Archive | July, 2012

Next Chapter Please!

26 Jul

There is more than a hint of Groundhog Day about stay at home parenting, routine rules and things happen in a certain order at a certain time, neglect routine at your own peril. Nothing is more repetitive than reading the same turgid books over and over and over again. As anyone with a baby knows these books are here to challenge our sanity, spirit and will to live.

The most evil of all the baby books are the ones titled, “That’s Not My …..” for example, “That’s Not My Dog/Cat/Mouse/Sheep/Horse/Cow/Lion/Tiger, etc, It’s Tail Is Too Fluffy” after reading a few of these books you begin to think “This Isn’t My Life It’s Far Too Painful” or “That’s Not My Gun It Isn’t Loaded”.  The series is so out of touch with reality that I have taken it upon myself to write to the publishers with some suggestions of my own; “That’s Not My Daddy I Look More Like The Milk Man” could be a big seller, or, “That’s Not My Mummy I’ve Got Two Daddies” has a more contemporary feel to it.

I try my best to mix things up with regular excursions to the library and am amazed at some of the titles out there. “It Hurts When I Poop” really? There does not need to be a book on this subject, just spike his/her milk bottle with a shot of espresso, problem solved. Some of the titles are misleading; “I Love My Daddy” should in fact be called “Please Love Me More Than Mummy”. “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” carries the misleading message that if you gorge yourself on junk food you will in fact grow up to be beautiful, one from the McDonalds marketing department perhaps?

A more pleasing phase which alas seems to be over for now was Max’s obsession with animal books. The biggest test for the parent is to come up with a suitable noise for a hippopotamus, I managed to drag a strange wheezy sound from the pits of my lungs, puff my cheeks out, bulge my eyes and wobble my head a bit, a pitiful mockery of a hippo impersonation.

Max’s appreciation for literature goes up a notch just before bed time, spotting some of the tell tale signs that he will soon be sent to Cotland, dim lights, soft music, comfort blanket, not at all like Scotland, he makes a desperate grab for as many books as possible and thrusts them at us. Who could deny such a thirst for learning or such a devious scheme to stall bedtime?

Max’s current favourite ‘novel’ is titled “My First 100 Trucks” a concept that presumably was dreamt up to ensure there are future generations of truckers. I estimate I have read (pointed at pictures whilst saying “oooh” and “wow” is probably more accurate) this book to Max well over 300 times now and consider myself to be somewhat of a truck connoisseur, albeit a very reluctant one.  Max too can pick out a Skid Steer Truck from a Rescue Rig, which I have no doubt will serve him well in later life.

So please, please, please hurry up and bring on the next chapter. Roald Dahl, J.R.R Tolkein, Enid Blyton, CS Lewis, J.K. Rowling I eagerly await your company.

Date Night

18 Jul

There are two words that are guaranteed to perk up even the most frazzled parent, no not “double espresso” and definitely not “one more?” I am of course talking about Date Night, a night to book a babysitter/reluctant friend/guilt ridden relative, forget you are a parent, pretend you can still hold a decent conversation and indulge yourselves (get drunk). They come around as often as lie ins and are as prized as the phantom poo nappy change.

In the olden days legend has it babysitters were easily exploitable adolescents, using your living room to get acquainted with their latest snog, who were thrilled to receive a few gold coins and the contents of the fridge. These days they negotiate hard and are no longer motivated by the contents of your fridge, more the contents of your wallet. They know their rights and more to the point they know you’re bloody desperate.

Embracing the novelty of a freshly ironed shirt, combed hair and the whiff of fine deodorant (aftershave funds have been gobbled up by baby related expenditure), Date Night usually begins with a bit of X Rated role play to get us in the mood “so stranger, do you have any children” “absolutely not, I can’t stand the little blighters” “get your coat you’ve pulled”.  

This is followed by the laying down of “The Rules”, because nothing screams romance and passion like rules;

  1. no Max talk
  2. no talk of a ‘friends baby’ called Mac
  3. no sneaking off to the toilets to peak at the picture of Max in your wallet/purse
  4. no checking your phone every two minutes to see if the babysitter has called
  5. no pretending to be ill, food poisoned, tired, etc, in order to get back to Max

After evaluating the suitability of the restaurants curtains and whether they tie in with the overall colour scheme and wondering what on earth we could possibly have talked about before we were graced with Max’s presence, we break every single rule, smash them in fact. “I wonder what Max is doing right now?” “I wonder if he’s missing us?” “the Starter was lovely but I’m not really that hungry, we should probably just skip Main and Desert and get back to see if he’s making that cute little snoring noise he does?” “we could always wake him up just to let him know we are back, it’s what he would want”.

There is nothing quite like Date Night to make you realise how much your life has changed. You go out with the intention of showing there’s life in the old dad yet and you return home with the realisation that your life is asleep in a cot oblivious to all the soul searching.

Forgive Me Fathers For I Am About to Sin

10 Jul

Parents are clambering over themselves to pay tribute to their children, nothing says “I love you” like a status update, a popular one being something along the lines of “a year ago today (insert generic baby name) came into our lives and I can honestly say it’s been the best year of our lives”. Honestly? The best? Really? Don’t get me wrong it’s been a memorable year, a life changing year, a year of self discovery and I love Max like no other, but, and don’t hate me for what I’m about to say, it hasn’t been the best year of my life.

My best year was perhaps the one I spent travelling, meeting new people, staying up late and getting up even later. Or maybe it was the first year at university where it didn’t take me long to realise that the student stereotype was in fact a very true representation of student life and a lot of fun it was too. I sometimes look at Max and think that he’s got it pretty good, imagine having two people, essentially unpaid butlers, hovering over you at all times whose sole purpose is to give you whatever you want, now that sounds like the best years to me.

To dare to be anything less than glowing about parenthood is a definite no no. God help you if another one hears you suggest that you don’t enjoy every minute of every day with your little darling. Shame on you if you so much as entertain the notion of spending a Saturday in the pub instead of the park. Someone call social services I just heard this man suggest that he does not cherish sitting up all night with his sick kid. For the overwhelming majority complaining about the rigours of the daily grind is compulsory, failure to do so could result in promotion, but for parents, particularly the stay at home kind, it’s a taboo subject.

In a bid to buck the trend I am approaching my work with a refreshing dose of honesty. (1) Lady at the swings – “Oh he is so cute, you must be so proud” Me “I am too tired to be proud. We aim for cute but he is also very capable of being a little bastard from time to time” (2) Gushing Dad at the library – “Could you imagine life without your son” Me – “Yes, frequently” (3) Wife – “I want another one” Me – “With whom?” (4) Son – “WAAAAAAAAAAAAAA WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA WAAA” Me – “What’s the return policy on this one?”

In order to keep my Dad of the Year dream alive I will end this rant by saying that like any other job there are good days, okay great days, and bad days. The selflessness that is required to do the job does not come naturally to me, I’ve only ever looked after myself and my own interests and I struggled with that. I think the best years are still to come – I’m looking forward to children’s books with actual words. I look forward to the ‘why’ questions, “why do you look so angry Daddy?” I look forward to pee pee and poo poo time being a solo venture. I look forward to dragging his lazy arse out of bed instead of the other way around. I look forward to kicking balls with him rather than just having mine busted.

Far be it from me to question the best year of anyone else’s life but I would question what the other ones were like.

10 Little Words

6 Jul

Every 6 months the park/cafe/park routine is rudely interrupted with a visit to the child health nurse. The child health nurse is a smiley lady who as far as I can tell spends her day reassuring overzealous parents that their children are not too tall, small, fat, thin, independent, needy, fast, slow, over-slept, under-slept, she is basically an accomplished bull shit artist sprinkling feel good white lies to prevent parent breakdowns. Each time we go she tells me how fantastic Max is and I will give him a little ruffle of his hair and say something like “yes we are very proud” – knowing deep down that I’m the eighth parent that day she has rattled off the same line to I still greedily gobble up the compliment. She will ask how I am finding parenting, I will tell her that as long as Max escapes serious injury each day then I am doing my job, she will laugh politely and I will remain stony faced wondering what she is laughing politely at.

Once the pleasantries are out of the way the dreaded clipboard and pen come out of the dreaded drawer, the smile disappears replaced with a steely stare and we get down to the real business. The real business being a series of questions designed to determine whether or not your child is faulty. Our most recent visit was for his 18 month check, the big 18 as it’s known in the parenting trade, it’s not really I made that up. “Okay I will just ask some questions now to make sure that everything is tickety boo, try to answer them as honestly as possible, it’s really nothing to worry about” By tickety boo you mean you want to make sure he is not faulty and I will use as much creative license as is necessary to keep your dreaded pen away from your dreaded clipboard.

“Does he ever imitate you” – yes watch this, ROOOOOAAAAAARRRR, surprising even myself I give an implausibly realistic lion call, Max looks up at me quizzically as if he has never heard or imitated that noise and the lady scribbles something down and hurries on to the next question #longawkwardsilencefollows.

“Can he speak 10 words?” – “I’ve never actually counted” much to her irritation I then proceed to go through them giving examples of when he might apply them “no – he says no a lot, he says it with an angry expression and has clearly picked it up from his mother. One more – he usually says this when his cheeks are already bursting at the seams with mandarin segments, it’s the equivalent of clicking your fingers at a waiter and pointing at your empty glass. That’s two words as well – bonus! Car – a generic term he uses for any form of motorised vehicle, he usually points and shouts this repeatedly in a fit of excitement making him look a bit like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. Uh oh – when he deliberately throws something at me, usually food, he will look me in the eye, smile and say uh oh – I think as his vocabulary becomes increasingly developed this will be replaced with what are you going to do about that bitch? Another two worder, that makes 6″. I can see the usually bubbly lady is beginning to boil, but I don’t care I haven’t spoke to an adult for 3 days and I’m going to get my moneys worth. “Hiya – accompanied with a regal wave this is dished up to anyone and everyone, from angry alcoholic man to local prostitutes they all get it. Bye Bye – again used fairly liberally to acknowledge anything from the closing of a book to the dispatch of a nappy. How many is that now? Eight” I rack my brains for something else, he is so close to being satisfactory that I can taste it and it tastes damned good. I consider some creative license but can only think of implausibly long words. When he was pointing at the reverse cycle air conditioning unit the other day why oh why did I not spend more time educating him on it? “it’s okay if he only has eight, eight is not a bad score, I am sure”.

Just as her pen was about to scribble dud, “ball sack”, stopped in her tracks the lady looks down in disbelief at Max. “Was it me or did he just say something that sounded a bit like ball sack? You heard it right? Technically that’s a two worder and takes us to ten words”. A tear trickles down my cheek, my boy just reached satisfactory with a profanity, I couldn’t have been prouder. The women rattles off the rest of the test, the absence of a lie detector ensures I do what I need to do to maintain the satisfactory standards we came here for. He hasn’t used ball sack before or since and we probably won’t dwell on it too much. The sign of an above satisfactory baby is one that can pull something out of the hat on the big occasion, when the clock is ticking and the pressure is on – love your work Max.

parklife

4 Jul

Throughout my time with Max there has been one constant, and I’m not talking about our daily dose from Dr Phil, I mean our daily trip to the park. We consider ourselves to be park connoisseurs. There are a range of factors that separate a good park from a truly great park; the ratio of swings to slides (2:1 is perfect). All good parks need a theme be it aeroplane, alien spaceship or my personal favourite pirate ship, admittedly not every parent chooses to dress up but I just feel it adds to the experience. There needs to be the right balance between safety and danger, without the threat of imminent injury a park just doesn’t deliver. Finally there must be a good absorbent flooring, to absorb the impact of the falling children, to soak up their blood and mop up their tears when it’s time to leave. On average, and I’ve worked this out, we visit the park 3.33333 times a day, our record number of park visits in one day is 6 and we once visited 4 different parks in the same day. Some visits are brief, while some have been known to go beyond 4 hours.

Recently, and it pains me to say this, the park has not been delivering. If Max could talk I am sure his first words would have been “please tell me there is more to life than parks?” Even at his young age it is possible to have too much of a good thing, we were parkoholics and we had OD’ed. What was going to fill the massive park shaped void in our lives, we tried the library – too educational, we rode the tram to the city – too much excitement, we went shopping at the market – too practical, we stayed in and baked cakes – too messy, we went to the pub – too illegal. Someone recommended an indoor play centre and bereft of other ideas we thought we would give it a whirl, essentially it’s an indoor park we told ourselves, the comfort of familiarity with walls and a ceiling to make it different.

Our good friend Google sent us packing to Day Dreamers, it sounds a bit like a spa or a meditation centre, bring on the serene experience that is Day Dreamers. We followed the shrill of an army of over excited little people amped up on sugar and adrenalin until we arrived, handed over our hard earned money, doing our best to ignore the plethora of safety disclaimers and tentatively stepped inside. Around the perimeter of the room were a circle of designer clad glamour mums who seemingly left the house that morning with the intention of attending a fancy restaurant and as if by accident had arrived at a children’s play centre instead. Too busy sipping on skinny lattes and sharing tips on spending money to realise that little Jemima was submerged and gasping for breath in a pit of balls, don’t worry Jemima I’m sure Mum can relate.

First up was the race track, complete with tyre barriers and pit lanes. After wedging Max in through the window of his ride, I then watched the toddler in front open the door of his car and carefully step in – 1 – 0 toddler. After 10 laps, Max was in pole position and had lapped some of the slower (in both senses of the word) children twice. The race track was not for the faint hearted though, I witnessed two hit and runs, a head on collision that left one victim choking on his dummy and a carjacking. The race track was okay but we had had our head turned by the multi coloured, multi sensory, multi level obstacle course that climaxed with a white knuckle slide ride, rumour has it you may enter the obstacle course a toddler but you will leave it a young boy.

I couldn’t quite believe that it was suitable for either of us, me being too tall and Max being too small, but the cashier assured me the entire centre was fair game and who am I too argue with a 15 year old temp who didn’t speak very good English? We negotiated our way through a ball swamp, a cargo net and a balance beam and were feeling pretty good about life. Suddenly Jemima, who must have negotiated her way out of the ball pit, pipes up and informs us that this ride is not for big boys, my response was as absurd as it was infantile, “I’m not a big boy, I’m a man” – not my proudest moment. Leaving Jemima trailing in our wake we climb the Ladder of Doom, entering the second level and being thrust straight into a maze rumoured to be so complex that some toddlers have never come out, we make it look easy peasy and negotiate the pendulum swing in Indianna Jones style. As we arrive on Level three my back forces me to acknowledge that I am now crouching to such an extent that I am forced to adopt a commando crawl, Jemima was right after all this is definitely not meant for big boys or small men. As I continued through level three, I look through the netting and notice that the glamour mums are looking on at me incredulously, there may also have been some shaking heads and tutting but I was in the zone and couldn’t really tell, all of this only served to spur me on to reach my personal Everest, level 4. Stood at the top of the slide, I looked down, my life flashing before my eyes. A quick check to see that I still had Max, I close my eyes, say a prayer and leap into the unknown. I lost two layers of skin to that slide but it was worth it to see Jemima at the top, crying, too afraid to tackle it. “We did it Max, we beat Jemima, we won”.

At the park we would always follow up a slide with a swing, it was the perfect counter balance to all that adrenaline the yin to the slides yang. This place was all yang and brought out the worst in people, okay it brought out the worst in me. “Come on Max, get your coat, we’re going to the park”.

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