Dadinating the Country Side

The Trials and Tribulations of Living the Dream

In a funk

The words aren’t flowing at the moment.

I have been in a funk. A funk that sits on my shoulders and in my chest. It’s a funk from work, I think I am not happy and that I haven’t been happy for a long time. It’s a funk that sits on my fingers and in my eyes. It sits in my years and whispers:

“What your you doing?
You’re no good at this.
Look, the kids aren’t even listening to you”

I teach on. Bells ring and classes leave. As I sit here in an empty office at the end of another contract with no prospects for longer-term employment. At least not here.

The funk settles in my gut.

The words don’t flow.

I second guess every second word and my writing feels stilted and forced. It seems to wallow in its own self-pity, self-indulgence and insincerity. And in a world of sieges and school massacres there are bigger problems than my piddling sense of insecurity. Insignificant, meaningless and vapid.

And then there are my children. I try to quarantine the funk from them. I dam it up and try to forget about it. They deserve a father who smiles. Who laughs and sings, not someone quivering in their own insecurity.

I get home, and open the gate. I breath in, the mask goes on and I hope they don’t see what’s underneath. I close the gate and park the car. Just breathing, letting the evening wash over me as I settle down, away from reports and teenagers, away from piles of paperwork, away from it all.

I check the mask, it sticks to my skin. Cold like clay, it hardens and becomes brittle. It hides my face. Freezes it into a smile so they won’t see the frown underneath.

I walk to the door.

“DADDY!”

I breathe out. I look up. A little face beams at me through the glass door, lit up.

Another face stares at me with penetrating sky-blue eyes and a slightly furrowed brow.

I breathe in.

The tired eyes of The Mamanator look to me and she smiles an exhausted smile. Help is here, she doesn’t have to do it alone any more. Her relief is palpable. My love for her warms me as I smile back.

I breath out.

“DADDY!”

A pudgy finger is trying to point at me through the glass but instead taps upon it as The Lass looks back at The Mamanator to confirm what she is seeing. Her eyes are wide, her mouth agog as she inhales sharply. She has been waiting for this moment. The tap turns into a slap as she bangs on the glass with an open palm over and over.

“Yes, it’s daddy” as she waves at me. I breathe in and out, more easily this time. My shoulders rise and my back straightens.

The Lad’s approach is different. He stares at me with wounded look, as if to ask “Where have you been? Why did you go away?”

I slide open the door.

“DADDY! DADDY DADDY DADDY!”

My backpack goes down, my daughter comes up. I receive my first of many kisses from my girl “MWWWWWAH!”. Her tiny arms are thrown around my neck, squeezing me.

I breath in and out.

Crack.

“Daddy, put her down!” whines The Lad, clearly he hasn’t slept, again.

My response is to scoop him up with my spare hand and clutch the pair of them.

“Daddy, you can’t carry everybody!” protests my little boy

I breath in.

“OH YES I CAN!” I boom.

Crack.

I carry them both over to the couch where I collapse and bury myself in my children as they crawl over me. I no longer notice my breathing.

Crack.

I smile.

Crack. The mask falls. It’s adherence fails on a smiling face.

Time passes. I breath. I get sat on, slapped and kissed. I sing songs, read books and sling my children around. I stop smiling, because I am laughing.

And it lifts. I don’t know how or why but it lifts. The funk which gums up my insides and slows me down lifts.

Maybe this is just my personal slice of escapism, when I stop worrying. A time away from bills, career decisions and classrooms.

I don’t know. If that’s all it is then it’s a nice way to escape. But it could be more than that, it could be a reminder that our kids won’t put up with masks. If we put them on they rip them off.

And even though it’s a struggle sometimes, the word will flow again.

She's pretty cute....

She’s pretty cute….

We make our own fun...

We make our own fun…

Part 2

In our last episode…. Actually just have a look a the last post for what happens.

Rather than a full blow-by-blow account of what happened the day after scans and everything I thought I might break it down into segments of action:

1.) The Negotiation

Thursday is The Lad’s day-care day. He attends a local family daycare, and his educator had graciously agreed to pick him up and take him with her this morning. This saved us having to put The Lass in a car again, after the hell of Wednesday’s various car trips.  We ran into some issues best summed up by this conversation:

Me: “You’re going to go to daycare!”
Lad: “No! I don’t want to”
Me: “But you’ll get to play with your friends”
Lad” “No!”
Me: “Who’ll be there today?”
Lad: “Ummm….”
Me: “Will Kid A be there?”
Lad: “Yes!”
Me: “And will that be fun?”
Lad: “Yes!”
Me: “So, do you want to go to daycare?”
Lad: ………. “NO!”
repeat…..

In spite of my son’s resistance to logical argument and my increasing sense of frustration, we got him bundled into the car and off. This was a relief as we were both waiting nervously for a phone call.

2.) The phone call

Our doctor called early in the morning to pass on one simple message: We had to get The Lass into hospital quickly. The abscess she’d developed in her “natal cleft” (butt crack) contained a cyst of some kind and it needed surgery. Sooner the better.

So that was that then, we knew what we had to do. There was a flurry of bag packing, it was agreed that I had to stay home so someone would be around to receive The Lad at the end of daycare, and that was it. The Mamanator took the car with the car seats in it (for obvious reasons) while I sat home and thought about housework. I even did some of it. I was still crook, so I wasn’t particularly productive.

3.) The Text Message.

Then I got a text message. The Lad was not having a great day. In fact it was a terrible day. In fact it was so bad he really needed to come home. The day-carer knew our circumstances and how difficult things were for us – so I knew it must have been pretty bad.

Apparently our dear child had decided to assimilate the hurt of everyone he saw. He knew his sister was in hospital, he insisted he had to go to hospital. He knew was going to see a doctor, he had to see a doctor. His carer had dropped something on her own head earlier in the day – so he complained that he had a sore head. One of the kids had scratched their fingers on something – so he complained he had hurt his fingers. Charming.

He was also bawling his eyes at at the prospect of taking a nap – and was crying for his mum and dad. Clearly the last day had it’s impact on him too. We were in a bit of a bind as The Mamanator had taken the family car – the car left at the house had no car seats. I had to borrow one for The Lad, who appears to be big enough to fit in some kinds of booster seats. It was a revelation.

4.) The Doctor’s appointment

You know the saying terror at home angel away. Well in this instance I got: terror away angel at home. Why? Because children exist to prove you wrong. Maximally wrong as often as possible, but today I was on the right side of wrong this time – if that makes sense.

We went shopping, first to the fruit and veg shop and then to the supermarket. Finally it was time for me to go to the doctor. I dreaded the idea of bringing him with me as this was the same clinic where he had once managed to unplug a doctors computer from the power point. Given his lack of a nap I was certain he’d be ratty, tired and terrible.

Turns out I was wrong and the angelic behaviour continued. It was great, he told the doctor he was sick while we were there though, the doctor saw through the lies. Turns out I was sick, running a fever and need antibiotics. In the words of Spike Milligan “I Told you I was Ill!”

5.) The updates.

Throughout the day I had been getting a steady stream of information. The Mamanator had arrived and The Lass had been triaged. They were in emergency. She had spoken to a doctor. The had found a surgeon willing to do the operation. They had to find an anaesthetist who could work on a 15 month old, and it may take a while. There were also pictures – playing in ED, napping on a bed, a photo of where they’d attached a monitor to her toe to take her vital signs.

Even the monitors are cute when you're a baby.

Even the monitors are cute when you’re a baby.

I felt so far away. I yearned to comfort my child and wife – and to be comforted by them. I wanted so badly to be there, to ask my own questions and to try to boss hospital staff around. I longed for the power to help. I also kept at bay the strong urge to call up every 5 minutes for an update. The information was coming, and it was complete, but I wanted to know more. How was she? Was the room warm enough? Did they doctors seem trustworthy? What about the other patients? Did it smell okay? Was the lighting just right? Was she okay? Did she need any toys? Was she okay?… Did she miss me?

However The Mamanator had her hands full with a baby, in a strange place, who wasn’t allowed food or water (because of the anaesthetic she was going to get later), while contending with her own worry. So I thought the better of it and didn’t badger her.

6.) The wait.

Then there was the update of updates. She was going into theatre. They surgeon thought the procedure would only take a few minutes, she’d call me as soon as it was done.

I waited. A few minutes passed. Then a few minutes more. Then a few minutes more again.

I’d managed to get the cricket on the TV because ABC4Kids was showing a show called the “Ha Ha Hairies’, which The Lad hates. I used it as an excuse to put the cricket on, and then not switch back. But I digress from the passing of minutes.

Before long half an hour had passed. I was breathing. Breathing in an out. Trying to suppress a rising panic in the back of my mind as more time passed. Why hadn’t the phone rung?

Something happened. She’s hurt. She’s allergic to something. They found a tumour. They found another problem. She’s not come out of anaesthesia. The Mamanator’s hurt herself…..

And the darkest thought of all. I won’t write it, but you can guess what it was.

So I buckled. I’d resisted pestering The Mamantor for most of the day, but I couldn’t do it any more, I had to know. It was 45 minutes into a 10 minute wait for news, so I did it. I dialled and held my breath.

She was fine. She was in recovery. I needed to get off the phone and let The Mamanator deal with it because she was cranky and ravenous.

And finally I could move on, dinner followed shortly after along with bath and bedtime for The Lad.

 

He ate well, thankfully.

He ate well, thankfully.

7.) The aftermath

The wait happened because while the procedure was quick, recovery took a bit of time. The hospital doesn’t let non-patients into  recovery. In the case of infants they do it because the site of a child coming out of anaesthetic can be quite confronting.

The Lass went through it all really well, and an hour after surgery I was sent this picture:

Recovering.....

She seems much better (1 hour after theatre)

She had thrown up a lot though, all over The Mamanator and herself, so she was sleeping in donated pyjamas. The Mamanator also had to find alternate clothing, and the hospital lent her a set of theatre scrubs because they were the only thing handy. They were staying the night, the operation hadn’t happened till 4:30, so discharge the same day was going to be impossible. It was boys only tonight at the -inator household.

The night went really well, my boy was placid, happy and obedient. The morning was a different story though. I made a decision to drive straight to Bendigo, stop for breakfast at the golden arches on the way and get to the hospital as early as I could. I packed bags and got ready, The Lad was confused due to lack of breakfast, but climbed into the car and we got on our way. I needed to stop for petrol, which lead to meltdown 1. The Lad wanted a lollipop. He always wants a lollipop, and I always say no. He also was hungry and saw there was a café at the petrol station and began to shout at the top of his lungs “I WANT TO EAT HERE!!!!”, but I decided we’d do better stopping closer to the hospital.

So I endured a bit of screaming as we got back onto the freeway, and away we went. 20 minutes later we were sitting happily eating bacon and eggy things. The Lad played on a (quite spectacular) playground as I sipped coffee and organised a take-away breakfast for The Mamanator (she was not a patient of the hospital, so there was no breakfast forthcoming for her).  Then came the “extraction” – I use the word knowing that it also means pulling teeth. Suffice to say it was not easy or quick.  With a combination of gentle cajoling, assertiveness, a babycinno and the promise of mum at the end of the journey, some gentle cajoling, a piece keeping offering of a babycino and the knowledge that mum was at the end of the journey. That and the promise that the hospital had more toys.

So I arrived. The Lass was about to have a bath, which I ended up taking care of. She was a shade nervous until she realised who I was, then she was overjoyed. The children’s ward was (as promised) full of toys, with a TV.  The surgical wound was a little under an inch. There was no bleeding by the time I looked at it. It would need re dressing every day. She was running around, looking at the Christmas Tree, the toys, the various Christmas decorations and all kinds of paraphernalia. She managed to break a bauble. Before too long it was discharge time and the drama was over.

Christmas decorations....

Godzilla vs. The Hospital Christmas Tree

She’s just teething….

Yesterday started normally. Actually no it didn’t, it sucked. I called in sick to work because my throat was killing me, my head hurt and I was losing my voice. Teaching teenagers is hard enough with my full vocal capacity, so I was home sick. Looking after kids. Well not really, I was parked on the couch trying to make my head function through the murk of congestion (snot) and a vague sense that I was  floating above my own body.

Our daughter has been teething. Eye teeth. The worst teeth. We’ve been through it before with The Lad though, so we knew what to expect. It lasts a few days then settles down again. Alongside teething, you also get a spate of “bonuses”. Noses run, coughs crop up, temperatures are slightly raised and nappy rash gets a little more severe. It’s like they have a buy one get 4 free deal on things that cause irritation and pain. Lucky babies.

But we were veterans, this was baby number two so we were muscling through this bout of unrest and using a lot of ibuprofen in the process. We were confident that we were managing it, controlling it and had it all under control. Continue reading

We lost our boy (for a few minutes)

Castlemaine Botanic Garden Playspace

It’s a good playground….

Tonight was a break up night for a local childcare organisation. Our son attends it by proxy (he goes to a Family Daycare which is auspiced by the childcare co-op. And it was a particularly chaotic kind of bedlam. About 70 kids under 4 running around the playground pictured above at the Castlemaine Botanic Gardens.

Both kids were playing well. My son’s current playground obsession is “slidey poles” – you know the type, the fire-fighter poles you see coming of playground platforms the world over. He’s not quite tall enough to reach them on his own, but with help he’s more than capable of gripping onto the pole and sliding down. Loves them.

Meanwhile The Lass was trundling about, walking everywhere because she’s a big girl now, and all the cool kids (which means her brother) do it all the time. She was cute, charming and occasionally clingy, but she was enjoying herself.

And then it happened. The Mamanator turned to me and said it. “Where’s The Lad”.

oh…

Bugger….

We realised quickly that neither of us could see him. Among the hubbub and among the din of dozens of children running amok our little boy had done a bunk and disappeared. It took surprisingly little time for panic to set in. I was holding on to The Lass (best not lose them both) casting my eyes about frantically, while The Mamanator ran around looking for him. She went down to the creek bed behind the playground, he wasn’t there. She circled the equipment, wasn’t there. She looked up trees. Wasn’t there. We employed extra pairs of eyes, but there was no luck.

I told her to take The Lass while I looked for him, stating (truthfully) that I was faster than she was so I could cover more ground. She accepted that, took the little girl and let me look.

I looked among the crowds, trying to spy blonde/red hair – and mistook 2 other children for my own (from a distance). I started circling the playground, intending to spiral out and look further a field. In spite of my meticulous pattern, The Lad did not show up, there was no sign of him. My pace had quickened by now, and while I had put on a brave face up to this point, I was starting to panic myself.

I started up the path which runs to the front of the garden, past the low-growing-bush-tree thing that he has played in before.

The bush in question was massive, it was like a hidden secret garden that kids could go into and play in. The foliage kept it separate and shaded from the world of adults. I remember a similarly gnarled old tree in the park near the house I grew up in. It was great. You could get lost in there…..

Hang on. I made straight for it and as I called out, The Lad showed himself. I sighed a deep sigh of relief and scooped him up on my arms. Father Christmas had arrived in the meantime and was giving all the children icy poles. I carried The Lad to see him, noticing a slight dampness on his shorts. I realised what he’d done.

He hadn’t used the magical tree-garden to play in. He’d used it to pee in. Wee On a Tree, as he’d been taught.

Still, at least he did it in private. Unlike 20 minutes later when he dropped his pants on the playground in front of a score of small children and looked around patiently.

I quickly pulled up his pants and took him to a nearby tree. Operation successful and explained that he had to go away from people to do his wee…. just like he had when he disappeared.

You know what? Teaching kids to do the right thing is hard.

And the bright side: Toilet training is clearly paying off.

Making sense of Phill Hughes

Sometimes it doesn’t make sense.

I think about the future. I think about explanations to my growing children. I’ve mentioned it before, many times. Why do people do bad things? Why do bad things happen? Why do we die? Where do we go?

I don’t want to lie.
I don’t want to traumatise.
I don’t want to dwell on the ills of the world.
I don’t want to cover-up.
I don’t want to evade.

It’s a fine line. I’ve written about Robin Williams. I’ve written about Eliot Rodger. I’ve written about the question I fear. I’ve even written about Plato.

Today’s post will be harder to write. Today I’m going to write about Phillip Hughes.

Phillip Hughes was a cricketer playing in an interstate game in Sydney. He faced a pretty bouncer (which means it was up at his shoulders/head), and was trying to play it. It was a typical delivery, especially in Australia. It was fast and high, but it was nothing too venomous.

He missed and the ball struck him where his neck met his head. It went up and underneath his helmet and face guard, missed the hear guards and made contact directly with the underside of his skull.

And, 2 days later, he died. A guy playing cricket. A ball hits him in the wrong spot. Just an accident. No rhyme or reason. No sense.

I guess that’s why this death has hit the public so hard. It shouldn’t happen. A 25-year-old playing first class cricket. And yet it happens. It has happened before. It will probably happen again. It can also happen outside cricket.

Try as I might I can’t make any sense of it. The nature of the accident just seems so pointless, such a totally and utterly random occurrence. Where’s the lesson? Where’s the message? Where’s the conversation this opens up? Where is that “at least one good thing that came out of this tragedy”?

Sorry kids, there isn’t one this time. It was just an accident. And sometimes in spite of helmets and rules and safety and all that, accidents still happen.

There’s still solace to be taken out of it all though. Clearly Phillip Hughes was loved. He was playing the sport he loved. The outpouring of support, shock and grief shows how well he was loved. Not just support for him and his team mates, but also for the bowler Sean Abbott who delivered the ball – like he’s delivered thousands before it – and stands blameless.

The messages, the tributes, the #putoutyourbats campaign, the minutes silence, the games delayed. Marks of respect, marks of condolence and marks of sympathy from within and without the sporting community.

Is that enough? Is that the sliver lining? Is it enough to make sense of the accident?

Sadly, sometimes it just doesn’t make sense.

So kids, there’s the lesson. And its a lesson that sucks. Sorry.

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