but the dentist answered for me.

“Go on, press it and see what happens.”

My daughter was only too happy to comply. It turned out to be a high-pressure water jet. Okay, yes, it was a small high-pressure water jet but it still had the force to send water flying half-way across the room.

Water was now hurtling towards Elizabeth. Amazingly it missed and she just sat in her seat oblivious to all the commotion and continued playing with a tube of toothpaste that she’d somehow gotten gold of.

The dental nurse was once again in fits of giggles, the paper mask across her face doing nothing to hide this fact. The floor was wet but the dentist was amused. It turns out he has a couple of young children so he is clearly used to this pandemonium.

I was very grateful for his approach. The last thing I want is for my children to fear the dentist. He clearly understood this and was quite happy to let Helen have some fun while she was, effectively, in his care. I very much doubt I’ll have too much trouble getting her to go along to the dentist next time she has a check-up in January. Wish me luck. 

Like this post? Well why not read this one about the time Helen caught chickenpox . You might also like this one about the birth of my youngest daughter.

Silent Sunday 7/7/2013

2 Washing basket

Children; they grow up so fast

That first day at school is practically on the horizon. As is the driving test, apparently.

That first day at school is practically on the horizon. As is the driving test, apparently. One minute you’re changing their nappy, the next they’re taking perfect pictures using the Photo Booth app on daddy’s iPad. That’s my experience anyway.

It’s a cliche, but children grow up so fast, don’t you think? Two things have happened this week to make this point clear to me. The first was a couple of days ago when I accompanied Helen, our eldest daughter, to her school. Helen doesn’t start until September so this was an introductory session that allowed her to spend an hour meeting her classmates and teacher while I mingled with the other parents.

While I did some mingling it was a bit awkward. Our youngest daughter was with me and she was in a demanding mood. She was quite happy to be carried round the school hall looking at the pictures pinned on the display boards, but if I sat still for too long she would lunge at my fingers and try to take chunks out of them with her seven teeth and immensely powerful jaws.

Apparently Helen was a little shy but otherwise her session went well. It certainly took us long enough to leave the school as she explored every inch of the playground on the way out, the promise of ice cream doing little to entice her from the premises.

So that was the first thing to make me appreciate how quickly my daughters are growing up. The second was extraordinarily mundane. I was looking for tights for our youngest. She’s almost eight months old but the only tights I could find were sized for a 0-6 month old. This was never going to do. She’s just had a growth spurt and needs tights for a nine month old. Although I found some in the end, I had immense trouble locating the correct size.

In the greater scheme of things this was not a disaster; “Father can’t find correct sized tights” is never going to knock NHS reform off the news agenda. In my own little world, however, it was a big event. It was a sign that my second child is developing at a terrifyingly fast rate, just like her older sister. I’m resigned to the fact it won’t be that long until I’m taking the baby to an introductory session at school.

Thinking about it reminds me of when my younger brother passed his driving test. He wanted to show off his new driving skills and insisted on taking me out for a drive with our other brother.

We bundled into his little Volkswagen Golf and he carefully reversed out of the courtyard. Standing outside the house was my stepfather watching the three of us as we headed off for an adventure.

Almost 15 years later I can still picture my stepfather’s face as we drove off together. It wasn’t sad or negative in anyway but it was obvious he realised his boys were growing up and becoming increasingly independent.

Okay, so my children are a long way off passing their driving test but it’s going to come round soon enough. I don’t know what expression was on my face when Helen walked off to join her classmates the other day, but I suspect I looked very similar to my stepdad the day we disappeared off in that old Volkswagen.  

Like this? Well why not read one or two of my earlier posts.

In Dad’s Shoes – raising the profile of lone fathers

Single Fathers

One of the images from Dad’s House’s earlier exhibition (photo: Natalie Naccahe)

I met William Mcgranaghan a couple of months back. Billy is not only one of the tallest people on the planet but he’s the founder of Dad’s House, an organisation that provides help and support to lone dads.

One of the most striking facts I’ve learned from Billy is the huge number of lone dads in the UK. I’d have put the figure in the low tens-of-thousands but Dads House claims there are 200,000.

Put into context, there almost ten times as many lone mums. Although there are many more lone mothers, Billy believes lone dads are at a disadvantage because there is much less support for them. He speaks from first-hand experience having becoming a lone dad some years ago and you can read his story here.

Dad’s House run a number of projects including free cookery classes, life coaching and social events such as football matches and pub nights. Most of these take place in London but it’s now branching out with a UK-wide photographic exhibition.

Building on the success of a similar project with renowned photo journalist Natalie Naccache, Dad’s House is to tour the UK with an exhibition of images of lone dads called In Dad’s Shoes. The images were taken by Harry Borden who has over 90 pieces hanging in the National Portrait Gallery and has taken photographs of, amongst others, Tony Blair, Rupert Murdoch and Margaret Thatcher.


Billy said: “We want to champion the cause of the lone father by celebrating parental love, a notion which is not gender specific. By doing so we want to show that fathers are a relevant and much needed part of the family equation.


“The exhibition will also raise awareness of the kind of support available to lone and single fathers, so that they can access that support more easily.”


You can see the exhibition at the Builder’s Arms Pub, Kensigton Court Place, London W8 5BJ. Information about future venues will be placed on the Dads House website.  

Dad’s House is also looking for sponsors to support this important project. If you are happy to do so then email