Being Dad

Being a father is fraught with danger…

Party Time June 25, 2012

Filed under: Dad Blog,Parenting — Tim @ 1:40 pm
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It loomed like a ghostly pirate ship on a misty night; Scarlet’s second birthday party approached. You can’t out run it; you can’t out maneuver it. This is an event where you just have to stand and fight.

First birthdays are great. The baby, quite frankly, doesn’t even have to be there. It’s a day to have a BBQ, a few beers, some chilled champagne and little sandwiches with the crusts cut off – all done while the conveniently penned-in babies nap or roll about. Second birthdays are different.

Missy walks and talks. She has opinions on things. Granted these ‘things’ are generally the dilemma of rice bubbles v corn flakes, but she does want to start controlling aspects of her life. The other day she picked out her own clothes, which totally threw my wife. I brought Missy out, and I was eyed suspiciously. Her clothes all matched – clearly I was not involved in the decision process.

We had to factor in many things for her birthday celebration: would there be a tantrum for no apparent reason? Would her love of butterflies (the party theme) change to pathological hatred the day before?  Then the age-old problem: would the party clash with other parties? Of course, the wives took control, and all children had their celebrations in vaguely the right order, with no double bookings.

The day duly arrived, and it duly rained, so outdoor activities were shuffled indoors and food for 75 people was rearranged for the 20 guests. Men, please don’t argue about women and their genetic need to over-cater, that’s just how it has to be, accept it.

The first hurdle passed cleanly. Missy was OK to wear her prettiest party dress. Personally I had been preparing for her to insist on going nude – and maybe we could negotiate her into a nappy, but she was in a benevolent mood and looked adorable.

Into the mix, was added a baker’s dozen or so of other 2 year olds, all looking for trouble. This was a recipe for disaster. Small children plus sugary treats – if you could harness that energy, fossil fuels could stay firmly in the ground.

Missy had a firm grasp of what was going on. We had been practicing singing Happy Birthday, and she knew this was something special, and she was queen for a day. As the father, I had a couple of sacred duties.  I was tasked with ensuring there was enough alcohol to fuel the parents of the other two year olds, and I was placed in charge of the bouncy castle. Somehow, no child ended up with a beer, and no adult was allowed entry into the castle. Admittedly, it was more good luck than good management.

Missy enjoyed the singing and made an impressive attempt at blowing out the candles. My sincere apologies if you were there and got the piece with dribble on it.

And so despite our pre-party fear, the afternoon was a spectacular success and quite sadly, came to an end. Toddler parties have to end reasonably quickly, as there is an exceptionally fine line between sugar rush fun and post sugar rush train-smash.

The next day, happy that the party was a winner, we sat down amongst the ruins of our lounge room, and Missy poured us pretend tea from an impossibly small tea set. Our baby is growing up.

 

Me and My Big Mouth June 18, 2012

Filed under: Dad Blog,Parenting — Tim @ 11:01 pm
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I spoke too soon. Within days of declaring the alleged terrible twos had yet to visit our house, they promptly arrived. That hardly seems fair. I am, however, working on the assumption they will now be finished early, to compensate for their premature arrival.

We are on holidays in France at the moment, and that pleasant day arrived when we happened to be in Tours. Not far outside Tours there is one of the worlds best Zoos, ZooParc de Beauval. Missy loves animals, and we thought this would be a fun family day. So off we go on the 40-minute drive. All was going fabulously, and we even arrived early enough to beat most of the crowds. Once in the park, we were ready to see it all. Then it happened; the arrival of Beelzebub.

It was simple actually, entirely my fault. My wife took Missy on a ride onto an old style merry-go-round. To say she was happy would be the proverbial understatement. Missy was screaming woops of delight. Then the ride stopped. “No problem”, thought Missy, “we’ll just sit here till it goes again”. It simply didn’t occur to her that she would have to get off. Never have I seen such wailing and thrashing. It got so awful we had to get her tout de suite to a grassed area, and stood back while the tantrum took its course. With hindsight, I should have sold tickets; she put on quite the show.

So what do you do when a child enters the Valley of the Tantrum?  Firstly I am a strong believer that all kids are different, so parents are the best people to know what needs to be done in their individual case. For me, it was a mix of concern for our child and embarrassment that our child was acting this way. “She doesn’t normally act like this” and “she is usually so good”, is what babbled out of my mouth to bystanders.  Any other parents around will totally understand. Sure they stare, but if you look closely, they stare with a mix of “boy I’m glad that’s not me”, and “poor people, I feel their pain”.

So once the initial thrashing was done, Missy proceeded to the next step in the process – sulking:

“Let’s go see the elephants”,

“No”

“OK, the lions?”

“NO”

“Giraffes?”

“NO!”

I think you get the picture. There were to be no more animals. She retreated into the stroller and put the hood down. Like a 2 foot tall Howard Hughes, our now reclusive daughter spent the rest of the day in her buggy cave, only venturing out occasionally for food.

This whole tantrum thing takes quite getting use to. No one wants to see their kids upset, but they can’t have or do whatever they want. The cheese grater is simply not an appropriate toy for a child, no matter how much they ask, cry or thrash about.  But as time goes on, my tolerance to tantrums grows too, and I sit much more patiently while the rage takes its course. I am learning: it’s like my ability to go to the shop to buy milk, and come home with a block of chocolate, there is no point trying to rationalize it  – it is what it is.

 

Two be, or not two be June 11, 2012

Filed under: Dad Blog,Parenting — Tim @ 1:57 pm
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The most feared time. The event parents talk about in hushed tones. It’s unavoidable and unrelenting – the ‘terrible two’s’.

It is a time where angelic cherubs morph overnight into dark lords of the underworld. It’s when a polite and cute toddler becomes the devil. If you talk to the parents of 2 year-olds, (statistically 100% of them), like death and taxes, it will come.

For men, it’s not quite the hair-pulling deal it is for mothers, who bear the brunt of this challenging time. Still, men will still have our fair share of grief: an uncontrollable child and an angry, fed-up mother are a nitro-glycerin concoction – ready for dad, oblivious to the danger, to enter the mix and shake it up.

Missy, I must say, is not particularly “terrible”. There are meltdowns and tantrums for sure, but generally she seems happy enough in her current state of simply rejecting home cooked cuisine for tasteless, processed food. My wife’s a phenomenal cook, and certainly doesn’t serve up prison food, but Missy will often turn down lovingly crafted kid gourmet, for a dry piece of toast, baked beans or a block of cheese. Yep, that’s what I said, a block of cheese. In another example of father/daughter gene exchange, cheese is king in my daughter’s realm. Mind you, I certainly don’t let her just eat a block of cheese, I provide crackers – it’s simply the polite thing to do.

She also has an astounding ability to instantly remember, and perfectly repeat, any swear words I have ‘allegedly’ uttered, (let me stress the lack of hard evidence it was me, damn it!) This skill comes despite for months, her toy bunny being referred to as “barly”, despite thousands of corrections. Say “bugger” just once, and it is perfectly repeated and remembered, but again I should add – allegedly.

The downside of her speech advancing at an alarming rate is not only that when she drops ‘barly’ she  responds with “bugger it”; I now have two women in the house who can order me around.

A fascinating and intriguing part of this age is a toddler’s genetic propensity to want ice cream. Missy, until relatively recently, didn’t even know what an ice cream was. But once she had been introduced, she not only instantly stored that word in the “very important” section of her brain; she more or less knew how to eat it. Granted it was quite a mess, but no more so than when I eat a kebab at midnight – and I’ve been doing that for 30 years.

So a new and exciting time approaches. Our baby somehow turned into a toddler. She has inexplicably learned to walk, talk and sort of use a fork. She has discovered ice cream and hot chips – sometimes at the same time. She occasionally swears like a truck driver (again, NOTHING to do with me!) and can kick a ball. In short, she has turned into a little girl. Now we wait for the terrible-two’s to properly kick in. Actually I look forward to it, in a ‘Saving Private Ryan’ kind of way: in the landing craft, about to hit the beach…how hard could this be…?

 

Talking June 4, 2012

Filed under: Dad Blog,Parenting — Tim @ 1:03 pm
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When Missy started to talk, it certainly opened up Pandora’s box. It was fantastic, I thought. This was the opportunity for me to tell her what to do… But in reality it was merely a more efficient way for her to tell me what to do. She started out doing this, with the minimum of effort, “eat” “water” “sit” and her personal favourite – “no”.

Suddenly I found myself with a child that could express herself forcefully and verbally. You’d think that would be good news, no more guessing what’s wrong. Yet it seemed to throw up a new problem: Missy expressed herself forcefully and verbally. If she didn’t want something, (and this seemed to be popular), she told me. She even occasionally pouted, and angrily crossed her arms when demanding this or that. (I had no idea that was a genetic female trait). But that shouldn’t be a problem because I am the boss after all, and the boss is always right…right?

Well, I like to think I am in charge, but when Missy demands rice and rejects couscous, would the boss meekly go and make her a bowl? Then 5 minutes later when the couscous is rejected and rice demanded, it doesn’t look like the man in charge is asserting his authority when back he goes to get rice.

Missy’s talking does make for some testing times. In playgrounds all over Hong Kong, my daughter plays with the firm rule “what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours in mine” It seems that sharing is not an inherent trait in humans. She understands it now, reluctantly, but for ages, she was firmly in the camp of “everything belongs to me”. This included, and still includes, her mother. If I go to kiss and/or hug my wife, a small but firm hand comes between us, and a firm “no” sends me on my way.

This newfound skill opened all kinds of doors for her. When she wanted a toy or an object, she pointed and cried out “this! this!” rather than just crying and wildly flailing her arms about. Hmmm, come to think of it…why is that better?

My wife and I are currently teaching her to say “please” when she wants something. But at her age, the downside is she thought for quite a time, “please”, would get her whatever she wanted. She didn’t understand that no amount of ‘please’ will give her access to the carving knives. It actually must be quite confusing at her age. I understand (but don’t agree), why I can’t have a 108” LCD TV, despite the rugby and cricket seasons overlapping, but for Missy, why she can’t catch the bus by herself when she said please is beyond her.

But it’s not all bad; she has taken to greeting my wife in the morning with a smile, hug, and a  “pretty mummy”. On the other hand, Missy greets me in the morning with “water please”, and on delivery, “bye bye,” as she toddles off to Mum. I think most fathers of girls get this for a while, anyway. Mum is just the centre of their universe. I am sure a time will come when I will get a go, as long as it’s not during the rugby, of course.

 

 
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