I’m going to eat your eyes (and the other darndest things kids say)

Dear Loinspawn,

Since the day you were born your mother and I have often found ourselves proudly imagining the inner workings of your precocious mind solving the mysteries of the universe.

Then, as you started talking, we realised there were other matters which you considered far more important. Like your penis, for instance. Your mother is worried about your phallic infatuation, but I have assured her that it is quite normal. You should, however, stop telling her how big it is. Or ask either of us to kiss it.

Sometimes you think about seagulls and ducks driving in a car to visit the dinosaurs. Other times you think about murder. Like last night when you told me: “I’m going to kill you.”

At first I thought there was some confusion. Obviously, you meant you were going to kielie (tickle) me, but then you came closer and whispered with firm conviction: “I’m going to take your eyes out and eat it.”

Now I sleep with that eye open.

We’ve always tried our best to cultivate deep critical thinking in you so that you can question the way the world works. Lumpy custard literally dribbled out of your mother’s eyes a week ago when you asked her how the stars came to be in the sky. Unfortunately, you now also question why you have to sit in your car seat, eat anything other than fish fingers, bath, brush your teeth, put on clothes, sleep, or really do anything we tell you to.

Here are some of your more insightful musings that you have shared with me. I’ve had to write them down because half of the time I can’t remember what I said yesterday and the other half I think I said stuff, but never did. 

ON SHARING (Or becoming a smartarse)

YOU: Pappa, can I have some beer?

ME: No, beer is only for pappas, not little boys.

YOU: But I’m big!

ME: I know, but you’re not big enough.

YOU: But you must always share! Good on sharing, pappa!

ME: Okay. Can I have a bit of your ice-cream?

YOU: No. This is medicine, it’s hot, it’s going to burn you.

 

TOILET TALK

YOU (sitting on the toilet): You must also make a poopoop.

ME: Why?

YOU: Otherwise the poopoop is going to come in your sleep and give you a fright.

 

JEDI MIND TRICKS

YOU: What’s that?

ME: It’s a doorstop.

YOU: No. It’s an… owl!

ME: No, it isn’t.

YOU: It’s an owl!

ME: No. It’s an inanimate object used to keep doors open and has no resemblance to a nocturnal bird of prey whatsoever.

YOU: It’s an OWL!

ME: Okay. I give up. It’s an owl.

YOU: No, pappa, it’s a doorstop!

 

MENDING BROKEN SOULS

ME: Why are you hitting me with your hammer?

YOU: I fix you!

ME: What’s wrong with me?

YOU: Pappa is broken.

 

ALWAYS SAY NEVER

ME: You must sleep.

YOU: No, I am never, never, never going to sleep!

ME: Why not?

YOU: Because I’m too tired.

 

MUSINGS ON GENDER

YOU: Pappa?

ME: Yes?

YOU: I think you are a little girl.

 

ON LOVE

ME: You are my everything. I love you.

YOU: Bluuuugggghhh! I made a burpee, pappa!

 

SHOWER THOUGHTS

(You are pretending to shower)

ME: Come, you’ve been in there for 10 minutes. It’s time to get out and put some clothes on.

(You open the shower door)

YOU: No! I don’t want to! Go make some compost with the worm poopoop.

(You slam door shut)

 

THE PECKING ORDER

ME: I am the boss.

YOU: No, I am the boss.

ME: You are definitely not the boss. You are a little boy.

YOU: No, I am the boss with Mamma!

ME: You are not.

YOU: Yes! I am a boss and Mamma is a boss!

ME: Okay, so what am I?

YOU: You are only an astronaut on the rocket ship with the dogs.

ME:…

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Parenthood: The really long, terrible, very bad, no good musical

Dear Loinspawn,

Parents are lonely creatures. This is why they tell other parents that having children is a good idea. They know that the only way they’ll ever interact with another grown human being is at a playdate. What they don’t tell you is that these get-togethers consist of half a glass of warm wine and yelling at your kid to give the other little shit back his toys. Generally, everyone’s more preoccupied with making sure that the tiny human beings don’t kill themselves than discussing books they’ll never have time to read and  movies no one will ever see.

As soon as you get married people assume your sole purpose in life is to populate the world. Everyone’s like: “Are you guys trying yet?” Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge. The tired parents try to hide the desperation in their voice when they ask. All they want is a new member to the club where everyone laments the fact that they haven’t had a private bowel movement in weeks.

It’s almost as if matrimony instantaneously makes people think you now have a licence to fill the world with your offspring. Obviously signing a piece of paper and throwing a big party is conclusive proof that you are able to raise a child.

But one night you’ll be on your second bottle of wine and your wife will say: “Baby, let’s make a baby. We would be nothing like our parents! We’ll be so awesome. Maybe we should start trying.” But your selectively deaf from the wine and you only hear “awesome” and “start trying” and the next you know you’re stirring puréed pumpkin with the one hand and using a teaspoon to investigate a dirty diaper with the other. The child may or may not have swallowed a magnet three days earlier. You’re not sure, because you left him alone for 10 fucking seconds to frantically claw through the medicine cupboard for painkillers. Listening to a child throw a tantrum for 20 minutes is conducive to headaches. When you got back the magnet was missing, but at least he stopped crying.

Parents will tell you their life is rewarding. Moving. Inspiring. They gush glitter and vomit rainbows when they talk about the miracle of life. But parenthood is a lot of other things too. Its about pretending to be really, really, really into putting nappies on stuffed toys and making castles beneath blankets and making submarine noises while pretending to eat water spiders. If none of this makes sense now, it will. One day.

Parenthood is like being in a very long, bad, improvised musical.  There’s a lot of exaggerated overacting, weird noises, songs and dancing and it often ends in tears of boredom. Sometimes, there’s even a bit of drama. Like finding your child in his room painting his duvet with red nail varnish when he was supposed to be sleeping two hours ago.

Parenthood is about always making sure there are batteries in the house and warming up pizza just right because Goldilocks doesn’t want it too hot or too cold. It’s about finding drawings made from soap on the mirror and about getting Lego bricks thrown at you in the shower.

Parenthood is about going for a nice sunny Sunday morning stroll with your toddler and coming back covered in poo with a half-naked child that shat his pants in the middle of nowhere. Parenthood is also about having wet-wipes. A lot of them. All the time.

Parenting is about ALWAYS checking the stove to see whether there isn’t a toy truck or a ball or a spanner hidden inside. It’s also about turning the handles in so that inquisitive hands don’t tug at boiling pots. Yes, parenthood is about being paranoid and seeing everything that can go wrong, all the time. It’s about failing at multi-tasking and being tired. So tired that you’re too tired to be tired.

Parenthood is a lot of things, but I’m not sure it’s rewarding. Unless keeping you alive another day counts. If you’re looking for reward rather go gym early in the morning or get another degree.

Parenthood is about emotions. And dealing with them. Its about being sad and depressed, but also being really happy. Its about the quiet moments when your watching your son give the dog a hug while he doesn’t know you’re watching. Its about lying in bed with him when he screams after a nightmare about a killer goose.  Its about feeling like you would kill that fucking bird if you could. It’s about feeling love. A fierce, protective love. Being a parent is about hugs and kisses and teaching your child about his feelings. But real parenting is also about learning about your own.

And I hope you get to do that one day too.

Dad.

On examining my nostrils for spiders instead of sleeping

Dear Loinspawn,

It’s a truly tiresome endeavour keeping up with your various five seconds of interests. Between running away from you trying to stick the electric toothbrush down the back of my pants (thanks, Mom, for making that a thing), and me running after you while you’re making a poo in your underpants, it’s like running a marathon on a hangover. No wonder your mother has the apocalypse in her eyes when I tell her she looks a little tired.

Thank god for our daily reprieve. Just after noon I eagerly start scrutinising you in anticipation of those tell-tale signs that you are ready to take an afternoon nap.

First, you rub your eyes. Then, you yawn. Wait for it…wait for it… Boom! You suddenly announce that you are tired and you want to drink your milk. Oh sweet Jesus, Hallelujah!

The fatigue that accompanies cleaning up flour from the floor for the millionth time and pulling toys out of the toilet suddenly disappears as I excitedly sprint to get everything ready for The Nap. What should be a quick, 30-second routine, rapidly deteriorates into the following:

12:02 – Warm up the bottle of milk.

12:03 – Search for toddler’s special pillow.

12:05 – Overheat the bottle while searching for the pillow.

12:06 – Calm toddler down because he has seen the bottle and now demands his pillow.

12:10 – Still can’t find the pillow. Toddler has now decided that he doesn’t want to go to sleep and instead wants to watch Chicken Run again.

12:15 – Take a moment to yourself and vow never to have kids again.

12:16 – Wrestle with toddler to get him into diapers.

12:17 -Try and reason with toddler who now firmly believes he is a big boy who doesn’t need diapers.

12:20 – Find special pillow stuffed down the side of the bed while wrestling with unreasonable toddler.

12:22 – Remove screwdriver, money and torn book page that toddler has been hiding beneath the duvet.

12:25 – Give toddler hugs and kisses and close curtains to make it as dark as possible.

Twenty minutes later, I close the door and collapse on the bed. Aaaahhh! Peace at last. Beautiful, silent peace. For the next two hours I don’t have to shout at you for pulling the dog’s ears, I don’t have to explain what snails are, I don’t have to convince you that the television is broken and I don’t have to run around with a hand full of tissues wiping snot off everything including your nose.

The best thing about you taking a nap is the fact that I can take one too. I wait until I’m sure you’re asleep and start reading my book. Slowly gravity starts tugging on my eyelids…

And then you start singing. At first I convince myself that you’re just settling down with an introspective, gentle rendition of Baa Baa Black Sheep. But the singing gets louder and louder. (Really?) I can hear you playing with some of your toys. (Are you serious?) Now there is a full scale rearrangement of your room going on. (I can’t fucking believe it.)

I barge in full of fire and brimstone, but you instantaneously defuse me with your toothy grin.

“I’m tired,” you tell me.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

Initiate Plan B. I get in bed with you and snuggle up close beneath the duvet. You give a content sigh. You close your eyes. You start snoring…

…before jumping up and shouting: “Wakey, wakey, Pappa!”

If I open my eyes now, all is lost. I squeeze them shut and try my best not to laugh as you put your eye right below my nostrils to inspect them for spiders. I purse my lips tight as you try to wiggle your fingers past my teeth while proudly declaring how amusing you are.

“Funny! I’m funny!”

Of course the only thing funnier than a toddler trying to spelunk his way up your nose is a toddler trying to kick you in the face. Having my nose repeatedly pounded by a tiny foot is hilarious.

Finally, I can’t take it anymore. I yell at you to shut the fuck up and go to sleep, except without the profanity and to be honest it’s more of a stern whisper than a shout.

A miracle happens and you actually listen to me. You tuck your pillow in close to your chin and close your eyes and just like that, 30 seconds later, gentle little snores fill the silence. For an atheist I find myself praying a lot these days and saying thank you.

Then my pants start to vibrate. Shit! It is followed by the shrill sound of my phone ringing. No! No! NO! Do I answer it? I don’t recognise the number on the phone, but this could be important. It could be the hospital phoning to say that you’re mother has been in an accident or the National Lottery phoning to congratulate me on winning a disgustingly huge amount of money.

It is neither. A computer generated voice on the other end of the line tries to sell me something. I will never know what it was, because I’m too busy telling it to burn in hell. It is extremely unsatisfying hanging up on a computer.

At this point you’re upset, I’m upset. The world is teetering on collapse, but I manage to calm you down. I double check that my phone is now on silent…

Good. Everyone can breathe again. Soon, we both start snoozing.

Then the doorbell rings. The dogs go ballistic. And I only feel a little bit sorry for the person on the other side of the door as I open it frothing at the mouth. They have the wrong house. I want to use very blunt objects to do very nasty things to this person. Instead, I point further down the road. Despite the racket you stay asleep. I send up more prayers.

I try, but I can’t get back to sleep. Instead, I drink coffee strong enough to double up as jet fuel and wait for you to wake up.

Three hours later, I’m still waiting. I’ve cleaned up your morning mess, or at least reallocated it to nooks, crannies and cupboards to at least create the illusion that everything is okay by the time your mother comes home. By now the coffee has worn off. The couch is suddenly feeling extra comfy. I’m tired. My eyes start drooping. And then, as if on cue, a sleepy shout comes from your room…

“Pappa!”

P.S. I would like to note that this was written after a rare occasion where you actually let me in the room while trying to fall asleep. Usually, you shout at me to GO AWAY and then scream for your mother. I will cherish our rare, albeit interrupted, snuggle forever.

Love, Dad

On eating dogfood and leaving keys in the microwave

Dear Loinspawn,

My empty toolbox lies on its side in the middle of the floor. Most of my tools have been redistributed around the house and the garden. My hammer looks odd and out of place among the other items on the flour-coated kitchen counter: the empty packet of yogurt you were so proudly eating on your own, the broken egg, the bird-shaped whistle you were blowing. Forgotten and discarded to one side is an apple with tiny teeth marks framing a single bite – a reminder of how quickly you change your mind.

The microwave contains various pieces of Tupperware, the toast we made and your mother’s car keys. Thank god I stopped you before you could switch it on. The kitchen floor is littered with pots and pans.

There are toys. Lots of toys: There’s plastic golf clubs and trucks and planes and a bent pirate sword and dough and building blocks and puzzles and your guitar and your drum and things that I can’t recall ever buying for you. My blender is also on the floor. You were trying to make Lego soup.

Some of the toys have migrated to the dining room table where they sabotage the attempts of your mother’s towering psychology textbooks to look somber and menacing. Jung and Freud and Bronfenbrenner seem just a little less daunting next to Winnie the Pooh and a used diaper.

There are books on the coffee table too. One by one, you carried them from the book shelf and told me we were going to read them. Then you realised that One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest contains no pictures and decided that you would prefer to scratch around in the stationary drawer. When I say scratch around I mean take everything out and put it on the floor and walk around with the calculator pretending it’s a cell phone.

The calculator is now in the bathroom – next to it is my cold, half-drunk cup of coffee. A dark brown ring close to the top is a reminder of how I had to leave it standing there to chase you around the house. It’s surprisingly tough to pin a toddler down and coax the dogs’ food out of their mouth. We all thought it was funny, except for the dogs.

We share a rare moment of quiet (apart from the ABC song playing in the background).

You are sitting on my lap. Your feet dangle between my legs, your toes barely touching the grass. You are eating a fruit stick. You tilt your head back into the crook of my neck and push, as if you tried hard enough you could squeeze yourself into me. You pull your head away and strands of blond hair stick to my beard. It tickles. I think: Fuck me; it’s hard work being a parent.

I put my arms around you and whisper: “I love you.”

You give a shy giggle and reply: “I love you, pappa.

P.S. Your mother has asked me to add a disclaimer at the end. Under no circumstances does the house get into this state when she is around. She is right. It’s only when you and I are left alone that everything falls apart.

Different shades of sick

Dear Loinspawn,

You are finally going back to school and there’s no point in sugarcoating the truth – your mother is looking forward to finding the pieces of her mind she lost while taking care of you for the past three months.

Will she find her marbles? I sometimes look at her crying in the corner late at night and doubt it. But we can both exhale a little bit as you return to a very special breed of humans who are trained to deal with tiny people prone to screaming, shouting and shitting themselves.

Three months ago, we took you out of school. You were sick. Not just for a couple of days, but for months. That’s a lot of snot. But that’s what you get for sending your child to a cesspit of germs and disease. The school is cheap, but the doctor’s bills aren’t. Just one more point to add to the “things-we-should-have-really-considered-harder-before-creating-a-human” list.

Remember when you ate the Toilet Duck? You were right beside me while I was trying to find a song for us to dance to…and then you weren’t. It was ominously quiet. Partly because I hadn’t found a song, but mainly because you were busy eating a big blob of gel detergent from inside the toilet bowl.

I told your mother, your OCD-wash-her-hands-a-gazillion-times-a-day mother, who immediately stuck her finger in the toilet bowl. She put her finger in her mouth. She paused. Her eyes grew big. And then she said: “It fucking burns!”

God, I love your mother.

We rushed you to hospital, concerned that the detergent was now searing holes through your throat and into your stomach and that by the time we got to emergency room there would be nothing but a minty-fresh smelling crater in the car seat.

Luckily, you were okay and entertained everyone in the waiting room by playing hide-and-seek behind the nurses’ station. Everyone but the nurses.

Two nights later I knew we weren’t okay when your mother woke me up at 2 am looking like she had just gone down a slippery slide covered in puke. She told me it was bad. I agreed. And then I saw your cot…

So we were back in hospital. You were quarantined to your own room, lest you make the other little cretins sicker. You spent a lot of time sitting at the glass door waving to the little girl quarantined in the opposite room. It was sweet and sad…the waving, not the fact that you had contracted a nasty virus that was bent on covering the world with your insides.

Since then you’ve been plagued by one sickness after the other and have constantly been on anti-biotics.

Finally, we took you out of school…and suddenly, just like that, you weren’t ill anymore. No more sniffles, no more tissues, no more grumpy, uncomfortable, cranky, moaning, snotty, irritated you.

Until now. Fucking Murphy and his fucking stupid law.

Today was supposed to be your first day of school. Instead, you’re at the doctor. Last night you woke up screaming, pointing to your swollen penis. You have an infection, which is the kind of thing that will happen if you ferociously pull on your genitals like a stretchy toy.

So now you’re sick, you’re back on antibiotics, you’re miserable, and the worst is – you haven’t even been back to school.

But I am glad that whatever ails you is curable. I can take you to the nurse, or the doctor and they just nod and say it’s normal. I’ll take normal sickness any day. What would I do if you suffered from something more…permanent? I don’t know. But my heart goes out to every parent who’s had to find the answer to that question the hard way.

I love you.

Dad.

All hail the Temper Tyrant!

Dear Loinspawn,

Sometimes you become an asshole. Your mother has however informed me that it’s frowned upon to compare one’s son to an anus, so henceforth you will be referred to as the Temper Tyrant Formerly Known as the Asshole.

Your transition is oft unpredictable and within a heartbeat we seesaw from I-love-you-so-much-you-are-my-whole-world to the-apocalypse-is upon-us-and-everyone-must-die. The metamorphosis from “aah cute!” to “oh shit!” is so instantaneous that time becomes irrelevant, which explains why it feels like you scream forever.

This morning you were still tickling my feet, laughing that sweet cherubic laugh which is what I imagine angels sound like when they’re having their tummies tickled with dodo feathers.

Then you looked at the dog. She looked back at you. I don’t know what horrific knowledge passed between you, but your mouth twitched. You scrunched your face together. Your eyes narrowed to tiny slits. You sucked in a deep breath of air…and then you howled.

Not like the dog, although she joined in too, but like someone who just dropped the last ice-cream in the world on the floor. Your arms flailed, your feet stomped. Your mother and I tried to turn a blind eye, but it’s hard to ignore the sea when the ship is sinking.

Life is tough, sometimes we have big feelings and you’re going to have to learn how to deal with them. Sometimes it’s okay that the dogs don’t want to be ridden like horses. It’s okay that Mommy wants to eat a chip with her left, not her right hand.

Sometimes your father doesn’t want to stand in the wind and rain, while you use the inside of the car for a jungle gym. Generally strangers in shops don’t like it when you run full speed into them with a trolley. And no, you’re still not old enough to have a glass of wine.

You shouldn’t get upset when we don’t allow you to put your finger in the plug and I apologise if the way I looked at you the other day, made you feel sad, but crying for fifteen minutes doesn’t solve the problem.

Sometimes you cry because you have to go bath. Then later you cry because we want to take you out of the bath. You cry because your mother is sitting not standing and sometimes you cry because we won’t let you swim in the morning when you wake up. At 5:30 am the water tends to still be a little cold. Sometimes you cry simply because you woke up. I get that one though. I shed a little tear too on Monday mornings.

So yeah, sometimes you are an asshole. So is everyone else. What counts is that most of the time you’re not. And soon you’ll learn how to eat, smoke, drink, sleep and medicate those big feelings away.

Until then I guess we’re tackling each day, one feeling at a time.

Love,

Dad.

 

Kak

Dear Loinspawn,

It has begun. You have started speaking. At first it was just a trickle of “tata”, followed by a steady flow of “Mama” and “Papa”. And then, like a silent monk losing his religion, you broke the dam walls holding your vow of silence and drowned us in a deluge of verbal diarrhea.

Like an alien stranded on a planet far from home, you have realised that the only way to unravel the countless mysteries that surround you, is to adopt the native tongue.

How else were you going find out why you can’t drag a dog by its tail? How were you solve the puzzle of why toilet brushes aren’t for brushing your teeth and what the hell books are for, if not throwing on the floor?

First you mimicked. Soon you experimented. And then it was a short jump to realising that you can make us do pretty much anything if you open your mouth. And so the universe bowed to the emperor’s new words:

“Go, Pappa!”

“Move, Pappa!”

“No, Pappa!”

No, not the universe bowing. Just me being dismissed with the back of a tiny imperial hand and a vehement shake of the head, while his highness dotes on his loving mother. I digress.

Of course we were ecstatic at our little bundle of joy metamorphosing from tiny sentient poop bag to demanding drill-sergeant.

Except for you when you say “kak”. This is not a big deal, except it is. Let me be clear, to avoid any confusion. “Kak” is the same as “shit”. “Shit” is the same as “manure”. I’m allowed to say something is a bunch of “manure”, but I’m not allowed to say it’s “kak”. This makes no sense, but someone, somewhere, made a rule and you have to do what I tell you to. Because I said so. So there.

I have no idea where you learned this word. Your mother and I are such perfect, angelic creatures that such an atrociously naughty word would never, ever defile our lips. Although there was that one time when you were possessed of a tantrum and crying incessantly and arching your back and banging your feet and pounding your arms and flinging your body around and while I was trying to find the number for an exorcist I might have, maybe, possibly said: “Ag kak man, he’s being an asshole again!”

I might have, maybe, possibly said more, but like all traumatic events you block out the worst. Self-preservation and so forth…

But you didn’t block anything out. You took that short and sweet Afrikaans word and chewed on it for a bit. You broke it down through careful mastication, savoring how easy it rolled around in your mouth. And then, like a shiny new toy, you paraded around the house, the little emperor, proclaiming the whole world is kak.

Of course it’s frowned upon if it’s your boy who walks around the crèche with the mouth of a sailor, which is why I’m now trying to explain the hypocrisy of the world to a child that’s not quite two yet. You can’t say or do anything that I do, until you’re old enough to have a child. Then it’s your turn to tell that child that he is not allowed to do anything you’re doing.

And so it goes. But it also doesn’t help that your best efforts to pronounce fish, ends up with you walking around the aquarium shouting “Piss! Piss!” at the top of your lungs.

It’s not all shit and piss though. Your attempts at mastering the language is much like a cowboy trying to lasso a couple of bucking calves in a rodeo. Sometimes you catch them and hang on to them, and sometimes they slip away. But every time you triumph, your mother and I shout with glee and dance around like we just rediscovered ice-cream for the first time.

Of course it’s difficult to learn words in a house where you are spoken to in both English and Afrikaans, but one day you’ll be better off for it. And until then your father doesn’t really care whether you call a big bird that can’t fly an ostrich or a volstruis. They are both the same thing. A big bird that cannot fly.

I’ve also stopped trying to reason with you and tell you that kak is a naughty word. We try to be good parents. We watch our language, but it’s hard when toddlers come with a factory default designed to bring out the worst in you.

It’s just a word. Sometimes it means shit. But other times it’s just an easy sound children use to flex their verbal muscles. Soon, you’ll be old enough to know the difference and when that age arrives it will knock on the door with a backpack full of grownup problems.

So for now, I’ll take my beautiful son unwittingly calling everything manure. And anyone who has a problem with that kan maar gaan kak.

Love,

Dad.

When the mouse is away the cat experiences an existential crisis

Dear Loinspawn,

Last night I came home, the euphoria flowing thick like custard through my veins as I climbed on the table, lit several cigarettes at once and poured whiskey in wild abandon over my face while your mother danced around in her underwear listening to inappropriately loud music.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. Your mother wasn’t frolicking in her lingerie, the closest thing I had to whiskey was a glass of flat Coke, I’ve stopped smoking and I doubt whether there was actually any music. Except for in my head. There was certainly music in my head. It was the sound of a symphony waxing as it announced the arrival of our first childless weekend in….let’s just call it a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away from here.

I love you. But sometimes I hate being a parent. And this weekend I have particularly strong feelings of affection for your grandparents who have whisked you away and left your mother and I to our own devices, which is…

Shit. I don’t know. I forgot what it is you do when you are young and childless. Sorry, just childless. I think we’ll sit on the couch a lot and watch movies. Or read a book in the afternoon and take a nap. We’ll talk about things other than your snotty nose or the big shit you took this morning, we’ll go out for supper and who knows…we might even have sex…although you appeared the last time that happened, so perhaps just the movie…

For the next 48 hours we actually have options…which, truth be told, we don’t know what to do with. Do we just chill? Do we work in the garden? Do we visit all our friends? Do we go and party till three in the morning? Do we go shopping? Do we just spend some time alone? Or do we seriously spend the whole weekend just figuring out what it is that we should do with our time?

The truth is, as soon as you become a parent the front part of your brain called the Parental Autopilotus takes control, but it is unable to process the rare occasions when there is no child to look after. It starts spasming and trying to fire neurons in areas of the brain covered with the cobwebs of nostalgia. The pressure to maximise the alone time becomes debilitating and makes you feel like a confused rat in a childless maze.

It’s 7:44 am as I type this. All I can hear is the steady click-click-click of this keyboard…and your mother snoring with the kind of bliss that translates to: “I can lie in bed the whole day if I wanted to.”

Usually by now, you would have been covered in porridge from head to toe after insisting that you feed yourself. You would have cried until I let you watch an episode of Pingu (or PeePee as you prefer to call him). You would have either spilled something, dropped something, or broken something.

All the books that you are able to reach on the book shelves would have been pulled down and strewn across the floor. (You have also recently realised that you can stack them to reach the higher shelves. A ladder of literature to assist your anarchy.)

You would have thrown your Lego all over the place, chased the dogs around, cried a bit because I won’t allow you to play with the knives in the dishwasher (stupid dad!) and generally transformed the house your mother and I cleaned the night before into an apocalyptic landscape.

By now you would have been tugging at my pajama pants and pointing decisively at the door saying “Tata” to indicate that you have now decided it is time to go somewhere. This “somewhere” usually entails you and I sitting in the parked car while I make over-the-top driving noises and pretend to drive to a place where a nineteen month old toddler isn’t my boss.

It’s now 7:57 am and none of these things have happened. The salt shaker I left on the coffee table last night is still there, it’s contents intact and not poured all over the floor. Your mother hasn’t been woken up from pots and pans being bashed together in a sunrise symphony. The house is still clean…and empty…

Which makes me kind of miss you. If you want to know the truth about what parents do on their annual weekend off, well they talk about their kids. Your mother will probably wake up soon and we’ll talk about what we should do today, which will quickly divert into a conversation about some DIY project for your room and then we’ll talk about you and phone your grandmother to find out how you are and look at cute videos of you and discuss your whole future and then before you know it our 48 hours are up and you’re back again and we’re back to hating the fact that we’re parents.

But still loving you,

Dad.

On farting while thinking about Austrian cats that are dead and alive at the same: A birthday post

Dear Loinspawn,

Congratulations are in order. You’ve managed to survive a whole 365 days. Well done. I’m not sure why you’re getting all the presents though, we’ve been doing all the work.

The day you arrived, it felt like I fell out of an airplane. Without a parachute. No, it’s more surreal – it felt like the airplane disintegrated and I stayed behind, feet flailing in the air trying to find purchase in the unknown. I haven’t loved every minute of being a parent. And people who say they do are fucking liars.

But I’ve loved you every minute since you were born. How could I not? You are a goddamn beautiful, delightful terror.

I prefer the idea of a name day to a birthday. I like the thought of celebrating the person rather than the fact that they were pushed out of a vagina. There is power in a name. It’s yours, and it contains all the thoughts everyone has ever had of you.

So, happy Name day, Wolf. I hope your name brings you joy. I hope when people say it, they think happy thoughts, kind thoughts, loving thoughts.

Wolves are strong. And intelligent. They don’t mind leading solitary lives, and yet they often mate for life, their offspring forming a pack. We are pack now. We run together. But one day you must find your own way, so I thought I should offer some advice below. Your mother says I’m telling you to be like me. She’s not wrong. So listen to her when she starts telling you to get your head out of your ass and start working.

Why am I writing this to you now? I’m not sure. You still think flowers taste great. And that you can have a whole conversation by repeating the syllable ‘ta’. But one day you’ll be older. And I might or might no still be there. And these are the thoughts I would want to share with you:

Question everything. Even if it makes people angry. Especially if it makes them angry. Question us. Question yourself. Question life.
Take pictures to feel alive. Of things. Anything. But not yourself.
Stop taking pictures and just be. Be.
Be anything you want.
And want to be all you can be.
Stop wearing a watch. Time passes without it.
Pass the time by looking at trees. Look closer. Look at the ants, the leaves, the things we see, but don’t see. You see?
Make friends with a dog. Look into his eyes. Look deeper. You see that? Love. Real love.
Fall in love. Fall out of love. But learn about love. There’s no book for it.
Read. Read comics and old Reader’s Digests and books about birds and novels about dragons and stories about people who have led a tougher life less ordinary than you. Read the newspaper. Read this. Read people. Read between the lines. Read.
Don’t read self-help books. Help yourself.
#Stop #Hashtagging #Your #Life You’re not missing out. Except on who you are right now.
Even if what you are is alone. Unplug your phone. Be alone. And be okay. Then you’ll stop looking for answers in the crowd.
Drink beer and daydream. About daydreaming. Make movies in your head. Then go to bed.
On the way, sing. Even if don’t know the words. Make up your own. Make the song your own.
Horde music; a tune for every thought.
Think happy thoughts. And sad ones. And angry ones.
Think profound thoughts about the stars. About clusters within superclusters within galaxies within universes. About parallel universes and black holes where Austrian cats are dead and alive at the same time. Then laugh at your own farts. They’re funny.
Walk. Walk everywhere. Walk far. Walk wide. Walk in someone else’s shoes. Walk barefoot. Soon the stones will stop hurting.
It’s okay to hurt. But don’t let your hurt define you.
You don’t have to hurt to cry. Cry over animals without homes and homes without animals and movies without happy endings, and spilt milk and missing someone you’ve never met and climate change and war, and religion that causes war and traffic and things that make you feel shit. But cry.
It will stop you drowning in unspilt tears.
Love your parents. We won’t be around forever.
And never linger upon things that end…
The End.

Nothing’s Gonna Change my World (and other lies, part 2)

Dear Loinspawn,

Uhm, so where was I? Oh yes, harping on about all the changes that we didn’t think would happen to us, because we’re so different to our parents and then we had you and suddenly we are EXACTLY like our parents and this in itself is enough to ignite spontaneous internal combustion or at least the powerful urge to get on a plane and fly to an island where the money’s for nothing and the chicks for free. Well, I’m married to your mother so perhaps just the beer.

The change that comes with a child is prolific and extreme. And no matter how much you prepare yourself, the metamorphosis from selfish caterpillar to parental butterfly is the equivalent of sipping Mojito’s made by a bartender called Alejándro, basking beneath an ochre sunset and nodding off in a gently swaying hammock. And then waking up in the arctic tundra with nought but your boxers and a can of frozen sweetcorn. Without a can opener.

Once, I considered myself to be a well-balanced, rational, patient person, but hell bells boy, after your were born I’ve thrown dummies against the wall and broken breast milk containers, (okay, only one, but in my defense you were crying for so long and I was so desperate to get the bloody milk out that I slammed it against the tabletop causing the bottle to explode in spectacular fashion).

Your mother did not think it was spectacular. She by the way, has experienced a completely different metamorphosis. Her impatience and imperial task mode manner died the minute you were born and now the daisies of love, care and serenity blossom in abundance over that grave. I know, I just made a little vomit in my throat too. Bluuuggh.

I, on the other hand, found that Patience is the first virtue to pack its holiday bags and have a merry time with Alejándro, leaving Tolerance and Kindness desperately scrambling for their passports. So, because having a baby is an experience which is shaken, not stirred, I thought I would make a small list of things you should expect to happen. Because when everyone is congratulating you on the imminent birth of your bundle of joy, what they really should be telling you is this:

1. The wet wipes. So, so, many wet wipes. More often than not the house looks like a North Korean plane swept through the house dispersing propaganda leaflets everywhere. The plane, I imagine sometimes, is piloted by some communist wet wipe goblin, whose sole purpose is to ensure that used wet wipes are falling out of the diaper bag, my pocket or the car in equal measure.

The problem is exponentially exasperated now that you’ve discovered the wipes are not just great for cleaning your face and ass, but make for endless entertainment as you pull them out one by one, giving each wipe a little nibble before proceeding on to the next. At least your mouth is really clean, but changing your diaper has now become a wrestling match between me, you and the packet of wet wipes. It’s amazing how quickly a small poo can disperse and cover a large area when encouraged by a little movement. Requiring even more wet wipes to clean it up with.

2. Luckily people don’t notice the wet wipes creeping out of your pocket or stuck to your shoe. They’re more focused on the explosion of talcum powder in your hair and shirt which looks like you had multiple brawls with an angry kilogram of Columbian marching powder.

3. Conversations change. People don’t ask us how we are anymore. As long as you’re fine, the general assumption is that we’re fantastic. All your friends and family want to know is what new and miraculous little thing you are doing now. The word “cute” gets flailed around like an adjectival bludgeon.

I’ve tried steering some of those “adorable”-filled tête-à-têtes into more non-infantile waters by invoking topics dripping with testosterone like rugby or cars. This works for all of five minutes until someone asks: So are you going to let your boy play? Or: Have you started saving up for his first car yet? And so that boat barely makes it out of the harbour before sinking unceremoniously into the maelstrom of everyone’s thoughts on how to raise children. Perhaps I should just start grunting and point at rocks.

4. Point 3 is perhaps somewhat unfair. The truth is that once you have a child you actually can’t stop talking about him either. Everything literally does revolve around you. It’s a bit like when everyone had to reluctantly concede that the earth is in fact, not flat or that mullets were never, ever cool. Not even if you’re MacGyver.

5. Some of your more honest, tactless, childless friends will look at you and grasping for some conversational straw will say: “Geez, you look old.” Sometimes honesty and its policy should really learn how to make a cup of shut-the-duck-up.

6. Yes, you also suddenly realise how much you swear and start replacing those choice expletives you’ve been using for so long as grammatical crutch with words that don’t make any sense. God knows you don’t want to be the parent being called into kindergarten and reprimanded because your child is running around laughing calling everyone a doos. One day you will understand how, when you were younger, there were so many people called Koos.

7. The good news is, there’s a certain sense of self-preservation that kicks in. Your mind builds a happy soundproof palace. It’s like the Batcave for your thoughts, A Fortress of Solitude impervious to the noise your child makes as he’s banging blocks together, shaking his rattle or testing out the range of his vocal cords.

The bad news is that the ability to isolate yourself from the noise and finish that important e-mail, is paradoxically only matched by the inability to get anything done. Babies, especially you my son, are constantly bored, always on the look out for new little dangerous nooks and crannies to stick your fingers into or wires to chew on. You require, nay, demand constant attention, leaving the cursor flickering despondently at the end of some half finished sentence.

8. The human body is very clever though and has a contingency plan. It is called the one handed shuffle and as it suggests, the one hand becomes redundant for any other purpose than to hold you. Cooking, cleaning, typing, well basically your whole life, is attended to by the free hand. Which is why after your were born, the food is sometimes burned and i often send messsigis wifout capitols an spelling mistakes what would make alot of gramma nazis loose they’re shit. I mean sherbet.

9. Have I mentioned your toys? You have a play area. You play there. Then how the hell do all your toys find their way into my bed, the bathroom, the kitchen and the far corners of the garden? You can’t even crawl properly yet. Are they becoming alive in a strange episode of The Twilight Zone? Does a silent hurricane come in the middle of the night to scatter your playthings? The mystery, I suspect, will only resolve itself once you move out of the house. Until then, I have several years of finding cheap plastic poking my ass in bed to look forward to.

10. You will see every single sunrise the year your child is born. Which is pleasant because sunrises are magic and beautiful. When enjoyed with cup of coffee wrapped in silence. When the coffee is already cold because you’ve been dancing your son to sleep, or your changing a diaper as the golden rays of a new day gently settle on the pungent aroma of last night’s broccoli, the magic is a little less…magic.

So there, one day your wife will be pregnant and people will congratulate you so hard the exclamation marks will hurt your head. Oh, they might hint at the “pajama drill” with a little chuckle and a knowing glint in their eye. But they will never tell you the truth. None of us would have children if they did.

But here’s another truth. I haven’t thrown a dummy against the wall in months. I don’t really care about the wet wipes or the talcum powder or the fact that everyone is constantly saying you are the cutest thing since people discovered puppy videos on YouTube.

The truth is you are cute and adorable and every other clichéd adjective in the dictionary. I love the fact that you make me want to stop swearing like a sailor. It means I want to be a better person and sure, we look like we’ve suddenly aged overnight, but one day your mother and I will be able to catch up on sleep and our friends who’ve just had children will look even older.

Every time I find a toy in bed, I can’t help but smile. It reminds me of you laughing and finding pleasure in the smallest of things, like a shiny doorknob. And yes, sometimes the sun is slowly wrapping its fingers around a new day whilst I’m changing a diaper that smells like it needs to be quarantined. But there are also times when I’m rocking you back to sleep in front of the window and everything is covered in golden light including your face and you look up at me with such contentment and that my son, is real magic.

I still listen to The Beatles’ Across The Universe. I just don’t agree with them anymore. You’ve changed my world and exposed me to a love so fierce I feel sorry for those who choose not to or can’t experience it. I hope one day you do. A few moments of anger and frustration are a fair trade for watching the sun rise with your son in your arms.

Love,

Dad