Dadinating the Country Side

The Trials and Tribulations of Living the Dream

366 days ago.

Dear Lass,

366 days ago was a strange time. I was toasting English muffins for your mother and playing Angry Birds. I think it was Angry Birds. Maybe it was Candy Crush… We had a bit of time to kill you see. Your birth was going to happen soon, but we didn’t know how soon. The initial excitement of the commencement of labour had passed and the waiting was going on in earnest. I was taking some notes about it at the time, ready to write the story of your birth up on the blog somewhere-or-other.

I remember feeling relatively calm, trying to focus on doing things and being useful. I remember a sense of anticipation and a stalking fear in the back of my mind. I had been here before, you were our second baby, but even a text-book birth is still harrowing.

I remember a shadow on my mind. A malaise drifting around the periphery. A sense of concern that it wouldn’t be as special and that I wouldn’t be as devoted a dad to you as a result. I sinking sense that I wouldn’t love you as much as your brother. He was nearly 2 and for that nearly 2 years he had been the centre of my little universe.

It wasn’t overwhelming, just a vague potential dread.

I remember that night, trying to get him to bed. Trying not to let my angst and nervousness leak out of me as I tried to calm him down and settle him. I remember he slept. I remember he slept and once he was asleep I remember forgetting about him for a time. Only for a time, but I still remember it.

I remember making muffins for your mother, muffins with jam. I remember forgetting things, travelling back and forth to the car. I remember flurrying islands of activity popping up amidst a sea of waiting and anticipation. I remember driving and breathing deeply.

I remember the sounds. Your mothers grunts and moans, how she sung. That’s not a metaphor, she actually sung. She said later it helped her focus and helped her breathe, makes sense when you think about it. The room was calm, she was in control and all happened as it should have.

I remember when 366 days ago became 365 days ago. I remember seeing you. I remember seeing you seeing me. You came out with your eyes open, you looked and gazed as you stretched out for the first time, unfurled in the air you were now breathing.

I remember desperately trying to tell your mother that your eyes were open because while you looked around you were silent. There was no noise issuing from your gaped mouth. I remember her confusion because she thought it couldn’t be over yet, so what was I talking about? I remember when she held you. I remember holding you.

I remember your smallness. A smallness so powerful that it blew my fears into oblivion and gripped my heart and made it grow. I remember learning that while I didn’t get extra arms or extra hours in the day to handle two kids, love isn’t divided, love grows.

But that was 365 days ago. 365 days of growing, of laughing, of playing, of learning and of pure joy. 365 days of total love. 365 days for me to forget that there was a life before you. and 365 days of you gazing dotingly at your big brother.

1 day ago I was late home, parent teacher interviews at school. The Mamanator tells me that at dinner time you pointed to the door and said “dad” over and over again. I remember feeling heartbroken that you were depressed, while secretly feeling elated to know I was missed.

And today. Today you had cake and a candle. Today we sung to you and ate Indian food to celebrate your first orbit of our yellow-white star. Today you were one. Today you lay across my lap as I typed this thinking of the year gone.

But 365 days is not long. There are tens of thousands to come. Days of fun, days of laughter, days of beauty. But no doubt days of tears, days of anger and days of fear. But don’t worry about that, mum and dad will be there for those.

I can’t believe it’s only been 365 days nor can I believe it’s gone so fast. I can’t believe we’ve made it.

And you my gorgeous little one, you’ve got it all to come. Happy Birthday, for the first time.

Love for the years still before you

Dad

Lass on the deck Lass sandpit Lass

Today

There is only one today, but an indeterminable large heap of yesterdays and tomorrows. But I want to focus on today for a change. Our heads spend all their time in the future and the past, but maybe today is the day that will be important when it becomes yesterday. Or maybe it will happen tomorrow, I’ve no idea.

Today. I think I’ll miss today when it’s gone. I think I miss every today, before it slips into the past before it becomes yesterday and is displaced by tomorrow. Each today is different. Today The Lass asked directly “up” – to be taken out of her high chair. Today, unlike yesterday, she was happy and willing to be hoisted high in the air. Today she splashed water out of the bath and splashed around snatching all the toys. She’s not the same person as yesterday. Yesterday was long car trips and “ro ro” (Row Row Row your Boat for those playing at home). Yesterday was a hold-me-close-to-your-chest-daddy day. Yesterday was different. She was younger. Merely a day younger, but when you haven’t seen out a year a day means a great deal more.

So today. Today my daughter was strong and confident. She was alive and active. I don’t know what tomorrow’s daughter will be; and I can’t remember all the daughters of the yesterdays gone by. So I wanted to capture something of today, or of today’s children, so I don’t forget this day.

I wish I could  bottle all of the todays. They stop being today fast, of course, but if I could preserve an essence, a token or even an elusive aroma of a yesterday I think I’d be better able to make sense of the world.

The Lad. Yes The Lad. Today’s Lad slept in because Today’s lad didn’t sleep well in the wee hours of the morning. He called out and cried again and again. He told me there was something in the window, then something in the wardrobe. I inspected and assured him it wasn’t so. Nonetheless he cried. He told me he had bad dreams. And then he told me he had a tummy ache. So at 4 in the morning I gave him some pain killers and he went to sleep, finally. I went to sleep, finally.

That was really before today started. Before the lurch from bed. Before the resignation and realisation that I had to take The Lass with me to give The Mamanator some kind of respite. Before coffee. Before breakfast and showers. Before my angst-ridden morning as I wondered if my sleeping boy was going to get up in time to say good bye to me. Before I tiptoed into his room, kissed him and told him I loved him and that I’d see him tonight as he slept on.

But the rest of today still happened. The departure, the waves from The Lass, the drive in. The work day full of loud teenagers, hormones and books. The tidying up, the drive home and the image of my little boy staring out the back door at me as I walked from the car to the house. He always stands there for me. Well he did today, and he probably will for a few more todays yet.

Today he was polite and he was kind. Today he kicked his boots off and launched them across the room, which earned him a rebuke. Today he nearly avoided his bath because he was so tired but later said “thank you for drying me” after his bath. Today was a day of pleases, of gentle voices and of cuddles. Today The Mamanator huddled with him in his bed till he went to sleep. Today she fell asleep in there too.

Today The Lass didn’t want to be let go or put down. Today she threw her food quite deliberately and waited for it to return to her because that has been the game for the last few yesterdays. Today she looked older. Imperceptible though it may be I know she looked older. She felt older, felt bigger. Tomorrow she’ll be older again and I’ll miss The Lass of today.

That’s it, isn’t it. We pine for yesterday. We long for tomorrow, but we forget today. I’m trying not to forget today.

I shall miss today. But as compensation I get tomorrow.

A Father’s Day Card.

Dear Dad,

It’s been a while since I wrote, sorry about that. Life gets hectic. Rapidly hectic. Given the time of year and all I thought I’d let you know how we are going and wish you all the best on Father’s Day. I know I never did a good father’s day when I was small. We’d meet, have lunch, you’d pay and we’d talk. Talk and talk about wars, history, life, the outback… The conversations we’d have.

I was bouncing with The Lad on the trampoline today. I don’t know how that happened, I thought he’d bounce on his own, but he asked me to join him and I love trampolines (and him) so in I went. Between bounces and “big bum drops” as we call them  (I drop from standing to sitting and make the trampoline very unsteady for a while, he falls over and laughs – uncoyth I know) we started conversing.

He’s just started to converse. He inquires, he engages and he gives his opinion on everything. He’s nearly three, you see, its moving on from simple question and answer stuff for him, he’s learning that words make the world and he’s busy making his own. We didn’t converse about history or the ways of the world. Actually I can’t remember what we were talking about. I think he said “I love you” and melted my heart a little bit more (he does that a lot), and I felt impelled to tell him about today.

Today was father’s day. So we went to see his male progenitors. Granddad and his great granddad, who he is so lucky to have in his life. But then I explained “Dad has a dad”. He repeated it back to me, as toddlers do. “You see, dad has a dad too”. “The Lad has a dad” he replied again. Of course he used his name he didn’t say “The Lad” but I use that on this blog as a means of giving him a little bit of anonymity. It’s what you do on the internet… I know, computers were never your thing…

I don’t know if I did a good job, I don’t even know why I was doing it. Sorry to say dad, but he didn’t ask. It was me. He didn’t need the story, I think I just needed to tell him. I told him “Dad has a dad, but he went away”. I hope you don’t think I’m pissweak for putting it that way. He knows the word “die”, we’ve lost a couple of chickens since moving out here, and I explained it to him that they had died. But they’re chickens. You’re my dad, saying it like that to him was something I wasn’t able to do. I don’t know why, it was like my mind wanted to wall off that concept from him at that moment.

He’s bigger now. Bigger and bolder. He still has your eyes. Everything else is from his mum, but those eyes are your eyes. Bright and blue. He’s smart, especially with words, I think he gets that from you too. He saw your brother today, he described him as a “viking” because of his colouring. Of course, The Lad was more interested in toy cars than conversation, but there’ll be other occasions. I guess my point is that I’m trying to make sure he knows your family. I know you’d have wanted that.

It was The Lass’ first father’s day this year too. She’s one soon. One…. Did it go this fast with me? Sometimes I swear we brought her home last week. Sometimes it feels like single nights arenever-ending. Time is complicated.

She’s cute. She can say a few things, dad, mum, her brother’s name, cat. She loves songs “Row Row Row your boat” seems to be her favourite, she asks for it saying “roro!” and rocking back and forth. She is shy and clingy, much more so than The Lad ever was. She burrows into my chest some times, I think she’s going to leave a dint in my sternum. Part of me hopes she does.

And me? Well I keep trooping on. I am and remain besotted with my children. We’re trying to make this place work for us, planting fruit trees, building a chook house (I’ll finish it soon, I swear), tidying up the garden and carving our live into the land. There is plenty going on and plenty to do. I fight fires sometimes, I don’t know if I mentioned that before, but I volunteered for the CFA and have been an active member for about a year now. I like to think I would make you proud.

I’ve said it before, but I want you to know that I’ll tell the kids about you. That’s an ironclad promise. The Lad’s still to young to really get the concept, but I’ll keep trying.

Anyway, I really wanted to say happy Father’s Day, and provide what assurances I can that even though they can’t talk to you, your grandkids will know you through me.

Love you Dad.

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5 baby food flavours babies would love to see.

I have to admit we’ve never bought baby food. Ever. Haven’t been bothered. Sure, we have the capacity to mush food if we want to, and our little boy just ripped into solid food when he was ready by picking it up, shoving it in his gob and nomming on it. Our little girl isn’t as enthusiastic, but she is getting it. And she loves meat. Can’t get enough of it…

Seriously, Baby Led Weaning, the lazy parents choice for introducing solid food to babies since time immemorial. But, I have noticed what flavours babies seem almost irresistably attracted to, so I thought I would offer the food companies of the world some easy advice on how to market to babies more effectively. If you introduce these 5 flavours into your range the babies won’t be able to resist it.

Flavour 1: Coins.

Remember Scrooge McDuck?

I don’t know what it is about coins that babies love, but love them they do. It must be that copper with a dash of zinc and just a pinch of Nickel that does it, but our kid’s could never get enough of coins. Maybe it’s cooling on their gums? Maybe it’s about the texture of the surface or maybe it’s just that it’s part of the token economy, money seems to be irresistible to young children.

It’s an expensive habit though. At least they don’t seem to like notes…. As far as I know they’ve never managed to swallow any. At least not so far. Or if they have they’re still in there.

Flavour 2: Dirt

Sandpits – a great source of dirt

Good old dirt. Dirt never fails. Dirt also comes in a variety of sub-flavours, all of them clearly delicious to babies. There’s “sand pit sand” (recently added to our babies collection), “garden bed”, “dust”, “tanbark”, “mulch” and the list goes on. Our kids never could get enough of them, any of them.

The first thing we do now when our baby girl comes out of the sandpit is run a finger around the inside of her mouth to clean out any little grains of silicone dioxide (sand) that have found themselves stuck in there. I don’t know what the appeal is, but it certainly exists.

Flavour 3: Bath water

Something about water from a bath must be Delicious….

Delicious bath water. It’s all the added dead skin, grime, dirt, sweat, soap with a overtones of plastic from the bath toys. With that combination, how could a baby resist?

Interestingly bath water seems to hold its appeal on a child’s palette in a way that the other flavours here do not. Our nearly 3-year-old son has outgrown most of these, but bath water remains a favourite even today. Warm, bubbly and full of detritus, what’s not to love?

Flavour 4: Crayon

Now this is what “taste the rainbow” really means…

Crayons cannot stay on the floor. IF they stay on the floor they don’t stay on the floor for long. That’s not a paradox by the way, that’s the way it is. Crayons must look delicious, colour doesn’t matter, size doesn’t matter and brand doesn’t matter. Crayons are crayons and they belong in the digestive system of a baby apparently. It must be a combination of waxy texture, vibrant colours and a complete lack of any actual flavour that does it. Babies have strange taste….

Flavour 5: Pet food

Even LOOKS delicious!

Even LOOKS delicious!

You remember that Simpsons episode where Homer is reunited with his brother the second time? He invents a baby translator and asks Maggie what she would like? She answers “I want what the dog’s eating”. So it has always been… Our kids go wild for cat food.

When I put food in the cats bowl of a morning and evening I hear the sound of eight paws scuttling towards the laundry followed by the unmistakable thump and slap of The Lass crawling towards the magical sound of crunchy kibbles falling into plastic. She’s eaten a bit of it…. so’s her brother. So it must be enticing somehow, I’m not sure how.

So there it is marketing masters of the universe. Want to sell baby food? These are the flavours you should be pushing. No ” Apple this”, “pumpkin that” or “rice cereal the other”.

Get in touch with your inner child, and get to know your customer. And in case these don’t work just add a dash of hair (human or pet) or dust to any child’s food and its appeal will increase five-fold instantly! I’ve seen it happen….

What other flavours could we include? Let me know in the comments!

Proper Shaving (with giveaway)

This post has very little to do with fatherhood.

Actually it kind of does… I kind of look forward to and simultaneously dread talking to my son about shaving. I’m not sure if he’ll be as beardy as his old man is, but I kind of assume he will be because the hairy genes are strong in my family. Dad was hairy, my uncles (on both sides) are hairy, my grandfathers. Hairy. And so it has always been. So even though my boy’s complexion is fair and his hair a strange combination of strawberry and platinum blonde, I imagine he’ll be able to sport a full beard if he wants to by age 12.

So I’ll have to teach him to shave. My mum taught me to shave. Dad was overseas at the time and the bumfluff on my face was impossible to ignore. So she showed me how it worked. We shaved it off and all was well. Continue reading

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