Thursday, November 22, 2012


For all its wonderful aspects, being a full time parent can be rather lonely at times. I originally had these feelings quite early on in my tour-of-duty, but never quite got around to writing about them; quite possibly because of the amount of self pity that these feeling evoke within me. I mean, life is all about making of it what you will. If you choose to be lonely then so be it; you don't have to be lonely, it's a choice. And that is where the self pity comes in: whoa is me, I'm so lonely because I never go out of my way to see people. Kind of pathetic really.

Yes there are absolutely things that must be done everyday (playing with baby/toddler, cleaning, cooking, feeding baby/toddler, dropping off and picking up school kids, taking aforementioned school kids to numerous after school activities etc), and a lot of those things eat into your time which in turn eats into your ability to have a social life. But in contrast Lord Vader and I have never been huge believers in allowing the kids to dictate everything in our lives. For example, if we want to go to Rutherglen to the wineries for a weekend, well we will, and we'll bring them along. OK, maybe that is an extreme example, but its the same in a normal day: I want to have lunch with friends, I take the toddler and she copes, and I meet friends. Yes its different to going sans-toddler but it still means I get to socialise.

I think one of the reasons in feeling lonely and even unliked and depressed is all about those mundane activities and the routine that I fall into. Often it feels like my days blend into one another. I do the same sorts of things everyday and its hard to get myself to break the cycle of the mundane. Essentially it becomes too much of an effort to go grab a coffee with someone or have lunch, especially if you have to invite yourself. And no I'm not looking for a flood of invitations from my friends who'll read this, I'm explaining how I feel at times of great self pity.

In fact I have a great group of friends who go out to lunch almost every day, and I have a standing invitation to join them. Partly through not getting back into the social lunching after school holidays (because I wasn't taking three kids to lunch during school holidays, that is just a pain), and partly due to the mundane necessities of my life, and quite possibly due to my own apathy, I haven't caught up with them for many months.

You know what, there are other ways to socialise too. The internet is a wonderful tool. Social media tools, email, chat, skype, they're all great ways to stay in touch. Although they can be a trap too, because you feel that you're interacting but you're probably multitasking on the computer/tablet/phone whilst waiting for a response, or you just ignore the response and get back to it in your own time. Really nothing can replace a face to face chat, mainly because there is no delay in a response, and because you're actually sharing time with someone. Oh and there's the phone too! Funny thing about phones, nowadays you use them to send texts, check social media, write emails, play games, surf the net etc, but they're not really used to talk to people any more: their prime purpose has become almost irrelevant. The other day I was chatting to a friend online and he asked 'you home?', to which I replied 'yes', then the phone rang. He just realised the ridiculousness of a long drawn out chat session when both our attentions were actually on chatting to one another and called me. We ended speaking for half an hour, it was marvellous! I strongly recommend actually calling someone. Who would have thought its a really great way to communicate.

I mentioned feeling unliked, and to touch on it, because it is an extremely negative feeling, which is also completely baseless as I have plenty of friends, it's really about me not making the effort. When you're somewhat removed from your normal environment you become very much out of sight out of mind. It's normal, it happens. People by nature best deal with the others who are often in their day to day lives (I wanted to write 'sphere of influence' but that was too wanky even for me). I made a choice which effectively took me out of other people's day to day lives. Do they like me less because of it? No, not at all. But they don't need me as much as I need them, because they have other people to socially interact with. Ultimately being lonely is about not having as much social company as you want. Again, being lonely is a choice you make. If you don't like it go out and see some friends.

So why did I choose to write this post now? Well yesterday I had my very first (yes that's right, first) coffee (well hot chocolate) with a friend. It was fantastic! We bumped into each other last week and organised a coffee for this week. It was brilliant to just chat and chew the fat. The cutest one didn't mind at all. She had a couple of biscuits and was happy just wandering around close to me and without annoying any other patrons (something I'm always worried about with her as a toddler, and possibly another reason I rarely have been to lunch with friends in the last couple of months. They are so much easier when their not mobile!). Thinking about how much I enjoyed chatting with a mate made me realise why I've been so lonely, hence the post.

And then of course you make a rod for your own back: time to watch the cricket.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I'm a toddler now!

Finally! He put me down, now I can explore! I wonder what's over here? Hey! Wow! This is so much faster than that crawling stuff. What did Dad call it? Walking! Yeah, its awesome!

Ouch! My bottom hurts. I need to get the hang of it, I can't keep falling over because when I do he comes and picks me up. Damn him! I want to walk some more. I need practice!

Ooooo, what's that? I can reach it now! The smaller people use it a lot to point at those boxes and noises happen and strange pictures appear on that really big flat square. But more importantly there are shiny lights on the boxes: oooo and buttons! I love buttons! When I press them the sounds change or stop, and sometimes the picture goes away too! This is so much fun! Damn it, he picked me up again. And he keeps repeating something. It sort of sounds like 'no' I wonder what that means? He says it a lot. Wow, these buttons are fantastic!

Cool! The back door is open! If I can just get past the furry thing with the big ton..hahaha it licked me on the face! Funny! Ow! The tail swipe afterwards was unnecessary though. What's that, the blue box? Awesome! It's full of water, just like a really small bath! I love playing with water!

Don't pick me up! I'm free! There is so much stuff to look at out here, and I've only just got started! Damn, he closed the door too.

Hey what's over there? I can grab these silvery things and pull them and, wow, they open! Ooooo look at all this cool stuff inside! I could get to some of these before (and Dad made that 'no' sound alot then too) but now I can get to so many more! There is so much stuff to look at and pull out! Cool!

I'll just put this thing down here and try those silvery things over there. Jackpot, bottles! Oh, their empty, they need milk. DAD WHERE'S THE MILK? I'M REALLY THIRSTY AND I LOVE MILK. DAAAAAAAAAD! I WANT MILK NOW!

Finally, he's got the bottle and opening that really big door where the coldness comes out. Ah! That's where the milk is. COME ON DAD, HURRY UP. I'M SO THIRSTY!

WHAT? I WANT IT NOW! Do I care if its cold? No not really. I mean, sure its better when its warm, but I WANT IT NOW! Finally! Slurp, suck. 

I'm stuffed, and really tired, and so full. What does Dad say I look like 'Buddha'? I think I'll let Dad know I'm tired. DAD I'M TIRED. GO AND GET MY BLANKY AND GIVE ME A CUDDLE. HURRY UP! Ah, that's better, so sleepy, I don't even want to fight this time, too tired, but I'll just have a little nap.


OK I appreciate you might be asking the questions, I can picture the raised eyebrows, and even your doubting of my honesty and integrity. I mean how can I, a humble stay at home parent, actually speak to a baby? Well, recently I picked up an old baby translator developed by Herb Simpson at a garage sale, and used it to record the cutest one.

There were a few kinks in the translation, it works on American baby speech, not Australian, so the the dialect caused some issues, but what you read above is about as accurate a translation as I could get. Oh and if you don't believe me, well I got the Doctor to verify it.

The mouse actually started walking a few months ago, when she was about ten and a half months old. She's got the hang of it now, and is pretty much running everywhere, and she's damn quick. Life was much easier when she just lay there, but perhaps not as entertaining. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Happy Birthday

I can't believe my little girl turned one yesterday. From her traumatic entrance into the world, to her sitting in her high chair stuffing cake into her mouth yesterday, its been a wonderful 12 months; and happily, a completely normal 12 months, well perhaps expect for the finger incident.

We didn't organise a party because, well, she's 1, and its not like she cares or would remember. Some people love to have massive soirees to celebrate such a momentous occasion, but we're simple folk and as such so it was just a quiet affair with just us. It was a nice day. We did nothing out of the ordinary except for the mouse's present opening and cake scoffing.

When the little people partake in the unwrapping of gifts it's always a joy to watch. Usually they love the colours of the paper and tear into it with great gusto, however the mouse was actually more interested in what was inside than the paper itself. Perhaps she got her fill when she decided to tear apart the newspapers sport section instead. As an aside, I suspect I've already brainwashed her into following my team in the AFL. You see, my team, the Hawks, lost the Grand Final the day before and the cutest one was doing all in her power to console me, she was tearing up all the pictures of the winning team; that's my girl!

It was interesting to watch her, with the assistance of her big sister, unwrap a present and then give it a very thorough look and feel, before rudely (in her opinion it seemed) being thrust another gift to unwrap. She was actually extremely curious as to what these new things were, which goes against the wrapping-paper/box-it-came-in stereotypical behaviour.

So what happened to all that lovely paper which was begging to be torn up and played with? Well the eldest pair decided to go back to their roots and tore it to pieces; not shreds, but actual small pieces which they placed in a bucket. I might find out today what they have planned for it.

With such a low key affair, we hadn't made a cake, but Lord Vader whipped up some marvellous cupcakes, arranged them in a '1' and hey presto there was a cake fit for a one year old! And didn't she love it! I think this is the first time she has had cake, it took her a few moments, and some assistance from her brother, to work out you picked it up and ate it. But as soon as that happened it fast became a disappearing cupcake.

And there endth the first birthday, a sedate affair, but one which for me was magical in its own right. But in every tale there is a lesson (conveniently forgotten before hand), and somewhat similarly to rule 3 from theGremlins,

don't feed a little one sugar after dark, because they don't sleep!

And so I arrive at the halfway mark for my fulltime parenting adventure. I can't believe its been 4 months already. I can only hope the next 4 are as wonderful as the first 4.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sleep, who needs sleep?

Apologies for not having posted for a little while, I've been tired. The mouse has been exhausting Lord Vader and I. The thing is she is yet to master the whole concept of sleeping through. Of course, I don't blame her, I blame Lord Vader and I. You see whilst we have always put her in her own cot for her night time sleep, she usually wakes around 1-1:30 in the morning for a feed. I don't think she actually needs the feed any more and its more of a comfort thing but regardless she wakes. This means one of us has to get out of bed and stumble to fetch her and bring her back to bed. Inevitably I, ill equipped for the task, fall asleep quite quickly after such an event, and Lord Vader is way to comfy and snug to dream of moving to return the mouse to her cot, therefore she snuggles in with us. 

There is something wonderful about cuddling a baby in your own bed. Something blissfully peaceful as if all is right with the world, until of course she kicks you in the face....... or fights your cuddle to escape, or crawls on your head, or tries to dive off the bed, or just cries because she's tired and doesn't want to sleep. All these things, tend to make a peaceful sleep impossible. 

It reminds me of a story read by Noni Hazlehurst:

Last week the mouse slept in her own bed through to 4am. She almost made it to 'sleeping through'. A couple more hours and she would have nailed it. I'll cop waking at 6am. You see the other two kids were good sleepers, the boy in particular still is, so we have always been able to sleep through to at least 7, until now. 

It got me thinking, "I really enjoyed that whole sleeping uninterrupted thing." so I decided to do something about it.

This week we've started to not feed her at 1 am and just get her back to sleep in her own bed. So when she wakes one of us (usually me) will go to her, rewrap her, and rock her to sleep. Thankfully its usually only 15 minutes and then she is fast asleep. The first two days she also woke at 4am and couldn't be rocked back to sleep after 40 minutes of trying so, fed up, I've dumped her on Lord Vader and then collapsed into a snoring heap. But at least she's learning to get to 4am.

Last night was, I'm hoping, a revelation. The mouse slept through to 5am; a new record! I didn't even hear her this time, and Lord Vader went to get her. I'm not sure if it was out of sympathy (very doubtful), or whether the lure of the spare bedroom, being so much closer to the cutest ones bedroom than our room, was irresistible to the exhausted wife. But she never made it back to our room, so I slept very peacefully. I'm very grateful to her, trust me.

It'll be interesting to see if this actually works, and if it does, how long it will take. I'll let you know.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The word no is such a wonderfully simply word. Easy to say, and we've been conditioned to understand its meaning via sound and tone. That of course is true if you have had a few years of experience with it, and some, like Lord Vader, who is sensible, practical and absolutely brilliant at keeping me (and the kids) grounded in reality, are excellent exponents of the word.

However, when you're a baby the word 'no' is often something to giggle at, as are most other words. It's said   that 'no' is the first word after their own name that a baby learns. It's probably true too. Afterall babies are inquisitive beasties, always exploring their surrounds and invariable getting themselves into things which you would prefer them not to get into.

The mouse has a couple of favourite things to get into and she is fast learning what the word 'no' means. Firstly there is the bottom drawer in the kitchen. No not the stereotypical drawer or cupboard full of pots and pans that can be lifted and dropped (although we do have a bottom drawer exactly like that, but the mouse has shown very little interest in it), she much prefers the one with an assortment of stuff in it. Mostly paper based stuff, but stuff nevertheless. The yellow pages is her favourite. She opens the drawer and then 'reads' it. 'Reads' each page, individually, after being removing it from the book. Once that is done with (and the yellow pages really has no need for a cover and index pages anyway) there is the take away menu folder; lots of fun pulling menus out and tasting them. Then the box of resealable plastic bags; what a lark! But finally the little tube like cannister of unused dog poo bags. Blue bags in a little round plastic thing. Brilliant because you can get you're fingers right in and then pull the bags out. Fantastic fun!

The second thing to 'get into', really more touch and fiddle with are the boy's guitars which are on stands in the living room (to remind us to remind the boy to practice). The cutest one loves to pluck the strings and pull the music stand down (I suspect to get at the very interesting sheet music, I'm sure she thinks it would be tasty).

The net result of this, other than soggy torn paper and bags thrown about the place, is that the little one is learning the word 'no'. At first I tried the firm 'no'. She giggled at me, enjoying the attention she was getting, and tore another page out of the yellow pages just to demonstrate how clever she was.

Then the playful 'no', the one where you speak in a friendly tone and drag out the 'o' sound. That brought on a smile and a few more bags on the ground.

But finally I settled on the 'a tad angry, bit of a growl, a bit loud, and short and sharp' 'no'. Excellent result with that one. She stopped, she looked at me, the bottom lip quivered, and then she bawled. A nice loud scream accompanied by real tears. Ok, at this point you may think me a monster for making her cry, but I'm not. I don't enjoy it (mostly) because I hate to see her upset, it pulls the heart strings. But, in a way it gives me a sense of satisfaction. Firstly because she actually stopped what she was doing, the thing I didn't want her to do, and secondly, because she is beginning to understand what not only the word 'no' means, but that she shouldn't do whatever it was she is doing. And that my friends, is great. Comprehension, understanding are all part of learning and I love watching her develop.

The trick is to be consistent. When she does something I don't want her to I can't molly coddle her with a weak pathetic 'no'. I have to use it the mean way, the effective way, and I have to be repetitive. Plus I have a great excuse for a soothing cuddle after.

Of course, we could use childproof locks and fences or playpens but we didn't do it for the other kids,  and they turned out ok, so why start now, or we could move stuff, but where would the mouse's lesson be then. At least this way the mouse is going to learn something.

Bugger! She's in the drawer again....'NO!'

Friday, August 3, 2012

What? It's not about me?

The cutest one has just clocked over 10 months on this wonderful planet. Time has flown by and we've watched our little girl grow from a tiny little baby to being a 'bugger-crawling-I-can-do-this-walking-thing-as-long-as-I-hold-onto-the-couch', cheeky little mouse. She's pulling things off the couch or the coffee table, and the boy is finally starting to learn that lego and action figures can't be within arms reach of the little tyke because when they are retrieved they are covered in saliva.

Last week was a week of firsts for the mouse. She cut her first tooth, she stood unsupported for the first time and she had her first surgery. By the way, everything is fine thus far. She doesn't care about her finger in the slightest, although she just loves playing the game 'pull-the-sock-off-my-bandage-just-to-shit-Dad'. Come to think of it, she's an independent little thing. Not headstrong so much, but a willing explorer, curious about everything and happy to wander around the house looking for ways to cause mischief. Not unlike myself really.

About a month or so ago, with head hung low and fair few mumblings and grumblings, I skulked to the local library after Lord Vader had informed me that it had weekly nursery rhyme sessions for little ones. She of course suggested, in the only way a Sith Lord knows, that I take the cutest one because she would enjoy it and it was important for her to interact with other little ones.

I suppose I've kept the cutest one all to myself really. Perhaps it was the novelty of being a fulltime parent, perhaps its because I'm rather shy and really hate being out of my comfort zone, for example meeting new people, at a library, who know how to sing, who know nursery rhymes, who know what they're doing and won't feel like complete gits when partaking in the singing of the nursery rhymes. Or perhaps its a little of column a and a little of column b.

So selfish me had to go somewhere I didn't want to go, to be with people I didn't want to be with, all for the cutest one's development. Sigh.

I hated it. I felt like a fish out of water, probably because I was. I tried to do all the right things, you know, like sing the real words, and dance, yes dance, and smile and make small talk. But it churned me up inside. I felt so intimidated by these bright, bubbly women who happily and without a self concious bone in their bodies would gaily sing and dance and manage not to look at me in a condescending way as I failed repeatedly to do anything right. I can't sing. I'm dreadful, an out of tune bear with a sore throat and no lozenge to salvage even that. As for dancing, I couldn't even manage the hokey-pokey. I'm pretty sure Lord Vader wore steel caps in her shoes on our wedding day, and that was only for a nondescript slow dance!

The cutest one, of course, enjoyed it. I'm not sure if it was the singing and dancing and other children to watch, or whether she enjoyed watching me suffer.

Needless to say, I didn't go back; not until last week that is. Last week I sucked it up. It really was high time for the mouse to get to play with and see other little ones in action. I've sheltered her selfishly for too long. Lord Vader didn't even pressure me this time.

So with trudging steps I shuffled to the other local library (we're lucky to live smack bang between two libraries). We got there early, it was still Story Time for the pre-schoolers, so we sat quietly at the back and listened to a few stories. At the end of Story Time the librarian who had been reading approached and asked if I was going to attend the nursery rhymes session. I mumbled that I was, and she breathed a sigh of relief "Thanks! Last week no one showed up!". This sounded promising.

I like small groups, they are a little more personalised (I was going to say intimate but you all would have gotten the wrong idea) and way less intimidating.  One other mum showed up, and she was as nervous as me. The librarian metaphorically held our hands through the ordeal, leading the songs, and dances, happily reassuring us. The cutest one loved it. I... coped.

This week we went back and I was much more comfortable, even though four mum's and little ones showed up, I was comfortable because I had an idea of what I was doing (even though I can't sing or dance), and of course the mouse loved it.

The next big step for me is to contact a parents' group. Pretty sure there is a Dad's group around somewhere nearby, but maybe I'll keep building my comfort levels first before tackling that.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Why her?

On Sunday evening after a very long day hosting family and friends at our home, the cutest one cut her finger. When I say cut her finger, I'm understating it. The doctors called it a partial amputation, which means its still attached, but that cut was damn deep. 

We're not really sure what happened. The beloved was cleaning one part of the house, I was vacuuming and the eldest pair were playing with and looking after the cutest one, and doing a brilliant job too I might add. They think that she got her finger caught in the door as it was closing, but we're still not 100% sure. Whatever it was, it was just an accident. Stuff like that happens from time to time. It certainly wasn't their fault in anyway shape or form, and I had to reiterate this over and over to my daughter who was extremely upset and blaming herself. When things like this happen, there is no point in blaming someone, or converting your own fear and shock onto anyone else. All it does is make a dreadful situation worse.

The cutest one was in a bad way, my daughter was in a bad way, I was in a bad way. I don't like blood, especially free flowing blood, especially from the cutest one. I felt helpless, I felt nauseous.. My little darling was in dreadful pain and I couldn't do anything. I couldn't make it better, I couldn't sooth her, just hold her and try to stem the bleeding. I hate being helpless when my family is suffering. There is no worse feeling. Your stomach sinks, you feel light headed and often panic starts to creep up upon you.

The beloved, shaken, but cool in crisis, rushed with the boy (a dependable calm lad) to hospital. She rightly decided I was no use whatsoever to her and that I should calm the eldest daughter. In some strange way it was good for me that she was so upset, because it took my mind off my own fears and concerns for the cutest one and focused me firmly on the needs of the eldest. She needed me now. I could help her. I could calm her. Even if I couldn't help the cutest one I could help another of my children. Hugs, cuddles, hair stroking and soothing, reassuring words. I can do that, and I did, and it worked.

A short time after they left a phone call from the boy explained that they had already seen a doctor, and were waiting for specialists. All good. Reassuring, to some extent, but at that stage I was starting to hate myself. I should be there. I should be listening to the doctors. I should be holding my poor baby. Damn helplessness! The beloved is more capable than I, and I had already done my fair share of emergency visits with the boy's asthma attacks. Now I was experiencing what she may have gone through. The fear of separation from your ill child, the constant worry of the unknown. 

A couple of hours after they left its a pleasant surprise to hear a key in the lock. I'm off the couch in an instant, and blabbing stupid questions to the beloved who is carrying the cutest one. If I had taken just a moment I would have noticed the little ones face; she was happy. Smiling away as if she didn't have a care in the world. Happy to see me, happy to see he big sister, and somewhat curious of the blue bandaged 'boxing glove' on her hand, but happy. Relief is such a cleansing emotion, its like all the fear is being washed away. With her beaming little smile, everything is better. 

The beloved tells me that everything should be ok, but the cutest one has to go to surgery the next day. I guess I expected as much so it doesn't surprise me. But we both agree that she'll take the little one, as I'm liable to lose the plot when then give her anaesthetic to knock her out. She's right, I'd be a mess. Even thinking about it now (she's currently in surgery), I'm glad I'm not there and I'm distracting myself with writing this and worrying about how to convey my emotions rather than the emotions themselves. Of course I should be there, for the wife, for the little one. But I'm not and I also feel like I'm betraying them, and not supporting them. Sure there are logical reasons to be at home, like the practical stuff of picking the other two up from school and going to footy training. Things that just keep happening regardless of what life throws at you. And that's really it. Life is like that. Shit happens, bad shit, but it doesn't stop the world from moving, it doesn't stop time, and it doesn't allow you to mope. You have responsibilities, and one of the keys to our marriage being wonderful is that we both work together to handle whatever life throws at us. This time, and for good reasons, I'm the one trundling on with those things that need to be done, and the beloved is the one dealing with the crisis. 

It still sucks to be waiting at home, waiting for a phone call to tell me everything is fine. Where's that damn phone call?



It came some 2 hours after the cutest one went into surgery, whilst I was revisiting the dreaded pumpkin soup (anything to distract myself). In the end we think all went well as no one said it went badly. Oddly no doctor spoke to the beloved before the cutest one was discharged, but I guess we'll find out more in a couple of weeks when the bandages come off. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Plan B, don't leave home with out it

The school holidays finally ended and the two larger ones headed off to school on Monday. Don't get me wrong, I'm not using 'finally' out of desperation because I didn't enjoy it, because I did, more so from the little people's point of view we didn't really do that much due to my knee injury incapacitating me somewhat. So they were just a little bored. We didn't even play another game of monopoly, although moved on to Sorry and a few others instead.

We did manage one more significant activity; a trip to the the Scienceworks, a children's science museum located in Melbourne, some 70 kms from home. The kids were particularly excited because there was a Wallace and Gromit inventions exhibition on and they were rather keen to take a look.

The first thing you need to before going on an outing is to make sure that the thing/place you're going to go to is open. Tick. The second thing is to try and get excited children to get ready. I'm a firm believer in them taking responsibility for themselves. Heck their 7 and 10 and know how to get dressed and brush teeth etc. Still there is a significant effort on my part to strongly encourage them, usually via applying my dulcet tones to a higher volume than normal. Of course the snuggly small one can't do these things for herself (and she still has no teeth to brush anyway) so whilst urging my other charges on, I had to prepare the cute one.

Most her preparation is pretty obvious; nappy, clothes and dummy. Then recheck clothes to ensure she has enough to be warm; do I need her beanie? What about a coat? And then of course there is the packing for her. So much stuff to take including nappies, bags for used nappies, wipes, spare clothes, a bib, toys, change mat, dog collar...hang on what the heck is that doing in the nappy bag? Bloody kids....where was I? Food, bowl, spoon, pusher, blanket, spare plastic bags for god knows what, spare dummy, dummy chain, baby bjorn and probably other stuff I forgot.

Oh and always have a plan B, but more on that later.

"Have you got your iPods?"

In this day and age its easy to entertain older kids whilst going on a drive. Sure there are always books (for those that don't get car sick), car games like eye-spy and car cricket, and small toys with which they can play, but this is the age of handheld electronic device, and its brilliant; namely because it shuts them up.

When I was a child car trips were something a bit like this:

iPods and the like mean those days are over!

When we arrived at Scienceworks we found it just a wee bit busy. As we carefully tried to shark a car space we noted that the line we all the way around the building. That's a damn lot of people! It's ok, we'll get in, I'll just keep looking for that car park. er, no? No car parks within at least 500 metres, well stuff that, time to unveil plan B.

It's important to be able to quickly summarise the situation and make a call, otherwise arguments and kids getting upset (and noisy) will happen. And nobody wants that. So we made a call. That's right we. I've found the best way to deal with my kids in these situations is to lead them to the decision you want to make, but get them to think they are making it. So I involved them in the decision making process, all the while driving toward our new destination, the Museum. Even though it was another 20 minutes or so in the car, and there was no Wallace and Gromit exhibition there, it wasn't a difficult decision to lead them them to. "Do you want to go ALL the way home without having done anything?" "We could go to the Museum, it's not that far." "And there's a really good ice cream shop right by there." and so the decision was made, and the best thing was that I got to get some awesome Tiramisu ice cream, and yes that was always part of my plan B. Having a plan B is very important, because it aids in avoiding the upset children (and strangely often leads me to having nice ice cream).

So we did the museum thing, we got ice creams, we had lunch in a lovely park (in the drizzle); and we went home again. All in all a great day out. Thanks plan B! You're a life saver.

Oh and one thing, think really hard about the types of outings you might go on, because if you ignore the fact that its school holidays you could be in for a rude shock. Never go to Scienceworks on school holidays. Lesson learned.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Me time, where art thou?

It's been over a week since my last blog post and in all honesty, for the first time I've not had time. So here I am early on Sunday morning typing away whilst the wee ones and Lord Vader are blissfully asleep.

So yes, the last week has been busy, why I hear you ask, quite simply because it has been school holidays which means I have all three of the little people at home. Originally I had thought that due to having an infestation of small people, I might actually have more time to myself, mainly because the eldest two are pretty self contained and really enjoy playing with the cutest one. However once again my optimism has been misplaced.

"Dad can we play a game?"
"Dad can you do drawing with me?"
"Dad can we watch <insert movie/tv show here>?"
"Dad can you read me a story?"
"Dad I'm hungry, can I have something to eat?"
and of course,
"Dad, where's the baby?"

are daily questions. Nay, often they are hourly questions, and there are a lot more besides. The great thing is that I love doing all these and many more things with the kids, just perhaps not all the time, and not without respite. Keeping the little people entertained has become my temporary job. Yes it is lovely to see the older pair all the time but really is it asking too much to have a tiny amount of personal time during the day? Apparently, yes, yes it is.

Therefore my days have been filled with monopoly, boggle and other board games, children's TV (which for those of you who know me isn't a bad thing), Dr Who repeats (see immediate past bracketed comment), fetching and preparing snacks, including force feeding the boy fruit which he abhors, trying to palm the cutest one off onto the elder ones (with only moderate and short lived success), and all the while trying to keep house in order and get dinner on table to satisfy she-who-has-begun-to-don-a-black-helmet. Speaking of which and with reference to my last post, yesterday I apparently put the towels in the linen cupboard the wrong way; and here I was thinking I had not only been folding the towels in the right way but was continuing the right thing by actually putting them away too, but alas no. Most of the above list (pre-towel tangent) has been fantastic fun, other than not being able to get my accustomed me time. I like me time. I like it a lot. I like it so much I have been known to take a days recreational leave from work (the paid variety) to do nothing at all but stuff I want to do, as opposed to using it for errands, jobs, looking after sick children and even holidays. Me time is really important. It gives you a mental and sometimes physical refresh and prepares you for the rest of the day, or winds you down when you need it.

However there is a certain monotony to playing monopoly every day, so to break things up I planned or rather thought about, because planning implies dates, schedules, activities etc, taking the kids on outings. Perhaps a trip to the cinema, or the science museum for example. We managed one such outing, mini-golf, and it was enjoyed by one and all, especially me because I won; I don't believe in mollycoddling the children and letting them win because losing is a valuable lesson in coping with things not going your way and can may instil the fire in your belly to try harder next time and beat the "old man", oh and the boy had already beaten me three times in a row at monopoly and I don't like losing. And yes I'm sure there is an argument to support letting them win, something about confidence, but meh, I'll ignore that for now.

Unfortunately a knee injury whilst playing basketball (whilst on me time, a regular, planned, weekly me time which is very different to extra bonus me time) has meant that outings have been postponed until I can walk properly. Yet every cloud has a silver lining and I once again got to practice becoming a martyr and because my darling elder children are compassionate they take pity on their father and willingly help at any opportunity. However She-with-new-found-respiratory-problem is too wily; more martyrdom practice necessary for me. Anyway it looks like I'll have opportunity to get my revenge on the boy and defeat him in monopoly.

Friday, June 29, 2012

There's a right way and a wrong way to do things

Here I am in week 4 of my full time parenting experience, its just before 10 in the morning, the little one is asleep and I should be doing some folding. Meh! I can do it later.

The wondrous wife has long tried to instil in me that there are two ways to do things; the right way (her way) and the wrong way (any other way). There are no shades of grey, just right or wrong. Pretty simple. Even a mere male with a tendency to be rebellious and somewhat difficult could understand that, right?

Well, maybe not. You see towels should be folded in a particular way so that they economise space in the cupboard and look nice too. Apparently there aren't two ways to fold them, just the one. The baby should have growsuits as pjamas, not as going out wear, and she should have a new outfit everyday as well. Whites and lights are not the same thing when washing clothes. Quiche should use 4 eggs and 1/2 a cup of cream regardless of what the recipe says. You see recipes are only right when the beloved sanctions them to be right. Most recipes are wrong. Unfortunately the apprentice full time parent who is not the magnificent cook that the beloved is needs quite specific instructions, sort of like what a recipe provides, to be able to produce something new, different and tasty (because apparently pizza, nachos, burgers, parmi and meatballs can't be on a rotating menu, that's not the right way to feed a family). However after many, many, many years spent watching (apparently) and learning (apparently) from the master I should have absorbed at least some of her brilliance. For example I should know about the 4 eggs and 1/2 cup of cream for quiche and ignore the recipe that says 2 eggs, 1/4 cup of cream and 1/4 cup of milk, because it is wrong.

The expectations about doing things the right way have caused me a fair bit of stress, and I often feel like Commander Jerjerrod to the beloved's Vader:

I shouldn't feel like that, but I do. When she comes home from work having an asthma attack and wearing a black suit with imposing black mask and helmet I get a little intimidated!

Expectations are interesting things, and everyone's are different. Lord Vader expects that I WILL do everything the right way, I expect that I won't. Partly because I don't have the experience or knowledge that that Lord Vader does when it comes to full time parenting, and because frankly I'm the sort of person who not only doesn't like to be told there is only one way to do things but enjoys being irritating and doing them the wrong way. I suppose those two aspects of my personality just make me a glutton for punishment. But I think I'll soldier on, because I fundamentally don't believe in right or wrong, I believe in adapting to circumstance. I figure as long as the kids are happy and healthy then I'm most of the way there.

I hope that in late January when my journey as a full time parent is going to come to an end that I'll be able to apply the immortal words of ol' blue eyes to myself:

I'm going to start right now, by folding the towels my way!

NOTE: The quiche I spoke about earlier, was a sweet potato quiche served with a green salad. The eldest daughter loves quiche and promptly gave it 10/10 (a standard for any quiche she is served), the littlest one chomped it quickly and was very pleased, and the boy, who dislikes quiche at the best of times rated it an 8/10 and said it was the best quiche he had ever had. Oh, and I did it the right way, 4 eggs and 1/2 a cup of cream. I call that a win-win scenario, the beloved accused the boy of bias, but she too liked the quiche.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


It's Sunday night, the end of week three of this full time parenting gig and I wondering where three weeks have gone. I honestly have no idea. Week one was all about trying to cope and trying to learn a few of the many ropes in this caper. Week two was about trying to catch my breath a little and see if such a thing as routine existed. I guess week three was a consolidation of all that I had learnt. 

On routine:
It's a pretty vague concept when it comes to the littlest ones. Yes they eat, crap, play and sleep. Although not necessarily in that order. 'Play' for example is real a very loose term and includes; me going for a run with baby, going to the shops, taking the dog for a walk, watching TV, going to lunch with mates, vacuuming the house, actual play, and frankly anything at else at all which happens whilst the little angel is awake when she isn't eating. 

As an aside, amusingly when speaking of routine, I just had to take a break from the blog because she woke about half an hour after she went down for the night, and I had to resort to rewrapping and rocking. A pertinent example of routine. 

Some of you may be wondering what my 'routine' day is like. It goes a little something like this:

7am - wake and then wake the ravenous hordes of children. Feed 'em, organise 'em, make lunches etc
8:30am - suit up to fight the winter chill and if its not raining, walk the blighters (sometimes with the dog) to school. If raining, take the the soft option and drive.
9am - get home 'play' with the little one
10am - nap time (for the cute one, not me) and usually start on some chores and/or do something for myself
11:30am - "I'm awake now Dad, get me out of this damned cot! NOW!". 'Play'.
12pm - What to make for lunch? Oh, you're hungry too? Followed by 'play'
1:30pm- Time for the best of the breast (bottled, not mine! I like to think of it as Evian for babies). She scoffs that down, and then soon after its afternoon nap time.
2pm - Er, what am I going to make for dinner? Not soup. Start preparing dinner, or realising that I need to go to the shops. Squeeze in necessary chores not yet done so beloved doesn't produce a wash board frown after she returns from work when casting an appraising eye about the place.
3pm - "Oi! How did I get in here again Dad!", and soon after walk up to school
3:45pm - go to supermarket if necessary (usually)
4pm - 6:30pm - either preparing dinner if not yet done, more housework if not yet done, kids after school activities such as footy training, footy game, swimming or guitar, cartoons or recorded Dr. Who with kids, or threaten older children to do homework. 
5pm - if at home, little one has a 30 minute power nap
6:30pm - dinner
7pm - clean up
7:30pm - coax school kids into showers, and then bed
8:30pm - coax littlest one into cot, and then collapse and watch TV

So there it is routine as a full time parent. 

On cooking:
After the veggie soup debacle on day one, I've gone back to what I know how to cook; homemade pizza, burgers, nachos and chicken parmi, and I went out on a limb and made spinach and chicken curry. I'm pleased to say all meals have been happily received by the children, and even the beloved has enjoyed them although did lament that most could be considered 'take-away' style. Still if the kids are happy then so am I. Thankfully the beloved has continued to produce her culinary brilliance for at least half of the dinners.

On time away from work:
I honestly haven't had much of a chance to reflect on not doing paid work, because, well, I've been thoroughly wrapped up in and enjoying the time I'm having with the small fry. I'm relearning parenting. There is a whole other side to it which I was very aware of, but had never experienced for any prolonged period before. It's very much like on the job training for something you thought you knew about but quickly realised that you are a novice. My wife is going to love reading that.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The path to martyrdom

As I mentioned in my last post the eldest daughter and then the beloved were both laid low with illness. Well last week it was my turn.

I woke feeling not quite right and 5 minutes later my bowels confirmed that I wasn't. Being unwell and with the enormous responsibility of looking after the small and ridiculously cute one I was at a point where I was going to do the unthinkable; ask the wonderful wife to stay home. Cue dramatic music:

Shock Horror Sound Effect [] by Haraash

However to ask, nay beg for help from she-who-is-all-knowing-and-can-be-just-a-bit-condescending-to-the-mere-novice, is a pain even crueller than the one in my guts. So I sucked it up like the princess I was.

To say my day was unpleasant would be an understatement. It was shit (in way too many ways). The cutest one did what she does best; looked cute, crawled, smiled, giggled, and generally took a completely unsympathetic view of yours truly. It wasn't the most interactive day as I moaned pathetically on the couch whilst watching her play, or watching her scratch my eyeballs out, or listened to her cry as she was hastily placed in her cot whilst I made a mad dash to have some private time.

At least she slept well during the day, which meant I slept well during the day too.

I managed to get a few of the necessary chores out of the way but really did not much at all.

When you have a stomach complaint, there are two things I strongly recommend avoiding. The first, preparing and then feeding (after seriously sterilising oneself, because the worst result is getting her sick) a baby with mushed up food. The second, changing a nappy which has a little steaming and nauseating present held within it. Both these things lead to a strong desire to allow what little is left in your stomach to erupt.

Sometime after her lunch, and prior to me picking up the other two kids from school it got the better of me, and erupt I did. The little one didn't even make it to the cot, just crawled to the doorway of the bathroom and witnessed her father dearest violently expelling the feeble contents of his gut. She thought it hilarious and laughed and giggled whilst I gagged. I felt a little like Trent from Total Drama Island:

I have almost forgotten why I started this post, so I had better cover it now. Essentially those experienced with full time parenting are well known martyrs. Whenever they are feeling poorly they soldier on regardless of their ailment; it is a noble calling to be a martyr. Simply they have no choice. They're not upto it, yet there is no option so they carry on. However nobility can corrupt. When there is an opportunity martyrs will go to great lengths to promote their martyrdom without actually suggesting they are being martyrs. They begin to do even more than what would normally be done, let alone the bare minimum.

If you've seen your partner doing something similar to the below, and then responded with something similar to the below, then you've been played by a martyr:

"Honey you shouldn't be washing the dog. You haven't been well, here let me do that."
"Honey, you shouldn't be washing the windows. You haven't been well, here let me do that."
"Honey, you shouldn't be painting the house. You haven't been well, here let me do that."
and so on. I'm sure you can see the patterns. Firstly, tasks that have been left alone for a period of time are suddenly important enough to do, and secondly the non-fulltime parent ends up feeling guilty and does those jobs that don't need to be done. The martyr wins. Jobs that have been put off are done, and the martyr didn't have to do anything more than get the ball rolling.

So getting back to my day: I dragged myself out of the house with giggling happy baby tucked under one arm and picked up the kids and came straight home, and this is where I made my final mistake. I asked the kids if they could look after small fry whilst I died in a convenient corner. My children, being caring, loving and when necessary, selfless, assessed the situation in an instant and insisted I rest and assured me that they would only wake me if they needed me. So I crawled back into bed, feeling dreadful and knowing once and for all I had failed at being a martyr.

Martyrdom is about gaining a moral superiority over your non-fulltime parent partner. To do it successfully the martyr must elicit sympathy, must go above and beyond, use guilt to achieve those jobs that have been hanging around for an age, and must never, ever, ask for help.

Whilst my road to martyrdom started well when I resisted temptation to ask my wife for help, it was pretty much downhill from there. I didn't go above and beyond by landscaping the front yard or some such task, I didn't elicit sympathy, and ultimately I asked for help. I have much to learn.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Just a typical week

Week one of this gig is done and I can happily say this fulltime parenting caper is like any normal job; there are pretty standard things that happen day to day, and things that you need to do each week. 

Monday: Well I wrote a whole post about it here so I won't bother going into it again.

Tuesday: Eldest daughter spent wee hours of the morning purging contents of her stomach. This resulted in her staying home from school, and myself looking after a sick 7 year old and a very happy baby. At lunch got the call from school that the boy isn't feeling well, so off I go to pick him up. I suspect shenanigans, he denies it, I cock an eyebrow, he vehemently denies it, my eyebrow raises even further, so that it no looks like my receding hairline isn't receding on my right side, "Dad. I'm telling the truth. I'm not feeling well.". Ok, ok, so I take him home, any further eyebrow cocking and my bald spot/patch/acreage would have been covered. Certain chores not done, but I figure I'm going ok as everyone still alive. 

Wednesday: Everyone still alive. Boy off to school. Eldest daughter still home, but a bit perkier, baby still happy. Must be doing something right. Managed to watch a quarter of footy too. Wife too tired on returning home from work, but she gets to make the satay chicken I lined up to cook; she decided to stay home and make dinner and avoid taking the kids to swimming. I was even nice and took small fry with me so at least she wasn't going to be pestered with her underfoot.

Thursday: Both school kids off to school. Wife on death's door. 9:45, get the call from school. Daughter not well. Deep sigh. My girls all home. Wife unsighted, daughter looking very well (although pale) for someone sick and full of last nights parmi. Baby, happy. I'm liking the consistency there. Finally finished that footy match which I started watching on Monday. Get more token chores done, kids love the homemade chicken parmi's, wife absent from dinner.

Friday: Curriculum day at school. Daughter 1 successfully negotiates one day of school for the week. At least she's looking much better (to be fair, she has that weird illness, liking school, so she's quite upset she missed so much). At least the beloved has beaten off the Reaper and has gone into work, she even makes dinner, this could be a trust issue about my cooking though.

Saturday and Sunday? Well they are shared parenting, so I won't count them. So that's my working week. Obviously it was just a typical week and I should expect more of the same. Shouldn't I?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

I Rock!

"Little one, I just want some sleep." murmured my exasperated wife. Upon hearing her plea, I pounced from my snug environs, pajamaed chest, emblazoned with a red S on a yellow background, and chin thrust out. "Pass me that delicate, screaming package ma'am." Within a moment the precious one was wrapped and within my powerful arms.

Narrative note: There may have been some exaggeration in the above passage, I definitely would NOT wear pajamas affiliated with the inferior DC Comics. They would be Marvel themed, quite possibly Captain America.

I'll try that opening passage with a little more realism.

"Little one, I just want some sleep." murmured my exasperated wife. "Hrrgh?" I respond to her heart felt plea. "Urrrg." I say as I roll over and pry the baby from her grip. "Ooof!" quite clearly articulates another roll, and stumbling out of bed, somewhat zombie like, but perhaps not so hungry as in the below clip:

Every child is different, every parent is different, and strangely enough everyone finds their own way of doing what results in the same thing.

When getting a baby off to sleep some parents like to cuddle an unwrapped baby. Others place their babies in beds, unwrapped, and they put themselves to sleep, other wrap and rock, the list is endless.

All our children have been wrapped, and generally until they are reasonably old; maybe upto 2 years (its hard to remember with the first two, it was a long time ago).

One thing I can do whilst catatonic is wrap a baby.

1. Spread wrap out so that it is flat
2. Place baby just off centre to the right
3. Bring left side of wrap across front of baby whilst pinning arms to side. This often elicits some form of protest; scream, squeal or struggle
4. Tuck left corner and side under baby's back, tightly. This ensures baby has less chance to free its arms
5. Optional, depending on baby length, fold bottom of wrap up across legs
6. Bring right side of wrap across to the left and tuck around back
7. Result, one wrapped and swaddled baby. Pick up and commence ye olde dance o sleep.

The dance of sleep are those precise and regular swaying, jiggling movements which will ultimately result in the one thing that is truly important; your partner falling asleep. Sure, the baby goes to sleep too, sometimes quickly, but the act of taking the the small fry away from your partner (and yes I'm being deliberate with word use here, contrary to popular opinions Dads also need sleep once in a while) will give them the best opportunity to get that vital rest.

My dance, or rock, is very much a left-right hip sway with a forward-back waist twist and a right-left shoulder dip. And after ten years of development, I don't mind saying I'm damn good. The rhythmic motion is one thing, but sometimes its necessary, depending on the little one's protestations, to hold firmly so she can't get the desperate wriggle she wants. Wriggling whilst trying to put a baby to sleep is bad. It gives the baby what they want, which is not to go to sleep and ultimately, coupled with an effective vocalisation of their protest, keep your partner awake, or heaven forbid get your partner out of the wonderful warmth of bed and snatching the baby away from you because "You're not doing it right!". And that just defeats the purpose of your getting out of bed in the first place. Its also nice to strut the next morning lording it over your partner about how self-sacrificing you were the night before.

Of course what you really want is the little tykes to sleep through, in their own beds as soon as possible. The other two did this reasonably early, this one, is still working it out, and whilst she does, I'll continue to rock and remember that every baby is different.

Monday, June 4, 2012

And so it begins...

Today my adventure into the world of full time parenting began. Unsurprisingly it started the same as every other 'work' day. I woke first, made breakfast and lunches for the school kids, reminded them to actually get ready for school instead of lying in front of the heater. Sometimes I wonder why they bother getting up to move from one warm spot to another. I threw some washing on too, just for good measure. My son even did a chore or two, and they were still ready by quarter past eight. All good. All smooth. All simple. No fuss, no stress. Dare I say it, easy.

Of course I was helped just a tad by my beloved who was going to work late because she wanted to take  the new addition to a maternal health check up. That was the reason she gave anyway. I'm not saying she has any trust issues or doubts (but she wouldn't be alone if she did), nah, it was just the health check.

In any case, she looked after the little one whilst I dropped the others off at school. By the time I was back the wife had already bundled the baby up for a surprising early morning sleep meaning I had some time for some menial tasks like paying bills, folding and some dishes. There was other stuff to do, but, heck, I wrote the previous post for this blog for an hour and caught up on some stuff on the laptop. One and a half hours of me time and things looking good. Sure the wife was here 'inducting' me; I took careful note of the coffee and the newspaper reading. Important for me to stay sharp and be aware of the outside world.

The small fry woke and soon after we were off to the health check. After that and a breastfeed I had no need of the wife and I ushered her out the door, she really was cramping my style! Some playtime, then lunch and the cute one was tired again so she went down for an hour or so. 

The myth busting suggested by my friend was going a long nicely. But now I had a sliding doors moment, the first big test. What to do with the baby asleep? Plenty of chores, or dinner could be started, or the footy replay on the internet of the Hawks game which I missed and the Hawks happened to win by a massive margin. 

The footy won. I watched the first half and thoroughly enjoyed it, including Buddy Franklin kicking 6 goals (on his way to 13 for the match) and tearing North Melbourne apart. Another hour or so of me time and this caper, for a first day, was looking damn fine. 

The little one woke, we played and then went, in the rain, to get the other two from school. Usually I would leave work early to take my son to footy training (I've brainwashed him magnificently), whilst the other two would be with the wife at home, today I was going to take all three to training and see how it would go. I didn't have to. The shocking rain during the day caused cancellation of training.

Instead we went home, the kids did their homework and played with the little one whilst I started cooking; roasted veggie soup and a home made flatbread. My beloved does it all the time, and she'd given me some pointers; and it really didn't look that hard. 

I over roasted the veggies due to assisting with homework and looking after the baby (why can't a 7 year-olds' attention be held for more than 3 minutes?). This caused the soup to be a brown mucky colour instead of bright orange and pumpkiny. I followed the stock instructions on the packet and therefore added too much stock and caused the soup to be too salty, and finally, didn't get the bread started early enough and didn't knead it enough either. 

Thankfully the wife came home and salvaged a brown, salty soup to be pleasant but not great by any standards, and improve the dough so much so that the children (and I somewhat sheepishly) raved about bread.

Post school it was really stressful. I could feel the tension growing, and it was all because I made a couple of really bad decisions. One to watch the footy replay, and two to make a dinner I've never made before (and one which my wife can make blindfolded). 

I was a bit ashamed of myself to tell you the truth. Things were going so well early that I got cocky. I should have listened to Han Solo.

What did I learn from today? Baby steps (for me). I shouldn't over extend myself, I should have stuck with something I knew how to cook. Usually I'm good at time management, I've had plenty of practice, but this is a whole new kettle of fish. And finally, the big one, don't try an emulate my wife. I can't. It's that simple. She's too good and too practised at being a full time parent (and damn fine cook to boot). I am not her, and I can't replace her, so I shouldn't try. I need to be myself when I'm doing the role she's done for so long.

'Cause there's one day in September

Great month September. Footy finals, culminating in the Grand Final on that last Saturday; I'm ignoring those times its held on the first Saturday of October, because the Pies seem to always win those ones, and no one really wants to see or remember that. The Grand Final in 2011 was contested between the Cats and the Magpies. I was looking forward to watching the Cats win. I was pretty confident too because A. I hate the Magpies, B. The Cats hadn't lost to them all year, C.the only games the Pies lost during the year were to the Cats and D. The Pies emotionally had won their Premiership the week before after a miraculous, undeserved comeback. Oh, and as I said the Grand Final was in September, so the Pies were no chance.

Friday the 30th of September 2011 started as a pretty typical day for the school holidays. Got up, quietly got myself ready so I could trudge off to work, when the beloved says,  "I don't think you should go to work today."
"What are you doing awake?" was my surprised response
Turns out that she had a feeling that things weren't quite ho-hum-I've-got-pregnancy-pains and were altogether different and more like I-reckon-I'm-going-into-labour-pains.

Stay things in a quick yet reassured and confident manner. Mustn't panic. That won't help.
Kids? Er. Dump them with awesome friend. Tick.
Bag of stuff needed for hospital and birth etc. Tick.
Wondrous wife with large (but not really, she just thinks it is) belly. Tick.
Phone hospital. Tell us to wait. Pretty typical and expected.
Wait. Read paper.
An hour goes by. Light-of-my-life suggests we should go.
We go.

It was about 11 am when we got in. By 2:30 pm labour was well advanced. 2:55 pm and the obstetrician was not happy, I was scared, the wife confused and in more pain than I can imagine. I know she'll be fine. She was the other two times, and women do this every minute of every day and have since the beginning of time. But as a husband the feeling of uselessness (and not the standard "You're useless" kind of husband thing either) is almost unbearable. To see your best friend, the love of you life, in agony and being able to do nothing is maddening and frightening. A couple of pointless, soothing words and a rub of the hand of the back, perhaps a mop of the brow with an icy face-washer. Big deal. I want to take her pain away. I'll take it on instead. Anything to help her.

2:57 and the Doc says this baby has to come out now! There's sirens blaring, orderlies  appearing from nowhere, nurses rambling about emergency caesers, sign here. Up an elevator,  gown on, silly hat on, and shoe covers. "Everything will be fine hun."

A hand shoves me in the chest, "Sorry mate.You can't go in. Doctor's can't be distracted by you."

A nurse pulls me away. I manage to touch my beloved. "I love you....."

I'm in the nurses staff room. Stupid coffee mugs abound. Smiley faces, union symbols, world's best mum . A nurse, lovely girl, was saying all the right things and offering me coffee. I mumbled polite things, and made stupid jokes. Anything to try and hide from my fear. My unborn baby isn't going to make it, and my wife might not either. I'm irrational, I know it but I can't stop myself. I start thinking about being a single parent and raising two kids by myself. How do I tell them what's happened? By this stage I'm the one rambling and I'm a mess.  It's taking hours. And all I can do is worry and feel sick. The longer it takes to hear something the harder it gets. The fear builds and it gnaws upon me.

A nurse walks in, a new one, she's holding something. "Sir.Would you like to hold your new baby?"

It's too much. Emotionally the plot is lost, who knows when I'll find it. I grab for the offered small, swaddled package and simultaneously ask, "How's my wife?" She's fine. Huge sigh. The doctor's were just finishing up and she'll be in recovery in 20 minutes.

I glance at my watch as I look upon the face of my child, 3:07; only 10 minutes since the alarm sounded what seemed an eternity ago. She (as I was to learn later) was gorgeous. Spitting image of the other two. They could be triplets separated years.

I've never been that scared in my life. I really hope I never have to go through it again. Afterwards I found out the gorgeous little one was in very real danger. It was an extremely high risk birth, and we got lucky.

I got to hold her, and refused frequent requests about her name, for that was the wife's job to reveal not mine, for about 2 and a half hours before the beloved groggily woke from drug induced sleep.

And the Grand Final? Well I managed to watch it. The first half at home with the two older kids whilst I let the exhausted one rest with the littlest one, and the second half on the exhausted one's hospital bed, she was relegated to a chair. The Cats won. All up, a pretty sensational weekend.


Friday was my last day at work. Last day for 8 months. It's a little surreal actually. I mean I've been working for some 15 years in the same type of job, at a desk, in front of a computer. Suddenly all that changes. Now my 'office' is my home. I don't have to go to work, I'll already be there. I don't sit in front of a computer, I do stuff (lots of different stuff) in my home, and quite possibly drink lots of hot chocolates (can't stand coffee) at lots of cafes around the local area.

I felt both excited, and nervous. Excited at doing something so different and hopefully personally rewarding and fulfilling, and nervous because, whilst I've been a parent for 10 years, being a fulltime parent is new. Will I cope? Will I the kids cope? Will my wife cope?

I was speaking about it with a colleague at work and he quite aptly described it as stepping off the ledge and into the unknown. Going from the comfort zone where I know what to expect and how things work, to, well something completely different. It made me feel a little like the whale in this clip from the 1981 BBC TV  version of Douglas Adam's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Another thing that I should pay heed to from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the following "it has the words 'DON'T PANIC' inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover". Sage advice I think.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Raising a baby? Easy! What Mothers don't tell you.

I must admit some surprise, and a little suspicion, when she-who-was-pregnant was very supportive of the idea. I had expected some sensible argument about finances, or perhaps an emotional one along the lines of "She's mine! My precioussss!", but no, nothing of the sort, just a "Sure, if that's what you want to do.". So understandably, I was worried. Something wasn't right. Did she assume that I would pull out before even getting to the starting line? Did she think that I wouldn't be able to handle the non-stop life of fulltime parenting, and therefore swoop in and save the day and crush me in the same moment? Or maybe, just maybe she was genuinely supportive of the idea, thinking it would be both a wonderful experience for me and also for the children. Yeah that was it....

With approval from the wife, next was the difficult task of letting my employers know. Difficult because I have been with them for 11 plus years, and I feel a great sense of obligation and loyalty, but also because whilst my intentions were pure (I really did want to experience something that I had never had the opportunity to do before) there was also a growing element of exhilaration. I was just a tiny bit excited that after 15 years of gainful employment in an office environment, I didn't have to show up for 8 months. 

At first they were a little taken aback because I was the first to request parental leave (as opposed to maternity leave); it's just not the sort of thing men tend to do, but they approved the request nevertheless. 

The original plan was to be absent from work, the paid variety, from June 2012 to January 2013, 7 months. June, so that I could finish up my working commitments, and January because it seemed like a nice clean time to come back, after the Christmas break, but I quickly realised the stupidity of that due to the other two kids' school commitments, or rather lack thereof; it's school holidays in January idiot! So instead of getting the love of my life to take annual leave to mind the kids, I extended the leave by one month. 8 months off. I was losing focus. 

8 months off work; brilliant! "If you think that, you've got no idea what you're in for." came the stern, disapproving words from the wife. Surely it couldn't be that hard? Could it? 

"Absolutely not!" replied a close friend when I told him of my plans. "How could it be that hard? Baby eats, plays, sleeps alot. What is really going to take time?" he said.
"Er." I responded convincingly, and then more so when I channelled the wife "but there will be chores like washing, cleaning, dishes, cooking, and don't forget the kid pick ups and after school activities."
"Surely that can't take all the time, you don't have to do that everyday. You can sort of space it out. It'll be easy!"
"I know!" he said with a mischievous grin, "How about you set out to prove that it's easy being a fulltime parent and mothers are just hiding behind a thin veneer of lattes and gossiping. It's a giant conspiracy! You know, you should write about it." 

I would like to point out my friend is childless. And I thank him for inspiring me to write this blog.

For the record, and maybe because my beloved may read this, it's his hypothesis not mine. I have no doubt whatsoever that this experience is going to hard and relentless work. Really. No doubt. None whatsoever. Very hard. Relentless. Really!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

We were planning to go to Europe in October, I was really looking forward to it.

Sometime in February 2011 my wife showed me a little plastic rod with a little window on in it. As is often the case when my wife shows (or tells) me something, nothing really clicked for a while. There may have been white noise, not really sure. But as I stared blankly at the little window, slowly I started to recognise the two unbroken blue lines of dye it displayed.

Realisation dawned upon me. Shit! She's pregnant....

Whilst some may say this is a stereotypical reaction, and I suppose it is, it wasn't for those reasons that my first thought was one of shock. No, quite simply I had forgotten we were trying to have a child. You see, my life was pretty good, things had been going along swimingly (no pun intended), life had been pleasantly meandering along. My wife and I are pretty easy going types, and in this case, very much of a like mind in thinking, what will happen, will happen. There was no pressure and there was no real fixed point where we decided we're trying for our third child, it was more of a decision to stop not trying to have a child. So yeah, I was surprised, simply because I had forgotten about it.

After my moment of shock I was embraced by the pure joy of knowledge. Knowledge that my beloved was pregnant and we were going to have a new born in the house again. I can't think of too many feelings better than that, although that first sip of red after a long day has to be close.

The downer of course, was that the trip to Europe was now out the window. Damnit!

At the start of July, about three months out from the due date in early October, which the obstetrician assured me would be after the AFL Grand Final (I still harboured dreams that the Hawks, and I, would be busy that day) I had an epiphany: Why can't I be the full time Dad? Sure money is an issue, and yes I would have to clear it with the wife, but what was really stopping me? Why couldn't I do it? Well, nothing except the fear of the unknown.

I've never been a fulltime parent before. Parenting, sure, no worries, been doing that for ten years and I think I do ok, well at least the kids tell me I do so that's at least a little reassuring. But I've never had the responsibility of fulltime parenting, especially of the kids when they were little, the wife always handled that. The whole maternity leave thing really made it an obvious choice.

This time however, due to our wonderful Australian Government, I could tag team with my wife. She could take the first eight months and then I could take over and take the next eight months. She could go back to full time work for the first time in ten years, no worries, I'm sure she wouldn't mind, and I'll get to experience something I've never done before, looking after our baby (and the other two) full time.

And thus, a plan was formed.