Dadinating the Country Side

The Trials and Tribulations of Living the Dream

Imagination: The dark side.

“There’s a tapping at the window daddy!”

The ambience is not what you’d expect for that kind of a sentence from a 3 year old. We’re not alone in a dark room at night. The wind isn’t howling and there is no trace of thunder. In fact the weather is fine and calm, it’s daylight and the sun is pouring in through the back door. It is clear that there’s nothing there, but my son wants to hide. And in order to do hiding right, you have to have something to hide from. Right?

“Ahhhh! It’s a SPOOKY!!!! Quick hide daddy!”.

So we hide under a scrap of cloth that’s about the size of a gym towel. Then my son runs off to grab something more substantial and we hide under a throw. It lasts as long as it takes for him to get bored or forget what we were doing. I have no idea how long that is. Not long enough for it to get too tedious, but not so short that it escaped my notice.
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“DAAAAAAADDDDDDYYYYYYYYY!!!!!”

A scream in the night.

Not a call. Not a declamation. Not a summons. Not a whisper. Just a scream. He is screaming. Again.

My eyes snap open, but my awareness lags a few seconds behind. I stir. I rise. I sigh as I swing my legs around and get them to the ground. I walk my way from our room to his to see what, if anything, he needs.

By the time I get there the outburst has stopped. It’s usually one or two cries out for me,  and then just a whimpering. I go to him. I sit on his bedside and place a hand on him. His head, his hand or his chest. “It’s alright Lad, daddy’s right here” I say calmly, masking my own concern that this is happening most nights at the moment. I check for the usual issues, water, discomfort or a need to go to the toilet. I get no answer. I sit a while. And return to bed.

Some nights his eyes aren’t even open. Some nights he settles. Some nights it happens again, and he ends up in bed with us, clutching on to me as I clutch him, his head resting on my armpit.

I don’t know why my son is scared sometimes. I don’t think he could tell me if I asked. It could be beyond words, it  could be beyond his words and it could be a concept from beyond his vocabulary. Nonetheless, he is scared.

 

Fear can be fun. I remember my first experience of abseiling, it was exhilarating. Every sense was on a higher exposure; more intense and sharper. The air tasted stronger, my eyes saw brighter colours, I could hear my heart pounding and some how even the rock I pressed my feet against felt more real. It was like the world was in HD, but not just visually – every sense was on some kind of increased resolution.

When I reached the bottom I was shaking, my feet had to re-adjust to the mundane, my senses had to recover from their heightened state and my mind continued to race. I’ve felt that feeling a few times in my life while high up on rocks, when walking out on stage or – some days – even when hitting “publish” on a blog post. I’ve written about my experience with fear before.

But, what about his fear? His brain sparking, growing and changing at a rate that makes  the grey matter between my ears look sluggish and obsolete. His imagination that is more visceral, more vivid and more intense than anything I can remember. His fear, which cannot distinguish between the real world and his own world. Which cannot differentiate between the power and paralysis. His fear which, in the dark when he is alone, clutches at him, icy fingers squeezing him tighter and tighter as he realises how small he is.

How do you deal with that? I honestly don’t know what to do.

I know what I don’t want to do.

I don’t want to dismiss it. I don’t want to tell him that he needs to “be brave” or that he’s scared over nothing. I don’t want him to feel bad for feeling fear, and I don’t want him to stifle it in my presence. I don’t want him to feel afraid of being afraid. We all feel fear sometimes.

I don’t want to feed his fear. I don’t want to make it worse or remind him of the things that make him scared. I don’t want to make the monsters bigger and bolder. I don’t want to stop playing monsters with him. I don’t want him to forget those times fear gets the heart pumping and that makes the hairs stand on end. I don’t want the fear to go away. I don’t want it to cripple him. I don’t want to ignore it, think it’s a phase and find out too late that there is an issue – much as I’m sure there isn’t at this stage. I don’t want him to lose that wonderful bubbling cauldron of imagination in his head. Sure he’d be less frightened, but he’d also be less in so many other ways. I don’t want to try to explain everything away.

What I do want to do is be there. Hold him, cuddle him, whisper to him that it’s okay. It’s okay to be scared, it’s okay to need mummy or daddy just because you’re scared. I want him to feel that everything will be alright. I want him to know we are there.

I want to know that’s enough.

But you can’t have everything.

Each day

The day had turned.

Somewhere between the second park outing and home it had turned. His tricycle had crossed some invisible line between sweet and sour. I am not sure when he crossed it. Was it leaving the park? Climbing back onto the trike? Moving from sealed road to dirt road? Rounding the big tree? Turning onto our driveway? It was somewhere on that journey, because by the time we were home he was in an almighty stink. Continue reading

SNOW!!!!!

Driving down the midland highway we were excited. I’m not sure if the kids knew what we were doing, but The Mamanator and I shared a few conspiratorial grins and glances with one another as we were internally jumping up and down for joy.

“Where’s the turnoff?”
“I think it’s coming up soon….”

“Here it is”
“Oh, can you see any yet?”
“Nope, but wait till we’re a bit further up….”

We wound our way up the road, twisting down up the narrow pathway. I was conscious of having to go off the sealed section should other cars be coming in the opposite direction.

Then we rounded a corner and saw one of the steeper slopes. Spread over the emerald-green of the grass was a gleaming dapple of pure white. Both The Mamanator and I felt our eyes open a little wider. The Mamanator pointed enthusiastically as she took in a sharp breath, and were I not steering the car, I would probably have started to flap my hands.

“SNOW!!!! SNOW SNOW! LOOK! LAD, LASS LOOK SNOW!”. Continue reading

Chickens: The Next Generation

The Mamanator was standing at the back door with a kind of dumbfounded grin on her face and her eyes wide open in shock.

She had gone out to let the chickens out of their pens for the morning, it’s a ritual in our house. Each morning they are let out. Each night they are shut up, foxes you see, and other things, might eat them overnight if we don’t.

But this morning was different, there was a sad task to perform. Don’t worry, our chickens were fine, but we were about to give up on the prospect of a new generation of chickens.

One of our hens, Livia is her name, had gone “broody”. For non-chookherds, that means she wants babies. You can pick a broody hen because they sit all day, and for the past  week Livia had just sat and sat and sat. For a while she’d sat in a flower pot near the back door, and when we moved it she sat on the deck, which can’t have been comfortable. Then she sat in the nesting boxes, hoping for eggs to appear beneath her to hatch. But there were no eggs. And if there were eggs, they were not fertile, we have no rooster and as far as I know she can’t have a virgin birth.

It had happened before with various hens of ours, and in the past we snapped them out of it. We’d isolated them, kept them out of the nesting areas or just waited it out with them. You have to watch a broody chook, they can be left vulnerable or they can sit to the point that they forget to do things like eat, drink and clean themselves. They also tend to become very grumpy, I’ve been pecked more than once, so unless you intend to raise chicks, you’d best help them move past it.

This time was different. Our flock was down to 3 hens, due to old age and idiotic chickens that refused to go into their house at night-time. We had space in our home-built chicken house, and even a separate house for the chicks to live in when they were small (Chickens are bastards, they will gladly peck a baby chick to death to prove a point). So we took the plunge.

We’d bought 8 fertilised eggs to place under the broody Livia, who is a Silkie, one of the best breeds for mothering in the chicken world. And she did not disappoint. She’d sat on those eggs, guarded them, turned them, kept them warm and tended them with a loyalty, care and tenderness you wouldn’t expect from a creature with the brain the size of a 2 dollar coin.

Gestation for chickens is 21 days. Given it’s a short time there isn’t much variation. But day 21 had passed without event. As had 22, 23 and we were up to 24. There had been a problem, a week earlier Livia had gotten out of her hutch while we were out of the house, the door had shut behind her and she was off the eggs for up to 2 hours. The Mamanator had come home to find the eggs cold and a very concerned chook looking for a way back through a gate – which is hard without hands.

So that very morning The Mamanator was going to dispose of the eggs while I distracted the children. They had been told that we’d have ‘baby chicks’ soon, and we didn’t want them to see the eggs go into the bin.

So why was she happy? Well as she picked up Livia to consign the eggs to the weekly rubbish collection she was surprised by 2 scrawny, mostly bald cheepy baby chickens that dropped down under Livia’s wings. The eggs had hatched! In spite of our anxiety, in spite of the fact that we’d set the eggs out of season and in spite of the mishap earlier that week, we had new chickens.

HUZZAH!

That was nearly 5 weeks ago. Since then we had another 2 hatch, so we have 4 chicks (out of the original 8 eggs), and they have all survived and grown rapidly. I’m not even sure I should be calling them Chicks any more, or if they are something else now. But they have plenty of feathers, they are almost half the size of their mum (she’s not a large chicken by the way), and they are cheeping along happily. In a couple of weeks they’ll be ready to roost with the rest of the flock, and all we have to do is hold our breath to see if we have more than one rooster or not (if we have more than one they’ll have to go).

It’s also been great for our kids, not only do they love running after the and watching them grow, it also shows them where chickens come from, gives them an idea that life starts (and ends, chickens don’t live that long), and continues to illustrate that eggs come out of a chickens bum, not out of a carton in a shop – like how fruit grows on trees and vegetables come out of the ground.

Liva and chicks with lass

We’re not completely in the clear yet, they remain little (although they’ve grown exponentially since hatching), and the weather is cold. In retrospect we won’t be hatching chicks in June again. There’s also the uncomfortable prospect of there being more than one rooster. A single rooster we can sustain, but two won’t work with our numbers, they would fight until one was dead. Our ideal scenarios are either 4 hens or 3 hens 1 rooster. You can tell at about 6 weeks, so fingers crossed that in 2 weeks only one starts trying to crow….

So, hopefully, the work we’ve been doing now means eggs come Christmas. It’s another example of how what we’re doing now is to establish a food source in the future. And it’s just fun to watch them grow.

Lad and Chicks

Gender, feminism and fatherhood

If I wind my life back a few years I was full of a humanistic, liberal (small l), post-modern hubris that I think afflicts many males. I was certain that through my life, through my choices and through my exposure to the 21st century that I was absolutely immune to being sexist. I wasn’t a feminist, but I was a decent guy. I had loads of female friends who I respected a great deal, I was a great listener, I had worked for and alongside women throughout my career and within my relationship all our major decisions were made together.

I could do no wrong.

I wasn’t part of the problem. Right?

I didn’t get the idea of “quotas” for female representation in political parties. Surely after laws were changed and everyone accepted that equality was a good thing this stuff would take care of itself, right? I mean equality is the default position, we’ve just screwed it up through cultural heritage and through strange quirks of history. Right? The tide was turned, the real battles of feminism were over (suffrage and discrimination in the law), the rest was just a matter of time. Continue reading

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