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Co-Parenting

Two years of coparenting

The first time I came home with Evie after the separation, I was totally and utterly lost.  I had absolutely no idea what the future would hold, how on earth I was going to deal with it or whether it was even worth fighting for.

I just put on a brave face and tried my best, one day at a time (I think the strained smile in this photo is clear when you know where I was at emotionally at the time). 

Evie was just two and a half years old, she looks so young here. I was absolutely stricken with guilt at the thought of her having to deal with our separation at such an early age.

We all go through hard times in life; it’s part of the journey. 

Remember this: Just because you’re struggling doesn’t mean you’re failing. 

Eckart Tolle, author of this game-changer of a book called, ‘The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment’, writes, “As soon as you honour the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with ease. When you act out the present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care and love – even the most simple action” 

When bad things happen, people are often bitter or resentful towards the person(s) or that caused it. When the future suddenly seems uncertain, we tend to believe the striving for more will lead to happiness. 

The truth is that you can only control this very moment. What you do RIGHT THIS SECOND is the only thing that really matters – everything else is a distraction.

You can AIM for those bigger things, but you must work towards them day-by-day by knocking off smaller objectives and goals. 

You can LEARN from past events, but you mustn’t let them consume you because they’ve already happened and nothing will change it. 

This strained smile was the face of a parent brimming with uncertainty, until I learned to let go of it all and focus on the only thing that really mattered: Making my daughter smile, one day at a time, until I can’t do it anymore.

What a difficult few years it’s been, but I wouldn’t change it for the world because it made me who I am today: A proud father to the most beautiful little girl I could have ever imagined. 

Me and my daughter sat in the car
Parenthood

A Typical Day in the Life of a Not-so-typical Daddy and his Daughter

Before this blog existed, we used to post all of our content (and still post the majority of it) on our Instagram account (Go follow us if you don’t already!).

402 posts and 12.4k followers later, we often get asked to about creating a ‘Day in the life’ article or video. I’ve thought about it for a while, but never quite managed to get around to it for one main reason: No two days are ever the same for us.

If you’re here from Instagram, you may or may not notice that I rarely post more than once to our grid per day; occasionally a little more through stories here and there and, depending on whether I’m feeling particularly inspired, I may even throw in a feel reels for good measure.

The point is, those images and videos are such a small snapshot into the many hours we spend together. They’re honest and reflective posts that try to share an insight into how we view the world and our experiences of coparenting, but they’re not all-encompassing.

So here goes… Last Saturday felt about as close to a typical day we could get, so I thought I’d share it.

That said, it was still pretty random.

Time to wake up

“Daddy!”… “Daaaaddy” … “Daaaaaaaaaddy!”…

06:25. Dazed and confused. I stir from my restful slumber to hear my darling child calling me from downstairs. I live in a townhouse and my bedroom is on the top floor, Evie’s bedroom is on the first.

I call back in a croaky voice, “Come upstairs sweetheart, we can have a snuggle and put the tele on”.

Silence for ten seconds or so; it feels like a lifetime.

“Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaddy! Come and get me!”.

The morning pilgrimage from my bed, down the stairs and into Evie’s room, just so she can clamber clumsily onto me, blanket in one hand me, drink in the other, ready to make the return trip.

Evie’s getting heavy; especially when my body is still half-asleep.

We set up base in my bed and have a cuddle and stick the TV on. I’ll usually try to steal a few extra winks, although I never get to more than four, let alone forty.

Breakfast

After we’ve relaxed in bed until what I consider a suitable time for breakfast (usually between 07:00 and 07:30), I’ll take Evie’s breakfast order.

You see, Hotel Daddy is a five star destination and, though I swore I’d never do it, Evie has somehow enrolled in the all-inclusive room service scheme.

Once I’ve taken the order, I’ll pop downstairs and get Evie her usual:

  • Toast with a smattering of peanut butter or jam
  • A children’s multi-vitamin sweet
  • An ensemble of blueberries and diligently halved grapes
  • An Innocent smoothie

This girl knows how to live.

I have a coffee.

Service is delivered on a highly masculine lap tray…Pink with unicorns, naturally.

Don’t judge me.

Digital Games

Evie really loves playing games on her iPad recently, she’s just gotten to an age that she can actually do it, which is really nice to watch.

People often talk about devices as the devil, but I believe if moderated and managed carefully, they’re an engaging way to teach your children how to solve problems.

Within half an hour we’d made ice cream, created pies, raced horses, collected Lego coins, given Barbie a makeover and tended to our dragon.

As a kid, some of my favourite memories with my Dad and two brothers were spent playing Mario Kart 64 or Goldeneye on the N64.

We joked, we strategised, we commanded, we conquered.

I appreciate this time with Evie because it’s a great opportunity to develop the way we communicate too.

The game itself doesn’t really matter. The important factor here is having a shared goal and talking together as we achieve it.

Evie and I giggled for ages today whilst she put chocolate icing on a cake that look remarkably like human excrement.

‘Poo pie’ was born.

Those little moments are the best (Why do children find ‘poo’ so hilarious?!).

Playroom fun

After I whizzed upstairs for a quick shower, we went to the playroom and lined up all of her Lego sets on the floor.

Promptly after setting them out all nicely, Evie changed her mind about playing with them and we started playing Mums and Dads instead.

…I then moved all of the Lego sets into the bathroom so we didn’t trip on them – such is the life of a parent.

Evie really shone as ‘Mummy’, though my role as ’Daddy’ felt a little type-cast if I’m honest. Nonetheless, I soldiered on, took my baby and put her in the trolly and took her to the play shop.

Evie embraced a duality of roles, opting to play as both Mummy in the play kitchen cooking dinner and shopkeeper.

I loaded the trolly with a lovely selection of wooden fruits and vegetables and went to pay. I was told sharply that I didn’t have enough food and that I needed to buy more (by either Mummy or the shopkeeper at this stage, it wasn’t clear).

I felt conflicted at this point as depending on the character, the behaviour was either highly believable maternal behaviour or wildly unacceptable customer service.

Nonetheless, we continued and, after our shopping trip, it was time for ‘the party’.

Evie, dolly and I played ‘Shut up and dance with me’ by Walk the Moon and danced in the playroom, across the landing and into Evie’s bedroom until the party ended…approximately three renditions of the song later.

McDonalds

As has become our alternating weekend custom since the pandemic struck, we hopped in the car and headed to McDonalds.

We always go through the “Drive Thru” (So American huh?), and Evie always has a chicken nugget Happy Meal. I grab something and then we drive around the corner and park up in the local retail park.

At this point, we usually wedge the iPad in the open glove box lid and watch Netflix together whilst we eat. Again, something I would have told you would never happen in a million years when I was a parent, but look…here we are.

Today we watched Ben and Holly.

It was also glorious.

Supermarket

As it was Mother’s Day yesterday, we decided to whizz to Tescos so we could buy ingredients to make Evie’s Mummy a chocolate cake.

I’m a big believer of making a fuss of your child’s other parent even if you are separated because it’s important they respect and value everything the other parent does for them.

I will be posting about this subject in more depth over the next few days.

Anyway, back to the shopping trip…

When you see people on Instagram, you don’t often see the mundane daily tasks that they have to do, right? It always makes me laugh. How boring Instagram would be if it was an accurate reflection of actual life instead of a carefully curated portfolio of amateur photography.

We find we what need in and amongst the chaos.

Evie loves to push the trolley. Fast.

Today she only rams one person and has three near misses.

Progress.

Cake Making

We make a chocolate cake with chocolate butter cream and just about every type of sprinkle you can think of.

Although I help Evie when she needs me to, I very much just give her instructions and leave her to it.

The kitchen is an absolute wreck by the time we’re finished and the cake decoration is, erm, very good for a four year old.

Eating Hail Stones

OK look, if you speak to most people I know, they’d tell you that I’m fairly impulsive in my decision-making.

It starts hammering down with hail so I do what seems like the obvious thing to do…

Open the patio doors, hold out my hand and catch some hail stones.

We eat them.

Evie finds this really funny, which of course…I find really funny.

We step up our game by sticking our open-mouthed faces out of the patio doors and trying to catch them on our tongues.

Yeah, I don’t know why we did it either, but it was fun.

Clothing Alterations

Shortly after we sample the sky’s finest falling balls of ice, Evie notices that she has a little hole near her shin on her pink tights.

I grab the hole and rip it to make it even bigger.

Evie stares at me, eyes wide and jaw on the floor.

“DADDY! You just BROKE my TIGHTS!”, she exclaims.

“Err, I think you’ll find you broke them. I just broke them more”, I reply.

Evie finds this so funny that I think she’s going to have an accident.

It’s amazing the fun you can have with the most innocuous little things. Evie takes her tights off and we precede to cut the feet off of them to make these weird-looking leggings.

Evie puts them back on and then struts around the house in them for a good ten minutes before we eventually lose interest.

The remains of those tights are currently on one of Evie’s dollies; I’ve been instructed to keep them.

Santa’s Sleeping Bag

We have a double sleeping bag from when Rosie and I went camping last summer. You know, after the first lockdown when lockdown rules were partially lifted, but just before the next lockdown where they were reinstated.

Evie absolutely loves this sleeping bag for some reason.

We’re having a chilled five minutes when she decides she wants to get in the sleeping bag and lay on the sofa.

I oblige and help her find the entrance of the bag so she can slide her legs in.

Don’t ask me why, but I decide it would be funny to lift the sleeping bag vertically as close to the ceiling as possible.

Evie sinks to the bottom of it, lost deep in the darkness .

All I hear was Evie’s dirty little giggle as she dangles, suspended ever-so-slightly off the floor. That infectious laugh is a clear sign we’ve found a new game…So we got going.

Before long, the sleeping bag has become Santa’s toy sack and Evie has ‘snuck’ into it.

She hides patiently in there and until I come into the room, pick her up and swing her onto the sofa.

Laughter ensues and we reset.

The game lasts many rounds.

I love random games like that.

Shower Time

Evie has recently decided that she absolutely loves the shower in my en suite. Bath time is no more.

We cart a selection of Evie’s Barbies, an octopus sponge, shampoo, body wash, a fishing rod and a plastic poo upstairs.

The poo is from a game Evie got for Christmas called, ‘Fish for Floaters’.

The premise is fairly self-explanatory, but in case you’re in any doubt,.. You use the fishing rod to catch any floating plastic poo in the water.

Nice.

Evie usually asks for five more minutes at least five more times. Based on my recent post about living a more sustainable life, the length of time Evie spends in the shower will definitely need to be addressed.

She eventually emerges from the shower all red-faced and hot because she’s effectively created a little steam room over the course of the time she’s in there.

We towel her off, get pyjamas on and dry and brush hair.

Barbies

I give Evie another 10 minutes (which inevitably turns into 20) to play with her Barbies in the play room.

Evie often likes to say that Rosie and I are in ‘true love’ and that we’re going to ‘get married’ (A statement she finds hilarious).

Today, for the first time actually, she decided that her bride and groom Barbies would be Rosie and I and the children would be Evie, Tilly and Liza.

We get in our carriage and rode to the KidKraft Dolls House (You can read our detailed review here), where Evie put all of the girls to bed nicely in a bed each.

Daddy was left to sleep on a sofa with a good 40% of his body hanging over the end.

Typical.

Story Time

Reading is an incredibly important part of our routine when Evie is with me. We never skip story time.

Aside from the fact I get far too into telling the stories at bedtime, especially when it’s just me and Evie, I love story time because it’s our opportunity to not only have a cuddle, but to use our imagination and expand our vocabulary.

Well, Evie’s vocabulary (I don’t want to sound like I’ve got a big head, but I knew most of the words already).

I know right? Subtle brag.

Cuddles and TV

After Evie’s brushed her teeth, I usually let Evie watch one episode of something longer and one episode of something shorter as a little bonus.

On this evening, we finish with two episodes of Ben and Holly and two episodes of Hey Duggee (I have a shorter weekend with Evie because she’s going back to her Mum’s for Mother’s Day…so I want to make the most of our time together).

In writing this, I realise just how circular our daily routine is, which in many ways is lovely.

We make lots of time for cuddles and ‘chill out’ time in and amongst the total random madness that fills the rest of the day.

Bedtime

After the sleep negotiations have taken place and I’ve managed to talk Evie down from her stance of, ‘Sleep isn’t fun’, we always have a little chat about the day before sleep.

As she lays in her bed, I’ll usually stroke her hair and we’ll talk about all of the things that happened that day.

I think this five minutes is so crucial because it helps us both to focus in on just how much we did, as well how much we laughed.

This mindful practice of reflecting on the day is something I want to instil in Evie early on, particularly before she reaches her teenage years and life gets all-the-more confusing.

If Evie can take five minutes every day to just process and understand the day that went before, it’ll help her attack the next day with positivity, enthusiasm and appreciation.

I hope.

After our little chat, I give Evie a kiss and a cuddle and Evie scrabbles to think about anything and everything she can possibly ask me to prolong bedtime.

Today she asked me why the roof was on top of the house. I nearly fell for it before realising it was all part of her master plan to extend bedtime.

“Nunite sweetheart, love you.”


The next morning…

“Daaaaaaaaaaddy!”…

Sustainable Family

Sustainable Family: How we plan to live a more sustainable lifestyle

It seems that everywhere you look these days, sustainability is a hot topic. I read this stat and it really caught my attention:

If Earth’s history is compared to a calendar year: Modern human has existed for about 37 minutes. One third of Earth’s natural resources has been consumed in the last 0.2 seconds (by modern humans).

The World Counts

That’s shocking.

Humans impact the environment is so many ways with things like overpopulation, burning fossil fuels, deforestation and over-farming…to name just a few.

We’re altering the planet and triggering climate change and soil erosion, as well as reducing the air quality and causing countless premature deaths.

I mean, just look at the counter and you can see the clock is ticking…

It’s scary to think that my daughter could live to see the end of rain forests, which would mean:

  • Almost 50% of the world’s plant, animal and microorganism species would be destroyed
  • The climate would shift, causing monger dry spells and widespread flooding
  • 5 to 6 times more greenhouse gases would be released into the atmosphere

The list goes on…

So, what is sustainable living?

Wind Farm

Put simply, sustainable living is about minimising your impact on the Earth and its resources by making smart decisions about the energy you use and the products you consume.

The way humans have used the planet’s resources is causing damage to the environment, which will have far-reaching consequences for future generations.

The world’s 7.6 billion people represent just 0.01% of all living things…yet since the dawn of civilisation, humanity has caused the lost of 83% of all wild mammals and half of plants

The Guardian

The start of a more sustainable lifestyle

I’d be the first to admit that I’m certainly not the most environmentally aware.

Up until the last fear years or so, I’d always dismissed the damage we’re doing to the environment as ‘unimportant’ because compared to big corporations and titans of industry, there wasn’t much little ol’ me could do to swing the needle on climate change.

Becoming a parent changes you I think. Well, it certainly did for me.

When my daughter was born, suddenly future generations really mattered. I realise now how selfishly I’d look at the world, worrying only about what was directly relevant to me.

That dynamic changes dramatically when a child is born because you’re no longer living your life for just you – you’re suddenly preparing for the future you want your child to have.

I want my daughter to grow up in a world that has rainforests, not had them. And, I want her children…and her children’s children, to live long and happy lives on a planet we can sustain for many, many generations to come.

Baby steps

So here it is, the first step on what will be a long journey of learning I’m sure.

Opened box of Smol laundry capsules with capsules pouring out


I started last year by making the shift to Smol Laundry and dishwasher tablets, which are an eco-friendly, plastic and cruelty free alternative to your traditional household brand.

You can read our full review here.

Smol tablets are delivered in slick cardboard packaging and the delivery frequency is calculated based on your actual usage, which is a great way to ensure you only buy what you need.

Not exactly going to transform the world, but it’s a start.

Over the next few months/years I’ll be sharing our journey to live a more sustainable and environmentally friendly life as a family.

Our guiding rules

Of course there are so many ways we can live a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle.

These will be our starting focuses and, although it’ll take time, it’ll be so worth it in the end.

1. Save Energy

One of the easiest ways to use less energy and reduce your carbon emissions is to simply switch things off that you aren’t using.

For example, some simple things that’ll make a big difference are:

  • Turning down the thermostat more often
  • Using energy efficient lightbulbs
  • Using energy efficient appliances
  • Switching off plug sockets that we’re not using
  • Hanging clothes out to dry instead of using the tumble dryer

2. Use Reusable Alternatives

Single-use plastics are everywhere. They’re cheap, easy to produce and have been used in recent years on everything from shopping bags, coffee cup lids, water bottles, straws and so much more.

Some stats you need to know:

  • Over 40% of total plastic usage is for packaging
  • Almost 500 billion plastic bags are used each year
  • In the last ten years, we’ve made more plastic than during the whole of the last century
  • 14% of all litter comes from drink containers

According to Plastic Oceans, 10 million tons of plastic is dumped into the sea every year, which has a devastating impact on wildlife.

It takes decades (if not more) for plastics to biodegrade and when it’s consumed by marine life, it can have a knock-on impact on humans too.

The toxins in the plastic can be passed through to humans when we eat seafood, causing hormonal abnormalities and developmental problems.

Instead of using single-use plastics, we plan to make the switch to reusable products where possible.

Some things we plan to try (If we’re not doing it already):

  • Paper Straws
  • Paper and card packaging and coffee cups (Ideally FSC certified so it’s from managed and sustainable woodlands)
  • Reusable sealable containers rather than cling film
  • Bamboo toothbrushes

3. Use Renewable Energy

Using renewable energy where possible is a great way to reduce carbon emissions.

For example, making the shift to an electric car instead of a petrol or diesel-fuelled one is a great way to reduce your impact on the environment!

I currently drive a diesel car and I plan to make the change to an electric vehicle in just a few months; I’ll be share our experience!

The clock is ticking too, in November 2020 the Government announced that new petrol and diesel cars and vans will no longer be sold in the UK after 2030.

4. Recycle, recycle, recycle

According to WorldBank, by 2050 global waste will increase by 70%. Waste has a huge negative impact on the environment and when rubbish ends up in landfill sites, it produces harmful chemicals and greenhouse gasses.

By being making an effort to recycle as much as possible, less raw materials are needed to make new things which eat away at the planet’s natural resources.

5. Conserve water

In the UK, we’re very lucky to have 24/7 access to safe and clean drinking water. Lots of people take having water for granted, but the water supply is becoming more and more unpredictable.

Did you know that 12 out of the 23 water companies in England were rated as being under serious water stress in 2020?

According to the Energy Saving Trust, the average household in the UK uses around 330 litres of water every day.

Here are some things I’m going to try this year:

  • Instead of taking baths (I love a bath), I’m going to take short showers instead where I can
  • Turning off the tap whilst we’re brushing our teeth
  • Using the dishwasher less or filling it as full as possible
  • Always fill this washing machine to get the best use of the water
  • Installing a water butt in the garden so we can water the plants

6. Buy Fair Trade products

Choosing to buy Fairtrade certified products means farmers and suppliers get a better deal and more stability in terms of what they earn, which allows them to care for and educate their families better.

Some statistics about Fairtrade from Friends of the Earth:

  • There are no 1.65 million farmers and workers in Fairtrade certified producer organisations
  • There are 1,226 Fairtrade producer organisations across 74 countries in total
  • One quarter of all Faitrade workers are women
  • 26% of workers spent their Fairtrade premiums on education

I’ve never really taken much notice of Fairtrade products before and this year I plan to make a more conscious effort to make the switch – particularly for things like wine, tea, rice, orange juice, coffee, sugar and bananas.

8. Reducing Food Waste

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), if food waste was a country, it would be the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China.

Households are reportedly to blame for 53% of all food waste in Europe and when we waste food, all of the energy and water it takes to grow, harvest, transport, and package it goes to waste too.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, up to 11% of all greenhouse gas emissions that come from the food system could be reduced if we stopped wasting food.

Some things I want to do more of this year:

  • Planning meals to make sure we buy more efficiently
  • Freezing food
  • Using leftovers as ingredients for new meals
  • Composting food waste rather than throwing it away

9. Wear sustainable clothing

The global fashion industry is believed to be responsible for 10% of all global carbon emissions.

‘Fast Fashion’ is the term used for mass-producing at low prices, which requires a huge amount of energy and resources.

Aside from the waste that Fast Fashion causes, the harmful toxic fabric dyes and chemicals can enter and contaminate fresh water supplies too.

More and more brands are taking an ethical and sustainable stance on clothing production.

For example, I buy my shoes from Vivobarefoot who create shoes using a eco-friendly materials that are natural, recycled, durable and locally sourced.

More content on this to follow!

10. Use eco-friendly cleaning products

Cleaning products often contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment. Some can pollute streams and rivers, and others may take a long time to break down.

Some cleaning products contains chemicals may be ingested by wildlife, which in turn may be consumed by us, causing health problems and even birth defects.

This year I plan to make the switch to ethically sourced, biodegradable cleaning products that are less impactful on the environment.

11. Eat less meat

I’ve always been a big meat eater, but the production of meat is a huge contributor to climate change.

The meat and dairy industry accounts for 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse gases and the conversion of land for beef and animal feed production is a leading cause of deforestation in tropical regions like the Amazon.

I plan on making a conscious effort to reduce our consumption of meat and dairy products over time because, based on the facts, it seems hard to justify, right?

Side note: If you haven’t seen it already, check out ‘Kiss the Ground’ on Netflix. It’s a great documentary that gives an insight into short-sighted farming practices and the use of pesticides.

12. Go paperless

It’s amazing how far technology has come in the last few decades, and yet we still waste so much paper.

I don’t know about you, but I have a few drawers that are stacked FULL of old letters, receipts and other things that I keep just in case I need them again in future.

Getting letters and receipts emailed to you rather than posted is the easiest way to reduce the amount of paper you use almost immediately. Having it in your inbox means you can quickly search for any important documents too!

There are so many apps and tools out there designed to help remove the need for paper altogether. From ‘task list’, notepads, eBooks and so much more.

Note: It’s not always possible to get rid of all paper and sometimes it’s nice to sit and read a real book. I just plan to be a little more considered in how I use paper.

13. Grow your own produce where possible

Growing your own food has a whole range of health benefits and it also helps to reduce the need for pesticides that contribute to water and air pollution.

Because you’re not buying your produce from a supermarket, you can reduce the amount of plastic needed for packaging (although lots of supermarkets are making an effort to reduce their plastic usage), as well as the amount of fossil fuels used to transport it.

I’m not lucky enough to have a large garden, so being able to grow all of the produce I need just isn’t going realistic. That said, I plan to plant some herbs and a small amount of vegetables to help contribute to a bit of a reduction!

14. Donate rather than dispose

As children grow up, their toys and clothes change with them. Sometimes it seems like my daughter has her toys for no more than a few months before she’s bored of them and onto the next interest.

Plastic is used in so many toys and where possible, I plan to donate as much as possible to avoid any unwanted items going into landfill.

If those items can be used, re-used and re-used again by other children, then we can reduce waste.

Likewise, where possible I try to source Evie second-hand toys to save the items going into the bin!

15. Spend more time outside

OK, this is a bit of a wild card, but hear me out.

This year I plan on spending as much time in the countryside as possible.

It’s difficult to feel a connection to the planet you’re trying to save when you’re surrounded by an urban concrete jungle or sat inside in front of a TV.

There are so many green areas that are surprisingly close by and by spending more time outside enjoying nature as it was intended, the impact we’re having on it is that much harder to ignore!

What next?

Over the coming weeks, months and potentially years, we’ll be sharing our journey to living a more sustainable life and we’d love to hear your stories, advice and tips on how to do it!

To reiterate what I said at the beginning of this post, my current lifestyle is nowhere near good enough for somebody who wants to have less of a negative impact on the world.

But hey, we all have to start somewhere, right?

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Daughter sitting on a swing
Parenthood

When a temper tantrum isn’t a temper tantrum.

I picked Evie up from school today for the first time since before Christmas; based on how our shared timetable works, I hadn’t seen her since last Friday.

Although she seemed happy in and of herself and we had a little trip to buy some sweets, made a den in the living room and sat together and ate dinner, something just seemed a little off with her. 

When I said it was time to get her pyjamas on, Evie folded her arms, frowned at me and burst into tears. She seemed so uncharacteristically cross and upset over something so trivial. 

Of course it’s frustrating when your child is crying or having a tantrum, but fighting fire with fire just makes more flames. 

I’ve mentioned this book before, but ever since I read ‘How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk’ by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, my whole approach has changed. 

Something I try to do a lot more now is just…listen.

Once Evie was ready to talk, I acknowledged how she was feeling and let her tell me more as and when she was ready.

The issue wasn’t PJs at all. 

Evie felt sad this evening because shes didn’t want to go back to school – Not because she doesn’t like learning, but because she missed being at home after three months. She felt sad because she had been ‘waiting such a long time’ to see her Daddy and didn’t want to have to go back to school tomorrow morning. 

Hearing a four year old open up about their feelings is incredibly disarming, not least because it’s easy to ASSUME they’re just playing up because ‘they’re tired’ or ‘grumpy’ (I’m sure it had a part to play, but it wasn’t the root cause).

The big lesson I’ll take away from this evening is that we never give our children enough credit. If I let myself try to do Evie’s thinking for her and dismiss her strop as nothing more than ‘bad behaviour’, I wouldn’t have had that powerful insight into her little mind.

After some lovely cuddles and a little heart-to-heart about how it’s perfectly normal to feel like that, she cheered up and we had a went to bed a happy lady. 

It’s those little moments that mean the most. 

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Daddy kissing his daughter on international women’s day
Parenthood

International Women’s Day as a Father of a Daughter

There will never be a greater achievement in my life than my role as a Daddy. Watching my daughter enter this world and holding her tight against my chest moments later is something remember for the rest of my life – the moment I learned what true love was.

Today is International Women’s Day; a day that serves as a powerful reminder of not only how far women have come in the journey towards equality but, more importantly, how far society has to go.

It’s easy as a man to think we’ve addressed a lot of the issues and flaws in society, it’s part of the male-privilege challenge we need to overcome…but since having a daughter I see everything from entirely new perspective.

As my little girl grows up, I want her to experience a safe world that empowers her to be the person she wants to be and recognises her achievements fairly.

Although though the gender pay gap is closing, it still exists. Up until COVID-19 struck, women earned 83p for every £1 men were paid.

(Companies haven’t had to report on these figures since, so this could well have worsened.)

Although male-perpetuated sexual violence is becoming increasingly talked about and addressed since the rise of the #MeToo Movement, sadly it still exists. 1 in 3 women have been a victim of either an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.

That’s beyond scary.

As humans, it’s time for us to work together and acknowledge the problem.

As men, we need to take a stand and wake up to the systemic flaws in the system and work harder to do our part to create a fairer world.

As fathers, we need to do everything we can to lead by example and help our daughters to believe in themselves and what they’re truly capable of.

On International Women’s Day, and every other day for that matter, I want my daughter to live the life she wants to live with all the same opportunities her male counterparts would have had.

It’s been my mission since Evie was a baby to raise a strong daughter; somebody who is smart, self-assured and proud of their own mind.

I’ll always be my little girl’s number one fan and will protect her at every chance I get, though if we get it right as a society, she won’t ever need me to.

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Guest Posts

Guest Post: Making the Most of Family Time

This week’s guest post is written by the amazing Emma from @CoverMyBubble. Emma was one of our earliest followers on Instagram and has been supporting what we do since the very beginning!

With us all spending more time with our families recently, maybe you have realised that sometimes the simple things can make the best memories. For the ones of us who normally spend more time than we would like away from home, or do shift work, this last year may well have been the best opportunity to have valuable family time with your bubble.

What have families being doing during lockdown?

Apart from getting stressed with home schooling and getting under each other’s feet, 2020 and the start of 2021 have taught us that we can entertain our children, and ourselves, without having to spend lots of money. Doing home activities, experiencing the outdoors and connecting with each other more has hopefully made us value ‘bubble time’ more.

Below are a number of fun things to do if you’ve run out of ideas.

  1. Build dens with furniture, sheets, pillows and fairy lights – or make a forest den outdoors with branches, near to your home
  2. Make wallpaper people – use leftovers to make a full-size version of yourself, or a monster. Why not use it to educate kids on the human body?
  3. Shadow drawings using sunlight, toys and paper to cast shadows for the kids to draw round and make amazing pictures.
  4. Make a family tree – not only can you make it colourful, but you will need to chat to your whole family to find out your history and the kids will love it.
  5. Crafting & baking – the ideas are endless; cutlery characters like Forky, cress-heads, pottery, sock puppets, cardboard robots/kitchens/animals/shops etc, cakepops, biscuits…
  6. Make outdoors more fun – scavenger/nature hunts, find rocks to paint, make flowerbed or vegetable patch, explore what’s on your doorstep.

Why is family time important?

Everyone experiences big changes in their lives, but no one knows when it is going to happen to them. As parents we’re going through stress, anxiety, frustration, and other negative impacts. For the sake of ourselves and our children, we need to make sure our minds, health and attitude are in the best possible place. If we keep positive and pass that onto others by stimulating the senses, we’ll re ready for whatever dreams and goals we have set ourselves for the future.

Make sure you are there for others and keep in contact with friends and family. Share your feelings with your loved ones, so they know what you are going through, good or bad. Its ok to be not ok but share it so we can watch out for one another.  

How to make the most of family time

Time with your family bubble can be very different depending on your circumstances. That’s why we need to make memories for our future, so we can look back and remember the good times. We may go through the loss of a loved one or experience poor health, which will sometimes make us look back with sadness. That’s why memories are so important and the variety of them, will keep us remembering them for many years to come.

Record your times together by taking plenty of photos and videos and sharing them with your extended family and friends. You may not think it’s worth it at the time, but when things don’t go to plan later in life, you’ll value these memories.

Protecting for your family’s future

Your bubble is very important to you, but if a sudden event like serious illness or death was to affect you, are you protected? Are your children covered? A long-time off work ill or injured or the loss of your partner, will have a direct impact on your finances. Cover My Bubble are a family business who have experienced not being insured when they lost their daughter, Lillie. They don’t want other families to go through financial hardship like they did and want to raise awareness about the affordable family insurances suitable for you. If you want to make sure you are protected properly or have some questions, please contact Emma at @CoverMyBubble

Cover My Bubble Ltd. don’t charge any fees and can compare policies with all the top UK insurance companies. Imagine them as a friendly, flexible, real-life comparison site, but an actual insurance broker with your family their priority.

You can reach us direct by calling 01254 460880 too!


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Parenting Hacks & Tips

10 Common Parenting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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Parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world. There’s so much more to parenthood than I could have ever imagined; something I talked about in ‘5 things about parenthood NOTHING can prepare you for’. 

Sometimes it feels like whatever we do, we’re competing against the Jones’, their perfect social media feed kids and their faultless way of doing things.  

Try as we might, we’re bound to get it wrong from time to time – it’s part of the journey. Relying on our ‘Parenting instincts’ just isn’t enough and, more often than not, we’re too proud to ask for help or advice when we need it because it feels like we’ve failed. 

If you can learn to overcome these 10 common mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to becoming the best parent you can be. 

1. Fighting your children’s battles for them

It goes without saying that your children mean everything to you, right?

Of course they do.

But, sometimes you just need to take a step back and your kid learn that their actions have consequences

For example, if your child does something that has a negative impact on others, it can be tempting to jump in and protect them if somebody points it out.

The thing is, fighting your child’s battles will teach them that three is no consequence to their actions and that they don’t need to be accountable for their decisions.  

Take time to be constructive and remind them using positive language what the correct behaviour is and why we should do it, rather than ignoring it or always coming to the rescue.

2. Letting technology rule the roost

In the last decade, the way we consume and use technology has evolved massively. Smartphones, tablets, connected technology…You name it, we all have it. 

Technology is an important part of most of our lives and it gives us access to entertainment, communication and connection – particularly during a pandemic! 

It can be tempting to let your children sit on YouTube Kids or watching Netflix because of a few reasons:

  • Your child enjoys it
  • It gives you a moment of peace to get household chores done
  • You can do it together

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of streaming here and there, but try to create quality memories by doing other activities too.

Go for a walk, think up an activity to do together (Looking for inspo? Read this!) or read a book. 

Limiting the time kids sit in front of a screen will not only help you form an unbreakable parent child relationship, but it’ll teach your child some invaluable social skills at the same time. 

3. Not leading by example

So many parents know all the best parenting techniques and can talk big about the right parenting style for every situation, but their behaviours don’t mirror what they say. 

For example, I walked out of a supermarket last week and saw a mum with her child. Not only did she tell her daughter to get off of her phone, whilst simultaneously glancing at her own device, but when the girl raised her voice at her mother in frustration, the mother yelled about how she shouldn’t shout. 

I mean, seriously…

The phase, “Do as I say, not as I do” does not apply to parenting, trust me. 

Remember, you’re the ultimate role model for your child – the hero of their little story.

To be an effective parent, you need to model the behaviour you want to see in them. They’ll be more likely to mirror you than to listen to you.

4. Not dedicating enough quality time

Life is hectic, right? I often talk on our Instagram page about how trying to keep on top of parenthood, finances, household jobs, relationships, friendships and more can feel like spinning plates.

Sooner or later, one of them drops. 

With all that on your mind, it’s not uncommon to feel distracted when you’re with your kids whilst you’re busy thinking about everything you need to do.

Parents feel an immense amount of pressure, particularly with young children; it’s so difficult to keep on top of their own mental health and keep everything else afloat. 

It’s easy to get lost, though.

Remember, your children crave your attention, whether they’re being little angels or playing up. Try to spend as much quality time with your children every day because, outside of telling them you love them, being present and in that moment shows them that you love them. 

Try to make the time you spend together as ‘high quality’ as possible. Put that phone in a drawer, turn off the TV and give them 100% of your attention for as much time as you can. 

5. Not spending enough time on your relationship

Becoming a parent is a wonderful experience and that little person will instantly become your entire universe. Be careful though, your child shouldn’t replace your relationship with your partner, only add to it.

Whether you’re a nuclear family or a separated, blended family, always take the time to focus on your relationship as much as you can. That strong foundation will help you work through some of the natural struggles that come with raising a child. 

I know from experience that if you’re unhappy in a long term relationship, it’ll project into the way you bring up your children. Remember to nurture your relationship with your partner and your child will be so much happier for it in the long run. 

6. Not spending enough time looking after yourself 

With all of those important things to focus on on top of this beautiful little munchkin to raise to raise, we often forget to take the time for ourselves; I’m certainly guilty of this. 

We burn the candle at both ends, which means we become overwhelmed or frustrated at the relentless nature of parenthood and well, life in general. 

Make sure you factor in some ‘me time’ to gather your thoughts where possible. Allocate a little block of time into your routine, perhaps when the kids are in bed, to meditate, write in a journal, exercise or have a bath. 

I struggle with switching off and always feel like I should be doing something. My girlfriend will often remind me that it’s OK to just relax sometimes and she’s right – recharging your batteries will save you from burnout, making you a better parent in the long-run. 

7. Being controlled by your emotions

As our children grow, they’re still learning to rationalise their thoughts and deal with their feelings. They may act up, misbehave or whinge for seemingly no reason at all.

Children have evolved to elicit a response out of their parents because, unlike many other species on this planet, us humans and our big brains take a long time to develop. 

It’s perfectly normal to feel a sense of frustration or anger if your child keeps pestering you, misbehaving, crying…or anything else for that matter.

The important thing is to try not to let your emotions take hold. 

Remembering that children are impressionable little things and will mirror your behaviours is important. If you react emotionally or get visibly angry, your child will think this is the appropriate way to behave in future. 

If you’re feeling stressed, try to take a quick time out. So long as your child is safe, leave the room for a minute and take a few deep breaths, count to ten and get ready to go again. 

8. Doing everything for your kids

We all adore our children and we want them to be happy. If you’d have told me 5 years ago that I’d be bringing my daughter breakfast in bed every time she stayed with me, I’d have laughed you out of the room. 

It’s perfectly normal to feel a sense of responsibility to our children, but it’s important that you don’t do everything for your kids. 

Children need to learn to appreciate the value of what you do for them rather than expect it. You don’t want to set expectations for your child because they’ll grow up without any sense of ownership of their own lives. 

9. Not listening to your children

As I mentioned earlier, children can be irrational little devils sometimes. They’re still developing and their perception of the world has been shaped by a very limited experience of it. 

When a child is talking to you, parents can often shoot them down without even knowing they’re doing it. 

In the brilliant book, “How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk” by Adele Faber, she explores the concept of really listening to your children.

She uses this example:

CHILD:Mommy, I’m tired
ME:You couldn’t be tired. You just napped. 
CHILD:(louder) But I’m tired. 
ME:You’re not tired. You’re just a little sleepy. Let’s get dressed.
CHILD:(wailing) No, I’m tired!
Excerpt from ‘How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk’ by Adele Faber

Adele explains, “I was…telling my children over and over again not to trust their own perceptions but to rely on mine instead”.

Instead, encourage them to talk to you and hear what they have to say. 

Rather than denying your child’s feelings, try acknowledging them instead, even if you know the outcome will still be the same.

I’ll share an example of what I mean.

Last week we were getting ready to take my daughter, Evie, back to her mum’s house. 

EVIE:Daddy, I don’t want to get dressed
ME:Oh I don’t want to get dressed either! I wish we could stay in our pyjamas all day and play. 
EVIE:Me too! We could bounce on the bed ALL day! 
ME:That would be SO MUCH fun! I’d love that! We do need to get you back to Mummy’s house though, so maybe next time we can do that?
CHILD:(big compliant sigh) Okayyy then. 

This example is what Faber describes as ‘giving a child their wish in fantasy’. By acknowledging that Evie didn’t want to get dressed and understanding what she wanted, we imagined what that would be like to give Evie the outcome she wanted in that moment before coming back to the original task at hand: Getting dressed. 

Evie proceeded to get dressed beautifully and didn’t mention it again. 

10. Being inconsistent 

Part of being a child is testing boundaries (Man, part of being an adult for me is testing boundaries!).

Children have an amazing sense of what they can get away with and they’ll try their best to push their luck at every given opportunity. 

One of my absolute musts as a parent (and in the workplace for that matter!) is consistency. If your child knows exactly how you’ll react and that you’ll always do what you say you’ll do, parenting becomes infinitely easier. 

For example, if you tell your child they can’t watch the TV one day whilst they have their dinner, but the next day you give in and let them because you’re stressed and can’t face the argument, guess what they’ll do the next day when you say no…

They’ll keep pushing until you give in or they’ll get upset when you don’t.

Children feel safe and secure when they know what the rules are and how to stick to them.

Some days you won’t want to stick to your rules, but trust me…those small ‘in-the-moment’ battles will be far easier than the on-going arguments when they challenge you on everything!  

Summary 

It’s important to remember that no parent is perfect. We all have good days and bad days and nobody expects you to get it right all the time.

Guess what? The fact you’re even thinking about it shows you’re an amazing parent already. 

If you have an off day, don’t beat yourself up over it. Just take a moment, reflect and see if you can improve the next day! 

You’ve got this! 

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Co-Parenting

Featured in the Sunday Telegraph’s Stella Magazine!

On Sunday 21st February, we were asked to contribute in a feature for the Sunday Telegraph’s Stella Magazine called, ‘Being brought up by a single dad was nothing like people expect

It’s a fantastic piece in which Zeena Moolla explores what it was like to be raised by just her father, along with some of the stereotypes she faced as a consequence.

We’re all so used to the idea that women just are the nurturing parents and the carers of the house, despite the fact that this stereotype is archaic and outdated.

Zeena found people couldn’t quite get their head around the fact that she was being raised as a man and the limitations they thought this would present to her life…

“…We lost count of the number of people who inferred that as a man, he couldn’t be as caring as a woman. ‘Do they not miss having a mother around?’ was the impertinent question often posed to him. It drove me inwardly mad. It felt as if my dad was being undermined.”

Although family dynamics are definitely changing, I was asked to comment on how I feel men are perceived when they take a nurturing approach to parenting…

“Blogger Dan Betts, founder of thebreakingdad.co.uk, says that after he and his partner separated in 2019, and started sharing custody of their daughter Evie, now four, he was struck by the reactions of strangers. ‘People are often very surprised by how dedicated I am to Evie,’ he says. ‘It tells me there’s a very clear perception that men can’t be “maternal”. [But] as men, we’re just as capable of being nurturing parents.’

His time as a single father has, he says, taught him that there is no such thing as ‘mum jobs’ and ‘dad jobs’. ‘Being responsible for everything to do with Evie’s care, 100 per cent of the time she’s with me, has helped me to appreciate the difficult balancing act many mums face every day. And it’s not about being perceived as “good for a dad”; it’s about stepping up and being there for your child, because that’s what a parent should do.’”

I was so proud to be able to contribute to such a progressive article; it’s so important to challenge the way we view fathers in the UK.

Society is changing and the stereotypical, ‘Dad who sits on the sofa with a beer and watches sports, whilst the mum does everything else’ just doesn’t fly anymore.

At least, not in my book.

Just as in the workplace, we’re challenging long-standing and historic unfairness when it comes to the gender gap, we need to be confident to do the same at home too.

We were so grateful to be involved in this article and, perhaps one day, Evie will read it and know that I did everything I could to be the best father I could be.

Blended family photo together
Parenthood

Featured on Family Action this week!

We love what the good people over at Family Action do and we were featured in a guest post just before Christmas last year (You can see the article here).

As lockdown CONTINUES with seemingly no end in sight, they kindly reached out and asked us to share our perspective on what life is like as we try to establish the beginnings of our new ‘blended family between two households.

I loved writing this one because it gave us a platform to share some of things we’ve learned.

You can read it here!

couple after separation
Separation

Effects of parental separation on a child

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There’s a stigma that surrounds separation; it feels like we’ve failed. With around 2.4 million separated families in Great Britain, what are the effects of parental separation on a child? 

If you haven’t been there yourself, I’m sure you’ve known somebody who has. Separation is a tough emotional experience for grown-ups, let alone children.

My parents divorced when my twin brother and I were young children, so we have first-hand experience of the psychological effect of separation and divorce from a kid’s perspective. 

Honestly? For me, there wasn’t a great deal of lasting impact (at least, conscious ones!), but the long term effects are almost entirely dependant on your circumstances, the arrangements that are made between the parents and how they’re carried out. 

This is a topic I researched a lot when Evie’s mum and I first separated, so let’s break it down. 

How are children affected by parental separation?


Even between adults, parental separation can feel like an emotional rollercoaster. As grown-ups, we’ve got the luxury of fully developed brains and a contextual understanding of the situation and why it’s happening. 

For a child, particularly at the beginning, it can often feel like trying to put together a puzzle and only having half of the pieces. 

The immediate aftermath of separation is when a child is typically most unhappy.

It’s very normal for a child to want their parents to remain together and that unhappiness can transfer into behavioural problems.

It’s understandable when all-of-a-sudden the life your child has always known has been ripped from underneath them – not just their physical home, but their entire way of life.

It’s likely that your child will be feeling:

  • Guilt at the thought that it might be their fault
  • Anger at the parents for letting the relationship fail
  • Fear about what the future holds
  • Upset at the loss of the life and family they knew
  • Torn between both parents 
  • Confused about all of the changes

This whirlwind of emotions is often compounded even more by the changes that are going on around them. Parental separation often means the division of assets and, at least in the short term, money is usually tight, stress levels are high and everybody is just a little out of kilter.

Our experience

This wasn’t a particularly pleasant phase of my life and I remember my debt spiralling rapidly out of control after Evie’s mum walked out. I had to find the money to cover the house, child maintenance, rising credit card bills, solicitor and mediation fees and everything else that life throws at you.

On the plus side, Evie was only two-and-a-half years old when we separated and Evie’s mum had worked every other Saturday since her maternity leave had finished. This meant Evie was used to being alone with me regularly, so her transition was fairly straightforward in that respect. 

Emotional and Behavioural Problems 

If you’ve lived through separation yourself, you’ll know there’s usually a phase of re-adjustment. Somebody that has played such a fundamental part of your life is suddenly not part of it anymore and you need to ‘unlearn’ the life you’d become so accustomed to. 

The same goes for your children too.

It’s not uncommon for children to become very insecure, which can often trigger a whole range of behaviours that you’d associate with them being much younger. 

If your child is struggling with insecurity, research has shown they can regress. You might find they start wetting the bed all-of-a-sudden or that they become incredibly clingy when they’re around you – they may even channel that energy into anger and stroppiness. 

Here’s what you need to remember: It’s totally normal

Our experience

Evie dealt with the separation fantastically but I definitely noticed that she became more clingy in the first few months. She’d always want to be carried and became very reliant on her dummy as a comforter.

Given all of the changes going on, Evie had her dummy and blanket later than she would have done if her mum and I hadn’t separated. Wee felt it was important for her to have some consistency and to minimise the number of changes going on until she’d adjusted to her life with both newly single parents.

What can you do to help

Like I said earlier, it’s almost a given that there will be some difficult feelings between you both as parents and probably the extended families. 

The most important thing to remember is that your child will pick up on this

You need to do everything in your power for the sake of their mental health, to make sure that you don’t project any of those feelings of anger, sadness or bitterness onto your child. 

Instead, you need to do all you can do to help your child emotionally through the separation, whilst quashing any feelings of guilt, confusion or unhappiness they might be feeling after the split. 

You can support your child by: 

  • Speaking as positively as possible about the other parent as possible in front of your child
  • Being honest about the situation, but being mindful of not putting them in a situation that makes them feel like they have to choose sides
  • Remind them that they’re loved by both parents
  • Encourage them to speak openly and honestly with you about how they feel and listen to them. It’s OK for them to be hurting, just hear and try not to advise
  • Keep your daily routines as normal as possible 
  • Be patient, these things take time



Our experience:

I struggled immensely with guilt following the separation, as well as parental self-doubt. I genuinely felt like I’d failed as a parent because Evie’s mum and I hadn’t worked out.

It felt awful knowing that Evie was having to move between households because it as all new to her.

I’ve always been a passionate advocate of consistency when it comes to parenting (and adulting for that matter!).

I made it my life’s mission to make sure that I gave and continue to give Evie the most enjoyable experience possible when she’s with me.

If I say, “What’s Daddy’s house for?”, I can guarantee the answer she’ll give you will be…

“HAVING FUN!”

I try my best to do always do everything I’ve listed above. I’ll be honest, some days I’m better at it than others.

We all are.

The important thing to remember is that we all have off days.

Being self-aware enough to notice when you could be better is half the battle.

All you have to do then is act on it.

Putting your child first

Separation and divorce is not something anybody wants to go through and it certainly isn’t something to ever be ashamed of.

Parental conflict can have harmful effects on children and the most important thing is to take a child-focused approach every step of the way. 

Research has shown that it’s in a child’s best interests to have a healthy relationship with both parents, except in cases of abuse.

That means that establishing a solid co-parenting relationship should be the number one goal for you and your kids. 

If you’re struggling to get anywhere because one side is digging their heels in, seek professional support. 

You don’t always have to go to family courts.

Mediation is designed to help you come to a fair agreement and shape a Parenting Plan which sets out the terms of what will happen in future, helping you to both maintain a solid parent child relationship.

Our experience: 


Since creating ‘The Breaking Dad’ on Instagram (And recently passing the first anniversary of the account), I’ve been blown away by how few Dads take an active role in their children’s lives after separation.

When there is a high level of bitterness between ex-partners, I’ve experienced two things happening:

  • The mother can often weaponise the children and making it as difficult as possible for the father
  • The father can not bother or be inconsistent, often not doing what they say they will, or not taking an active interest

Of course, there are many, many more cases of parents working tirelessly to make sure they’re kids are happy too.


Let’s be clear: Every situation is different so it’s impossible to generalise. 

There have been points in the separation with Evie’s mum that I didn’t feel like I could keep going anymore. 

The only advice I can give either side, mums or dads, is to just keep pushing forwards

It gets better and if having a bond with a little person or people you brought into this world isn’t enough of an incentive to keep on pushing, I don’t know what is! 

If you’d like more on this subject, one of the most powerful books I read was, ‘The Guide for Separated Parents: Putting Children First’ by Karen and Nick Woodall. If you’re going through separation, make sure you pick it up!

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