Being Dad

Being a father is fraught with danger…

Boy? Girl? Or None of the Above? November 26, 2012

Filed under: Dad Blog,Parenting — Tim @ 10:00 am
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Missy has started taking ballet classes. Let me be clear; we are not talking Swan Lake. When 3 year-olds “take ballet classes”, it actually means: “run around flapping arms”. It’s the human version of watching a flock of geese trying to take off, or like trying to make 10 cats march in a straight line. Still, Missy, after her obligatory need to take the first couple of lessons standing fixed on the one spot and letting the class go on around her, seems to enjoy it. Of course, being a real ‘girly’ girl, the tutu is a massive hit, and often has to stay on well after class is over.

So have we “genderized” our daughter? And is “genderize” a real word?

The short answer is no to both. So, if you’re after the short answer, stop reading now.

For those who read on, (both of you), the long answer is it is my experience that boys and girls simply like to do, and want to do, different things. Certainly not all the time, but quite frankly, boys and girls are different.  That’s not to say boys don’t ever want to play with dolls, and some girls may want to be cage fighters when they grow up, so sure,  children should be free to express themselves.

But contrary to the “non-gender defining” crowd, I think if a little girl wants to dress in pink and pretend to be a princess, or a boy wants to wear a t-shirt with a monster truck on it, (and vice-a-versa), they should be free to do so.  “Non-genderizing” a child, is in itself inflicting a label on them.

The boys we know, well at least those of Missy’s age, have a simple outlook on life. They want to find out how things work – and then break them. They love trucks and diggers; they wake up in the morning, and set their speedometer to “full steam ahead”.

Missy and her little girlfriends like to be girls. She likes to make pretend tea, sit her fluffy toys in a circle, and tell them off. She likes to dress up as a princess and wave her wand about. Girls are different to boys, not better or worse, just different.

The world we seem to live in has gone politically correct mad – a schoolteacher recently told me that in some schools; teachers cannot tell children they are wrong. Apparently, it might damage them. They are “on track to being right” when they get a maths question wrong…umm, I mean, less correct than they could have been.

Everyone has to win a prize at the school sports carnival lest any self-esteem is damaged. You know, just like the real world.

I certainly am not advocating 3 year olds be sat down and given the harsh realities of life, but seriously, wrapping children in cotton wool, in my opinion, may merely create a race of over protected people who can’t deal with setbacks. Not to mention all the money they will need later in life for therapy.

I prefer to teach Missy that coming 5th in the running race is an opportunity to try harder, and if she is not so sporty, and 5th is her best, then good on her for trying. I don’t want to pretend she came 1st. There will always be some things she has a talent for, and some things she does not.

So for me, my wondrous little princess is a real girly girl, and I love her. If she wanted to dress up like a Marine, I would still love her. If she gets married and has children one day, I will love her. If she decides she is gay, I will love her. If she becomes a doctor or a burger flipper. Yep, you guessed it; I will love her.

Being a parent is a daunting task, but in the end, maybe it does just boil down to acceptance and Love.

 

Why? November 19, 2012

Filed under: Dad Blog,Parenting — Tim @ 9:08 am
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But why?

But why?

But why?

As a parent, you just have to get use to that line of questioning. Children have inquiring minds. They want to know why…a lot. Why do clouds float in the sky? Where does the wind come from? Exactly why can’t you eat ice cream for breakfast?

It’s all too easy to ignore or deal flippantly with those kinds of questions, especially when I usually don’t know the answers to many of them. As Missy gets older, she just needs to know some things, and as the responsible parent, it’s my wife’s job to answer them! Haha, just kidding…actually, no I’m not. My wife knows these things, or is smart enough to give an appropriate answer. Me, I usually go for distraction:

“Daddy, why is the sky blue?”

“Well dear, it’s because…HANG ON! Is that an ELEPHANT over there??”

Yep, that never actually works, Missy is too old to fall for that one.

Having a child is a bit like going through a life rewind, without the school exams. Missy is seeing and experiencing multitudes of things for the first time, and as a parent, I get to experience the wonder of watching her see them. It would be a tragedy to become distracted and let that amazement pass you by. Getting myself on an impossibly small train at the zoo can either be an annoying 10 minutes with my knees up around my ears, or it can be a remarkable moment between Missy and I – watching her whoop with raw, simple delight.

I have to admit, it was my wife that clued me into being more present to my daughter, and I certainly am not 100% of the time. But I try and remember to look past the adult hum-drum of some parts of daily life, and see them through wide and enquiring eyes.

Waving at strangers from the bus – especially if they wave back – is a pleasure Missy loves.  I now love it too. I love it for the joy and giggles a returned wave elicits. And when they don’t wave, Missy and I look at each other and screw up our faces. “Boring person”, we say to each other with a giggle.

The Zoo, or indeed any outing, becomes less about crowds and the traffic there and back, and more about animals seen for the first time outside a storybook. Imagine it – a giraffe! A huge, gangly animal, and look, an impossibly long neck! And are they horns on its head? Oh the marvel of it!

I try and not take that fascination and overlay it with my adult logic. “Yeah, yeah, so it’s a lion. C’mon, let’s get a move on – the queue at the kiosk isn’t getting any shorter”.

I don’t always succeed, but that’s not the point. The aim is to try and see things the way Missy sees them.

Imagine if while at the zoo, you came across a living, breathing dinosaur, (hopefully in a cage). I, for one, would be gobsmacked. For Missy, a penguin is just as exciting, as is a construction crane on a building, a fire engine and even just a simple autumn tree.

Missy can stand in awe at the most mundane things. I don’t want to miss out on that moment because I’m thinking that those damn autumn leaves are a pain to rake up.

 

Parent/Teacher/Bragging time November 12, 2012

Filed under: Dad Blog,Parenting — Tim @ 6:21 pm
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My wife and I had our first parent / teacher meeting recently. I have to admit; it was kind of strange for a number of reasons.

Firstly, Missy is three, so seriously, what were we there to talk about?

Your daughter is progressing nicely, she is quite the finger painter. I do, however, think her “row-row-row the boat” singing has room for improvement”.

Second, Missy goes to a French speaking school. That’s perfect for her, as she speaks French. Of course, her teacher speaks English, but still, there is a language gap between her and me.

Misseee, is une très extraordinaire student”. Well to be honest, the teacher’s English is excellent – as opposed to my French, (despite my wife and daughter being fluent), which is abysmal. I am taking lessons though. Well, I have done one so far; so unless the teacher simply wanted to ask my name (Je m’appelle Tim), we had little choice but to speak in English.

But go we did, to our first meeting to discuss my daughter’s progress in life. We arrived at her kindergarten, and as Missy wandered off to play, we were welcomed into her classroom. The teacher kindly waved us to our seats so we could begin the meeting.  Now remember, Missy is three, so our “seats” are Lilliputian.  And there I sat – the Father of Missy – knees up around my ears on a minuscule, yellow, plastic chair.

Pleasingly, it was almost all happy news. Missy had not yet displayed any homicidal tendencies; her French and English were both advanced for her age, and she is a “delight” to have in class. OK, this was terrific stuff. Just the kind of thing parents love to casually drop into conversations with other parents:

Oh, Missy is going OK, I suppose. Her teacher is quite pleased. She can sing the French national anthem in German while solving quadratic equations in Latin. Her reading of ancient Greek seems to be a bit slow, but all in all, we are OK with that. How is your little one going?”

Oh the endless bragging potential this teacher was giving me. True, you have to try and say it to other parents as if you’re not bragging, but we all know the truth.

The problem, of course, is there is always going to be something that is not quite as you hoped. The “dark secret” of underperformance is always lurking, somewhere. That’s when the other parent strikes:

Oh how wonderful! You must be so proud. And tell me, how is Missy going with her scooter? Still riding it like a drunken monkey? I see without her helmet she would be spending most days in the hospital accident and emergency”.

And then the knife twists:

Of course, little Alexander is OK, I suppose. We don’t like it, but he insists on riding his scooter while doing a one-arm handstand. It’s quite annoying, but what can you do? It’s either that or he makes such a racket singing the Ethiopian Princess role from Aida. He is quite the three year old opera singer, really”.

Touché.

But really, what’s wrong with being proud of your children? I truly believe Missy is the best little girl on earth, other parents think their little ones are the best, and we are all right.

So teacher time ends with a quiet word; “Missy does have a tendency to be a bit bossy, nothing serious, but she likes to try and organize the class.”

No, Madame teacher, it can’t be! MY little girl is perfect! Do you know she speaks French…?

 

 
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