imageUp until about a month ago, the longest that I had spent apart from Thea was three nights, back in February of last year when I had to go to London with my job. Even that short amount of time seemed an age, and the 100 odd miles or so may as well have been El Camino de Santiago, such was the feeling of distance between myself and my two girls, patiently waiting at home. So, when it transpired that I would be travelling again – this time to California for just over three weeks, both Gemma and I knew this would be a real challenge. Of course, we had been apart from each other before, but rarely for this long, and only as a pair, with no toddler in tow.

It wasn’t until about three or four days before I flew that the sinking feeling of realisation started to rear its ugly head. I’ll admit, it was slightly offset by the excitement of the challenges that would lay across the ocean, but only slightly. Being an inherent worrier (something I am working hard to address), I couldn’t help but feel sad as the days until my departure counted down. I clearly wasn’t even remotely prepared for quite how difficult the goodbye would be. With my suitcases neatly stacked at the bottom of the stairs, in a dimly lit hallway, the taxi pulled up at the foot of our drive. With Mum and Dad trying to stifle the tears, Thea just stared, a bemused look dropping down over those chubby little cheeks. We made the goodbyes as quick as our heartstrings would allow and I closed the door gently before heading down the path.

Now I am more than aware that this may sound like an overreaction, that there are much bigger problems in the world than a temporary separation from your loved ones. I’ve never claimed that this was the biggest hardship, but it was our little family’s current hill to climb. It look about 30 seconds before we had sent each other the first text and if I’m honest I couldn’t swear to giving my full attention to the usual taxi driver dialogue. My opening gambit of “Been busy tonight?” was as much as I could muster, as the rest of my conversational repertoire was punctuated with heavy sighs and  suffocated sniffles. The meter ticked on.

One taxi, one train, one bus, one coach, one plane, one hire car and 5302 miles later I checked in and collapsed in the kind of comfort only a hotel bed can provide. The first few days were difficult for us both. For me, a mixture of nerves, sadness, excitement and jetlag made for a heady cocktail. Our initial FaceTime calls served mainly to remind us of how long I was actually going to be away. But it was technology that made our separation manageable. The ability to see my wife and little girl at a moment’s notice was priceless. My morning break coincided serendipitously with the bedtime routine and nearly every night I was able to blow Thea a kiss and wish her sweet dreams. Seeing her little face light up when she noticed my face on the screen was a joy to behold. After a few days she started asking for a “cuggle” whenever we talked and my heart melted when Gemma told me that each time Thea pulled the phone into her chest for a hug, she patted the back of the handset. The golden moment though was when, during one of her calls, she strung two words together for the very first time. As one of our nightly calls came to an end, she turned, waved, and casually said “Bye Dadda” before pottering off towards her toy box. Gemma and I just stared at each other, mouths open wide. There will be so many more firsts in the months and years to come, and I’m so glad I didn’t miss this one.

My time away was one of the best experiences of my career and I definitely had the easier part of the deal. Gemma was an absolute superstar, studying, working and looking after our little one all at the same time. My love and admiration for her grows with every passing day and her dedication to our beautiful daughter is nothing short of incredible. Her willingness to hold the fort at home and take on this challenge without a second’s hesitation is something I’ll always be thankful for.

I won’t bore you with tales of all the incredible places I visited or post a stream of photos of every single meal I consumed – I’ve been chastised enough for that already! Besides, it is not the point. All of that was surpassed in a few short minutes as my return leg taxi pulled up outside our house and I caught a glimpse of Gemma and Thea waiting in the window. Thea’s eyes popped wide open and smile spread suddenly across her face. She was so excited to see me, bless her, that her tiny button nose bumped into the glass. As I opened the door she wobbled her way across the lounge as fast as her little legs would carry her, arms open wide. The grin remained for at least half an hour, all three of us so happy to be back together.

In the modern world it is all too easy to slip into a “same-old” routine day in, day out – especially when you have busy jobs and a toddler to look after. The sofa and the soaps can, if you let them, make one evening blend into the next, and into the next and into the next… if you let them. As tough as it was at times, being separated from the two most important ladies in my life, it has definitely awakened us to realise how lucky we are to have our little family. There will be other trips in the future, for sure, but this time apart has taught us not only that we can do it, but also to make the most of the time we have together, taking nothing for granted.

Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder.

It’s all too easy to keep on thinking about your baby as if they were still merely just days old. Hanging on to those glorious moments that the first few weeks and months provide is something I’m sure every parent does. There is a subconscious unwillingness to believe that our little ones are growing up right before our eyes, and although each new achievement is received with wonder and amazement, we perhaps still refuse to address the fact that we can’t keep them that way forever.

Having not really had any exposure to babies before we had Thea, it’s been an education for me to see how much she can understand, even at such a young age. Over the last year we’ve seen her learn to do such things as smile, laugh, wave, blow kisses, and even attempt to make a phone call! However it didn’t really dawn on me until a couple of days ago how much she actually understands. I recall watching a programme called “The Secret Life Of Babies” where if I remember rightly they said that a baby can understand on average, roughly 20 words by the time they are one year old. I guess I must have forgotten that of late, but Thea gave me another jaw-dropping moment as she worked her way through her newest picture book…

As I swore in amazement, it really made me take a step back and think about how much more she must be able to understand without necessarily being able to communicate it back to us. In our house, with the constant banter that goes back and forth between Gemma and myself, the language used could be described as somewhat colourful – okay, it’s like a docker’s canteen in here at times. Looks like we’re really going to have to watch what we say from now on…

Wow… a year has passed already since Thea was born, since our lives changed dramatically, since we took our first steps on the long winding road known as parenthood. It has been an incredibly busy year for us, what with moving house, organising our incredible wedding from the ground up (literally!), two mini-moon excursions to our beloved South Cornish coast, oh yeah, and that whole raising a child thing 🙂 Because of all this (and a modicum of laziness if truth be told), the blog has been somewhat neglected. Okay, let’s be honest, I straight up abandoned it for the last few months. However, having friends and family together last weekend to celebrate the little one’s birthday reminded me exactly why I started documenting our journey together – to capture the thoughts and feelings of moments such as these that would otherwise get lost in the haziness of time.

We started the day off by bringing Thea downstairs to the lounge, which Gem had prepared amazingly with the new play tent already set up and filled with balls, books and her favourite toys. With presents stacked outside the entrance in a multitude of colours and shapes, it took mere seconds before those little legs were wheelspinning and Thea was off across the carpet like a mini whippet, headed for playtime.

We were genuinely blown away by the generosity of our family and friends as we opened present after present, each one bringing a different look of fascination to our ever growing bundle of joy. After getting acquainted with Mr. Tumble, Piggy, Pigger et al, the morning nap was next on the agenda – playtime is tiring don’t you know…


Time to seize the opportunity that this brief interlude provided – prepping the tea party for the afternoon. Gem did an incredible job of baking a four-tiered birthday cake and some delicious blueberry muffins with pink lemonade to accompany, while I was on sandwich detail. With a wheelbarrow of scones and their complimentary clotted cream and jam, and the obligatory party rings, the feast was complete. As we collapsed onto the sofa with 30 mins to spare and a sleeping baby still kicking out the zzzzs upstairs, we allowed ourselves a moment of smugness and a high five for the parenting win.


It was so nice to see everyone showing Thea so much love and it reminded us how lucky we are to have both her and all those that were there, in our lives. It was a shame that some of our closest family and friends were too far away to be able to make it but they were certainly there in spirit, and a FaceTime call to Granny and Grandad in Turkey made the distance seem almost irrelevant. Eventually it was time for Thea’s first rendition of Happy Birthday and as we gathered round and all joined in she seemed somewhat bemused as to what all the fuss was about…

I’m sure these fleeting moments will soon have disappeared in the rearview, and before we know it we’ll be pulling out these photos and videos to embarrass her on her 16th birthday, in front of all her friends. Some friends gave me a great piece of advice on the morning of our wedding – to try to take mental snapshots of the special moments that pass so quickly, which I did, and have retained in the dark caverns of my usually porous brain. This is something I intend to repeat, especially during these early years as we keep reaching different “first” milestones with our little girl.


So… one year down and we’re still going strong (and grey!). Here’s to all the birthdays to come and the fun-filled years inbetween. Both Gem and I are relishing watching our baby move from one stage to the next, on one hand eagerly anticipating the next achievement, the other hand firmly clawing on to the status quo, desperately trying to keep her from growing up. Such is life. Happy birthday little one. Dad out x