Dadinating the Country Side

The Trials and Tribulations of Living the Dream

Falling.

Once I stared into a pair of tiny bright eyes, transfixed and entrapped. I was falling.
Now I am falling again.
Once I ran my fingers through soft silky hair, twining and twirling through my fingers carelessly. I was falling.
Now I am falling again.
Once I traced patterns on soft warm blubbery skin. I was falling.
Now I am falling again.
Once I perfected sequences of voice and movement, gibbering like a fool, repeating over and over. I was falling.
Now I am falling again.
Once I stared at a sleeping face that could stop time, meekly smiling to myself as seconds ticked away. I was falling.
Now I am falling again.

I am lucky I am falling. I thought falling could only happen once in my life. I may never get another chance.
In the meantime I’ll keep falling. Holding my wife’s hand as we fall together.
We can’t help it.
Falling deeper. Deeper and deeper.

I love you more every day, my grey eyed Lass.

Mythology and me.

This post is rated M for strong language. Or something. Look I swear a bit, this topic means a lot to me. Don’t look at me like that, you’ve got your things too.

μῦθος • (muthos) (genitive μύθου) m, second declension
1. Word, public speech, conversation, saying
2. Story or tale.

These movies are ALL WRONG! WRONG WRONG WRONG!

These movies are ALL WRONG! WRONG WRONG WRONG!

If I had to sit through a swords and sandals epic with myself, I’d end up with a black eye. I would take a swing at my smug face before the first half hour was over. If a movie has any claim to be based on ancient Greek or Roman mythology or history, just cross me off your list now. I will either be pissing myself with laughter (like I did through 300) or be yelling at the screen shouting “No, that’s not what happened” every 30 seconds (Like I did with Troy) (I avoided seeing Clash of The Titans for my own safety). Possibly I’d be doing both. It would be irritating.

Fortunately my dear wife is the same. She once sat down with a friend to watch Disney’s “Hercules”. She warned her friend that she was going to hate it and didn’t really want to watch it. “That’s okay, just tell me when the movie isn’t sticking to the mythology, okay?”. The Mamanator agreed. Her friend lasted 15 minutes before shouting “SHUT UP!” at The Mamanator who could now add “Told you so” to the litany of irritating things she had been saying through the movie. Let me fill you in on what they would be:

  • The name is wrong. Hercules is originally “Herakles” in Greek
  • Herakles IS NOT the son of Zeus and Hera. Zeus went off and shagged a mortal woman called Alcmene to conceive Herakles. He apparently stopped the sun rising for 3 days so he could really bonk her senseless to do it.
  • Herakles was not tormented by “Hades”. He was tormented by his step-mother Hera.
  • Hades is not evil in Greek myth, in fact he is renowned for his strict and emotionless/impartial sense of justice.
  • Herakles had absolutely nothing to do with Pegasus. That was Bellerophon, a hero who pre-dates Herakles.
  • Herakles was not trained by a Satyr called Ph……

Okay okay I’ll stop now. You can see why people yell “Shut Up” at people like us…..

A personal age or two ago I did classical studies at University. I studied Latin and Ancient Greek among other things because I loved the languages and because your early youth is one of the few times in your life when you are at liberty to do these kinds of things. My dearest wife did similar studies (although she also did English Literature, and didn’t go into the languages the way I did).

This made me a bit of a puritan throughout my life. I could never abide by a simplification or an “adulteration” of the stories. I would decry any sanitisation or censorship of the material. People know a bit about Greek Myth, right? They know some names, Zeus, Herakles(Hercules), Ares, Hera, Athena… Xena Warrior Princess (Hah! Tricked you, there is no Xena in Greek Myth). Do they know that Zeus and Hera are brother and sister as well as husband and wife? That all bar one of Zeus’ children are born through extra-martial relations? That there are 3 different myths which involves fathers eating or cooking up THEIR CHILDREN? That there is of bestiality in Greek Myth too?

Seriously, Greek Mythology is fucked up. And it’s fucked upedness is what makes it interesting. As an adult reader.

Now I read for different reasons though. I still read for myself, when I have the time, but much of the time I’m reading in front of the wide-open and highly absorbent eyes of my boy. He’s a sponge. I weave stories for him all the time. He weaves them back. He loves them, so do I.

Now….. When I want to share my love of Ancient Mythology with him, what will I do? Will I stick to my guns? Give him the truth, the whole truth and let him make his own mind up, as I have advocated for as I yelled at movie screens through my life?

Of course not. Do you think I am insane? Do you think I want to fuck my children up in the head? Give them nightmares and explain words like incest and bestiality to them? Transmit messages from myth that say: life is all about suffering, the world is unfair, the powerful can get away with anything….

No no no. Suddenly I find myself in a new position. Suddenly I will be the one glossing over details, editing these stories I love in the hope my kids will love them too. Suddenly my implacable moral crusade to tell the whole truth of these stories has been found. Well. Placable.

So picture book writers who leave out the scary bits, I am sorry for cursing your names.

Children’s movie makers who fudge the details for the eyes of children, I am sorry for calling you idiots.

Audience members who glared at me in cinemas as I laughed/yelled at the screen, I am sorry.

And Lad and Lass, who will one day find out that I edited and censored these stories for your enjoyment, I am sorry….

And to the makers of the movie Troy. I am not sorry at all. The book was better.

And so I find that parenting has knocked me off yet another high horse. I guess it does it to all of us, right? As usual, share below!

Windows.

At our beach at out magic beach
We swim in the clear blue sea.
Splashing and surfing and……….

A window opens.

Salt. A fresh slap of salt on my tongue and the slow dim glare of the morning sun.
Crash….. Whush…… Crash….. Whush…. Crash…..

I feel the prickle of a tear in my eye. I look back at my drowsy son before my gaze is pulled back to the window.

I see two wet-suited people gazing out at the water. It pulses rhythmically, rising and falling. Lungs. A heart. I’m sure its part of a system that is alive, but it’s one I can’t understand.

The figures walk into the swell. Letting it wash over them, slapping against their bodies as they go further out and sink deeper into the ocean. They are shouting to one another, to be heard over the roar of the surf.

I am closer now. At the water’s edge, and I understand why. The figures are clearer, it is a man and a boy. A young teen.

They are alone.

They came early to avoid the crowds. I know this because I know them. I know these figures through the window. Dad stands tall. Taller than I remember him, “Go! Start swimming go! Catch it”. He shouts

The boy is me, frantically beating his hands and feet on the water, swimming his fastest as the wave sucks him backwards. He slides down the wave, feeling it thrust him forward.

It dumps him. Slamming his pudgy body hard into the sand underneath. He looks up, brine cascading down his head and over his face. His breath is heavy, exhilarated and lively.

He grins at dad. Dad grins back. The boy turns back to face the ocean. I grin at dad too, I grin through the window.

A tear drips down my face. I wonder if my boy has noticed the pause. He hasn’t, our day out has exhausted him. We spent the morning at the pool, splashing in clear water.

He sits on my lap content and patient.

Splashing and jumping the waves

There is a quiver in my voice. I check The Lad’s face, it is unchanged. He is with Dad. Nothing can get to him.

shrieking and laughing with glee.

I breath deeply, another window opens. I see two figures. Alike to the previous but different. Father and son. Me and my boy, as we stand together facing the ocean.

Someday.

I don’t dally on this window, the boy in my lap needs his story. He needs to sleep. He needs me here, not gazing through windows.

I smile. As I turn the page I confide in my son, “I miss my dad sometimes”.

And I read on. Leaving the windows to play out their scenes, as I set about building the next set of windows.

The words in italics are token from the book ‘Magic Beach‘ by Alison Lester. I read to my son at least twice a night before he goes to bed.

The Lad: a phrase book.

Kids say the darndest things, right? It was a TV show, so it must be true. They have strange mispronunciations and a kind of verbal shorthand that makes parents go “awwwwwww”. Well our boy never really did it. He used to say “Oc-copter” for Helicopter, but that’s it. He never called a cat a “miaow miaow” or a car a “broom broom” or counted in a funny way or said “Pasketti” (I did that, I’m told) or anything like that. I have no idea why exactly, but in some ways I feel slightly jibbed as a parent as I don’t have funny stories about what he says.

OR DO I?

My son does have a talent for odd catch phrases. It’s like he has his own little set of idioms that he bandies around – and I want to record these for posterity. Thus this post and thus the following 8 phrases my boy uses to communicate and make sense of the world around him. Some are odd, but they all have their own logic behind them that, as much as anything can, paints a clear picture of my little Lad. Enjoy

1: “Oh La-ad…..”

He and I have a special way to communicate. We use the chorus of “Mandy” by Barry Manilow to communicate. This is the song:

Now let me explain. I have sung the lines: “Oh La-ad, you came and you found me a turkey, on my vacation away from workey” many many times to my boy. It’s a line from The Last Temptation of Homer, an episde of The Simpsons - I know The Simpsons far better than I know Barry Mannilow. I fact it took about 4 minutes googling to find both the real title of the song and that it was by Barry Manilow… And that it was called “Mandy”…

Nowadays he inserts his own words to describe how he is feeling and what he wants. Here’s an example:

Me(sung): Oh La-ad

Lad(sung): You wanted to eat a rice cake, but dad said it’s dinner time soon.

Or something like that. We get somewhat funny looks when we do this in public.

2: You need to be patient

The Lad often talks to himself in the second person, like he’s reminding himself of things. “You need to be patient” is a phrase he has learned by osmosis from The Mamanator and I. This probably tells you a bit about our conversations with our boy….

Recently he was at the doctor’s surgery with The Mamanator and he clearly wanted to climb up the doc’s desk, pull out all the cables from her computer and try to either eat them or stick them in his ear. He once pulled a computer’s power plug out of the wall in a doctor’s office, so we aren’t being paranoid. We know full well what he is capable of. Anyway, the Mamnator prevented it from happening again. Once he had been put on the ground and told it was not on he looked at his mum and said loudly “You need to be patient”. The doctor nearly wet herself laughing, and asked The Lad “have you heard that a few times?”. He has. “You need to be patient” is often paired with “you need to wait” or “you need to wait your turn”.

NB this phrase is often immediately followed by a DEFCON 7 tantrum. So his idea of patient and our idea of patient might not quite align, gentle reader.

2: I don’t think that’s a very good idea

This one has a long back story that stretches back to our pre-kid days. My wife and I are Greek Theatre nerds, and it comes from that. Greek theatre employs a chorus. They’re like a crowd scene. They look at what’s going on, comment on it and generally whine a lot without contributing to the plot. Once long ago I helped stage a highly abridged version of a trilogy of plays called “The Oresteia” by a guy called Aeschylus. Our aim was to try to contract this story as much as possible, performing all 3 1.5 hour plays in 5 minutes. Our chorus spent most almost the entire performance chanting “I don’t think that’s a very good idea” in a deep voice to the main characters, and being promptly ignored. This is a pretty good summary of the role of the chorus in Greek Tragedy by the way.

So at some point in the recent past I started chanting “I don’t think that’s a very good idea” to the lad. And now he’s doing it to himself when he realises or is told that something might not be a good idea (picking up a kitchen knife, touching the oven, climbing a book shelf – you know, the usual). He uses more of a robot voice to say “I don’t think that’s a very good idea” to himself… Before going and doing it anyway.

3: The ball bumped into the Tombilboo Tree/The Pinky Ponk went PONK!/Upsy Daisy’s asleep!…… (insert any number of permutations involving the characters of “In The Night Garden”)

I don’t get that show. I used to love it’s sleep-inducing effect on my boy, but that was a long time ago…. Today I find the best thing about it is that the narrator is Derek Jacobi, and he is so cool he has played both The Master recently in Dr. Who, and Claudius, the emperor of rome (that was a long time ago, Patrick Stewart was in it – wearing a wig). The rest of it is tedious, trite and brain numbing. I guess that’s why it works as a bedtime show for little ones, it puts the brain to sleep. It consists of a bunch of doll/puppet like characters engaged in such hijincks as losing and finding stones, riding vehicles, getting lost, having their pants fall down etc. etc. etc. The plots are vapid, infantile and repetitive.

The Lad loves it. So much so he will casually tell people about what the various characters are up to for absolutely no reason. “The Pinky Ponk bumped into the tree” he’ll say when I ask him to eat more breakfast. “Upsy Daisy is in bed”, he’ll say as we walk down the street. “The Tombliboo’s trousers fell down” he’ll announce to his friend as they drive play cars together. I’m sure it enriches all our lives to know about the details of a bunch of costumed characters who can’t talk.

4: “The Power’s gone” or “It’s run out of batteries”.

I know where he picked that one up, it was us.Did you know that sometimes TV’s can run out of batteries? That the power can just suddenly “go” from all kinds of devices? Phones, tablets, things that make annoying noises etc etc etc…. “We can’t” is so much easier to say than “we won’t”, beleive me I’ve tried “we won’t” before. “We’re not watching TV because Daddy said no” quickly changes into “yes yes, the power’s gone” in the face of sobbing. It’s an easy out, but I’m sure it’s one many parents use. Right?

Yeah. I know. We’re terrible.

6: “He smells nice”

I’m checking nappies. You know what that means – well parents do – a combination of sniffing and foraging through your child’s crotch to determine if they need a change or not. It’s all pretty standard untill I declare he smells of something , poo or pee or he just plain stinks.

I am immediately rebuked with the assertion “It smells nice!”

It does not, in fact, smell nice. It smells like an abomination.

7. Once upon a time there was a boy….

He likes to tell stories about himself. His best one so far went like this:

“Once upon a time there was a boy called The Lad, and he needed to be patient. Then he ate some eggs. The End. I want the television”. But he’s told many others. You’ll also noticed how these phrases cross over.

8. YOU’RE TWOOOOOOOOO!

This one is always said in all caps. Every single time. In the past we consoled our mid-tantrum boy by telling him “Yes, yes it’s very hard. You’re two”. So being a word sponge our boy has decided he doesn’t need us to say it to him, he’ll do it himself. So now this phrase is only ever uttered at the height of his emotional distress because he hasn’t been given another apple to take two bites out of and throw away, because the TV isn’t showing the show he wants or because the time taken between his request and its fulfilment has been greater than zero seconds.

We no longer tell him that he is two. He seems to know that he is very very TWOOOOOOOOOOO!.

The Lass:

I thought I would mention some sounds The Lass has been making recently, and attempt to interpret them for you, dear readers. She has a slowly developing vocabulary of gurgles and chortles which I’m sure will one day form a language like our human language. But not just yet….

Ba ba ba ba ba ba ba…….. ba ba ba….. ba

I think this translates to something like “Oh, this is interesting I think this is interesting, isn’t it interesting?” She tends to say this one to herself while she is trying to move/roll/pull herself through the world, experiencing it in a new way every day.

Wyfff baaa psssst…

I think this translates as “Why doesn’t milk come out of this chest? And whats with all the hair. Maybe if I head but it enough it will start to give me milk”. It’s something she says as she head buts my sternum, presumably trying to find the tap for my non-existent milk supply…

He he he haaaa heeeeeeee!

This means one thing: Yaaaay! The Chosen One is amused with me!. The “Chosen One” is The Lad, my little girl is besotted with her big brother. There is no one in the world who can make her smile as wide or her laugh as loud.

 

I think we are cultivating a healthy eccentricity in our two children. If you ever meet either of them in a dark alley, at least you’ll have an idea of what they are saying.

Do your children out there speak in bizarre catch phrases? Share and share alike! Make me feel a little less weird.

Easter and ethnicity.

A car speeds past us, bass blaring. It appears to be driven by men of “Mediterranean extraction”
Me: God that’s a fully sick wog mobile.
Mamanator: Shhhh
Me: What I’m 1/2 Greekish, I can say that.
Mamanator: Yes I know, but what about The Lad?
Me: What about him? He’s 1/4 Greekish himself.
Mamanator: Yes, but look at him!
Red hair, blue eyes. Fair skin. Not Greek looking

Red hair, blue eyes. Fair skin. Not Greek looking

Does he look greek AT ALL?
Me: Fair point….

Easter comes around once a year. Well it does every 4 years or so. Otherwise it comes around twice a year.

Hang on, let me explain. You might have got an inkling that I have Irish heritage in there. Seamus and Magee are giveaways. My middle names Patrick, so I think I may as well be a walking shamrock some days. My father was a proud Irishman, and his family are Irish for as long as anyone can remember. He came out to Australia in the 60s, wandered around the country for a while and eventually settled in Melbourne.

But that’s only 1/2 the story. In the strong tradition of melting-pots, mum was also a migrant, but she came from Cyprus, arriving in 1956. She and her family spoke greek, ate Keftedes, Mousaka and Baklava at home, and brought strange and exotic food to school like “Salami” and “Olives”. Strange and exotic foods from far away lands that lead to her being called names in the playground.

So sometimes I wear this:

Is it Greek? Is it Irish? WHO CAN TELL????

Is it Greek? Is it Irish? WHO CAN TELL????

I found this in Athens when I was on a study tour there learning Greek and eating Greek food. I saw it and thought it was an essential purchase because it looked so Irish, but is in fact the jersey for the Greek soccer team “Panathanaikos”. The symbol is even a shamrock. I mean seriously, did St Patrick come to Greece and found a soccer team which took on his symbol?

I tend to break it out on St Patricks day for the cultural irony. One night in my youth it nearly acted as an instant pick up line for two Irish backpackers who were attending the same venue as me that night. When I responded to their greeting with an Aussie twang, however, they got suspicious, noticed the writing on the shirt was Greek and moved on quickly. I was never a hit with the ladies.

But back to Easter. The Greek Orthodox Church, among its many disagreements with the Roman Catholic Church, calculates the date of Easter differently. I don’t know why and I don’t know how it’s worked out, but it is usually a week after the public holiday Easter (the official Easter, but I am loathe to call it that). Some years it’s 2 weeks later and some years it’s on the same day.

It’s the Greekest thing my family does is “Greekster” (Greek Easter). But it has fallen away in the last 5 years or so, people moving away, kids, general busy-ness have taken their toll.  Greekster was about talking loudly, eating food and smashing dyed boiled eggs. Oh and Tsoureki, a sweet bread that is traditional easter fare for people of Greek Heritage. I wonder if my little boy will get to experience it.

Of course on the Mamanator’s side there are a host of traditions too. My Grandfather-in-law (that’s a thing, right?) is Lithuanian. He fled Europe after World War 2 and got to Australian with his sisters. Every year we gather with that side of the family for Christmas Eve, enjoy a meal of 13 dishes, all cold and meat free, and exchange gifts. They also have their easter traditions, which also involve smashing dyed eggs. I wonder what other peoples out there engage in the smashing of boiled eggs? I’m sure there’s an anthropology thesis in it.

Dwelling on all this begs the question: What will my children’s traditions be? What am I creating for them? It is all well and good to blather on about pithy things like “togetherness” or “family” or “love” , but what will they remember? Will they remember the Greek new years cake that is mostly walnuts with a coin hidden in it? Will they remember Soda Bread? Will they remember the distinctly Cypriot easter bread Flaounes? Will they ever get to taste my grandmother’s Rizogalo (rice pudding)?

My son turns 3 this year, he’s entering the time in his life where he will remember things, so these are suddenly pertinent question for me. I find myself on the other side, a custodian of culture and propagator of traditions. I am a spectator no more.

As a 21st century Gen Y Australian I sometimes feel rootless. I know I’m not the only one. I have experienced a blend of traditions, inherited form generations before me. Traditions of far off places, borne across mighty oceans by intense nostalgia and a sense of duty that came with the families seeking a fresh start here in this land. A fresh start, but not a blank slate. Did they have some kind of strange existentialist crisis over Christmas and Easter when I was little? Or even over cricket matches (to refer back to another post of mine)? I doubt they did.

Will my boy understand what it means to be partially Greek, partially Lithuanian, partially Turkish (don’t tell my Yiayia I said that….), partially Irish, partially who knows? Will The Mamanator and I be able to teach him what any of that means when we don’t really know ourselves? Does any of this actually mean anything to anyone anyway? Does it even matter? It might matter. Might not though, a notion both chilling and depressing at the same time.

The hard thing is how do you pass a bunch of different traditions on to a child, some of which you don’t even know yourself. I speak a bit of Greek. I use some when talking to The Lad and Lass. I speak zero Irish-Gaelic (my grandmother was fluent). The Mamanator knows more French than she does Lithuanian. Maybe that makes us lazy, shallow people. Maybe it leaves us adrift in the ocean of humanity without a secure anchor in our own history and identity. Of course, maybe it liberate us, allowing us to see more and experience more. The luxury of the melting pot is that we can pick and choose the best of the traditions that surround us and engage with them as we see fit. Shoppers in the global marketplace of culture, tradition and ethnicity.

Maybe every generation goes through this in some way, and it’s just our turn. So maybe we should suck it up and take up arms against a sea of troubles. Either way parenthood has taught me that culture is not an inheritance or a right. It is a responsibility, it is something created and recreated consciously and subconsciously all the time. And the creators often don’t have the foggiest idea what they’re doing.

This post is confusing, sorry about that, it confuses me too. If I work out any answers I’ll let you know. If I work out more questions, well I’m sure you have enough to go on with here….

So, what are your traditions? How did they come about? Will you carry them on with your progeny (should you have any?) Or will you conveniently re-invent them when the time comes?

Digital Parents Blog Carnival
« Older posts