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.