Five years ago, I found myself on a panel at a Mumsnet event for soon-to-be parents. I was a father of two at the time, with youngest due a couple of months later.
At the end of it, we were each asked to give a three-word tip for the expectant dads in the audience.
Thinking firmly of my own experiences, I said the first thing that came into my head. Just wing it.
Taken out of context, this could be misinterpreted as irresponsible advice – particularly as dads are often portrayed as lazy and clueless. But I stand by it.
I’ve been a parent for over ten years now and, next month, I’ll reach the same landmark as a dad blogger.
Inevitably, I’ve been thinking about the last decade a lot in recent weeks. And, the more I think about it, the more this little mantra rings true.
Obviously, there’s the caveat of employing common sense – and Google – when encountering challenges associated with parenting for the first time. It’s good to have an idea of potential eventualities of situations after all.
For example, I read – and re-read – about labour and childbirth for all three of my kids. And, surprise surprise, we had three completely different births.
There’s a reason that birth plans are now called birth preferences. Babies don’t care about agendas and you may have to wing it from the very beginning.
Indeed, we had to do just that when youngest was born. It was supposed to be a chilled-out home birth, but we ended up being sent to the second-nearest hospital for an emergency C-section at the last minute.
And winging it is basically what I’ve done since day one. Both as a parent and a parent blogger. I’ve improvised my way through the last ten years.
The thing is, by making it up as you go along you quickly discover what works best for your kids. It also allows you to make mistakes which I’ve always thought of as an essential way of learning.
I’ve always taken a lead from my kids rather than imposing any kind of plan. Letting them be their own people and intervening panda parent style if things look like going awry.
I’ve also improvised some frankly ridiculous ways of soothing tears, covered up accidental swearing with characters from The Gruffalo (Fox, Snake – you’re welcome) and deployed my skills with anagrams when oldest’s name wasn’t available in birthday candle form.
When the shop doesn’t have your kid’s name in stock and you like anagrams. pic.twitter.com/M6NXerwAlb
— Tom Briggs | Diary of the Dad (@DiaryOfTheDad) July 4, 2018
Similarly, I’m not afraid to wing it in the world of work. When an old job became so stressful it was making me ill, I quit and decided to give full-time blogging a go. It wasn’t always easy, but I made it work for well over four years.
When Brexit massively affected self-employed people and my earnings plummeted, I got a new job. That was a year ago.
We’re in uncertain times now and I have a contract until the end of the year. I want it to be renewed, of course, but will adapt as I always have if needs be.
And finally, with blogging, I’ve never had a content calendar and rarely think more than a week or two in advance. I write what I want when I want and flying by the seat of my pants like this has done me no harm whatsoever.
Of course, we’ve all had to wing it in recent times. What with juggling work and homeschooling children during lockdown.
But, once the pandemic is over, it’s an approach to parenting and life in general that I’ll naturally gravitate to.
So bring on the transition from primary to secondary, the teenage years and everything else beyond. I’m ready to improvise.