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Archive for April, 2009

I haven’t said much about the teenager in recent weeks because, frankly, there hasn’t been much to say. Trust me, this is a good thing. Aside from the occasional collapse into primordial whinging, the occasional ‘I am the world and nothing else exists’ space-out plus a little too sister-ribbing at the dinner table, he is a rare bird. The non-problematic teenager. Even his hair has calmed down. Compared to the horror stories I’ve been told, his is a tranquil teenage existence, and whilst I know he’s only going to be 17 in May and there’s plenty of time for it to get worse, I’ve been fearing such decline since 13 and it hasn’t happened like ‘they’ said it would yet.

We took off to the home of the San Francisco Spurs Supporters Club the other day to watch the boys in action along with a stack of other people. Dirty songs were sung and there was liberal use of Anglo-Saxon English throughout the match, most of it unfortunately from me but he wasn’t beyond a few choice morsals himself. I’ve always had my own rule on this; IF cursing occurs whilst watching footy, it is fine. IF cursing occurs whilst not watching footy, it is not fine. ‘Watching footy’ extends itself to cover the times before and after a match when you’re either gearing up or winding down.

When we’re in the UK and actually at a live match, I will now share a pre-match pint with him (legal in the UK, well, sort of, I mean as long as you’re not wearing short trousers and a school uniform, most people turn a blind eye). I once shared two with him. He fell asleep on the drive home, but he was also fighting jet-lag it must be said, having arrived that time in the UK only the day before.

I understand that to some people here, bringing your nearly-17 year old son to pubs to watch football, to matches back home, allowing (and indeed, encouraging) the singing of songs which make dirty limericks seem like nursery rhymes and allowing him to drink the odd beer with you would be considered irresponsible. Starting with the US government, for whom as I understand it, some of the above would be defined ‘illegal.’ To which I say, bollocks. Or even, bollocks and could you pass me a beer please? I mean seriously, as long as context is applied, such things are not only FUN times to share with your teenager, but HEALTHY. My son understands that the language used whilst watching Spurs is not necessarily for everyday speech, and further, he is not remotely interested in trying to guzzle alcohol whenever my back is turned. In fact, I’d argue that it’s been an IMPORTANT part of his upbringing. He has, thanks to a couple of beers now and then plus a smattering of four-letter words in the presence of his father, learnt WHEN it’s appropriate to behave like a reprobate/neanderthal/be-a-geezer, versus the alternative which would see the poor lad explode in teenage immaturity whenever beyond my gaze and most likely in the worst of places and at the worst of times.

We also go to the movies. Yes, ’tis true, Jason Statham films are enjoyed by us in all their glorious ‘geezerness’, but equally, films like Polanski’s “The Pianist” and Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” are not only watched, but discussed in great detail. We’ll visit art galleries from time to time, not because I think you HAVE to, but because there’s sometimes something I’m really interested to see, and as such (being that he’s my son) I want to expose him to it too. He’s seen exhibitions featuring Damien Hirst, Matthew Barney, Olafur Eliasson, Gerhard Richter  and as recently noted, we went to an Andy Warhol retrospective with his sister. We discuss politics from time to time (although to be fair, we’re more likely to discuss football, but we touch base on world affairs) and as I drive him to school in the mornings, we listen to 92.7 Energy’s Fernando & Greg in the morning, a hilarious morning show with a decidedly gay bent as both the presenters are gay. We’ve also been to many, many gigs, as much because of my work as anything, but nonetheless, major gigs with superb and supremely loud music at a late hour. 

He is exposed to many things, a menagerie of material actually, which is why when I think about people who never swear in front of their children, or who never allow a sip of alcohol to pass their children’s lips in their presence, is laughable. In fact, I consider such repression/repressive attitudes to be one of the biggest problems in society, as it breeds a creature literally itching to engorge themselves on what they sadly view as ‘verboeten’ behavior. And when it comes to fathers and sons, it is VITAL that the relationship embraces all angles of being a man, and not just the ‘you-listen-I-tell-you’ dynamic which, if pursued vigorously through childhood, will end with a series of curiously mute ‘exchanges’ between father and son during the later teenage years.

So whatever the government or prudish members of the public might think, I will continue to go and watch football at silly hours in bars with my son, making sure we belt out our usual array of colorful songs and saucy language, and when we go to the UK I will absolutely make sure he enjoys a beer or two before the match (no more). When the opportunity to see a wonderfully shitty yet entertaining movie arises, we’ll be there, equally, if a great piece of cinema presents itself, count us in. Good art? Not an issue, let’s go. And thus, as he makes his way further into the world of independence, I can feel comfortable about the man I’ve helped raise who’s going into it. Balanced. Kind. Aware. Sensitive. Funny. Loving. Occasionally a pain in the arse of course, but overall, great value for any social event, and generally a credit to himself. His manners and personal conduct are, as I would expect, decent with me but more importantly excellent when he’s not around me. I know this because I hear it from others, and they’re not the sort of people to blow smoke anywhere, trust me.

So in closing, a few words of advice to young fathers with their sons. Enjoy the pleasures of music together. If you enjoy sport, get out there and play, sure, but also GO TO SOME LIVE GAMES and watch games on the TV when you can; it’s your biological right. Don’t be bullied into thinking otherwise. Make sure you bring your boys to the cinema a fair few times, if only so as they appreciate the big screen over small, and if there’s a painting or sculpture you like, make ’em go with you and explain WHY you like (because none of them really LIKE it at first -unless you’re looking at a Damien Hirst pickle- but in the end they find full appreciation of it)…and for fuck’s sake, DO NOT BE AFRAID OF SWEARING ONCE IN A FUCKING WHILE!!!! They WILL survive so long as they understand the power of context and the necessity of gauging situations. 

You might well receive opposition to some of these activities from your other half, but it’s OK…this is part of the deal, and quite simply, you must force the issue for the good of everyone. Not the least your boys. Because believe me, when your old and grey, the memories you’ll share with your boy(s) by the fireplace will include times such as when you went up to Leeds following Spurs and sang “Fat Aussie Wanker, he’s just a Fat Aussie Wanker!” as much as that family picnic on 4th of July. 

“Dad? What’s a slapper?” he once asked me after an extended chorus of ‘here for the slappers’ rung around St.James Park four years ago, Spurs about to close out a 1-0 defeat of Newcastle*….those are the moments, and those are the questions, you’ll laugh about forever. In order to do so, however, you have to share them in the first place. So be sure you do.

 

 

*As we walked to get dinner in the early evening, dozens of young women tottered around in high heels with micro-skirts, clearly out-numbering the young blokes and seemingly up for a fun evening. “Remember that question you asked?” I said to the boy. He nodded. And I simply pointed at a gaggle of the young women who had congregated outside a wine-bar. He looked at me and nodded again. Not another word was spoken. We both knew he’d understood. He was 13 years old. I reiterated the ‘phrase & context’ speech, and he understood.

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Where, oh where oh where oh where, do small children get their boundless amounts of energy from? Last night, I took off to see my favorite action hero, Jason Statham, in the glorrifically un-PC “Crank 2,” a film so utterly and wonderfully tasteless that in 88 minutes it voraciously insults everyone for you without the dirty imprint of such stigmas staining your skin. Theraputic after an aggravating day? Oh I think so. Anyhow, Statham has a plastic heart for most of the film, and as such needs to ‘juice’ himself with violent amounts of electricity to stay alive until he finds his real one. Thus we see Statham connecting himself to car batteries, to power outlets and to power poles.It is not Tarchovsky or Kubrick, but it is supreme vulgar and escapist entertainment of the most visceral order. And as I drove home, chuckling at the sheer insanity of Statham’s energy, I resolved to make sure socket plugs were firmly in place back at home, because whilst the pre-schooler does not combust or punch Triad gang members to oblivion, she can certainly wear down her Mum and Dad with a relentless combination of action, question and sheer need. In fact, one of those relentless combinations was the reason i got in the damn car and drove to see “Crank 2” in the first place!

Whilst said-pre-schooler’s combination is for the large part manageable and fun, there are times when it really isn’t. You know, as you sit on the throne trying to steal 5-10 minutes peace and quiet only to hear the mini-hammer at the door, banging away, asking for help with this or that or the other. When you’re trying to sleep later than 6 am, though to be fair my wife takes the brunt of that strain as her maternal hearing is better than mine (being a mater and all). When you’re trying to make dinner, when you’re trying to get ready to get out of the house, I don’t know, sometimes it seems like all the time. 

And then comes the grumpy cloud. You turn into ever such a bit of a dick. Sarcasm rears it’s ugly head. And then bursts of frustration. You end up sounding like an Italian family having a dinner-time squabble, unintelligable high-pitched shrieks and grunts punctuated occasionally with the sound of your hands slapping against your ears.

And then comes the guilt.

Because let it not be ignored, every single parent feels guilt from time to time. Guilt that they cannot be more patient. Guilt that their reactions are not like the textbooks say they should be. Guilt that they cannot control their anger better. Guilt that they simply cannot be better people sometimes towards their kids. And unless it’s caught quickly and processed evenly, that guilt becomes anger in itself, and before you know it, you’ve wasted a few hours being grumpy and angry that you’re not the model of soothing parental perfection society always seems to pop out as it’s public face.

I’m not going to get new-age here and deliver a formula to tell you how you can avoid ever having these moments again. I am not a guru. And you know what? Even if I was and I told you I had the answer, I’d be a liar. Because the truth is, no-one has, and the deeper truth to THAT is because there IS no answer. It’s simply human nature. It’s simply the way it is. And the dark, dirty secret of life is that in EVERY house in EVERY city in EVERY country which has children, parents will sometimes feel ALL of those things just mentioned. 

It’s not a popular thing to admit. Indeed, such is the fear in our society to admit that ANYTHING we do is sometimes imperfect that you can bet your last dollar no-one will admit as much to YOU at the sandbox, but it is a fact! Just like it’s a fact that everyone has had zits and that everyone has (and likely still does) masturbate. Well add ‘not being the greatest parent in the world always’ to that list, because for my money, the sooner all parents start accepting that they are, on occasions, unreasonable and even total dicks to their children, the better off we’d all be for it. 

It’s not rocket-science figuring out why. The majority of parents are in their mid-30s, some in their early 40s. And unless you have a phlanx of helpers, chances are that by 7.30pm, your energy levels and expectations of the evening ahead are simply not the same as your children’s. Most of the time it’s fine; you’re ready, you’re able and you’re willing. But sometimes you’d rather drink battery acid, or go and sit in a dark closet with a pillow just to get some rest, or be out with your pals getting hammered, or be in Rio on a beach enjoying pina coladas and various vistas, or you’d rather simply not have to deal. And for a long time I wrestled with the disappointment I felt in myself for feeling like that (I still do occasionally, like this week for example). It didn’t seem right. It seemed wrong. I felt like I was a poor parent for not always being able to navigate around such emotions and aggravations. But this isn’t true. We can’t always be spot-on all the time, and show me someone who claims they are and I will show you either a) a liar or b) someone who has nannies and au pairs step in before they reach those times in the day.

A long time ago, when the teenager was in primary school, I came upon the notion that if I was in ‘dickhead’ form as I like to self-recognize (n.b. this is not a medical term) that i would immediately inform him and let him know that ‘Dad was a bit grumpy so please go easy on him and that it was nothing to do with him at all, that it was just Dad’s thing.’ At least, I reasoned, they wouldn’t think it was them. 

And recently, with the pre-schooler, thanks to a heady combination of no-napping, early rising, extreme energy and the occasional wander down Anxiety Avenue, my exasperation (caused, no doubt, by my own lack of sleep time-table…fruit and trees eh?…) demanded that I dig deep and try to find something else. So we made a deal. If she wound me up, if I was too grumpy to her, if we were BOTH grating each other like nails on chalkboard, then even if we’d exchanged a cross-word or 20, we’d make sure we gave out a big, strong hug. A positive release of pressure and frustration. Because seriously, sometimes there’s nothing else left to do other than stew in it.

What it means is that I am still, sadly, inevitably and naturally, an occasionally inadequate dickhead in my dealings with the kids. It’s not right, it’s not wrong, it just ‘is’ part of normal, everyday life. And whilst it’s still hard for me to accept that, accept it I do as much as I can. At least now, along with the standard apology, they get a hug at the end of it all.

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DRUGS & FRUIT JUICE

DO YOU HEAR ME SON, I want one of every single fucking drug you sell, double-strength, and I want them in a brown paper bag which I’ll pick up in 25 minutes, otherwise I’ll administer fruit juice to you in ways you never dreamed were possible…you hear me son?

“(muffled sound, wind) Fru…fruit joooooce…OK. Yes.”

“You like the sound of that son, really? REALLY?”

“Your drugs are…they’re here Mr….drugs…”

At this point, I assume you’re wondering what this has to do with parenting, and if you’re not then consider yourself a filthy deviant who needs more help than most. Regardless, allow me to explain.

The teenager has friends. Those friends have phones. Those phones are potential prank call weapons. It is the sort of awareness you need when the parent of one of these tribal miscreants, because you never know when they’re going to jump on your back and take you down with a bit of cheese-wire…a slight dramatic license I’ll grant you, but what I’m driving at is the youth’s ability to get you when you least expect it, to exploit your vulnerability. And being that we’re in the age (and culture) where everyone has a cellphone, it is the easiest and most accessible medium.

So there I was, toodling along from a playgroup with the pre-schooler in the back, rush-hour traffic not touching my world too badly when my phone rings. I pop my ear-piece in and press the ‘talk’ button. I do not recognize the number, though it is local. My guard is already up.

“Hello,” I say gruffly.

“H…he…helloMrShitarsey, MrShitarsey you drugs…drugs in parking lot for your son…I have drugs for him you collect…”

“Stop mumbling and speak up goddamit!!!!”

“YesisthisMrShitarsy?”

“MR SHITARSY?”

“YesMrShitarsy is, uh, you because we have son’s drugs in parking lot of Safeway, 16th St…”

“(trying to figure out which one of his various mob it is, settle on name, decide to ride this dog & pony show to the bitter end) SHITARSY EH? Drugs…yeah I want the drugs. I want them all. I’m a Shitarsy who wants the goddam drugs. You got them all?”

“(voice brightens a touch) Yes! In parking lot, you can collect from Safeway, in parking lot, pharmacy drugs…”

“OK son, listen here and listen good (my ‘tough guy Americanism that, ‘listen good’). I want all the drugs you have, at double-strength, in a brown paper bag and I’m coming over to get them in 25 minutes you hear me?”

“Wh…wh..wha…drugs in parking lot, your son’s…”

At this point I decide, off the cuff, to scream as loudly as I can.

“AIIIIIIIIEEEIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEE!”

There is no reaction, just ambient noise and wind.

(Pre-schooler from backseat: Dad, what are you doing?

Me to pre-schooler: Dealing with miscreant friends of your brothers.’)

“So anyway, did you hear me? Every fucking drug you have AT DOUBLE STRENGTH IN A BROWN BAG IN 25 MINUTES?”

“Y…yes, you collect from Safeway at 16th Street.” 

“DO YOU HEAR ME SON, I want one of every single fucking drug you sell, double-strength, and I want them in a brown paper bag which I’ll pick up in 25 minutes, otherwise I’ll administer fruit juice to you in ways you never dreamed were possible…you hear me son?”

“(muffled sound, wind) Fru…fruit joooooce…OK. Yes.”

“You like the sound of that son, really? REALLY?”

“Your drugs are…they’re here Mr….drugs…”

I was closing in on home and the traffic was getting a bit thicker, thus I let out one more manic laugh and hung up.

5 minutes later, my phone rang again with a number I recognized. It actually was the Safeway Pharmacy.

“Good evening sir, are you a Mr …?”

“I am indeed how can I help you?”

“Well your son’s medication was found in the parking lot and has been returned to us so whenever you’d like to come in and pick it up, we have it here…”

“Funny, I just got a call doubtless from one of his miscreant friends trying to pull my chain…but how would they have been able to sign for it? How could someone sign his prescription out without ID?”

“I don’t know anything about that Sir, but the medication disc was found in the parking lot by one of our employees. They said they contacted you but…”

“Hang on, would they have tried me from a cellphone?”

“It’s very possible Sir, I cannot tell you for sure, but…”

“Did this employe have a thick accent, almost teenage sounding but from another country, maybe Latino, a little hard to understand?”

“Well Sir, to be honest he is kinda retarded.”

‘Kinda retarded’…it took me all of 3 seconds to burt out laughing. I had just been yelling at some poor retarded chap, culminating with a threat to administer fruit juice to him in highly despicable and nefarious ways. I was mildly embarrassed but far more amused, especially as I remembered that he’d a replied a straight, crisp ‘yes’ to the threat of the fruit juice administration.

I explained all this to the pharmacy fellow, and he allowed himself a hearty laugh.

“Could you please convey to this gentleman that I am so sorry but I thought he was one of my son’s friends prank-calling me?” Thanks you.

“Absolutely Sir, I will, and thank YOU for making me laugh.”

I sat in silence for a moment before breaking into first a giggle fit and then a panic about the fact that maybe he was part of a larger, more elaborate prank. So I gave the pharmacy one more quick ring. They confirmed that I did, indeed, have a disc waiting for my son. That it had been found by a Safeway employee and handed in. The same Safeway employee to whom I had said I would administer fruit juice in deviant ways unless he got me every single drug they stocked at twice the strength. The retarded Safeway employee. I called the teenager’s mother.

“Yes, I have his meds in the back of the car in a grocery bag!”

“No you don’t, they’re siting at Safeway’s Pharmacy and I’ve just finished 10 minutes of abusing a retarded employee.”

“What?”

“Don’t worry, I’ll pick it up and explain later…”

When I told the teenager what had happened a few hours later, he laughed loudly before asking a very reasonable question.

“Dad. Who do you know that I know who’d do this?”

“I don’t know, maybe someone from where you work, maybe Frankie, I have no idea…”

“Well next time you should think about it because none of my friends could be bothered to do that.”

He’s right. 1-0 to the teenager. Except now, because he has the fuel of this story in him, I suspect he will put one of his buddies up to it. But I’m prepared. And I’ll take the risks…it’s what you have to do when you’re the parent of one of these tribal miscreants…

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She had just popped off the toilet seat and pulled her pants up when she directed my gaze towards the bowl.

“Look Dada, a hair-tie.”

I didn’t think much of it. A long-haired woman had vacated the WC moments before, and left behind her such a grotesque smell that I immediately thought it must be hers. It was, at best, a tenuous connection, and perhaps I just wanted to blame her for even more than the noxious fumes I’d had to extinguish with the provided air-freshner (perhaps women in their late 50s/early 60s just don’t care about that sort of thing anymore, juxtaposed with your early 20’s-40’s ladies who actually get poo-shy in public). Anyway, I digress. 

“Oh yes, ” I said distractedly as I pushed the air-freshner’s relief nozzle and the flush at the same time. We left the tilet. And as we descended the stairs back into Farley’s, it began.

“Have I got…two hair-ties still?” she said, frantically slapping her head. 

“No, just the main one…oh wow, that one must’ve been yours.”

It was as though I had pierced her skin with a red-hot poker. She literally exploded into tears, a loud, wounded cry roaring from her mouth. To me, it was the sort of disproportionately bizarre action you used to see at school from certain teachers (you know, you broke a pencil or accidently belched and the next thing either your bum was wearing the headmaster’s whipping stick stripes or there was a letter demanding your expulsion en route to parents). I simply could not make sense of it.

“What on earth is going on honey?” I tried. 

“IT’S GONE IT’S GONE DOWN THE TOILET AND IT WAS TONI’S SHE GAVE IT TO ME AND IT’S GONE WUUAAAAHHHHHHHH…”

Toni is her after-school sitter for three days a week, and as such, it is wholly possible that she would’ve given the pre-schooler a hair tie. Equally, I was comfortable in the knowledge that it likely came from a pack of  80, sold at Walgreens for $1.19 or something, and that as such, it’s loss would not be mourned by Toni like, say, a flushed $100 bill might be. I immediately set about making this clear.

“It’s fine honey, it was an accident and I can assure you she will not be bothered at all.”

“B..B…BUT IT’S GONE, IT’S GONE AND IT WAS TONI’S AND IT’S GONE…”

“Look at me honey. Trust me. She will be fine about it. It is not a big deal.”

By this point she was still wailing like operatic Italian funeral, and I realized she needed to be ‘shocked’ into a reset. Thus I swept her up, marched her outside and sat her down.

“Listen. This is ridiculous. You must trust me. Toni will be fine about it. We can get her another one of it’s that much of an issue. Now just take some deeeeep breaths (deep breaths were taken), wipe your face with this tissue and let’s move on.” 

“Daddy?”

“Yes.”

“Will you call Toni?”

“Of course, she will be fine, trust me.”

“And can we get more?”

“Yes, of course we can.”

“and Daddy?”

“Yes.”

“Where has the hair tie that was flushed down the toilet gone?”

Quickly realizing we needed a shot of humor and imagination, I drew on the title of a favorite film.

“It’s swimming all the way to Madagascar!”

“Heee hee hee, it’s gone to Madagascar!” she giggled. Game, set and match I thought. Life can continue…

 

A few hours later we were driving, just running errands.

“Daddy?”

“Yes.”

“Is the hair tie going to Madagascar?”

“Yes it is, I told you already, please forget about the hair tie, really, it’s fine.”

“OK…

Daddy?”

“YES!”

“Did you speak to Toni?”

” I couldnt get her on the phone, TRUST ME, SHE WILL NOT CARE (ABOUT THE POXY FUCKING .5 CENT STUPID FUCKING HAIR FUCKING TIE…) I didn’t say the bit in parenthesis, buy by God I thought it.

“Why? Why couldn’t you find her?”

“Because she texted me to say she has a temperature of 103.5, so she actually has some more pressing issues to attend to right now if you can believe that. Which you should. Because it will be OK!”

“Oh…

Daddy?”

“(blood pressure rising, teeth gritting like a council truck on an icy road) YES! WHAT IS IT?!”

“You shouldn’t have flushed the toilet because that’s why Toni’s hair-tie is on it’s way to Madagascar.”

“(approaching defcon) JESUS CHRIST, WIL YOU LET IT GO AND TRUST ME, IT DOESN’T MATTER! IT’S FINE! NO WORLD WARS WILL START. And ANYWAY, the moment a hair tie hits toilet water, it is officially dead to me…”

As I said it, I knew…her tears were welling up.

“Did you say dead Daddy? What do you mean? I thought it was going to Madagascar?”

“Figure of speech figure of speech, it’s alive, but I meant I wouldn’t use a hair-tie that had swum in fecal waters.”

“Fecal waters?”

“POOEY WATERS!”

“Hee hee hee, pooey WATERS!”

Thank God for that. And once I’d put The Prodigy’s ‘Take Me To The Hospital’ on, I thought we were out of the waters. Indeed, we picked up Mum a few hours later having not said anything about it. Mum got in the car. The pre-schoolers face dropped.

“Mama…Toni’s hair tie fell in the toilet and Dada flushed it to Madagascar…was that Toni’s or was it yours?”

“Yours!” I grit-whispered.

“Mine,” she said confidently.

“Well…I don’t think it was yours Mama, I think it was Toni’s because it was brown.”

“Why are you still worrying about it?” I asked, “how many times can I tell you to trust me, that it’s fine!”

“I don’t know, why am I still worrying about it Dada?”

“I don’t know. But you must learn to let it go, you don’t need to fixate or worry about it. Please. For your own good. We can get some new ones if you want and we’ll give them to her tomorrow.”

“OK.”

It only came up three more times before bed, so progress was contextually rampant.

She ran into the bedroom this morning and yelled ‘wake up wake up WAAAAKKKEEE UPPPPPPP’ like she often does, except immediately she started talking about it. yes. It.

“Daddy…we have to get Toni hair-ties OK? And can you talk to her about it? Will you tell her it went to Madagascar because I accidently put it in the toilet and yiu flushed?”

“Yes,” I replied calmly with a smile, “yes I will.”

And I did. On both counts. A new packet of $2 wonders was presented to Toni, and before it could escape her little lips, I explained in grave detail the entire accident. At first Toni looked at me like I was a crazy man, which was a relief actually because after telling that story to someone who hadn’t lived it you SHOULD sound like one. And she speedily said she did not, indeed, give a monkey’s chuff about it, that it was fine, and furthermore she was delighted to receive a whole package of new ones. Thus I have to believe that the  hair tie drama has concluded.

There again, I haven’t picked her up yet.

 

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The teenager has a new job, working the ball-park concessions, and thus far it’s going very well. Indeed, last night he told me this little sales story (he was strapped with a 50lb coffee aqualung and walking the stands). Apparently, when a customer asked about the coffee, he asked the teenager if ‘it came with real cream or that fake shit, because I don’t like that fake shit.’ Quick as a flash the teenager replied, ‘Sorry Sir, it comes with that white shit.’ The customer started laughing and said, ‘that’s cool, because you actually said ‘white shit’ I’m going to buy one.’

I offer up this story because quite frankly, I am pleased a proud that my son’s judicious use of sarcasm and bone-dry humor were exercised so cleverly. It’s a fine line knowing when to say ‘shit’ at your job, and whilst I always felt he has a great sense of the moment, you can never be sure until it arrives. It did, and he took the opportunity well.

He told me he’s made some great tips. With his superb combination of manners and humor like that, I’m not surprised.

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I know I have already lost some of you. But I don’t care. This is for those of us who understand that occasionally it is OK to succumb to the materialistic urges of an insane, modern world in order to feel a whole lot fucking better about your ‘moment.’

Here’s the story.

I woke up feeling grumpy and not entirely in the mood to deal with the pre-schooler on Spring Break (yes, the one I just wrote about LOL)…

I decided that the only thing which would help ME would be to run an errand at Target which had been mooted for sometime; the purchase of some sand toys for the coming warm months. We set off. We arrived. I found our favorite show to watch together, “Bunnytown”, on DVD and I bought it. I purchased her a new swimsuit which she was excited about. I purchased her some new sneakers which she will wear, put on herself and likes. I then purchased her a Princess nightie-wand-slippers set. I then purchased her a black, sparkly Tinkerbell t-shirt. I then purchased her some chewy vitamins and I then went to the checkout. Total? $123.22 cents.

“You’ve spoiled me!” the pre-schooler said. And I had. But once in a while, amidst the rules and the more rules and the more rules than that, it’s OK. Just like it’s OK, every so often, to go and spend money when you’re in a shitty mood. I know I know, there’s currently a crop of hemp-wearing vegans who would like to firebomb my home, teargas my car and drag me into the street, entrails following behind me, as they parade my filthy materialistic hide like a trophy. But I am not a banker (I said banker!) and I am not a vegan either. I was once an angry young man, and to a greater extent I remain upset at the corporate robbery and governmental meddling which has caused so much of the bullshit currently flowing through streets worldwide. But basically, I am also a normal person. And as such, occasionally normal people will do things like this. And it’s OK.

I decided to write this not because I feel the need to confess, but more because I know there are others out there who beat themselves up over such behavior. Just like those moments when you let them watch more than 30 mins of TV; sometimes it is OK. Seriously. They won’t die of neglect if this happens once in a while, and as much to the point, you won’t die of grumpy stress.

Missive over!!!!!

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE!!!!!

3.44pm. The pre-schooler’s down for a nap. We went swimming and then each got big, fat dirty McDonald’s for lunch, and dumped it all on trays and sat on the sofa watching “Bunnytown” (the modern Lord’s gift to children’s TV) and stuffed our mouthes with their politically incorrect food. And it was fan-bloody-tastic!!!! Delicious!!!! In that shitty junk-food way. You know, the one that every once in a while you just plough your face through. Incidentally, “Bunnytown” is made by another corporate monster, Disney. And it’s excellent!!! Whoopeeeeee!!! A P.C. afternoon? I doubt it!!! Whay-haaaaaaay!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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If Mussolini had procreated with Stalin (I have Mussolini as being the one who actually gives birth) then perhaps the offspring would’ve been our pre-schooler.

I wouldn’t say she’s defiant, but if you told her that a house fire was not the place to toast a marshmallow, unless you chained her to a fence she’d be down there elbowing the fire department out of the way, marshmallows in one hand and long skewers  in the other. “I CAN DO IT, I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING!” Some singed hair? A small price to pay for sticking to YOUR guns, despite a consistent age (and experience) disparity of  thirty-eight and a half years.

This new world order is literally flooding the days and nights, and when coupled with a re-up  of  ‘former-stages’ dramatic reactive collapse to things like brushing a fingernail against the wall, or tapping a toe against the bath-mat, then it really can be a tad taxing. Indeed, I have found myself in the middle of some of the most absurd arguments possible this week. Yesterday, the pre-schooler said she wanted to wear a certain shirt under a certain ‘dress-shirt’ top. I told her it didn’t look great. She told me she didn’t care. I told her I didn’t care that she didn’t care, that it looked silly. She told me she liked it. I told her it didn’t matter if she liked it, she wasn’t wearing it. She started whining. I told her to stop whining. She carried on whining and said she was going to wear what she wanted. I suddenly realized that I was actually fighting a pathetic battle, an unimportant challenge which didn’t need engagement. After all I was no Yves St Laurant in my Spurs training shorts, plimsoles and black t-shirt resplendent with two murky cereal stains. 

But when you are dealing with someone who tries to tell you how many more bites of dinner they’ll eat, who tries to tell you they don’t need a bath tonight and who tries to tell you that they will brush their own hair and you should leave them alone, well, pettiness is remarkably easy to subscribe to. Often you feel like a droning control-unit, your gruff, monotone voice rising and lowering to accentuate a point, your grim determination not to be steam-rolled by a small child of great willpower resulting in a blast of rules and regulations.

The power, the sheer power in that small frame…it’s extraordinary. Daunting. No need to let the mind wander to her teenage years, no need to speculate as to what those might mean, no no not at all…better to keep it short-term focus, and if the mind drifts near that territory, think instead of the teenager and how he has turned out to be a pretty decent, responsible guy.

Better to actually try and do the old ‘spend a day in their shoes’ thing. So I tried it. I tried thinking like a pre-schooler who’s suddenly inundated with a whole burst of new knowledge, new skills and new perceptions. You want to use them. You think you can. You’re pretty good at articulating what you want, but damn it, what a bummer, you’re thirty-eight and a half years younger than these people who keep on feeding you, being your parents and being your best friends. Frankly, it’s a large pain in the arse, because if they just LET you get on with it then it would all be fine. They’d be in a better mood too!!!!!!!

I’m not sure exactly how it helps in 80% of the situations we find ourselves in, because boundaries are boundaries and it’s important to parent properly and use them. I suppose what it does more than anything is offer a reminder as to the frustrations of being their age, because it is easy to forget, it is easy to forget that they cannot just ‘listen’ at that age, that everything has to go through one enormous processor still…it’s easy to forget all that, plus it’s also easy o forget that these are phases, that their little minds get flushed with new ‘software’ on a cyclic basis, and as such, once it settles in, they return to normal for a few months until the next update.

One of the things I’ve started doing (and which I did with the teenager) is recognizing that she’s smart and as such empowering her to know herself better; yes, it’s a heady concept at the best of times for any age, but if you start young then I think it helps later on when things get weird. So when she’s being the Mussolini/Stalin offspring, I tell her (amidst the telling off) that she’s better than that, she’s more than her current behavior, she’s a nicer person than who she’s being. I impress upon her how powerful she is as a person but with that power it’s important to remember to be positive as often as possible, to affect situations in people in good ways and not bad.

It was a main reason why, on our way to go swimming yesterday, we stopped when we saw an injured seagull. It’s wing was broken and it was hopping down the middle of the road, wing dragging on the floor, bloodied, looking dazed and confused. I was disturbed by the prospect of it being savaged by other animals in a grizzly fashion, or just simply dying a slow death, so I mentioned to the pre-schooler that I was going to call animal control to come and get it. 

“It’s the right thing to do, to help anything that’s hurt like that,” I said, and she piped up with immediate agreement. I told her it would delay us by 20-25 minutes from swimming, and she replied that it was OK, “because it will be nice to help the bird and get it to hospital where it can get it’s wing better.”

As we waited for animal control to come, she asked me if she could sing a lullaby for the bird out of the car window. So I lowered the window and she sang a song about going to sleep and seeing your Mummy and Daddy. And then animal control came, netted the poor beleagured bird, and took it away. There’s not much you can do for a gull with a broken wing other than make sure it passes with dignity and not savaged on the street. 

About four hours later, just as it was getting dark, the pre-schooler pointed to the sky.

“THERE SHE IS!” she shouted, “HER WING’S FIXED! HER WING’S FIXED, WHEEEEEEEEEEEEE…”

And I asked her if she was happy she’d helped the bird. 

“YEAH!”

And I told her that it was a very nice thing to have that trait, that it was a nice way to be, that quality people do quality things like that. And that with her power and niceness, she was a quality person for helping like that.

I can’t be sure how much of it she took on…kids are, after all, kids…but I figure that if you keep reinforcing their strengths (and this little pre-schooler has many) then they will surely graduate quickly from being the offspring of Mussolini and Stalin to the sort of offspring that Ghandi and Mandela might’ve been friends with (in her case, throw in a bit of George Carlin and Gary Larson for more accurate flavor). 

Such vivacious lifeforce and energy demands that we stop moaning about how hard it can be, and embrace our job of chanelling that stuff into positive veins as best we can…not that the odd burst of ‘fuck’ and ‘jesusfuckingchrist’ isn’t entirely permissable (and natural)…it’s just important to make sure it remains the ‘odd burst’ and not the standard reaction.

I think I get the balance just about right…

 

p.s. I mentioned in my ‘sick’ bit last week that I would write about how the word PENIS came to be a bit of a problem in the car. Simply put, a radio show we listen to suddenly mentioned ‘the healthy penis’ (part of a sex education program they run) and immediately, the pre-schooler started saying (musically) ‘heal-thy PENIS! heal-thy PENIS!’ The worst of it was that only moments earlier I’d been talking to the teenager and unusually let slip that a certain footballer was a ‘fucking twat’ rather loudly. I’d caught myself and quickly darted a look back to the pre-schooler to see if it had registered; she’d looked back at me with a blank expression before darting the slightest of grins across her face with a little ‘sparkle’ running across her eyes. She’d heard it and damn well heard it just fine. She simply hadn’t repeated it. THAT…is scary!

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