Now we get to the guts of what this parenting page is all about; how a VB swilling, rollie smoking, ute driving, footy watching, barbequing yobo like me actually turned out to become a half decent, single dad of three screaming shit machines.
Basically all you have to do is be into your kids and accept the fact that life as you know it has just been flushed away like the result of a dodgy vindaloo. Sure it’s hard work to start with, but once you overcome the DT’s which tend to arrive when you start getting blood back into your alcohol stream, it gets easier.
Not that it will go smoothly.
There will be times when, hypothetically speaking, you take your new addition to the hardware shop during the first week you get him home. As you no doubt know, the sooner you get a young bloke into a hardware shop, the more likely he is to turn out to be a decent sort of bloke you can get to build you a shed a bit later in life.
As usual I got out of the car and walked into the shop in search of a decent hammer……my previous one was last seen flying over the fence into the overgrown spare paddock next door after one too many misses when cracking the taper on the Commodore’s ball joint. Geez it hurts when you knuckle sold metal doesn’t it?
Anyway, there I was perusing the choices on display, weighing up wooden handle versus plastic, when a nagging doubt started to work its way into my head. It was almost like I’d forgotten something. Quick check of the back of my pants….nuh wallet’s there. Quick check of the front of my pants….nuh old fella’s still there. “What the bloody hell have I forgotten?” I asked myself quietly.
“Oh shit” I muttered as it suddenly occurred to me that I may have (I’m not saying I did, but I may have), forgotten the little bugger and left him in the car. I walked out of the store as nonchalantly as possible, or so I reckoned at the time. Upon reflection I probably resembled someone trying to sneak out with un-paid for products shoved down my pants. Maybe that’s why the cashier gave me that quick up and down glance. And I thought she must’ve fancied me or something.
So, I got back out to the car, practising the excuses I was going to give the constabulary when my negligence was reported. “Honestly Officer, I was drunk when I put him in and just forgot.” Yeah, that probably wasn’t going to work.
When I unlocked the car, poked my head in and checked, the little turd was just lying there looking around as though I hadn’t aged 10 years in the last 2 minutes. He didn’t even have the decency to have raised a decent sweat.
You may be forgiven for thinking that all the mistakes get made on the first kid, and by the time the others arrive you should have a handle on this parenting thing by now. But you’d wrong, oh you’d wrong. There’s a whole new batch of mistakes that you didn’t have time to make the first time around.
Like that mistake of feeding your 4 year daughter a big hunk of cheese to help her make it through her brother’s first footy training session without starving to death. Things were going swimmingly to start with. Mortimer was off training, both Brenda and Kertrude were off playing with the younger siblings of Mortimer’s team mates. Time for me to sit back and bask in the glory of being the super dad.
Looking over towards where the girls were playing I could see Brenda running around, rolling on the ground and spinning around in circles, again and again and again.
“Aww isn’t that cute?” I thought to myself. “If I did that, I’d be shouting for Ralph* by now” and resumed my basking.
Shortly thereafter, Brenda was seen to be walking towards me.
“Aww, she wants a hug from Daddy” I thought again.
“Daaaad, I feel ……..BLUUUUURK”.
She was considerate enough to wait until she was really close to me before letting fly. Otherwise all that half-digested cheese would’ve ended up on the ground. Instead I wore the lot. So I did the only thing I could possibly think of to make the situation better; I gave her a nice big hug to comfort her. The fact that it also wiped some of the globs of cheese off me was just a fortunate side effect.
Lesson learnt. Light meals before potential active sessions, and wear a rain coat at all times.
Then there are the occasions when things you’ve been doing regularly are all of a sudden not so good, due to one small change.
Kerturde, that sweet little child whose birth and early days were so peaceful and serene, had found her lungs, and her attitude. Even before she could roll over, she figured out if she screamed loud enough and long enough she would eventually get her way. And if that didn’t work, she’d start head-butting the ground. The head-butting came to a rapid halt once she could roll. On the last occasion, thinking the soft carpet was underneath her, she lifted her head and bought it crashing down. Not onto the soft carpet, but onto the slate tile in front of the fire place. She decided that hurt, and never did it again. And I laughed, oh how I did laugh.
But she persisted with the screaming, for hours on end. Sometimes just because she could. The only thing which would have a hope of stopping her was a harmless smack on the bum through the nappy. Now, before all the bleeding hearts jump up and down, casting judgment on me for smacking a child rather than letting them grow into little shits for the police to deal with in later years, this was a soft open handed smack through thick nappies, just hard enough to be felt through the nappy. No pain, but effective.
Fast forward a couple of years and nappies had become only a part time concern. The screaming had abated to a degree, but was still an issue. One night, for no particular reason, Kertrude was going off her nut. The neighbours must’ve been hiding in their bunkers thinking an air raid siren was being sounded. After an hour or so, I resorted to the old last resort. A smack on the nappy, just hard enough to be felt through the thick, absorbent layers.
Only there was no nappy.
The sound of the slap on a near naked backside was closely followed by a different kind of cry from Kertrude. A cry which said “Holy shit that hurt”. The subsequent hugs and profuse apologies totally destroyed the perceived discipline I was going for, but she eventually calmed down.
Come to think of it, that may have been the end of those tantrums, so maybe it did work after all.
But the point of this whole thing is this. No matter how often your negligence scares the shit out of you, no matter how much cheesy vomit you have to endure, no matter how many screaming matches drive you to the point of insanity, allowing yourself to turn your life over to the little bastards and convincing yourself that every moment with them is precious, no matter how uncomfortable it may be, these little incidents combine to become the stories which you tell them over the years to build an unbreakable bond. They prove to them that you have always been involved, not always successfully, but at least you’re giving it your best shot.
It also gives them something to take the piss out of you with, when they get older. And this is the real bonding. Letting the little bastards know that you’re not above a bit of joking will endear you to them for life. Just as long as you give as good as you get.