Dey’s All Growed Up Now

 

Is there an advantage to your Tax Deductions reaching adulthood?

It seems to last an eternity while you’re going through it, this parenting thing. That moment when the mud-magnets are responsible for their own lives and you are finally free of the responsibility seems like it will never arrive. The daily trudge of getting them through school, off to their respective weekend sports and pretending that the mass of coloured lines and squiggles looks exactly like Great Aunt Mable in her favourite sun dress, seems interminable.

Then one day you wake up, peel open your sleep deprived eyelids and wonder what that strange noise in the kitchen is. Reality descends with all the subtlety of a house brick to the head when you realise that noise is actually the man-child preparing his lunch before heading off to work, while talking to the younger girl-children who themselves are preparing for their own adult days. Middle child is off to work, and youngest is off to Unaversity, Yewnivecity, Yoonaverstty ….big person’s school.

Ahh yes.” You think to yourself. “They’re adults now, leading adult lives.”

For me it had been twenty one years of full-time parenting, Twenty one years of making sure that all I did and said would be to the ultimate advantage of these three young humanoid life forms who had the misfortune of having a completely clueless numpty like me to steer them. It had become my entire focus and for some reason it seemed it always would be – they’d always need me to advise and guide and to take care of them. Then you realise that that’s not the case and at some point you became a mere an observer, and a little bit of you dies.

Well at least that’s what I feel it must be like for other parents who actually develop an affection for their offspring. Personally I reckon it was great, and that moment of clarity got me wondering “what are the advantages of them finally being off my hands”.

The first advantage is obviously the decreased burden on your valuable time. They all have their own mode of transport and earn enough money to meet the fuel requirements of said transport. No more “Daaaaad, I need a lift to the shop.” No more “Daaaad can you drive me to my friend’s house.” No more, “Daaaad I’m bleeding I need to get to a hospital.” They can take care of all of that by themselves. Oh happy days.

And how about no longer having to sit through TV shows and movies that are aimed at young’ns but are also designed to destroy the minds of adults. Yes, yes I am taking direct aim at the Disney Corporation. It’s YOU that created the Cinderella and Rapunzel movies, the Alladins and all those. And then just when you think all that’s behind you, ha-ha look out, here comes the bloody Twilight Saga, or Princess Diaries. You have no idea how much it troubles my soul that I actually know of the existence of such things. Ahh, but no more.

But of course the main advantage may not be immediately apparent, and doesn’t actually relate to your own young’ns, but to the recently adulted young’ns of other parentals that your own young’ns lure into your humble hut. Hmm that sounds just a little be creepy, so please let me expand before gathering your torches and pitchforks and paying me a visit.

We all remember what it was like back when we recently turned 18 and could legally access that sweet, sweet elixir which issues forth from the amber coloured bottle. Yes of course I’m talking about beer. Back in those days all you needed was a $20 note and access to a bar which sold $5 dollar jugs and you were on your way.

Well these days, young’ns don’t have that opportunity. The cost of booze has meant that many of them decide to have what is now known as ‘pre-drinks’. This involves knocking back a few at someone’s home before heading out. Or they don’t go out at all, preferring to limit consumption to the host’s backyard.

And this, my dear friends, is where the greatest advantage of all comes to fruition. You see, all the young bucks come over, full of an unjustified faith in their own abilities. Over their shoulders they carry full cartons, 24 beers, which they fully believe they’ll be able to make a serious dent in during the course of the evening.

My advice is to encourage this, and provide a fridge which they can make use of to keep ‘their’ beer cold. I put their in inverted commas for a reason. You see, being young and dumb, they’ll hook in with great abandon. Two, three or four beers down the hatch in record time. They get boisterous and loud. Five beers into it and they’re starting to flag. Too hard to early. By the end of the evening, they’ve consumed maybe seven or eight, thrown up behind the roses, make a dick of themselves and headed home to sleep it off.

But what of the beers they left behind? Will they return the next day to retrieve them? Probably not, the embarrassment of proving to be such light-weights will prevent them from showing their still green faces. So you’ve just scored sixteen free beers. Multiply that by the three or four roosters who fell short of their own delusions and you’ve got yourself a fridge full of beer. ALL FOR FREE.

Could there be any better compensation for the closing of a long, rewarding and exciting chapter of your life? I think not.

Life is indeed, good.

Fourex beer
                Oh sweet, bountiful elixir of the Gods.

The Art of Embarrassing Your Kids

 

Let’s face it boys and girls, the whole parent/child positive outcome ratio is horribly skewed in favour of the young’s. They get free food and board for at least the first fifteen years of their lives (longer if they happen to be my kids), their transport to their chosen leisure activities are taken care of, education is all sorted for them and sometimes they even get pocket money for doing diddly squat.

And what do us parents get in return? Nothing, bugger all, sweet FA, nudda, not the rough end of a pineapple. No, all we get is the pride and satisfaction of seeing your DNA carriers growing into happy, healthy and well-adjusted human beings and knowing that you’re partially responsible for that. It’s disgusting I tell ya.

And that is why we need to find other ways of exacting some kind of positive outcome from parenting, and the thing I found to provide the best parental benefit is embarrassment. Somewhere in that great universe, whether it’s through God, Allah, Karma or just plain fortuitous providence, parents the world over have been blessed with the ability to embarrass the bejesus out of their kids with little to no effort.

In the vicinity of when they hit double figures, age-wise, the cunning little savages learn the terrible truth – as parents we actually have no authority. Up until that point it’s all been bluff, as they believe we hold all the power in the world. But when they discover that we don’t, then all we have is the threat of embarrassment, therefore it must be used wisely in order to replace all the threats we used to make. This may sometimes involve making a spectacle of yourself in public, but that slight humiliation pales into insignificance when held against the embarrassment of an errant teen.

Of course the best method of delivering this armament is what I like to call the ‘daggy’ parent method. Nothing embarrasses a teenager more than a parent who tries to use whatever ‘cool’ lingo the kids are using that day. But it’s not that simple, my friends. A true devotee of the ‘daggy’ parent approach knows that if you actually use the current ‘cool’ lingo, you’re in danger of losing all dagginess and inadvertently becoming a cool parent. No, no, no, far better to use the words that were cool six months ago.

I myself like to greet my kids’ friends with a casual ‘Yo homie, waddup dawg’ as they walk through the door, complete with those weird hand gestures you see them do from time to time. If you want to double down you may like to throw in a ‘what’s the four one one’. The friends may look at you funny, they may even join in fun, but you know that deep down inside your son/and or daughter has just died a little on the inside because you’ve just shown them that you’re not afraid to bring out the ‘daggy’ when the situation demands it.

What works even better than former cool lingo, is inventing your own. Oh the pleasure it has bought me over recent years to see Kertrude cringe every time I use the word ‘verg’(pronounced ‘verge’). This is a word I have used as a shortened version of ‘very good’, which is shortened to ‘very g’ and then to ‘verg’.

Imagine if you will, a giggling gaggle of mid-teen females listening to the latest tune from the latest pop-music idol. An excited Kertrude turns to me and says “wasn’t that great Dad” and with all the gangsta cool I can muster, I reply “veeerg”, and put my hat on backwards. Ah the sweet sound of girlish laughter of her friends, mixed with the cracking sound of a young girl’s future popularity shattering to the ground. ‘tis a beautiful thing.

Sometimes the daggy parent approach isn’t the most appropriate option though. Sometimes you need to ‘randomise’, as in do something totally silly, out of the blue and for no other reason than to cause embarrassment. Why, only a few months ago I was accompanied to the shops by Brenda and it was all going swimmingly until we arrived at the crowded checkout. Now you might think this is the best opportunity to have in-depth discussions with your child, ya know, to find out the goings on in their lives. Or something like that anyway. But it was at this moment I discovered a Cosmopolitan magazine on the racks. An opportunity for ‘randomisation’ if I ever saw one.

Casually walking over I picked up the magazine and proceeded to flick through its pages of intellectual and informative articles, quite undetected for a good minute or so. But then Brenda saw me, saw what I was reading and responded appropriately with “Daaaaaaad!” Now the game was on.

How to horrify your daughter in public.

Rather than replace the magazine I decided to show that I would not hesitate to provide public embarrassment on a grand scale if required. I casually turned the page and, loud enough for the nearby shoppers to hear I asked casually “have you exfoliated your dry and damaged skin today Brenda” while turning the magazine to reveal the two page spread on the subject of exfoliation. Gold.

But by far, the best opportunity for supreme embaressementisation (if that’s not a word, then it is now) is that golden moment when the first girlfriend/boyfriend is bought home. I waited for this moment for sixteen long years, planning, plotting and occasionally giggling quietly to myself in anticipation of how good it was going to be when the moment finally arrived. When the moment did arrive it was most certainly worth it.

Mortimer was the first victim and the silly bugger actually told me that he was bringing a  young lady home that very afternoon. The fool. The prior warning gave me time to duck inside in preparation and walk outside again wearing a pair of thongs, complete with knee length socks, a pair of shorts pulled up so high my voice rose an octave, and a t-short tucked in. All topped off with a nice terry towelling hat. The moment the young couple appeared in the driveway Mortimer knew the full horror of his mistake.

“Oh Mortimer,” I says, “She gorgeous mate, you’ve done so well for yourself. How are you darlin’? Welcome to the family.”

Now while she walked past with tears of merriment coursing down her cheeks, Mortimer followed along behind bright red and mentioning something about how much he hated me.

But my piece of resistance (is that the term?) was Kertrude’s first boyfriend. Now, the silly buggers walked right past where I worked, right on knock-off time so I knew the game was on. I quickly jumped in Rusty and caught up with them on the back streets. Now a caring father would offer a lift to the young luvers, but I’m not a caring father am I? I slowly trolled alongside, staring intently at their backs while the young buck kept his head and eyes fixed firmly on the ground in front of him.

After a few minutes of this slow torture I took off to prepare the ground for the second part of my grand plan. Out on the front verandah were a couple of old couches which I was supposed to be taking to the tip, but through general procrastination and laziness they were still there on the day in question. I duly occupied one of these and as Kertrude + one came up the driveway I was serenely engrossed in the task of sharpening a machete. As I saw his bulging eyes I knew the moment was right and slammed the machete into the arm of the couch where it stuck, gently swaying in gentle illustration of what could happen to the young gent if he wasn’t careful.

Well it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the young man in question didn’t make a second appearance, and that combined with the look of horror on Kertrude’s face, just about made my decade.

So there you have it. A few pointers and suggestions of how any of you who are currently negotiating parenthood can use your natural embarrassment abilities to keep your youngn’s in line. You’re welcome.

Can I get a ‘veeerge’ my Peeps?

Fear and Terror on the Roads

 

It’s been a while since I’ve risked the wrath of the parenting authorities so, as it appears their investigations have come to naught, it’s about time for another parental post. For any parents with kids entering the mid-late teenage years this is one which will let you know that you’re not alone in the bowel-liquefying endeavour of teaching your teens to drive.

It is a roller coaster of emotion, this whole licence thing, and like all roller coasters it starts on a high. The moment when your young’n turns away from the counter down at the old transport office with a big smile on their dial as they’ve just been handed their learners permit. As a parent your heart swells at the sight of the pure joy that is currently surging through your child. It is truly a wonderful moment.

But like all roller coasters it’s mostly downhill from here, and the first drop is a doozy. From that dizzying high, the fear kicks in as you look across from the passenger seat, yes the passenger seat of your own car, your pride and joy and you see an excited, yet horribly inexperienced driver sitting behind the steering wheel. That life form who you had to teach to use a spoon and a dunny is now in control (hopefully) of a one tonne flying piece of metal and rubber.

On my first time through this process I wasn’t fully aware of the terror awaiting me and so when I picked Mortimer up from his mother’s and casually tossed him the keys to the Hilux, I knew not what I had done. I don’t remember much of the first trip, as my eyes were tightly closed for most of it, preferring the moment of my imminent death to come as a complete surprise rather than watching it approach head-on.

Much to my surprise we actually survived that drive with nothing more than a soiled pair of Reg Grundies. But I wasn’t going to make that same mistake with Brenda and Kertrude, no way Jose (or Hose B, boom tish). No I decided then and there that it was to be a slightly more sedate entry to the world of steering for them. But where, and how?

See I grew up in a small country town and for most teenagers beyond the reach of suburbia, there are a plethora of near deserted back roads to grind their gears on, as most of my contemporaries did. I, on the other hand, got my learnin’ at the Army Truckies School on a purpose built training road, before being unleased on the general populace of Melbourne.

A quick divergence right about here, if you please. Can I just say, in relation to the drivers of Melbourne……. What the hell? So there I was, a young and enthusiastic 18 year old, steering a six tonne Unimog down some multi-lane highway, with a huge yellow sign with black writing stating “Driver under instruction”. So what do the Melbourne drivers do?? They jump in front, cut you off and hit the brakes seemingly oblivious to the fact that the good old ‘mog could quite easily climb right over the top of them in their little rice-burners, crush them flat and continue forth with barely a bump. Anyway, I managed to avoid them so, points to me.

So, sorry about that. Now back to the story at hand. So in the big smoke, with no deserted back roads or purpose built learning areas, where does one take their nervous off-spring so they don’t pose a risk to the general public? There’s only one place really. The Bunnings car park. Yes, I must’ve spent the better part of nine or ten hours going around and around and around and around the Bunnings car park. For at least the first two hours each of Brenda and Kertrude’s instruction, this circuit was done in first gear, with a terrified girl-teen screaming about how they’re going too fast……

Anyway, eventually all three of them gained enough confidence to get on the road and drive alongside the general populace. This is known as the ‘safe period’. Why? Well they’re still inexperienced enough to be uncomfortable and focussing on the road with all the intensity of a roo caught in the headlights. It’s a wonderful time, they leave about ten car lengths between them and the car in front, if the lights turn yellow they stop and they predominantly stay in the slow lane at about ten k’s below the speed limit. This ‘safe period’ is only there to lull the unsuspecting parent into a false sense of safety, before unleashing the most horrific period of instruction – the ‘overly confident, yet still inexperienced’ phase.

This is when they’ve managed to clock up fifty to sixty hours of relatively incident free motoring and for some reason they form the opinion that they are now good, competent and experienced drives. But they are wrong Dear Gentle reader, oh so wrong.

This is the time they start to drive so far up the clacker of the car in front that it’s actually possible to see the terror-stricken, bulging eyes in the rear vision mirror of the unfortunate driver in front. They start to get conversational while driving, complete with hand gestures and taking their eyes off what’s happening in front as brake lights come on up ahead and there are no signs that Junior has even seen them and considered applying their own brakes, and you end up putting your foot through the passenger side floor in the forlorn hope that an imaginary brake pedal will be of any use, but it’s not, IT’S NOT!….Breathe.

And the worst part of the whole thing is that for each sawn-off savage, you have to endure this constant exposure to near certain death for one hundred hours. Multiply that by three and you get three hundred hours. That’s a combined total of twelve and a half days that I have danced with the Grim Reaper, fluctuating from moments of extreme boredom to extreme terror faster than you can say “watch out for that bus!”

I’m sure that with counselling and the appropriate medication, I’ll finally recover and put this horrific period of my life behind me. Maybe if I try to console myself with the realisation that, when it came time for them to be tested, they all passed first time and therefore it was worth the psychological damage. But only time will tell, my friends. Only time will tell.

May the Gods have mercy on us all.

Schooooool’s Out For Summer! Schoooooool’s Out For Ever!

 

Yes my Compadres, that which I have longed for these many, many years has finally arrived. From that day seventeen years ago when I dropped Mortimer at the school gates, all wide-eyed and full of eagerness to learn (Mortimer that is, not me), I have had one eye on the eventual completion of the educational process for all three of my young’ns.

And now that wonderful day has occurred and it was worth the wait. As I observe my colleagues and acquaintances wrapping up this year’s schooling and making preparations for next year I place my metaphorical feet up on my metaphorical desk and let out a very real sigh of contentment.

Now I understand that many of you will have attended your own ceremonies and formals, but for those of you who didn’t quite make it that far (like me) let me tell you what to expect.

First up – the Graduation Ceremony. If somehow this blog has reached beyond the shores of Australia, for the benefit of our foreign brethren these ceremonies traditionally take place at the end of November or early December, which down here is the beginning of summer. So with the rising temperatures in mind the organisers of these things ensure that there is a shed/hall/barn of just the right size to not quite seat everyone who is in attendance, has only the bare minimum of ventilation and the hardest plastic seats available to ensure that you all become a compacted, sweaty and uncomfortable mass of humanity.

Of course every man, woman, student executive, gardener, handyman, vagrant and/or concerned community member who has ever had even the slightest involvement in the school in the last 100 years feels the urge to make a speech. I’ve attended a number of these things over the years and the speeches are all the same – “as you head off into the workforce, be proud of what you have achieved during your time at XX School, etc, etc, etc.”

Although having said that, occasionally someone will come up with a speech which causes the assembled masses to abruptly wake from their slumber and take note. This happened this year where the male school captain, a young Indian lad, made one of the best speeches I think I’ve ever heard in any arena, covering off on the wonderful support of diversity within the school and a sincere level of gratitude for the opportunities provided to him and his family in their adoptive country. Many of our politicians, commentators and community leaders need to get their hands on this speech and take some serious notes. To the young man in question, if you’re reading this, may the best of everything come your way in the future.

So the long, very long, and short of it is the ceremony will drag on for hours and hours until the moment you’ve been waiting for has arrived, and it is literally a moment. Your young’n, who has put in years of hard work, ably assisted by you, walks on stage has a quick handshake, handing over of a certificate, quick photo and now ‘get of the stage the next kid is coming.’

After every student has had their five point two seconds of glory, it’s time for the extra awards which usually go to those students who spend a fair degree of their school life with the nose planted firmly in the teacher’s posterior.

And then it’s all over. You head outside in the blessed relief of open air, seek out your graduate for personal congratulations, pose for a handful of sweaty photos and then leave the school grounds to prepare for the next part of proceedings – the formal.

Now gather round my people as I have wisdom to impart. If you are lucky enough to find yourself the parent of a child of the masculine persuasion then rejoice and give praise to whichever mystical sky fairy you choose to follow, as your child’s preparation for the formal will comprise of a rented suit, a shower and delivery to the appointed location. Ah Mortimer’s formal is now but a pleasant memory.

On the other hand if you are the parents (particularly the father) of a girl child or two, then my advice is to head for the hills and lock yourself away in some nice secluded cave and don’t come out until the all-clear is sounded. I have negotiated this minefield twice now and am still undergoing counselling to help me regain my psychological health.

You may think preparation for this wonderous evening only needs to be considered in the week or so leading up. But my poor sweet, naïve friend you are so very, very wrong. Preparation beings towards the start of the year. Yes you read that correctly, the start of the year. The requirements may seem quite simple at first and can be narrowed down to three main components, ie the dress, the hair and the make-up.

Firstly the dress needs to be identified and deposit paid as early as possible to ensure no one else snaffles it up in the meantime. Once the dress is chosen and deposit paid you may be forgiven for thinking that’s the last you need to worry about it. But rest assured it’s just the beginning. From here on there will be doubts. “What if I put on weight? What if I lose weight? What if I suddenly grow an extra metre and the dress no longer fits? What if I simply decide that I don’t like it when the time comes?”  This will go on allllll bloody year. Be prepared.

And just a quick aside, man those things are expensive. $600+ and they don’t even throw in a pair sleeves. Bloody hell. Anyway.

Hair and make-up also needs to be considered and booked so far in advance that fashions will change by the time the girl-child actually gets to sit in the chair. Why so far in advance you may ask? Because apparently they get booked out if you leave it too long. Now I admit I am not exactly the font of all knowledge when it comes to these girly type customs, but what’s wrong with slapping on a bit of face paint and running a comb through the follicles at home an hour before kick-off?

So anyway, after the interminably long ceremony it’s all systems go for the beautification process. Your little princess emerges and all of a sudden you’re confronted with a young lady but you kind of expected that. What you didn’t expect was to roll up to the venue and all those other young princesses which you have known since they could barely walk have also turned into young ladies, and a little part of you dies as you realise just how old you really are.

But the part of you that survives is much happier now that it has been freed from the burden of schooling. You can look upon your contemporaries as they take their ever-so-brief hiatus before taking up the struggle again next year and say unto them, in the most supportive manner possible “enjoy another school year, suckers!”

I’m out.

Learnin’ Them Kids Some Numbers and Words

 

Welll it’s been a while since I’ve risked the ire of the Department of Child Safety, and as I’ve never been one for letting the authorities relax for any length of time, I thought it’s about time to delve into the world of my parenting prowess once again. On this merry jaunt I shall take you, dear reader, through the minefield that is edgewcation, edukasion, educaisian……learning stuff.

This may come as a surprise to some, ok it probably won’t, but I was not the exactly the poster boy of scholastic achievement back in my younger days. Rather than burying myself in text books I could more often be found perusing the latest Rolling Stone or Hot Metal magazine. I can’t remember finishing a single novel which had been designated as ‘essential reading’ in the English curriculum, but I think there was one about some kind of ruler of flies and some other rubbish about a bunch of animals taking over a farm.

I always kind of figured I’d get by on my rugged good looks and boyish charm. If only someone had pointed out my severe deficiencies in both areas then my life could’ve turned out somewhat different. Anyhoo, fast forward about ten years  and I’d left school, had some fun in the army and now had some kids for whom I was supposed to push the learning agenda. Despite having no interest in academia myself, I was now responsible for getting three malleable young minds to do what I couldn’t.

I’d always known that at some point throughout their schooling, there would come a time when the questions which they were asking me to assist with would be so far over my head that I’d be as useless as a Jackie Howe** at a drag queen convention. Although I had long accepted this fact, I wasn’t prepared for it to happen in around Year 5 when Mortimer came home with a long division question. You know the ones –  this goes into that this many times, minus that, multiplied by the average rainfall figures across the Pilbara region plus the square root of the firing order of a VK Commodore.

As I sat down and indulged in much head scratching in an attempt to offer assistance, it rapidly became clear that in the years since I was first introduced to this weird magic the methods for solving these things had changed dramatically. I tried to show Mortimer the way I was shown, through admittedly vague recollections, and he was coming up with something completely different. Needless to say after an hour of relentless struggle my brain had melted and I think Mortimer had lost at least a dozen IQ points. Fortunately these were restored when he went back to school the following day and the teacher explained it to him using reason and logic rather than frustration and dismay.

Now well may you say “that’s ok Paddy, maths just isn’t your strong point,” and you’d be right. However my lack of ability in academic areas also spreads to the arts. Not such a concern through the early years when art consisted of painting a big orange sun above the standard square house with the triangle roof and two windows. That I can advise on. But what happens when the child in question, Brenda on this occasion, chooses to study art into her high school years?

I have occupied this Earth for 42 years and still am unable to draw a semi-recognisable stick figure. So when Brenda brings home a beautiful drawing done in pencil with shading and symbolic imagery of a young girl whose grandmother passed away prior to her birth, I am stunned as to just how she managed to do it. But not so her art teacher who, for some reason, wanted to see more depth, more colour in what was intended to be an emotionally dark piece. The best I could do was to channel the spirit of some long-dead bohemian artist and say “you can’t teach art maann. Art comes from the soul, can you dig it. Down with the Fascist Establishment trying to dictate art maaaan!”. No it didn’t help with her future scores throughout the remainder of her schooling, but at least her belief in her artistic integrity is still intact. So a big middle finger to the education department on that one.

So with Mortimer and Brenda I may not have been of much assistance but at least I was able to at pretend. With Kertrude on the other hand, I never had a chance. It’s pretty obvious that she must share some kind of separate DNA string to the rest of us. Of the many traits on this particular branch of the O’Neill family tree, she displays none. First of all, she’s academically gifted. And by that I mean she’s sharp as a marble as far as day to day functioning is concerned, but throw something academic at her and she’ll excel in all areas. And secondly she actually has the drive to push herself to reach the dizzy heights of academic success. I’m not saying Mortimer and Brenda aren’t smart, because they actually are, but putting in effort just for a good grade, well who could be bothered?

Anyway, for those outside of Queensland, the University entrance score up here is known as an OP and is measured from 1 to 25, with 1 being the highest. Kertrude is on target for 1 to 5, so ya know, she left me behind a long time ago. But she still asks for assistance as though I might actually be able to provide it. So when she says “Father, this assignment on the ways that the Earth’s various spheres interact to influence flood events is only supposed to be 1000 words long and I’ve only just done the introduction and first dot point and I’m at 1500 words,” well the best I can do is stare blankly and hope I don’t dribble too much on my shirt.

But, despite my lack of scholarly nous I’ve managed to guide one school captain, one vice-captain and one prefect through to successful completion of their schooling. I realise that these are not my achievements, but are due to the personal traits of each of my tax deductions. But bugger it I’m taking credit. It’s all down to my spectacular parenting skills I tells ya. And that my friends is why it is important to educate your kids – vicarious achievement.

 

** For those who come from overseas, or those who like to spend their time sipping lattes in inner city cafes, a Jackie Howe is a blue singlet which is the native dress for your discerning Aussie bloke and is usually accompanied by a pair of shorts and thongs. It derives its name from Mr Howe who wore one while achieving the record for most number of sheep shorn in one day (321) in the 1890s. Not bad considering he did it with the old hand shears and the record remained in place for about 50 years after the invention of mechanical shears. If you’re a bloke and have never worn one of these singlets then we can’t be friends.

Dr Bogan Please Report To Emergency.

 

One of the most important duties that can befall the parent is that of provider of medical services. My role model in this area is none other than my mother (wow, that rhymes)….where was I? Oh yeah, Mum’s response to my childhood health problems was a helpful, supporting and sympathetic “Die quietly”.

“Mum, I’ve just put a roofing nail through my foot.”

“Well pull it out, put a band aid on it, and die quietly”

“Mum I just fell off the trampoline, into the snap dragons and pansies. I may have broken my neck”

“Well I’ll make sure it’s broken if my flowers are dead.”

So it comes as no surprise that when my sprogs came along I became an overly sensitive , panicky parent who ran his kids off to the doc at the first sign of a sniffle, convinced they were about to die of pneumonia.

Actually that was their mother. My approach has been a lot more in line with my mother’s technique.

For example, most parents would see the underside of their daughter’s big toe turning blue, yes actually Smurf-like blue, and rush them off to the Quack, post haste. But no, that seemed a bit excessive to me.

“Don’t worry about it” I said, “It’s probably just a bruise.”

“But Dad, it’s really sore and doesn’t feel like a bruise.”

“Well what else could it be? Toes don’t just turn blue ya know. You’ll live”

A week later and the blue is spreading. Not one to jump to conclusions that my first diagnosis may be incorrect I persisted with the bruise hypothesis. But after another five or six days, when she could no longer walk properly, I figured we’d better go see if a doctor would confirm the bruise theory.

We walked into the hospital, it being after hours and no GP’s were open. Well Me, Mortimer, Kertrude and Agnes walked in. Brenda managed some kind of hobble, hopping, shuffling kind of forward propulsion. Come to think of it, geez she took a long time getting there. Took her at least 10 minutes to catch up.

We were eventually shown to a little cubicle with a nice comfy couple of chairs and a hospital bed. For some reason Brenda thought she should get the bed, so I had to move when she got there. Then the doctor rolled up. You know the type, obviously never done a hard day’s work in his life, full of his own self-importance in his designer shirt and duds. Youthful good looks and a future of much promise. Ya know, a real bastard.

He takes one look at the toe, and in one go totally disproves my whole bruise theory. Apparently a staphylococcus infection is also a perfectly legitimate reason for a blue-ish discolouration of the toe. Bloody know-it-all. But his comeuppance was about to come up…..ance.

After assembling all the appropriate shiny sterilised hospital looking stuff, he took Brenda’s foot in his hand, reached for a scalpel and slowly bought it towards the toe. Slowly he pointed the point of the blade at the peak of the swelling and lightly applied pressure. His reward for such surgical precision? A big squirt of pus all the way up the sleeve of his nice designer shirt, across the collar and up the side of his face. Eight long years of doctoral studies, just to be covered in my little girl’s pus. Oh we laughed. The doctor laughed, I laughed, random nurses poked their heads in and they laughed. Ahh good times.

By now, dear reader, you are no doubt thinking to yourself “well at least he’ll have learnt from this episode, and never under-reacted to a medical situation again”. I’ll pause now to give you time to think that to yourself.

 

Done? Ok. Well you’d be wrong.

It was not long after this incident that Mortimer came home after school one day telling me he’d gone to smother the footy as another kid was kicking it during a school sports afternoon. It appears as though during the attempt his fingers had been jarred and now he couldn’t move his little finger on his right hand.

“It’s alright, Son,” I said, the ever caring Dad as usual. “Sometimes a bit of a jar like that, and the associated bruising can result in a lessening of movement. Give it a week or so and the movement will return.”

So off he goes, doing whatever it is teenage boys do. A month later he comes back to me and points out that the finger still isn’t working. “It’s ok,” says I, “sometime it can take a bit longer.” However after six months it was probably time to get it looked at. Obviously it was nothing serious, I hear you say. Well I don’t actually hear you, seeing as how you’re reading, and I’m nowhere near you, but it’s just a figure of speech ok? Geez some people!

Hmm got a bit side tracked there. So I take Mortimer off to the doctor and he gets sent off for x-rays and an ultrasound. Bit of an over-reaction I thought to myself. But I went along with it, just to keep the doctor happy and to feel like he’s saving the world. A week later Mortimer and me are back at the clinic.

Turns out that fingers are operated by these things called “tendons”. And apparently these “tendons” need to be secured at both ends of the finger. As it turned out, the tendon which allegedly operated his little finger was nowhere to be seen. It had snapped when he went to smother the footy, and like a stretched rubber band it had retracted.

So off to the surgeon for a bit of a closer look and to find out what they planned to do. Now, if I’d taken him to the doctor when it first happened it would have been a relatively simple process of finding the tendon and reattaching it. But no. As it turns out, during the preceding months the tube the tendon normally slides through had closed over, and the tendon itself had basically ceased to exist. So now, rather than a quick simple procedure, he got a nice zig-zag  incision made down the length of his finger, down the palm and to the wrist. A temporary “tendon” was then inserted and then the whole thing closed up.

This was followed by about three months of physio to get the temporary tendon moving and creating the new tube. Once that was done, it was back for the second bit of surgery. This one involved small incisions at either end of the initial cut, as well as cutting basically the full length of the forearm to remove a redundant tendon from the arm. This was then fed through the incision and attached at either end, and voila, a working tendon was back in action.

So twelve months after the initial injury, the finger was working properly again. But geez did his mother whinge about how I should’ve taken care of it all earlier. What would she know, huh? If I hadn’t waited that time, then there would’ve been only a small scar. What’s cool about that? That’s right, absolutely nothing.

So you might think that this high level of neglect is limited to my offspring. Nuh. Somehow, somewhere along the lines I ended up being the primary first aid officer for my son’s junior AFL team. Let me say that again just so it sinks in…… I ended up being the primary first aid officer for my son’s junior AFL team . I was given the opportunity to neglect other people’s kids. Yippee. This was a good thing for me as it meant I didn’t have to take my turn working in the canteen.

At the start it wasn’t too serious. Under 9’s rarely copped any real injuries because, let’s face it, they didn’t have very far to fall. Bit of a squirt with the “magic water” and they were as good as done. But then boys grow up, they tackle harder, jump higher and generally break in more wonderful ways. A dazzling array of  medical conditions were presented to me, from dislocated ankles, concussions, tingling sensations in the legs due to lower back injuries and one particularly amusing occasion where one kid was running down the field, having a blinder of a game, and then casually stopped to cough up blood. Ah they were wonderful days.

Mostly it would appear I got the treatment right, or at least got the buggers off the field and into an ambulance still relatively alive. It was the minor injuries which were the trickiest. Like the time a kid came up to me asking to have his wrist strapped as it was a bit sore. Being an obliging kind of bloke I granted the request and after a sterling job with the tape, sent the young fellow back out onto the field. Apparently the next day his wrist was hurting even more and had started to swell, so a less neglectful dad than him took him the doctor for an x-ray. There was mention of something called a “greenstick fracture” in his wrist joint. Sounds made up to me. But anyway apparently a plaster cast was required and my “spoonful of concrete” solution was less than adequate.

Funny thing was, they still kept me on as the first aid officer for a grand total of seven years. At one point they even paid to put me through a sports trainer course. A full two day weekend course held on the grounds of the University of Queensland, which as I understand it, makes me a University graduate.

But the pinnacle, the absolute apex of my neglection (it’s a word), started way back when Kertrude was eight-ish. She was playing with a friend at school going down the slippery dip when she slid off the end and forgot to put her feet down. A short graceful flight through mid-air was closely followed by a resounding thud as her butt crashed down. Surely just a bit of bruising you say, and that’s exactly what I say. And in my defence Kertrude’s mother took her to what we were assured was a doctor, and he also said bruising. With this in mind I thought it would be a giggle to drive over speed humps in the old ute with kidney-jarring suspension. Again we laughed. Well not Kertrude, but the rest of us did.

Anyhoo, jump forward five or six years and it’s still giving her trouble. She finally wears me down and I eventually take her to a real doctor, of my choosing. Rather than just assume bruising, this doctor actually requested x-rays. So off we went to the x-ray joint and Kertrude got to wear a stunning hospital gown which really bought out her eyes. I was placing bets that they wouldn’t be able to squeeze her ample posterior into the x-ray machine, but they did manage it with a heap of butter and a bloody big lever.

Whar was the result?……….displaced coccyx, or to be more medically accurate, she’d popped her arse bone out of place. So chalk another one up to poor parenting on this one.

Anyway, despite all this they seemed to have survived. Maybe with a few battle scars and I’m sure the mental scaring may be repressed one day. But one thing is for sure, they’ve grown into tough little buggers who can take a knock or two and don’t go clogging up the health system with minor issues. I’ll take that as a win.

P.S Thanks for showing how it’s done Mum.

Kids Bounce. Don’t they??

 

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.

And so the journey begins

It was a good life way back in the early 90’s. Mates, beers, utes and Acca Dacca belting out of the stereo. No responsibilities in life and freedom to do what I wanted, when I wanted and with who I wanted…well as much as the Army allowed me anyway.

Then came those words that ended it all. Those two little words which instantly induce bowel clenching, scrotum tightening horror in any carefree young man.

“I’m pregnant”, she says.

“Shit” I says.

And from there life did a full one eighty degree turn. All of a sudden I was responsible for something, or even scarier, someone. Some little bugger, through no fault of his own, was going to be relying on me to keep him alive and kicking. Up to that point my total experience with kids was playing around with a couple of nephews. How the fuck was I going to do this?

“How is it that you arrived at the predicament” I hear you ask. Let’s just say this is where I learned the most important lesson in life. You see there are only two pretty much fail-safe methods of avoiding conception. One, obviously, is to take things in hand, so to speak. But that’s about as fulfilling as playing totem tennis, solo (how’s that for imagery). So while whacking the ball back and forth (too much?) and imagining Anna Kournakova  hitting back is ok, actually having someone playing with you is much more fun, and saves a bit of effort to.

But, outsourcing brings an unpredictable variable into the equation. Now, you can employ the second nearly fail-safe method of wrapping the little bloke in rubber. Does the job but let’s face it, do you really want to go swimming in a wetsuit when the water is just right? Hell no. Anyway, she’s on the pill………..isn’t she.

This, my friends, is the lesson learned. Do not put your faith in the pill to be effective, or in the other half to take it regularly. Forget this lesson and you too will experience the “oh shit” moment.

Now all the fancy books will tell you that a pregnancy lasts nine months to allow the future mud magnet to get to a sufficient level of development to enable it to pretty much survive on its own.

Bullshit.

The pregnancy lasts nine months to allow the average prospective father to go through the full rollercoaster from the “oh fuck” moment to the “oh well here we go” moment. This usually involves, depending on the individual, stops of varying lengths along the way at such places as “maybe I could just go for a drive and not stop”, “what are the chances it’s someone else’s” and maybe even “hey I’m in the army, surely there’s a war going on somewhere”.

My introduction to this foreign world was somewhat softened by the mother in this equation. As long as she dressed the little tacker, changed nappies and provided a bit of boob time then I could just get on with my role of working and being the provider for my newly instated family. Or so I thought.

Apparently that kind of parenting arrangement went out the window somewhere in the 50’s or 60’s and insisting on its reinstatement in 1995 makes a bloke a chauvinistic arsehole. So I was in it up to my elbows whether I liked it or not.

Fortunately by the time the pregnancy was at its end I had pretty much come around to liking the idea. Especially as the ultra sound had shown it was likely to be a boy child. “Sweet,” I thought. “I know young blokes. I went to school with a heap of them.” With this new found information I was having visions of footy, wrestling, camping and building cars together. But that was all to come a bit further down the track.

So with the big day approaching, I was actually starting to get keen on this idea. I started counting down the weeks, then the days, then the hours……..and then the due date passed with nary a sign that the little bugga was planning on moving anytime soon. First he was a day late, then two days, this stretched into three, four etc until at the two week mark the doctors basically said “Bugger this. Time to give him an eviction notice.”

So at 9:00am on 16th August 1995 the doc administered the childbirth laxative and got the ball rolling. Thankfully I wasn’t required for this early stage of things, so I got to work for the day and avoided the first few hours of the process.

With no emergency calls throughout the day, after work I headed over to the hospital with the appropriate amount of haste – ie via Macca’s for a quick artery hardener, ‘cause I was pretty sure the hospital wasn’t likely to cater for a hungry dad to be. I rolled in, found the right room and casually asked how it was going.

Alright fellas, listen closely now. The integrity of your wedding tackle may one day depend on following this one bit of advice. When your missus has just had the previous eight hours in labour, without your attendance, do not casually ask “How’s it going.” Fortunately for me, I was standing just out of arms reach, so the hay-maker completely missed. However, I wasn’t lucky enough to be out of ear shot. I had to endure the next hour, listening to stories of weird objects being inserted into areas which had previously been my private domain. This child birth gig is tough for blokes.

At some stage it was decided that she might be a bit more comfortable, and things might progress a bit faster, if I were to take her for a walk around the wards. Being the dutiful and caring husband I obviously was, I agreed. And what a good thing it was that I did. Because I was patiently waiting in the hallway while she was curled up with a contraction, and who should I see coming the other way? It was Dools, the corporal in charge of my section of the workshop. Dools was in a similar predicament, except he was pushing his missus in a wheel chair. And just at that point, she too was having a contraction.

“How’s it going Dools?”

“Mate, we’ve been here for three hours already.” He replied.

“I know how ya feel. I come here straight from the workshop, and bugger all has happened since.” Then I leaned in closer and whispered “Is it just me, or is this whole process a bit bloody boring?”

“I reckon. I’ve been trying to do a cross word to pass the time, but whenever I tell her to help with an answer she calls be a bastard. Apparently I’m expected to just sit there and twiddle me thumbs” he said in frustration.

I was about to console him when a vice-like grip on my knackers suggested it was time to wind up this happy little reunion. So back to the labour suite it was.

The next few hours passed with a seemingly endless number of doctors and midwives coming and going, and not much more happening. At about 10pm, the main doc reckoned it was about time to “bust the waters”. I was thinking that maybe that was some kind of medical euphemism for having a beer, so I jumped on that bandwagon as quick as I could. Turns out I was wrong, and after the procedure was performed, and the floor mopped up, it was back to waiting. And more waiting.

The hands on the clock slowly wound their way around to 2am. That’s in the morning. That’s nineteen hours since I last had a kip. This labour caper was getting bloody tiring, yet when I decided it’d be fun to have a go at the medicinal laughing gas, she voiced her displeasure, muttering something about it being there to ease her pain, not to entertain me. Bit bloody selfish I reckon.

Mercifully it was around this time that the doc advised me to go home and get a few hours’ sleep as there still wasn’t much movement at the station. So I headed home, had a quick shower and jumped into the sack in record time. Then, just as I was about to slip into blissful sleep and punch out the first Z, the phone rang. I briefly considered pretending that I didn’t hear it, but a strong sense of self-preservation compelled me to answer it.

As I feared, it was the doctor telling me that I’d better get back there pretty quick as things were starting to move.

So I hurriedly got dressed.

Ran to the car.

Zooooomed to the hospital.

Sprinted into the labour suite………….and was told that there still wasn’t much happening. Bastards were just messing with me I reckon.

There followed another couple of hours of waiting, feeling better because of the realisation that this long night was going to be ample justification for not going in to work tomorrow. Things were looking up.

Then all hell broke loose.

At around four in the morning the youngn’s heart rate dropped from 140 beats per minute down to 40. The was haemorrhaging, panicking doctors, forms shoved under my nose authorising emergency cesareans, and anaesthetists administering epidurals and everyone was whisked out into the operating room. All joking aside, it was a toss of the coin as to whether I would lose either one of them or even both.

I was lucky enough to be allowed into the theatre, but had to get dressed up in some funky blue pyjamas beforehand. Naturally I was rockin’ the new threads.

Now if you’re looking for surreal situations, nothing beats sitting beside someone’s head while they’re lying on a surgery bed, casually talking, while on the other side of a small screen they’re literally being cut open.

That’s how Mortimer (not his real name) came into the world; late, maximum amount of stuffing everyone around and then out through the sun roof, as a mate of mine once put it.

A couple of years later, something even more terrifying than a young boy came crashing into my life. Yup, a young girl. What the fuck am I supposed to do with a young girl? At least I knew something of the wants and needs of a young bloke. But a sheila? A mini-nag? Oh Jesus.

Fortunately, unlike her brother, Brenda’s entry into this world was much less dramatic, although she too decided  that the top hatch was preferable to the torpedo tube. “Beautiful,” I thought to myself. “Maybe this means she won’t be such an annoying, cheeky little shit”. Alas, she was just messing with me. Lulling me into a false sense of security, as in later years she would be the cheekiest and most annoying of all. But for now, just a sweet, gurgling little girl-child.

But fate was not done messing with me yet. What could possibly be worse than one cheeky smart-arsed boy-child and one cute yet cheeky girl-child? That’s right, one cheeky smart-arsed boy-child and one cute yet cheeky girl-child and the unexpected arrival of a stubborn, loud and cheeky child. This one was of the female persuasion as well. The god’s must’ve been pissing themselves laughing by this stage. I didn’t know what to do with one girl, now they were expecting me to raise two of them? I kinda hoped they’d be like puppies and I could put them out in the back yard and they could raise themselves. Apparently the Law has issues with that kind of parenting though.

Kertrude had followed the, by now, established tradition of going over the top, rather than tunnelling her way out. But again, hers was an easy and mostly uneventful entry into the world. A peace and tranquillity which was to be short lived as she was destined to become the loudest of the three.

So there you go. That will do by way of introduction to my tribe. Keep reading and I’ll regale you with anecdotes and stories of how I manage to drag these three helpless tax deductions into semi-reasonable human beings, and maybe even give a bit of advice, based on knowledge gained on the battlefield along the way.

Tune in next week as I stumble my way through those tough early years getting to know how to do this parenting thing.

Until then, take it easy.