Dadinating the Country Side

The Trials and Tribulations of Living the Dream

Category: Series (page 1 of 2)

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….
Continue reading

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 Virtues of Fatherhood 3 – Anger

“RRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHUUUUUNNNGGGHHHH!!!!!”

It reached that point. I could no longer use words, or unclench my fists. I may have been shaking slightly.

I was just mad.

My son was looking grimly at me. His brow furrowed and his lips pursed as he stared at me. My daughter was just kind of shocked. Neither of them looked impressed, but I had just gotten to that point.

My son had been stung by a wasp. Or at least he’d just told me he’d been stung by a wasp. I was in adrenaline rush protective father overdrive. I had several strong urges: Continue reading

The Virtues of Fatherhood 2 – Fear

Moments of terror.

Holding him. Holding her. For the first time, wary of their floppiness and heart aching with the raw power of what I’d just seen.

The first time he cried in my arms. I panicked, looked helplessly around the hospital room and blinked. What did he want? What could I do? Part of me wanted to search for The Mamanator, set him on her breasts and have him calmed down.

The cord-end still attached to their belly buttons. I avoided it, it scared me. Then there was that moment when the last bits of tube came away with some drops of blood and we called the Maternal Child Health nurse because we didn’t know what was going on.

I cut my son’s finger-nails for the first time and the smallness of them was terrifying. The glint of light on the clippers quivered in my shaking hands. I imagined I was in surgery, with face mask, beeping machines and nurses on hand to schwab the sweat away from my furrowed brow.

The weight of a limp and heavy head. The sound of water hitting the basin wall. The cold, naked room. The inches of water sounded wet, deadly and far too deep. I was petrified, and I couldn’t do it the first time. So I tagged out and assisted. It was weeks before I could bathe him myself.

The fear you feel when your child, whose food you’ve been monitoring so carefully, gets their lolly or piece of cake.

The first time the two of them cried at once.

The hospital trips.

First falls.

Head clangs.

Drops.

Operations.

Chook deaths.

Moments when all the confidence, all the expertise and all that skill you’ve built up through weeks and months of constant care seems to just drain away from your face like blood. The first time away. The first time leaving them with someone else.

So many firsts. So much fear. And that is just the small stuff. The deeper issues linger. These slow-burners of fear. The nagging questions, the doubts and the insecurities – all rooted in fear. Fear of fathering. Fear of the task. Fear of failure. Fear of warping, damaging and distorting the young minds you hold in your hands. Fear that they’ll see your fear and become fearful themselves. Fear of your child’s fear. Fearing fear itself.

Fear is the enemy. Fear shuts down the brain, fear is paralysing, fear makes you hesitate, makes you second guess, makes you make mistakes. And that’s just on the inside. Then you become a parent and you have an audience. Then you have a life to protect. Then you have responsibilities. Then you know what fear is.

Fear used to exist to help us avoid being eaten by things bigger than us. It kept us alive, but as our lives have gotten both safer and more complex, we have found new reasons and new ways to feel fear. We have new modern names for fear: angst, guilt, self-doubt. But at the core that basic primal fear runs through the centre of it all. We used to fear for our lives, but now we fear for our futures, our careers, finding purpose, finding a house, sharing ourselves with someone else and then we fear for all these things for and through our children.

I wish I was fearless. I wish I knew what I was doing. I wish I was imbued with the decisiveness, with certainty with strength.

Imagine fearless fatherhood. Brash, daring and confident. I’d never hesitate to clip a fingernail. Never stop to question my judgement. Never be frightened by something as mundane as a bath. Never think too much about how my words or my actions might be affecting my children, because I was sure in myself and my actions. Unsqueamish and manly I’d forge ahead, knowing what i was doing was the right thing.

No.

I need my fear. My fear challenges me every day. It makes me a better dad, it makes me work harder and strive better. It makes me think deeper and longer. Fear makes me double-check the car seat. Fear helps me keep track of 2 kids in the bath. Fear keeps me alert when I am with my kids swimming, running, climbing….

And yes, of course it goes too far. Happens all the time, especially in those blurry early days, when you’re convinced that if you hold your child the wrong way they’ll snap in two in your hands.

Or later on, when your toddler climbs up to a new height on a playground and you waver between wanting to pull them down or hold them up so you kind of hover near them with your hands out not knowing what to do. Then you get scared you are being a helicopter parent, put your hands down but dance from foot to foot like you really need to go to the toilet because you don’t know if being too close is doing harm, but you don’t want to be too far away in case they fall….

Or when you realise you have sworn in front of your child for the first time and you’re convinced you’ve just destroyed their chances of being prime minister (that’s a normal and rational fear, right?).

Or when you snap for the first time and yell at your child and they look at you with hurt, scared eyes before bawling – and you are so afraid that you’ve destroyed their soul and they’ll never recover (they recover).

But you learn to deal with it. You learn to cut those finger-nails. You learn to run those baths. You learn to watch but not interfere as they play. You learn your limits as your child learns theirs. You never eliminate your fear, but you learn to listen to it and trust it without letting it take over completely.

It’s that feeling in your gut. It’s the reflexes that make us all “ninja dads“. It is there in that sense you get when your child is up too high. It’s that urge to look both ways and hold their hands as they cross the street – even if there hasn’t been a car down it in weeks.

And your kids watch you learn to deal with it. They understand that as you stop fearing things they can stop fearing them too. They learn that if you’re scared for them they’ve crossed a line and put themselves in danger, real danger. And they learn from that far more profoundly and far more quickly than any stern talking to they might receive afterwards.

So don’t sweat fear. Understand it, face it, challenge it. It’s there to help, and it’s their to teach you. Just don’t let it take over. And remember, your little ones don’t have fear yet, it’s part of why they’re so frightening to their parents.

This post is in part inspired by this excellent post by Alex at Dadrites. Go read it.

The next installation of the series – Anger – can also be found here.

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.
Continue reading

Older posts