Holiday Hell

If you are starting to wonder whether allowing the kids to watch Deadpool is a good idea, read it as a sign the holiday period could welcomingly come to an end.

I think the plan for the next holidays is to produce and sell something. All that captive labour, already paid for. It isn’t cheap keeping children, so how about they earn a bit of that keep. They will be occupied, entertained and they might even learn something.

I say ‘keeping’ children for the purposes of this rant. If it wasn’t a rainy January, summer, day, then I might feel more inclined to say raise, nurture, grow and develop. As it stands, I am more than a little glad-and have been on several occasions throughout the holiday period- we live in a multi level house.

Upstairs is where three of them live. Where they are kept. I spend idle minutes wondering if there is a way I can keep them up there, I mean really up there, without a casual glance, from a neutral onlooker, revealing I have locked my kids in. I am, of course, aware of fire codes and regulation, thoughts of which must surely go through your wine addled holiday head, when you are busy contemplating  locking your kids in the upstairs rooms of an old wooden house.

I can still hear them. Loud and clear. There is a landing, at the top of the ricketiest spiral staircase I have ever encountered. Off said landing, the two bedrooms and a third room, which equates to little more than a glorified closet. Sound travels up there nearly as well as it travels down. I might sit down tonight, after a wine too many, grab the phone and load up Netflix, or whatever app/site/thingy it takes to track down an old school slasher movie. Tune in and wind up the volume. I’m thinking Friday the 13th. The first one. A classic. Nightmare On Elm Street even, one two Freddy’s after you. Wait…I know, Dawn of the Dead…introduce some Zombie flavour to proceedings.

Why this vindictive antagonism towards the kids you ask? No idea. Lies, I know.

I am not having a dig at them. Not apportioning any blame. Put simply, I am jealous.

I am jealous of their youth, the exuberance which comes with it. All that vigor, the wide-eyed adoration of a day which can be attacked, no thought given or spared on preparation, on planning. No concerns for consequences and no worries over how much it is going to cost. Whatever ‘it’ is.’Oh hang on…IT would be a good one!!

giphy.gif

The summer holidays are the days and weeks when memories are created. After all, you only ever recall the really good times and the really bad ones. So it is up to Mum and Dad to create them, those moments in the sun and surf never to be forgotten. The times when, in moments of reflection, years after your youth has passed you can sit back and go yep, that was a good day.

Rose tinted, isn’t that the way you want your kids to see their lives? Enough of the good memories, the great ones, a majority of good and great times, so predominant it clouds their vision, their minds eye. Helps them to forget anything which might have gone drastically wrong.

Of course, it is the job of Mums and Dads the world over to shield and deflect as many of the bad times as possible. Don’t we all want out children growing and being able to say their childhood was full of fun and laughter and no, I can’t really recall any dramas.

There will be. Drama and stress and accidents and major events far from favourable, all reflecting on those closed eye moments when your kids are adults and are taking a quiet moment for reflection. It can be tough not to dwell on the things making our adult lives hard going; the cost of groceries, the cost of rent/housing, the cost of fuel, the broken dryer, the dodgy ticking sound in the motor, that mole changing shape, hair loss, hair gain (think head and back).

All that and you haven’t stopped yet to consider all the things directly affecting how your kids are getting on. Results in the classroom, the dynamics of the playground, their social lives, developmental challenges, their inter-relations with you, with each other, with the wider family and community, their future education, their current one.  Their lives.

 After all, it is all about their lives, isn’t it? Just a question of how we as adults and parents, fit into all of that, being the biggest influence they will encounter while trying not to influence them too much.

So much easier to lock them in their rooms.

fuHk6.gif

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Fun

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.

I’m not so sure about Nat King Cole’s take..he can keep the soda and pretzels. A cold beer never goes amiss though.

Summer is here officially. The calendar has told us so, even if the sun and the sticky heat which comes with it, has been with us for a while.

Apart from a well earned cool, crisp brew on a warm evening and summery Christmas treats, there is a whole lot else to look forward to. Here, the garden is cranking. A little effort will hopefully bring a great deal of reward. So much easier up here in the sunny and warm North, our veggie growing season well advanced on what we are used to down South. Even though water restrictions have kicked in already!

The other side of the coin is some of the extra care required, now the longer, hotter days are upon us. Especially for our blonde, blue-eyed, fair kiddies.

Already they are kissed by the rays of the sun, browner than I have ever seen them, particularly for this early in December. So that means reinforcing the good old mantra Slip, Slop Slap.

Getting girls to slip on a shirt is easy enough, as long as you keep it fashionable. Hardly princesses anymore, they still know what they like. So nothing daggy, even if practicality is the priority.

Slapping on a hat isn’t a part of the fashion equation unfortunately. Even if their Mother is lucky enough to track down something the girls think is cool, getting them to actually put it on their heads is a different story. The same goes for sunscreen.

Slopping on sunscreen is a necessity in this part of the word. Simply, you have to do it and then do it again and a little while later, do it again.

One and Two are useless at it. The E-Bomb and Wee-Man are supervised and therefore it gets applied, whether they like it or not. Luckily getting smeared in the stuff is still a novelty to them, so no arguments there. In fact, the Wee-Man is an awesome volunteer.

He is the one setting the summer sun smart example. He will put his hat on, his sunscreen and wears a sensible top to keep the burning rays at bay. E-Bomb might put up a fight every now and then when it comes to her attire but generally we are on a winner with her too. It is One and Two proving themselves dumb and dumber.

Maybe they are too cool to be seen being sun smart. Maybe they are preoccupied. Obviously they need urging and reminding, the behaviour to become a habit. It is a lot to ask of a teacher, who probably has enough on their plate at any given time during the school day. But at what age does self responsibility really kick in?

The same question pops up when you think of all the wonderful summer holiday experiences the Hokianga and Far North has to offer. Mostly, especially if this heat keeps up, in and on the water.

Number One is a confident swimmer and loves it. Number Two is capable but lacks the confidence, a work in progress. The two little ‘uns are strictly learners, but if you plonk them down on the beach and don’t get to them quick enough, you better have bought a dry change for them.

The thing is, you can’t have eyes on all of them, all of the time. When the wife and are a together, and we are a whole crew, no worries. We divvie up who is doing what with whom and it all works. More or less. How easy I make it sound.

Despite their confidence, their undoubted abilities and our own faith in our kids as sensible, intelligent, brave and able, the barriers can’t come down too far, just because the sun is shining and everyone is relaxed and happy.

I want to let the kids lose. I have rose tinted memories, of wading out,O way passed my depth. I’m still here.

Roaming the sand-hills, digging forts and tunnels, that by all rights should have collapsed. I’m still here.

Climbing the cliffs behind Seconds Beach, leaping into the surf and swimming all the way back. I’m still here.

Bikes without helmets, jungle gyms made of galvanized steel on the concrete, trees I could get up and struggled to get down, hills too steep for the brakes on my bike to be able to arrest my momentum. Poha’s and Tom Thumbs and slingshots and BB guns and withering gazes from a watchful Mum and I’m still here.

We have spent years putting boundaries in place. We are blessed with kids that push and test the settings no real harm will come from if there is a bend, or a break, in the rules. Riding the outgoing tide on the Hokianga might not be the best time to test the limits set in place by parents.

Our little crew will wear their helmets, their sunscreen, their life-jackets and all the rest of it, whatever is required. So that they can do whatever they are doing safely.

So Mum and Dad can relax with a cold one of choice.

Bring on the summer sun and fun!

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Labour of Love

I’m a Dad. A Father, a parent a caregiver.

That is who I am, kind of the thing which defines me, for the meantime at least.

I am the ‘go to’ in the household, the term I like to use to describe my part in the family dynamic. It is also the driving influence behind this blog, why I am here at this keyboard and hopefully, what has you fixed to the screen of whatever medium it is you have chosen in order to get your Hoki Hubby fix.

The set up in our household is exactly, more or less, how we have chosen it to be. The decision to have me at home was driven by a number of factors, ranging from emotional to financial.

It is no secret and no shock to my pride as a male, that my wife has the capacity to out earn me. At least in the space of a 40hr working week. So right there is a good piece of reasoning as to why it would be her that sought to fill the coffers first and foremost. Balance that with the cost of childcare and it is not hard to see why I have remained out of the workforce for a while.

When I was working, when my two eldest were just the two, I saw bugger all of them. The nature of what I have done with my working years has often meant early starts, followed by long days. Tired and hungry, I would get home in time to drag the kids from the bath, dine with them if I was lucky, then kiss them good night. If that is, I didn’t fall asleep before them. Nodding off half way through story time was not unusual.

So we made the call, Dearest and I, to reassess where we were at the time. As a family, as a nucleic unit. Back then we were both self-employed and while in general that wasn’t an issue, every now and then it blew up in our faces. If hadn’t been for an incredibly understanding and accommodating mother, the wheels could well have come off.

Like I say, in general, we coped just fine. So did the kids. But it was a toll we were paying, me in particular. I was struggling to justify the decision to breed, given I was rarely afforded the time to see my off-spring, let alone be an active and captivated participant in their lives. So we upped stakes.

We did our due diligence, looked around at things and into things. We wanted what everyone wants; a modicum of income, a lifestyle. We wanted that balance everyone seeks. When we found something we could agree on, we latched onto it and have never looked back.

Doing so meant big changes in how we operated as a household and as individuals within that dynamic. On a personal level, so many new and exciting opportunities have been afforded to me. Yes, I have sacrificed too, we all continue to do so.

What Dearest and I never gave up on was the right to what we saw as best by our family. We made a series of decisions and moves that suited us, the kids and the way we intended to raise them. These decisions were based on everything that makes us the people we are; our own childhoods, our experiences both individually and shared, our educations and opinions and attitudes.

All those things are ours. They are peculiar to us. There is nothing special, or different about Dearest and I and nor is there anything weird or odd. We are just like you and you are just like us and we are all different. Yes, I am confused too.

When we made our call to leave Dunedin, our home up until then, and to leave behind the way we had been living our lives, the choices we were making were talked over and discussed. And not just among ourselves. I spoke to Mum, to mates, Dearest did the same.  They agreed or they didn’t. I don’t really recall there being any great debate. It wouldn’t have mattered a blind bit if there was, for as much as I love and cherish all the people important to me, the decision was ours to make and ours alone.

Not the imprint of our parents idea of how things should be done. Not the result of a survey of friends opinions. Not a decision made by a Doctor or any one in any profession.

Except for politicians.

Congrats to our new government on their achievement. Not quite how I envisaged the election result panning out, but I voted for change and I, along with every New Zealand citizen, got just that.

Extending Paid Parental Leave is a good thing, a real and tangible positive move in the right direction. Still a long way from a full year, something I think would be hugely beneficial, but hey, small steps. But why I ask, as a parent and a male one at that, stop there?

Why has the Labour government decided I don’t have the right to be a paid parent too. And when I say too, I mean as well. Why is only the one parent eligible?

The development of a bond between Mother and new born child is readily accepted as vital. Who could disagree with that? So why is the idea that a bond formed between Father and child so readily dismissed?

I say father, as it is most likely Dads who will miss out by the new governments decision not to allow both partners the option to take shared time away from work when their lives are joined by that of another, namely that of their new born. And I don’t get it.

Why can’t a couple of weeks be taken together? If it means dropping two of those paid weeks off, making it twenty-four, then where is the issue, if that is the choice a family unit decides to take? There are all sorts of permutations available, to make this kind of base policy suit all those that it may affect. Say the total was 12 months, why couldn’t it be six months off each? like a prison sentence, served concurrently, or stacked. Why not both parents at once, for all of that six month period, instead of the one parent for twelve?

So why the dictatorial, ‘nanny state’ approach? I am no economist, no accountant, no financial guru, or numbers whiz kid. I am no policy analyst either. You don’t have to read far to see that happy and healthy parents raise happy and healthy children and happy and healthy people, are productive. Parents out of the workforce for a period of time, prove to be better for an economy, rather than a detriment.

I fancy myself as a pragmatic and practical person. I also consider myself as an individual, one that chooses to share my life with another, mostly like-minded, individual. It just so happens, my partner in life has some quite extensive training, experience, understanding and yes, strong opinions, on the mother and child bond.

It starts with skin to skin contact and that first latch. And all the other, warm fuzzy stuff. It starts by looking that moist, wrinkled, brand new creature in the eye and falling instantly, unerringly, forever in love. An incredibly important step for everyone involved. Obviously, it isn’t as simple as all that, certainly not for every birth experience and it most certainly doesn’t end there.

I am left wondering where the motivation comes from, behind the decision to deny a clearly progressive step forward. A look at long term family welfare can’t be the motivator. Over worked enough aren’t we, in this country, without added to the stresses of longer hours, for the duration of the single income period. Take a break, just when things in life are getting more hectic, when those around you need more support, your loved ones, in need of more nurturing and care? I don’t think so. And neither do the Labour government.

A question of cost? Like I have said, there are plenty of options to mitigate further expenditure. But, what price do you put on happiness? And what is the cost of freedom of choice? I would suggest the cost of being unhappy and of lacking the freedom to make your own choices in life, is far greater.

 

download

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks

My Mother is nothing or no one special.

I try to be an attentive and diligent parent. I believe I do okay and my Dearest is good at it too.

We try not to miss much, try to get the kids involved and be involved with them. All the while being aware not to push them.

It’s a challenge, attending to the above demands while managing a household of six. Not to mention the pets and the little extras that come with living reasonably isolated; the travel required just to the basics like groceries, having a social life and keeping in touch with an ever evolving world while the one around you stays rooted in times gone by.

And that is what it is, a management process. For me it has been a learning curve and one I don’t think will ever be complete. While I have never been afraid of hard work, I have never before faced the level of distraction that doing that work under the reproachful gaze of your children brings. And the Dearest, whose watchful supervision can be daunting.

At times though, given the isolation, the new (ish) environment we live in and the nature of Dearest’s job, it can feel a little like I am flying solo. There are a lot of demands on what my wife does for a living. As a Midwife, managing her time is paramount and the scope of her practice means there is often little time left for the demands of family life, let alone the energy or any hint of time for herself.

But here is the time for a little perspective, as my 44th birthday ticks by.

A thought struck me as I was vacuuming. With the dishes down, laundry sorted and the kids feed, entertained or packed off to school, it occurred to me just how easy I have it, especially when I compare my daily life with that of the woman who raised me.

I highlighted at the start that my Mother is no one special. Obviously she is very special to me, my wife and her grandkids, but putting that loving bond aside and looking at the practicalities of what I am doing as a stay at home Dad and what she achieved, I believe she wasn’t special…she was incredible.

There are a heap of other supurlatives I could throw out there. The gist though is that Mother, Nana, was a legend. A solo Mum, in a time when that was probably not the most fashionable of things to be. Social stigma aside, we are talking about a woman who not only raised two boys only fourteen months apart (imagine that for a load of shits and giggles) to be well-rounded, healthy, good men, she did so while working full-time, educating herself, developing a career, holding down a mortgage and maintaining a social life, such as the latter must have been with all the rest of it going on.

I look back on my formative years with rose-tinted glasses, as I am sure many do in a country like New Zealand which sure, has its issues, but generally is one of the best places in the world you could hope to be born and raised. At the time, as a kid in a sleepy Dunedin suburb, I wasn’t aware of the stresses my Mother must have faced; the hours of hard work, the tight budget, the loneliness, the pressures of solo parenting. In retrospect I can highlight a few moments when it must have been too much. Did my Mother let it show? Did her pressures and stresses weigh even the slightest on her children, her two boys? Not in the slightest.

Was there the support, from government agencies and the like, a societal awareness, that is available now? I seriously doubt it. For my Mother, there wasn’t even really the back-up of an extended family to lean on and not a thing from an absentee Father.

So how did she do it?

Everyone copes with adversity in their own way. My Mother is like my wife, an active relaxer. Trafalgar Street in Dunedin, where I grew up and where the real-estate agents will tell is situated in St Clair, but we all know is really St Kilda, is a grass verged short strip linking the half crescent former quarter-mile of Hargest Crescent and the stretch of Richardson Street, where around the corner my first school, St Clair primary, is housed.

There are bungalows and the odd villa. Clad in weatherboards and brick and roughcast, some were shabby, some were immaculate. Lawns were mown, sometimes by your neighbour and gardens bloomed and there was even the occasional blossoming tree dotted here and there. Fences were low and hellos were said and you knew everyone’s name and they knew you.

Far from idyllic, yet Trafalgar Street is only a fifteen minute walk to the beach, the Salt Water pool and there are plenty of schools and parks around for playing and sports, not to mention a decent back yard to run in. All in all it was pretty good environment to be growing up in.

But Mum couldn’t keep up with the Jones’. She didn’t drive, I guess never really needed to as she worked not far from home. Bus rides into the city were a bit of adventure and there were always friends offering excursions. Despite the Smith’s having four kids, their Holden Belmont seemed to accommodate everyone.

My brother and I had push bikes. A monumentous day when they arrived. We had cricket bats and all the associated gear, football and rugby boots, we had boogie boards and ‘computerised’ Battleships. Then it was an Atari, an Apple 11 and a ghetto blaster. Bro and I strutted around in Adidas three-stripe threads and whatever other hideous 80’s fashion was in vogue. I think I even owned hammer pants and had a flat top!

We wanted for nothing, least of all love and affection.

Our Grandmother would arrive with lemonade and sparkles and be with us through the day when we were sick. It was almost worth being unwell for. Then Mum would come home and take over where her Mother left off. We were clean, healthy, well fed, entertained and educated boys and we were hugged and kissed and tucked in.

Only now do I really appreciate all that. 40 years my Mother spent as an Early Childhood Educator, 25 or so kids under the age of five under her feet all day, just to come home and deal with her own two brats. Legendary stuff.

So I will stop prattling away here. I will pick up the toys and detritus in the path of the vacuum cleaner. I will do another load of dishes, prepare some lunch for the crew, feed off the scraps, take care of the recycling, make some beds and put some washing on, get some dusting done and hopefully find time to do some gardening with the little ‘uns, then start dinner and think about doing it all again as I get the kids settled for the evening, that is after the homework and the reading of books and telling of tales.

And just like my Mum, I hope to do it all with the type of demeanour that means, when my kids look back, all they remember is warm summers days and an even warmer smile.

Love you Mum.

supermom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking the Piss

I sit down to pee.

I don’t throw like a girl. I never had a great arm, but nor was it a bad one. Besides, I preferred to field in closer to the action. Cricket is a great way to ruin an entire Saturday anyway.

If I have a feminine side, and I don’t believe I do, then I am not ‘in touch’ with it. Even typing it sounds a bit rude. I am not a woman trapped in a mans body, I am not experimental with my sexuality/gender. However, more often than not these days, when the need arises, I sit down to take a piss.

Part of the problem lies in the fact there is no latch on the toilet door. Anyone, even little toddler sized little ones, can push the door open.

I am not precious. Mike Bracey is not the type to suffer from ‘stage fright’. While I agree there are some things best done alone, I am still capable of doing them in the presence of others, if need be. What bloke hasn’t been to a urinal? But a toilet bowl in an en-suite bathroom is no urinal. Theoretically, I should have the place to myself. I don’t.

I’m all for a little up and coming man being taught the ropes of manhood by his male seniors. Isn’t that part of being a parent, the point of being a Dad? Raising the next generation, training and guiding and encouraging and mentoring and all that.

Yes, I hear you all chorus, so is the way of the world. Man and boy. But the way to teach a man to urinate is not to shower him in my own steamy stream.

“For goodness sake boy, get your head out of there.”

My Wee-Man (suddenly that moniker has taken on a whole new meaning) has a fascination for all things wet. He loves water, in all its forms. Cool. I am a bit of a water baby myself. My love of the water, however, does not extend to the toilet bowl.

Wee-Man will lift the lid, stare intently, drop this and that in, lean too far and threaten to take a dip. And if he hears the tinkling sound of piss, he is all for the yellow waterfall.

So I have taken to barricading myself in. I sneak away, careful to make my departure is as unnoticeable as possible, suitable distractions in place. I close the bedroom door, then the bathroom door, then due to the lack of a latch, place the heaviest available item up against it. That item isn’t the scales in case you are wondering. They don’t get heavy until I put my feet on them.

Seems excessive just to avoid pissing on my sons head, but at least it avoids the inevitable clean-up and any awkward questions from the Mrs. His time will come. Right now, he is vertically challenged and is yet to fully master the concept of balance.

At least he is yet to wriggle his way onto my lap why I am reading the sports news.

goofy-babies-014.jpg

 

Love and War

My daughter hates me.

“I hate you.” E-Bomb isn’t vehement. More matter of fact, cold.

“I love you.” It is all I can say and I mean it.

“I don’t like you and I don’t love you.”

It’s an important distinction. There is a clear delineation between those you love and those  you like. You are not always going to like the people you love.

Sometimes, I don’t like E-Bomb.

She can be a thoroughly unreasonable person. Multiple personality disorders are suspected. Loving, cuddly sweetness can give way to foot-stomping tantrums before you have even thought of dropping the hat. Life can end up being lived on egg shells. Well it could, except we don’t.

We, as a family, are more or less immune to the carry-on. So far, with numbers One and Two, there have been no real dramas. Both have been relatively compliant, adaptable, can be reasoned with. Their demeanours might best be described as sweet. More or less.

Everyone has their moments. times when things will just not go right, the piece just won’t fit together. The whole woke up on the wrong side of the bed thing. This is especially true for kids I think, little ones to those become real people. by real people, I mean young adults.

So much is new, so much untried. Everything is testing, a challenge and kids are in such a rush, in a hurry to skip the small; steps and go straight to leaps and bounds. Because they do, develop and change and grow so fast, too fast at times and when you can’t find the words to express feelings you don’t understand, it is a frustrating thing.

And then it is easy to hate.

You hate your brother. You hate your sisters. You hate your Father. You hate the T.V, hate the rain, hate the sun, hate your dolls, hate music, hate the dogs. Poor dogs. Very rarely do you seem to hate your mother. I think that comes later.

So much hate, delivered with so much conviction.

But, she likes me a little bit. She likes me, even loves me. And hates me. And that is ok. The E-Bomb is a three-nager, a child. And a female. Show me the guy, no matter how enlightened, who can keep up with the vagaries of a females emotive state. it just means I am comfortable with it. I have to be.

A hateful attitude just servers to make all the kind, caring and loving moments all that sweeter. Because the E-Bomb, like her big sisters before her, can be a gorgeous little bundle of love and light, all cuddles and giggles and fun.

Making the most of these moments is the key and we do. No tiptoeing on eggshells, just get in. They want last, as cliched as that is to say.

When the E-Bomb goes off we don’t duck for shelter, don’t run and hide. We don’t placate either. Somewhere in the middle ground, between giving in and discipline, is the road we have to travel. She knows, we know and with a little patience and a whole lot of love, we can make it happen.

All smiles

2371.Jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Cake and Candles

Wee-man has turned one! A mighty milestone and its killing me.

I don’t play favourites with the kids.

That is to say, I try not to.

I have three girls and a boy. My Wee-Man. Even the dogs are bitches and my wife, well…

For years I have been outnumbered, out hormoned and it has gotten increasingly prevalent as time, and breeding, has gone by. When they are little it is pretty much irrelevant. Really young, and the differences in genders are very non-specific.

Toys are used for whatever purpose, most often nothing to do with what the toy-maker might have had in mind. Cartoons are this or that and as long as they are bright, colourful and fun, then they will be watched regardless of the targeted demographic. Little activities like drawing and building blocks and excursions are all the same; just go ahead and get stuck in.

There is no emphasis placed on what the little ‘uns are into. Number One and Two have an influence on the play-time of the E-Bomb, the three-nager and will undoubtedly do so more and more for Wee-Man. If his big sisters end up tucking him into dresses and skirts, doing up his hair and touching up his make-up, so be it.

Most likely, the day will come when he just will not be into what his sisters are. His attention will be drawn to trucks and diggers and power tools and rifles and fishing rods. And rugby. Wee-Man will be into rugby.

Until that time I have no favourites. When my boy makes his own calls, starts to express his own interests, shuns his sisters, then I will swoop, envelop him under my wing and make him my own. Not a carbon copy, not his Father living vicariously through his son’s deeds.

Then he will no longer be Wee-Man. He will be my man.

1tuzgl

The simple reality is, there will soon be things going in the lives of my eldest children, my girls, that are pretty much beyond my comprehension. They are growing and developing and changing and all those horrible words that signal it is time for their Mother to step up. I don’t believe I am being weak when I say there is just so much I can handle. And I am sure, only so much the girls are going to want me attempting to handle.

Good. I am a spectacular Dad, which in turn makes me an incredible bloke. We all know that. But I have two feet and pretty soon I am going to have to start putting one of them down. Make my stand. Draw a line.

Throw in the towel. Wave the white flag.

When that time comes I will have my buddy, my support, my back-up. My man. Whatever it is he and I do, to fill in the time we spend together, father and son, we will do so out of earshot. My Dear Wife will be there for her girls, just as she always has been, just as I have always been.

But right now it has been all about another birthday. The actual date has passed but the party is not going to be until this weekend. Such as it will be for a one-year-old. I mean, how carried away do you have to get? Not like he is going to remember a thing, though we are not one of those families where the birthday celebrations become more of an excuse for the parents to have a leer up.

There will be another round of cake and candle blowing and gifts wrapped and we will laugh and sing and eat junk food and it all signals the passing of yet another year. Wee-Man will blow out those candles on his own, or at least give a good impression of doing so. He will feed himself at least 40% of his treat lunch. 40% will be devoted to the floor in an attempt to feed the dog, that will have already been booted outside and

I’ll struggle to piece together his gift, following the woefully inadequate instructions, while Dearest stresses herself out in the kitchen baking  another incredible creation that no one will properly appreciate until it is cut up and stuffed in our gobs. Fun for all.

I will smile and I will sing in my best baritone (I have no idea if that is my singing voice or not…wounded water-buffalo is more accurate probably) and I will clap and laugh along. None of it will be forced and yet I will be dark on the inside.

Another moment gone. another blip, another monumental occasion, never to happen again.

I don’t mean to get all maudlin on it, I don’t mean to wallow and I certainly won’t be that guy at the party everyone mutters about when they think he isn’t looking. ‘What a drag’.

It is just that every step my son takes, literally, he moves things on ever further in my life. And it isn’t only him, they are all doing it, or have done it. Some of the craziest things too, that suddenly strike  you, or creep up on you later.

Number One won (say that five times quickly) her first cross-country event today! Beat out a bunch of other competitors, even some boys. One proud dad.

Number Two broke her first bone a couple of years ago. The first and only so far among the kids. And yes, I was a bad Dad because there were a couple of days of ‘you’ll be right’ before we finally got her wrist x-rayed. She sprained it in a fall just the other day and there I was reminded of that originally injury. The first decent knock the kids have had.

The letting go of the bike seat, the first dive off the edge of the pool, the first solid feed, the first teetering steps, the first words and all the other obvious ones.

What about the first hug…do you remember those?  The first time they reached out for you, not as some automated need for nurture or warmth, but because they wanted a hug. I do.

So while my cholesterol sky rockets and my ever increasing weight holds me firmly on the ground, while my hair line recedes from my scalp but finds other patches of bare skin to colonise, while my joints creak and groan and my muscles atrophy, I sit and think of all the things I will never see happening again.

I am thankful for each and every one of those very special moments. Cherished moments of wonder ad joy. The type of stuff that keeps the cynical at bay, the grumpy subdued.

The love stuff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look and learn

I’m drunk. (Well I was when I started this…)

Not so drunk that I don’t have motor control, or have lost focus, or my basic functions are making a fool of me. There is but the one monitor in front of me, my fingers are about as co-operative with the keyboard as they ever are.

So, I have had drink but I am not blotto.

Perhaps too drunk to blog.

I drink. Not to excess (read occasionally) and not all the time (read regularly).

The reality is, as I age, as I am handed one health report after another ( I have visited the doctor more times in the last year than I have in my entire life) I can no longer handle drinking to excess, in the one sitting.

Notice how I quantified that?

I no longer have the ability, or time, to recover from drinking to excess, which is now a multi day process. Sink a few on the Friday night in front of the footy…Monday at best. Down one or two extra on Saturday as my team (Highlanders by the way, in case you didn’t know)…Tuesday, afternoon. At best.

It is an aging thing. My tired old body, all aching joints and tortured internal organs, just can’t process my lust for my younger days anymore. Back then, in the so called good old days, I could smoke, smoke, drink, smoke some more, drink some more and get up a mere few hours later and do it all again.

In between I could hike, swim in the surf, play sports, work and do whatever took my fancy and not really care that I might be able to do it all that bit better, if I wasn’t supplementing my diet with alcohol.

Now, I don’t get on the piss and I don’t really know anyone that does. I drink and we all do and we don’t call it that anymore.

We imbibe.

Well, fuck that, I don’t. I ‘have a few’.

I can always ‘go one more’…

One for the road? I ain’t eating those ghost chips.

Drinking has made me learn some very valuable lessons in my life. Ones I might not have learned otherwise. Many, however, I would have never needed to learn. And there are bound to be a few I have forgotten.

Like I say, the binge drinking, the getting ‘on the piss’… all gone. Long gone and not missed. Now don’t go getting me wrong. I can still party, can still be the life of said party and I would like to think, I can do it without having to ‘imbibe’.

I have always struggled stopping at one but, I have come to notice, only when I am out. I can have a beer or a wine with lunch, feel very continental about myself, and never has my wife come home from work to find me comatose on the floor, the kids having made one wall of a fort from of my prostrate body.

But if  I meet said wife in town…well okay, not here town, but somewhere metropolitan town, then it is all on.

Ok, got me again. I just finished saying that it is far from being ‘all on’ ever again. Put it this way…you can drive, I won’t be able to. All going well, I ‘ll struggle to negotiate a straight line on foot.

I guess, in my own rambling, awkward to follow ‘what the fuck did he just say?’ manner, I am slowly working towards a point.

Responsibility.

It comes in all forms, all shapes and sizes and manners. Being responsible for your own actions, your own interactions, responsible for how you are perceived. The last one is difficult, a grey area when you consider a great deal of how one is perceived, comes down to the perceiver-not a word, but it should be.

At home, how you look, act and behave is very much something you are responsible for, something you have to be highly aware of… I will debate till cows come home the merits of people in our society being role models. People like sports stars, pop culture idols or musicians and the like.

As a parent you are the ultimate role model and as such, you have an inherent responsibility, to at least be seen to be doing the right thing.

To be right, correct, getting it all spot on all the time, is an impossible ask and beyond anyone. No one should, or indeed is, expected to live up to standards that are beyond us. All you have to do is stay aware and remember that everything you do, every step you take, every move you make (thanks The Police) they are watching you?

They, you might ask? You might not, but i am working on the assumption you did. The more perceptive among you know I am referring to the the great ‘They’…the kids.

They imitate. They replicate. They idolise. Kids, obviously, literally look up to you (unless you are my dear wife, who is starting to get taken over in that department) and it is vitally important you set the right example, the right standard.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is no sanctimonious, ‘my life is perfect’ rant. If you need examples of how I roll then sure…

I swear around my kids. I have even sworn at the them. The mild stuff of course, the type of thing that probably isn’t even considered swearing any more.

I knock my kids. In a very un-P.C way I give them all sorts of grief. Don’t worry, they give it back. I’m an easy target.

I mock them too. I put them down, I drag them through the mud and wring them out at the other end and you know the best part of it? They love it.

The thing is their mother and I have made it clear that it is all in jest. That there are boundaries and never be afraid to let someone know when someone is approaching them. The biggest lesson we have taught our kids, without actively doing so, is the importance of a sense of humour.

Kids don’t take themselves too seriously…for now at least. In their teens, way too seriously, but those days are yet to come. In the meantime all we can hope for is that our kids stand back and have a laugh now and then.

Yes, there are limits and yes, you need to be aware not just of yours, but of others. That is where the responsibility part comes into play.

So my kids see me drink, even drunk, but not a blithering idiot. They know the effects of alcohol and they know the detrimental side.

So my kids hear swear words. They recognise them as such and they know the time and place for them, know that it is lazy English. Know not to use them. They know that poking a bit of cheek at someone for a laugh is just that, having a laugh. They know that picking on someone is bullying. They know to be responsible for their own behaviour.

My kids know I drink responsibly, if there really is such a thing. Hopefully they will know to do the same.

And we know we are responsible for their responsibility. If that makes sense.

 

images

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sacrifice

How much have you given? Given up, given away?

Now before we start, maybe I should state the above is not at all how I see things.

Everyone makes sacrifices for what it is they want to achieve and gain from whatever path they are on in life. Parenting is no different.

But to say you gave up, gave in, gave away…?

That sort of language is perhaps too strong and is, in my exceedingly humble opinion, way off the mark. Like the glass and the argument over its capacity, I like to think more along the lines of what have I gained.

Now, having said that, embarking on creating a big brood of little ‘uns does mean there are limits placed on just where you might have pictured your future self, twenty or so years ago. I never thought I would be washing so many dishes, doing so many loads of laundry. But then, I also never figured I would have rekindled the joy of Lego blocks or re-found the fun of cartoons.

Ok, so I don’t have a 4WD ute (pick-up for the Americans among you). Not even a double cab one. I don’t have a boat. Stretching to a couple of Kayaks was a financial milestone.

We don’t dine out, we don’t even add a lot of spice.  We don’t go to the movies we want to go to, we don’t go on a lot of holidays, we don’t do a lot of things that those without kids do.

We do get spontaneous, gorgeous smiles. Just because we open the hands from our faces and say boo, we get chirpy giggles. We do get ‘I love you guys’, unbidden, from a snuggly 3-year-old. Ever see a child open a present? Well there you go.

I was lucky that I made the call to get some travel in earlier in my life. I got to see and do some wonderful, life affirming things. For I start, I went all the way to London to meet a girl from Whangarei. I married her, but not before checking into places like South America and Southern Africa.

Do I wish I was still travelling? Hell yes. And we still will. It will be different though, a new challenge and maybe we will be able to see things a little fresher, from a less jaded point of view; through the eyes of our children.

download

 

Perhaps we won’t pitch a tent on the banks of the Okavango River, in between grazing Hippos, watching the sun set over war torn Angola. We’ll book a room somewhere instead.

Maybe we will book a bus ticket or six rather than huddle together on the roof of rickety stock truck, weaving its way through the misty slopes of the lower Andes.

Of course, if we didn’t have kids, we could probably afford to fly. But where is the fun in that?

A good mate once said to me that kids ruin your life. He was, is, so wrong.

Life changes, of that there is no doubt. You, as people, are forced to change and adapt when you become parents. To an extent, having children changes a little of the very essence of who you are. Certainly, who you perceive yourself to be.

1491131764358.jpg

Yes, the likelihood of me running off to the pub on a regular basis to drink excessively and watch sport has vastly diminished. Even while, with four kids in the house, the temptation to drink to excess has risen dramatically. The chances of my wife getting to share the bed with just her husband increases with every passing day, but the outlook for sleep-ins is grim.

Sometimes, all we want to do is throw a little extra chili into the mix, but we have four other mouths to feed that are relying on us doing just that.

Our lives as parents are not ruined. Just different, a life enhanced.

I gave up a motorbike so we could have a second family car. I gave up a drum-kit so we had room for an extra bed. I gave up hitting the tops for a family tent and a camping ground.

I saw the wonder on a child’s face, my child, when I let go of the seat and they rode a bike for the first time on their own. I see the furrowed brow of concentration and the untapped joy of discovered talent as a child bangs away on a keyboard, or plucks away at a guitar.

My kids love camping. And I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, doing anything else.

Harden up

How far do you push for a healthy lifestyle for your kids, vs staying warm and keeping your feet dry? 

On Saturday afternoon a watery sun sort of poked through a grey winters day. Sort of.

It was all the window we needed. It was time to get the girls and their little brother out the door, regardless of the weather.

The signs were all there; the arguing, the requests to watch T.V turning into demands, a desire to eat for the sake of eating, the bitching and whining and moaning.

The kids were going a bit stir crazy too.

I geared up one of the girls fishing rods and we tucked the little ones into gumboots and jackets and the rest. This time of year, the threat of rain is ever present. The dogs tagged along, young and old, and we took on the mud successfully, making our way down to the waters edge.

The trip was really about introducing the new addition to the family, a puppy we have named Tui, a Black Labrador x Weimaraner, to the water. And no, owning a pet is not an attempt to make the kids learn responsibility or any of that. They do share a few small chores around pet ownership and care, but we don’t over do it. The pets are for fun, love and companionship, not to be resented.

It wasn’t a warm day. Not cold, because it never gets really cold where we are, but a long way from warm all the same. Plus, there was mud to contend with, four kids and two dogs to supervise at the harbour’s edge and two dogs, romping about in their bid for freedom and fishing hooks and a knife and sharp, broken shells and slippery rocks and fallen trees and fading light and Oh My God why did we leave the house?!

But we had left the house and if one, or even all, of our lovelies had slipped and ended up with a muddy butt…bummer, more for the washing machine. If one, or all, had gotten themselves entangled in the Pampas, covering themselves in stinging little cuts…out with the band-aids. If one of them had taken a tumble on those slippery rocks, crash landed, splitting their forehead open before rolling semi-conscious into the cold, salty waters of the Hokianga, to float face down in a silty pool of their own blood, then we scoop the poor unfortunate, scarred, waterlogged creature up, cuddle and cradle her/him, and gingerly negotiate our way back to the comparative safety of house and home.

I say comparative because there is no guarantee that your dear little ones are any safer inside the four walls of your house than out. A variety of kitchen implements and utensils, a bath tub full of water, or the toilet bowl, chemicals and power points and ornaments and toppling furniture and stairwells and glass doors and all manner of shiny things that don’t belong in mouths.

You can child proof your house all you like but if they want to hurt themselves, they will. The little ones do stuff that is very much related around what can go in their mouths, the older ones jump onto and off stuff simply not designed for the purpose.

I am a sports fan and the term that pops up in the world of professional athleticism is ‘wrapping in cotton wool’. Protecting. For the coach, that might be fair enough. Save your key players from harm so they are fit and rearing to go come the big game. For our children, everyday is the big game.

There is a bump, a bruise, a scrape or graze around every corner. There is always a scar waiting to happen. A child will fall off a bike and yes, that is partly your fault because, eventually, you have to let go. There will always be one bright spark that decides to go up the slide and down the steps, rapidly and at the risk of a broken limb. There is always the limb on a tree, a branch, that just isn’t going to take their weight.

And most of that isn’t your fault.safety2

Finding fault, isn’t really the point though is it. The point is you can put as many measures in place as you can possibly think of and find, and then a helicopter crashes through the roof.

A big part of learning, of developing, is bleeding. A black eye, at some stage in your young life, preferably not caused by another’s knuckles, is almost a rite of passage for a boy. A hockey stick might hit you in the mouth and split your lip. Does that mean you shouldn’t be letting your kids play the sport? I’ve seen guitar strings cut open the players fingers…ban your little beloved from learning music?

More often than not, your kid is going to bounce. Sometimes it might hurt and occasionally it might be serious and each time a lesson learned, for them and you. This is the way we find our limits, establish our boundaries.

All you have to do in the interim is hold pick them up, wipe away the tears and hold their hand. Sometimes, just every now and then, you might want to give them a push too..