They say it takes a village to raise a child. All the big and small inputs different grown ups have in a child’s life - from grandparents to playgroup leaders to the lady at the checkout - shape how kids grow up to see the world. Who makes up this village is different from family to family, and even child to child. What the people in this ‘village’ offer and model to the kids in their lives is more diverse still. This series shines a light on the different kinds of people that make up the villages around us!
First up is a familiar face: GRASP founder, Brook. Brook had kids young for his age (three before he turned 30), and has always loved the idea of a big family - but ‘big’ is relative when you consider he is one of seven siblings. Importantly, long before he thought about being a dad, he was an uncle to lots of cute niblings, and before that, an older brother. So kids have always been a big part of his life, no doubt leading him to where he is now: determined to help families make the best of their care routines with GRASP.
You have four older siblings. When did you first start feeling like a grown up?
I’m not sure I feel like a grown up to this day, but I really think it’s about the context you’re in.
When I’m with my siblings, I always feel like I’m back as an awkward teenager who doesn’t know how to do anything. They’re all so much more practical than me, so I always feel like the runt in the litter. I don’t know if that is just a younger child complex that I’ll always carry with me forever more, but I do notice that I’ve found myself working with ‘big brother’ types throughout my career as well.
But in other contexts, I feel like having kids is definitely the definition of being a ‘grown-up’. We got married young and for our peer group, have had kids quite young, so I definitely feel like a grown up when we can’t make evening plans or are the one’s left suggesting the child-friendly restaurant for us to meet at.
I think having children that look to you for everything they need and equally when you’re their hero in so many ways (I have no idea why!) there’s no escaping that to them you are most definitely the grown up in the room.
You became a dad at 26. Did you feel ready to take on the post, and how did you prepare yourself?
I was totally unprepared to become a Dad at 26. I’m from a big family with a lot of niblings (nephews and nieces) so in theory I’ve seen it all and am very happy with little babies and kids, but it was still a shock.
I think that’s partly due to my personality because I don’t process things emotionally until they’re slapping me in the face. I remember being an emotional mess on my way back from the hospital to collect stuff for my wife and my eldest kid the morning after he was born. By the time I got back to the hospital I was a shaking, crying wreck! I don’t know if there’s something I could have done differently given that’s the way I’m wired.
I think there’s a wider challenge for Dad’s though, which is that we don’t have the same 9 month build up to baby’s arrival that mums do. I found it quite a strange contrast how emotionally and physically (obviously!) connected my wife has been with each of our children during the pregnancy. As a Dad-to-be it’s just hard to engage in that same way until the baby is really there with you, and even then I’ve found it’s taken another 9 months after they’re born to really build up the same connection as my Wife.
There’s a lot you can read, but I didn’t really do that. I think I just relied on my own Dad and older brothers and the examples I’d seen and figured I’d work it out. If you don’t have that sort of support network, that’s not a very helpful approach. I think there are ways I could have been more prepared, but three kids in, I’ve probably missed that opportunity.
What’s one thing you don’t want your kids to know about you… yet?
Probably that, relative to a lot of other Dad’s, I’m really quite bad at sports. I love sport and I love watching a lot of sport. I love watching it with my kids and playing with them and there’s that amazing world you live in when they’re little where they think you’re brilliant. You’re faster than them and better at everything and so naturally they assume you’re on the level with every top athlete (well that’s how I like to imagine it) so it will be really sad when this all comes crashing down around me at some point.
How did your general love of the kids in your life translate into a specific desire to build a brand that serves them?
I think it’s not just about a general love of kids, it’s really about a love of raising kids well and wanting to share that with more parents and parents-to-be.
Every parent I’ve spoken to talks about wanting to see their kids thrive and everyone has some idea of what that looks like - often seeing them replicate some kindness to someone else in the same way that you’ve shown to them. So for me, since having kids and realising that there’s a lot I’ve learned from my own parents as well as a lot to figure out for myself, I’ve wanted to share that with other parents.
In particular, I think the number one concern I have, and that a lot of parents have, is not having enough time with my kids. There’s a lot of ‘life’ that gets in the way, when we all know there’s no real substitute for time with them.
So my desire with GRASP is to come up with ways to remove the hassle and stress that robs us of quality time with our children. If those routine tasks could be more fun, take less time and create conversations with our kids, it would be better for the whole family.
What’s your game plan when it comes to spending time with kids that aren’t yours?
I think the first thing that matters with kids is attention, undivided. So if you’re spending time with kids that aren’t yours, the best thing you can do is make a decision to be totally present for a set amount of time and roll with it.
People often think ‘being great with kids’ is some function of the magic tricks they learned as a teenager or being a great story-teller to be able to invent wild adventures and make believe games with toys. Those are great if you have them up your sleeve, but most of the time kids bring all the creativity you need as long as you bring the whole of you. Ask lots of questions, listen to the answers and see where it takes you.
It’s much better to be totally present for a short amount of time before going back to spend time with the grown ups than being half there for a long time. Set some parameters of the time you’re spending with them and then stop looking at your watch or checking your phone and give them your attention. Kids crave attention and you’ll be a firm favourite no matter what you do with them if you are attentive.