Archive for June, 2008

“Five spoonfuls…”

“i wanna popsicle…”

“Six spoonfuls…”

“Popsicle popsicle popsicle…)”


This is not some undiscovered Tom Waits lyric.

It is the exchange of dialogue between parent and toddler at virtually every meal time in our house. And out of it. These words will usually see a spoon introduced to some pasta, a single tube of it to be precise, and a small chunk of avocado being held gingerly in one hand. She will inevitably tilt her head and the avocado will thus smush into her hair.


She will drop the spoon and let leash a huge fake cry. I will grit and grind my teeth. I will occasionally grab a dish towel, turn away from her, shove the corner of it my mouth, clamp down and bite really really hard whilst pulling against my teeth just to vent some of the bubbling frustrations.


Sometimes,  I will muse,  Helen Keller must’ve had a greater dexterous grasp of cutlery than the toddler. And then I will sigh very loudly. Because like a climber on Everest who’s reached  the Khumbu Glacier base camp, there’s still plenty left to be done, in this case plenty of macaroni and cheese plus avocado to be eaten. Because the toddler’s head is still lying on the table next to the bowl. Because she’ll be making these bloody aggravating wheedling noises. Because she will have no real intention of eating ANY of this if possible, and because for the umpteenth time I am being driven to the outer-edges of frustration. That place where you suddenly think that if you raise your VOICE VERY LOUDLY AND START BEING AUTHORATIVE THAT YOU WILL GET THE RESULTS YOU WANT. Which, we all know, is ridiculous. Volume alone never equals results, yet time and time again I find myself getting loud when I get impatient, desperate or both. I know I know, you shouldn’t shout at mealtimes because it could leave them with a traumatic memory of loud angry horror every time they see a pea or carrot in the future, but Jesus Christ it’s REALLY REALLY HARD TO REMEMBER SUCH SAGE AND NOBLE ADVICE WHEN THEY JUST



It’s why I sometimes wish I was an Irish mother. I wish to be an Irish mother at these times, because having had one of these seemingly unflappable, impervious and flame-retardant women raise me, I never once left a scrap on the plate and there was nothing I didn’t eat.  I even ate liver and kidney until one afternoon, at the tender age of 6, I vomited through no fault of my own, at the smell and taste of some ofal. Anyway, my POINT is that my IRISH FUCKING MOTHER would manage to MAKE SURE SOMEHOW that I ATE EVERY TEENY, TINY, SMIDEGENOUS LITTLE SCRAP on my plate. I don’t remember being traumatized and I don’t know if it’s contributed to my generous stomach in latter years (‘d guess the answer is probably yes) but I do know this. I ate what was put in front of me, and I don’t appear to have suffered any lasting psychological damage. What was her secret? If she wasn’t currently undergoing chemotherapy for her second fight with cancer I’d probably ask, but I’m hopeful I can figure it out without having to sap her dwindling energies by asking her regale me with tales of how she got me to eat broccoli as well as everything else on my plate at all mealtimes. I vaguely remember a bit of guilt-tripping about ‘starving children in Africa’ but it was the ’70s and such stuff was hot property amongst those who had recently left hippiedom to try and make sense of a drab and grey Britain.

When I ran into a Mum at a local playspot we go to called Recess last week, the whole ‘food wars’ thing came up. Her suggestion was the feeding in of frozen cubes of pureed vegetable (i.e. squash) to a bowl of, say, macaroni and cheese. That way they’re eating veg without really knowing it. And whilst some ‘PC’ Dudley Doo-rite is probably going to tell me that “they should see everything they’re eating and know what it is” I’m going to say ‘NO! YOU’RE WRONG!’ and guess that you either a) don’t have kids or b) have a nanny and thus don’t find yourself in these daily battles. Because trust me, it felt like I’d met a maternal Einstein such was the simple genius behind the suggestion. A potential ray of light in an otherwise dark and frustrating tunnel. At least if I can sneak these things in regularly, I won’t have to worry about scurvey, ricketts,the plague  or any other middle ages disease taking the toddler down due to lack of proper nourishment and vitamins. It doesn’t mean that the nightly dramas won’t continue for while, and to be honest, I’m constantly rummaging the memory banks to remember how I handled such matters when the teenager was a toddler. There again, he was a boy. And it would appear that boys plough through great troughs of meat and potatoes from the moment they pop into the world. I have a distant vision of being with the teenager when he was a toddler at a Rennaisance Faire, and both of us brandishing turkey drumsticks like savages as I loudly remonstrated with some poor buxom beverage seller that there was “NO MEAD!’…anyhow…the point of telling you that tidbit was to illustrate how bizarrely unlikely it is that his toddler sister will ever hold a chicken wing, let alone a turkey leg. Though if I told her she could use it as a medieval club she might be into the idea…hmmm…

I even found myself in one our two reading lounges, grabbing a few minutes peace and reading from a parent’s advice book on how I should be speaking to my children. First of all, I know how I should be speaking to them, it’s the reality of life’s daily frustrations that need surmounting. And secondly, as I read portions of this book, I felt sure that it’s author had written said-advice whilst ensconced in a large, quiet office miles away from any voice under the age of 25.

‘Rather than tell your child what they should be doing, try instead to empathize with their feelings and frustrations. i.e. “Yes Kenneth, I can see you’re very frustrated about having to eat those carrots, and I can sense your feelings of frustration, but it would be such a great achievement if you would eat  few because otherwise they’ll feel lonely and sad about being left-out. And you don’t want to hurt their feelings do you?” ‘  

Back in the real world, where real people live like you and I live getting our ‘feelings’ hurt daily by such egregious things as salads, sprouts and burritos without the trimmings, the notion of carrying on like this with every mealtime dispute is akin to Robert Mugabe winning a Nobel Peace Prize. In my house, poor Kenneth would find his feelings rather unnaccommodated when it came to matters of nutrition.  Indeed, I would like very much to be invited to the houses of such authors for a two-week stay, and it would have to be two weeks so as I could make sure that a) their children are not being drugged into complicity and b) their children are actually their own and not  ‘rentals’ from an agency. More than that, perhaps I’d like to make sure that the authors themselves are real parents and not rentals from an agency too. I’ll wager one thing’s for sure with these ‘authors’… that they never had Irish mothers.



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The situation.

A 3 year old toddler, a 16 year old teenager, the 16 year old teenager’s friend and a 41 year old driver/ATM/parent. This motley crew are in a motor vehicle, thus close quarters.



Act 1


4.05 pm: En route to a male teenage youth’s hair appointment for a cut and highlight work. Toddler has been woken from deep nap to accommodate arrangement and is wailing due to lack of proper rest and desire for popsicle which the taxi driver/parent deems unfeasible for the back of car.


Driver: (dialing teenager as he approaches teenager’s friends house). Could you guys be outside in 2 mins?

 Teenager: Yuurrrggh…love you.

 Driver: (taken aback) Love you too.

 Driver arrives at location. Teenagers get in.

 Driver: (to teenager’s friend and in reference to choice of venue for dinner later) Hey, do you eat burgers?

 Teenage friend: Uhhhhh…nooooo…I eat bug’s eyebrows toasted over an open flame…

 Driver: (Showing an unusual lack of tolerance) Stop being a dick, I asked because seeing as I’m GETTING you dinner this evening I wanted to make sure you didn’t mind if it was a burger place, I mean, there are people who don’t eat burgers you know!!!

 Teenage friend: Oh. Uh, yeah, I eat burgers, of course!

 Toddler: Can you put my window down?

 Driver: Sure.


 Driver: Please B can you not shout?

 Toddler: My name is Mater Dog!

 Driver: OK Mater Dog, I’ll get your turtle when I stop the car. (To teenager) can you call your hair place and tell them we’re running about 15 minutes behind and see if that’s a problem?

 Teenager: Yuh. (Speaking to friend)…that guy looks like an ass…

 Teenage friend: …with no class…ass!

 Driver: Can you guys please not say that word so conveniently in front of her?

 Teenager: What word? ASS!!!




 Teenager: (Incredulous) Whuuuaaat?! YOU said it not us. Shout at yourself!

 Toddler: Dada, are you being a drama queen?

Driver: (ignoring toddler and instead addressing teenage friend who has been furiously working his fingers and thumbs since he sat in the car). What on earth are you doing?

 Teenager’s friend: It’s-called-texting! It’s something younger people do these days to stay in touch with each-oth-er…

 Driver: I KNOW that you pillock, believe it or not I, too, send text messages!!! I wondered WHO you’d been sitting there texting all the bloody time that was so important you couldn’t rip your eyes from the bloody phone! I mean, don’t you lot ever talk to each other anymore?

 Teenager’s friend: (sighs) Yesssss, of COURSE we ‘talk to each other’ to, but sometimes texting is a lot easier, like if you’re in class or someth—-

 Driver: IN CLASS?!?!?!?!?!

 Teenager’s friend: Well not exactly in CLASS I meant in school during lunch or if someone’s busy doing something where they can’t talk but still wanna stay in touch…

 Driver: Good God, I still cannot believe people don’t speak to each other anymore!

 Teenager: Oh stop exaggerating Dad!!!

 (The teenager turns to the toddler)


 Toddler: Where’s the pee and poo?

 Driver: He’s exaggerating; there isn’t any on there because we cleaned it. But please take it off your head, it isn’t a crown. And THERE’S NO NEED TO SHOUT AT HER ABOUT IT BACK THERE!!!!

 Toddler: Dada. Was there pee and poo on it? Where? Where was the pee and poo?

 Driver: (shouting even louder) THERE WASN’T ANY PEE OR POO!!!

 Toddler: Can I listen to Moby?

 Teenager: (in a low voice which driver hears)…or P Titty!!

(Both teenagers smirk and smother giggles with over-exaggerated hands-on-mouth gestures).

 Driver: I HEARD that and it isn’t even…I mean, come on! How old are you two? 8?

 (He is met with more sniggering. Driver finds Moby as the destination is reached)

 Driver: (to teenagers) Out out out! Call me when you’re done, should be an hour or so.

 Teenagers: (collective grunt) Suresnurfuhh-uhh-uhharrgghhyeah.





It is 20 minutes after the drop-off and the driver’s phone rings.


Driver: Hello?

Teenager: I’m done.

Driver: What? Highlights take a lot longer.

Teenager: They said they couldn’t do them because it’s after 5.

Driver: What bullshit! You made an appointment, you called them to say we were running late, can you put me onto the manager).

Teenager: Uhhhh, yeah.

There follows a 5 minute discussion with the manager of the Fillmore Supercuts. The driver explains that when an appointment is made for a service, that service should be carried out. The driver is perhaps a little edgier and more lively of vocabulary than that, but no four-letter words are fired off in anger. The driver speaks once again with the teenager.

Driver: I’ll call you to come out and help keep an eye on the car while I sort it out. I’m not happy. What’s the point in making an appointment?!

Teenager: Yeah, if you say you provide a service you should provide it!

Driver: Especially as you were very clear that you were getting a hair cut and highlights…

Teenager: Yeah, I said hair cut…


Driver: What about the highlights?

Teenager: Uhhh, I didn’t mention that on the phone when I made the appointment.

 Driver: (head in hands which are delicately placed on steering wheel) Good God man, you didn’t bloody well mention GETTING HIGHLIGHTS WHEN YOU MADE THE APPOINTMENT! THAT WAS THE IMPORTANT BIT! Thank you VERY much, I now owe a women an apology!!!

Teenager: Why, did you swear at her or something?

Driver: No I fucking DIDN’T swear at her!

Toddler: What did you say Daddy?

Driver: Trucking…trucking and a clucking like a duck!

(to teenager)

Be outside in 30 seconds.

Teenager: Urrnnnffff.

(There follows a contrite and earnest apology with the manager of Supercuts where it is explained that the driver thought information had been delivered which hadn’t. The manager nods sagely, denoting she has seen this more than once and graciously accepts the apology offered.)





Dinner is being eaten. The over-tired toddler is making a menagerie of strange noises and finding every excuse possible to avoid eating dinner whilst pressing for dessert. The teenagers have regressed to monosyllabic titters and double-entendres. The toddler will soon make her 6th trip to the toilet in 30 minutes, and the driver will for the 6th time in 30 minutes walk through the restaurant brandishing a toilet seat. The driver’s head feels like it’s being forced apart by a vice. Due to the ‘turd ‘n’ tinkle inducement program’* which is run from the driver’s home, demands for M&M’s have hit fever itch with every drop of urine which falls whilst on the seat. Driver considers it dangerous to encourage such hypoglycemic potential before dinner is finished, and thus refers toddler to the ‘M&M bank’.


Toddler: I want a popsicle!


Toddler: PLEASE may I have a popsicle?

Driver: Not until you finish your dinner.

Toddler: And where’s YOUR dinner Dada-dog?

Driver: In my tummy because I’ve finished it.

Teenager: Soon to be in the toilet!

Driver: Thanks for that.

Toddler: I need to go to the bathroom I need to go to the bathroom, King Caca’s coming.

Driver: No He isn’t, I know it’s a faker, finish your dinner!

Toddler: I’m done!

Driver: OK, then no popsicle because you didn’t eat enough.

Toddler: But I want one.

Driver: Then you finish your dinner.

Toddler: But I’m all done thank you…

There continues a seemingly futile exchange of the same words for 5 minutes before the driver raises his voice a level to break through. The toddler places some chicken on her head and laughs, yelling ‘CHICKEN HEAD, CHICKEN  HEAD’ and the driver sighs with defeated exasperation the teenagers laugh.


 Toddler: (working chicken which had been on head through fingers, singing to herself) P-titty Poo-Titty Pee-Titty Poo-Titty…


The driver stares at the shelf of liquor behind the bar and momentarily imagines himself on a beach in Mexico with two large margaritas sitting on a small table.

He then checks his watch.


Time to get home.

There is beer in the fridge and he will lock his ears as much as possible between leaving the restaurant and toddler bed-time.


*When the toddler says ‘the Princess is tickling’ it refers to Princess Pee Pee, thus her need to pee. A successful pee will thus equal 3 m&ms. When the toddler says ‘the King is knocking’ it refers to King Caca, thus her need to poo. A successful turd will thus equal 5 m&ms. Should the Princess and the King journey together, that equals 8 m&ms. There are no extra m&ms for more than one turd during a sitting. The author remains dubious as to the ramifications of such ‘reward for waste’ programs, and subsequently the ‘m&m bank’ has been introduced. He has, however, been forced to admit that it has resulted in one of the fastest toddler toilet trainings he has ever known of, but again is worried that later in life the toddler will be unable to use a toilet without m&ms.

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It must be tough.

One minute you had it. Right there. In your clutches, safely sequestered by your little fingers. The next… poof! Thin air my friend, thin air. It’s gone. Disappeared. Ceased to exist.  And then the sense of loss arrives, the sharp ache of dispair, humiliation and hurt, the full impact of  ‘it’s’  absence laying wreckage to your emotions and squeezing endless tears from your sad, tired eyes.

“What’ wrong?” I ask the distraught toddler, who’s standing and wailing in her bed, “what’s wrong honey?”


“Your ‘turtle’?”

“Yeah yeah my tuuurtle…”

And so I begin the search for ‘turtle’, a point of obvious consternation in her life that I can genuinely cannot say I have ever seen before. Turtle. Small, green and yellow apparently. Nope. No recollection. No memory of the missing ‘friend’, yet it appears that if I do not find ‘turtle’, she might never recover from the emotional scars.

 What, I ponder, could’ve hurtled this hitherto ‘bit part buddy’ into the foreground of her life? Could it have been the pee-tinged bath water she drank an hour ago? (Having peed in the bath, I asked her very nicely not to deliver on her promise to “drink the pee pee water” but alas my friends, sometimes the wrong thing is just too tempting.) Regardless… as I hunt fruitlessly around the house, in our garden and around our cars, word comes that ‘turtle’ has been found wrapped inside one of the three blankets which was shoved under another of her two pillows that covered a dozen plush friends which were supported by 6 books. Regrettably, her bed is like one of those capsule hotels they flog overnight stays at in Japan. But hey, crisis averted, the convulsions of sadness and woe slowly giving way to the security of being re-united with ‘turtle’, a ‘friend’ I shall now never, ever forget.

Having navigated that disaster, I come out to find the teenager lurking. One week until school breaks for the summer, but this week is all about finals. Not that you’d know. Indeed, having spent an entire car ride telling me how “stupid” the book ‘Raisin In The Sun’ is, he has now come up to snaffle a banana and announce how bored he finds himself.

“Might I suggest you go and study for your finals?” I ask.

“I just spent hours going over the video project we’re submitting as paragraph of our English final Dad, jeez!”

“Well what else is there to do for this final?”

“He’s given us a choice of creating other pieces which will help bring the book across, like one of the things is that we can make our own soundtrack CD as long as we explain why we picked the music we put on there…”

I do a double-take. This is school? It sounds like a daring and progressive invitation to actually enjoy the educational process via a final that, frankly, a motivated 10 year old could assemble with one functional ear and a slight interest in itunes. Obviously, as the teenager never tires of telling me, this is what the public system delivers. Except hang-on…the teenager seems incapable of finding the light in this particular tunnel, and he has a deep interest in itunes as well as two functional ears (though to be fair, there are times when that last bit needs closer scrutiny).

“Jesus Christ, that’s fan-fucking-tastic!” I roar, not using the King’s English, “that sounds excellent! Any ideas?”



“Uh. No. Dad. I just said no.”


“Why do you keep repeating ‘no’?”

“Because I cannot believe that this wonderful no brainer of a project has left you looking and sounding like a corpse starved of food and water!”

“That’s stupid, a corpse is starved of food and water because it’s a corpse!”


“Uh, OK…”

For what it’s worth, between the teenager and the toddler sometimes my mental gearbox gets stuck, and what those gears need is a little TLC, a dash of understanding, a touch of patience and a cold beer. When my teenager was a toddler I had it all under control, but these days there are times when I feel less ‘Leonardo Di Caprio on the bough of The Titanic’ than ‘Shelly Winters in The Posidon Adventure,’ trying to shove my uncertain fat arse through the treacherous waters and fluctuating currents of parenting two generations at the same time without getting stuck and drowning in the middle. Which, of course, is absolutely as much about you and your uncertainties as anything else. It’s why really, when all’s said and done, the two best things you can do are always move along swiftly, sunny-side up, and laugh whenever possible. Which is why when I look over the next morning to see the toddler leafing through “Pripyat And Chernobyl – Zones Of Exclusion” (a fine art book of post-nuclear evacuation photography) instead of grabbing it out of her hands, I sit and chuckle…

 …one thing the teenager and the toddler deliver consistently are plenty of good laughs…


p.s. My wife just returned from the library with the toddler. Out of approximately 1637 children’s books, the only one the toddler wanted to get was called “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. As I said, you have to laugh…


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“I wanna go Princess Pee-Pee!” squeals the wee one as she sprints towards the bathroom for the 13th time during the last 50 minutes. 

I am getting absolutely sick of it. She’s starting to spend more time in the toilet than me for God’s sake, and that is simply not on. The toilet (or ‘bathroom’) is MY escape, it always has been MY escape and I won’t share that rite of daily passage with anyone. Except I obviously will. Because I am. Right now. 


” ‘War And Peace’ perhaps?” I deadpan.

“No, the Mater (“Cars”) book, the Mater book please the Mater Book…”

“Oh OK, if you insist,” I sigh. I don’t own a copy of ‘War And Peace’ as it goes, though my wife tells me that there are times when my visits to the WC could surely have resulted in me writing the bloody thing.


 ‘Privacy’? She’s only just turned three! Of course, start moaning about how this sort of snappy toddler attitude is simply not on, and someone somewhere will be telling you about the fact ‘they have rights too.’ Thus why it pains me to admit that yes,  my Mother was right when she would cheerfully announce to anyone who cared listen that small children were “like animals You train them when they’re young, treat them properly and everything will turn out fine. You,” she always concluded, “were a wonderful child.” For years I wondered if this was because in my single-digit years I was led on all fours for long parts of the day and fed bowls of Chum for my supper, getting treats when I woofed at the right times…

Anyway, I digress. My daughter, as you might have gathered, is  toilet-training. An exciting prospect for sure, but also a daunting one. I like the concept, and the end result seems ever-blissfully-nearer. It’s just the middle bit, you know, the ‘rehearsals’ that have been ‘interesting’. The ‘mistakes’ as they’re delicately put. The moments when a turd slips out unannounced, uninvited and unwanted.  I honestly cannot remember how the teenager navigated the fetid gap between diaper and toilet. It’s been such a long time since he spent anything less than 10 minutes on the can with his playstation that the specifics of any early ‘accidents’ have been long forgotten.  What I DO remember though, is how when the teenager was a tot, I’d bravely scrape out the turds from his various pairs of underpants, stash the dirty scivvies in a bag and wash them. I was in my 20s, and any other action would’ve seemed frivolous, decadent and somewhat gauche. Now, in my early 40’s, when confronted by one of the toddler’s ‘mistakes, I hold my nose, peel the things off her, place the dirty knickers in a bag and grunt with delight as I throw the whole lot into a trash can. Funny how age levels out that time versus money equation.

The encouraging thing is that in the last couple of weeks, the toddler has correctly called the arrival of a brown fish, and delivered said-beast into the bowl via the toddler toilet-seat adaptor (explained in last week’s missive -ED) and she has not suddenly delivered a T-bomb in the paddling pool while running around for nudie swim-time in the garden. But it has to happen.  It will happen.  I know it. It’s why I have a spare ‘diaper bag’ (ironically) packed with a change of clothes, wipes, more wipes, elbow-length rubber gloves and a butchers apron.* You know it. I just hope that when it does, I am not in the middle of my daily side job as a cabbie.

Yes folks, despite not having a medallion or cabbie’s license, I am officially a taxi driver. I drive my son to school. I drive my daughter to pre-school. I sometimes also drive my wife to work. Then I pick up my daughter from pre-school. Then I later pick up my wife from work, but not before I’ve picked up my son en route from his school. And then I will doubtless have to drive my son to some practice or other which will be just a little to long to make sticking around practical thus I will be left with the choice of hanging at some dumpy little coffee shop and jacking up on unnecessary caffeine or booting it home to get 20 precious minutes respite in the loo before racing back.

“That’ll be 22 dollars sixty please!” I am often heard yelling loudly on such days, to the general disgust of my family who simply sigh and move on with other more important issues like cleaning their fingernails, yawning or ignoring me.

“Can you put your window up?”

This gem can come from either the toddler or the teenager, the former because she just wants to boss me around whenever possible, the latter because he wants to open his window to throw ‘biodegradable items’ out of it when I’m not looking. At such moments I have to remember that I am not a cabbie, I am ‘the designated driver’ and as such, ‘the designated driver’ has first assertion of such matters. Just like ‘the driver’ has first dibs on the best-placed cup-holder, and just like ‘the driver’ has first refusal on the tunes played as they drive. 

Instead the reality is that most of the time, the toddler calls the tune shots. Which means that this month, we have as a mobile family unit, heard Moby’s “Last Night” about 63 times. If your math tells you that’s just over twice a day, grab a gold star from the teacher on your way out because frankly, I’m sure I understate. So there we have it, an abbreviated slice of my current employment beyond the paycheck…chauffeur, shit-shoveler and DJ… what else am I missing? Answers on a postcard…



*before anyone asks, those last two were a joke.

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