Being Dad

Being a father is fraught with danger…

Have You Met Madam Guillotine? February 4, 2013

Here’s a problem if I ever saw one.

I came home the other day, only to discover poor Missy just recovering from an extended bout of crying. So naturally, I was interested in the circumstances of this trying event.

Was Missy in trouble for not eating lunch? Did she stub her toe? Was there a monster under her bed?  No. My wife took me aside. In a quiet calm voice, she explained there had been an accident.

An accident?!

Had Missy swallowed drain cleaner? Did she fall and bash her head? What? What was this accident??

A dismemberment, that’s what.

Missy has a baby. Well, not a real baby, which would be weird…right? She has a toy baby that can come with her into the bath. This ‘baby’ comes complete with a vagina. Actually it’s more like a hole, simply drilled in where the ladies bits are supposed to be. I suppose an anatomically accurate doll for a 3-year-old would definitely be weird. But the hole means baby can pee and drain at the same time.

The problem is the hole isn’t large enough to easily drain the water out. Maybe, if the baby had an anatomically correct….  Nope, still weird.  We did discover, however, the water does drain much better if bath baby is upside down and water can escape through the gap where the head is attached to the body.

This particular day, my wife had tried to speed up the draining process so Missy could get ‘baby’ ready for bed. Being a thinker, she thought she could expedite the process a little: “Just need to ease this joint open a little…”

Next thing you know, my wife is in the glaring spotlight – head in one hand, body in the other. Cute little water baby had been beheaded.

It’s hard to come back from that.

In a way, it was just as well my wife was the Executioner as I am not so sure I would have, or could have, handled the situation without doing permanent physical damage to baby and permanent psychological damage to Missy. Thankfully my wife is the brains of our operation, and baby’s head was reattached in a gentle, timely fashion, without any need for a hammer and plyers.

But despite a quick, no-fuss reattachment, poor Missy had still seen her baby’s head torn off. That’s certainly cause for tears.

 

Lies, Nothing But Lies January 21, 2013

Filed under: Dad Blog,Parenting — Tim @ 9:10 am
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As a parent, I now realize how idiotic a child’s “version” of an event sounds. When I was a small boy, “someone” in my family drew on the wall of our house. My brother and sister were, and still are, quite accomplished artists. The drawing (referred to in our family for all of time as “The Michelin Man”) was at best, anatomically challenged and artistically bereft.

I, of course, wanting to avoid punishment, denied any culpability (to this day, in fact). At the time, I thought my cunning plan of outright and stoic denial to the “alleged” offence was watertight. Now I know my lie was as obvious as if I had been caught, crayon in hand.

Thankfully, Missy rarely tries to cover things up. She is much more likely to throw herself down, burst into tears, and confess like a habitual car thief, high on sodium pentothal.

This presented a little problem recently. I was in the kitchen, bumbling along, preparing Missy’s dinner. Well, to be honest, preparing it “man-style”. That meant nothing came together anywhere close to when they were suppose to, and food items were spending equal amounts of time in the pan and on the floor.

Missy was with me because as well as being quite the accomplished (if miniature) cook, She loves to be around while food is being prepared – or if I’m cooking – while the can is being opened.

This day I had abandoned canned beans on toast and opted for more of a gourmet meal.

So, the fish fingers were ready, but the peas were still frozen; the cucumber wasn’t sliced and the corncob was still boiling away. In my rush to try and get things moving, some peas escaped onto the floor.

Let me firstly say, in our house, we, well me anyway, strictly adhere to the 3-second rule. You know it? If not, it is a rule, handed down from generation to generation, stating that: Any food items that fall on the floor, and are picked up in under 3 seconds, are deemed safe from germs and fit to eat. Now, I haven’t had this fact scientifically tested, but I am sure it’s true. In my childhood house, the timing of those 3 seconds was, um; let’s just say it was not up to Olympic standards.

So, back to the present – the peas were on the floor, waiting for the “3 seconds” to expire. I told Missy not to touch them while I busily tried to get this highly complicated and culinary challenging meal ready. I mean, frozen vegetables and fish fingers; it would make a compelling MasterChef episode.

As I began to plate the meal, or in my case it was a bit more like being served in the chow line at a military camp, than delicate food placement, I notice the peas mysteriously gone from the floor (or “holding area” as I prefer to call it). A guilty looking child looked up at me.

“Did you eat those peas, Missy?

“No”

“Really?”

“No, Daddy”

“Darling, you won’t get into trouble, I just want you to tell the truth”

“I didn’t eat them, Daddy”.

This went back and forth for far too long, and me being me, I couldn’t let it go. I interrogated her as if she was a Russian spy, caught in an air-conditioning duct at the Pentagon. I knew she was guilty, and I wouldn’t let up till I got a confession.

Then she started to cry. A HA! Here was my chance to use her emotional state against her. But even in tears, she displayed a firm, Navy Seal kind of teary determination. Suddenly, I began to doubt myself. Maybe she didn’t eat them? All of a sudden, I am the guilty one. I have falsely accused my daughter and made her cry. Bad Daddy!

To this day, although I have let the incident go, sort of, I wonder. Has Missy inherited my stoic denial gene? The peas were on the floor, and then they were gone. We don’t have any pets, and as far as I know, peas can’t spontaneously move…

Maybe I should refer to my wife’s opinion:

“Enough with the peas! Get over it!!

I will make a note in my diary to ask Missy at her 21st birthday.

 

Away Time January 14, 2013

Filed under: Dad Blog,Parenting — Tim @ 9:26 am
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Going away and spending time apart from missy, is no pleasure.  Thankfully, I don’t have to do it particularly often, and when I do, it’s generally for selfish reasons. I go and watch cricket (for American readers, the sport of cricket has been described as being like a slow game of baseball), and while I love to do it, it does mean I am away from Missy for a week or so.

We certainly talk on the phone, but it’s not the same. I miss her, and I miss my wife.  You might think being away is the perfect time for catching up on sleep, or catching up on my mid-life crisis by staying out late at the pub. But actually, I usually don’t sleep that well, and the last time I made it past 11pm, Greece was an economically viable country. Funny how when I’m away, a lack of children noise stops me from sleeping – and too much adult noise stops me from hanging out in bars.

In the distant past, I had a work colleague who had two pre-adolescent daughters. Ouch! – Three females in the house. Firstly, that meant he got no bathroom time – and when he did manage to sneak in for some ‘alone’ time, there was certainly no peace. His life was a blur of pretty dresses, hair, and make-up. His Christmas day dreams of remote controlled Tanks ready to battle with boxes of toy soldiers, was but a wispy fantasy. His day would be spent plaiting hair and painting fingernails.

So when a business trip came up, I always expected him to be super keen. He never was. He missed his girls. Until missy came along, I confess, I never properly understood. Now I do. So when I travel, far from being a break, it’s time when I miss my girls. Sure, I have fun with my friends – loving your family doesn’t mean you can never be away from them, and certainly being on a plane without a child has its advantages, but it never outweighs the joy of being with my wife and daughter.

Admittedly, I sometimes wander past the dinosaur section of Double-the-Price ‘R’ Us, and wonder if Missy might like a stegosaurus to play with – or I gaze at the monster truck section, looking forlornly for a pink one with a princess themed paint job. But like my work buddy, I truly love having a daughter, and all the hair, painted nails and party dresses that come with her.

(Disclaimer: I cannot, nor am I allowed to, plait Missy’s hair)

So going away, be it business or pleasure is always a mix. I do love to watch cricket, and have some laughs with my friends, but I do love to be with my family, and I miss them when I’m away.

But after any time away, as I slide my key in the front door, I know the reception that awaits me:

“Hi Daddy, please be quiet, Cinderella is on the TV”.

It’s good to be home with my girls.

 

Does Santa drink and drive? January 7, 2013

Filed under: Dad Blog,Parenting — Tim @ 10:42 am
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Who doesn’t love Christmas! What a simply fabulous time for parents to lord it over their children – or was it just me?

I had a ball this Christmas, getting Missy to do all kinds of things she might normally turn her nose up at, or resist, like an acrophobic at a bungee jumping convention. Vegetables were eaten, baths taken, and bedtime adhered to, sort of, – as I menacingly held the phone with my dialing finger pointing threateningly at the numbers. “I will ring Santa, you know – I will – don’t tempt me!”

My wife thought I may have overused it just a bit when Missy was annoyed at me one day; she picked up her toy phone, and sans the threatening bit, actually called Santa straight away. I didn’t receive any warning, just: “Santa, Daddy is very bad. No presents for him!”

Still, despite all my idle threats, it was a super fun filled day.

Christmas morning came, and to see Missy’s face as she inspected the half eaten carrot and an empty glass of wine was priceless.  I was, however, a little concerned she insisted Santa would need alcohol.

The opening of presents commenced, and a fabulous day was spent in the company of dear friends. It was our first Christmas with Missy truly aware of what the holiday season is all about: ie 5kgs of ham, a turkey the size of a small country, mince pies, party hats and bon-bons. It was gluttony on an industrial scale. Ah, the joys of Christmas.

But Christmas is also a bit more than simply eating too much. Children demand adults take stock and brush aside the cobwebs of age. There just isn’t any better way to shake off grown-up cynicism, than to spend it with wide-eyed children celebrating a stranger in fancy dress breaking into your house at night. The simple wonder of a child. Best present ever.

 

Smarty Pants December 10, 2012

Filed under: Dad Blog,Parenting — Tim @ 9:50 am
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What do you do when it becomes obvious that your daughter is smarter than you?

For most fathers, this inevitability might happen when their daughter reaches their 20’s, maybe even their 30’s. It’s also possible, I suppose, when they are in their late teens.

My daughter is 3. So that presents a problem – for me. Rapidly disappearing are the days I can make things up, or satisfy a little mind with glib answers.

“The sky is blue, my little darling, because a giant with an enormous blue crayon coloured it in”

“How does he sharpen it?”

“With a huge pencil sharpener”

“Why can’t I see him?”

“Go to your room”

So what does this mean for me, functionally? I need to stay on top of things.  I can’t just make stuff up. Missy remembers things now, and as my wife will tell you, I am a very bad liar, I habitually forget what I have said, or trip myself up.  I have to tell the truth, (most of the time), purely from a logistical point of view: denying eating a chocolate bar with the wrapper sitting on top of the garbage bin just doesn’t cut it.

Missy even trips me up by reminding me of previously discussed versions as to why this or that happens. As she gains awareness, I try to gain an appreciation that what I say to her might actually impact her life. I can’t, in good conscious, send her off into the wide world thinking that the police really do monitor how many peas little girls eat.

A prime example is from my youth. My dear departed Granny was a character of note. Once, in-between gulps of Gordon’s Gin, she told me that if you eat the seeds from a capsicum (bell pepper) you will die. A little harsh, I think, telling a 10 year old that. But these days I realise it was the probably the Gordon’s talking, rather than any desire to do any permanent psychological damage. In any event, I know now, with 100% certainty, that, in fact, capsicum seeds are not deadly. But without fail, to this day, every time I chop one up while cooking, I religiously and obsessively remove the seeds.

Obviously there are some things that are age appropriate. I will not be debunking Santa, the tooth fairy or the elves that place the ‘sleep’ in her eyes at night, just yet. But more practical things – things like why do we have bones or what happens to the rubbish we throw out, I will try to deal with in a more honest way.

And so, when next my sweet little Missy asks me:

Daddy, why is the sky blue?”

I will answer appropriately:

“Go ask your mother”

 

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.

 

 
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