Dadinating the Country Side

The Trials and Tribulations of Living the Dream

The Virtues of Fatherhood part 5 – Love

I’m on the toilet. I figure if other parenting stories can start on the toilet, so can this one. But the toilet isn’t what’s important. Well, in fact, the toilet is very important. It’s one of the cornerstones of modern civilisation. Imagine life without it for a second.

However, in spite of its obvious importance, it is not critical to this story.

The kids are in the bath.  I have a tear in my eye. And no, it has nothing to do with the business i am currently attending to, rather I have heard something and it’s made me well up again. Dad emotions….
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Slowing down to slow living

Tonight before going to bed I put together a concoction. It’s one part Gerald (more on that later), two parts flour and two parts water. I’m going to bake tomorrow, but I can’t just “whip it up” because I’m doing sourdough. It’s an obsession, something that I stumbled upon because of this bastard (I have a huge man-crush on Paul West, but I know he can never be mine).

Gerald is my sourdough starter. He’s about 3 months old now, I feed him every day. Except when I forget. Half a cup of water and half a cup of rye flour is all it takes to keep the many yeast spores in him alive, breeding and producing more yeast spores. I make sure I use him a few times a week so I don’t have to throw any of him out (the idea of wasting food like that kind of offends me). I try to bake bread twice a week, it depends on work and other commitments, but I always manage at least one bake. I’m not much of a fiddler yet, but I’ve got a solid plain loaf going. I add fruit occasionally, my kids love fruit toast. Again it’s nothing too elaborate, but it works. In fact works well. In fact it’s the best bread I have ever tasted. It’s the extra self-satisfaction it is seasoned with that makes all the difference.

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The Virtues of Fatherhood 4 – Tiredness

There was a time when I stayed awake all night walking through the bush. I don’t know when I slept, but it was under the stars in springtime. I recall the feeling of it, the happy satisfied exhaustion that took my mind and body and put me in the “zone”.

I thought I was tired.

There have been weeks of my life that have been swallowed up by theatre productions. Bump-ins, rehearsals, tech-runs last minute trips to the shops to get a prop or costume. Late nights and early mornings as we struggled to cobble together enough stuff to re-create a world on stage and convince people that we were other beings.

I thought I was tired.

There have been nights when I have been out till the sun came up, dancing, drinking, talking, shouting. They came and went and in the bleary and too-white light of the morning my eyes cracked open and my head throbbed. I wondered over hazy details of the night before as I slipped on a shirt and walked to work.

I thought I was tired.

Today I love with an intensity I have never known. Stronger than it was yesterday, but weaker than it will be tomorrow. My thoughts turn to the future, to providing and to protection. My nights are filled with only fitful sleeping as kids cry out or thoughts play on my mind. Children kick and struggle their way to sleep beside me, frosty hands cling to my neck.

And finally, I think I am truly tired.

But then I look at The Mamanator…. Permanent dark rings under her eyes as she rues the fact that she hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in almost 4 years. And what, I think I’m tired?

But I am.

I am tired. A tiredness that penetrates my bones. A tiredness that hangs over my eyes. A tiredness that makes the air feel more viscous, like I’m moving through oil. A tiredness that has become the default. Somehow it has become normal to wake 3 times a night, even if the kids don’t.

Tiredness is hard to pin down, hard to articulate and hard to enunciate. And it is hard to write about. What is it? A lack of sleep? A lack of energy? A lack of brain-functions like concentration and memory? It permeates your life. Every bit of it. You don’t get acute outbreaks of tiredness unlike anger of fear. It digests you slowly, breaks you down into your simpler elements. It makes you more prone to moments of weakness. It’s like an amplifier. It makes other noises louder without generating them itself. And the noises it amplifies are usually not the pleasant ones – although I have collapsed into a fit of exhausted laughter more than once since having children.

Tiredness stretches you thin. It drains you of your reserves. Of energy. Of brain power. Of metaphors and clichés.

But tiredness makes you ration your concentration and your energy. You have to mete it out carefully. Your reduced brain space only hold so much information. Your mind can only grapple with so many dilemmas at once and your plans can only be so elaborate.

It can be god awful. I have re-run errands multiple times because I went out to buy milk and bought everything but milk. I have turned the house upside down looking for a key, a pen, a form or a letter. I have forgotten names, places, missed appointments. And that was before kids (I am absent-minded… it’s gotten worse….).

Now it’s even worse. In the meantime my bulwark against my own forgetfulness – The Mamanator – finds herself losing things too.

Stripped down we use what precious active consciousness we have on what is important.

Do we direct our feeble minds to debates about the universe? Do we dwell on the slippery slope society seems to be on? Do we solve the worlds problems? Do we shake our fists at damn teenagers?

No. We focus on our kids. We do. “Bugger it, I have 45 minutes of active thinking time available to me today” says my brain to itself “I’m going to enjoy it, let’s hit that trampoline!”.

And we do. And we have adventures as Marlin, Nemo and Nemo’s sister “Tinky” (The Lad made her up….). We become a pile of rocks or a motorbike. We find a way to bounce our 20 month old daughter comfortably on a trampoline using an exercise ball. We find the energy to fling her in the air. We push them around on bikes, we kiss scratched knees. We romp through the backyard to feed chickens. We laugh, we sing we cry.

And in those moments, because we’re too tired to care, worries about money, about housework, about firewood, about where you left your damn gloves, about petrol prices, about climate change and more just fade away. For a moment – because you’re brain in its exhausted and myopic state just cannot be buggered thinking about all that right now. It knows what’s important. It know’s why you worry about all those things. They’re in front of you, and they want you to haul your tired bottom into the back yard and run with them for a while.

And you do. And then you get tired…..

And we burn what precious little wick we have left for our kids. And sure, the house is a mess and the blog post is unwritten and the dolls never got packed up… But in the haze of exhaustion it just doesn’t seem to matter so much. It’s amazing how so much stuff just fads into the background when you’re forced to let it.

And then we sleep. And wake up. And sleep. And wake up. And then our kids get us up at 5:20am every freaking morning and ask us if it’s Saturday yet and if they can have pancakes.

Sigh….

I’m not sure if this has been clear. You see, I’m tired. It’s hard to make sense when you’re tired. Especially when you’ve got to be up early the next day, and you know you’ll be up a few times through the night. But that’s okay, I’m sure I’ll find the energy to play. Somehow I always do.

Here’s a link to the next post in the series. Part 5: Love.

The Stare

A little body is crouched. I’m waiting for goose-flesh to prickle across his skin as the temperature drops and the sheen of water on his skin take what little heat is left away from the surface of his body. I’ve tried to get his attention. I’ve talked, I’ve whispered, I’ve bent over to get down on his level, I’ve tapped his shoulder and I’ve tried to use a Jedi mind trick.

Yet he is immune. A kind of force-field surrounds him, an impenetrable bubble, a buffer against any parental intervention of any form. That shield that folds in a stretch extra distance between us. I stand close, but my waves and words are miles away from him. Should he turn to look at me I would seem a minute (and deranged) figure on the horizon of his awareness.

He’s busy. He’s staring. He’s hypnotised. His concentration has walled him in, and nothing short of an earthquake, a meteor strike or a nuclear explosion is going to snap him out of it.

He’s in the bath. Probably seconds away from starting to shiver, because he’s the only thing in the bath. The plug has been pulled and it is draining. He is riveted to the plug hole, staring at the flow of water, playing with it, splashing at it and watching the twisting whirl of water, steadily sucked down by the inexorable force of gravity into the pipes below the house.

The vortex forms. He places a hand over the plug and waits for it to dissipate. Expectantly he withdraws his hand and patiently waits for the water to resume its previous formation, his mind logging the experience with the rigour of a scientist. The experiment is repeated again and again as his 3-year-old mind tests the world, tests reality and as he learns about the shapes, the sounds and the movement of water.

And I stare at him, wondering about my own experiments when I was young. Recalling when I would watch the whirlpool that has probably held the attention of billions of young eyes through the years. How many times did I stare? How many times did I block the plug hole to see if the tornado would reform, or if something different would happen this time. How many times did I stay too long and shiver in the cold night air?

I remember when I was five, I had an obsession with pulling apart leaves. I wanted to know how they were put together, what they were made of made of and how many times I could cut them up before they got too small to be cut up any more. I don’t know how long those questions kept me occupied, but they did.

In the present the water has gone, but he stares still, wondering at how a round hole managed to create such a spectacle. My earlier frustration has drained away too, disappearing into the back of my mind as I remember what it is like to stare. The world is far to interesting a place for a child to always be paying attention to what dad is saying all the time.

We stare together there are just a few bubbles left in the bath now, and he asks “Has the water gone?” “Yes Lad, no more water till tomorrow”. He is satisfied and stands with his arms up-stretched waiting for me to gather him up and get him ready for bed. The experience has been worth the wait.

They say kids can’t concentrate, that they only have a set amount of time they can devote mentally to a single concept or task. But that’s only half of the story. Kids can concentrate, they just find so many things so interesting that focussing on a single thing for any period of time just doesn’t make sense. Sometimes, though, they stare with an intensity and a discipline you’d expect of professors and scholars. Sometimes they show the can concentrate, when there is something worth the effort. It’s worth watching them when they do.

Dadinating the Emerging Writers Festival 2015

A few weeks ago I received an email from someone at the Emerging Writers Festival in Melbourne. It was out of the blue, completely unexpected and very exciting.

I’m going to be appearing as part of a panel at the Emerging Writers Festival in June. So if you’re in Melbourne and available on the morning of Thursday June 4, you can catch me at the Wheeler Centre near the State Library in Melbourne!

We’ll be discussing family and writing and how they interact. Should be a really interesting morning. I’m appearing alongside a couple of real writers:  Isobel Knowles and Sammuel Leighton-Dore.

You can find the details, and booking information in the link bellow. It’s a free event, and even includes breakfast. What have you got to lose?

http://www.emergingwritersfestival.org.au/event-detail/the-early-words-writing-and-family/

I’m looking forward to the discussion, and I’ll be recording what I’ve learned here afterwards.

It’s only a few weeks away now! Look forward to seeing some of you there.

Bring friends!

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