As much as I fly the flag for equality in parenting, there are certain, physical realities between men and women that society will never overcome. For instance, it will come as no surprise to you that I never breast-fed either of my daughters. Conversely, however, Mrs Adams has never lifted the children up and carried them to bed while pretending to be a fork lift truck (all dads do this, right?). She simply does not have the upper body strength to do such things.
Mrs Adams has also never carried a child on her shoulders or had to carry a three-year-old, mid tantrum, a quarter of a mile to the car and back while dropping her older sister off at school. Such pleasures have always been mine because I am stronger.
The days when I can do these things are coming to an end. For several months now, I have, slowly but surely, had to withdraw from such activities simply because my children are too big.
I still get lots of requests: “Daddy, will you spin me round?….Daddy will you carry me?…..Daddy, my legs are getting tired, pick me up….Can I go on your shoulders daddy?” I do what I can, but both kids have reached such a size that any activity involving lifting and carrying comes with a genuine risk of physical injury to them and me.
I noticed it first when giving Izzy, my youngest daughter, rides on my shoulders. I formally retired from shoulder-carrying several months ago. Every time I fulfilled one of these requests it was giving me a bad back, something I could suffer with for days afterwards.
On our recent holiday to Portugal I was mucking about with the kids in the swimming pool. We developed a game that involved me holding one of them while spinning around in the water. I could only do this for a few seconds with Helen because of her size. She is, after all, only 50cm shorter than I am.
Although a rather unglamorous comparison, Helen weighs about the same as a bag of cement. That’s a lot of weight to carry, even in a swimming pool.
Just the other day, Izzy asked me to carry her to bed. Simply picking the children up, either of them, and carrying them a short distance doesn’t present a problem. I am still quite capable of doing this.
Only thing is, Izzy was lying flat on the floor. I had to tell her to stand up as I wasn’t prepared to lift her up from that position.
To be truthful, this is a bittersweet moment. I’ve always been very physical with the kids; taking them cycling, swimming, running, spending time at the park. I was quite used to undertaking a small, supermarket shop with a young child attached to my hip. Carrying children in awkward situations is simply a part of being a parent, especially if you are a stay at home mum or dad.
These days I have to limit what I do. I have no issue with forcing a three year to walk to the car, no matter how outrageous the tantrum. She has to learn independence. None the less, it is sad knowing my days pretending to be a fork lift truck are numbered (look, it’s something I’ve always done and the kids think it’s funny, okay?).
Is my age a factor? I can hardly pretend I am getting younger. It may be an issue, but I doubt it. I think it has more to do with the fact my kids are growing up.
I’ll lift and carry for as long as I can. It was obvious I was going to reach a stage where they would be too big. None the less, I won’t deny that reaching this point makes me a little sad.