Interview with Tom Kreffer

Now this may come as a little surprise given my ego, bit I am not actually the only Dad in the world. In fact I’m not even the only Dad who writes.

Putting the emotion of becoming a Father and the every day battle to grow normal humans into words is not easy. Tom Kreffer is now on to his third book and his amazing sense of humour and love for his Son really shines through in his writing.

I could tell you all about Tom and his books but it’s far easier to let him do it himself…

Q… Tell us a little about yourself and your family

I’m originally from Kent. I moved to Northampton to study film at university and decided to stay and settle there afterwards. I met my partner on a merry-go-round at a wedding in 2014. We got together and quickly fell in love with travelling in a big way. We spent as much of the next three years as possible seeing the world. 

When we returned from a nine-month backpacking trip in 2018, we had already decided to start a family. In fact, we started cracking on with that project while backpacking (not always easy). But after a year – nothing! 

So we spoke to doctors and underwent a bunch of tests. They told us that the chances of us conceiving naturally were practically zero, that my partner needed surgery to remove one, possibly both, of her fallopian tubes and that we would need IVF treatment. 

A few weeks later, she took a pregnancy test. Lo and behold – she was pregnant! We now have a boy, Arlo. He’s two and a half years old. We’re very content.

Q… How did you feel when you first found out you were going to be a dad?

Three things stuck out. The first was instant acceptance. It was a strange feeling, but I physically remember my brain tingling as I accepted that I was about to undergo a huge identity shift and become a father. It felt immediately real to me. The next was a natural high. It remained with me all day as I continually relived the moment. I saw those two lines on the pregnancy test and told myself that I was going to be a dad – easily one of the most amazing days of my life. Finally, I was incredibly grateful to the universe for giving me what doctors told me might never happen.

Q… Is fatherhood how you expected it to be? 

Yes and no. We’re incredibly lucky because Arlo is a wonderful little boy, and by wonderful, I mean he’s a great sleeper; he started sleeping through at seven weeks. Also, my partner works in childcare. She’s not only a natural as a mother but also very knowledgeable. Those things meant I could enjoy the early days more than I expected, rather than praying to God that the baby would sleep for a bit longer (although there was still a lot of that as well). 

I always knew parenthood would be rewarding, but I never anticipated just how fulfilling it would be. The pride I feel when Arlo does the smallest thing is ridiculous. And I love that feeling of being completely happy for another human being achieving something – it’s great.

But equally, I didn’t realise how upsetting reaching those big milestones could be. They’re always bittersweet for me. I’m proud of his developments but sad we have to say goodbye to a stage of his life in which it feels as if we’ve spent no time. I find that hard to accept.

Q… Which traits are you hoping Arlo takes from you and which are you praying he avoids? 

As I’ve got older, I’ve become great at learning almost instantly to accept what I can’t control in life. That doesn’t mean I’m immune to emotional responses to things happening – but the older I get, the calmer I get, and I’m usually level-headed when adapting to changes I wasn’t expecting. I hope Arlo develops that trait. 

I’ve also been lucky enough to find ‘my thing’ in life; the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning: writing. Writing gives me complete fulfilment. I hope Arlo can discover his thing.

I’m notoriously bad at doing anything other than blinking when I’m tired. That’s why I was so grateful Arlo was a good sleeper. I hope he has a bit more stamina than me, but I don’t think he’s ever missed a nap, so it looks like he’ll inherit that need-for-sleep trait from me. 

Q… What is the top thing you wish you had known before becoming a dad?

I’ll give you two. The first is that your job starts as soon as the midwife hands you your baby. That was a shock to the system because I’d just watched my partner undergo an emergency C-section. I couldn’t believe I was given the responsibility of holding the parenthood reins so quickly. But I was. I got Arlo dressed while we were still in theatre, and my hands were trembling the whole time.

Another thing I wish I had known is that the pace of life does not let up. I took four months off work when Arlo was born so that I could put all my focus on him, and I coped well with that. But now I’m back at work, and I’ve got this brand-new career as an author that’s fallen into my lap, so life moves pretty fast. And then I need to somehow make time for myself, my friends and family, and time for date nights and holidays. It’s intense. I’ve spoken to parents whose kids are at school and it doesn’t change. This is my life until Arlo turns eighteen.

Q… Arlo is a toddler now. How are you finding it?

I am loving Arlo as a toddler. He’s an incredibly funny chap, and he knows it. The key has been figuring out the strategy for dealing with tantrums. And this is where I credit my partner. She explained that 90 per cent of tantrums are not tantrums. Toddlers are learning about their emotions, and they find it tough sometimes. I can relate to that because I’m in my mid-thirties and I sometimes struggle with my emotions. All of us do. So we spend a lot of time focusing on our communication. We explain everything we’re doing as a family and involve him in our conversations. We treat him as an equal, which defuses many potential tantrums. 

That said, I got it wrong this morning. I thought Arlo asked me if he could be the one to stir his honey into his Weetabix, but what he actually asked was if he could be the one to spoon the honey out of the jar. By then it was too late, and he got very upset. You can’t win ’em all.

Another thing we’ve always had, and something I swear by, is routine.

Q… What inspired you to start writing about fatherhood? Has writing always been a passion? 

Nothing. It was a fluke. On the day I found out I was to become a father, I wrote a journal entry and addressed it to my unborn child, whom we temporarily named Dory. Somehow, for reasons I’ve never been able to explain, I maintained the journaling habit for the duration of the pregnancy, and that became my first book, Dear Dory: Journal of a Soon-to-be First-time Dad. I’ve always loved storytelling, and I wrote a bunch of screenplays in my twenties, but I never imagined myself writing books, especially ones on parenting. 

Q… For those that haven’t read them, tell us a little about Dear Dory and Dear Arlo 

Dear Dory is about pregnancy from a soon-to-be dad’s point of view. It’s raw and honest, and it’s told in real time, so the reader experiences things as I experienced them. It’s that format, that way of telling the story, that was decisive in me agreeing to release it into the world. Because there was nothing like that out in the market, not the way I covered it. I discussed everything: the fears, the joys, what it was like to live with a pregnant woman; I reflected on my childhood, what lessons I wanted to instil in Arlo and what type of dad I wanted to be. My journals became my free-of-charge therapy, and that’s the aspect that readers find so relatable, an aspect that they perhaps don’t see in other books: I show rather than tell. 

Dear Arlo is the sequel and covers the first year of parenthood. Same format, same drill: sit down every day and reflect on my life as a parent.

Q… How will Toddler Inc. follow on from these? What’s the next adventure?

I am so bloody chuffed with how Toddler Inc. has turned out. Critics and readers have been very kind to Dear Dory and Dear Arlo. I always get comments on the humour, but I think Toddler Inc. is my best work. I’ve developed as a writer, and I’m more confident in taking some creative licence with the journaling format. Of course, I can’t take all the credit. Most of it goes to Arlo and my partner, who are fascinating characters and present themselves as amusing portraits on the page.

I’m not sure when I’ll stop the Adventures in Dadding series, but I’m two thirds of the way through book four, called Toddler Inc.: The Search for Sanity. That will come out some time next year, and I can’t see myself not writing about the preschool years either. We’ll see. Time will tell how far this thing goes. 

Q… Finally … If you had to give one piece of advice to the dad of a toddler, what would it be? 

Lean into their world as often as you can. If they’re having a tea party, get involved. If they’re picking up sticks in the park, chat to them about those sticks. The more time I spend in Arlo’s world, the more fulfilled I become as a parent. And remember, that phase doesn’t last long at all, so make those moments count!

Thanks Tom, always good to talk to a fellow Dad sharing the joys and emotional turmoil that is Fatherhood.

Tom’s latest book, Toddlers Inc, is out now and available from all major book retailers and more information on both Tom Kreffer and the series so far can be found using the link below.

Toddler Inc

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