Dadinating the Country Side

The Trials and Tribulations of Living the Dream

2016 a year of Last Times. Maybe.

I had 3 main things on my mind:

  • I was making sure I maintained my centre of gravity while I had a 5-year-old climbing my left arm, coiling his legs around me, and my 3-year-old was dangling from my right arm.
  • I was going over a menu asking myself which kid wanted a wrap, which a burger and trying to remember what sauce The Lass likes with her chips (I went with Sweet and Sour).
  • I was hoping that The Mamanator would be back with my credit card before I got to the front of the queue – she was waiting at another take-out place while I queued up with the kids.

We were at “The Calder” – the service station near Calder Park on the Calder Freeway – the scene of much Caldernation. It was a pit stop as we drove into Melbourne for New Years Even 2016. The year was coming to a close, and I was being climbed like a monkey bar. Again.

I had a range of amused/sympathetic looks from bystanders as I continued to provide a literal platform for my children. Somehow neither of them ended up on my shoulders, surprising considering  past history. But this was just all part of waiting in line with children. If they’re climbing me at least I know where they are.

There was actually a fourth thing on my mind too. It was New Years Eve, and The Mamanator and I were going to a “grown-up” party for the first time in 5 years. With 2016 behind us we’d crossed a magic threshold. The kids were old enough to be left with my mother for a whole night. We were going to drink and stay up to midnight while they were in her reliable care, and then we were going to have a late cafe breakfast with old friends. This was something we hadn’t done in a long time, and it felt good.

My kids basic response to 2016….

But there’s a lot of other thresholds we’ve crossed in 2016, and some of them have left us feeling that mixture of pride and grief that most parents get watching their kids grow and move on from things. I don’t know what it is about this year, but our lives and our children seem to have hit some kind of accelerator pedal, and we’re all having to adjust.

Our kids can manage a night with Yia Yia. We can no longer say, definitively, that they absolutely need us to fall asleep. Of course most nights I sing them to sleep, and am then a source of solace to my son who sneaks into our bed sometime between 11 and 2 each night. But one day, I don’t know when, will be the last time he does that. I get a feeling it may be soon.

There’s been some “lasts” this year that we saw coming, like finishing Kindergarten. That’s a set date, you know the last day your child will go to kinder. But there’s a bunch of other lasts that seem to have come in quick succession recently, the kids just hit fast forward a bit again.

There’s one in particular….

He likes them….

 

After Christmas we bought a set of bunks for the kids. They’re in them now, The Lad on top and The Lass bellow. When we were explaining the bunks to the pair of kids The Lass was convinced there would be four levels, ad that we’d all sleep in the bunks together. She’d be on the bottom, then mum, then me and then her brother at the top. It is a funny (and disturbing) mental image.

But we picked them up last Thursday while the kids were in care, set them up and now they sleep in them. In the process we took out the cot bed which we bought for 20 bucks off Ebay for The Lad when he was small. That cot has seen a lot of action with us, and now it’s sitting under the carport outside. Our smallest child is in a single bed. We no longer have need for a cot, and in all likelihood never will. Our last day of using a cot was December 28th 2016.

Cotless….

That cot represents another last in our lives. The last time we have a baby in the house. Probably, anyway. We’ve drawn the line at 2, because pregnancy is a nightmare for The Mamanator. When The Lass outgrows something there are no more hand-me-downees to receive them in this house.

As I was writing this my son got up to go to the bathroom. He’s next to me now on the couch because he doesn’t like sleeping alone. He gets to sleep alright these days, but he gets up and some point and crawls in with us every night. A night, possibly a night soon, will come the last night he does that. He’ll grow out of it.

You never know when a day might be the last day of something. But without last days you can’t have first days, so I suppose it balances out.

The Lass and her first Lego Mutant Monstrosity! (10 heads). NB Duplo appears to be on the way out with my kids too….

What he does.

I was driving home after my son’s swimming lesson, and I wasn’t happy. The lesson hadn’t gone well. He’d kidded around, acted unsafely and hadn’t listened to the teacher. He was a smart-arse and was unrepentant. I had told him not to worry and that he’d do better next week. I had asked him how he was, wondering if he was tired or if something was wrong. I was calm. I was breathing. I was doing it all right. “How do you think you did this week?”.

But before long, I was criticising him, telling him how he should do better at swimming, that he had gone backwards, that he was acting like a baby.  It got more heated as he started answering back, declaring that he knew how to swim because he was 5. I threatened to withdraw treats until he picked up his game. The argument spiralled and my blood boiled.

I felt the words form in my head. I felt part of my head say “Oh god, don’t say that”. Words only travel one way, there’s no reverse. But a second later out it came:

“Well, if you keep doing that you’ll drown. Then you’ll be dead and you’ll never be 6”.

WHO THE FUCK SAYS THAT TO A FIVE YEAR OLD?
Yep.
This guy.
W.
T.
F.?

Yep. Told him to listen to me or he’d die. And even now I can’t get the image of it out of my head, even though it’s 2 weeks later. I just wanted him to shut up. I thought I could scare or hurt him into stopping. And it worked. And the croaky “Sorry, I shouldn’t have said that” afterwards didn’t take the words back.

He’s impulsive, stubborn and defiant.  He pushes boundaries, answers back and is even moodier than me.

That’s what he does. He’s 5.

But that’s not all he does.

Up they go.....

Up they go…..

We were going out geocaching. The actual geocaching part often a secondary consideration during our outings… My son found a “mountain”. It was a rock pile, leftovers from the Red White and Blue mine near a very small town called Muckleford. He climbed it. He did it without my help, at his own insistence, and he stood tall at the top and declared that he’d climbed it. “I’d never climbed that mountain before, dad. Have you?”. “No, I haven’t…”

He’s climbing mountains.

That’s what he does. He’s 5.

Waiting for another first.

Yesterday we were out, and the children were on a playground. The Lass, was stuck up a slide and had lost the confidence to come down. She was crying and we couldn’t get up to her, the playground was not designed for adults to ascend. Calm as anything, The Lad called out to her and told her not to worry. He went up and helped her calm down, then he helped her come down the slide. They played together beautifully, as his little sister found she could climb and slide like her big brother. He’d showed her how.

There was another younger kid on the same playground that day. The Lad helped him join in and looked after him. The small one’s mum said thanks to him for taking care of her son, and she said thanks to us too, although we don’t think we deserved any credit. Our boy is just a caring and tender soul.

That’s what he does. He’s 5.

But that’s not all he does.

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He’s trying to make sense of time at the moment. “Dad, when I was 3 how old were you?”. “When I’m 40, how old will you be?”. He wants to know when he’s big enough to do things, play computer games, trick or treat, ride a bike… He wants to know when he’ll be a man. When he’ll be older than me (and yes I’ve explained that won’t happen, still asks though) and what school will be like.

He is so excited and optimistic about the future. About our life together and about all the things he’s going to do in the world.

That’s what he does. He’s 5.

But that’s not all he does.

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My children weren’t sleeping. They weren’t listening and they were back-chatting. I’d asked them stop, told them it was time for bead, put them in bed and started singing to them in my famous soothing dad voice. But they were kicking bed sheets around. I felt it rising, again. I had read stories (3 of them). I’d let them cuddle me and soothed them as best I could. And it was getting me nowhere.

“Kid’s, daddy’s starting to feel frustrated, can you please lie down?”
Both kids kicked off their blankets, and The Lad started laughing at me. I took a breath.
“Okay, daddy needs to step out for a couple of minutes and cool off.”

I hadn’t planned to do that, or say that. I mean what kind of dad can’t hack putting his kids to sleep. Well, tonight that dad was this guy. So I stepped out. Took 2 minutes, went back in and at least got one of the kids to sleep. Okay, the other one wanted mum, but still there was no yelling, no grumbling and no saying of words I couldn’t take back.

He’d pushed me to the limit, and forced me to deal with it. He’d made me grow up and made me a better man.

That’s what he does. He’s 5. And his sister helps too.

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He’s 10cm taller than he was 10 months ago. At his age average growth (according to our family doctor) is 5cm a year. He is growing up and up. But it’s not just his height that’s increasing, it’s his depth. New ideas, new concepts and new perspectives are filling that brain of his. He’s getting bigger and bigger. His body, his mind and his soul.

That’s what he does. He’s 5.

And I’d better get used to it, because I don’t think he’s going to get any smaller any time soon.

Weight Loss, Body Image and Me.

There’s an upside.

seamus-big

A larger me…

“Have you lost weight?”
If I was in a cheap romance novel I’m sure there’d be mention of coy blushing in delight at this question. I grin demurely to myself, cast my glance down to the ground and nod silently.
Actually I respond with a gruff and manly:
“Yeah I have shed a bit this year”.
“Well, good for you, Seamus”
And on the inside I am beaming at myself.

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ParentWorks

This post is brought to you by Nuffnang and ParentWorks

When I found out about ParentWorks my first thought was simply: “Finally”.

  • Finally a parenting support program you can access even if you work.
  • Finally something that doesn’t require paperwork, waiting lists, wads of cash or navigating a maze of different service providers.
  • Finally a program that mums and dads can do together at home on their own time.
  • Finally a service that doesn’t just acknowledge the importance of dads, but makes a real effort to include them.

ParentWorks is a self-directed, free online program for parents who are concerned about their child/ren’s behaviour or just want to learn more effective parenting skills. It grew out of a survey of fathers across Australia conducted by the “Like Father Like Son” research project at the University of Sydney. It found that only 10-15% of fathers turn up when their child is seeing someone about behavioural issues (for a bunch of reasons, work being a major one), but also found that most dads would happily participate in an online program if one were offered.

So, what’s it like? Before you start there are a bunch of detailed questions to answer about you and your children. This information will feed into future research and future programs; so it’s important you do it and take it seriously.

The main page.

The dashboard.

The program is set into modules, each designed to be looked at in one go and then put into practice over a week. The modules take under half an hour and are a series of videos, and short questions finished off with a task for you to focus on for the week. You cannot access the next module for one week, which gives you the chance to hone in on one aspect of parenting at a time.

As for the advice it gives? It is practical, positive and realistic.

For example: Module One asks you to identify 5 positive behaviours you want to see in your child, and try to reward them through the week in different ways. Not that complicated, right? But it can make a world of difference as your child starts to get attention for positive, rather than negative, behaviour. Later modules include: responding to misbehaviour, sibling conflict and bullying. There’s loads of useful, highly relevant, and effective stuff.

The program is pitched really well. The tone is informative, without being patronising, and is built on authentic research into effective parenting. At no point did I watch it and think, “oh god, I’ve really screwed up my kids”. Instead I found myself thinking, “oh, that makes sense” a lot.

I loved this gem of a quote:

“We can’t change children’s genetics and biology, but we can change what we do as parents”

ParentWorks is a great initiative that can help a lot of parents, especially dads who have difficulty accessing traditional services. So, if you have concerns about your child’s behaviour or development, ParentWorks is certainly worth a shot. It’s low-pressure, self-directed and it is built to work around the rest of your life.

For more information, check out the program here.

Father’s day card 2016

Dear Dad,

I don’t know why it is, but father’s day especially reminds me of you. More than birthdays or even the anniversary of your passing. I always remember you on this Sunday in September, especially now.

I’m still writing, just so you know. I’m writing in a few more places now, even earning a bit of a living off it (as of this month actually). I’m doing some spots on a radio station too. Not the radio radio, but on digital radio, and they’ve asked me back regularly so that’s something pretty cool.

Still teaching. Yes I know you don’t like teachers, tough luck dad. I think I’m actually pretty good at it, and it’s making me happy, so I’m sticking with it. I’ve lost weight this year, I know you always thought I was too fat, so that’s good news.

Now let me tell you about the children.

The Lad starts school next year. He’s nearly 5. I know, school???!?! When did that happen? I swear I was changing nappies yesterday, watching him lift his head for the first time and talking gobbledy gook to him as he lolled about on the floor. Yet there he is. Walking, talking, counting and even reading a little bit. He’s 5 soon, and there’s school next year.

He’s still got your eyes. Bright blue. He’s got enough energy to power a small island nation coursing through his body most of the time. He gets moody, but I think that’s just a bit of the “Magee men” coming through, you and I are both guilty of sulking from time to time. But I’m proud of him. Just on Friday I took him out on his bike, training wheels off. He’s so keen to learn to do things. He’s life aim at the moment seems to be to count to 100, and he’s almost there. He sings and dances his way through life, and very rarely stops moving.

I love him to death.

The Lass is almost 3, and she is going to grow up to run something at least the size of this country. She has a motor mouth, and is very quick to enter into discussions, debates and arguments. She starts a lot of her sentences with “actually”, and is quick to point out when someone around her has made an error.

She does not pull punches this girl. If she’s cranky she’ll let you know, and may god have mercy on your soul, as there’s no chance of mercy from this little terror. I’m writing this as she’s telling fridge magnets where they ought to be. She’s not being tyrannical, just insistent. That probably sums up her assertive nature…

And as for me? I hope that my fathering is up to scratch. The kids have made me things for father’s day that I’ll put on my wall or on a shelf, and I’ll look at them in 20 years and wonder where the time went, I’m sure. Did I grow this fast? I can’t have, I swear childhood took ages, it dragged on and on while I was in it. I feel like if I blink right now my two babies will be adults.

When did you think I was grown up? Did that ever happen? Am I still a kid to you, if so what are my kids?

The Lad today said he wished I could have you back. It was such a sweet idea. Honestly I wish you could have just one day to see us, to see me being a dad. I don’t know if you’d agree with everything I do, I don’t know what you’d think of how I manage my own children – hell you might hate it – but I wish you had a chance to see it.

But maybe you do see it, and you mutter grumpily under your breath about what I do, but smile on the inside like you did when you were around.

Whatever the case, I hope I’d make you proud

Happy Father’s Day dad.
Your son,
Seamus

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