Be a Good Sport

The All Blacks play France at the Cake Tin tonight in their second test match up. Head high anyone?

Play hard and play fair. That was the message I received as a child growing up and learning various sports. I turned my hand to a lot of different options, from racket sports indoors and out, to water sports in and on, to all the others on muddy, frosty, grass paddocks with balls of numerous shapes and sizes. I learned to use my hands and feet and to hold sticks and to swing and hit and catch and pass. I never mastered any of it but a heap of fun trying.

‘Get into it’

‘Have a go’

All and any other cliched line Dad’s threw out there to encourage the gaggle of kids they were coaching to glory on chilly winter afternoons at poorly drained council recreation fields up and down the country to ‘Give it a crack’.

I didn’t then and don’t now, know what a crack is meant to be or how I was supposed to give one but I did understand the sentiment. The idea is to put some effort in, to apply yourself, to be a part of the team, to be involved and to do your best.

All of the above.

Let’s take a moment here, to thank all the Dads, giving up their own time to slog through the mud every Saturday morning, resisting the urge to yell out from the sideline shouts of encouragement, be one of ‘those’ fathers, taking his turn on the whistle, standing for an hour or so behind the stumps pretending he knows anything about the LBW rule.

And the Mum’s, forlornly hoping one day there will be an indoor sports venue in their town, one large enough to cope with multiple netball games, hordes of young girls sheltered from the worst of the elements as they spend winter afternoons and mornings dodging around in slippery courts in bibs and skirts. Think of all the bumps and bruises and scrapes and cuts and scratches. The tears and tantrums and fusses and fights. And that is just from the parents.

Thousands of kids giving it a crack. Those Mum’s and Dad’s are role models, the true ones of the sporting world. Personally, I have never felt just because someone is built athletically, can run and catch and pass, do it all at the same time, they are necessarily people we should, as parents, teachers and schools, the media, have our kids aspire to be like. Praise that sports-persons work ethic, their application and dedication and desire to succeed. Applaud the systems in place in many different sports and recreations which allow participants to reach pinnacles and peaks, to be at the top, the best in the world. So a thanks there too, for the administrators and managers and volunteers and everyone who contributes, often above and beyond, to make levels of success like that happen.

Sure, for every clap and shout out, there are going to be detractors. The good ole Kiwi tall poppy syndrome. I think we, as a nation, have gotten better. We a more prepared to celebrate success, the gold medalists and the big pay day professional contracts. It is no different for our All Blacks, the most high profile team, grouping of and individual sportspersons in this country.

Ryan Crotty took a dive. The guy should play football in Europe or South America. Or maybe take up a role on Broadway. He was way too convincing for Shortland Street. There, his antics wouldn’t look so ridiculous. Cane and Ofa made direct contact with the head of an opposition player and circumstances aside, should have been sanctioned, at least in the form of a penalty.

These are not the actions of role models. Heat of the moment stuff, ‘dynamic’ ‘fluid’ situations, call it what you will. I agree with the general consensus…It is a heavy contact sport and accidents are going to happen. There is no cheating, no intent. The All Blacks, Le Blue, the Kiwis, the Wallabies the Dallas Cowboys all play hard and fair. Some individuals, some teams, bend the rules, play to the letter of the law and the ref’s whistle and here we go with the cliches all over again…

It is how we, as kids, as teens and young adults, reinforced as senior representatives, are taught to play the game. Whatever that game may be. So I reckon, as media and avid sport fans, we need to not beat up on the rough stuff. By all means, legislate against the dangerous and the unhealthy, sort the rule books so the violent and the nasty is eliminated from the game and make it so the accidental, the reckless and careless actions are strongly discouraged. And then, move on.

Highlight too much of the bad and the ugly, you detract from the good. Participation in sport for our youth, particularly team sports, is a vital and healthy thing in society and needs to be nurtured, encouraged and given every opportunity to grow. It helps our kids do just that, grow. Think of all the bonds and friendships and good memories we can all take away from our time on the track, in the gym, on the pitch, the sideline, in the clubroom. Don’t forget to thank the ladies for the feed and honour the opposition for the half they contributed to the game.

Let’s instead show the good and the great and the excellent. Let’s not have photo after photo after video footage repeated daily via every media outlet imaginable showing forearms to the head, cracked cheekbones and swollen eye sockets. Mummy and Daddy aren’t going to want their precious little ones involved in all of that and sport will suffer for it. Not just contact sport, not just rugby or league. Kids love the crash and the bash of it and boys in particular, will find away to do it regardless of a contact sport like rugby. Bullrush anyone?

A controlled environment, with coaches and trainers and all the rest. Technique and back up and support and encouragement and praise. Show our young how to do it right, how to do it fairly. How to do it for the result. To win. Just not at all costs. Teach integrity. There is a culture in sport we cannot afford to lose.

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Show us the runaway tries, the behind the back passes, the banana kicks for touch. Tell us about the never say die attitudes, the ‘big engines’. Talk of the handshakes afterwards, the mutual respect given freely between two teams who have given there all, had a crack, played hard and fair.

And while we are at it, let’s keep our heads.

C’mon the All Blacks!!

(Last weeks performance lacked timing and there was punch missing. Where is Naholo? If not him, Laumape? Given it is the same squad, let’s see the likes of Squire running wider with a bit more room and freedom and the injection of Fifita, with the same remit, a little earlier. Expect a more attacking French outfit, their defense to be as resolute as it has been all season and the AB’s attempting to achieve the same hectic pace they started with, and stayed with, last weekend but add accuracy, timing and cohesiveness…AB’s by 12)

 

Why Not You?

Why not me? Why not more all of us?

All of us who can. Who are capable, willing and able. Check out this story and putting aside the luck of it, ask yourself why not you? Why aren’t you doing more, even just a little…

https://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/rugby/all-blacks/104743815/good-samaritan-turns-down-free-trip-to-watch-all-blacks-play-overseas-so-12-kids-can-attend-france-test

The above story shows there is still love in this world. Aroha. It shows, with the benefit of luck, of timing, of virtue and moral integrity, so much can be done and achieved with just the simplest of gestures.

Dave Newman is just a man. I know nothing of him, apart from the gesture, a real and genuine one, he has made. The difference he has made. Circumstance gave him the opportunity, the chance to make a real and tangible difference. And please, let’s not forget the part played by New Zealand Rugby, who cynically have not missed a golden marketing opportunity, but who have seen and seized the chance to do good.

Like the above article suggests, like Dave Newman hoped, there are twelve kids who now will have memories to hold onto for life. There is so much more than a golden hued day in the sun for them on offer here though. These Welligntonian children have been given, gifted, a catalytic moment. Perhaps they are all too young to realise but I can only hope they are not too young, are guided and mentored well enough, to be able to grasp it. A defining moment in their fledgling lives.

This sort of thing, through the generosity of one man and the cooperation of a large and power, influential, sporting body, can and should prove to be a turning point. There is nothing to suggest these are a group of bad kids. Nowhere do I get the impression from the Stuff article we are being introduced to a bunch of dodgy little buggers being given an opportunity otherwise unavailable to everyday youth. It seems to be this lot have been carefully selected and are genuinely in need of just this sort of support, this kind of selfless generosity.

Could you do it? Give up a prize like that? I turned down a seat at Wimbledon for a woman. I married her, my motivation was very different, we had only just met. I sure as hell benefited but certainly not for the greater good. I could have rescheduled but I didn’t. Wimbledon will be on every year, at the time I couldn’t guarantee this woman would be. However, my decision didn’t impact, directly or indirectly, anyone but me, the woman involved and the kids we ended up having together. Four of them…I hope at least one of them is a Pulitzer prize winner and at least one of the remainder represents their country or their beliefs on a global scale. Time will tell. The point is, I haven’t made my stand, my effort or contribution or whatever it might be, which will effect on a grander scale, outside of the direct influence I can have over the lives immediately attached to my own. I wish I had done more to date, on a wider basis, a community basis. I wish I did more. I hope I do more.

There is a man here who has been financially rewarded for the efforts he has put into the community and in particular youth, in this little slice of New Zealand. What exact prize he won, who was responsible for awarding it and who was noble enough to nominate him for it, I do not know and it is irrelevant. The thing is, there was a person who put himself, purely voluntarily, in a position where such accolades were deemed to be justified. Where reward was granted as a direct reflection of effort, of caring, of love and compassion and understanding. I will just about bet the money he won filters right back to the people he earned it on behalf of anyway. Yes, earned , not won, not gifted. Earned.

We all lead busy lives. We all have our own lives to deal with. For some, the pull and push of domesticity, of the work life balance, is all absorbing, leaving little or no room for intervention in the potential well-being of anyone else. Not to mention the near impossibility of making a financial contribution beyond what you can scrap together to fill fridge, freezer and pantry. How much donation is there in your pocket?

But, time? Can we spare some of it? Can you? Even just a little…what’s an hour a week? Sixty minutes is what it is, 3600 seconds which could prove the make or break for someone. Give up Coronation Street and manage a sports team, coach. Tutor some reading or math or join the Guides or Scouts or the yacht club or…or…or…utilise whatever skill you can and bring it to the lives of others, so it is a skill shared. Once your skill, skills or skill set (to quote a certain rugby coach) is/are shared, a new thing entirely is developed. A burden on society is lessened. There can be purpose and meaning attached to a skill. Yoga, fitness, boxing, cooking/baking, art…anything and everything, especially in rural communities. You might be surprised. You will certainly be rewarded.

Not financially. Not monetarily. Smiles, handshakes, to know you, your knowledge and skills and abilities and passion and understanding and desire and love and caring and openness and availability, has meant something, even just a little thing, to someone. Don’t be aiming your generous time and passion at no one but youth either. Sure, try and give a little of what you have held on to, your experiences and your learnings (there is that coach again), so coming generations can benefit, but we mustn’t neglect the guy next door.

Not everyone is lucky enough to win prizes they can trade for greater reward, and not every organisation will be willing to deal on a giveaway. Not all of us have the time, the skills, the gumption, to give up a little of themselves for the benefit of others. I certainly don’t believe anyone should feel compelled to do so…it is hard enough looking out for number one let alone for others. And, if you have read anything I have spouted about over the last handful of months, you will know I am big on personal responsibility. But you can’t teach yourself what you don’t know and you can’t learn if you aren’t being taught. The same way not all of us were taught to swing a hammer, to start a lawnmower, to bake a cake, to paint…the walls or a canvas. For every little thing we take for granted there are those, all around, who don’t have a clue. Could be though, they grow a mean tomato, can pull a fish from a puddle, can weld, can sculpt…who knows. Stands to reason though, doesn’t it, for every little thing you can give, you are going to receive.

My son isn’t yet two and has the basics of how to use a spanner. Maybe one day he’ll be a mechanic. The kids in the article above aren’t yet teens. Maybe one day, they’ll be All Blacks. I’ve shown my boy how, given him a pathway and Dave Newton has done the same for a group who would never otherwise have the opportunity…

So look around. Firstly, in the mirror. Think what it is, above and beyond time, you might have to give. Then, look for whom might be around you to give it to, whatever it is. Start no further than the house you live in, the street that house sits on, the block that street leads to, the neighbourhood, the schools within it, the organisations and trusts and charities and the city and the district and the region and the country. The place you call home. If you take the time to make it a better place for ‘them’, wouldn’t it end up being a better place for you?

I think so.

 

 

 

Ambiguity

How ambiguous, how off-hand, are you with your children? 

We all do it. And not just when dealing with our children. We obfuscate, we employ delaying tactics, we brush off and disregard and we block. In using everyday, throw away language, the potential impact of which doesn’t even really cross our minds before the words come out our mouths, we are shutting down our children with little or no thought multiple times a day.

‘In a minute.’

‘Not right now.’

‘I’ll think about it.’

It is going to be longer than a minute, if at all and you know it. Never is closer to the mark than ‘not right now’ and there is very little chance, unless you are reminded, as you probably will be, repeatedly, the idea will ever cross your mind again.

‘Maybe later’ never comes. It is a fleeting moment you abandon almost instantly in your quest to get on with a busy day which may or may not lack variety, outside of weather patterns and just when the youngest may fill his nappy. At best it is dismissive, at worst neglectful. ‘Soon’ is a long way off to a young mind, an eager and searching, inquiring mind desperate for stimulation. Folding laundry does not fixate a child’s imagination for long. All the mundane, everyday things we have to do as parents, domestic managers, child development facilitators, hold only the most fleeting point of interest for children.

‘Get out from under my feet’ is a bit of a go to for me. In my mid forties I have developed a far better sidestep than Waisake Naholo can ever hope for. The trick is not to second guess the random movements of those still learning how to operate their own feet. But in saying that I am not being dismissive. It is a command, issued for the health, safety and protection of those small enough, ignorant enough and random enough to get themselves tangled up in somebody’s legs. ‘Be careful’ are two words which fit the same category, a combination I try and avoid if possible but which do come in handy when kids are on the coffee table having a boogie to the Arctic Monkeys, crawling across the bench in pursuit of something sharp or careening down a bank at full sprint, rapidly gaining terminal velocity.

Thing is, more often than not, the little ones don’t let you forget. They don’t want to move on, get on, and damned if they are going to let you either. Children haven’t turned old before they will no longer let you off the hook so easily, when your tried and true distraction tactics begin to become nothing more than dismal failures. When your frustrations are peeked. Frazzled might be the word.

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Long before a child develops the ability to speak full sentences they have long since mastered communicating. Getting across their dissatisfaction with your desire to be doing something else, somewhere else, becomes an art form they rapidly learn and master. Grunts of displeasure, whines and screeches of frustration, attention seeking tugs on the hem of your top or bold leaps at your legs, arms wrapping hips in a toddler tackle, headbutting your genitalia in an attempt to ensure there will be no more siblings to compete with for attention. Impossible to ignore.

‘In a minute’ becomes ‘I’ll think about it’ turns into ‘We’ll see how things go.’

Still they come at you, your failure to satisfy their urging not allowed to pass without comment and ever more pressing insistence. Soon enough it is you who is frustrated and bingo, we are on the verge of argument and tears and tantrums and toys being thrown from the proverbial cot. And just think how the kids feel.

Are we really that busy, in this modern world of convenience and technological advancement, to spare a few minutes for the interests of our tamariki? Is what we are doing at any given time, in any given place, so important we can’t put a halt to it, however temporarily, to get down on our haunches and engage.

Nonsensical rambling it might be, inane nothingness which might come at you from somewhere completely random, blindsiding you with it’s sudden appearance. Whatever it is, from imaginary friends and their interactions with your child, to hands being pulled, leading you to witness something you may never fathom the meaning of, none of it is painful. There will be no pain, no hurt, you will loose nothing, no more than a few moments of your oh so precious time. In fact, the opposite might well prove truer. In the vivid, wild, rambling of your child’s mind there just might be that gem of inspiration, that moment of pure levity. Your child can inspire tears, of joy, can put a smile on an otherwise grumpy, preoccupied face, can surprise and delight and entertain with their irreverence. All of it so sweetly unintentional.

The reality is, perhaps it is best to pay more attention to their surprise, attention seeking, attacks. Rather than a frustration, the distraction can be your friend. A refreshing moment of light-hearted, low impact, vital nothingness too many of us have long since forgotten how to enjoy. The dishes can wait, the dusting too. That report will still get written, the laundry can be folded later, you can eat half an hour later without any harm to anyone. Who knows, you may learn something and you will surely recapture a little of that which you lost whenever it was you stopped acknowledging you were imagining, inventing and creating and drifting inside the wonder which is a youthful mind. Go back prior to the moment you decided you were all grown up, back to the time when the imagination ruled, when observation was a wonder, when youthful exuberance was the norm.

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If nothing else, it is usually quicker to spend that moment of time enshrined in the world of your little ones than trying to dodge, duck dive and weave your way around it, a sad attempt to avoid something which it is simply impossible to. You’ll get back to that vital whatever it was quicker than you might think and your children will think you a part of it all.

Because I said so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seasonal Shift

I’m grumpy.

Okay, I am a white, middle class male, in and around my middle years. So of course, I am prone to bouts of dissatisfaction and I like to think I am articulate enough to express those feelings. Whether or not anyone is interested in hearing me rant and occasionally, rave, is not my concern.

As the season begins to turn, the sticky, at times oppressive heat and humidity giving way to the cool and damp of the Winter-less North, I can feel the invasive spread of SAD…Seasonal Affliction Disorder. Much like the creeping spread of mold, in our beautifully positioned, but sadly decaying, Hokianga slice of paradise, I can feel myself starting to shut down for the coming season. I am at risk of stagnating, if it wasn’t for the kids.

One and Two head off to school. Their outlet. For seven or so hours a day, keeping them entertained, informed and inspired, is not my problem. That falls to the lovely ladies and gents at the local Primary, all passionate and inspirational people I am sure. Thing is, when those big kids get home, to join the E-Bomb and Wee-Man, we’re all left virtually twiddling our thumbs.

Summer means hours of lazy days on the beach. It is sprinklers and water pistols and afternoons dodging the sun, reading to the back drop of whirring fans, moving heavy air from one side of the room to the other. Not hard to drain the kids of their seemingly endless energy.

Without the bright hot sun, the damp clings to everything. That will at least take care of the flies and the fleas, even while a few crickets are still clinging to the promise of a summer which has abandoned them. Spiders know, creeping into the house in ever greater numbers, looking for a nook or cranny to curl up in and while away the winter drag. A sure sign winter is coming. An unwelcome one.

A sense of malaise sweeps over me and it’s partly because I can’t be drawn into the types of things which entertain the kids with such ease. I’m not a television watcher, outside of sports and I am certainly not a gamer. I get down on the floor with the little two, engage and join in, clambering about making out I am the type of tiger Katy Perry could only dream of being. I draw and scribble and meld play-do and read aloud and fill the basin with suds and all the rest of it. It is fair to say, before long it is me who is bored.

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Bored stiff. Not from a lack of interest or a failure to engage. Stiff because joints and muscles find it difficult to get up off the floor. But yes bored. Repetition is the killer for an adult imagination it seems, mine at least, but is the fire for a young burgeoning one. Maybe they see a new and exciting thing every time, maybe they are excited by the familiar and the comfort of the known. I have lost count of the times I have read the same books, had half an eye on the same movies. It is a frightening thing to open your mouth in the shower and find you are nutting out a Disney classic you had no idea you knew the words to.

Therefore I don’t buy into the premise having kids around keeps you young. It is even possible they age you quicker. There is no hiding the fact I am less tolerant now than we we first started breeding but back then, I had distractions of my own. I worked and I played. I was still young enough and dumb enough to be involved in sport more actively. I went out the door each morning and stayed out until the evening rolled around, gainfully employed. I had the outlet afforded to number’s One and Two, if not quite as educational. And now I find, the more the we are forced, as a unit, to stay in each others space, to permeate it, invade, the less likely I am going to be such a big, fluffy, friendly tiger.

The capacity to force it never ceases to amaze me though. Especially where the kids are concerned. Fake the smile and the laughter as much as you fake the tiger’s growl. It can be extra tiring, putting up the facade for your kids, while all the time you wither and die inside, curling and browning at the edges like the autumnal leaves giving up and dropping to the ground all around. Okay, maybe that is all a bit too melodramatic, a touch too melancholic, and in truth by the time I reconcile these feelings of low and slow festering, like the mud and quagmire our yard is becoming, the sun will start shining again, the mercury will rise and I will wonder what the hell the problem was.

Some people put on weight over the cooler months as they tuck into ‘comfort’ food. Others just shift their patterns, opting for different pass-times, alternative activities. It may be seamless, it may be a conscious shifting. Our kids don’t seem to notice it much, not directly. They don’t dress appropriately for cooler weather any more than they did for the heat. Their desired choices of activities don’t change either, still fixated by the idea a movie will provide all the excitement and mental stimulation their growing brains are craving. From Number One down they are not asking for the beach as often as they used to, only a week or so ago. There is even the occasional, wary inquiry ‘What is the day going to be like?’

The day is going to be what ever you make it. Just like the one before, or something entirely new, exciting and different. No, we are not going to the beach. No you cannot watch a movie.

While I pray for greater flexibility and wonder just why it is kids have to yell at me when I am right next to them, as I snatch moments to achieve things over the course of days which should take no more than an hour, when the rains come and I manage to convince the kids to brave the elements, squashing them into last seasons gumboots and rain coats, readying them for a torrential downpour the last drops of which dry up just as the final zip is fastened, I may take a moment to rock back and breathe, mind fading to a sunny summer day now gone, not forgotten, and one I know will return.

It is amazing, when you have to force and fake the smile, how readily it can stick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’re Just the Roadie

For me, a song should be heard on the album first. That way, you hear it played exactly the way it was intended to be heard.

You get the mix, the fullness, of all the combined visions and imaginings from producers, the artist themselves and those playing alongside. It is a sum of all the collaborations and shared experiences and abilities. A bit like parenting.

You will often here a musician describing an album they have created or are in the process of creating, as their ‘baby’. They are referring to the all consuming, passionate, dedicated love for what they are doing. How creating that baby takes up all their time, dominates all their thoughts, beginning to grow and evolve under their guidance.

Track by track the album grows, song by song developing into the image the artist is trying to create. There will be singles, moments of standout perfection when everything coalesced into a pure moment of understanding. There will be misses, stuff in moments of reflection, the artist wishes had never made it onto the album, that no number of retakes and cuts or polishing in the sound booth is ever going to make right.

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Once the artist has given birth to the process of creating an album, a set of songs that will undoubtedly and hopefully take on their own persona and personality, it will become a being in and of it’s own right. What started out as snatched moments with a guitar and a note pad, time behind a keyboard with an old school eight-track, grows and blossoms and begins a life all it’s own. Once that album has been completed, when all the finishing touches and nuances have been laced together, then the artist has to ask, can this all be recaptured live, on the stage, in front of an audience.

Perhaps, by then, the album has decided it needs a horn section to flesh out their sound. Perhaps the album turns to cellos and violins to add authenticity or a certain feel. Maybe the album will add some electronica, to develop and grow. At times the album will rock and it will roll, then sink into soulful melancholy. There will be blues and then a show of jazz hands and there will be epic numbers stretching forever, reaching and yearning and striving. At times the album may be stripped back, raw and emotive, a return to that guitar and notebook, a solo voice, free of band and back-up singers.

Despite how well you think you know your kids, how well you think you might know anyone, people are always going to surprise you. Children more than most. You can never be too sure what direction they are going to take, just like a live, rambling, epic version of your favourite track, that cherished album. Because once your children, your album, is free of the studio, you can no longer peg it, no longer put it neatly into a box and seal it with a label.

Every time you see that album it will be bursting free, growing  new tendrils, a new root. A new note. Today is the first time you have seen it, heard it yet it is the same song you started humming some time ago. Different, fresher, grown and growing. Another song for the album. Another verse, bridge and chorus.

Sometimes the kids are like London Calling, the scratchy old (not Hipster) vinyl; played to death, as a soundtrack to my life. Angry yet comprehending, understanding yet questioning.  Between the four of them they become the Rolling Stones’ Tumbling Dice, a compilation but a stand alone work of art in it’s own right. A family of music. I know the verses, the rhythm, the beat and the choruses, yet there are layers and always a little something new, something previously undiscovered.

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So many nuances, so many new and updated versions of the same song. Melded by the influences surrounding the artist at the time. A new artist now, creating their own songs as they compile their very own album. All you can hope for is that somewhere, tucked away on a B-side, maybe never to be released, is an homage to you.

Perhaps, for your budding artist, the world will be their stage. Massed hordes of adoring, screaming fans, hanging off every chord, every riff. Larger than life, popular, influential, admired and set to be heard for years to come.

Perhaps your artist is content to stamp their foot on the battered deck of a flatdeck truck, parked up somewhere in the middle of a sunny domain. Families on blankets are munching trailer food and sipping craft beer as their kids, future artists themselves, are bopping along. Maybe no one is paying any attention and the album is banged out regardless, raw and true and happy and back to work on Monday.

Perhaps that album never leaves the notebook, never comes out from behind the guitar or keyboard. It has been played all the same, heard all the same.

However that album seeks to manifest itself it is important to nurture it, let it grow and develop and find it’s own way to the stage of its choice.

The key is to play, hear and listen to the album your kids are creating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Delegation

How do you prevent the ‘everyday’ from becoming mundane? How do you stop normal from being boring?

It is difficult not to lose a bit of yourself when you are at home with kids. For me, it is partly environmental and a big part the climate. I turn to the outdoors for entertainment and as a means to entertain my children.

Tough though, when one is a little bomber, delighted by a muddy puddle, the other a little princess, disgusted my a splash of mud on a gumboot. The older two have their own ideas on what it means to fend off boredom. Ever increasing demands for greater screen time, or heads buried in books and here is their Dad, worrying they don’t get enough fresh air and exercise.

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But as for my own level of excursion…everything at the sedate pace of a three and a bit year old. The E-Bomb is an amazing walker. She can cover an incredible amount of miles with little or no complaint and is fully engaged with what is going on around her. She is questioning, full of inquiry and inquisition. The Wee-Man is the same, never more content than when the wheels of his buggy are going round.

As I have gotten older, I have felt the desire to be on my own more. It is not that I am shunning anyone, family included, or that I have become sort of grumpy old man recluse. I have always been grumpy, so I guess it is just an aging thing. Not that I am by any means old, it is just that while I am the same man I used to be twenty or so years ago, I can’t help but notice I am an older version of that person.

Never a patient guy, I seem to have even less tolerance these days. I am far more likely to comment on everyday little annoyances I would previously have let go and boy, can I rant if I get my heckles up. Partly it is because I pay more attention to the ‘issues’ of the day but a big bit is because I make an issue out of things that just aren’t. All in all, not a great recipe when the school holidays roll around.

This time the term break seems to have coincided with a blast of wet and wild weather, not something conducive to finding ways to keep four children of varying ages entertained. There have been dress-ups already, forts have been built, readily converted to planes or submarines. There has been a bedroom dance party and there will be baking and crafty stuff and whatever else it takes to keep them happy and at least a little quiet. Yes, that means there will be screen time. Not quite the last of the summer blast I was hoping for.

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It won’t be all that long, if this weather continues, before the kids get a bit of cabin fever. Me too. Fresh air in their lungs, sunshine on their faces, running around whooping and hollering and imagining and planning and building and deconstructing and thinking and plotting, all of it helps to get them to sleep at night. Me too. It also helps to prevent headaches. Mine. But there is another problem I am going to have to face.

As proud as I am of Number One, for earning a placement on a leadership course at a nearby marae, run by Nga Puhi, I am going to miss our unofficial surrogate parent over the next few days. It is a great sounding scheme by Nga Puhi, exactly the sort of thing communities around here need and credit to my girl for being there. Her absence, however, has put the pressure on me.

It isn’t fair on a twelve year old expecting too much of her when it comes to looking out for her siblings. It’s just that she is so damned good at it. Of course there is a fine line between getting Number One, or any of the kids capable of it, to help out now and then, and abusing the privilege. Having a useful extra set of hands around is invaluable at times but I have to be aware not to put all the kiddie care work load onto someone still a kid herself.

She brings a lot of it on herself anyway. Every single time the Wee-Man reaches for her, with that little pleading sound of his escaping that adorable ‘help me’ face he uses to such great affect, Number One scoops him up. It has gotten to the point he will side step me altogether and aim straight for his big sister. As cute as that is, I can see it grates on her sometimes, especially when she has just walked in the door after a day at school. Try as I might to convince Number One not to pick the Wee-Man up on demand, encouraging the idea he will eventually lose interest, she is some sort of sucker I guess. I know how that feels.

Having someone around with a bit of creative flair, some extra energy, a sweet and nurturing nature, someone who can cook and bake and wash and clean or at least help out in the kitchen, is a godsend. Number Two is right up there and when One and Two combine to use their mystical powers with their siblings, I am just about rendered redundant. But it is school holiday time. While extended time in each others company is great for all, I can already see the cracks starting to appear. The dynamic will eventually end up fraught and fractured, even while there will be moments of pure joy and bliss.

Maybe I am being selfish. Maybe I need to learn to be more creative and crafty and arty and a little more understanding that three girls don’t always want to pass, kick and catch, might not be so interested in hacky-sack, can’t be bothered wandering down to the water’s edge just because we can. Perhaps I need to let the imagination free, the way it goes when you are nearly four, see things the way you do when you are not yet two, attack the day like you can when you are not far off ten and nearing thirteen.

Just maybe, I still have a lot of learning to do. I guess these holidays might end up anything but boring.

But, please, come back soon Number One.

 

 

You

Just be yourself.

So easy isn’t it. Once you know how. But self-awareness, and the ability to identify and be comfortable in that awareness, is not an easy thing at all.

It takes a heck of a long time to try and figure out the person you are. Not the one you portray to the world, or the person you want to be, the person you feel others are expected, the one everyone is saying who you should be.

I’m talking about that guy or gal in the mirror, the one you catch a glimpse of just before you realise someone (you) is watching. A snatched, corner of the eye moment when the guard is down, when there is nothing going in your mind about from all the things that need to go in order to sort you out for the day.

You all know that face. Your face. Slightly disheveled, straight out of bed hair, puffy ‘I don’t want to be open yet’ eyes, mouth agape in a yawn which releases the breath of rotten seal, wrinkling your nose as your nostrils are tainted by your own foul stench. You are probably scratching your arse at the time, on the way to the bog for that morning, clockwork, constitutional. Maybe you are itching at your nutsack, knowing any minute a stretch will attack your entire body, creaking and cracking you upright in preparation for the day to come.

Many of us are used to seeing ourselves like this, all of us. Some don’t care, give their appearance no further thought, are comfortable with how they look regardless of time of day or state of undress or lack of manicuring. Others would never be caught dead until showered and product in their hair and faces on and moisturised and teeth sparkling white and all the rest. For a lot of us, putting the face on each and everyday has not so much to do with how others might see us, but how they perceive us.

Wee-Man is not all that far off turning two. He is a robust little bomber of a boy, covered in all the scrapes, bumps, abrasions and bruises of a young dude furiously and fastidiously exploring his surroundings. The youngest of our mob, it is not a case of him trying to keep up with his older siblings, more a desperate attempt by them to slow him down.

And if he wants to do all of it in dress and tiara, then damn it he will.

His sister, E-Bomb, Weapon of Mass Interruption, has developed a fairly particular style and sense of fashion in her tender years to date. With two older sisters, I have seen all that play out already and outside of the odd individual quirk, there are few surprises. At her age, practicality isn’t always high on the list so a trip to the library on a hot summers day in gumboots, isn’t out of the question. Singlets and vests in the rain, tights to the beach. None of it matters. She is happy and is allowed the freedom to pick and choose. We have a climate here which let’s her get away with most of it and let’s be honest, I am not really the best person to judge whether or not stripes should be matched with hoops.

So if the Wee-Man sees a dress he likes, damned if he isn’t going to wear it. If that printed shirt several sizes too big, resplendent with pink roses, is going to be his thing for the day, or at least until such time as he makes a banana stained, muddy, tomato sauced mess of himself, then all I need to ensure is that he rocks it.

The only time you will ever see the fella uptight and concerned about what he’s wearing is when a sleeve gets caught, hampering his progress at whatever task he has placed all of his short attention span into. He may get frustrated at a full nappy, or having to wear one in general. He may want to wear boots and shoes which haven’t for fitted him for a while or are unlikely to for several years.

Wee-Man looks snappy in a cycle helmet while having a book read to him, debonair in a life-jacket bouncing on the trampoline, and positively sharp in his Mother’s heels in the vegetable patch. No doubting the little dude is a trend setter extraordinaire and there is not a moment when he doubts himself (in fact there are many…realising the heels are not much good on steep grassy banks has been a rolling, tumbling, learning curve).

There is no pretension. No pressure, external or otherwise. There is no mask, no facade. Nor is it freedom of expression, or self fulfillment or an abandonment of society constraints. It is freedom, at it’s truest and most earnest. What the Wee-Man decides to wear he just does, from felt-tip fingernails to crayon lipstick, top and no pants, pants and no top. Not a stitch.

It is the freedom to express himself beyond what he wears that is the true magic growing older forgets. Random yelling, growling at a fly on the wall, pointing at one thing or another which have no bearing or relevance.

Jumping. Just because he knows how to jump.

 

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Like everyone, Wee-Man can get frustrated when he isn’t understood. He has several words in a rapidly expanding vocabulary. Stringing them together is an art which still eludes him. He gesticulates widely and is very adept at getting his message across,. He is also quick to move on if he doesn’t. Because he doesn’t care.

Of course Wee-Man doesn’t care. He isn’t yet two. He is fed, clothed (sort of) and nurtured and loved and stimulated and all the other things that are supposed to be happening for him at this time in his life. What on this big fat Earth is there for him to worry about?

Hopefully, in the fullness of time, bugger all. Ideally, my son will cruise through life ticking all the boxes he has identified as in need of checking. All my kids will succeed in the manner they identify as appropriate, in the things they recognize as success. I wish them luck.

And I hope too, when they catch that morning glimpse of themselves, they don’t take a snatched second look. I hope my daughters and son don’t give that person in the mirror another moment’s consideration. I hope they scratch and poo and brush their teeth and get on with their respective days. Because I don’t want them to be searching for themselves or the person they want to be.

The only way to identify with yourself is to forget the person you are, as you see yourself and certainly as you think others might. And while you are at don’t try and recapture that Wee-Man left somewhere in all of us. Don’t force it, don’t try and make yourself spontaneous. A search for freedom is the biggest trap.

Just try painting your lips with crayon, coating your finger-nails in felt-tip, donning your favourite flowery shirt, stripping off your nappy, slipping into your Mum’s high-heels and go yell at a spider.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long Time No See

A lot has gone on of late and not a thing has changed. 

The sun is still shining.

I am starting to wonder if it will ever stop, but these last few mornings mist has been touching the still, glassy waters of the mighty Hokianga Harbour. It is almost impossible to drag your eyes away from the dreamy views sitting right at our back doorstep.

But dragged away I have been. All the things so mundane, so everyday, have proven the drag. Then the rounds of illness and poor health. Top all that off with a bout of malaise and a thriving streak of laziness and here we are. So far down the track with barely a word said. I even flirted with the idea of getting a job!

Nothing much has inspired me of late and there hasn’t been a great deal to rile me either.

Apart from ten million dollar roundabouts.

Shane Jones and his billion dollar regional fund. As cynical as I am, jaded and mistrusting, I am sure there will be many positive outcomes from the government opening its wallet in places long overdue a spend. I sincerely hope a fund of that magnitude, earmarked for projects designed to breathe live into struggling communities, will find it’s way, most likely in dribs and drabs, to the areas it can be of most benefit.

I don’t know. How about a footpath? Something my kids can utilise on their way to and from school. They don’t need a roundabout at the cost of millions, to satisfy tourists and the fancy of a white middle-class who surely can’t be that inconvenienced.

Even over this side, millions earmarked for a cultural center in Opononi. Cool, anything and everything to celebrate the rich cultural history of this part of the world, so entrenched as it is in the birth of this nation both Maori and European. It is vitally important the local populace, the wider New Zealand community and yes, tourists, have the opportunity to be immersed in our wide and varied history of settlement as much as is possible.

No argument there, right?

Except when you start to make comparisons with the things this community, this region and so many more like it, are missing.

Yes, footpaths. Playing fields and sports clubs. Playgrounds and recreational reserves. Roads free of potholes and verges cleared , adequate street lighting and domains for the people who live here to congregate and meet and grow as a community. All manner of infrastructure, maintained and supported and allowing for growth and a sense of well being to battle the stagnation that seems to hang like a pall over much of rural, regional New Zealand.

I know much of this falls on regional and local body authorities. Here too, Iwi need to make their presence felt. The thing is, with minimal population bases, there is only so much such bodies can do. Certainly, there seems to be a lack of motivation to do much and not a great deal of desire to commit to options which may hit their bottom lines long term. Understandable maybe. Disappointing and short sighted certainly.

Fair to say if all those bits and pieces were of real concern, we would not be living here. Somewhere more metropolitan, housing the type of extra curricular stuff you would expect from city living. So eventually we won’t be. Living here. We will be forced to move on, so we can better cater to the ever expanding curiosity of our kids.

We are blessed we are able to so. My wife has a career path she can follow and yes, if I must, I will return to work. We will, particularly me, be sacrificing lifestyle, not to mention turning our back on a community desperately in need of the likes of my wife and our beautiful children sticking around. People like my wife, in her role, can shape and influence, to a degree. People like our tamariki are the future, of that there is no question. They are the ones who will inherit and the ones we will have to pass responsibility onto.

So come on Shane. Come on Labour. Help us leave something worthwhile. Something tangible, things which will mold and shape and guide and influence and prosper. It starts with footpaths, a route tamariki can place their feet on and begin their journey.  Put the dollars into encouraging community involvement, driving progress and parenting change.

Sports clubs and the facilities which go with them. Fairs and fetes and jamborees and galas and exhibitions and all things cultural and festive. Maybe a new roof on the community hall, maybe a repair to a boat ramp, street lighting, parking, beach side bbq areas, sealed roads…all things locals can highlight and get involved in.

How about state sponsored beach cleanups? What if communities were armed with the equipment, courtesy of the government, to set about cleaning up their own backyards so to speak? Give a bloke a weed-eater, a few litres of petrol and a date. See you there mate, down where all that Pampas is growing…all that gorse all that broom all that elephant grass all that sycamore all that whatever it happens to be and whatever it is needed to get rid of it…knapsacks and sprayers and P.P.E and boots and overalls. Most important, all that know how and a little bit of motivation.

I guess I am saying let’s put the money into pride. Let’s invest in hope. How about we give the regions a chance at the same level of comfort and convenience, or close to it, as they do in the urban centers. Making life easy, easier at least, makes for better chances, better option taking and decision making. Lets not put too much money into going around in circles.

Then maybe, our tamiriki can have their minds on their futures. Not on where they are putting their feet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La la la

You can say everything needed with la la la. As long as you mean it.

I sat myself down on occasion of late, diligently displaying the best of intent. However, while the day gets warmer, muggier and eventually wet, I realise I needn’t sweat. Even as I sit here chaffed and dripping.

But enough imagery of a chubby, balding, 40 something bloke wallowing in pools of his own drenching. I was wanting to, as I swam the pond of sweated quagmire, put something out there others might want to read. Something light and comical, or satirical, or darkly observant, witty and wordy. Perhaps a challenging blog, striking at the virtuous core of a middle New Zealand, or prodding those below to rise up. Maybe I could open the shutters on the cloistered, but sweetly air-conditioned, non-sweaty one percent, an expose so shocking, so revealing my balding mug, sweated brow and all, will most likely feature on Time Magazine.

Flustered and flummoxed. Like a middle aged woman, recently divorced, spying her first ever male stripper at her nieces hen’s night. Hot and wet. The weather has everyone a little frazzled, a fine sheen of ‘Christ when is it gonna stop’ smeared across each and every brow. Today is a blazing glory, but does that mean I am blazing with it. If I couldn’t manage an oppressive pall over my masses of followers and associated readers, then how am I going to leave vapour trails of glory across azure skies?

I’m not. Plain and simple, I don’t need to have my name in lights, my words written in the sky. I don’t blog for fame and fortune and I don’t seek notoriety.

I certainly could. There are plenty of subjects, big and small I have decided, since I began this caper, to intentionally neglect. There are issues, from controversial to first world, localised idiosyncrasies or a splayed big picture problem, all of which I have left by the wayside, as I rocket through the world of home husbandry. Even as paradise surrounds, the raw reality of the big bag world never fails to present.

Our stunningly gorgeous location may look the part from the inside of the window pane. Looking in can be a different story. My wife, privileged to have unfettered access to peoples homes, an intimate months long snap shot of their lives, can come home with horrendous tales of the things, the situations, the people, she encounters.

At the small local school, yet to be treated to the modern idea of how a school should look and feel, thankfully, my kids have encountered racism. Mild, lower end of the scale stuff and technically, reverse. Yes, that is right, our sweet and innocent little whities have been treated differently, adversely, because of the lack of colour in their skin. There has been bullying, particularly directed at our eldest, because she is a cool kid, a popular addition to the place. Jealously has reared it’s ugly head and she has been shunted and shunned.

No biggy. We worked through it. People concerned were open and honest and proactive. That doesn’t take care of the proliferation of weeds, noxious and invasive.

The neighborhood and indeed the greater region, is strewn with Elephant Grass and Wild Ginger. There is the obligatory Gorse and Blackberry and wilding Pines and there are flame trees, with their thorny warning. These plants line broken footpaths, a drainage swale full of stagnant water, battling for supremacy against escapee bamboo. Verges are infrequently mowed, if ever, sprayed quarterly at best…which is worse.

Poke your head into the scrub, to confirm that identifiable object is in fact the discarded mattress you thought it might be. Cars break down and are burnt, shunted off the side of the road, to rust where the paint has been scorched free. Stray dogs take care of most of the rubbish, house hold disposables, that don’t make collection.

Have I painted a pretty enough picture of paradise yet? Yes, I can go for a fish basically from my doorstep. But I can’t eat the shellfish and sometimes they tell me I can’t even swim. That information, courtesy of a randomly placed, faded yellow sign, too small to garner a great deal of attention, does not go down well with my kids. I can bundle those same kids in the car and drive us all to some of the most picturesque, uninhabited, un-visited, coastal and forested spots of beauty and cultural significance.

The roads are bumpy, winding, tight and skinny and bouncy and unsealed and potholed and generally no exit. Just the way I like them. Many tourists don’t seem to be so fond. Can you pick the ones who have traveled the east coast first, the Bay of Islands, with all it’s grey retiree dollar and escapee Aucklander investment? All their vehicles are registered, warranted and are road worthy.

So do I get controversial? Tell a joke or two, to lighten some shock tactics? Do I mine the depths of substance abuse, wreaking stumbling havoc on a community? Do I battle the abusers, both of those same said substances and the men and women abusing each other and the brood of children they have created together. Do I stand up and yell it, the wrongs that I see being perpetrated, the often harrowing results of which can bee witnessed on the worn features of my tired wife at the end of a working day.

We can be a cynical bunch in this country, but we do like a laugh. We will happily poke fun at ourselves and others, often liberal with the threat of offence. But, as I have said before, offence is taken, not given and if you are offended by the things you see and hear, perhaps it is because those things; that abuse, that degradation and poverty and systemic failure, trouble you and the infinity pool world you like to think you swim in.

Sometimes, when you are hot and flustered, flummoxed and frazzled, light hearted poking and prodding just doesn’t cut it. And who needs another white, middle-class, in this case un-educated, keyboard warrior telling it like it is. For a start I don’t really know. I am a kept man after all. And sadly, people like me don’t really want to know. We may snigger and snicker and righteously comment our agreeance, but we offer nothing in the way of solution. So I for one, should shut up. No stomping and shouting, no raising a grumpy, disenfranchised placard waving mob, Hoki Hubby at the head, megaphoned voice waxing lyrically poetic, the strain of tortured passion ringing from my lungs.

Instead I sip a commercially produced craft beer, meat sizzling and spitting on a BBQ over looking the water from our habour side deck, women inside making salads, 90’s alt-rock backing up the waffle I share with my council of local whities, putting the world and it’s woes to rights on the back of an unlabeled red wine or two, a toke here and there, while our young men are killing themselves. We are all killing each other every time we pop out for a drive and we are ignoring the mentally ill, in the hope they will go away.

They will.

One by sad, miserable, lost, disconsolate one. Cracks in systems, as wide and deep as the holes and dips and splits in State Highway 12. Not swallowing them whole. Nothing that comforting. Like a cat, the mentally unwell are toyed with a little first, teased, dangled.

I can smoke a hooter and get quietly pissed under a sun umbrella, kids streaming around me, confident in the knowledge we will not be visited by an agency, a service. People like us don’t get visits from units like that. We don’t need it. Our lives and those of our children might be mildly dysfunctional, but who’s isn’t? Local body authorities are not going to trim the verges at the top of our drive, regional administrators are not going to monitor those polluting our waters. Central bureaucrats are not got to fill the pot holes, feed and house the poor, clothe them and protect them from the elements, treat their illnesses and educate them, detox them, unify and strengthen them. So each and everyone of us appears to be on our own.

And if we are all alone, then we are all in it together. Aren’t we?

So I will sit here and sing la la la. All the while hoping there is someone out there with greater, more in-depth, more analytical lyrical content to offer. The same old chorus I can do, like everyone else, members of a mass choir. If the western Mid North is the tune, the Hokianga the verse, then who is going to play the lead break?

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Boss Baby

Is it possible to rule the roost and rule the country? Our Prime Minister thinks so.

Jacinda Adern is clearly a very ambitious women. She has become the darling of the political world, both nationally and around the world, in relatively rapid time. Her rise through the Labour Party ranks may not have been as meteoric as the media might have us all believe, but her ascendancy to the top job, elected or not, came on a rocket-ship.

And thus, Jacinda Adern was thrust into the limelight. Prime Minister. Leader of a political party, leader of a nation. Our nation. My country and the one I am raising four children to live, love, grow, work, fade and die in.

Now our Prime Minister and her First Man, Clarke Gayford, will shortly be doing just the same; raising a child to grace these shores with it’s beautiful presence. Congrats and all that are due. Never mind whether it is appropriate or not for the leader of a nation to be taking some time out for the birth of a child. Don’t worry over the rights and wrongs of not informing the populace, effectively her employers, of any pending pregnancy.

Adern will stand by her right not to have to divulge that information and on principal, such a stand has to be accepted and applauded. She must have faced quite the dilemma, discovering her pregnancy at a time when the political whirlpool was in vortex, sucking everything and everyone in, as the last election seemed to do. She made her call, it can’t be changed now and to my mind, Mark Richardson’s abilities as a clairvoyant aside, the point is kind of moot.

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Richardson got lambasted in all this, complete with stern, unhappy teacher face and waggling finger, and while it is important to avoid the temptation to make cricket analogies, it seems our First Man has been left out of the playing XI all together.

Clarke Gayford should be offended . Miffed at the least. The question keeps getting raised, time and again, in our mainstream media, in opinion pieces and blogs, in twitter rants and wherever…will the Prime Minister will struggle to do both jobs.

Damn right she will. She is clearly an ambitious and extremely hard working woman and must come with the verve, drive and energy required to get to the position she is in. It is going to take all of that and more, to get through the next year or so from here, relatively incident free.

But, I ask from the cloistered confines of full time fatherhood, why is it we seem to be neglecting, no…failing to herald, Clark Gayford’s role in this?

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Hasn’t the man put his hand up, stating his intended lead role in the raising of the Clarke/Jacinda bub? Are his abilities so doubted we have to question his wife and hers?

Let’s get real here, it ain’t easy raising a child, no matter who you are, what gender you have assigned yourself (that’s how it’s done these days isn’t it?) and certainly no matter what you do for a living. I don’t imagine the Clarke/Ardern household is struggling financially, I can’t see them being under a great deal of pressure in providing all that is needed to give their little one every opportunity. I would also like to think they have a nurturing, close and supportive wider family and social network. Our nations Prime Minister will not be flying solo.

And neither will  Clarke. If nothing else, a rapt nation will be kept well and truly over informed on the progress of bubs, Mum and yes, maybe, just maybe, Dad will get a mention too. Breakfast show TV will be all over it, Mark Richardson or not. But in reality, this baby is going to spend the first few years of it’s little life, essentially without a strong Motherly influence.

Adern will be busy running the nation, a task I am sure does not leave a huge amount of time for full nappies and rolling over and sitting and those all important first steps. Not to mention teething. I wonder how much time it leaves for breast feeding. Are we going to see our P.M. with a baby on the breast in parliament? Not for the first time and bloody good to see being accommodated and readily accepted, just as it should be.

So, to my mind, there is no question of whether or not Jacinda Adern will be able to cope, juggling motherhood and the leadership of this nation. She is only going to be doing the one job full time. The one with the paperwork and the negotiating and the press conferences and the pressure and stresses. The pressure and stress her husband will be under are far different, but you sure as hell won’t catch this guy belittling them.

The real debate is who is going to be working the hardest. I reckon I know the answer.

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