Archive | September, 2012

The Good Life

30 Sep

Being a parent is full of very simple pleasures that make you smile without even knowing your doing it. I am sure I have smiled more since Max has been on the scene than ever before. Watching on as Max reads a book to himself or makes a new friend at the park will have me grinning from ear to ear, these moments are best enjoyed from afar, not unlike stalking.

Another simple pleasure that we enjoy year round is feeding Max from our allotment. One of the best decisions we have made during our five year Antipodean Adventure was getting a plot at Veg Out Community Gardens in St Kilda (http://www.vegout.asn.au/). This is not your usual collection of old farts talking about how things have changed since they were a lad and working on revolutionary ways to kill slugs. Veg Out is vibrant, dynamic, artistic and usually offers someone to share a beer and a natter with at the end of a day’s Dadding and digging.

The allotment is a haven for Dad and Son alike. Max will while away his time feeding the chickens, terrorising the guinea pigs, erecting sand castles, desperately trying to work out how to work a hose or stealthily pilfering strawberries from other plots when he gets peckish. I will simply find a nice bench in the sun, sit back and watch it all unfold, smiling contentedly to myself and thinking how lucky I am (even luckier if I happen to be holding a cold beer at the time).  

It raises a few eyebrows amongst friends when we turn down a beer garden in favour of a community one but there is something wonderful about watching your son strip a tomato plant, that you have grown, of its bounty and greedily gobble them up. It requires a little more imagination through the winter mouths when the weather is not quite as welcoming and the veg is overwhelmingly green and not quite as appealing, think cabbages and sprouts.

I have great memories of accompanying my own Dad to his allotment when I was a lad and am sure that it contributed to an appreciation of fresh air and even fresher food. Max is already showing some fingered potential and whilst I am wielding a spade he will happily pick up a trowel and dig like Dad. Father and son usually arrive home from the Gardens a bit smellier, a lot dirtier, a tad tireder and a heap happier.

For the price of a weekly food shop (the annual fee) I have some priceless memories, a ready supply of fresh, organic, tasty food to feed the family and some fantastic friendships. I would whole heartedly encourage others to sniff out (follow the smell of ripe compost and manure) your local Community Gardens or Allotments and enjoy a slice of The Good Life for yourself.

The Do’s and Do Not’s of Dadding

25 Sep

As a 9 month veteran of the stay at home dad business I have convinced myself and the old lady who thinks Max is a girl, that I am quite the expert. Join me if you will as I reveal some of the Do’s and Do Not’s of Dadding.

Sleeping

Do: Be a supportive partner, do your fair share of the night shift and treat your partner to plenty of lie ins. Sooth your baby back to sleep with some gentle rocking and a lullaby

Do Not: Pretend to be asleep when the baby is stirring, the fake snore is over-acting and will blow your cover every time. Never become embroiled in a late night debate/argument with your partner about whose turn it is, you may lose more than the argument #case of Bobbit vs Bobbit. Do not show a total lack of will power, renege on an agreed parental policy and return triumphantly with an insomniac baby holding an invite to the sanctuary of your bed.

Eating

Do: Expose your child to a rich and varied diet. Encourage them to try new flavours, to finish their meal and to eat with their spoon.

Do Not: Expose your child to a rich and varied range of fish fingers, yes they are quick, yes he likes them and yes his pooh will develop a fishy odour. Do not leave your child unattended in his high chair, unless of course it’s to take a very amusing picture of the ensuing mess.

Day Trips

Do: Mix your routine up a bit, one special day trip a week keeps both you and your child engaged. Remember that your role is not only looking after your child, you also need to carry out the more practical aspects of staying at home by ensuring things are ship shake for your partners return.

Do Not: Base yourself at the park, the same park, day in day out, park, park, park, nothing but park, parky, parky, park, park – you will go insane. If you do decide to go on a day trip make sure you check the opening times, bring water and food, this way you will avoid spending 40 minutes in a car park with a malnourished, dehydrated child that was expecting to be getting his Einstein on at Scienceworks, for example.

Socialise With Other Parents

Do: Share your experiences of parenting with others who can relate. Stay socially active, happy Dad = happy child.

Do Not: Become a social recluse, shunning the offer of adult company in favour of staying in to compile your Top 10 Favourite Max Moments, boring Dad = bored child.

Toilet Training

Do: Allow your child to guide you, look for them to show increased awareness and a desire to have a go.

Do Not: Try to enlighten your child (who has just learnt to walk) in the delights of using a toilet, there is a very good chance he will walk into the line of fire and you are helpless to stop him……………yes I peed on my son.

Playing

Do: Stimulate your baby’s playful side with a range of environments, toys, music and company. Allow them the opportunity to discover things for themselves and don’t stifle them.

Do Not: Stimulate your own playful side at the park, know your limitations – jumping off a rapidly accelerating swing and landing head first in tan bark will not endear you to your parent peers.  Do not take the puzzle from your baby and marvel at your own brilliance in slotting the circle through the circular hole, just don’t do it!

Child Safety

Do: Devise a strategy to ensure that your house is a safe environment for your child to enjoy and explore.

Do Not: Revel in the brilliance of your dad joke that “it’s too late to child proof the house as one of the little blighters had already got in” whilst leaving meat cleavers lying around at baby height……..yes I did that too.

Bonding with Your Child

Do: Give your child your undivided attention, smother them in love and smiles

Do Not: Give your blog your undivided attention, smothering it with love and smiles.

Transporting Your Child

Do: Ensure that your child is safe, warm and comfortable in whatever means of transport you use, pram, car seat, rucksack, bike carrier, etc

Do Not: Ensure that your child has the sympathy of your local community by transporting him in a shopping bag.

Accept Your New Role

Do: Accept that your life will never be the same again, the sooner you embrace your new role the quicker you will realise that it’s probably the best job in the world.

Do Not: Convince yourself that a night out with the boys is a civilised evening of sparkling conversation, fine dining and camaraderie – you will in fact remember it is a thoroughly uncivilised evening of beer, kebab and being pushed home in a shopping trolley.

Operation Preparation

19 Sep

There have been a number of incidents recently that has led me to question whether I am arming the boy with the necessary tools for life. That is after all my job and a job I take very seriously.

Example 1 – The number one behaviour that parents seem to want to instil in their child is the ability to share. “Stop beating little Ethan’s head into a bloody pulp with your truck and let him have a turn, remember how we share?” That’s a very noble trait to have and I am sure you are wondering what gripe I could possibly have with that. My gripe is that in today’s world I’m not sure that sharing is very prominent, being a selfish, obnoxious, ruthless (insert preferred obscenity here) seems to go a long way these days.

Example 2 – There is a big push for children to be non aggressive, to turn the other cheek like that Jesus fellow did, *allegedly – jury’s still out on that one. My problem with that is if you turn your other cheek in the local park you will have it taken off by an angry toddler, its dog eat dog out there. Max is quite a passive fellow and is regularly on the receiving end of a bit of rough treatment, 49% of me looks on with pride as he walks away from the situation the bigger baby, 51% of me would like him to give the offending brat an epic beat down.

Example 3 – Parents are often pre-occupied with teaching children to take turns and to wait your turn. It’s a different matter when those same parents are ‘queuing’ for their morning skinny decaff soy flat white at the cafe. That patience is not going to serve you well in later life Max, wait your turn for a go on the slide and it will never come. Far better to sharpen your elbows and get stuck in I say.

Example 4 – I often overhear parents telling their pampered princess not to be greedy, as they snatch another organic, free range, fair trade, freeze dried apple slice and ram it into their gob. Being greedy is exactly what is required in a capitalist society, without greed you will be forced to scrape a living writing a blog about your offspring. And surely you are sending mixed signals about greed when you dress them head to toe in designers threads, feed them the most opulent foods known to baby, buy them every over priced wooden toy their little hearts could possibly desire and generally give them the impression that their nappies don’t stink.

I think the traits that we try to bestow on our children, all though well meaning and thoroughly commendable, are fairly redundant. Walk into any boardroom and you won’t see a shred of sharing, a glimpse of generosity, an ounce of friendliness, an iota of patience. I have already wised up to this and have devised a set of beliefs called Operation Preparation. Each day there are daily teachings on how to wave a toy triumphantly in front of another child’s desiring eyes. How to kick sand in another child’s face when their on the ground.  How to steal another child’s girlfriend and how to then cheat on that girlfriend. How to make another baby feel inferior and worthless just by looking at them. And of course how to influence those around you to give you exactly what you want, and then to not be happy with it and want even more.

Wowsers, I’m not sure where that all came from must have been hanging out with the hippy parents at the park too long, I promise to revert to anecdotes about baby pooh next time.

My Son The Superhero

16 Sep

After doing my duties as a male and watching the latest Batman flick I pondered, as any obsessed blogger would, if my son were a Superhero who would he be?

Pseudonym – Bubble Boy

Costume – The usual superhero stuff – pants over tights, cape, laser goggles, etc, etc……….oh and blue wellies.

Special Powers – He can blow toxic bubbles from every orifice – yellow gloopy ones from his nose, regular spit ones from his mouth and stinky ones from you know where. If his bubbles don’t get you he will simply bludgeon any baddies to death with a flurry of blows from a toy car – KAPOW, THWACK, ZAP, KLONK!

Weakness – Whilst Superman turned into a big girls blouse around Kryptonite, Bubble Boy is immune to wet wipes. More specifically wet wipes rubbed vigorously around his face to remove remnants of his last meal, it’s as if it rubs a little bit of his special powers away too.

Sidekick – Dad Man, not comfortable with lycra tights and a cape, Dad Man usually opts for a smart but casual T-Shirt and Jeans combo. Dad Man knows his place and happily plays second fiddle to Bubble Boy following him from adventure to adventure doing his best to keep him safe. His Achilles heel is Maggie Beers Burnt Fig, Honey Comb and Caramel Ice Cream and goes some way to explaining his reluctance for lycra.

Love Interest – Superman had Lois Lane, Spidey had Kirsten Dunst (allegedly) and frankly Batman was a bit of a player and had whoever his little bat heart desired, Bubble Boy has Library Girl. Library Girl turns up intermittently, usually at the library hence her name, and is the one and only girl to reciprocate his Bubbly advances. When it comes time for Library Girl to leave, Bubble Boy usually makes a desperate and noisy attempt to ditch Dad Man and follow her.

Enemy – Checkout Chick, a middle aged Chinese lady at our local supermarket who insists on pinching Bubble Boys cheeks a little harder than he is comfortable with every time we visit her till, much to Bubble Boys utter disgust.

Catchphrase- Whilst Spiderman’s Spidey Senses used to tingle and Batman used to order Robin to the Batpole like his bitch, Bubble Boy has elected for a simple but catchy catchphrase – “bubble, bubble, bubble”.

Theme Song –Bubble Boy, Bubble Boy, His Bubbles are Far More than a Toy, His Name is Bubble Booooooooooyyyyyyyy!” Sung to the same tune as Spiderman’s, I’m not going to lie it’s a catch little ditty that has burrowed its way into my head; I’ve been caught singing it twice today already.

Man Enough For The Boy

11 Sep

As has previously been mentioned the boy is living up to all of societies gender specific behaviours and stereotypes. He is a caroholic, craving them first thing in the morning, shaking when one isn’t around and at his happiest after giving one a damned good push around the sofa. He is already too big to fit in an F1 car, so the role of mechanic looks increasingly likely, I will of course do my best to steer him towards medicine so he can put me in a nice nursing home one day but the force is strong in this one. He can often be found sprawled out nonchalantly in muddy puddles, trying to corrupt a little blondie to join him in his dirty little sanctuary. His favourite colour is blue and if you try and put him in anything that is vaguely effeminate he has a penguin like ability to regurgitate the contents of his stomach multiple times until you put him in a colour more befitting of someone of his immense masculinity. This is a child who displayed such boyish tendencies that a mother in the library felt compelled to comment “at least you know he’s straight”, thanks for that bit of wisdom strange bigoted library lady (as she is now known).

If you compare that with my childhood I was not a bit like him. I went to ballet classes, albeit against my will and driven by the incentive of my 50p pocket money. Even so, Max would sooner choke on the 50p than be seen anywhere near a tutu. I have fond memories of making cakes with my mum in the kitchen, Max has a harem of toddlers who happily bake any imaginary cake he desires and feed it to him piece by piece. I had a stuffed pink elephant called Ellie that I would snuggle up to each night, Max has a plethora of cars, none of which are pink, that he sleeps with on a complex rotational basis that only he understands. I would make perfume out of flowers with my sister, Max eats flowers. Reading all of the evidence in black and white it’s a wonder I’ve even fathered a child.

No doubt my own Dad, a man who is at his happiest whilst watching sport in a shed, was sweating a bit over my unconventional take on being a boy, telling himself that it was surely a phase. Even now though I’m being out-testosternoned by a toddler of my own creation. Whilst Max regularly emerges from the bushes sucking on the local wino’s cast off beer bottle, I am edging ever closer to teetotalism. I am currently trialling vegetarianism, whilst Max is on first name terms with the local butchers. Whilst I don’t mind a salmon pink shirt, Max insists I walk ten paces behind him when I wear it. Whilst I enjoy a bit of downward dog and have been known to salute the sun, Max disrupts my inner peace by throwing a car at me and screaming “man up you sissy”. Whilst I love to cook and am a little too proud of my ‘food snob’ label, Max puts all manner of objects in his mouth, the other day I asked him to spit out whatever was in his mouth, he swallowed the offending matter and spat in my hand.  Although I no longer make perfume out of flowers and 50p is not enough carrot to dust down my tutu I willingly accept I am not traditional alpha male material.

However when we recently bought Max his first bike, a major rites of passage for any transport loving child, I saw my opportunity to step up to the plate and show him what a big man I am. The bike came in 1001 tiny pieces and the assembly sheet was of epic proportions.  The wife (as I call her when I am trying to display how manly I am) tried to tell me that I wouldn’t be able to do it and that my skills lay in other areas and that there was nothing wrong with flower pressing as a hobby. I brushed all that aside, put on my darkest of dark blue overalls and set about putting this thing together. “I will not be defeated” became the mantra I repeated over and over again in my head. Max peaked around the door, I could see the look of pride, surprised pride, he gave me as I calmly screwed (yes there was screwing involved) Part E34 to Part F32. This is it, this the moment you see in the movies, this is the moment I’ve read about on other dad blogs, father and son bonding over a mutual love, it’s happening to us right here and right now. Then I got stuck…..I was on my third instruction of the assembly sheet and I was out of my depth, Max smelt my fear and walked out of the room in disgust slamming the door behind him. He watched on through the window as I knocked on my neighbours door (a man with a shed full of tools and isn’t afraid to use them) and asked him to come and redeem the situation.

Differences aside we seem to get along pretty well. I have an immense and unconditional love for him that I know will always be there. The bond that we have developed over our time together is irreversible and irreplaceable. I will never try to change him in any way, shape or form, he is after all my little boy and he’s perfect. I feel at my most manly when I am hugging my son and protecting him from whatever the world might throw at him.

Barry and Larry

6 Sep

All good stories require a central character – a mischievous toddler called Max, a sidekick – his incompetent father named Matt, a love interest – a rabbit called Bugs and an arch rival, whose name I won’t reveal for fear of parental reprisals. Max is quite a placid young man, a gentle soul who will not bat an eyelid if you abduct his truck, throw sand about his person or shout baby obscenities in his direction. He is a lover not a hater and will kiss, cuddle and cavort with anyone who will hang around long enough for him to try, he has an uncanny ability to work out which children are too young to escape his clutches and pounces like a lion on a new born gazelle or a drunk uncle at a wedding. There is however one little boy that really seems to give him the shits.

The boy, who for absolutely no good reason I will refer to as Barry, has become a regular fixture at our favourite park which is not big enough for the both of them.  My usually loving son comes over all Mike Tyson every time he sees Barry (I wish I’d chosen a different name for him now). It all started a couple of months ago, Max was parading around the park shaking his tail feathers and working the ladies into a collective frenzy. He spotted the most vulnerable looking girl/gazelle who had strayed from the pack, with his victim clearly impaired by a lack of mobility he began to make his move. Just as he was puckering up for a smooch Barry comes along, pushes Max over (causing him to lose face in front of his harem) and gets the gal.

Curbing my initial desire to take Barry down to Chinatown, I look up at his smug looking Dad, who for absolutely no good reason I will refer to as Larry, force myself to smile and offer an incredulous “kids, hah” (whilst all the while wanting to take both Barry and Larry on a one way trip down to Chinatown). Larry offers an apologetic “what can you do” – I’ll tell you what you can do Larry, you can take Barry to another park and leave Max to enjoy the fruits of his harem (on reading that back it sounds more sinister than I wanted it to, apologies to the harem).

But Barry and Larry still come to ‘our park’ lording it up like they own the place, stealing toys from other boys (I just want to make it clear Larry doesn’t steal the toys……..although I bet he would if you gave him half a chance) and stealing kisses from the girls (Larry doesn’t do that either). Max has had to resort to hiding out in the cubby house, sheltered by the harem who are busy making imaginary cakes for Barry. This isn’t right, we are being chased out of our own park by Barry and Larry, a couple of school yard bullies throwing their considerable weight around (both Barry and Larry look like they enjoy their food). I strategise revenge missions with Max but he just doesn’t seem to grasp the intricacies of a good Pincer Movement or how to apply an effective Choke Hold.

One day Barry sees Max hiding in the cubby house, reduced to stirring the imaginary mix for Barry’s imaginary cake with the rest of the harem. Barry comes charging towards Max, like an angry bull to a red cloth, a look of pure evil in his eye and screaming something threatening. I looked on in horror, knowing that Max was no match for the anger and brawn that Barry brings to the table, how do I explain to Anna that Max got hospitalised on my watch by a bully called Barry? In a moment that instantly made it to the top of my “coolest things I have seen in 33 years of human life list”, Max drops a shoulder, shimmies to the left and Barry runs straight into the cubby house door. Crumpled in a heap on the ground the harem then pour imaginary cakes (tree bark) over Barry and laugh at him in a way that fills me with joy. Resisting the urge to raise Max above my shoulders and perform a victory lap of the park, I look over at a shell shocked Larry and offer up a “what can you do?”

To this day Barry and Larry have not been spotted at ‘our park’ since that fateful afternoon, Max retains his standing as alpha male, enjoying the full attentions of the harem (sinister?) and having his pick of the slides and I get to talk to whichever Mum I want without Larry butting in with dumb comments.  The End.

Special Friends

5 Sep

I would like to begin this post by stating that I am aware that in some quarters the term ‘special friend’ has another meaning, a more adult meaning, this is the wholesome type of special friend that makes you go “aaaaahhhh” and not “urggghhh”. Max has recently made his first friend, a friend so special to him that every morning he wakes up and the first thing he does is call out for them and every night before bed he demands that we pay him a visit. A friend so special to him that he shares his food with him and lovingly strokes his hair.

What makes the relationship even more special is that this friend lives next door to Max and they get to play together every day. They are roughly the same age and share a love for carrots. Max has even invented his own impersonation of his special friend that involves squinting his eyes, displaying his front teeth, and making a sucking sound a’la Hannibal Lecter. Max has full blown dialogue with his special friend, doing his best to prop it up the conversation at both sides. This is a friend so special that I have actually heard Max say his name whilst sleeping.

Max’s one and only friend is a rabbit called Bugs, see what they did there? The boy is obsessed and insistent on seeing Bugs first thing every morning, armed with carrots and celery and whatever else he can sneak out of the pantry, yesterday I found him feeding the rabbit a croissant. The rabbit has never had it so good, a forgotten pet that has outgrown the child owners initial enthusiasm is now receiving daily visits from a loved up little’un. Usually content with a bit of manky old lettuce he’s now chowing down on French pastries and enjoying back, neck and shoulder rubs courtesy of a toddler.

Who knows how this special friendship will pan out, hopefully it’s just a phase and he isn’t going to end up being a ‘special child’ whose only real childhood friends were family pets. Pet rabbits have a tendency to die premature and horrific deaths, mangled by lawn mowers or pecked to death by magpies. We now have a vested interest in preserving Bugs’s health and will do all we can to keep the special friendship alive, at least until Max is old enough to appreciate the delicate flavour of roast rabbit.

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