It begins like all interrogations do: with a question.
I’ve seen enough movies to know how these things usually take place. There is a chair, usually an uncomfortable one, in the room. Our hero sits in the chair and tries to look nonchalant . But they are very chalant, very! The interrogator sits across from them, sometimes on the other side of a table, maybe behind a glaring light. Light, apparently, makes people confess to all sorts of things.
Other situations involve the questioning taking place in a more relaxed situation, like sitting in the kitchen on a comfy chair. The interrogated doesn’t know they are being interrogated until it is too late.
But it is the question, the first one, that always gives it away.
See in any story, be it a film or book, a person asking another person a question usually is just a way to start a conversation. The questioning usually stops after that. They move on, they have a chat, the story proceeds and everyone wins. But in an interrogation you can tell that the first question has a bunch of baby questions all waiting behind it. Questions that will be asked as well.
The skilled interrogator asks the questions slowly, one after the other. They meander around the conversational topics like a river and then flood the plain of the interrogated with the last, earth shattering, question. It is something some people are just born with an ability to do.
Unskilled ones prefer the machine-gun approach. They ask a question and then rapid fire every question after it, leaving no time for answers to be given.
I’ve seen it all before…I’ve read it all before.
These days I am experiencing it all first-hand.
“What are you doing?”
“Do you want to play outside?”
“Can I have a glass of milk?”
“Are those your friends?”
“Can I have a glass of water?”
“Are you working?”
“Are you talking with your friends?”
“Is mummy working?”
“Is it a work day?”
“Can I have a glass of milk?”
“Can you wipe my bum?”
“Can you play with me?”
“Can I have a glass of milk?”
“ALRIGHT! ALRIGHT! I GIVE UP…here’s your damn milk….” – I say, finally cracking.
Interrogations often can feel like they go on forever, I hear. If only secret service types enlisted children to ask questions for them. It felt like forever, like the questions would never stop…it was a total of twenty-two seconds.
See with both of us working from home during the lockdown, in jobs that require a lot of video calls to be attended, the kids have decided now is the best time to learn how mummy and daddy work. More importantly how close to the edge of madness can they push us with the questioning before one of us runs out the front door, pants on our head, screaming that we need to buy a pack of smokes.
Neither of us has ever smoked.
There is that old adage about how you should ‘never work with animals or children’. I always thought it mainly meant in film or photography. Turns out it means AT ALL. You should never work with children…because you will get flock all work actually done.
A lot of the parenting blogs are going to be full of COVID-19 related posts on tips, tricks and insanity preventing bits given the current state of the world. Which is more than fine, we have a few ourselves here at Parenting Pobal. But I’ve decided to go with a different approach for this week’s article. Instead of writing about COVID-19 tips, I’m going to go with an observation that occurred to me recently because of COVID-19.
See, in order to get some work done during the working hours when both of us have to be on a call we’ve relaxed some of the normal rules around the house. Typically screen time (which in our house is only Netflix on the tellybox and never tablets or phones) is kept until after dinner, just before bed, as chillout time from the day. But lately we’ve had to give a bit of Netflix time earlier than usual to ensure silence while we take the calls.
Which means I’ve seen a sizable amount of Paw Patrol in the last few weeks. A good deal more than I’ve ever seen in my life, if I am being honest. The show itself could have a series of articles written about it. There are numerous plot-holes, questions around how genetic engineering has gone crazy in Adventure Bay and a question on whether or not Ryder is actually the bastard love child of Tony Stark.
But one thing that is obvious is Zuma is a completely pointless, utterly redundant, character.
For those that don’t know the show, a summary of it is this smart ass kid has a bunch of talking dogs with some high tech gadgets and kennels. The kennels transform into vehicles, each one matching a certain requirement for the situations that arise. The dogs then have backpacks that fit the situations as well (there is a lot of similarities between the plots and a Jeffery Archer novel). As the adventures happen Ryder will select two or three of the six dogs to save the day.
Zuma is the dog whose main area of expertise is water based. His kennel turns into a hovercraft with a life-ring. I’m not really sure what his backpack is meant to do, but from time to time he does get scuba gear from it. See the reason I’m not sure is because Zuma is rarely selected for any adventures. They have a dog who does digging, a fire specialty dog, a speed freak (who is a ‘cop’ so that’s why he can go fast – safety first kids), a dog who is big on recycling (because even shows for the kids need to spread the climate change message) and one who has a helicopter. Generally the adventures don’t involve too much stuff happening on the water, so Zuma just gets left behind most of the time.
Then along comes an episode that is water based. I know what you’re think. This is Zuma’s time to shine. Oh boy howdy that’s what everyone above the suggested viewing age thought, since those watching it probably don’t pay as much attention to it as an adult with time to kill. But nope, for some reason Zuma wasn’t selected for the mission at all. Which was very confusing to dear old Dad, I have to admit. They needed a boat to get out and save a whale on a rock or something, this is right up Zuma’s street.
Instead they pick recycling dog and the cop dog. Why? I am confused even more. They have cars, cars don’t go on water. I know that there is an element of suspending belief in a show about talking dogs but cars driving on water would just be pushing things a little.
Except, no no. It isn’t about breaking further laws of physics . Turns out that the other two dogs kennels can turn into boats as well. So Zuma’s kennel, the one ideally suited to be used in this situation, isn’t selected and the other dogs kennels can turn into a second vehicle. A water based vehicle.
Off they go, leaving Zuma behind once again.
Then, a few episodes later, the producers of the show obviously just had a great idea for a new line of toys to sell to the kiddies. They went and made a big boat that served as another base for the dogs. Off they go on a voyage and have to go on another mission. Now, now is Zuma’s time to shine. Taking out the two dogs with multi-converting kennels, the rest don’t have boats. So there are three dogs to pick from for this mission. Except, no no. ALL the kennels can now turn into boats, plus the other dogs all have cool new gadgets that let them scuba and sail and what not.
Basically Zuma has been written out of the show, without being written out of the show. He has somehow become the canine version of High Tide (the boat robot in Transformers). Except instead of begging for a water based mission, he is being completely overlooked for them. I actually heard the character ask Ryder (the human overlord of these talking pups) if there was anything he could do to help on one of their missions.
Those were the last lines I’ve heard the character say. It seems that the voice actor also realized Zuma is completely pointless. All the show does now is animate him.
This is a weird post. I had intended to write a little piece on Mother’s Day, because that’s the sorta stuff that belongs on this site. But I hadn’t wanted to write about COVID-19 at all. Then Ireland went into this strange quasi-lockdown that we are in and suddenly the article I want to write and the one that I didn’t want to write had a baby.
An awkward little baby that basically meant you cannot write about one without mentioning the other.
So let’s get the boring shit out of the way first. Olivia with her underlying lung condition is susceptible to catching things and when she does it isn’t plain sailing. Whatever meds are required to get rid of the current ailment only work so far, because her lungs are greedy little shits. They hang onto any and all illness and drag it out for weeks. Resulting in the old trip to the hospital. Making COVID-19 a bitch because we definitely want to avoid her getting it at all.
Which sorta messes up the standard Mother’s Day plans.
In the past we’ve gone down to the village and had breakfast in Karen’s favourite coffee spot. Sitting in or out, weather depending, and munching away on some good eats. All that is shut down down while we weather the storm, so what’s a family to do?
Consult the Internet and watch a video on how to make scrambled eggs like Gordon Ramsay. Actually a thing, by the way. I recommend it. It is so simple to do and the results are excellent.
But breakfast is just one part, we need coffee with those meals. Luckily I was a good boy this Christmas and got a cool coffee machine that allows for the making of Lattes. Seventy failed attempts later we have success with a full on frothy beverage of awesome levels.
The meal made, ready to go up to bed, next up is the cards.
I say cards, because we do a lot of cards. I like to get Karen one from myself, a wife specific one, just to throw a little note in there telling her how great she is at this motherhood lark. Then there is the card from the kids. This is an official, Hallmark, creation. Not some slapped together heap of shit they made because they think they are artists. The trick here is that Karen prefers to be called ‘Mummy’ instead of ‘Mammy’, ‘Mam’, ‘Ma’, or ‘Mum’. You’d be surprised how hard it is to find cards with ‘Mummy’. Then along comes the heap of shit the kids slap together (I mean works of emotional art, of course). With a little help from their dad, these are added to the pile. Then we get the present (which, per agreed rules, is one from both kids and nothing insane) and away we go.
So far the day is going the way you’d want all things considered. We go walking up the stairs and that’s when ALL HELL breaks loose.
I mean we are walking up the stairs, one breakfast being carried by me. One present and two cards in Olivia’s tiny hands, with Thomas carrying the least important ones (i.e. the crap cards that can be damaged by his clumsy walking). Except Olivia wanted to carry her hand-made card up, because heaven forbid that Karen mistakenly thought Thomas made two cards while Olivia went out and bought her ones.
I took her one off Thomas and handed it to her. Smiles on her face, immediate tears on his. He dropped down to the step and went into full pout mode.
Turns out that he wanted to carry two cards. Olivia, now, card rich didn’t want to give up any cards. I had to literally bargain with her to get my card so that Thomas could carry it. But by now the boy has figured out that he has two hands and a card in each, but Olivia has two hands and more things than hands.
“Me help,” he moans up at me, pointing at the present.
So as we continue walking up the stairs I have to get Olivia to agree to let Thomas help her carry the present into Karen. Another round of negotiations took place, in which case I reckon I handed over ownership of the house to my daughter. They both marched into the bedroom like joint victors returning from battle, startling their poor mother awake.
Cards and gift were dumped onto Karen before she could even get up in the bed. Kisses, hugs, then both of them ran from the room to cause chaos elsewhere in t he house.
So, basically, COVID-19 just changed the menu options for the day that’s in it. The kids were still pains in the butt, but at least Karen knows they love her.
I should preface this post by saying that Karen took the majority of the hits during our first day of working from home as an entire family unit. Typically Friday is my ‘most meetings’ day and since Ireland is in semi-lockdown because of COVID-19 (which rhymes with ‘Come on, Eileen’ for those wondering about the title of the post) we both had to work from home with the two terrors in tow. Not all heroes wear capes – some wear children around their neck while still getting some work done.
The day was March 12th, 2020 and everyone was watching the news for the same reason: was there going to be some sort of extreme measures announced to help combat COVID-19 in Ireland. A little before lunch our Caretaker Government finally did something to justify all their inflated salaries, they closed the schools and creches to try and stop the virus spreading. Of course this act brought with it a lot of chaos in the lives of parents. For those lucky few, it meant working from home with the kids in the house.
Something akin to trying to balance on the tip of a needle while reciting old poetry in Latin and writing out pi to a thousand places on a grain of sand. Whilst whistling Bohemian Rhapsody.
Actually that is easier than working from home with the kids.
Kids, particularly the young ones that haven’t gone to school, need entertaining. A lot of entertaining. Plonking them down in front of Netflix or Disney or ‘Popular Streaming Service’ is going to only get you so far. They will get grumpy and grouchy and want to be fed fifteen times a minute despite the fact they normally don’t. Kids don’t adjust well to change in routine, because why would they? Being able to roll with the punches would make parenting so much easier, the little shits don’t want that.
They are organised.
But hilariously I found that working from home with the kids has similarities to working in the office without them. Scarily so.
For example, standups.
Any of my reports complain about stand-ups in a paradoxical sort of way. They see the need for them, but also say they take too much time. They are a necessary evil, but one they’d rather shoot instead of attend. Basically they don’t take stand-ups seriously. Turns out our kids view stand-ups the same way. Showing up in the middle of the video call with masks and then just muttering nonsense before running away.
It was like they had worked with me their entire lives.
Lunch is another one. I manage a fairly big team, meaning there are a lot of personalities on said team. Not everyone is going to be in the mood for the same lunch suggestions on any given day, which is fine. If we were all the same the world would be boring. But the dreaded question of ‘So, plans for lunch?’ always ends up with a few suggestions, no agreements, and a splintering of the group as people go forth to forage on their own.
WFH with the kids, same result. Karen asked about lunch and they both screamed out two completely different suggestions. Neither of which could be made easily or at the same time, because why would kids suggest the same thing? Ending up with Karen (because I had to run for another poxy video call) making what she wanted and the kids getting that for lunch.
Which was invariable what they actually would have eaten anyway.
Then there is the whole etiquette around being on a conference call. Most people who work in an office will have experienced at least one con-call in their time. It is always audio chaos at first as people shout to be heard or talk over each other. Eventually somebody, generally the call organizer, will start to run the call. They will suggest people shut up (politely, of course) and then start to funnel questions and comments in an organised manner.
WFH with kids while on a con-call is pretty much the same. Except while the person running the call handles the adults, the adults have to handle the kids. ‘WILL YOU SHUT UP FOR A SECOND SO DADDY CAN ASK HIS QUESTION!’ – ‘Derek, sorry, could you go on mute there before you contribute anything further to the call.’
And, of course, there is the impatience. People in an office situation, particularly on a Friday, will watch the clock like a robotic hawk. Laser focused attention on the hands as they mentally try to make time move faster and bring forth the weekend.
WFH with kids, regardless of the day of the week, has the same stuff going on. Except an adult in the office at least starts this around 3pm. The grumbling typically only starts after they do approximately five hours of work and check the time again, distraught to see that it is only 4pm. Kids will start wondering why you are not doing stuff with them that is ‘fun’ from 7am, getting more vocal about this complaint with each passing minute. By the end of the working day shift you would wonder if there is room for original complaining left in your brain.
Desk drop-ins are another commonality between working in the office and WFH with kids. Desk drop-ins are the bane of any worker’s day, because they cause you to get distracted from the task at hand. They are an evil that needs to be killed from the office, but apparently murdering a colleague is illegal in most parts of the world.
Thanks modern society.
WFH with kids, same problem. You can give them crayons, colouring books, food and water. You may eventually buckle and just fire them in front of the telly, in the hope that those thirty minutes can be used to do some work. Then, like cute ninjas, they appear beside your desk. Looking for something.
Always. Looking. For. Something.
I suppose the reality is that WFH with kids is no different to working in the office without them.
But bugger me this was only day one. We’ve two more weeks of this crap to get through.
As one of the folk on my team said ‘This period will see a load of babies made, with a load of divorces happening.’
He probably ain’t wrong on either part.
But, in a rarity for me, let’s finish with some helpful tips on how to WFH with Kids for a long period
Try, as best you can, do both muck in. It may not be possible if you have a lot of meetings or calls but if you have even thirty minutes between them try and give your other half those thirty minutes.
Grabbing a coffee or tea? Grab two – you can be full sure you other half is burning the candle at three spots.
Craft kits are a godsend – stock up on those bad boys. Same with colouring books, crayons, all that arty junk. Kids love to do two things from a young age. Make a mess and destroy your house – craft kits allow both to be done and kept their attention for a few minutes.
Break the screen rule – screw it. Yes screen time is bad, we should limit it, blah blah blah. You know what else is bad – losing your job because you had to entertain the kids for eight hours. In times of madness the rules can slide a little. An hour in front of telly isn’t going to kill them, but it will give you sixty minutes to get four hundred minutes of work attempted.
Get out there – while socialising is meant to be kept to a minimum you can go for a walk or run or jog. Eat lunch at the desk, get the family all out for some air on your lunch hour. For adults it is good for their mental well-being. For kids it might tire them out just enough that they sit still for a few hours when they get back.
Vent on social media – it will help. Trust me there is a country load of people going through the exact same thing, bottling it up isn’t going to do anyone any good. In fact bottling it up to seem like you are a pillar of strength will only lead to an argument with your partner and nobody wants that. A tweet, a post, a picture – tagged with the wfh-covid-19 tag will have you growing a support network in minutes.
It’s a little bit on the funny side that, as responsible parents, we tell children lying is bad. There is never an explanation of the different categories of lies there are. Big, horrible, lies that are designed to hurt others and make a situation dreadful for no reason other than a love of chaos. You know the sort, ones spread around by spiteful people with the sole intent of causing misery for their own amusment.
White lies, ones intended to protect a person’s feelings from some minor emotional truth. Which goes a long way to explaining why certain people tried out for The X-Factor when the only notes they could carry were in their wallets.
Surprise lies, which are not ones that happen when you get caught in a situation you shouldn’t be in. Rather you know about a surprise party and when the focus of the event asks you to meet up you spin them a yarn to avoid ruining said surprise.
Then their are parental lies, which we all know about. Santa. The Easter Bunny. The Toothfairy. The Man who will come and take you away to an orphanage if YOU DON’T JUST SIT DOWN AND EAT YOUR FUC….
I digress, only slightly. The parental lies, aside from the last one, are meant to sprinkle a little magic in your children’s lives. More importantly you can tell ones that sprinkle a little imagination into their heads.
Such as what I’ve recently done with Stacey, Nugget’s elephant teddy bear. One day, as I was getting ready to go to work, Nugget came running up to me with her elephant and held the teddy up to me.
“Stacy wants to go to work with you today, daddy,” Nugget said, smiling.
I shrugged and opened my satchel wide enough for Stacy to be dropped inside. Zipping the bag closed again I knelt down and gave Nugget a kiss on the forehead.
“I sure hope she doesn’t cause me any trouble in the office,” I said to her. “Remember the story we read a few nights ago about the elephant in the park.”
Nugget did her cute little mischief laugh she does. Hands up in front of her mouth, chuckling away while her shoulders move up and almost cover both ears. She ran away delighted with life.
Of course I’m a nutter by trade and was already thinking about some of the stuff I’d tell Nugget at dinner that night. But then we live in a golden age of technology. A time when taking a picture and showing it to somebody instantly is as easy as taking our your phone…with a camera on it…and taking the picture.
I’m not sure were I was going with that. I’m tired.
Anyroad, off to work I went. When I got in I did my usual email reading, chats with the lads on my team and my morning cup of coffee. Then I set up picture one.
Empty mug, teddy head first in it. Snap. The story then behind this picture would be that Stacy drank all my coffee.
Next up, after doing a bit more work (because obviously I can’t be just taking pictures of a stuffed animal all day and get paid) was Stacy helping me do some work.
Despite the simplicity behind the picture, setting it up was hard. They say never work with children or animals when it comes to photography. Well let me tell you stuffed animals are just as hard to work with. I mean you give direction, describe the scene, and still the bloody thing keeps dropping the pen. But, picture secured complete with the story that Stacy had written down some notes on my pad.
Of course, me being me, I wasn’t above taking pictures away from the privacy of my desk.
Off to the kitchen area I went, Stacy the Elephant in hand. One of my co-workers even asked what I was doing. I told them I had taken a bunch of pics of the elephant doing things around the office. I guess with a more sane person they would have been confused by this statement, while secretly sending HR an email to say that I had finally snapped. But I’m known for being how I am, that is certifiably insane (I’m only not certified because I slept in on the day of the exam), and they just laughed.
That night, shortly after dinner, Stacy was retrieved from my bag and Nugget sat on the sofa beside me. I took out the phone and opened up the gallery to show her the pictures. Using the art of the parental lie, I told her that while I was away Stacy had moved and done all these things. That only when I was looking at her did she become a teddy again. Nugget’s eyes opened wide as she listened, laughing with her mischievous laugh at the pictures, and looking at Stacy every few seconds just in case movement happened and she missed it.
That night Nugget went up to bed with Stacy and we could hear her on the monitor telling Stacy she had been so naughty but so funny at daddy’s office.
Because sometimes, just sometimes, it’s okay to bare-face lie to your kids. As long as your feeding their imagination in a positive way.
1: the illusion of remembering scenes and events when experienced for the first time
2: something overly or unpleasantly familiar. The team’s poor start to the season was déjà vu for its long-suffering fans.
Definition of paje vu
1: the feeling that you’ve definitely said the same thing a number of times to your offspring and yet they still need it said a number of additional times in order to hear it once
2: the sense that you have said something before but feel like you are saying it for the first time because you’ve managed to reach infinity on your internal counter and have gone back to the start of the numbers used for counting
Welcome to the science* post of our little website. I say science* instead of science because science* is the type of observations that has no actual basis or backup in terms of real science. Like Flat Earth Theory, but without the zealots and conventions.
See, recently I’ve noticed that I am repeating myself with the kids. Not just repeating myself but saying the exact same line over and over and over and over and over and over and…
Sorry, got stuck in a loop there.
The point is that as the eldest has hit her fourth year on this mud-ball she has definitely developed selective hearing. Selective being a nice way of putting it, by the way. I genuinely think that she has mastered the art of fully closing off her ear canals to block out all sound and has simply developed a sixth, seventh and eight sense to replace her lack of hearing. It is the only scientifically* sound explanation for how I have to ask her twenty-three times to pick stuff up off the floor in my normal parenting voice (which goes up a decibel level for every ten times the same lines has been said). Yet I can stand at the bottom of a well in another country and ask her in a whisper if she wants a biscuit and she will hear it in our home as if I had screamed it directly into her ear.
Hence, paje vu. I have convinced myself that it is a thing, it has to be a thing. It is the only real reason that makes sense. There is no way that a person cannot hear the same sentence, with the words in the same order, and the volume growing slightly louder with each utterance, forty-five times in a row. There just isn’t. It has to be a parental phenomenon, the feeling that you’ve said something before in the exact same way you are currently saying it. Only you haven’t said it before and you are only saying it once.
Otherwise kids have an amazing ability to control their senses that adults would relish. Can you imagine being in a boring meeting and being able to totally shut down your sense of hearing in order to survive the hour long presentation on why full stops, dots and periods are different things.
It also explains how Littles the world over are able to fart so badly you’d convince yourself they have an entire skunk up their backside, pushing a green mist around them so intense that your eyes water, yet they cannot smell it themselves. The scientific* answer: they can shutdown their sense of smell on command.
But fear not, fellow parents, I know you’ve all experience this sensation. Now you have a name to it. You’re not going crazy, you are repeating yourself almost indefinitely, because kids have mastered the ancient and wise art of Selective Hearing.
And here you all were thinking you were going crazy. No such luck, parenthood will make you insane for many more reasons than just this. Of course it doesn’t help that the younger follows everything the older one does, so he has started not listening a full two years earlier than she did.
But like all good science and science*, you need an example to quantify the experiment. So let me present experiment J below, taken from the field this very morning.
Test Environment Configuration: we’ve been up since about 7am because it is Saturday and the kids only sleep past 9am when it is a workday. The kitchen looks like a Smyths Toystore passed by and vomited on the floor. Both kids want to watch a movie on Netflix.
Parent 1: Pick up the toys.
Parent 1: Pick up the toys.
Parent 1: Clean up the toys and we will watch the movie.
Parent 1: Why haven’t you picked up the toys yet.
Parent 2: Did you pick up that parcel from the collection centre yesterday?
Parent 1: I’m not going to ask again, pick up the toys.
Parent 1: Why aren’t you picking up the toys?
Parent 1: You, pick up those toys. Other you, pick up those ones.
Parent 2: Seriously did you pick it up or not because if you didn’t it will be sent back on us.
Parent 1: Would you for the love of all that is unholy pick up the bloody toys.
Parent 1: I don’t care if you didn’t play with that toy, put it away or no movie.
Parent 1: Would you just, for once, listen to me and put the damn things away before we watch the movie.
Parent 2: Honestly, did you get it or not.
Parent 1: Why do you keep asking the kids if they picked up something from the collection centre? They can’t drive.
Parent 2: I’m not asking them, I’m asking you. Like I have done for the last four days. At least five times a day.
Experiment conclusion: turns out Paje Vu can apply to partners as well as parents.
I’ve always loved how, if you look hard enough, nearly every season has a story or legend somewhere in the world. Even regions that don’t celebrate the same as their global neighbors have some sort of myth or tale that they tell, so that they can get in on the fun everyone is having.
There are the obvious ones, such as Santa and the Easter Bunny, that have been fully commercialized and then the less known ones (in so far as they may not be known outside of the culture they are from) such as Ne-bin.
Go on, Google that last one so you can say ‘Today, I learned.’
What they don’t tell you when you become a parent, however, is that you all get brought into another batch of myths and legends for different seasons.
Such as the legend of Snotsicle.
Snotsicle is a hilarious creature, that people rarely see if they don’t have kids. He comes out around Cold and Flu season (because sticking to the pattern of actual seasons is of course not something that happens in Parent World). This is actually part of the fun in and of itself. Not only do you not know when Snotsicle may make a visit, you don’t know when the season will land. Sometimes it happens right alongside an actual season and makes some sense, so middle of winter sort of thing. Other times the season will rock up during a heatwave in the height of summer, because…reasons.
But the legend is the same when told from parent to parent as they cry into their seventh coffee in the past four hours, the magical go-juice that keeps them awake long enough to witness Snotsicle arriving. When you get told that some kid who your own offspring were in contact with has a cold, you know that the season is upon you.
But who is this Snotsicle I don’t hear you ask since this is a written article so how would I know what you are saying when you read it. Snotsicle is the little creature that lives in the nose of all the children of the world. Waiting for the right season, whenever that may land in the actual grand scheme of things, to spring forth and cause chaos for all.
Or, to be more accurate, the adults.
See children apparently can make enough mucus and snot in their heads to feed Snotsicle when the creature hibernates. It’s the only logical explanation, consider what happens when Snotsicle arrives.
All will be calm and quiet throughout the house, no creature will be stirring safe for the click of a computer mouse. Then right as the adult has work to be done, a sneeze, an achoo, and panic has begun.
Only this morning I was sitting with Nugget having breakfast when she sneezed and two large, green, snot lines shot out of her nostrils faster than Space X rocket taking off. She dropped her spoon, looked over at me with eyes with with terror, and started panicking.
“Help!” she snapped.
I reached over and grabbed the nearest tea towel because I’m the dad, not the mum. Mums would run out, get some tissue, balms, creams. Everything and anything to make the nose wiping a smooth and relaxing process. Dads are practical. You need to get that gunk wiped away as fast as it arrived with as much absorption as you can get.
“But this is just a rehash of that story you told before,” you’re no doubt saying now. Once again I have to guess since I have no idea what you are actually saying while you read this.
You would be right in making that assumption, except the legend of Snotsicle is such that it differs ever so slight. You see, once Nugget sneezed I thought I was in the clear. Until the second sneeze happened, this time though coming from the living room. A sneeze, followed by three more in rapid-fire succession. Since Jellybean is never one to be outdone by his sister, his mantra is that lyric ‘Anything you can do, I can do better’ – and he takes that mantra very seriously. Running into the living room I was just in time to see that Snotsicle had jump noses, two bulbous danglers hanging from the cherub nose of my little boy. I was not, however, in time to put towel to nostril and remove Snotsicle.
Jellybean looked up and me and smiled.
“Nose,” he said, before turning and smashing his face into the back cushion of the sofa.
The end result being the cushion now looked like a snotty Turin Shroud, while the boy’s face looked like he had been Frenching with Slimer from Ghostbusters for twenty minutes. Many wet wipes later all is clean, but I keep looking at the cushion and wondering.
Is Snotsicle in there? Waiting for the sofa to sneeze and come out again? After all every season needs a legend, that’s what makes them fun.
When we were expecting our first child to arrive we were asked the same question on a regular basis. A question I’m sure every expectant parent gets asked: which one do you want?
Hilarious, considering you don’t really have a lot of control over whether you get a boy or a girl. You can follow all the old wives tales, modify your diet because some website said it ensures the gender will go one way or the other, but at the end of it all you get what you get and you love them from second one of seeing them.
I used to joke with the lady friend that I’d prefer a boy for a our first, because boys are easier to train. Oh how we laugh at such a foolish statement now. Train a child…wishful thinking.
In reality though I gave the same answer to the question every time it was asked. That I honestly didn’t care if it was a boy or a girl, so long as they were happy and healthy that was the main thing. We got blessed on that front twice, despite the fact that you’d swear the younger of our pair was unhappy for the first few months of his life.
Ah early parenthood – such a magical time.
Anyroad deep down I would always wonder if I would be a better father to a boy first instead of a girl. Or maybe a girl before we had a boy. It is the standard self doubt that all parents go through, I have no doubt. What if the girl is a lover of dancing and you have two left feet? What if the boy is a football nut and you can’t stand the sport? What if the girl is into mixed martial arts? And so on and so on, the list of doubts is endless. The point was that I just wanted to be the best dad these kids got and considering they got me they were being dealt a rough deal to begin with.
Then upon seeing Nugget’s face all that left my mind and I just said ‘Screw it I will be the best me that I can be and that will in turn be the best dad for her.’
For you see the ‘best me’ has, over the years, evolved into this mad bastard who literally doesn’t give a shit about how the world perceives him so long as his actions entertain others, hurt nobody and don’t cause problems for those around. Sort of like having Deadpool as my spirit animal.
We fast forward a few years and Nugget has her first ‘girls night’ with her mummy and loved every minute of it. There was juice in fancy glasses, face masks, jellies, something on the telly and, most importantly, no boys. She loved it but being a child who never likes to see, or be, left out of things she asked for a similar night to take place. A daddy-daughter night.
Now the great thing about being somebody who doesn’t care about how they are perceived so long as it brings joy to those I care about I was all in. Face masks, sweets, orange juice in a champagne glass (Is this what the people of Bel-Air living like?), something on Netflix and time with my kid. What’s not to love about that?
I’m writing this article having just had our third such night. We even upped the ante a little and used hair chalk to colour our hair blue, just for added fun. A bit of chilling, jelly babies and cuddles. A night well spent.
The bit that makes it all worthwhile, though, was when, after tucking her into bed, she reached up and wrapped her little arms around my neck. I got the tightest squeeze you’d ever get and a ‘I had so much fun daddy. I love you. See you in the morning.’ whispered into my ear.
I’m regularly accused of having a blackhole in my chest that pumps some sort of sludge around my veins. But if that little thanks didn’t melt my stone heart nothing would…and of course it did.
Sure isn’t she already planning and plotting for her next daddy-daughter night.
I feel like I am Alan Turing these days. Not because I work in the IT industry. Nor because I reckon I am anywhere near as smart as he was (I mean come on the guy was coming up with an insanely complex method to break Nazi codes before computers were even really a thing. That takes next level smarts). No it is because of how Nugget has started her latest after-creche/pre-bed hobby: keeping up with her correspondences.
This might not seem like anything too out there, after all she is a crazy friendly kid. The bit that might be strange about the entire affair, however, is that she can’t write for shit.
I don’t mean in the ‘oh look at the little hipster thinking she is writing the next great Irish novel’ sort of writing…I mean she literally cannot write. They have only started doing letters in her Montessori in the last few months and in typical child-like innocence the shapes are correct, but in random ways. For some reason the ‘L’ in her name is always drawn like a ‘7’, no matter how many times you explain to her why that isn’t the correct way. I even tried getting her to just do a lowercase L instead, which she grasped the concept of pretty quickly. Until I caught her adding a little bit of flare to the top of it when she didn’t think we were looking.
Kids…can’t teach ’em, can’t send them back for a refund.
But why do I feel like Mr. Turing? Well it’s because I have to remember all the crazy stuff she writes down on the paper. You see sometimes these letters are given out to her friends in school…and she then gets back similar scribbles on paper the next day. Sometimes these letters need to be given to the mammy or a grandparent, but of course Nugget has forgotten what the letter is meant to say so it falls to daddy to recall it. Then you get those letters destined for her live-in fairy, Fizzlesticks, but these have to be read out loud before bed because sometimes Fizzlesticks doesn’t read the letter before morning time.
Yep, Nugget has figured out how to ensure that her important thoughts are read by her fairy on the rare occasion mummy and daddy forget to take the letter away before they collapse into bed.
I’m not even sure if Alan Turing would be any good at doing any decryption on these letters, however. Each scribble is identical to the one before, the only difference being the colour of crayon used and where Nugget signs her name.
Still, it is entertaining each night (yes, this is now basically a nightly activity) to see her stretched out on the mat in the kitchen with sheets of paper. Writing away, speaking out the words that she clearly thinks she is writing down. The stories that get shared between herself and her friends are hilariously innocent. If email hadn’t killed the pen-pal star I reckon she would be doing that as a hobby in her teenage years.
As stupid as this post might sound, it’s important for parents to get a little down time. Particularly if those parents have hobbies. Raising kids is equal parts insanity and joy, with a dash of questioning what you did with all your spare time pre-kids since post-kids. People tend to have hobbies, things that bring them happiness outside of what they do during the week to pay the bills and all that boring adult crap.
Post-kids hobbies and social lives are definitely the two things that suffer the most. In fact you’d almost feel like printing off some ‘Missing Person’ posters and putting them around the place in the hope somebody can find them for you again.
They never do, by the way. Those are gone forever.
But if you’re lucky to have a partner in parenting that supports your hobbies, while having some of their own, then you can pretend to still be young and carefree. All you need to do is barter hobby time back and forth.
With me and Karen there are a collection of hobbies. We both run. I write comedy books and have recently started kayaking. Karen was heavily involved with the local drama group. There are others, but these are the ones that are time consuming.
When I tell people in work that I manage to run about four 5K runs each week they look at me like I have told them the moon is made from cheese. They can’t figure out how a father of two has time to run. The answer is simple, Karen and I trade off bedtime with the kids.
See the night that Karen goes running, I take the bed duties. Both changed, teeth brushed, story read and tucked into bed. While Karen goes out for her run. Then the next night we swap around and I run for freedom (at least twenty five minutes of it) while herself deals with the terror twins.
But that’s just a system, it can be bent. Like today for example. Tonight was my shift to put the kids down (not in the ‘old dog’ sort of way, but the thought has crossed my mind) but I had a day-from-hell in work. I was in a stinker, worse than a stinker I was just down right in shitty form. To which Karen goes ‘Why don’t you go out in your kayak and I will do bedtime tonight’.
Let me tell you I didn’t need to be asked twice. I was floating up and down on the water without a care in the world while I left Karen to put chaos 1 and 2 (as we affectionately call them when they are in ‘hair pull out’ mode).
The important thing though is to know that while the bedtime system works for parental units, it has to be flexible. When Karen was involved in the play I had a few back-to-back nights of putting the terror twins down for the night. That’s just how you roll and as long as both parents roll that way you can keep a glimmer of sanity in your head.
Just long enough so that when somebody wakes up a 3am screaming because she can’t find her dolly you don’t immediately consider mass murder.