We made memories the other day.
There could, if you are an extremely positive person, be a memory a day, every day.
Wifey and I did that very thing at the weekend, one of those summer days which is going to stick. With a bit of luck, and the effort on our behalf, a day like last weekend’s will go a long way to forming how our kids look back and see their childhood summer.
We followed some rules. We were prepared.
There was shade. There was shelter. There was food. There was water. There was company. There was participation. There was entertainment. There were the dogs splashing around, having just as much fun, if not more, than anyone.
Opononi and the Hokianga Harbour provided the majority of the latter. Natures playground at its finest. At about midday, no need to hurry after all, we were unpacking the sun shade thingy, erecting it, unloading kayaks from the roof racks, flicking a frisbee, making lunch, baiting rods, throwing sticks for the dogs and of course, swimming. Everything and everyone was free of stress and drama. There was no bickering or belittling, there was no animosity or petty jealousies.
The kids all had a smile on their sandy faces. And when your kids are smiling, you are too.
Impossible not to smile along with a toddler’s delight, when he discovers his first washed up jellyfish. Only the heartless couldn’t find joy in all the shrieks and hollers and yells, as a bunch of kids splash about in water warm enough to keep them occupied, happy and content for long periods of time. It is contentment for Mum and Dad too, knowing that your kids are playing and have fun in a natural environment, engaging with the country around in the best possible way. Literally diving in.
Sunscreens and hats and life-jackets and supervision water and food. Nurtured in nature
I get a slightly dopey looking little smile on my face when I am content and happy. The way you look after a big feast; leaning back in your chair, rubbing a full, protruding belly, eyes nearly closed and lips slightly upturned in the smallest of smiles, looking for all the world like I am about to doze off.
The kids are happy. They are running free and wild and getting stuck in to it all, sun on their backs and wind in their hair, framed by sparkling sea before a backdrop of golden dunes.
Are Mum and Dad smiling because they are? Or, are the kids smiling because Mum and Dad are?
Either way, it’s infectious.
Not so long ago I started to question my relevance.
I don’t know if that is a middle-aged, life in crisis thing, or not. Technically my middle age, according to my demographic, slipped by, virtually unnoticed, some years ago. As it stands, I do not own a red convertible sports car and am not dating a pretty blonde, twenty years my junior. It rains too much for a convertible and I am already married to a blonde. Yes, she is still pretty.
Is the word ‘still’ a mistake there?
The thing is, who would I be trying to prove my irrelevance, or otherwise, to? I am not sure. Why it is I felt the need to muse over my relevance at all, I am also not certain.
I have long held the base idea, or opinion, we are all, as humans, here to do the exact same thing every other creature on the planet is trying to achieve. We are here to procreate, in order to continue and possibly advance the populace of said creature, us included. After that deed is done, we die.
Pretty simple really. What each and every creature gets up to in the interim, between procreating and dying, is a very personal thing, but there seems to be a base. It kind of boils down to eating the little guy, all the while trying to avoid being eaten by the bigger guy. Because you are never the big guy.
So we mate, we kill and/or be killed and we die. For all the micro-organisms, up to the alpha predators, it is more or less the same. Only the time frame is the great variance. A life time can be measured in hours to days, to weeks then months and years.
I stopped myself about there. The thought processes got too big, too involved, too dramatic and not, really, all that relevant. The way my brain works, or fails to as the case may be, involves a great deal of tangents and off shoots. A singular focus is not a strong point of mine.
It is for a Shark. For an Echidna. Eat, fuck and die, more or less in that order, but things can be adjusted to suit. The shark and the echidna do not share a coffee or a beer and question their shared relevance or meaning. They do not attend lectures on the subject and philosophise over their place in things. They do not star gaze and design space craft and satellites and a giant telescope to try and work out what is beyond. The Echidna looks for bugs. His search is for sustenance. His quest is to not be the food source for something else. The shark takes a bite and if he likes the taste, swallows it down. His quest is for the same thing, sustenance. The shark, alpha predator that he is, gets to go about his business in a slightly more blase fashion, after all a shark doesn’t have to watch his back the same way we have to in the big, wide and deep ocean that is the world we live in.
The cynic in me has long since decided there doesn’t actually have to be any ‘meaning’ to life. Let’s face it, there probably isn’t. If you spend too long wondering about the why, searching for the meaning of your existence, then there is probably something seriously lacking in your life. Unless of course, you are paid to do so and if that is the case, good score, landing a job like that. We all think. Earning a living doing so is bonus territory for sure.
Sitting around philosophising, theorising, musing, is a good way to let it all, whatever your all might be, slip by almost completely unnoticed. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of cliches out there about not seeing wood for trees. Other ones which escape me right now. How easy would it be though, to ponder the day away, troubling over what it means to live a day, only to realise you haven’t lived it at all. Merely breathed your way through it.
Of course there is the other end of the spectrum. Everything and every one is on a spectrum these days and I figure in order to be on a spectrum, it needs two ends. It needs to end. There are a heap of folk out here who don’t put enough thought in. Perhaps they are the blase ones, though I tend to label them-because we all have a label-ignorant.
The great unwashed. Sounds good, even if it isn’t appropriate to what I am driveling on about. Just consider for a moment, all the people out there so dead set keen on convenience they can no longer cook properly. They heat and re-heat. All those who can’t tend a garden because they have never, really, set foot in one, let alone grow and nurture their own slices of nature. Fat, balding, hairy middle aged men (yes I realise I just described myself) who haven’t seen the light of day, apart from the assault of sun catching them as they waddle between door and car, car and door. Online lives playing out nightly, addictively, wanking themselves silly to the digital portrayal of someone most likely just down the street, who is in reality another balding, middle-aged waste of oxygen living in his mothers basement. At least in parts of this country, sad fatties still make it to the pub, guzzling their way through too many diabetes inducing beers and pies, ogling the girl behind the bar as if one day she might even acknowledge their existence.
Then there are those too lazy to manage even that much. Can’t make it to the pub, because leaving the house is a chore, let alone interacting with the world at large. Anxious people, depressed people, kids with A.D.H.D and adults with A.D.D. and whole populaces with labels attached to justify their inability to fit. To sanctify their inherent laziness.
I get anxious trying new things, testing myself and my preconceived ideas of what my limits might be. Doing so can bring on an anxiety disorder. Or is that just fear, just uncertainty, just caution. Am I just getting nervous?
Sometimes, I struggle to concentrate. Occasionally the task at hand struggles to hold my attention, or more accurately, I struggle to give my attention to the task at hand. Just now I faded off, played a game briefly, gazed out the window, listened to one of the dogs licking itself, back-dropped by the morning tweet and twitter of birds and achieved a whole lot of nothing. There was a deficit there, briefly, in my attention.
A quick read of the above and it is clear I am unwell. I have an illness, or two, or three, perhaps a whole gamut. I am mentally diseased. But fear not. Someone ‘has been there’ and will proceed to tell me all about and then, quickly, before I can object, tel me how to fix it.
And, of course, there is a P.C pill which will mend all my woes. Off I will go, rattling on Ritalin, cruising on Fluoxetine or Citalopram. Washing it all down with bottles of cheap vino, my middle-aged, suburban, white middle-class lost dream drowned out and watered down, a malaise mixed with early season new potatoes. Wait, that’s mayonnaise.
Is there a pill for cynicism? Is there a quick fix, one stop shopping, chemical solution to the plodding monotony which can be our existence? Yes, good people, there is. Alcohol. Right there is the socially acceptable option.
I choose to shy away from that stuff, for the meantime at least. I have been, and will be so again, quite the fan of chemical options. But for now, I will opt to live my life vicariously, getting my thrills and spills, action and inertia, through my kids. Ride all their ups and their downs, live their highs and battle their lows. I will yell from the sideline, whistle and cheer too loud at the concert, applaud their successes and boo those that stand in their way. I will give my all, so that they, all bloody four of them, may get their all
That right there, is my relevance.
And so it is 2018. A summer recharge, and right back into it…
Time to establish some ground rules, for me and for the whanau. (whanau is Maori for family, in case you were wondering. Bet you didn’t know I could be so cultural)
Right now, with the 2018 school term a little way off, I have got it easy. Many hands make lite work and all that. So surely this is the time to assess what had been happening, re-assess what has not been happening well, take stock of all of the good, the bad and the ugly-I count myself firmly in the latter category-and freshen the approach to things.
By ‘things’ I mean all the stuff required to raise kids and run the household you are raising them in. It is summer, a bloody good one at that, so the season is doing a good job of surrogate parenting for me. Time will come soon enough though-kids back at school, weather turning cooler and wetter (the wife is already back at work)-when I have to get my shit together. So why not start now, establishing few ground rules along the way.
Vacuuming is a work out. If it isn’t already, make it so.
You are never going to ‘get back in shape’. What shape that was, is frighteningly similar to the one you have now, so how is that gonna work out for ya? Besides, four kids and and wife, who spends the majority of her time either physically at work, or on call for it, and where is the chance to ‘work out’? Vacuum like you mean it.
Rotate the clothing in the little one’s draws.
No one likes shopping. It doesn’t matter if I am New Zealand’s version of The Rock, all rippling muscle and oozing masculinity. Nor would it matter if I was a frilly fairy princess clad in pink. I do not, have not and will never, like shopping!
So be warned. It is not a favourite top. Those are not a pair of favourite tights. They are just the items on top in the draw. Okay, a little one might have a preference or two, but a fashion show it is not (it kind of is, but I do what I can to ignore that). When the laundry is dried and folded-not to her standard I might add-slip those lemon fresh items down the bottom of the pile in the draw, thus meaning you attract the little ones attention to the array of other clothes she has available. Eventually, nothing is going to fit, no matter how worn and tatty the clothes and as the E-Bomb is the last in her chain, the last of the females, meaning no more hand-me-downs, keep cycling them around. The longer you can put off the shopping trip, the better.
Get down and dirty.
We have good kids. A big part of this is because all kids are born that way, good. Sure, there may be the odd demon as an exception proving the rule, but generally there is nothing wrong with a child until we start putting it there. The key to keeping them good is communication. Which is kinda the key to every relationship in life.
So get down at their level. I don’t mean dumb yourself down. By no means, because let’s get real, you are most likely dumber than them anyway. I mean, get on the floor. Be a part of what they are, see it all from where they are at. Change the perspective. Literally do not talk down to your kids. Sure, it might take a while for this old body to protestingly get up off the floor, but in the meantime, it is really worth it.
And while you are there, talk to them like humans. Treat them like the people they are. Little people admittedly, put fully functioning people nonetheless.
Buy a pig.
Okay, actually going out and purchasing a pig may be a touch extreme. We have the space for one and the time required to look after animals, stock. Most living the suburban dream can’t say the same, so stick with your insinkerators and your composting and all the other techniques you employ so your rubbish doesn’t stink, making for a good breeding ground for maggots. What I am trying to say is, don’t be the one cleaning up the scraps…with your mouth. I said buy a pig, don’t be the pig.
We get the kids to eat what we eat. The idea is for them to develop a wide pallet, stop them being fussy, help them learn to identify what is good and healthy and nutritious. It also makes meal preparation so much easier, but that is just Mum and Dad being selfish. (note the capitals…you deserve to be in capitals) We try, as much as is possible, to get them all involved in the process of preparing, cooking, eating and cleaning up after a meal. Number One takes great delight in cooking for the family, now and then and Number Two is just starting to get into things more, now she can reach. With a bit of luck they will learn some independence and not be completely inept, when the time comes for them to push off.
Did I say push off?
I meant spread their wings.
So here it is, the silly season. How are you coping?
I will admit, I am not the most festive of people. If it wasn’t for the fact I have kids, I would probably have no part of the whole Christmas vibe.
Okay, that said, I am a fan of all the excessive eating and drinking. And it is nice to see communities and workplaces and neighbours and families and everyone, getting together with a smile on their face and enjoying some sun and fun. Our little town did their mini version of Christmas in the park, with a quite spectacular fireworks display, the hospital put on a big feast for staff and family and Wee-Man and the E-Bomb had their Do, complete with petting zoo, on a day that cooled suitably.
Faerie lights are flashing around the neighbourhood, tinsel is slung from windowsills and trees are up. Ours is ridiculously tall, as we have the ceiling space to get away with it and was decorated lovingly by the whole family. Old men impersonating Santa have already been sighted and I will do a similar, though more clandestine impersonation, when the kids finally go to sleep on Christmas Eve.
That’s right, I’ll be dragging the presents out of their various hiding places and placing them under the tree. I hope there is cookies, or Xmas cake and ideally, a single-malt.
So, when do you stop believing? When, if you can even recall, did the myth of Santa and all his helpful little elves, tucked away in the North Pole studiously making toys all year round, finally get exploded for you?
The E-Bomb is only just starting to get the whole Santa thing. The mystique and the fantasy is only, this summer, starting to dawn on her, yet she still is not fully invested. Maybe she has an inherent mistrust, like it all sounds just a touch too good to be true. A natural suspicion, instinctively telling her as fun as it all seems, surely a jolly laughing man sharing treats and presents with everyone from the back of a sled pulled by flying reindeer, is a bit much to comprehend.
Her little brother, the Wee-Man, has no idea but likes the baubles and decorations and candy canes and flickering lights, as much as anyone. Leap to the other end of the scale and there is Number One, old enough now to be starting to really understand what Christmas is actually all about, or at least a major part of it; family, all together at the one place and time.
It is Number Two I feel a bit sorry for. She is nine. Old enough to know Santa is not real, or at least she is pretty certain he isn’t. Young enough to still want to believe. She loves the fantasy, the feel good factor of it. I might not be the most festive of people, but I hope it is a feeling, a sentiment, that Number Two can hold on to for all of her life, indeed, pass on to her own offspring.
There is so much in the life of a child that is bright and shiny and new. We all know as adults, how quickly that outlook can be dulled. Surely it is a good thing to be able to hang to that starry eyed wonderment for as long as possible.
Innocence. I guess that is what I am referring to, even if the majority of what is so fun and wondrous and lively and entertaining and open and dreamy, is such a construct. Fantasies and fancies we, as a culture and society, have for whatever reason, chosen to latch on to. Putting all the religious connotations and overtures aside, for the majority Christmas has become about a celebration of family, all wrapped up the trappings of marketing and sales.
Yes, that is very cynical of me, you are right. But each year, the decorations in the shops seem to go up earlier and earlier, the background music pumps out the carols for longer periods, no matter how much it depresses the retail staff, and the adverts hit the TV screens before you have really gotten used to the idea your kids are going to be home for six weeks.
SIX WHOLE WEEKS!!
The reality is these days, there is not Christmas without shopping and boxing and wrapping and all the baking and cooking and therefore, the pressure and the stresses. Not a cheap time. That is why the kids are donating gifts under the big Nga puhi tree in Kaikohe this year. They don’t need for much, if anything, in terms of cheap, plastic, throw-away pressies. That ought to help them get an idea of what Christmas is really about and they can soak up a bit of the charitable feel good factor while they are at it.
All the trappings are great. I am not going to sit here bagging any it. If it is what you are into, then fine, get into it. Sing along with Mariah Carey and Michael Buble and all the other cheesy, sickly crooners. I pick and choose the parts of the festive spirit I want to be involved in. Normally the food. I love a ham, love marzipan, love the excuse to have a drink or two in the sun, even if there is nothing but rain predicted for the next few days…much needed by the way.
So for me, Christmas is about the gathering and it is about a stolen nap in the afternoon after a sumptuous lunch. Christmas is about a glass, or maybe two, or maybe even one too many, of whatever is your chosen tipple, shared with company and a laugh. It is about the smiles on the faces of delighted children, beaming and tearing into wrapping paper, opening up presents and giggling and laughing with glee.
Christmas is about long afternoons on the beach, lazy strolls in the bush, stretching out with a book. It is about holidays and sweaty, hot road trips to places far flung.
All of that and family too.
Have a good one.
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.
I’m not so sure about Nat King Cole’s take..he can keep the soda and pretzels. A cold beer never goes amiss though.
Summer is here officially. The calendar has told us so, even if the sun and the sticky heat which comes with it, has been with us for a while.
Apart from a well earned cool, crisp brew on a warm evening and summery Christmas treats, there is a whole lot else to look forward to. Here, the garden is cranking. A little effort will hopefully bring a great deal of reward. So much easier up here in the sunny and warm North, our veggie growing season well advanced on what we are used to down South. Even though water restrictions have kicked in already!
The other side of the coin is some of the extra care required, now the longer, hotter days are upon us. Especially for our blonde, blue-eyed, fair kiddies.
Already they are kissed by the rays of the sun, browner than I have ever seen them, particularly for this early in December. So that means reinforcing the good old mantra Slip, Slop Slap.
Getting girls to slip on a shirt is easy enough, as long as you keep it fashionable. Hardly princesses anymore, they still know what they like. So nothing daggy, even if practicality is the priority.
Slapping on a hat isn’t a part of the fashion equation unfortunately. Even if their Mother is lucky enough to track down something the girls think is cool, getting them to actually put it on their heads is a different story. The same goes for sunscreen.
Slopping on sunscreen is a necessity in this part of the word. Simply, you have to do it and then do it again and a little while later, do it again.
One and Two are useless at it. The E-Bomb and Wee-Man are supervised and therefore it gets applied, whether they like it or not. Luckily getting smeared in the stuff is still a novelty to them, so no arguments there. In fact, the Wee-Man is an awesome volunteer.
He is the one setting the summer sun smart example. He will put his hat on, his sunscreen and wears a sensible top to keep the burning rays at bay. E-Bomb might put up a fight every now and then when it comes to her attire but generally we are on a winner with her too. It is One and Two proving themselves dumb and dumber.
Maybe they are too cool to be seen being sun smart. Maybe they are preoccupied. Obviously they need urging and reminding, the behaviour to become a habit. It is a lot to ask of a teacher, who probably has enough on their plate at any given time during the school day. But at what age does self responsibility really kick in?
The same question pops up when you think of all the wonderful summer holiday experiences the Hokianga and Far North has to offer. Mostly, especially if this heat keeps up, in and on the water.
Number One is a confident swimmer and loves it. Number Two is capable but lacks the confidence, a work in progress. The two little ‘uns are strictly learners, but if you plonk them down on the beach and don’t get to them quick enough, you better have bought a dry change for them.
The thing is, you can’t have eyes on all of them, all of the time. When the wife and are a together, and we are a whole crew, no worries. We divvie up who is doing what with whom and it all works. More or less. How easy I make it sound.
Despite their confidence, their undoubted abilities and our own faith in our kids as sensible, intelligent, brave and able, the barriers can’t come down too far, just because the sun is shining and everyone is relaxed and happy.
I want to let the kids lose. I have rose tinted memories, of wading out,O way passed my depth. I’m still here.
Roaming the sand-hills, digging forts and tunnels, that by all rights should have collapsed. I’m still here.
Climbing the cliffs behind Seconds Beach, leaping into the surf and swimming all the way back. I’m still here.
Bikes without helmets, jungle gyms made of galvanized steel on the concrete, trees I could get up and struggled to get down, hills too steep for the brakes on my bike to be able to arrest my momentum. Poha’s and Tom Thumbs and slingshots and BB guns and withering gazes from a watchful Mum and I’m still here.
We have spent years putting boundaries in place. We are blessed with kids that push and test the settings no real harm will come from if there is a bend, or a break, in the rules. Riding the outgoing tide on the Hokianga might not be the best time to test the limits set in place by parents.
Our little crew will wear their helmets, their sunscreen, their life-jackets and all the rest of it, whatever is required. So that they can do whatever they are doing safely.
So Mum and Dad can relax with a cold one of choice.
Bring on the summer sun and fun!
I feel conflicted, yet certain.
I used to start my day early. Crawling out of bed at 4:30am and heading out the door was sometimes a trial and a drag.
Anything I could use to get me through was greatly appreciated. Some thumping beats, energy drinks or strong coffee, for those days when I was really depleted. Often just a laugh would go a long way.
Sometimes the key was distraction. I had a physical job, a courier on the streets of north Dunedin, at the time when the subject of the coming rant was relevant. Quite apart from the physicality was the time pressures and the demands of dealing with clientele and traffic, such as it is in Dunedin.
It was good to let the mind slip into auto pilot, let the job take care of itself for a bit and let the brain engage in something else.
I am sports fan. Not as much as I used to be, but I am still a fan of all things ball and bat and endurance and racing and mano vs mano and all the rest. Wind powered, people powered, petrol powered, bring it on.
So there I was, busy, focused, negotiating the streets of north Dunedin and the whimsies of my clients, RadioSport’s breakfast show giving regular updates, as I slid in and out from behind the drivers seat.
I have always had a soft spot for the show. Dearest and I even featured on one illustrious occasion. Back then, the host was Tony Veitch. I didn’t then, and I certainly don’t now, think he was the best broadcaster out there, not by a long shot. That said, there was something infectious about his style of presentation, high on energy and laughs and good with a guest.
Veitch was cheesy, but seemed to be self-effacing, able to laugh at himself as much as he poked fun at others. He could take it as well as he gave it. He struck me as a bit arrogant, but then maybe you need some arrogance, to put yourself out there each and everyday and I will not bag people for being a bit cocky, particularly if they are the top of the heap, and Veitch seemed as if was there, or there abouts.
What I really did like was his access. The man seemed to have the ear of all the movers and shakers in New Zealand sport. He was trusted and even liked by sportsmen and women, by coaches and administrators and other broadcasters and journalists. He had a large and loyal following among the sports savvy listener and his opinions were listened to.
Then one day I stopped. It was the day I found out, along with RadioSport listeners and the nation, that Tony Veitch had physically assaulted his partner.
Sounds mild, sounds bland, sounds like it would be too easy to be blase to something described in a term so everyday, so common in our current vernacular. Physical assault.
The man, diminutive as he is, kicked his Mrs down the stairs, breaking her back.
Then he paid her off.
Then he made a public apology, lacking any contrition, a statement all about how sorry he felt for himself. And if that wasn’t enough, we had to go through some sad, half-arsed, quasi O.J Simpson episode I was almost hoping ended more tragically than it did.
Okay, that last bit is a bit harsh and a tad too far.
RadioSport lost a listener. I was never able to reconcile the idea that Veitch’s employers, his colleagues at least, had no idea what type of man their star performer was, is, and just what he was capable of.
Gradually I forgave the radio station. After all, not their fault, not their doing and they took what seemed like appropriate steps. But then he was back, Tony Veitch, on our airwaves again, back in the public domain.
Was I, as a target demographic audience member, supposed to have forgiven the man? Should I have moved on, as the re-hiring of Veitch suggested?
And therein lies the conflict. Because I am all for giving people a second chance, believe in the possibility of rehabilitation and redemption. So sure, a second shot, time served and all that…but surely only after you have shown remorse, accepted and owned your guilt, made amends as best you can. No sign of that, not that I have seen, not that we have been shown.
Next thing, Veitch announces he is to be on our T.V screens again.
I was a little astounded to read a Stuff.co.nz article based on his announcement. Yes, I was taken aback at the idea our leading television sports caster would think it was okay to have Veitch back in the limelight.
How could this man’s opinion be valued anymore? How could Tony Veitch be held in any form of regard anymore. How could any right thinking Kiwi decide this was a good thing to do?
But what is rankling me too, is the association. Social commentators and opinion piece scribblers, already happy to tell me what I think, are too readily making the link between Tony Veitch and the everyday sports fan, particularly male ones.
Any domestic violence, in all its insidious forms, is too much. Everyone can agree on that, without having to be told to. I know a number of my peers who switched off from the man, Tony Veitch, and the broadcasters who have stood by him. As broadcaster, a presenter, for me Veitch fits into the ‘so what’ category…a voice I simply no longer hear.
As a man, as a follower of sports, I will not accept that it is okay to have this man in the public realm. The ratings dollar is obviously far too attractive and Veitch obviously rates. So the question of social responsibility is raised, and whether or not it is the concern of business, even one in the business of broadcasting.
But to be told I am responsible for okaying domestic violence? That sports fans, people like me, are enabling the behaviour? That all sportsmen are overly, overtly aggressive and excessively masculine, as if these traits will immediately correlate to hitting women? No, way, leave me out it.
Reading that made me angry.
Just like the majority of men, the majority of sportsmen, anger is an emotion I can accept, control and even utilize. I won’t be lashing out, I won’t need to be apologetic and remorseful. Because I will be a man, a true man.
A real man.
Unlike Tony Veitch.
An impromptu day off.
My wife is ill. Quite unwell in fact.
Not only is she suffering toothache, the first time that dastardly infliction has struck her down, but she has copped whatever horrible affliction that lowered our kids over the last week or so.
One after another, they dropped like proverbial flies, hit with the spray of seasonal fever, cough and cold. And it ain’t over yet. The Wee-Man is yet to come down with anything serious, and the big one, me, has seemingly dodged a bullet…so far.
My wife is a battler. She works long and hard and is a dedicated professional. She is a mother, a chef, a house-cleaner, a chauffeur and a counselor. She pushes hard and lately, has been pushed hard. So when she gets crook, it hits her hard too.
It isn’t like her to want to take a day off work. She is not the type to cash in her sick days…for any reason, let alone that she might actually be unwell. Right now she looks like death warmed up and even then, barely. She is certainly not heated through. If she was a sausage, I would be putting her back on the BBQ.
So today, she didn’t go in. Others are covering the more important or urgent aspects of what she does and she is taking the time to wallow, to mope, to sloth and to generally take on all the images that come to mind when you think of a Zombie.
I went fishing.
Am I bad person? Because I viewed my wife’s tortuous condition as a day off for myself. Does that make me selfish? Or opportunistic?
With her home, the kids suitably supervised if not fully appreciated, I took the chance to slip the kayak into a glassy, still, incoming tide. I paddled around the head of the peninsula, trolling the main channel in the vain hope I might bring something fresh home.
I beached, grabbed a bottle of water and then sat on the tide and took in the ambiance of Rawene, as viewed from the water: The comings and goings from the Four Square, cafe goers at the Boatshed, strollers and cyclists and traffic heading to or from the ferry, plying its trade on the still waters.
It was magical. Rawene is a gorgeous town, but not more so than when viewed from the water. I soaked in the brilliance of it all and marveled at how grand life can be. I let the ferry slip away from the jetty, slung out the line, and headed back for deep water and home.
I took my time too. I had no real idea of when I set out and no clue as to how long I had taken so far. The wind didn’t get up, the tide was against me, but only making a token effort and the sun shone brightly. Heaven.
I don’t think you can catch Mullet on a line. Flounder aren’t interested either. Ideally, I would have pulled in a Kahawai and if Tangaroa had been smiling upon me from below, then I would have hooked multiple Snapper or maybe even a Kingi or two. Instead, I came home with nothing but a touch of sunburn.
Wifey was hanging the washing. She looked like she might collapse. I dutifully took over, fed the kids their lunch and sent my little woman to bed. The Wee-Man joined her for a nap, a bonus to what had already proved to be a great day off.
Bring on the weekend! Oh wait…it isn’t the weekend already?
I had no idea.
I’m a Dad. A Father, a parent a caregiver.
That is who I am, kind of the thing which defines me, for the meantime at least.
I am the ‘go to’ in the household, the term I like to use to describe my part in the family dynamic. It is also the driving influence behind this blog, why I am here at this keyboard and hopefully, what has you fixed to the screen of whatever medium it is you have chosen in order to get your Hoki Hubby fix.
The set up in our household is exactly, more or less, how we have chosen it to be. The decision to have me at home was driven by a number of factors, ranging from emotional to financial.
It is no secret and no shock to my pride as a male, that my wife has the capacity to out earn me. At least in the space of a 40hr working week. So right there is a good piece of reasoning as to why it would be her that sought to fill the coffers first and foremost. Balance that with the cost of childcare and it is not hard to see why I have remained out of the workforce for a while.
When I was working, when my two eldest were just the two, I saw bugger all of them. The nature of what I have done with my working years has often meant early starts, followed by long days. Tired and hungry, I would get home in time to drag the kids from the bath, dine with them if I was lucky, then kiss them good night. If that is, I didn’t fall asleep before them. Nodding off half way through story time was not unusual.
So we made the call, Dearest and I, to reassess where we were at the time. As a family, as a nucleic unit. Back then we were both self-employed and while in general that wasn’t an issue, every now and then it blew up in our faces. If hadn’t been for an incredibly understanding and accommodating mother, the wheels could well have come off.
Like I say, in general, we coped just fine. So did the kids. But it was a toll we were paying, me in particular. I was struggling to justify the decision to breed, given I was rarely afforded the time to see my off-spring, let alone be an active and captivated participant in their lives. So we upped stakes.
We did our due diligence, looked around at things and into things. We wanted what everyone wants; a modicum of income, a lifestyle. We wanted that balance everyone seeks. When we found something we could agree on, we latched onto it and have never looked back.
Doing so meant big changes in how we operated as a household and as individuals within that dynamic. On a personal level, so many new and exciting opportunities have been afforded to me. Yes, I have sacrificed too, we all continue to do so.
What Dearest and I never gave up on was the right to what we saw as best by our family. We made a series of decisions and moves that suited us, the kids and the way we intended to raise them. These decisions were based on everything that makes us the people we are; our own childhoods, our experiences both individually and shared, our educations and opinions and attitudes.
All those things are ours. They are peculiar to us. There is nothing special, or different about Dearest and I and nor is there anything weird or odd. We are just like you and you are just like us and we are all different. Yes, I am confused too.
When we made our call to leave Dunedin, our home up until then, and to leave behind the way we had been living our lives, the choices we were making were talked over and discussed. And not just among ourselves. I spoke to Mum, to mates, Dearest did the same. They agreed or they didn’t. I don’t really recall there being any great debate. It wouldn’t have mattered a blind bit if there was, for as much as I love and cherish all the people important to me, the decision was ours to make and ours alone.
Not the imprint of our parents idea of how things should be done. Not the result of a survey of friends opinions. Not a decision made by a Doctor or any one in any profession.
Except for politicians.
Congrats to our new government on their achievement. Not quite how I envisaged the election result panning out, but I voted for change and I, along with every New Zealand citizen, got just that.
Extending Paid Parental Leave is a good thing, a real and tangible positive move in the right direction. Still a long way from a full year, something I think would be hugely beneficial, but hey, small steps. But why I ask, as a parent and a male one at that, stop there?
Why has the Labour government decided I don’t have the right to be a paid parent too. And when I say too, I mean as well. Why is only the one parent eligible?
The development of a bond between Mother and new born child is readily accepted as vital. Who could disagree with that? So why is the idea that a bond formed between Father and child so readily dismissed?
I say father, as it is most likely Dads who will miss out by the new governments decision not to allow both partners the option to take shared time away from work when their lives are joined by that of another, namely that of their new born. And I don’t get it.
Why can’t a couple of weeks be taken together? If it means dropping two of those paid weeks off, making it twenty-four, then where is the issue, if that is the choice a family unit decides to take? There are all sorts of permutations available, to make this kind of base policy suit all those that it may affect. Say the total was 12 months, why couldn’t it be six months off each? like a prison sentence, served concurrently, or stacked. Why not both parents at once, for all of that six month period, instead of the one parent for twelve?
So why the dictatorial, ‘nanny state’ approach? I am no economist, no accountant, no financial guru, or numbers whiz kid. I am no policy analyst either. You don’t have to read far to see that happy and healthy parents raise happy and healthy children and happy and healthy people, are productive. Parents out of the workforce for a period of time, prove to be better for an economy, rather than a detriment.
I fancy myself as a pragmatic and practical person. I also consider myself as an individual, one that chooses to share my life with another, mostly like-minded, individual. It just so happens, my partner in life has some quite extensive training, experience, understanding and yes, strong opinions, on the mother and child bond.
It starts with skin to skin contact and that first latch. And all the other, warm fuzzy stuff. It starts by looking that moist, wrinkled, brand new creature in the eye and falling instantly, unerringly, forever in love. An incredibly important step for everyone involved. Obviously, it isn’t as simple as all that, certainly not for every birth experience and it most certainly doesn’t end there.
I am left wondering where the motivation comes from, behind the decision to deny a clearly progressive step forward. A look at long term family welfare can’t be the motivator. Over worked enough aren’t we, in this country, without added to the stresses of longer hours, for the duration of the single income period. Take a break, just when things in life are getting more hectic, when those around you need more support, your loved ones, in need of more nurturing and care? I don’t think so. And neither do the Labour government.
A question of cost? Like I have said, there are plenty of options to mitigate further expenditure. But, what price do you put on happiness? And what is the cost of freedom of choice? I would suggest the cost of being unhappy and of lacking the freedom to make your own choices in life, is far greater.
My Mother is nothing or no one special.
I try to be an attentive and diligent parent. I believe I do okay and my Dearest is good at it too.
We try not to miss much, try to get the kids involved and be involved with them. All the while being aware not to push them.
It’s a challenge, attending to the above demands while managing a household of six. Not to mention the pets and the little extras that come with living reasonably isolated; the travel required just to the basics like groceries, having a social life and keeping in touch with an ever evolving world while the one around you stays rooted in times gone by.
And that is what it is, a management process. For me it has been a learning curve and one I don’t think will ever be complete. While I have never been afraid of hard work, I have never before faced the level of distraction that doing that work under the reproachful gaze of your children brings. And the Dearest, whose watchful supervision can be daunting.
At times though, given the isolation, the new (ish) environment we live in and the nature of Dearest’s job, it can feel a little like I am flying solo. There are a lot of demands on what my wife does for a living. As a Midwife, managing her time is paramount and the scope of her practice means there is often little time left for the demands of family life, let alone the energy or any hint of time for herself.
But here is the time for a little perspective, as my 44th birthday ticks by.
A thought struck me as I was vacuuming. With the dishes down, laundry sorted and the kids feed, entertained or packed off to school, it occurred to me just how easy I have it, especially when I compare my daily life with that of the woman who raised me.
I highlighted at the start that my Mother is no one special. Obviously she is very special to me, my wife and her grandkids, but putting that loving bond aside and looking at the practicalities of what I am doing as a stay at home Dad and what she achieved, I believe she wasn’t special…she was incredible.
There are a heap of other supurlatives I could throw out there. The gist though is that Mother, Nana, was a legend. A solo Mum, in a time when that was probably not the most fashionable of things to be. Social stigma aside, we are talking about a woman who not only raised two boys only fourteen months apart (imagine that for a load of shits and giggles) to be well-rounded, healthy, good men, she did so while working full-time, educating herself, developing a career, holding down a mortgage and maintaining a social life, such as the latter must have been with all the rest of it going on.
I look back on my formative years with rose-tinted glasses, as I am sure many do in a country like New Zealand which sure, has its issues, but generally is one of the best places in the world you could hope to be born and raised. At the time, as a kid in a sleepy Dunedin suburb, I wasn’t aware of the stresses my Mother must have faced; the hours of hard work, the tight budget, the loneliness, the pressures of solo parenting. In retrospect I can highlight a few moments when it must have been too much. Did my Mother let it show? Did her pressures and stresses weigh even the slightest on her children, her two boys? Not in the slightest.
Was there the support, from government agencies and the like, a societal awareness, that is available now? I seriously doubt it. For my Mother, there wasn’t even really the back-up of an extended family to lean on and not a thing from an absentee Father.
So how did she do it?
Everyone copes with adversity in their own way. My Mother is like my wife, an active relaxer. Trafalgar Street in Dunedin, where I grew up and where the real-estate agents will tell is situated in St Clair, but we all know is really St Kilda, is a grass verged short strip linking the half crescent former quarter-mile of Hargest Crescent and the stretch of Richardson Street, where around the corner my first school, St Clair primary, is housed.
There are bungalows and the odd villa. Clad in weatherboards and brick and roughcast, some were shabby, some were immaculate. Lawns were mown, sometimes by your neighbour and gardens bloomed and there was even the occasional blossoming tree dotted here and there. Fences were low and hellos were said and you knew everyone’s name and they knew you.
Far from idyllic, yet Trafalgar Street is only a fifteen minute walk to the beach, the Salt Water pool and there are plenty of schools and parks around for playing and sports, not to mention a decent back yard to run in. All in all it was pretty good environment to be growing up in.
But Mum couldn’t keep up with the Jones’. She didn’t drive, I guess never really needed to as she worked not far from home. Bus rides into the city were a bit of adventure and there were always friends offering excursions. Despite the Smith’s having four kids, their Holden Belmont seemed to accommodate everyone.
My brother and I had push bikes. A monumentous day when they arrived. We had cricket bats and all the associated gear, football and rugby boots, we had boogie boards and ‘computerised’ Battleships. Then it was an Atari, an Apple 11 and a ghetto blaster. Bro and I strutted around in Adidas three-stripe threads and whatever other hideous 80’s fashion was in vogue. I think I even owned hammer pants and had a flat top!
We wanted for nothing, least of all love and affection.
Our Grandmother would arrive with lemonade and sparkles and be with us through the day when we were sick. It was almost worth being unwell for. Then Mum would come home and take over where her Mother left off. We were clean, healthy, well fed, entertained and educated boys and we were hugged and kissed and tucked in.
Only now do I really appreciate all that. 40 years my Mother spent as an Early Childhood Educator, 25 or so kids under the age of five under her feet all day, just to come home and deal with her own two brats. Legendary stuff.
So I will stop prattling away here. I will pick up the toys and detritus in the path of the vacuum cleaner. I will do another load of dishes, prepare some lunch for the crew, feed off the scraps, take care of the recycling, make some beds and put some washing on, get some dusting done and hopefully find time to do some gardening with the little ‘uns, then start dinner and think about doing it all again as I get the kids settled for the evening, that is after the homework and the reading of books and telling of tales.
And just like my Mum, I hope to do it all with the type of demeanour that means, when my kids look back, all they remember is warm summers days and an even warmer smile.
Love you Mum.