Conversations.

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So I was talking to the Lad as I changed his nappy today. What? Some of our best conversations take place on the change table. Anyway I was telling him that this is one of the few phases in his life where he is going to get this kind of service, as I wiped him clean. If he was ever going to get it again, I imagined it would likely be when he was very old, and I probably wouldn’t be there to do it for him anymore. I would most probably be dead.

Then I had to stop for a moment not only because I had to take the liner from the nappy over to the toilet to flush away, but also because the reality of the sentence I just said so flippantly hit me like a falling cartoon piano. I had temporarily stunned myself into silence.

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Mortality is a touchy subject for us mortals. I find it interesting that parents are supposed to fret over ”the conversation” (in BIG inverted commas), that one about where babies come from and sex and all that. Sitcoms tell us it’s hard, and that it’s one of the scariest moments in parenting so it must be true. Right?.

Personally I’m fine with that conversation. That’s a biological process which can be explained with metaphor or a nice allegory if needs be. Alternatively you can stick to the facts and talk about sperm and eggs and all that. It doesn’t worry me all that much, whatever floats your boat. I know how it works.

What scares the pants of me is the conversation about the other end of existence. What happens when we die? Now that’s some scary s***. Its a also something where my beliefs are not likely to be, shall we say, comforting to a toddler. It also sits uneasily with me because I don’t know what happens, and to pretend otherwise feels inauthentic while saying “some people believe blah…. Others believe bleh….” Sounds like a whussy copout that won’t sate the young ones thirst for knowledge at all.

Maybe I just think too much… It remains very likely that all my thinking will come to nought when its time to actually talk about it. Its also likely that we’ll have this conversation briefly and The Lad will simply nod and say “alright Daddy.” And move on without giving it any more thought, impervious to the existentialist crises that plague us older folk. And i’ll be left to contemplate the limits in my own existence, and the fact that my days are numbered.

The weekend

Weekends are great, right? Time away from work, a chance to hang out with family, catch up on personal administration and recharge the batteries. Once upon a time for us it was a chance to catch up with friends, go out for a meal, catch a show… Not so much these days, but they are still fun times.

But not this weekend. This weekend was crap. So, the rest of this post is going to be a whinge. Hopefully it amuses some people, and reminds that among the at time blissfully fulfilling role of parents are spells of despair and frustration.

The struggles of the weekend just gone stem from one simple fact. The Mamanator and myself have both been sick. I was moving through a fog. A persistent headache that felt like my head was a fish-bowl full of thick-shake sloshing around every time I turned or moved too fast. And I was hot or teeth-chatteringly cold all the time. The Mamanator had a sore throat the whole time and was generally run-down, overtired and over it.

On Saturday my mum was up visiting, which eased the burden somewhat. Nonetheless the day still had its struggles. I was trying to determine which medication would help me feel like a normal human being again. The Mamanator was mislead by a recipe that said “4 spoons of curry paste”, and interpreted that as table spoons not teaspoons. The result was a Tom Yum soup that could strip paint. I liked it, but it was a bit too much for a 2 year old. The Mamanator also couldn’t eat it as experience taught her spicy food seems to lead to spicy breastmilk and an unhappy Lass. So, it was a bit of a shamozle, which The Mamanator thought was a catastrophe. A quick pasta was made up for herself and The Lad, and all was well.

The Next day was harder. No mum. I was useless. The day is actually a blur as I lurched about after The Lad and tried to be somehow useful. My one domestic contribution to the day was that I hung out a load of towels on the washing line and brought in the dry nappies. Go me, husband of the year. I also did something I NEVER do, I took a nap. Fortunately The Lad took a nap with me, so I kept him out of the Mamanator’s hair for 2 hours or so. Yes, it was a long nap. I did manage to hang out some washing at some point, and even kick a ball around with my son in some semblance of being a functional father. But for much of the day, we spent too much time in front of the TV.

Then at about 4pm  The Mamanator told me she had spoken to the Maternal Child Health on-call line (essential number parents, 13 22 29 in Victoria), and got advice that we should go get The Lass looked over by a doctor. She had been unsettled all day and her cry started to sound hoarse.

Off we set to the hospital, the only chance of seeing a doctor in Castlemaine on a Sunday. Me still in my fog of head-coldiness, the Mamantor sleep deprived, The Lass crying hoarsely and The Lad wondering why we were heading out so late in the day. We got in. The Mamanator took care of forms and stuff for The Lass. I basically tried to stop The Lad walking into other patients rooms. He was restless, he ran laps of the hospital floor, smiled at every nurse he could find and sprinted up and down corridors. I think he had a great time. Once The Lass had calmed down The Mamanator and I swapped roles, giving me a chance to sit down while she took over Lad-minding duties.

We got called in after a bit of a wait. We were warned it would talk a while. The Castlemaine definition of a ‘while’ in emergency and the city definition of a ‘while’ are worlds appart for one another. We were seen after about 1/2 an hour of waiting. The girl had a throat infection and mild laryngitis (thus the hoarseness in the cry).

So we rolled on home. Dinner was…. fish and chips…. in front of the TV…. I was still in my pyjamas….. Not my finest hour as a family man. The Lad went to bed about an hour late.

Monday I was slightly better, my head had cleared, my throat was sore and I felt I could finally function as a human being. I did a half day at work, got a message that both kids were upset at home and came back as quickly as I could. So we played. The Lad napped. All was well. Something was defrosted for dinner (it was a mystery meal, no label, no idea of what it was but we figured “pasta sauce”, but it turned out to be gumbo which was again too spicy for The Lad. Pasta back-up was called in.

Monday night was hell. In our house I put The Lad to bed. I read stories, sing songs, often end up rocking him and comforting him till he nods off. This whole process takes between 1/2 an hour and an hour nights. On Monday night we went to bed at 7pm. He was awake at 8. He was awake at 9. He was awake at 10. Oh my god, it was frustrating. He was not himself, he wanted to play lively, physical games around bed time. When I tried to redirect to books or something more quiet it was an instant meltdown. I don’t know how many tantrums he through, but it would take more than both of my hands to count them. I called for reinforcements from The Mamanator at about 8:45pm. In the end we figured something was wrong and gave him some medicine to calm him down. It actually worked a treat, and he finally nodded off at about 10:07pm. I was wrecked.

So, when the parenting thing is hard what can you do? Looking back I think we did the best we could have, and we coped reasonably well. The biggest challenge is accepting your limintiins. If you are sick your capabilities are reduced. If you pretend the aren’t sick, you will almost invariably make yourself sicker. Seek help of you can (we can’t where we are, grandparents are back in Melbourne….), and grit your teeth and bear it.

After all, kids don’t take medical certificates.

Who else has had to cope with a half-functioning brain/body while wrangling kids? How did you cope?

Things I forgot.

Walk. Sway. Rock. Vertical. Horizontal. Backwards. Forward. Bounce. Jiggle. Up. Down. Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk.
“What did you say?”
Rub. Rub. Rub
“No, I’ve been trying to….”
Pat. Pat. Pat.
“What?”
Shhh. Shhh. Shhh.
“I don’t know”
Kiss. Kiss. Kiss
“Well, sorray, my hands are full!”

Crying children. They wear you down. They syphon off your patience, deplete your energy, tension your nerves and break your heart all at once. You are left sensitive, short and snappy.

Some times our girl cries. There are a few reasons a baby cries. It could be wind/reflux causing pain. It could be a nappy. It could be too hot or cold. It would be some form of discomfort. But they can also cry because they are bored, because its a bad time of day or because of some kind of philosophical or existentialist crisis as they ponder the absurdity if existence. You can’t tell, and they can’t tell you.

The Lad is 2. He can often communicate when something hurts. He can tell me what he wants. He will exclaim “Kiss Better!”, “I want it, a …….” Or “CUDDLE!” to tell me what I can do to help. But two years ago he couldn’t even do that. I guess that’s one of the things I forgot. This time though, I know a bit about what’s to come, which makes it not easier, but at least I know it ends.

It takes longer now to get to either child if they start to cry, especially when The Mamanator or I am on our own. I know that isn’t anyone’s fault, just a fact of life, but I wish it wasn’t. I wish I didn’t wish that, and I could stop it bothering me.

Today she cried the whole time her mum was in the shower, but I didn’t cut The Mamanator’s shower short. That would have been monstrously unfair if I had. Today though, today she snoozed on me and I didn’t want to put her down. Today I sat her next to her brother and read Hairy Maclary books. Today she stared at me, gazing at me as though she knew me better than anyone. Who knows what she’ll do tomorrow…

My mission, and I chose to accept it

Our boy is turning 2 and we decided to have a celebration. Nothing crazy, just some friends and a BBQ. With nearly an acre for the kids to play on. An acre now relatively mowed after I accepted the emasculating reality that I cannot keep that much lawn in check with a push mower and got someone in to do it.

I was to be BBQer in chief. But that was not enough involvement for me. All dads BBQ, so what? No. I decided to do something else as well….

The Dadinator walks into the saloon. Surrounded by thugs, highwaymen and murderers. He casts his eye across the tables, squinting. He pauses for a moment and waits as the room goes silent. “I’m here to bake a cake” he yells across the smoke-filled den of thieves. The piano crashes to a stop. Every jaw drops, every mouth inhales sharply and the silence deepens. “Did he just say he’s baking a cake?” Someone whispers. The barkeep over-pours the drink on the bar. “You heard me, I’m here to bake a cake!”

Okay, the conversation actually went like this “We should bake him a birthday cake” I said, looking blankly into the distance, my mind caught up in a crazy idea. “Yeah.” Said the Mamantor. “Hey!” I exclaimed as my eyes widened in excitement “I could bake it!”. “Yeah. If you want” she replied. “Wow, I could make my sons birthday cake…” I said lost in the craziness of the scheme I had just concocted, as if saying I was going to invent the first aeroplane.

So. The task was set. But what cake? TO THE INTERNET! I thought to myself. I looked at cheese cakes. At gluten free cakes. At decorated butter cakes. I had to take into account the fact that I draw about as well as a epileptic drunken cane toad, so nothing intricate, and no piping or decorating. Also, I would not have much uninterrupted kitchen time, so nothing too complicated. I also had to remember it was a cake for a kids party.

After some procrastination masquerading as soul searching I decided: Rainbow cake. It was partly because of a friend of mine who featured on “The Great Australian Bake Off” (Hi SJ!), and partly because our kid likes rainbows. Seriously, he saw his first one a couple of weeks ago, and keeps on demanding that the sky brings them forth. The sky usually tells him to get stuffed. I had two options. Layers or a marble cake. Layers were unlikely given we only had 1 round baking tin in the house, so marble cake it was!

Saturday night was bake night. Kid needed to sleep fast so I could get it done, and bless him, he did. Fortunately the cake making part was actually made very easy because we own a Thermomix. The Mamanator sells these machines, and I am inserting a plug for her business here because I am a supportive, cake baking kind of husband. But seriously, it made life pretty easy. The fiddly part was colouring everything and bringing the cake together. Here’s my photo story of the event (imagine it as a montage set either to “eye of the tiger” or “montage”, if you know either of those songs.

So, how did it go? Went down a treat. And I got to feel proud of myself, and inflate my sense of self-importance (which was all part of the original objective of the exercise, in case you hadn’t noticed) Also made me feel useful because it turns out that the BBQ plan was kind of wrecked by the weather.

Oh, and our boy is suddenly 2 years old. How the #@)(%*$% did that happen? I swear he was born a few days ago. He used to look small, then we had The Lass. Suddenly this vivacious 13 kilos of running, talking mayhem has started to look very big indeed.

Happy Birthday son, I love you to bits. I’d ask you to stay this way forever, but then I’d never know what I was missing out on. It has been a awesome time in my life, and I thank you for it.

And to the Mamanator who gave birth to you and your sister, look at that thing. Look at that thing you grew inside you. You can even talk to it now. Amazing. Oh and I am so making your birthday cake this year….

And to the Lass, yes I’ll bake you a cake too….. Promise.