Being Dad

Being a father is fraught with danger…

Shopping July 30, 2012

Filed under: Dad Blog,Parenting — Tim @ 5:00 pm
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Shopping. It’s a word and an action I try to avoid. Well, no, to be honest, it’s a concept I try to avoid.  Ask my wife; she will tell you how much I hate shopping. Buying clothes is, for me, the ultimate in horror situations. I have a mild [insert: severe] fear of spiders. But I would happily sit down to tea with a South American bird-eating tarantula, if it would get me out of going shopping for a new shirt.

When I have to go shopping with Missy, there is a whole new level of pain added. Children cannot resist the urge to touch. It’s too strong. I suspect it’s genetically programmed. Little hands and mouths need to experience the world around them, touching and tasting everything within reach; but that does not make it any less annoying.

Missy walks around the shop, picking up things she is sure we need. Not things we actually need, like bread and milk – she thinks, for some reason, I should be buying products like a kilo of dried shrimp paste, or 10kg of dog food. (Note: we do not own a dog). I suspect she is impulse shopping!  Now, that would be ok, if we were in the confectionary section, but she seems to be well behaved till we start down the aisle that contains bits of animals not intended for human consumption (art least, not by me), or the aisle of things we clearly don’t want, (like kitty litter: we don’t own a cat, either).

I guess I should be mildly happy; Missy doesn’t generally drop things, so there is rarely a time when I have to present a broken bottle of margarita mix at the checkout for payment. I have, however, had the character building experience of not noticing the adult diapers being slipped into the trolley. The look of pity you get from the checkout girl is quite confronting. It’s also a long walk back to return them.

But, like all things, if you turn it into a game, it makes a vast difference. Missy is learning to put things back, and as long as a few things can go in the basket, she seems reasonably happy. As well, I discovered a talent I had no idea I had.  I can swoop into the trolley, scoop out the men’s styling gel, and have it back on the shelf while little hands are busy inspecting the condom section. So products, preserves and unwanted pet food can happily be ‘bought’ and pleasingly returned, all before the checkout is reached. I suppose Missy will eventually realize this Tardis like basket has a sinister habit of losing her purchases, but for now, it works.

I also realized quickly that, Lex Luthor style, it is quite easy to use her powers for evil, rather than good. And so Missy and I turn up at home on occasion, with a shopping bag full of crisps and beer. “Sorry Darling, Missy insisted on buying them”. Yep, the wife doesn’t believe me either.


Tinker Tailor Toddler Spy July 23, 2012

Filed under: Dad Blog,Parenting — Tim @ 4:17 am
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There comes a day. A day all parents hold out for. A day so sort after, that when it appears, much rejoicing and happiness pervades the household.

The day Missy first started eating without it resembling a scene from a B-grade, High School movie food fight, was a day to celebrate. Sure, there are still spillages; absent-minded turning of the spoon upside-down even happens to me occasionally, but generally, Missy can now feed herself.

This is important for a number of reasons. First and foremost, my wife, who Missy usually insisted on being the spoon-jockey, gets a part of her life back, and can enjoy a cup of tea at Missy’s dinner time, instead of enjoying a hair full of mashed banana.  The problem (don’t tell my wife) is that now she can feed herself, she actively copies us. That’s actually brilliant, if Missy just watched my wife.

Instead, we have situations like breakfast: an expertly emptied bowl of Captain Crunch chocolaty bits by newly nimble fingers still contains a small lagoon of sugary milk. Missy looks at mum, smiles, picks up the bowl, and drinks it; with all the gusto of a condemned criminal watching the clock run down.

My wife, calm as always, turned to me. “Where did she learn that?” Luckily, I was quite busy licking the remains of the baked beans off my plate, so was unable to attend to her query.

“Kids, eh?” I called over my shoulder as I made my escape, “who knows where they get things from?”

But children, apart from plagiarizing all the wrong things, (missy never notices when I use a fork for eating, but use it for scratching, and she is onto it in a flash), are also the ultimate snitches. Even before they are aware of it themselves, they’re mum’s double agents; spilling the beans on all us dads.  Missy might laugh hysterically as I demonstrate how to burp the National Anthem, but beware: at the first opportunity, she will report back to her Handler, CIA style.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Try telling that to your wife as your child chugs orange juice from the carton. Trust me, it won’t fly, or even get forward movement. Once they become conscious of the power of information, all sorts off issues arise. No more surreptitious chocolate bars for dad and eating with my hands is out. I have to be vigilant.

So what is the counter intelligence operation for the spymaster and her miniscule mole? Denial, that’s what. Without firm evidence, every covert operation becomes mere conjecture. Sure, everyone knows the truth, but stand firm, deny all (and remember to wipe the chocolate from your face). Another way is getting your child into school as soon as you can.

“Oh dear, what are they teaching her there?” or “see what she has picked up at that school?” They are both excellent ways of seeding doubt.  Sure, my wife knows the truth, but as Missy burps out “Back in the USSR” I need all the help I can get.


“Cute Baby, Is She a Boy?” July 16, 2012

Filed under: Dad Blog,Parenting — Tim @ 1:36 pm
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Are parents delusional? Do I put on rose coloured glasses whenever I look at my daughter?

Missy is not a boy – mainly because she’s a girl. When she was a baby, I was constantly angered and confused with people who mistook her for a boy. Clearly she was female; it was so obvious that I was incredulous that anyone could make such a glaring error.

Looking back at baby photographs, with the clarity of distance, my daughter did sort of look like a boy at times. All babies, up to a certain age, could conceivably be either gender. Women are smart, they dress their babies in gender appropriate apparel so other women can instantly recognize and respond accordingly.

Men, however, are vastly different. Men – who can open the fridge door and be unable to find the butter, which is sitting at eye level on an otherwise empty shelf, can’t be expected to discern a child’s gender from obscure references such as pink or blue clothes. We need a sign, all you mothers. And I’m not talking about a sign like a hair clip indicating the baby is a girl, or a green T-shirt with a truck on it pointing you to a boy, I mean an actual sign. “I am a boy” stuck on a baby’s head would do, as would a baby carrying a mini placard “I am a girl”.

Fathers, of course, won’t generally need this for their own children, although my wife was somewhat worried for a time, when I kept calling our daughter “Charlotte”. (Note: her name is not Charlotte.”)

I see my daughter as the cutest, cuddliest little girl on earth, which she clearly is. But as with the whole boy/girl dilemma, what if other people see her differently? What if other people don’t see her as I do – a gentle and beautiful angel?

Well she is, people, OK! She is gorgeous, and I won’t hear another word about it! Good. Settled. So what about other children? Maybe their parents just don’t see them the way others do? The truth is, it actually doesn’t matter.  Cute, crass, smart, not so smart, tall, short, big or small – my daughter is mine and my wife’s, and whatever her talents or shortcomings, she is loved, regardless. As a parent, what’s so wrong with thinking your child is wonderful? My friends with teenagers assure me there will be plenty of opportunities then to clash with brooding adolescents, so enjoy I this time when parents and toddlers are consumed with mutual love and adoration. As long as I recognize she has strengths and weaknesses, and accept them as being part of a balanced life, I am helping her become a rounded person.

Just like she helps me. The other day in the car, I hear a little voice… “Daddy, be careful of that taxi, don’t drive too closely please…”

Wise words from a 2-½ -foot tall back seat driver, and many more to come, I am sure.


Night Stalker July 9, 2012

Filed under: Dad Blog,Parenting — Tim @ 3:04 am
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Do you know what the trouble is with being dad? Missy dismisses me as a fringe player in the family, until, that is, the dark depths of the night.

I get given “the hand” on a daily basis; my daughters’ favourite daytime words are “no daddy” or worse; “no more daddy”. I’m not sure if she just wants me to leave, or is planning a mafia style hit.

Then night comes.  The time all parents’ overtly, or secretly, love. The wondrous hours after the children have been fed, watered, bathed, pyjamas on and plonked into bed. It is a precious childfree time for parents to relax, with a pint of Scotch, and a kilo of chocolate.

But alas, my daughter has an unexplainable evil trait. She will wait just long enough for that false sense of security to descend on my wife and I, before she launches her psychological attack. An attack so cunning, I am not all that equipped in the brains department to defend properly against it.

“Daddy, daddy, daddy”, I hear in an urgent little chirp. In I rush, Canadian Mountie style, to save the day. Is it a fire? Is the boogieman coming? I’d even accept the big bad wolf hiding under the bed.

Instead, I am greeted invariably with one of three issues.

1)    “Daddy, I’m cold”

2)    “Daddy, I’m thirsty.”

3)    “Daddy, I want to see Mummy”

Number 1: Is just to mess with me, as Missy throws off the covers as I arrive, then expectantly waits for me to pull them back over her.

Number 2: Now this one is a trap for young players. The “I’m thirsty” card is played over and over. Missy is like the cinematic crooked poker player, with a dozen aces up his coat sleeve. You know that no-one can have 4 aces, 5 hands in a row, but do you genuinely want to challenge a man with burrowing, emotionless eyes, and an itchy trigger-finger? Likewise, what if Missy actually is thirsty? Am I to deny my daughter the basic right of water?

Number 3: This is a strange one. This happens after we have gone to bed. My wife and I call it “the viewing” as all Missy wants to do is for me to pick her up, stand at our bedroom door, see (and wave), at my wife, (who is feigning sleep). After the viewing, she is happily deposited back into bed. Sometimes it’s 2 or 3 times a night. I think most of the time, Missy does want to have a look, make sure the family is all there, but other times, it’s an excuse to try and stay awake.

Here is the issue. Children learn remarkably quickly to manipulate their parents with plausible issues. We must be vigilant.

During the night, Missy will invariably need something done urgently, to facilitate her return to the land of nod. Sometimes it’s the above, sometimes Missy will heave her favourite bunny out of the bed, then wail like a turkey in November at the injustice of it all. I know she is just looking to hang out with dad, and once operation “Rescue Bunny” is complete, and she has been administered a pat on the head, it’s happily back to sleep  – for her, anyway. But then, as the night slowly yields its dark power to the morning light, Missy goes firmly back to “no more daddy”, and the planning of my demise continues. I wonder if the hit will be quick and painless? I sure hope so.


Talking, Walking July 2, 2012

Filed under: Dad Blog,Parenting — Tim @ 9:33 pm
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I find the process of learning language and developing motor skills quite intriguing. It seemed to me, babies are clumsy, ham-fisted, chubby people who take a vow of silence, or in our case, a vow of screaming. But yet suddenly, and unexpectedly, they get the hang of things.

I thought Missy would never be able to walk, she was just too unsteady, and then one day, she did. Learning to use a spoon, discovering those scary mini fingers actually belonged to her, talking in sentences – they all just seem to happen one day. I know mums and dads, who spend all day with their kids will sigh, and explain the rocky journey from weeing on the floor to using the facilities in a more socially acceptable way, is a combination of perseverance, hard work and much mopping up.

But for me, being out most of the day and missing the hard work of it, it’s a magical Cinderella story, except the pumpkin stays a beautiful carriage at midnight. Not withstanding that this wizardry of development is actually the result of mum or dads hard work, it’s a spellbinding time watching Missy master herself and her environment.

Riding a scooter, I thought, was simply beyond her. She never looked as if it was going to be anything other than a convenient way to scratch her knees. Then, with Tour de France determination, (sans pharmaceuticals), she mastered the one foot on, one foot pushing, conundrum. It was a proud day.

Then it struck me.  A child is geared to leaning and mastering their world.  Miniature brains are permanently set to “learn”. It’s adults that put a break on what is achievable or what should not even be attempted.

Missy speaks French just as well as English. That’s because my wife, who is fluent in French, has talked to Missy since she was a baby in that language, while I spoke to her in English. The fact she is bi-lingual, especially in Hong Kong, isn’t rare at all. Most kids are bi-lingual, because it’s common for parents to come from different language backgrounds.

What is exciting is that my wife never “taught” her French; Missy just picked it up the same way she picked up English. Although I have to admit, I did a much better job than my wife. Missy can’t swear at all in French; in English, however, she can curse like an overdue truck driver with two flat tyres.

To her, everything just naturally has two words, (except for the blaspheming bits) and now she easily slips between the languages. She even tries to teach me, realizing, much to her amusement, that dad can’t, shall we say; converser en Français.

Missy loves to point at something, ask me to say it, Louis XVI style; and when I stumble in my less than schoolboy French, she collapses in fits of laughter, and I am sent, post haste, to the proverbial scaffolding of Madame Guillotine.

The fact my daughter has the inbuilt desire to venture happily into the unknown and untried, leaves me with the thought; it could conceivably be me that stifles her creativity, or her will to try things, by simply being an adult. So I aim to be aware of supporting and encouraging her to have a go at different things. Of course, she won’t like them all, nor indeed, will she be any good at some, but that’s not the point. It’s in the attempt, and in the way she processes her emotions when she doesn’t succeed that’s important.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill


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