// Andrew is a father of two living in the Netherlands who is sharing his experiences during his three-month parental leave. //

The key to getting both girls ready to leave the house in the morning is keeping enough momentum for the older not to lose focus and the younger not to feel neglected.

The eldest has the willpower and skill to (almost!) dress independently, and will accept help and guidance depending on her mood. I make it a habit to prepare and have her consciously accept her set of clothes for the next day as part of her bedtime routine. Doing this helps avoid a painful grumpy morning negotiation session on what to wear.

Meanwhile, our baby gets tucked into her warmer clothing and I strap her into the baby carrier. But, not before putting on my own shoes, and the shoes of our eldest, because tying shoelaces with a baby hanging off your front is near impossible! Once the baby is in the carrier, there is the lovely clip in the back at shoulder that needs to be clicked in. With a couple of arm twists, a bit of wrangling and fumbling, it always works. By now I’m an expert. Over the carrier, I have a jacket that stretches to fully cover my baby girl. The winter outfit is completed with a blanket that goes around my neck, which fully envelops the baby in an extra layer, a great protection against the elements.

For the kindergarten drop off I have stopped taking the diaper bag. The need for (two!) extra changes of baby clothes in case of a double blowout seems slim. (A blowout is the unfortunate situation that arises when the baby’s number two is not contained in her diaper, leading to various degrees of leakage onto clothes etc. depending on severity, invariably requiring a set of clean clothes.) There was a phase during which our baby would always blow out during breakfast in her rocking chair; once two times within 15 minutes, a minor trauma.

The bike ride to the kindergarten on our cargo bike (bakfiets) is one of my favorite parts of our morning schedule. The eldest has an unobstructed view and, keen observer that she is, she will comment and query throughout the ride. Are those people going to work papa? The street is really dirty today, isn’t it? What are those lights? Look how pretty the trees are! Are you going to work papa? Why? Where is aunt such-and-such? Why? Is she in America? Why? I was born there, right? It stinks here Papa, why? (No my love, that nice lady is wearing perfume.)

Often she will ask me to sing songs. I have, however, banned the singing of Sinterklaas (Dutch Santa Claus, arriving on the 5th of December) songs anytime after mid-January. Last year, the event made such an indelible impression that I was still singing her Sinterklaas songs until March.

Often baby will fall asleep on the way to or from the kindergarten. That gives me the opportunity for a little break. Sometimes I will visit a couple of rooms in a museum. Or we will nestle ourselves in a corner at the coffee place in our street, perusing the morning papers with a well deserved latte.

When the baby wakes up she will be happy to distract the baristas with her disarming smiles. Alternatively, I give her a small spoon to play with, while I finish my coffee and the paper before we had home for her morning bottle.

These little rituals, have become the bedrock of my existence, providing the girls and myself with stability, structure and the joy of familiarity!