Being Dad

Being a father is fraught with danger…

Emotional Rollercoaster May 29, 2012

Filed under: Dad Blog,Parenting — Tim @ 10:48 am
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Children throw everything into their emotions.

When Missy is angry, her entire being is angry.  There is no reason, nor adequate explanation, as to why she can’t play with the carving knife. It’s unfair, and it will not be put aside without a fight.

But then there’s the flip side. One minute screaming and inconsolable at not having access to a blade that could reasonably take off a limb, the next minute, Missy will be a giggling bundle of joy, wearing the colander as a hat and her entire being now happy.

Missy, like most children, doesn’t hold grudges, and that’s just as well, as I have a nasty habit of (unintentionally) causing bumps and scrapes to my daughter. But no matter how unpleasant the cut, lump or bruise, Missy always forgives me. Soon enough I am back in the good books, and she is merrily trying to put her toys into my belly button.

As a new parent, it took me a while to work out that Missy could suddenly change emotions. Bed time crying would have my wife or I sitting on the floor next to her cot holding her hand, thinking this would go on all night, but at some indeterminate moment, all would go quiet and she would drift into sleepy happiness.

I am especially fascinated by tantrums. At first, I would get all worked up that my daughter was being unreasonable and not thinking clearly. You just can’t eat paint, and no amount of thrashing around on the floor would make me let her. Why couldn’t she understand? So onto the floor she goes, wailing about at the injustice of it. As time moved on, I got more comfortable with things like that (tantrums, not eating paint). I also use to worry about what people would think if we were out and she started to cry, and so obsessively carried around a pacifier.

Now when the tantrum starts I clear an area, making sure any flailing will not result in the loss of an eye or appendage, and calmly watch. Come to think of it, I could sell tickets to this show; she puts on quite a performance. It’s the same for crying. All babies cry, and I’m not a bad parent for letting my daughter cry in public because I won’t let her walk on the road.  Crying because I jammed her finger in a draw is unsatisfactory parenting…but let’s just pretend that never happened. Anyway, it’s usually all over in a few minutes.

I like the fact that her emotions are raw and untarnished by convention. Imagine going to work and telling your boss exactly what you thought of him or her, then half hour later, heading out for a latte together like old friends. With Missy, I know exactly how she feels because she lets me know.

The problem is, convincing her not to tell mum that I let her play with the cheese grater. Best I go and get the colander on.

 

A Party for One May 21, 2012

On the surface of it, a one year old’s birthday party is about as pointless as a fly-screen door on a submarine.

Missy turned one some time ago. It was a day of much joy. There were presents, well wishers and phone calls from overseas friends and relatives. We had a party and invited a few of her little friends.

So what’s the problem? I’ll tell you. She had no, none, zero idea as to what was happening. It wasn’t her birthday according to her, because she had no idea what a birthday was. Her little friends didn’t know either. There was no sniggering by the other kids, pointing at the strange little girl who doesn’t know about these matters, they were all in the same boat. And so I wondered why we have these events.

I do like to capture moments in time. I like to have a record of events to show Missy when she is older, and more easily embarrassed. Things like the shampoo Mohawk I give her in the bath, or a particularly large bowel movement; these are events that need to be recorded for use at her 21st birthday. She will be so pleased I’m sure.

So although a party for a one year old’s birthday is about as relevant to them as Pet Rock food is to me, it’s part of the jigsaw that my daughter will put together in years to come. And maybe a little bit because she just looks utterly adorable in her party dress.

There is also the issue of a new sport rumoured to be under consideration for the London Olympics: The Competitive Baby Party Dash. In this event, parents are awarded points for the biggest bouncing castle and most impressive soap bubble machine. Bonus points are awarded if enough food to feed 75 hungry coal miners is provided for an event involving 8 adults and 11 barely teething children. A pony is an instant gold medal.

On the other hand, the fun truly starts with the older brothers and sisters who come along. They will be dosed up on more sugar than they have ingested in the previous 3 months, and will tear around like chickens dosed up on vodka Red Bulls, refusing to stop for anything other than another handful of cake.

I suppose I should be grateful and enjoy the ease of a one year old while it lasts. The way Missy is developing, her second birthday will be more about her and less about my standing around with the other fathers, beers in hand, discussing how hard it is to raise children, while our wives feed, entertain, change, and police the toddlers. And so, I think to the fast approaching time, when my daughter will head for the 14-foot food table for another grab at the potato chips. The reality will then hit home. It will be a long night, but she will love it.

So actually, a kid’s birthday party, despite the craziness, is an event worth having and recording. Into the album it will go, images of children bouncing in castles, grabbing at bubbles and stuffing their faces. The pictures will fit nicely in between crying with Santa and the time dad insisted on helping with her clothes, and put her dress on backwards. Can’t wait till Missy is 21.

 

Bad Dad: [noun]. Me May 14, 2012

Children are resilient. It’s a fact. Luckily my daughter is especially hardy, but then she has to be – I’m her dad.

In her short life thus far, Missy has been exceptionally fortunate. She has avoided serious illness, just the odd cough or cold. She eats well, sleeps relatively well, she has lots of little friends she can bite and scratch, and life is generally good.

Well, except when she’s with me. When I’m put in charge, things will just naturally go wrong. When I’m given the top job, things like this happen:

Missy loves to go fast. She sometimes gets in her stroller and goes running with mum. Same for her tricycle or anything that has wheels. Recently I was taking her for a spin around our outside deck in the stroller. Now clearly as we were in the safety of our home, there was no need to strap her in, after all we were just having a bit of fun. Missy did have fun… Till she tried to stand up – and I instinctively stopped.

According to a bloke called Isaac Newton – a particle in motion will stay in motion unless acted on by an equal or stronger force.

OK, so Missy is the particle, the stroller is in motion and the safety restraint the equal or stronger force…oops.

A slow motion, catapult style, launch followed, Missy heading directly for a step – expertly coming to a complete stop using her face as a brake.

Never have I seen so much blood flow from such a small person. As luck would have it, no broken teeth, just a cut mouth and a remorseful dad. Whisked away by a higher authority while my wailing daughter pointed accusingly at Bad Dad, blood and tears letting me know that mum might want a word, after the dust had settled.

I did learn from that experience and so a couple of weeks later found myself with Missy up on my shoulders, riding high and away from all trouble. A playground beckoned and Missy loves the swing, it doesn’t get any simpler or safer. The swing was the enclosed type, so there was no danger of falling off, and as I had my accreditation as “Responsible Dad” recently restored, we went straight for it. Easy, just walk under this monkey bar and….

The “dong” sound was heard for, I suppose, a decent 100 meters. I could see park dwellers, hands on their mouths in shock, mothers shaking their heads in disbelief and my wailing daughter being whisked away, yet again pointing accusingly at Bad Dad.

And so a lump, bump, or scrape is born, just another day of being my daughter. In years to come, assuming I don’t cause any permanent damage, will Missy remember these and future events? Well, probably not, and anyway, she’s the forgiving type. I suspect most fathers rely on the compassionate nature of children to forgive and forget, and while I (and especially my wife) wish these events didn’t happen, they do, and I learn from them, vaguely.

Children are resilient, but really, you should just trust me on that. It’s not worth the blood and tears to find out – as well as my blood and tears – after mum’s “had a word”.

 

Music Wars May 7, 2012

A tragedy has befallen me.

I was in the car; Missy was strapped in. It was time to educate my daughter in the fine art of my kind of music.

We had tried David Bowie when Missy was a lot younger and actually she was right, the newer stuff was rubbish.  So I brought out an old favourite: Van Morrison. Mindful she is a one-year-old, I didn’t subject her to the earlier, more soulful albums, I went straight in with “The Best of Van, volume 1”.

To my horror, half way through “Bright Side of the Road” Missy started to cry. Realizing I need to turn this around, I dropped the atomic bomb of my kind of music, The Beatles White album. Screaming – and not in a Beatlemania kind of way – resulted. Missy didn’t want to go back to, nor indeed anywhere near, the USSR.

A beaten man, the CD was duly changed, and home I drove, gently weeping, while Missy giggled and laughed to “the wheels on the bus go round and round”.

When Missy is older, I expect she will stare at me through the rear-vision mirror as I drive her and friends somewhere, desperately demanding with her eyes I turn off Bob Dylan, and put on the latest boy band – who’s pants are too low and voices too high.

Will I become the embarrassing dad that my Dad was? (Note: Burt Bacharach is not a pop star). In a way, I hope I do. It gives kids something to moan about, and will be excellent material in 20 years if Missy decides to become a columnist.

“My Dad was so uncool, he use to listen to The Rolling Stones”. It will be a tragic day indeed when the ‘Stones become “uncool”.

Or maybe she will come around and in 20 years we will be at a concert together, the “Steel Wheelchair” tour.  At least Keith Richards will be the same – he already looks 90.

But the reality is the generation gap is a constant, I thought my Dad’s music sucked, he thought his Dad’s did, and Missy will think mine does. The exceptions to this rule are nursery rhymes. They seem to be a cross generational phenomenon. Songs I remember as a child delight Missy now. It’s quite strange to me that Lennon & McCartney, arguably the greatest songwriters of the modern era will be one day thought of as third-rate while: “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, will live on into eternity as a classic.

Now when Missy and I get in the car, it’s all about the ants marching in ones and twos and threes, the Grand old Duke of York going up that hill and down again, and that boat will be row, row, rowed.

Maybe that’s just as well, Does Missy honestly need to hear a Beatles album that includes Yoko on backing vocals? Maybe I should have tried Sgt. Pepper’s? I can see my wife shaking her head, telling me to give it up – I just can’t compete with that decrepit McDonald fellow, and his farm that seems to have every animal imaginable!

 

 
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