There were some ‘learnings’ over the weekend, a weekend with ‘two half’s’ and which contained much I can gain ‘going forward’.
Firstly, I discovered, when my wife puts on a mid-winter Christmas, a casual invite turns into days of prep, dressing up, decorations and all the rest. Took me by nearly as much surprise as it did the guests. My own fault for making the throw away suggestion. Lesson learned.
I learned too, the All Blacks lacked exactly what I have been telling everyone silly enough to listen to me over the last few weeks. Punch. The selection of Sonny Bill Williams gave the AB’s attack just what it needed…a big body to bend the line, take on the opposition midfield head-on and draw defenders. Perhaps Laumape would have been just as effective in the start but SBW played well and was a huge difference in the quality of performance in comparison with the prior two tests.
With no Liam Squire or Fafiti, guys I would like to see running wider and freer, looking for physical mismatches here and there and better utilising their size, pace and skill, it was nice to see the French defensive line genuinely tested. Also, it was obvious the French perceived a genuine threat in the form of Naholo and rightly so. He may not have been at his dynamic best and the game may not have played into his hands, but it was clear to me, with Ben Smith returning to the 15 jersey, that the best back three combination currently available to Steve Hanson was out there under the Forsyth Barr Stadium roof on Saturday night.
Over the course of this French series I have learned that Jordie Barrett is a good option for the future, as are Hemopo and Frizell, that Cody Taylor is capable of being a top flight hooker at that level, that Scott Barrett is playing the best rugby in his family right now and my tolerance for coaches testing and experimenting has increased. Great to see the depth being developed at 10, nice to see how many options are there at 12 and 13 and good to have a few things identified well out from next years world cup in Japan.
I have discovered that I care less about the outcome of All Black rugby than I used to and consequently do not rue our decision to let our Sky subscription subside. If there is not a decent stream to be found I can watch live then I no longer give the rat’s proverbial. Prime it is, adverts and all and who really cares. Though I still strongly feel sport is an integral part of any nations culture and our ‘national’ sports should be freely available…an argument for another day perhaps.
I also learned, these past three weekends, my kids only ever showed any interest in rugby because, really, they were interested in me. It was trying to discover what made their Dad tick, what it was they could share with their Father, even if a little on the fringes, which had them interested. The game itself is irrelevant.
My display of verve and passion and outlandish outbursts fired their interest and coupled with the attractions of a potential late night, some nibbled junk food, the drama of the Haka and national anthems, the whole scene and setting is too irresistible for young imaginations. Sure, their attention spans wane in no time, they slip away in their minds, falling asleep or giving up and shuffling off to bed on their own accord. Depending on the match up, I love it. Cuddling up with the kids for an extra snuggle or two is never a bad thing but they soon grown tired of their Dad’s manic mood shifts and swings, if the result hangs in the balance or there is some silverware on the line.
Number One has long since stopped paying any attention, diverted to a good book long before kick off rolls around. At the other end of the spectrum, Wee-Man has yet to feel the infectious attraction of sport, still finding more entertainment and pleasure in his mother’s nipple (and who can fault him?). Number Two will flit in and out, curious at times about results and if there is a favourite player or two involved but I can sense these days, it is a little forced. As you can imagine, E-Bomb is little more than a cute irritant. Sometimes a lot more.
The fact my kids are not interested in the All Blacks, not captured by the saturation of rugby on our winter TV screens, does not bother me. I would love to see my children involved in sport as their lives go on, particularly team sport. The health aspects, the social interaction, good things for people, certainly young ones. For now, the fact my kids are tolerant of their Father ranting and raving at a screen depicting images of men he doesn’t know but is freely offering advice to, particularly the one in the different coloured shirt tooting on a whistle, is enough for me at the moment. If, however, none of my children show any interest in sport I don’t think I will care. If they get their exercise through other means, their social contact and interactions from other quarters, then all good. As long as they are happy and healthy and all of that.
So, it was good to have a fella or two over in the weekend to enjoy a game with. Even if we had all partaken in more out of season festive cheer than our belly’s could cope with. Even if the rugby ‘product’ has been at or beyond saturation point for at least a few years now. It was good to have an, somewhat contrived, excuse to have a few drinks and an extravagant feed. It was good to socialise a bit, good to let respective sets of kids mingle a bit, to push them to the point of tired grumpiness. Ok, maybe I awoke the following morning the tired grumpy one, but there is not much different about that.
Heard the expression “Clean up your own backyard before knocking on your neighbours door’?
It is far too beautiful a day to be sitting here feeling like a grumpy, cantankerous, holier than thou old man. But here I am regardless…
In the midst of one of those gem mornings only the Hokianga can produce, all sparkling water, glistening green leaves and bright skies, not to mention the much vaunted winter-less aspect of the North, I set about a chore or two. We are in a new place, closer to town, so there is a great deal to do still, even if the move was last weekend and we are well on top things, thanks to the contributions of all members of the immediate whanau. ‘What’s gonna work? Team work.’ Dead right Dora.
So there I am, in the yard, struggling to get the shroud right on the trampoline. Right at the point of thinking bugger it, let them bounce into oblivion, I look up to release an exasperated sigh. Coming down the street, catching my eye, is a young lady. Let’s say she is about twenty. What was so eye catching about this young wahine was the freshly washed, long flowing black hair, the light touch of makeup, sunnies and other accessories like hand bag and I like to think some subtle jewelry, but I could be over doing things at this point.
She was dressed to the nines as the saying goes, unusual enough in this town let alone before midday. And when I say nines, I mean she had a nice top on, smart casual, her jeans were clean and ironed and her jandals looked new. (I have no way of confirming the newness of her footwear but I am going to assume so for the sake of this yarn). There can be no doubt this was a good looking young lady who, for whatever reason, had made an effort. I wish her luck.
There was only one problem. Actually, about three of them I could see from the brief look I got. Fizzy rolls.
Pop. Soda. Call it what you will. I grew up knowing it as fizzy and thankfully, never really developed a taste for the stuff. If I want a frothy, bubbly liquid it had better contain alcohol and be called lager. That is how I got my belly…a beer one. I am not virtuous. Far from it. I have some shocking dietary habits. Some good ones too and in an ideal world, they would balance out. My problem, the only exercise I get on a regular basis happens at the pace of under fives. They are charging five paces to my one and try as might, that rate doesn’t get the heart beating too rapidly.
So, at least this girl was walking, getting in some exercise. Don’t get me started on the folk who fire up their car and hon off the couple of hundred metres to the shop and back again. But, walking or not, sadly, this pretty young wahine was fat. Gorgeous, Fat. Young, unhealthy. Somewhere up the road she probably passed the fella I see semi regularly, pie and coke in hand. Breakfast. He is young too and has a body, a metabolism or whatever it is, which allows him to get away with. But not for long bro!! trust me, I know.
The message is out there, has been for a long time. We all know it, even in a part of the globe the rest of the world might have forgotten. Diabetes and heart disease and livers packing up, kidneys giving in. Cancers and many other ailments from things as seemingly innocuous as gut and bowel disorders, to mental health and the list goes on. And sure, the counter argument around GST on fruit and produce, the comparatively low cost of fizzy drinks versus milk, the rhetoric around that debate has it’s place.
But, and a reasonably big butt at that (see what I did there?), what about about the element of self-responsibility? If the media outlets and the health agencies and the DHB’s and government and all the rest are getting the message out there, they are possibly failing to get it across. I know how easy it can be to form habits. there are still plenty of smokers out there, plenty of heavy drinkers…meth, pot and all the classes of drugs. But eating yourself to death? To an early grave? At what point does someone look up and go wow, I am struggling to get out of my chair and puffing by the time I make it o the fridge…
Only one person can look after you and you know exactly who that person is. As I have said, I can’t speak from a place of superiority, but I can and do have the motivation to make sure nothing gets too out of hand. I have a wife and kids whom I love and who love me. I don’t want them struggling to remember my tangi because it happens when they are young.
Look down…see if there is any sign of your toes.
Or are the fizzy rolls getting in the way?
The All Blacks play France at the Cake Tin tonight in their second test match up. Head high anyone?
Play hard and play fair. That was the message I received as a child growing up and learning various sports. I turned my hand to a lot of different options, from racket sports indoors and out, to water sports in and on, to all the others on muddy, frosty, grass paddocks with balls of numerous shapes and sizes. I learned to use my hands and feet and to hold sticks and to swing and hit and catch and pass. I never mastered any of it but a heap of fun trying.
‘Get into it’
‘Have a go’
All and any other cliched line Dad’s threw out there to encourage the gaggle of kids they were coaching to glory on chilly winter afternoons at poorly drained council recreation fields up and down the country to ‘Give it a crack’.
I didn’t then and don’t now, know what a crack is meant to be or how I was supposed to give one but I did understand the sentiment. The idea is to put some effort in, to apply yourself, to be a part of the team, to be involved and to do your best.
All of the above.
Let’s take a moment here, to thank all the Dads, giving up their own time to slog through the mud every Saturday morning, resisting the urge to yell out from the sideline shouts of encouragement, be one of ‘those’ fathers, taking his turn on the whistle, standing for an hour or so behind the stumps pretending he knows anything about the LBW rule.
And the Mum’s, forlornly hoping one day there will be an indoor sports venue in their town, one large enough to cope with multiple netball games, hordes of young girls sheltered from the worst of the elements as they spend winter afternoons and mornings dodging around in slippery courts in bibs and skirts. Think of all the bumps and bruises and scrapes and cuts and scratches. The tears and tantrums and fusses and fights. And that is just from the parents.
Thousands of kids giving it a crack. Those Mum’s and Dad’s are role models, the true ones of the sporting world. Personally, I have never felt just because someone is built athletically, can run and catch and pass, do it all at the same time, they are necessarily people we should, as parents, teachers and schools, the media, have our kids aspire to be like. Praise that sports-persons work ethic, their application and dedication and desire to succeed. Applaud the systems in place in many different sports and recreations which allow participants to reach pinnacles and peaks, to be at the top, the best in the world. So a thanks there too, for the administrators and managers and volunteers and everyone who contributes, often above and beyond, to make levels of success like that happen.
Sure, for every clap and shout out, there are going to be detractors. The good ole Kiwi tall poppy syndrome. I think we, as a nation, have gotten better. We a more prepared to celebrate success, the gold medalists and the big pay day professional contracts. It is no different for our All Blacks, the most high profile team, grouping of and individual sportspersons in this country.
Ryan Crotty took a dive. The guy should play football in Europe or South America. Or maybe take up a role on Broadway. He was way too convincing for Shortland Street. There, his antics wouldn’t look so ridiculous. Cane and Ofa made direct contact with the head of an opposition player and circumstances aside, should have been sanctioned, at least in the form of a penalty.
These are not the actions of role models. Heat of the moment stuff, ‘dynamic’ ‘fluid’ situations, call it what you will. I agree with the general consensus…It is a heavy contact sport and accidents are going to happen. There is no cheating, no intent. The All Blacks, Le Blue, the Kiwis, the Wallabies the Dallas Cowboys all play hard and fair. Some individuals, some teams, bend the rules, play to the letter of the law and the ref’s whistle and here we go with the cliches all over again…
It is how we, as kids, as teens and young adults, reinforced as senior representatives, are taught to play the game. Whatever that game may be. So I reckon, as media and avid sport fans, we need to not beat up on the rough stuff. By all means, legislate against the dangerous and the unhealthy, sort the rule books so the violent and the nasty is eliminated from the game and make it so the accidental, the reckless and careless actions are strongly discouraged. And then, move on.
Highlight too much of the bad and the ugly, you detract from the good. Participation in sport for our youth, particularly team sports, is a vital and healthy thing in society and needs to be nurtured, encouraged and given every opportunity to grow. It helps our kids do just that, grow. Think of all the bonds and friendships and good memories we can all take away from our time on the track, in the gym, on the pitch, the sideline, in the clubroom. Don’t forget to thank the ladies for the feed and honour the opposition for the half they contributed to the game.
Let’s instead show the good and the great and the excellent. Let’s not have photo after photo after video footage repeated daily via every media outlet imaginable showing forearms to the head, cracked cheekbones and swollen eye sockets. Mummy and Daddy aren’t going to want their precious little ones involved in all of that and sport will suffer for it. Not just contact sport, not just rugby or league. Kids love the crash and the bash of it and boys in particular, will find away to do it regardless of a contact sport like rugby. Bullrush anyone?
A controlled environment, with coaches and trainers and all the rest. Technique and back up and support and encouragement and praise. Show our young how to do it right, how to do it fairly. How to do it for the result. To win. Just not at all costs. Teach integrity. There is a culture in sport we cannot afford to lose.
Show us the runaway tries, the behind the back passes, the banana kicks for touch. Tell us about the never say die attitudes, the ‘big engines’. Talk of the handshakes afterwards, the mutual respect given freely between two teams who have given there all, had a crack, played hard and fair.
And while we are at it, let’s keep our heads.
C’mon the All Blacks!!
(Last weeks performance lacked timing and there was punch missing. Where is Naholo? If not him, Laumape? Given it is the same squad, let’s see the likes of Squire running wider with a bit more room and freedom and the injection of Fifita, with the same remit, a little earlier. Expect a more attacking French outfit, their defense to be as resolute as it has been all season and the AB’s attempting to achieve the same hectic pace they started with, and stayed with, last weekend but add accuracy, timing and cohesiveness…AB’s by 12)
Why not me? Why not more all of us?
All of us who can. Who are capable, willing and able. Check out this story and putting aside the luck of it, ask yourself why not you? Why aren’t you doing more, even just a little…
The above story shows there is still love in this world. Aroha. It shows, with the benefit of luck, of timing, of virtue and moral integrity, so much can be done and achieved with just the simplest of gestures.
Dave Newman is just a man. I know nothing of him, apart from the gesture, a real and genuine one, he has made. The difference he has made. Circumstance gave him the opportunity, the chance to make a real and tangible difference. And please, let’s not forget the part played by New Zealand Rugby, who cynically have not missed a golden marketing opportunity, but who have seen and seized the chance to do good.
Like the above article suggests, like Dave Newman hoped, there are twelve kids who now will have memories to hold onto for life. There is so much more than a golden hued day in the sun for them on offer here though. These Welligntonian children have been given, gifted, a catalytic moment. Perhaps they are all too young to realise but I can only hope they are not too young, are guided and mentored well enough, to be able to grasp it. A defining moment in their fledgling lives.
This sort of thing, through the generosity of one man and the cooperation of a large and power, influential, sporting body, can and should prove to be a turning point. There is nothing to suggest these are a group of bad kids. Nowhere do I get the impression from the Stuff article we are being introduced to a bunch of dodgy little buggers being given an opportunity otherwise unavailable to everyday youth. It seems to be this lot have been carefully selected and are genuinely in need of just this sort of support, this kind of selfless generosity.
Could you do it? Give up a prize like that? I turned down a seat at Wimbledon for a woman. I married her, my motivation was very different, we had only just met. I sure as hell benefited but certainly not for the greater good. I could have rescheduled but I didn’t. Wimbledon will be on every year, at the time I couldn’t guarantee this woman would be. However, my decision didn’t impact, directly or indirectly, anyone but me, the woman involved and the kids we ended up having together. Four of them…I hope at least one of them is a Pulitzer prize winner and at least one of the remainder represents their country or their beliefs on a global scale. Time will tell. The point is, I haven’t made my stand, my effort or contribution or whatever it might be, which will effect on a grander scale, outside of the direct influence I can have over the lives immediately attached to my own. I wish I had done more to date, on a wider basis, a community basis. I wish I did more. I hope I do more.
There is a man here who has been financially rewarded for the efforts he has put into the community and in particular youth, in this little slice of New Zealand. What exact prize he won, who was responsible for awarding it and who was noble enough to nominate him for it, I do not know and it is irrelevant. The thing is, there was a person who put himself, purely voluntarily, in a position where such accolades were deemed to be justified. Where reward was granted as a direct reflection of effort, of caring, of love and compassion and understanding. I will just about bet the money he won filters right back to the people he earned it on behalf of anyway. Yes, earned , not won, not gifted. Earned.
We all lead busy lives. We all have our own lives to deal with. For some, the pull and push of domesticity, of the work life balance, is all absorbing, leaving little or no room for intervention in the potential well-being of anyone else. Not to mention the near impossibility of making a financial contribution beyond what you can scrap together to fill fridge, freezer and pantry. How much donation is there in your pocket?
But, time? Can we spare some of it? Can you? Even just a little…what’s an hour a week? Sixty minutes is what it is, 3600 seconds which could prove the make or break for someone. Give up Coronation Street and manage a sports team, coach. Tutor some reading or math or join the Guides or Scouts or the yacht club or…or…or…utilise whatever skill you can and bring it to the lives of others, so it is a skill shared. Once your skill, skills or skill set (to quote a certain rugby coach) is/are shared, a new thing entirely is developed. A burden on society is lessened. There can be purpose and meaning attached to a skill. Yoga, fitness, boxing, cooking/baking, art…anything and everything, especially in rural communities. You might be surprised. You will certainly be rewarded.
Not financially. Not monetarily. Smiles, handshakes, to know you, your knowledge and skills and abilities and passion and understanding and desire and love and caring and openness and availability, has meant something, even just a little thing, to someone. Don’t be aiming your generous time and passion at no one but youth either. Sure, try and give a little of what you have held on to, your experiences and your learnings (there is that coach again), so coming generations can benefit, but we mustn’t neglect the guy next door.
Not everyone is lucky enough to win prizes they can trade for greater reward, and not every organisation will be willing to deal on a giveaway. Not all of us have the time, the skills, the gumption, to give up a little of themselves for the benefit of others. I certainly don’t believe anyone should feel compelled to do so…it is hard enough looking out for number one let alone for others. And, if you have read anything I have spouted about over the last handful of months, you will know I am big on personal responsibility. But you can’t teach yourself what you don’t know and you can’t learn if you aren’t being taught. The same way not all of us were taught to swing a hammer, to start a lawnmower, to bake a cake, to paint…the walls or a canvas. For every little thing we take for granted there are those, all around, who don’t have a clue. Could be though, they grow a mean tomato, can pull a fish from a puddle, can weld, can sculpt…who knows. Stands to reason though, doesn’t it, for every little thing you can give, you are going to receive.
My son isn’t yet two and has the basics of how to use a spanner. Maybe one day he’ll be a mechanic. The kids in the article above aren’t yet teens. Maybe one day, they’ll be All Blacks. I’ve shown my boy how, given him a pathway and Dave Newton has done the same for a group who would never otherwise have the opportunity…
So look around. Firstly, in the mirror. Think what it is, above and beyond time, you might have to give. Then, look for whom might be around you to give it to, whatever it is. Start no further than the house you live in, the street that house sits on, the block that street leads to, the neighbourhood, the schools within it, the organisations and trusts and charities and the city and the district and the region and the country. The place you call home. If you take the time to make it a better place for ‘them’, wouldn’t it end up being a better place for you?
I think so.
Is there a ‘place’ for you? Do you ‘fit’ there. Are you there now, or is that place waiting, for you to fit?
I have never felt like I ‘fit’.
I have never felt myself part of a group, one of the ‘set’. As I have grown older I have stopped thinking about it, my lacking a sense of place. When I was younger I was probably guilty of not giving it enough thought. Never being able to identify where you once belonged, where you might end up belonging, makes it difficult to acknowledge the past or have an eye on the future.
It would be cool to say I live in ‘the now’, have my focus firmly on the current. Put simply though, my mind, my brain, wander and wonder, too far and wide at times, not open enough at others. This inconsistency lends no attraction to planning, no foresight, no acknowledgment of previous right and wrong turns.
There is no sense of involvement. Not in the every day nor in the so called wider picture. Perhaps my lens is too narrow and as a consequence I position myself as an observer, looking in from an outside I don’t feel a part of either. This lack of inclusion, in the things and groups and series of events which intersect your everyday, can make it difficult to be inclusive. To be open and giving and caring and understanding. Any of it.
Being removed and remote is not a bad thing. It doesn’t feel it anyway. There is no lack of connection, I am not immune to what is going on around me nor do I fail attempting to understand why. So no disconnect, no reclusive desire to run and hide. Maybe a touch of disinterest, disenfranchisement. The same forlorn sense of lacking a place, identity, many a white, urban, middle class male speaks of and yearns for. If I only I could yearn too, maybe then it wouldn’t be so dull.
No doubting some of it is laziness, a streak which runs strongly through my make-up. Not to say I can’t and don’t work hard. I just don’t work hard on myself. Not because I am too busy, too distracted or too caught up in the activities of others but more because I have failed, for many a year now, to focus on what it is I might want, distinguish that from what I might need, work out how to marry the two and achieve them. It is only recently I have even acknowledged or recognised that failing and I am still undecided if it is even such, a failing. I do not believe for one millisecond I am alone in feeling a little misplaced, a touch out of place. I am no meninist, any more than I am a feminist but I think it would be fair to say a middle-class white male putting his hand up and saying ‘what about me?’ is no where near as popular as one lowering his gaze apologetically and saying yes, I was wrong.
I wasn’t. I’m not. I am and I will be. Wrong. I will make many mistakes as a person, as a man and all I can do is hope my positives out-way those pitfalls, the traps society will lead me into and the ones I open up for myself. I am a good person. I am not responsible for the woes and the worries of women, of minorities, of LBGT or whatever other bunch of letters you want to tack on there. I do not and will not carry the blame for social degradation or racial inequality or post colonial hang ups. Maybe I sympathise, maybe I don’t, because I fail to understand or fail to connect or don’t have the empathetic ability to be on your page. Your plight is not mine and I don’t have to accept it and nor do I have to try and get with it.
At face value I am a minority. I am a house husband. I stay home and look after the kids and do the chores and cook the meals and all of that. Not a heap of me out there. I can see why, better now than I ever could, because until I started living it, I didn’t give the idea of being a stay at home Dad any thought whatsoever. My world can be quite insular and for that I make no apology. I live in a small town in an out of the way spot, just the way I like and if that means I have little or nothing to offer on the public discourse of the day then so be it. I am a firm believer in cleaning up your own backyard before you go knocking on your neighbours door anyway.
Our backyard is pretty damn tidy thank you very much. Our eldest is a big fish in a little pond. Hopefully that transfers to the big bad world soon enough. The key will be to boost her confidence, encourage her self awareness, big up her achievements. No doubting she will be the bumpkin come good when she finds herself under the bright lights of the big city and she will have to lead the way as far as this family is concerned. Her siblings will learn and be encouraged, or disillusioned, by the footsteps of Number One and it has to be said, their Dad will provide little comfort there.
Mother will carry on. She will get stuck into her next thing. As said, Number One will be out there learning to play her own tune, the rest of the crew will follow in time and I will have to re-establish myself. But don’t think I will do that your way, his way her way or any way you might consider normal, usual, the same or ordinary. I may not do it at all. Soon enough I am going to have to re-introduce myself into regular society. Rawene will be no more and the evils, the excitements, the temptations and the dangers of the wider world will be once again on our doorstep.
I have spent many years regressing and retreating. Not an attempt, as I said earlier, to hide or to fade. I am just more comfortable on the fringes, as grumpy an old man as the next but one who isn’t overly inclined to tick the boxes everyone else is busy putting their mark to. No mortgage, no job, no clubs or societies, no participation. No man is an island and all that but I can at least be a peninsula. You can get to me easily enough, but that is as far as you are going. Right where it looks like I end, lo and behold, I do.
Perhaps if I had a cause. If there was something out there I felt particular disgruntled about. Thing is, I can’t help feeling those who get stuck in, stick their head above the parapet and demand the chance to have heir say, fall into one of only two categories; those with a genuine grievance, a fight to get stuck into because it has direct relevance to and on their lives and the lives of their loved ones, a wrong done to them which needs putting right, or group two, those who perceive the fight, the cause, the wrong and feel, justly, righteously or not, they are the ones to sort it all out. The former I get, the latter can piss off.
Maybe I just need a project. Maybe a job. The same nine to five drudgery everyone else seems to relish. Maybe I shouldn’t drink so much red wine and ramble in front of a keyboard. Maybe you care if I do or I don’t. I suspect the latter.
Maybe my place is out there waiting for me, or just maybe it has already passed me by and I failed to notice. Perhaps I was the guilty party, I passed that place and failed to recognise it. For all any of us knows, we are in such a place right now.
Are you disenfranchised? Itching to be part of the mans liberation movement. Are you a frustrated feminist, sure the movement has failed to achieve it’s goals or has shifted, lost sight of the target? Are you content, something completely different, more relevant and certain and long lasting than happiness? Do you need the fight, the battle, the injustice to present itself so you can rail against it, or are you one, to live moment to sweet unconcerned moment?
Do you need a sense of place? A time and space which defines you, or is you being there and then definition in itself? Are showery Sunday’s something a stay at home Dad, afforded a few introspective moments to himself, should avoid?
If so, should I just shut up, get up, and do the dusting?
How ambiguous, how off-hand, are you with your children?
We all do it. And not just when dealing with our children. We obfuscate, we employ delaying tactics, we brush off and disregard and we block. In using everyday, throw away language, the potential impact of which doesn’t even really cross our minds before the words come out our mouths, we are shutting down our children with little or no thought multiple times a day.
‘In a minute.’
‘Not right now.’
‘I’ll think about it.’
It is going to be longer than a minute, if at all and you know it. Never is closer to the mark than ‘not right now’ and there is very little chance, unless you are reminded, as you probably will be, repeatedly, the idea will ever cross your mind again.
‘Maybe later’ never comes. It is a fleeting moment you abandon almost instantly in your quest to get on with a busy day which may or may not lack variety, outside of weather patterns and just when the youngest may fill his nappy. At best it is dismissive, at worst neglectful. ‘Soon’ is a long way off to a young mind, an eager and searching, inquiring mind desperate for stimulation. Folding laundry does not fixate a child’s imagination for long. All the mundane, everyday things we have to do as parents, domestic managers, child development facilitators, hold only the most fleeting point of interest for children.
‘Get out from under my feet’ is a bit of a go to for me. In my mid forties I have developed a far better sidestep than Waisake Naholo can ever hope for. The trick is not to second guess the random movements of those still learning how to operate their own feet. But in saying that I am not being dismissive. It is a command, issued for the health, safety and protection of those small enough, ignorant enough and random enough to get themselves tangled up in somebody’s legs. ‘Be careful’ are two words which fit the same category, a combination I try and avoid if possible but which do come in handy when kids are on the coffee table having a boogie to the Arctic Monkeys, crawling across the bench in pursuit of something sharp or careening down a bank at full sprint, rapidly gaining terminal velocity.
Thing is, more often than not, the little ones don’t let you forget. They don’t want to move on, get on, and damned if they are going to let you either. Children haven’t turned old before they will no longer let you off the hook so easily, when your tried and true distraction tactics begin to become nothing more than dismal failures. When your frustrations are peeked. Frazzled might be the word.
Long before a child develops the ability to speak full sentences they have long since mastered communicating. Getting across their dissatisfaction with your desire to be doing something else, somewhere else, becomes an art form they rapidly learn and master. Grunts of displeasure, whines and screeches of frustration, attention seeking tugs on the hem of your top or bold leaps at your legs, arms wrapping hips in a toddler tackle, headbutting your genitalia in an attempt to ensure there will be no more siblings to compete with for attention. Impossible to ignore.
‘In a minute’ becomes ‘I’ll think about it’ turns into ‘We’ll see how things go.’
Still they come at you, your failure to satisfy their urging not allowed to pass without comment and ever more pressing insistence. Soon enough it is you who is frustrated and bingo, we are on the verge of argument and tears and tantrums and toys being thrown from the proverbial cot. And just think how the kids feel.
Are we really that busy, in this modern world of convenience and technological advancement, to spare a few minutes for the interests of our tamariki? Is what we are doing at any given time, in any given place, so important we can’t put a halt to it, however temporarily, to get down on our haunches and engage.
Nonsensical rambling it might be, inane nothingness which might come at you from somewhere completely random, blindsiding you with it’s sudden appearance. Whatever it is, from imaginary friends and their interactions with your child, to hands being pulled, leading you to witness something you may never fathom the meaning of, none of it is painful. There will be no pain, no hurt, you will loose nothing, no more than a few moments of your oh so precious time. In fact, the opposite might well prove truer. In the vivid, wild, rambling of your child’s mind there just might be that gem of inspiration, that moment of pure levity. Your child can inspire tears, of joy, can put a smile on an otherwise grumpy, preoccupied face, can surprise and delight and entertain with their irreverence. All of it so sweetly unintentional.
The reality is, perhaps it is best to pay more attention to their surprise, attention seeking, attacks. Rather than a frustration, the distraction can be your friend. A refreshing moment of light-hearted, low impact, vital nothingness too many of us have long since forgotten how to enjoy. The dishes can wait, the dusting too. That report will still get written, the laundry can be folded later, you can eat half an hour later without any harm to anyone. Who knows, you may learn something and you will surely recapture a little of that which you lost whenever it was you stopped acknowledging you were imagining, inventing and creating and drifting inside the wonder which is a youthful mind. Go back prior to the moment you decided you were all grown up, back to the time when the imagination ruled, when observation was a wonder, when youthful exuberance was the norm.
If nothing else, it is usually quicker to spend that moment of time enshrined in the world of your little ones than trying to dodge, duck dive and weave your way around it, a sad attempt to avoid something which it is simply impossible to. You’ll get back to that vital whatever it was quicker than you might think and your children will think you a part of it all.
Because I said so.
It is a bit of an old adage. Too many people with their hands out, not enough with their hands up.
That saying is, unfortunately, typically true of far too many communities in this country, let alone the region I live in. So many people and groups asking for help, not helping themselves. What is worse, those who can’t even muster the gumption to ask.
Is that worse? I think, in many cases, there are groups, and by groups I mean pockets of Maori, Pacific Islanders and refugee communities, lower socio-econimc enclaves, who are either ignorant of, non-plussed by, or adverse to, the assistance of a government they do not believe in, have no faith in, or are blase about. Put that up against a system which is inherently uninformative, having so much to offer yet constantly finding ways to block and obfuscate, making access not only difficult but sometimes damn near impossible.
I hate using the term ‘system’. They are all broken and bent, systems, only as good/ bad or effective as the people operating them. The governments fault? The failing of their agencies and the staff and personnel, representing the offices charged with actioning policy and legislature? Sometimes, clearly, yes. Can we blame the departments and those who are cloistered within their Wellington-centric confines? Can fingers be pointed at policy, the interpretation and implementation thereof? Is the blame, the fault, if that is what we are seeking, one of funding? Is it a lack of understanding, a failing in qualification?
These are fundamental debates, base questions. While they are being asked, the people who need the result, those who require the outcome of a measured, thoughtful, complete and secure option, are missing out. Some choose to. They wish to have no part and are so entrenched in being ignored and ignoring, something like a Census, online or not, is irrelevant. Others will keep asking, keep pushing, keep agitating. All the while the masses will accept, ready to receive whatever meager offering is dropped, wafting like the light-weight measure it is, into their out-stretched hand.
So many of our social watchdogs and commentators are guilty of it. I have respect for the Duncan Garner’s and Kanoa Lloyd’s of this world, all the others, whether I agree with them or not. Engaging, intelligent and apparently well informed television presenters. Trained, qualified and experienced people, a new breed in the wake of the Mike Hoskings and Paul Henry’s. They are charged with giving the masses something to think about. They attempted to do just that, to highlight and to question and to interpret and add feeling and provide understanding and in doing so, for me at least, offer an insight into the big failing in New Zealand and New Zealanders.
A while ago Lloyd sought to comment on the claim, snatched upon by the media, that the newly appointed National Party leader, is not Maori enough. Whatever that means. (I am not in a position to ask, let alone answer, what it means to be Maori, so will not even attempt to go there). She took her allotted minutes and tried to convince us we were, are, better off asking why so many Maori are reflected in our court systems, our prison populations and as our homeless, our drug dependents and our mentally unwell and all the rest.
At face value, good questions you might think. Picture any area in our society where it is not good for people to be and Maori are disproportionately represented. Kanoa Lloyd was simply asking why. Well Kanoa, I say save your breath.
We know the questions. They have been asked again and frustratingly again. They will always be asked. OK, fair enough, until the issues are fixed, let the Kanoa’s of this world have their space and time to ask, to agitate, to seek discourse and create debate. Good things, undoubtedly. It is just I, for one am sick of hearing it.
The questions raised around the plight of Maori, particularly urban Maori, are not new. Should we go ahead and throw in all the rhetoric around Meth abuse too, while we sip our non label reds as the Chilean Chardonnay chills. Grab another craft beer and sit down for a chat. Grab a box of Lion red and kill the hours it takes for a day to pass when you don’t have a job, because there is no job. I can only hope, somewhere around the fifth or sixth stubby, someone says something, through a toothless grin, of import. I’ve heard all the questions before, heard why they are raised.
Now, I am privileged, which is not the right word, to be seeing it first hand, and still I am waiting to hear anyone come up with a solution. Because at the coal face there is so much more than just queries over an over inflated proportion of the prison population or registration on the dole. It is all the little grass roots stuff and at risk of sounding like I am firm believer in a ‘nanny state’, perhaps a few of the values of our grandparents era wouldn’t go astray.
Why are people buying pies and a bottle of coke for breakfast?
A sugar addiction maybe? It has been touted in the press, expanded upon by the experts. The answer being touted? Tax. Levies and fees and all the rest. Doesn’t work with smokes, so why is it going to work with sugar. Taxing sugar is tackling the problem backwards. Drop the taxes, the G.S.T on water and milk and veggies and fruit and if needed, subsidize the hell out of market gardens and orchards and all the rest, so their product reaches the shelves cheaper, making them more accessible.
I don’t really know. Maybe ban the operation of a pie warmer before the hour of 11am, so the crusty deliciousness that is one of New Zealand’s staple treats, isn’t available before lunch. Fizzy drinks cannot be cooled. You want a cold coke, you have to take it home and put it in the fridge. Not such a big effort but maybe on a hot day, you’ll reach for the bottled water instead. Take the enticing labels and packaging away from the ice-cream and the lollies and the fizzy, the same way it has been done for cigarettes.
Subsidize gym membership for the obese, offer subscriptions to sports clubs and recreational facilities. Organised community activity days; nothing more complicated than a healthy food truck or two, selling CHEAP quality food and drink to a bunch of people kicking a ball around, throwing a frisbee, swinging a bat, building kites, fishing, surfing, dancing, riding bikes, yoga…whatever, just being active and doing so in an encouraging and nurturing environment. Even have instructors and coaches involved, paid professionals, offering experience and expertise.
Maybe these are expensive options and maybe there will be difficulties in certain communities. But where there is a problem, there is always a solution and it is the very same people in those communities who will identify those issues and solve them.
I have heard it said too often it starts with our kids, the idea if we can get them on-board, what they learn, the right things and the good things, then they take it home and the learning is passed on to their parents and wider whanau.
Bollocks. It is up to us, as parents and as adults, as councils and governments and all the agencies thereof, to make the change, shift the thinking. It is up to us to lead, show the next generation where we have gotten it so wrong and then help them be part of the fix.
I am a chubby, unfit guy. I like a beer and a pie as much as the next person. More than many. I don’t exercise and while my diet isn’t atrocious, it isn’t great either. I am lazy, look for the easy way out and can get too comfortable on the couch for long periods of time. There are four kids in this house who are fit and slim and energetic, blessed with youthful metabolisms which keep them firing on all cylinders. I could take a lot of lessons from them for sure. And I could sure as hell lead by example a lot more too.
Before I can do any of that, I need to stop asking the same questions over and over again and start providing answers. Because, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we have just as many of them, the answers, as we have questions.
A healthy body leads to a healthy mind. A good catchphrase. Healthy, happy, content and engaged people don’t end up in prison. They don’t join a dole queue. Fully functioning, supported members of society contribute and participate. Something we all need to do.
Okay, I am a white, middle class male, in and around my middle years. So of course, I am prone to bouts of dissatisfaction and I like to think I am articulate enough to express those feelings. Whether or not anyone is interested in hearing me rant and occasionally, rave, is not my concern.
As the season begins to turn, the sticky, at times oppressive heat and humidity giving way to the cool and damp of the Winter-less North, I can feel the invasive spread of SAD…Seasonal Affliction Disorder. Much like the creeping spread of mold, in our beautifully positioned, but sadly decaying, Hokianga slice of paradise, I can feel myself starting to shut down for the coming season. I am at risk of stagnating, if it wasn’t for the kids.
One and Two head off to school. Their outlet. For seven or so hours a day, keeping them entertained, informed and inspired, is not my problem. That falls to the lovely ladies and gents at the local Primary, all passionate and inspirational people I am sure. Thing is, when those big kids get home, to join the E-Bomb and Wee-Man, we’re all left virtually twiddling our thumbs.
Summer means hours of lazy days on the beach. It is sprinklers and water pistols and afternoons dodging the sun, reading to the back drop of whirring fans, moving heavy air from one side of the room to the other. Not hard to drain the kids of their seemingly endless energy.
Without the bright hot sun, the damp clings to everything. That will at least take care of the flies and the fleas, even while a few crickets are still clinging to the promise of a summer which has abandoned them. Spiders know, creeping into the house in ever greater numbers, looking for a nook or cranny to curl up in and while away the winter drag. A sure sign winter is coming. An unwelcome one.
A sense of malaise sweeps over me and it’s partly because I can’t be drawn into the types of things which entertain the kids with such ease. I’m not a television watcher, outside of sports and I am certainly not a gamer. I get down on the floor with the little two, engage and join in, clambering about making out I am the type of tiger Katy Perry could only dream of being. I draw and scribble and meld play-do and read aloud and fill the basin with suds and all the rest of it. It is fair to say, before long it is me who is bored.
Bored stiff. Not from a lack of interest or a failure to engage. Stiff because joints and muscles find it difficult to get up off the floor. But yes bored. Repetition is the killer for an adult imagination it seems, mine at least, but is the fire for a young burgeoning one. Maybe they see a new and exciting thing every time, maybe they are excited by the familiar and the comfort of the known. I have lost count of the times I have read the same books, had half an eye on the same movies. It is a frightening thing to open your mouth in the shower and find you are nutting out a Disney classic you had no idea you knew the words to.
Therefore I don’t buy into the premise having kids around keeps you young. It is even possible they age you quicker. There is no hiding the fact I am less tolerant now than we we first started breeding but back then, I had distractions of my own. I worked and I played. I was still young enough and dumb enough to be involved in sport more actively. I went out the door each morning and stayed out until the evening rolled around, gainfully employed. I had the outlet afforded to number’s One and Two, if not quite as educational. And now I find, the more the we are forced, as a unit, to stay in each others space, to permeate it, invade, the less likely I am going to be such a big, fluffy, friendly tiger.
The capacity to force it never ceases to amaze me though. Especially where the kids are concerned. Fake the smile and the laughter as much as you fake the tiger’s growl. It can be extra tiring, putting up the facade for your kids, while all the time you wither and die inside, curling and browning at the edges like the autumnal leaves giving up and dropping to the ground all around. Okay, maybe that is all a bit too melodramatic, a touch too melancholic, and in truth by the time I reconcile these feelings of low and slow festering, like the mud and quagmire our yard is becoming, the sun will start shining again, the mercury will rise and I will wonder what the hell the problem was.
Some people put on weight over the cooler months as they tuck into ‘comfort’ food. Others just shift their patterns, opting for different pass-times, alternative activities. It may be seamless, it may be a conscious shifting. Our kids don’t seem to notice it much, not directly. They don’t dress appropriately for cooler weather any more than they did for the heat. Their desired choices of activities don’t change either, still fixated by the idea a movie will provide all the excitement and mental stimulation their growing brains are craving. From Number One down they are not asking for the beach as often as they used to, only a week or so ago. There is even the occasional, wary inquiry ‘What is the day going to be like?’
The day is going to be what ever you make it. Just like the one before, or something entirely new, exciting and different. No, we are not going to the beach. No you cannot watch a movie.
While I pray for greater flexibility and wonder just why it is kids have to yell at me when I am right next to them, as I snatch moments to achieve things over the course of days which should take no more than an hour, when the rains come and I manage to convince the kids to brave the elements, squashing them into last seasons gumboots and rain coats, readying them for a torrential downpour the last drops of which dry up just as the final zip is fastened, I may take a moment to rock back and breathe, mind fading to a sunny summer day now gone, not forgotten, and one I know will return.
It is amazing, when you have to force and fake the smile, how readily it can stick.
For me, a song should be heard on the album first. That way, you hear it played exactly the way it was intended to be heard.
You get the mix, the fullness, of all the combined visions and imaginings from producers, the artist themselves and those playing alongside. It is a sum of all the collaborations and shared experiences and abilities. A bit like parenting.
You will often here a musician describing an album they have created or are in the process of creating, as their ‘baby’. They are referring to the all consuming, passionate, dedicated love for what they are doing. How creating that baby takes up all their time, dominates all their thoughts, beginning to grow and evolve under their guidance.
Track by track the album grows, song by song developing into the image the artist is trying to create. There will be singles, moments of standout perfection when everything coalesced into a pure moment of understanding. There will be misses, stuff in moments of reflection, the artist wishes had never made it onto the album, that no number of retakes and cuts or polishing in the sound booth is ever going to make right.
Once the artist has given birth to the process of creating an album, a set of songs that will undoubtedly and hopefully take on their own persona and personality, it will become a being in and of it’s own right. What started out as snatched moments with a guitar and a note pad, time behind a keyboard with an old school eight-track, grows and blossoms and begins a life all it’s own. Once that album has been completed, when all the finishing touches and nuances have been laced together, then the artist has to ask, can this all be recaptured live, on the stage, in front of an audience.
Perhaps, by then, the album has decided it needs a horn section to flesh out their sound. Perhaps the album turns to cellos and violins to add authenticity or a certain feel. Maybe the album will add some electronica, to develop and grow. At times the album will rock and it will roll, then sink into soulful melancholy. There will be blues and then a show of jazz hands and there will be epic numbers stretching forever, reaching and yearning and striving. At times the album may be stripped back, raw and emotive, a return to that guitar and notebook, a solo voice, free of band and back-up singers.
Despite how well you think you know your kids, how well you think you might know anyone, people are always going to surprise you. Children more than most. You can never be too sure what direction they are going to take, just like a live, rambling, epic version of your favourite track, that cherished album. Because once your children, your album, is free of the studio, you can no longer peg it, no longer put it neatly into a box and seal it with a label.
Every time you see that album it will be bursting free, growing new tendrils, a new root. A new note. Today is the first time you have seen it, heard it yet it is the same song you started humming some time ago. Different, fresher, grown and growing. Another song for the album. Another verse, bridge and chorus.
Sometimes the kids are like London Calling, the scratchy old (not Hipster) vinyl; played to death, as a soundtrack to my life. Angry yet comprehending, understanding yet questioning. Between the four of them they become the Rolling Stones’ Tumbling Dice, a compilation but a stand alone work of art in it’s own right. A family of music. I know the verses, the rhythm, the beat and the choruses, yet there are layers and always a little something new, something previously undiscovered.
So many nuances, so many new and updated versions of the same song. Melded by the influences surrounding the artist at the time. A new artist now, creating their own songs as they compile their very own album. All you can hope for is that somewhere, tucked away on a B-side, maybe never to be released, is an homage to you.
Perhaps, for your budding artist, the world will be their stage. Massed hordes of adoring, screaming fans, hanging off every chord, every riff. Larger than life, popular, influential, admired and set to be heard for years to come.
Perhaps your artist is content to stamp their foot on the battered deck of a flatdeck truck, parked up somewhere in the middle of a sunny domain. Families on blankets are munching trailer food and sipping craft beer as their kids, future artists themselves, are bopping along. Maybe no one is paying any attention and the album is banged out regardless, raw and true and happy and back to work on Monday.
Perhaps that album never leaves the notebook, never comes out from behind the guitar or keyboard. It has been played all the same, heard all the same.
However that album seeks to manifest itself it is important to nurture it, let it grow and develop and find it’s own way to the stage of its choice.
The key is to play, hear and listen to the album your kids are creating.
How do you prevent the ‘everyday’ from becoming mundane? How do you stop normal from being boring?
It is difficult not to lose a bit of yourself when you are at home with kids. For me, it is partly environmental and a big part the climate. I turn to the outdoors for entertainment and as a means to entertain my children.
Tough though, when one is a little bomber, delighted by a muddy puddle, the other a little princess, disgusted my a splash of mud on a gumboot. The older two have their own ideas on what it means to fend off boredom. Ever increasing demands for greater screen time, or heads buried in books and here is their Dad, worrying they don’t get enough fresh air and exercise.
But as for my own level of excursion…everything at the sedate pace of a three and a bit year old. The E-Bomb is an amazing walker. She can cover an incredible amount of miles with little or no complaint and is fully engaged with what is going on around her. She is questioning, full of inquiry and inquisition. The Wee-Man is the same, never more content than when the wheels of his buggy are going round.
As I have gotten older, I have felt the desire to be on my own more. It is not that I am shunning anyone, family included, or that I have become sort of grumpy old man recluse. I have always been grumpy, so I guess it is just an aging thing. Not that I am by any means old, it is just that while I am the same man I used to be twenty or so years ago, I can’t help but notice I am an older version of that person.
Never a patient guy, I seem to have even less tolerance these days. I am far more likely to comment on everyday little annoyances I would previously have let go and boy, can I rant if I get my heckles up. Partly it is because I pay more attention to the ‘issues’ of the day but a big bit is because I make an issue out of things that just aren’t. All in all, not a great recipe when the school holidays roll around.
This time the term break seems to have coincided with a blast of wet and wild weather, not something conducive to finding ways to keep four children of varying ages entertained. There have been dress-ups already, forts have been built, readily converted to planes or submarines. There has been a bedroom dance party and there will be baking and crafty stuff and whatever else it takes to keep them happy and at least a little quiet. Yes, that means there will be screen time. Not quite the last of the summer blast I was hoping for.
It won’t be all that long, if this weather continues, before the kids get a bit of cabin fever. Me too. Fresh air in their lungs, sunshine on their faces, running around whooping and hollering and imagining and planning and building and deconstructing and thinking and plotting, all of it helps to get them to sleep at night. Me too. It also helps to prevent headaches. Mine. But there is another problem I am going to have to face.
As proud as I am of Number One, for earning a placement on a leadership course at a nearby marae, run by Nga Puhi, I am going to miss our unofficial surrogate parent over the next few days. It is a great sounding scheme by Nga Puhi, exactly the sort of thing communities around here need and credit to my girl for being there. Her absence, however, has put the pressure on me.
It isn’t fair on a twelve year old expecting too much of her when it comes to looking out for her siblings. It’s just that she is so damned good at it. Of course there is a fine line between getting Number One, or any of the kids capable of it, to help out now and then, and abusing the privilege. Having a useful extra set of hands around is invaluable at times but I have to be aware not to put all the kiddie care work load onto someone still a kid herself.
She brings a lot of it on herself anyway. Every single time the Wee-Man reaches for her, with that little pleading sound of his escaping that adorable ‘help me’ face he uses to such great affect, Number One scoops him up. It has gotten to the point he will side step me altogether and aim straight for his big sister. As cute as that is, I can see it grates on her sometimes, especially when she has just walked in the door after a day at school. Try as I might to convince Number One not to pick the Wee-Man up on demand, encouraging the idea he will eventually lose interest, she is some sort of sucker I guess. I know how that feels.
Having someone around with a bit of creative flair, some extra energy, a sweet and nurturing nature, someone who can cook and bake and wash and clean or at least help out in the kitchen, is a godsend. Number Two is right up there and when One and Two combine to use their mystical powers with their siblings, I am just about rendered redundant. But it is school holiday time. While extended time in each others company is great for all, I can already see the cracks starting to appear. The dynamic will eventually end up fraught and fractured, even while there will be moments of pure joy and bliss.
Maybe I am being selfish. Maybe I need to learn to be more creative and crafty and arty and a little more understanding that three girls don’t always want to pass, kick and catch, might not be so interested in hacky-sack, can’t be bothered wandering down to the water’s edge just because we can. Perhaps I need to let the imagination free, the way it goes when you are nearly four, see things the way you do when you are not yet two, attack the day like you can when you are not far off ten and nearing thirteen.
Just maybe, I still have a lot of learning to do. I guess these holidays might end up anything but boring.
But, please, come back soon Number One.