Dadinating the Country Side

The Trials and Tribulations of Living the Dream

The Virtues of Fatherhood 1 – Weakness

It was late. Not adult late, just kid late. My son was a year and a half into his life and I was alone with him. The Mamanator, with child, was laid up in bed unable to move without vomiting. In fact I think I heard her run to the bathroom once or twice earlier in the evening.

The room was dark, curtains drawn. There may have been music playing, I can’t remember. This whole scene is only half-remembered half re-constructed by my imagination, details are fuzzy. I wasn’t sleeping well. A pile of bedtime books was on the floor and my hoarse voice was singing round after round of one of my songs. One of his songs really….

“It’s alright my boy
It’s alright my lad
It’s alright my son
It’s really not that bad”.

Over and over.
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The 5 virtues of fatherhood.

I stood there exhausted, a bundle in my arms. So light. There was almost nothing there, like it was too soon for there to be any mass to him. I rocked from foot to foot with a sway that would become habit. I have no idea why I did that, but I did. I stared at his closed eyes. His curled fingers couldn’t even make it around my thumb.

I wanted to be everything for him. I wanted to be strong, kind, energetic, calm, sympathetic, stern, wise, gentle, just and thousands of other things.

But there was more to be. Back on the bed The Mamantor lay drained and exhausted. She’d just brought forth a person, it’s hard work. My love for her grew that day. For her the list rolled on. I wanted to be strong, loving, supportive, understanding, strong, tender, stalwart, open and ad infinatum.

I made a million promises to myself about what I was going to be that day. But I was still me. Me with all my fears, foibles and flaws. With my weaknesses.

In time I grew, I matured, I got used to the new balance of things. I grew patience, I grew endurance, I grew calmness, I grew tolerance and I grew a capacity to love that I never knew I had. And I rejoiced.

But I was still me. I didn’t get super powers or extra limbs, or extra brain cells. I was just me.

A thought came to me recently about men and what we try to become in our lives. We want to be strong. We want to be brave. We want to be dependable. We want to be supportive. We want to be practical. We want to be manly, and I’m not sure we really know what that means.

Then, those of us that do, become dads. We want to be manly plus a bit. We want to be fatherly, and I’m not sure we really know what that means.

It’s different for everyone. That’s the nature of humanity and the nature of the world, it’s made up of differences. We take the perceived average of humanity, weight it with our own experience and hammer out a social narrative based on that. It’s complex and nuanced. But the archetypes, the ideas of masculinity and manliness pervade our waking – and probably sleeping – lives as men.

And then we become fathers.

Men a strong. Men are practical. Men are supportive. Men are enduring. Men are brave. Men are strong. Men are men are men are….

But how useful is that?

This post is an introduction to a series called the 5 virtues of fatherhood. I don’t quite know where it will lead yet, I was going to plan it out meticulously and release it in dribs and drabs, but the writing bug has bitten me and I am impelled to write this right now.

Men are told to be lots of things. We aren’t always told to be them directly, but there are expectations foisted upon us. Just as there are for women. I’m not insane enough to deny that for a moment. Nor do I wish to compare the two, I just mean the weight of social pressure bears down on men too in ways that are both similar and different, self-perpetuating and externally imposed. Whatever you call that pressure – patriarchy, dialectical materialism, society, groupthink, culture or whatever – it exerts itself on us all, like a cookie cutter that we just don’t all fit. That in fact, none of us completely fit.

Reservoir Dad recently reflected upon himself. He questioned his self assured-ness as a modern man, he questioned his well adjusted-ness and he questioned his emotional awareness. It’s inspiring work, and it got my brain ticking over on these concepts and these thoughts. So basically, these posts are all his fault.

What I want to explore are these kinds of questions; What do men expect of themselves as fathers? Why do we expect that of ourselves? What impact does it have on our children? You know, simple stuff.

I’m interested in turning things upside down. In looking at how sometimes our worst experiences of parenthood – the stuff that tests us – can help us become more self-aware and can, perhaps, be good for our parenting and for our children. About how “strength” – the manliest of all man qualities – isn’t always the answer.

So, in the spirit of that, my next post will explore the first ‘virtue of fatherhood’.

Weakness.

Stay tuned.

WTF is Hyperemesis?

A dude who is new to this whole blogging caper wrote something recently and memories came flooding back… Bad memories. Memories of Hyperemesis. Before I go any further, read this short summary of the first half of each of our pregnancies.
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Parents are Giants

They’d been playing outside on the deck, I was helping them bash their tricycles together.

Or was that earlier?

Yes, it was. We had been rolling around on the spare mattresses outside. I had been picking up the kids and throwing them one by one so the landed flat on their backs on the foam surfaces. I had laid down after a few throws, feigning sleep with a loud snore as both Lad and Lass protested furiously and laughed.

I don't know what the rules are, but we were playing

I don’t know what the rules are, but we were playing

The Lad had jumped on me then, landing hard with his behind right on my back. I’d heard my back make a bit of a popping noise. Nothing severe, just the kind of crack you get during a massage, but the shock of it had partly winded me.

I had talked him then and told him to be careful not to hurt dad. He did it again 2 minutes later and I had yelled at him, and immediately felt guilty for doing so. He was upset by that. He told me so himself, and I tried to make him understand. Tried to get him to understand that his actions had caused me pain. That I’d asked him not to do it once. That I was upset too. I don’t know if he got it. We’ll see if he remembers next time (there’ll be a next time, there always is).

Not long after I heard a call.

“Did you hear me?” cried The Mamanator from inside.

“No!” I responded unhelpfully

“Time to come in!” she repeated.

Much as it sounds like Little House on The Prairie with a call of “come and get it!”, it isn’t really. The Mamanator generally cooks dinner. I generally cook breakfast in the morning and at the moment I am the master of sourdough bread.

But I digress. It was time to come in. The Lad never likes to come in for dinner. We consciously avoid saying the word “dinner” now. He’s programmed to play, run and jump especially at his age. Sitting and eating are just disagreeable, especially at the end of the day. I realised that extreme action would be required. Amidst the clamour of protest I scooped up The Lad and held him in one arm. He knew what was coming.

“You can’t carry two children!” he said, regurgitating a line I’d use with him when he wants to be carried while we are out and I am already encumbered with his sister.

In my most dramatic, booming man-voice I respond rhetorically “OH CAN’T I? HA HA HA HA HA!”. More happy squeals.

My right arm (my weaker side) scooped up The Lass. I held them both to me and strode to the door. “I can’t open a door and carry 2 children though!” I declaimed in the general direction of The Mamanator. She understood and opened the screen door for me as I strutted in.

I meekly asked The Mamanator to get her phone. Something struck me as I crossed the threshold and entered the house. My days of doing this, of carrying both children at once, are numbered. I was struck by an overwhelming urge to capture this moment, because I know the day will soon come when my children (with a combined weight of nearly 30 kg of wriggling flesh and bone) won’t be carriable. Not at the same time. Not like this.

Parents start as giants in their children’s’ lives, and then they shrink. And keep right on shrinking. I know I’ve shrunk. When The Lad was born he barely stretched from my elbow to the tips of my fingers. Look at him now, I’ve shrunk so much he comes up to my belly button. The Lass who used to feel as light as a feather now strains my back and arms as I rock her to sleep. My shrinking frame is starting to struggle.

I was looking at my boy earlier today. His head is almost the same size as mine. His face is full and his eyes are sharp. He walks, talks, screams, sings, makes up stories with his toy trains, tells me about monsters and says he loves me.

My girl is getting there. She talks about “me” and recently started to say her own name (she comically refused to so for months). She listens and understands, names parts of faces and tells us how she is feeling. She toddles clumsily around and says “Natnoo!” frequently – it means thank you by the way, she’s got great manners.

And in the middle stand The Mamanator and I. Smaller in every photo we take, watching as our legs get so short our children’s head reach the top of them. Knowing that one day they’ll over-reach us and we’ll cease to be giants. One day we’ll be looking up at them.

And we’ll proud of them, so very proud. But we’ll never for get about the days when we were giants.

Talk dirty to me….

The Mamanator is engaged in yet another piece of domestic drudgery while I run the bath. She is sorting through the changetable, which seems to just attract kids clothes all the time. I walk over to her and wrap my arms around her waist, joining my hands over her navel. We sway gently and I place my lips on the nape of her neck.

It’s a short embrace. Most of our embraces are short embraces now days, but we enjoy them. As we part ways to return to what we are doing I say in a loud whisper:

“God, you’re a sexy woman”

Our eyes meet and we smile to each other. She’s about to repay the compliment.

We avert our gaze and standing before us is our little resident word-sponge The Lad. He’s 3, he is alert and he hears bloody everything. He’s also managed to stand between us as we have pressed our bodies against one another’s in the past, and his head is right in between our you-know-whats. This is symbolic of his role in our marital relations. He has earned his nickname “Sir Buzz Killington” well.

This time though he is just off to the side. He has a quixotic look on his face, puzzling out the scene before him. A penny drops as he smiles at his mother and says in his usually adorable toddler soprano “Hello Sexy Woman”.

Oh.

Oh dear.

The mood drains out of the moment like quicksilver as both The Mamanator and myself are dominated by one single desperate thought.

“Don’t laugh. Don’t laugh! OH GOD DON’T LAUGH!”

Breathing deeply we overcome our primal urges (all of them), and ignore it.

It never happened.

We will never speak of it again.

Well except for here, but that’s okay, right?

I suppose I could draw this into a parenting lesson. We model a relationship to our children. We show them two adults interact, how two adults in love interact. We provide a template by which they will judge every relationship they enter into in their lives etc. etc. etc.

But I’m not going to because, honestly, being a parent hasn’t changed the way The Mamanator and I interact. We’ve always been a sickeningly lovey-dovey couple and we always will be. We’ve always flirted in the home with one another and I’m pretty sure we always will (right honey?).

Part of being a parent is sometimes saying “stuff this, I’m just going to be myself and hope it works out”. And in this particular arena, that’s what we’re doing.

Sure we swear less, wear clothes slightly more often and only engage in involved snogging when the kids are not watching or asleep, but  that’s only because we have to be ready to go stop them throwing themselves down the stairs at a moments notice and that can be hard to do when you’re mid-pash.

But I have no issue with my children understanding that we are in love, that we express it freely with each other and that we are affectionate.

I just don’t necessarily want them going to kindergarten saying “sexy woman” – or man, for that matter – to random people in the yard. So maybe we’ll keep our heated exchanges to whispers for the foreseeable future. There’s definitely something exciting about that….

And yes, I cannot wait to gross them out as teenagers. Mwa ha ha ha ha!

Oh and I must include:

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