Monday, 23 November 2015

When should you introduce a new partner to the kids?

I’ve read, heard and also imagined a lot of advice about when is the right time to introduce your children to a new partner.

Six months, twelve months, never even.

Like many family and parenting situations it can be a very difficult process to negotiate and one that many with have contrasting opinions on.

Form your own opinion

With a degree of irony I would advise anyone seeking the answer to form their own opinion, and be confident in their approach.

There are so many concerns and aspects to consider.

Will your partner and children like each other?

Will they resent one another? And plot against one another?

Will I like how my partner treats my kids?

Will I blame my kids if the relationship ends?

Much of which is completely uncontrollable no matter what you do.

And while it’s right to consider these things and be protective of your children, hopefully avoiding a revolving door of potential stepparents, heartbreak and disappointment.  At the same time -in real life - we can’t predict the future and can waste the precious time we have trying to.

I agree with Elliott Katz, who wrote recently that you shouldn’t wait too long to introduce your kids.

In my own case, I took the attitude that if I saw a future in a new relationship, that future simply had to include my child, so it was important they met as soon as I thought that might be the case.

After a few dates with Helen, the wonderful woman I married last year, I went a tiny smidge maverick.

Competition for attention

I didn’t want to make a big deal of Helen’s introduction, and neither did I want it to be a day of competing for my attention.

So I left them to it.

I ended up planning a day out for her with my boy while I went off and played a game of cricket.

Admittedly a tactic daunting for Helen, and perhaps something of a test.

How would they get on?

If she’s prepared to do it that must mean she sees a potential future too, right?

Wasting time over-thinking and delaying

It’s important not to really over-think it.  However high risk, I saw the 'sink or swim' situation I’d actually created as a light-hearted trigger point.

If it had all gone terribly, we would have gone our separate ways a little sad, but glad we’d met each other and given it a go.  No one’s time really wasted or anyone blamed.

As it happened all went well, and we then set about getting to know each other better, learning our new roles, and developing our relationship as a collective.

It just worked.

It won’t always, and I think that’s my point.

Wait longer, or too long, and relationships are stronger and more difficult to break without at least one party coming out the loser.

Blame and subconscious resentment could even affect how you feel about yourself and your children in the long run.

We were very lucky in our particular case.

And I hope anyone reading this looking for guidance enjoys the same good fortune.

The Three Amigos


Monday, 2 November 2015

So you want to be a record breaker?

That title, for anyone of a certain age, is much better when sung.

Like this.

I loved Roy Castle and the World Record attempt programme he used to host.

So when Guinness World Records invited us to their Family Blogger Day, it was something we jumped at.  In fact, if there were a world record for the keenest reply to an invite, we’d probably be in their books.

Which is the first thing we started to realise, there are now two versions of the Guinness World Records.

During two very interesting presentations we learned all about the respective versions.

There’s the overall records book that includes feats in all areas of record breaking, and the Gamers Edition, which is dedicated to, errrr, Gamers.

Guinness World Records 2016 and Guinness World Records 2016 Gamer's Edition

Because I’m an idiot not a gamer, it took me a little while to get to grips with this edition.  But once explained to me, I was looking up titles of games I am a little familiar with, like FIFA, and seeing if there were records for things like biggest humiliation by a toddler etc.

My gamer son, Max, was immediately griped and pawing over the 20 pages dedicated to Minecraft records in the Gamer’s Edition of Guinness World Records.

Max checking out the Skylanders records

I was intrigued to learn how you set a record, and it was explained that many requests (about 1,000 per week) come into the GWR offices and ultimately they decide whether any proposed record attempt is worthy, and then set about organising adjudication.

But you don’t have to dream up your own records, for certain pre-existing gaming records, GWR will accept video evidence of them being broken.  These records are clearly set out as well explained challenges in the Gamer’s Edition, and later in the day the children all got a chance to break one of them.

The main Guinness World Records book is just as engaging as it has always been.  As a family of three with vastly different interests, we were all enthusing over different parts of the book.

My wife, Helen, was really interested in the records of objects around the world, like the biggest monuments, and sharing with us the ones she’s seen and still wants to visit.

Wife reading GWR  & distracting the boy with sausages

I was obsessed with the science and sports based records, and spreads like the Hadron Collider section.

The boy loved the athletic records, and – a little more worryingly – a spread about body piercings and tattoos.

It’s interesting that our instinct was to share what we liked with each other.  Telling our own stories linked to the records, or explaining why we thought our favourite records were so impressive.

In a world where information moves so fast, and with so much of it is online, its good to see that tangible still wins out.

Not ignoring this, the Guinness World Records has evolved too.  The books, containing codes, provides access to bonus online material, like videos explaining some of the records in the book and interviews with some of the most interesting record breakers.

We got to meet a few of them during an afternoon of record breaking and demonstrations.

The children got a chance to break world records, like stacking up Lego blocks single-handed, number of front and rear claps and wood block harvesting in Minecraft. 

Guinness World Records, Anna Fulford, explaining the Lego rules to Max
They may sound like daft records, but they were really inspiring activities.  Teaching children that it’s possible for everyone, or almost anyone, to be the best at something.

It simply isn’t just the fastest, tallest or oldest that finds their way into the Guinness World Records.

There were demonstrations from world record-breaking hula hoopers, the UK’s fastest speed stacker and John Farnworth, a freestyle footballer hoping to regain one of his four Guinness World Records.

They were all very impressive.

John must be one of the nicest, happiest men on the planet.  And with his freestyle football skills taking him all over the world, its perhaps easy to understand why he should also hold the record for the world’s biggest smile.

Two Freestyle Footballers with 4 Guinness World Records between them

A brilliantly inspiring example and day.

As for my own bonus material, I filmed John Adams from DadBlogUK taking out the crowd, and my camera, with his Freestyle Football Skills.

The Guinness World Records 2016 and the Guinness World Records 2016 Gamer's Edition are available to order online as well as at most UK supermarkets.


Friday, 16 October 2015

Is Netflix good for families?

The shortish answer is:  It is for ours.

I was asked earlier this year if I’d like to join the Netflix UK Streamteam.  It came at a great time, or terrible time to be more precise, as I was about to begin a period of prolonged recuperation.

It actually ended up being even longer than planned, and Netflix became a great friend throughout that time.

Why Our Family Loves Netflix

But it wasn’t just me test driving Netflix, it was the rest of the household too.

Which brings me neatly to the first thing we all love about Netflix.

We Love The Netflix Startup Screen

It’s so simple and easy to use, yet is tailored and personalised to exactly who is watching or using it.

With each of us having our own log in, a simple select and click, we were instantly at the stuff we really want to see, rather than having to ignore or scroll through all the other crap
quality programming of interest to another party within the household.

Netflix learns what you like, recommends other programmes and even emails you when new content you might like is available.

And the algorithms are so much better than other services that the recommendations are actually relevant and useful rather than ridiculous and random.

It is so much easier to use than iPlayer, ITVplayer, and whatever Channel 4 is calling its streaming service this week.

It beats Sky Go and MUBI comfortably too.

We are a houseful of idiots, with myself as chief idiot, and I haven’t broken Netflix yet or got stuck with it.  And when I’m watching a series, like the awesome Breaking Bad, each time it reminds me where I’ve watched up to and queues the next episode.

Very simple stuff, but on other streaming services, or recorded content devices I’ve used, I’m often watching the wrong episode for a few minutes due to it being marked as read, or me simply being unable to recall an episode by its synopsis.

It’s great for the boy too, as he’s able to watch a film in chunks, and at everyone’s convenience.  Even switching to his iPad when we kick him off the TV.

The content on Netflix is awesome too.  Always something for all tastes.  And for whatever combination of tastes we have.

We’ve all watched films together like Monster University and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  I’ve watched The Hobbit and other action movies with the boy.  And have had romantic* nights in with the wife watching To Catch a Thief and other timeless classics.

Plus I gorged on the likes of Fargo and Breaking Bad through my convalescence.  And I’ve probably more than I could ever watch still queued in ‘my list’.

I’ve not paid for a TV subscription service of any type in the last ten years, but Netflix is the first I would pay for, when they inevitably kick me off their UK Streamteam for some future misdemeanour.

But for now, tonight in fact, it will be feet up and family movie night on Netflix.

Long may it continue.

*Whatever that means