Being Dad

Being a father is fraught with danger…

Happy Snaps April 30, 2012

A stranger in disguise grabs you, and tries to sit you on his knee.

In some countries, that person would be arrested. Instead, for us anyway, Santa Claus is welcomed, not incarcerated.

When my daughter’s inaugural Christmas arrived, we made the trip to Santa’s special magic village, conveniently located in a shopping mall. I can laugh now, but at the time, with a baby that couldn’t talk and barely walked, it was a disaster. What were we thinking? I suppose we wanted happy snaps to show Missy when she is older; “look darling, here you are sitting on Santa’s knee.” Alas, now we will be saying to her; “look darling here you are in mummy’s arms screaming, pointing at the bad man with the fake beard trying to take you away”.

What makes it totally funny for me now, is that Santa, my wife, and I – are all smiling into the camera as if this was a perfect family moment. Just Missy realizes the ruse and is not having a bar of it.

Christmas for children who are too young to know about the mechanics of Santa, reindeers, and presents is a weird event. It is set it up in a manner suggesting they know all about it; they are put into a red outfit with an elf hat, and we pile gifts around them – all the while, madly snapping merry pictures for the future. “Gee Missy, look at you then,” we will say in years to come to our moody teenager;  “you use to love Christmas”. We will be in every picture, smiling, and she will be happy too, playing with the box of tissues next to her new toys.

Why do people feel compelled to smile when cameras are around? We have a favorite picture from the day Missy was born, taken by a nurse. As my wife entered hour 21 of her 23-hour labour, there I was, right there next to her – with a huge smile on my face as I look into the camera. She, meanwhile, looks exhausted and is bent over in pain. I don’t know, when I saw the camera, I just assumed I had to smile.

It’s conditioning. Now even Missy poses for pictures, sometimes stopping what she is doing and giving a wave or a smile. We all do it.

The family holiday to wherever-land looked magnificent from the pictures we send to friends and family. But should it be shown it for what it actually was? The plane was late, and Missy screamed the whole way. At the resort, the room was dirty, and the beds were hard. Missy got a rash, I got sunburnt, and the wife got gastro from the lousy food – but there we all are, smiling in every picture. Best holiday ever.

Time can heal all wounds and the loathing at the time, seems to blur with the passage of it. Maybe that’s a good thing. Who wants to look back at angry pictures of a mosquito infested fishing holiday? I’d rather remember it as the family gathered cheerfully around a plate of freshly caught, and baked, trout – trying not to scratch.

Regardless of the appropriateness of it, I’m smiling every time I see a camera pointed my way, and my daughter – as long as it’s not that scary bearded fellow – will too.

 

 

Calling Mr. Poo April 23, 2012

My daughter inherently knows the value of all objects around her.

Missy will look at a 10c crayon, carefully roll it around and play nicely with it. Admittedly she may also eat it, but I’m sure it’s excellent roughage. A mobile phone, i-pod or similar device will be thrown about, shoved down the toilet or in my case, the worst thing that can happen to a cherished gadget.

Missy is not the greatest at nappy changes, for some reason she resists the process as if we are doing her a disservice. To counter this behaviour, we give her something to play with, be it a ball, a toy, or a crayon – if she’s hungry. Sometimes, my phone is the only thing that will keep her happy for the required time. Now that’s ok as the change table area is secure enough for a phone easily to survive a fall – if she drops it, that is. This time there was a much better way to teach me who’s the boss.

Children fool you with their tiny, clumsy hands. They con you into believing they just can’t quite co-ordinate those little stubby fingers.  While I was removing a rather full nappy, I gave Missy my phone to distract her. My angel looked me squarely in the eye and expertly smashed the phone face down, into the poo. This, of course, brought hysterical giggles from her, and a howling from me that was near primeval. Let me tell you, it is extremely difficult to clean poo from the buttons of a Blackberry. Weeks later, every time I use my phone, a whiff of baby poo wafts by.

Babies also have a weird way of interpreting their surroundings. Recently we were at a friends’ house, which happened to have a dog flap. Nothing particularly unusual about that, given the owner had a dog.  Bearing in mind there is a perfectly acceptable door you would think that… No, you wouldn’t think that at all – Missy insisted on trying to enter and exit the house via the dog-flap.  She even got quite upset when I refused (for logistical reasons) to come with her on her escape bids.

Eating is another mystery. Food, it appears to me, becomes exponentially more appealing once it has left the relative hygienic area of the plate and is squished on the floor. Once my child is released from the constraints of the high chair, any spillage becomes too tempting and must be sampled. Food that has been previously rejected as unfit for consumption becomes floor gourmet.

It’s the same for leaves, twigs, bark and at the beach, sand. A child that had refused a snack of yummy yoghurt covered raisins will happily sit down and calmly eat sand.

Why is it that food on a plate is secondary to food on the floor? Why is sand preferable to tasty treats? Why is a dog-flap better than a door?

If you know the answers, please do NOT call me, the poo phone is still too smelly.

 

Man verses Baby April 16, 2012

Filed under: Dad Blog,Parenting — Tim @ 8:30 am

I like spaghetti. I enjoy it so much, that I eat a fair bit of it. I concoct quite an excellent spaghetti sauce, and I never get tired of it. Why then, I would like to know, do children happily eat something for weeks, and then suddenly reject it as if it’s rat poison?

Food time is either a fun and fast 15 minutes, where Missy eagerly eats most of what’s put in front of her, or a tiresome marathon of spitting out, knocking down, test of wills. Thankfully the latter is not the norm, and generally Missy eats pretty well, although I have yet to feed her a jalapeno.

It just amazes me, therefore, that at random times she unexpectedly decides: “hey buddy, you’re not getting that chicken and vegetable mush into me today.” This is despite that for days; the same mush was all she wanted to eat. When these testing times appear, a previously uncoordinated child, who barely realizes her hands are her own, can detect an incoming spoon, calculate the trajectory to the nearest wall, and in the blink of an eye, launch a spoonful of slop expertly into a maximum splatter orbit. Further confusing the food conundrum, Missy likes purée fruit; she also likes yoghurt – fruit and yoghurt together? Forget it.

Bath time at our house is generally a happy and fun time, and with a Mum who was swimming laps 2 days before Missy was born, it’s no surprise that she loves the water. My darling daughter will hop into the bath and happily play there as long as I want her to. Fascinated by running water, she could watch a tap run for an hour if I let her (I shouldn’t let her…right?)

Then there are days, while on final approach to the bath, it is as if I am landing her into a vat of boiling oil. Screaming, with her under-carriage fully retracted, she refuses to go anywhere near it, only to revert the next day to a water baby.

I tend to think my daughter is just keeping me on my toes, making sure I am not too comfortable and content. Just like her routine which, I am informed by higher powers, changes over time (in my mind rendering it not a routine at all), Missy is merely ensuring I am always confused and kept guessing.

The nappy change table can be a battleground in our house. Some days Missy happily lies back while mum or dad wipes, moisturizes and powders; but then other days it goes differently: Our cherub morphs into an incontinent attack dog, demanding to be kept in filthy, smelly nappies, and thunderously wailing at the injustice of a clean bottom and a puff of talcum.

I think my daughter’s messing with me. Surely Missy doesn’t think she can put one over on me, when she can barely talk, and walks like a drunken cowboy? This poses the question of when babies become aware of their super powers. Their ability to demand and be satisfied diminishes over time so is she simply making the most of her short window of total gratification?

I don’t know, but when Missy refuses all else, I simply roll out the trump card. She loves spaghetti and seemingly never gets sick of it – It’s genetic.

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Playgroups April 9, 2012

Filed under: Dad Blog,Parenting — Tim @ 1:12 pm

Take heed. Playgroups are the breeding grounds of competition and envy.

My wife and I decided to take Missy to a playgroup, without realizing that playgroups are a grossly misrepresented activity. To me, “playgroup” brought up visions of a happy place, where mother’s (and sometimes father’s) sit around singing and clapping while angelic children twirl and dance. The reality is decidedly different. It appears that babies have individual personalities and, shockingly, different development levels: Some were crawling, some kind of walking, some neither and some both.

The problem first time parents have, is that you can easily judge your child’s development, or lack there of, by other kids around you. Now let me firstly say that I now know this is rubbish. Children do their thing in their own time, and the stress of “my child is behind” or even “my child is ahead”, is wasted energy.

The problem actually lay with me. You see, I tend to obsess with things. Things like Missy’s head. Due to a 38-hour labour, our darling baby was born with a slightly odd shaped head. The doctor assured us, her ‘nut’ would come right. But as it didn’t fix itself in 2 days, I obsessed.

Fueling this obsession were friends of ours who had twins – these guys had perfectly shaped heads, sounds weird saying that, but they truly were terrific. After Missy’s head did finally “come good” I moved to her feet. They looked quite small to me, and didn’t seem to be growing proportionately to the rest of her.

My wife would look on, shaking her head as I measured them every day to see how they were progressing – I had visions of an 18 year old with baby size feet. Then, of course, they came good…

So for me, the playgroup was a minefield of comparison and obsession. Missy clearly is the most intelligent and advanced child ever born, that’s a given, but it seemed that when I took her to these happy play sessions, she forgot all the stuff she would gladly do at home. Suddenly soap bubbles were toxic, upside down time was met with crying not laughing and doing any of the organized activities was verboten!

So as children around me played, walked, crawled, and laughed, I would worry that the other parents were thinking my child was an antisocial misfit.

I would go around and assure all the other mothers that Missy was not normally like this, and at home, she loved trying to catch bubbles. I would force a smile, and she would attach herself to me like a limpet.

Looking back, I suspect that the other parents were in a similar position, and most new parents to varying degrees, freak out about their child’s development. But at the time I lived in fear of the playgroup, like I had to prove my daughter was just as capable as the rest of the class.

Then, of course, she came good.

 

Explosive Babies April 2, 2012

Filed under: Dad Blog,Parenting — Tim @ 8:24 am

Babies are time-bombs. They go off when you’re least prepared and most vulnerable.

The first time I became aware that parenting was not like it is in the movies was the day Missy was born. It’s a messy and painful time, lots of huffing and puffing, screaming and stomping. It’s a day of endurance and fortitude, and it ends in exhaustion with the indescribable joy of a brand new persons birth.

My wife tells me, it was hard for her as well…

But back to time-bombs. There are a few occasions that certainly stand out for me as defining moments as a parent. My daughter is quite the extreme sports loving kind. She loves to be held upside down and flung about.

As a father, I love this. Men enjoy mucking about with their children, roughhousing and carrying on, so when Missy was still quite young, I discovered that lying on the floor and holding her above me, tilted so she was almost upside down, was loads of fun for both of us. Missy would laugh and giggle and thoroughly reveled in the upside down world around her: till one fateful day.

I was at home in charge as my wife was out, when I decided my recently fueled up daughter could use a bit of upside down time with daddy. I can already hear a collective yell. The men are saying; “Yeh buddy! Go for it.” The women are yelling; “No! Don’t you know that…”

“That” it turns out, is a little known fact: babies full of milk, if inverted, will empty out said milk. I am on the floor, baby in my hands when I tip her up, of course, being a dad, I am trying to make her laugh, so I have my mouth wide open, in the happy clown position.

Missy then vomits; straight into my open mouth; so directly and accurately, there was barely a drop on the floor. The dilemma now confronting me was to balance my desperate search for somewhere to deposit this present, whilst not dropping my now shrieking with delight child.

Babies are time-bombs.

Swimming pools are another area fraught with danger, especially when children are particularly young. I had a nasty experience at a friends apartment when our water loving cherub was in the pool, I had put her swim nappy on as instructed – sort of – I mean seriously, what could possibly go wrong with a slightly askew swim nappy. There is no coming back when the chunky cloud appears around you. A pool full of poo can permanently damage strong friendships.

Nappy change time is also an event to fear. You see my daughter has this ability to projectile poo. I’m not talking about your average dirty nappy, with a bit of leakage out the sides; I’m talking about a stream of toxic waste shooting out several feet – curiously timed for the very moment the nappy is off, and her bottom is free from constraints.

Babies are time-bombs – beware.

 

 
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