My daughters morning breath smells like a dead seal pup rotting in a hot summer sun.
Have you ever been to Cape Cross on the Skeleton coast of Namibia?
It is a pretty unremarkable place, nothing more than a small headland on a sparse piece of coastline. You park up, step into the harsh, white light and cool breeze off the Southern Atlantic.
You have been struck already. That same ocean breeze, so fresh, so alive and vital, brings with it the decaying tang of death. It is only going get worse.
A short stroll later and you are there, on the coast. There, a swarming mass of blubbery bodies writhing over black rocks. Barely able to breathe, you want to puke. Seagulls, other marine birds of prey, circle and dive. The dead and the dying, once youthful, now crushed, innard-spewing grotesque representations of themselves, are everywhere.
I face this every morning.
Okay, not the visuals. I think we can all agree that might be a little too much. But the scent, the stench of rotten flesh, that I do have to deal with. And not from just the one of them.
Hazel used to be the champion of stink, but as she has aged she has specialised. There was a cross-over period where she was going from both ends, never quite mastering either, all the while developing a quality and quantity of butt flatulence that can be nothing but admirable. Her morning fish breath has, thankfully, pretty much gone.
Kenny tries, can express oral flatulence to match the best of them, a number I count myself among. She doesn’t offend anything more than the ears though, for those that have sensibilities stretching that far. Her gasses just don’t seem to be as scented nor are they as expressive. As a bonus, my eldest is not one I have ever recoiled from kissing in the morning.
The E-Bomb? I don’t even want to lean in too close! Putrefying, revolting, gag-worthy. She smells like she was sick in her mouth, spat it into a bowl, placed the bowl in the sun for a few hours, re-heated it, mixed in some blue cheese, Parmesan, rotten fish heads and a dead rat or two for good measure, heated it again, to luke-warm, swallowed it then regurgitated, swilled it around like mouthwash before smiling sweetly.
One and Two have been in command of the tooth brushing thing for a long while now, even managing it without having to be reminded or encouraged. Esme can, to an extent, accomplish the task too, but generally needs guidance and assistance. Sure, she is three, so all to be expected. We, as a family, as a unit, need to ensure that brushing her teeth becomes routine, a habit. Not just for her own long term dental well-being. For our sake too.
I want to kiss my kids, to hold them close, to have them kiss me, to have my ear whispered into. I don’t want to feel sick to my gut when it happens.
For many things we are all for individuals finding their own path, developing at their own rate, without being forced or overly coerced. We would rather guide as opposed to order, advise rather than tell. But Esme is commanded to brush her teeth and if I thought she could do it safely, she would be gargling too…Listerine (considers merits of product placement) or whatever other product will kill the bacteria causing the nasty breath. Is it bacteria? Whatever, it must die.
Perhaps I should get the E-Bomb gargling a fine, aged, Single Malt Scotch. I can lean into one of those quite happily thank you very much.
Just as a note, years ago we sat as a family in front of the 6 o’clock news, back in the day when TV1 was the only option. Images of Hillsborough filled the screen, a harrowing, haunting thing for a kid to see, anyone. News that the disaster has eventually led to the police seeking to prosecute a number of the people involved came out today. That won’t erase the memory of what I saw all those years ago, but I hope it does something for the families and people who shared and suffered in that tragic event.
Except it isn’t, all shits and giggles, though there is plenty of both to go around.
They come as a combo normally. Mr Wriggle-Pants needs encouragement to stay still while his nappy is being changed. The best thing, get him laughing.
I’ll utilise one of the bigger two if they are around. Silly faces, peek-a-boo, maybe some tickling is the order of the day.
So that takes care of the shit, and the giggles. But what about all the in between? Every now and then, I admit, I cheat. There are a few babysitters I have been known to turn to during the day…Nickelodeon and Disney chief among them. Sometimes, I even feel guilty about it.
Television is never a long term solution. Wee-man is too little to be captured by the pure bollocks that passes for children’s entertainment these days and what is broadcast to our kids is such tripe, I wouldn’t leave the E-Bomb sitting in front of it for any longer than I have to.
Esme is three, and no matter how hard I try, she sometimes struggles to find any interest in the laundry, does not feel the same fascination for the dishes and is more destructive than helpful in the garden. Regardless, things need to get done and according to Claire, they need to get done now. Right now.
So the chores are done, the kids are fed and entertained. What next?
What else is there you might ask and for most parents, that would be a perfectly reasonable question. More often than not, there isn’t a ‘what next’. By the time all of the above and a bit more (sometimes a bit less) has been ticked off, there might not be a lot of day left to play with.
What next? Time to start dinner…
But when the time comes, when the giggles have ceased, the tantrums too, the E-Bomb is somehow, miraculously, entertained, you can often find yourself at a complete and utter loss.
Then the boredom.
It isn’t like you can go anywhere…just head off for a wonder, take a walk, a paddle a swim, a stroll down the pub for a quiet pint in the garden bar.
Much of that, if not all, can be done with kiddies in toe. Provided that is, you have their approval. Generally, no problem. What lacks is the informative and philosophical debate that takes place over a cold one.
Adult contact, stimulating conversation and all the manner of pursuits that you, as man and/or woman, might want to get into. The kids are fun, don’t get me wrong and there is no way my little whinge on here is a new com
plaint. But some stimulating conversation with an adult a bit more regularly would be great.
I can’t ring my Mother. She spent forty odd years as an early education teacher. Twenty to thirty rabid screaming, salivating, shitting bodies under the age of five in her presence each and every day, has meant she thinks and acts just like one of them. Sorry Mum, I love you, but…they’ve driven you mad.
Part of the problem is location. Rural living means there isn’t the same sort of off-hand distractions immediately available. But what of the great outdoors? I hear you ask and again, a fair question. We live in the ‘Winterless North’, right on the edge of a beautiful, ever changing expanse of water. The options, the potential, limitless.
But you don’t just dive in (pun intended). That sort of thing involves high levels of supervision and sometimes, I just don’t care. I know that sounds bad, but guess what..? I don’t care.
You get too tired to care, too disinterested to care, too wrapped up in that scant moment where you, finally, got the opportunity to do something on and of your own. Only to have that moment robbed from you by a baby waking, a child losing interest in her drawing.
So it is back to the shits and the giggles, even when the latter is sometimes forced. Slowly the ebb of sanity slips away.
If my sanity keeps on slipping, fading, drifting away with the tides of the Hokianga, I don’t think I mind…
We all have our passions, the things we care about greatly and get fired up over. How much of that is foisted onto our kids and is it fair to do?
I love music and I have my own taste in genre and artist. Wide and varied, eclectic styles, none of which are what the ‘kids’ are into.
No breaking the religious strictures Katy Perry, no meat clad Lady Gaga and no, I am not a ‘Belieber’ or whatever it is.
Just mentioning the above names most likely shows I am not ‘with it’. Sure, I am probably behind the times and I am happy enough to admit it. I was behind the times when I was one of the ‘the kids’, rocking away to Led Zepplin and Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones while the world went crazy to Madonna and Michael Jackson.
I wasn’t ignorant and have never been shy to admit there has been the odd pop sensation that has grabbed me. I think I was blessed because I took things on a song by song, album by album basis and therefore never got too hooked.
My little bro had a thing for Duran Duran for a while there and even now there are a few tracks of theirs from that era on the playlist. But Billy Joel convinced a young Mike Bracey that he was an Innocent Man and David Bowie said Let’s Dance.
By the time I hit my teens I had found like minded individuals, peers, who were on the same path or could be convinced to walk along side. Now, many many years later, is it fair to hope that my progeny are going to be as equally like minded.
I am proud of the fact one of Kennady’s favourite songs hails from 1981, Soft Cells Tainted Love. I love it that Hazel sings along to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Freebird.
Sometimes I have stop and consider if maybe my hand is too heavy in shaping the girls tastes. Okay, I have had no part in them listening to whatever latest fly-by-night chart topper is out there at the moment. Nor have I inflicted them with too much of my more fringe flavours. I doubt my little princesses are ever likely to be fans of Tool and while they like a fair bit of Macklemore, N.W.A would be new to them.
Wouldn’t it be great if our kids could be as enlightened, fired up and full of wonder, the same way we were, when their eyes are opened to the same things we fell for? Kenny and Hazel love Oasis, but have no time for the Happy Mondays. They can get a groove on to Young MC. They don’t get Wu Tang Clan and won’t go near The Dead South.
Told you I was eclectic.
They won’t croon along to the old school stuff their Mother puts on now and then. Old Frankie Blue Eyes doesn’t seem to do it for any of them even if I don’t mind a bit of Deano now and then.
Surely it is a generational thing. I don’t know how Kenny recites the lyrics to songs I have never heard her listening to, but I am glad she introduced me to people like Bruno Mars. If that is the commercialised, pop heavy route she is going to be drawn down, then fine. He’ll do. For me, it is still a wonder just how easily and readily accessible popular entertainment has become.
YouTube was, is and will continue to be, a revelation for me. The kids love it too. Now there is Netflix, live streaming and all the other platforms, right there in the palm of your hand. Our kids haven’t been afforded that privilege yet. We, as parents, still hold the reigns when it comes to the devices, the technology.
We will have to loosen those reigns eventually. When we do it will become a question of censorship, of monitoring. Spying? How we approach that as a family is a topic for another day, not necessarily one I look forward to. Oh, it will also be a question of budget. Start saving girls.
Claire and I are just stoked that the first thing the girls say when sent to bed, is to ask if they can read for a while. They then have to be encouraged to turn their lights off. All good. It is encouraging for us too, as parents, when they get as excited, if not more so, about the purchase of some kayaks, as they do about updating a notebook or phone.
If their Mum’s bum is anything to go by, the girls need to be careful. If their Dad’s belly is any indication, they need to be paranoid. So the more they get out into the great wide open, the better. I hope I can be just as influential there as I am in their dislike for the Blues, as much a guide as their singing along to the Heroes.
If just for one day.
PS: As tempting as it might be to start Barrett from the back, Dagg will shift there and Naholo will start on the wing. Now for goodness-sake can the Wellington crowd find a way to out-passion the Lions supporters as convincingly as the Hansen and his boys outplayed the opposition.
PSS: On the highly recommended list…toilet roll fight. Fun for the whole family.
Here’s that rain again. Inspiring sure, but not today…okay.
Not today because there are things on that could do without it. The rain will advantage others, or so it is said by those supposedly in the know.
Not today because this is the weather that should have me in the mood to write. The thing is, today, I am tired.
I woke up in a panic. Two things can stress me when I wake. The phone, and not knowing where the fuck I am.
A ringing phone stresses me because, more often than not, it means my dear wife will have to organise her shambolic morning head into some form of order and shuffle out the door at some ungodly hour. And boom, there goes my time off!
But let’s be honest, that doesn’t bother me as much as it troubles the Wee-Man. Arlo can be quite put out doing the crusty eyed roll over thing, only to discover the nipples he is clamoring for, are covered in curly, graying hair.
Ram some food in his gob and he is all good. A Wee-Man after my own heart. Though naturally, he captured my heart right at the outset.
The bigun’s will have an indoors day; reading, movies and whatever. All good until the noise escalates, as it will, and then it might be gumboots and raincoats.
Personally, I am going to need to get out and about at some stage. This is going to be one of those can’t sit still days. The pacing will begin soon, something my damaged knee will not enjoy, but is going to have to put up with. Neighbours new to us might pop down tonight, because we have Sky, and they will be enlightened about the fervor with which I follow my rugby…Claire will goad me with ‘It’s just a game’, the kids will tune in for the Haka, then lose interest, not batting an eyelid as I jump about yelling at the television.
Hopefully I won’t be so tired then.
Crawling into your daughters bed at whatever hour, beckoned by the warbled cry of ‘Daddy I need you’ tends to throw your slumber into chaos.
Unusually, it was Kenny calling out, our eldest. At nearly twelve, she is and always has been, the soundest of our charges. Not like her to wake in the night at all, let alone be driven from her sleep by her dreams. Kenny is the one that snuggles beneath the duvet, no matter the temperature.
A cozy snuggle with one of my crew is always welcomed and in Kenny’s case, the activity comes complete with a sprawling queen-sized bed. Sure, it is too soft for me and my back takes days to straighten properly again, but it is better than fighting that feeling you are about to plunge into a darkened abyss.
She is wearing her mothers shoes. She fits her wet weather gear. The same blonde sheen in her hair. Damn near the same height.
At a glance, one of those out of the corner of the eye moments you get when either I am entering a room or she is, Kenny looks just like her mother. Especially from the back. It is a realisation I have come to recently and it petrifies me.
Nearly 12. Not a child any more, still a kid. Not a women, not even a teen. Not a kid? Hell, I don’t know, but whatever it is, I am scared.
Scared because she has mentioned ‘cramping’. Scared because there are sports bra/crop top thingies in the washing I hang out despite the threat of rain.
I am frightened. She is growing up and I am beginning to wonder if I can grow with her, or will her Dad be left behind. Kenny is not going to mature into the world that I did. Things have changed. For the better or worse I do not yet know, but I fear it is the latter.
And just when does a Father stop snuggling? When is it a bit off for me to be crawling into Kennady’s bed, pulling her close and giving her the ‘there’ theres’? Is it ever going to be the wrong thing? Is it too late already…
I would hope I can cuddle, snuggle, kiss and tickle and giggle and roll around playing silly buggers with my daughters right up to the age they out-muscle me. Then I will pull the pin, the shame would be too great.
Is there a point where that behaviour is frowned upon? Do I even need to care, or do I care, about what the ‘norm’ might be? About what ‘society’ dictates?
In truth, the moment any frolicking and wrestling and general tomfoolery will come to an end is when the subject matter, namely Kenny, frowns down on her silly old Dad, no longer wanting to participate.
Perhaps that day is overdue. Perhaps it is a long time coming. When it does eventuate, I think I will be sad.
Briefly, to those that think the All Blacks will be troubled because it is raining…HA!
Good luck with that theory. We have a tight five that will man up, ball handlers across the park that will back their skill level regardless, a playing surface that can take it, a ball on a string wizard in Barrett-provided he gets the time and space-and the stamina to go the distance and beyond if required.
I, for one, am supremely confident.
Bring on the rain.
There is a tension in the house and it is my fault.
How much of how you are feeling reflects on how your kids are feeling, do you think?
I reckon your attitudes, feelings, emotional output, has a huge and powerful effect on how the children feel about their day.
A girl like Kennady, sensitive all her life, excessively so at times, is old enough to have a bit of a sense about that sort of thing, one that goes beyond a feeling, a vibe she may be picking up on. She has learnt to recognise the signals that I display.
Hazel is a bit more blase, a bit more wrapped up in her own thing. Hazel has always had her own take on what is going on around her and at the moment, there is nothing different about her reaction to me and my edge. That will change. In slightly less than 24 hours from now she is going to be just as fired up as I am. Or at least she will make out she is, for the sake of her old man.
Esme doesn’t get it and I can only hope that in time, Arlo will. The Wee-Man, the prodigy.
Claire gets it. Claire hates it.
She hates the nervous tension, the pacing, the yelling and the excited-ness and the explosive displays of emotion; from anger to shock to joy. There will be joy. Elation.
What the Highlanders did signaled it. The way tomorrow night will be, before and after.
It has started now, already. Started early in the week, was exacerbated by the selection announcement and now I can barely keep a lid on it.
C’mon the All Blacks!!
These are the days you dread. I do anyway, for a multitude of reasons.
A great day for writing. I need it like this, find it inspiring or whatever it is that gets the creativity in me bursting to get out.
It is an easy mix. All you need is a tin roof and some rain, the heavier the better. Throw in, like today, a smattering of thunder and the odd streak of lightening and I am away.
Sounds great you think. Go for it, you say. But it won’t last. Right now I can hear the morning debate taking place in the kitchen as the older two are motivated by a mother that claims to be taking it easy this morning. Translation: itching around the place with not enough to do before her working day begins. A baby slumbers, stirring but not giving in to the reality of a day dawned just yet. The E-Bomb is still asleep too, sprawled upstairs on her drool stained mattress.
She will stay that way for ages, a champion of the sleep in, because her mother and I are bad parents. Kenny and Hazel give us pecks on the check and head up the creaky, spiral staircase around half eight. Esme returns to her slack parents after they have all done the teeth, toilet, pj’s routine.
And there she stays, fussy and cuddling up to one or the other of us and if she is lucky we read a story or two. Otherwise she has to put up with whatever dross is on the television while she vies for attention and snuggle space with her little brother, who is most likely fast asleep himself by this point. Esme will toss and turn, bitch and moan and eventually, thankfully, begin to doze. When she is out to it I will hoist her in my arms and carry her, precariously, up the stairs and into her bed, sweeping the hair of her face so she doesn’t snuffle herself awake.
We are scared of her. It is that simple. The threat of the E-Bomb is petrifying and not something I want to encounter in the evening. Does that make Claire and I a pair of wimps? Are we too soft? Or are we new age, touchy feely, letting our child be the ‘person’ that she is, allowing her to shine and develop as she will. Such a strong will it is too.
None of that. We are pragmatic. It is about us at that point, Mum and Dad, Claire and Mike, Husband and Wife. Man and woman. Or at least, it is supposed to be.
So much for ‘parent time’. It is a term I have been known to throw out there, a mythical time and place, supposed to eventuate at some stage in the late evening. A place without the sight and sound of children, when my naturally inappropriate tendencies can shine, have their time and place. A time and a place when my wondering hands, my lewd comments and salivating eagerness can meet the standard, stone-walled ‘get a vasectomy’ response they are so prepared to receive. And after all of that, the little bastard ends up in our bed!
Just as an aside, Kenny is the only potential bastard. She was at the wedding though, so I am not sure if that counts. Her mum carried her there, across the sands to the sea-ward side of the Island where the ceremony took place. In her belly. Barely a swell. We both wore rings by the time she was born, Kenny’s birth story a bloody good yarn in itself and one I will share one day, maybe the next time it is raining.
The sky is brightening now, the kids edgy to get to school and the bomber still asleep. Wee-Man has rolled into happy smiley existence and the day is off to a good start. Claire will drop the kids off and I will be left to it.
To my frustrations, my ineptitude, by inabilities and disabilities and to back pain and a sore knee and smiles and dog pee and baby poo and dinner ideas I can’t complete and lunches I forget to make and snacks at inappropriate times and too much television and not enough reading and rolling around on unclean floors and not enough layers for treks outdoors to puddles too deep and mud too muddy.
Today, despite the rain setting the mood, I will not get a thing right.
Today there will be arguments and recriminations and fights and yells and screams and bitching. Today there will be yelps and shouts and leaps and lunges and trips and falls and dancing and singing and laughter and more tears.
Today, I can’t put a foot wrong.