Being Dad

Being a father is fraught with danger…

The Empire Strikes Back March 25, 2013

Filed under: Dad Blog,Parenting — Tim @ 8:50 am
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Here’s an intriguing problem.

My daughter, courtesy of my wife, is bi-lingual. She speaks French and English fluently. Being bi-lingual is not uncommon in Hong Kong, where a large percentage of children speak 2, or even 3 languages. But this is not about that, I just like to throw that in to simply boast about my little girl and my amazing wife, this is about Missy in tears on the way to school recently.

I was walking along with her, and we were chatting away. Important things occupied us that day, such as – how come ice melts in the sun? And why aren’t buses painted pink? In short, the big issues.

Suddenly, Missy gets a little teary, so I picked her up as we walked along. “What’s the matter, my princess?” I enquired, giving her a reassuring cuddle.

“I don’t want to go to a French school.”

“Really?” I was a bit perplexed, as she adores her teacher and usually loves going.

“Why not?”

“I want to speak Japanese”.

OK… so… where did that come from??

We don’t have any Japanese friends. Sure, we’ve been to Japan, but Missy was a one-year-old and could barely speak any language then. So what prompted her suddenly wanting to ‘speak’ Japanese?

Who knows how little minds work? She was convinced a while ago that apples might kill her, or so it seamed. Then one day, she calmly picked up a slice, and away she went. We had a tantrum last week – because her dress didn’t “twirl” sufficiently when she spun around. “I’m not like a princess”, she wailed. You got that right, girl.

Later, my wife and I had a chat about her sudden yearning to embrace all that is Nippon, you know the conversations you have: realizing this is a serious concern for a 3.5 year-old, but unable to discuss it without hysterical laughter. Japanese?!? We think it might stem from her favourite boy at school; a pleasant little chap whose mother is Korean. Possibly, Missy had just confused the language when this lady talks to her son before class.

But be that as it may, that morning, poor old single-lingual dad (despite the best efforts of my French teacher) had to reach deep down to find a Japanese word to placate Missy.

“Kon-ichi-wa” I pronounced poorly, but proudly. “I think it means hello”.

The crisis was averted. We got to school.

“Bonjour Missy”, her teacher said as we walked in.

“Konichiwa”, came the solemn reply. Missy’s teacher looked at me; I shrugged.

“C’est la vie”.

 

Food Wars (Part II) October 22, 2012

Filed under: Dad Blog,Parenting — Tim @ 10:50 am
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You may remember a couple of weeks ago I spoke of Missy’s dislike, nay rejection, of fruit that is not in a tube. Well, Mum had an ingenious idea about that.

In the weeks before Missy’s third birthday, Mum started introducing the concept, that maybe, our fruitless fun-size female might like to ‘give it a go’ when she turned three.

This proved to be a genius idea. We still offered her the chance to eat fruity delights before the ‘event’, and she would politely decline with a smile and a “when I’m three, I’ll eat fruit”. True, as that date approached, her will did start to waver. Sometimes at night she would wake up, and when I went to pat her back to sleep, Missy would sleepily pronounce she didn’t want to eat fruit when she was three.

Then, like death and taxes, the inevitable arrived. Her birthday. The day was a whirlwind of presents and fun, and any thought of the fruity consequences was forgotten in a blur of leggo, princess dolls and ponies (of the plastic miniature kind).

It also pleasingly slipped her mind that I had previously and foolishly said she could drive my car when she was three, and that I would buy her a giraffe. Phew! Dodged a bullet there.

All was going well till dinner. When it must have suddenly hit her. I asked her if she’d had a lovely day and a fun birthday party; Missy looked up at me with doe-eyes and a trembling lip and announced, “Daddy, I don’t want to be three, I want to be two”. And so, with my lip joining her, we had a cuddle and a chat about being ‘a big girl’.

Eventually, she recovered, and the very next day, while out at lunch, and again, via an inspired moment from my wife, a sliver of strawberry magically appeared with a kind motherly word: “You’re a big girl now, you’re three! Will you try this my darling?”

I had dreaded this moment. I knew the eating of fruit was destined to be a battle of wills. It was going to be an apocalyptic struggle between adult and child. There would be screaming, throwing, thrashing and tantrums; and that would just be me. Missy would act much worse.

I held my breath, and slowly reached for the car keys, ready to whisk a raging child away from the café.

Missy looked at it, and cool as you like, popped it into her mouth, followed quickly by a piece of raspberry.  Sure, she was apprehensive. Sure she ate it with a slightly over dramatic scrunching of her face. But eat fruit, she did.

We couldn’t have been any prouder of her.

Since then, admittedly, the floodgates of fruit eating haven’t exactly opened, but she tried it, and is slowly coming around.

My dear sweet little girl is now officially a dear, sweet, big girl.

Cue the trembling lip of admiration from two overjoyed parents.

 

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…?

 

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.

 

 
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