Aug 28, 2008

The Second NDG Leaping Competition

The last time the Northern Dads Group was held at our house a spontaneous game developed between the The Dads and The Kids on the front porch. From this week’s group email it appears it has become a regular and hotly contested event. Unfortunately, some cynicism surrounds the event as evident in the following articles from NDG regulars, Dan and Jack.

Broadcasting Controversy Surrounds Upcoming NDG Leaping Contest

Looking forward to the upcoming Leaping from the Doorstep to the Shrubbery Contest. Can The Dads snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and put The Kids back where they belong??

In breaking news, Channel 7 have announced that they have exclusive screening rights to the world event, and are committed to showing live, uninterrupted coverage of the whole competition.

Well, maybe not live, but delayed by only a matter of a few minutes. Or maybe to be shown 'coming up next' at some ill-defined point in the next few hours. Or possibly, the event will be 'still to come', sometime within the next five years. And maybe not the whole competition, but 'key moments' of the final stages. Or it could be a super slow-mo collage of Leaps from Clever Angles (maybe they'll attach a camera to a real-life competitor’s shoe!).

Channel 7 feel that this studied approach will bring out the true spirit and passion of Competitive Leaping, rather than showing anything so boring or time consuming as the whole sequence of actual events as they unfold.

Reservoir Dad’s Foreign Correspondent, Dan.

Opening Ceremony Leak Stirs Critics

Of course, the opening ceremony for this event will be a multi-million dollar spectacle, choreographed by the local communist party and performed by thousands of ultra-trained elite soldiery who may well be more athletic than the athletes themselves.

The voices of the dads will be provided by less cute dads, who will be concealed somewhere in the back yard and provide dubbed dialogue by microphone.

Internet use will be restricted during the duration, and any children who choose to complain during the event will be required to submit an application to protest in one of the appointed "protest parks", and then be arrested and sent to the provinces for "re-education".

At the end of the balcony jumping, David Beckham (or if David is not available due to contract restrictions, Dan’s son Mikey) will kick a football into the adoring throng from the top of an unfolding double-decker bus. Or Dan's Magna.

An appointed dad will declare the event "The best rose bed jumping ever!". The ceremonial cigarette lighter will then be extinguished before the athletes do a lap of honour before returning to their own houses for a ticker tape parade, (or a nap, depending on their own proclivities).

The Dalai Lama will not be invited.

Chief Sports Writer, Jack.

I can tell you as an insider that there were some sore Dads limping around after the last competition. In the build up to this week's game weights have been lifted, roads have been run, bikes have been ridden and body hair has been waxed and stored for later use.

Rumours suggesting that several Dad’s have been implicated in a plot to spike The Kids pre-game drinks with Phenergon are completely unfounded.

Stay tuned early next week for a comprehensive report on the games.

Aug 27, 2008

The Post-Gastro Post

Did that just happen? Was that a dream? How did I lose three kilos and why are there no clean sheets in the house? Why are there so many buckets in the lounge room? Did I really see a vulture perched on the plasma? Desert birds circling overhead?

It was tough. I’ve heard all the stories about the horrors of an illness hitting the entire family but this is the first time it’s happened to us. I sincerely hope that this is the last time I ever post about this horrid illness.

I was pretty confident of avoiding the gastro bug when Lewis first started showing symptoms. Then it moved on to Reservoir Mum and Archie but, hey, I was washing my hands all the time, spraying the toilet seat with disinfectant, only breathing through my nose and wearing an AFL approved wet-weather poncho. I thought I had it covered.

Silly, sad, delusional Reservoir Dad…

I’m convinced now that children have the ability to simply look in your direction and subliminally sicken you. If I was a germ looking to populate my community I’d build my first commune in the body of a toddler and then take over the world.

Anyway, based on my first full family illness I have come up with 5 survival tips.

1. Send the kids to the grandparents.

Jesus, if you have this option, stop reading. Get the kids there ASAP. Sure you might be passing on a potentially serious illness but they can afford to lie around all day vomiting. What else have retirees got to do? Just tell them that they just might possibly laugh about it later. Plus, if they survive, they’ll have a great story to tell their… great grandchildren one day.

2. Try not to change too many nappies.

When you’re as ill as we were this past week, even the smell of lavender in a freshly cleaned pillow case can get your stomach churning. So a dirty nappy? Yikes. I tried plugging my nose, holding my breath, changing Lewis from afar with very long tongs, all to no avail.

My suggestion? Disposable nappies are pretty sturdy these days. Stick a well-fitting one on first. Then put a larger one over the top. Finally, cover your child in Cling Wrap from the knees to the bellybutton and change him once a day.

(Generally poo is not such a big issue for me but, jeez, we can put men on the moon, map the genetic code, clone a fricken sheep but still haven’t come up with a cure for the common baby crap.

Here are some suggestions for all you scientists out there. How about a pill that evaporates human waste inside the gut? A nappy that reaches a certain weight before falling off and dissolving? Genetically modified shitless babies… Now there’s a Nobel Prize winner for you.)

3. Try not to waste any energy talking to your spouse.

I only say this because there really is no point. The exhaustion that accompanies gastro is so complete and overwhelming that it short circuits the brain and makes complete sentences impossible.

Somewhere in the nightmare that was our past week I remember the odd crazied mumbling. There were two standouts. We had been mindlessly watching an Olympic Games baseball match. Reservoir mum came up with this gem: “Hey look, the boases are laded.” And while trying to come up with an easy way to get the kids dinner without getting off the couch I suggested “Hiring a Pizza.” Yeah, an over-nighter or a weekly?

4. Cry pathetically

Like most men I abhor crying in public. So make sure you are indoors with only family members present. It’s amazing how sobbing miserably can give you that tiny bit of extra energy to get things done. This is how I managed to get off the lounge room floor, change the boy’s beds and get the spew-ridden sheets into the washing machine.

Feel free to throw in some pathetic mumbling as you stumble about. Choose from:

• This can’t be happening. This - Can’t - Be - Happening!”
• I’m scared of dyin’ Ma…
• I can’t feel my legs! (The much loved classic)

5. Spew and Learn

Kids hate to spew as much as we do. Inevitably, helping your child through the experience is going to bring you back to ChuckLand so do what I did and spew first. Then try to instill a sense of appreciation for life in your child by teaching them that things are never as bad as they seem. After putting my fingers down my throat and spending two minutes in an eye-bulging, gut-burning vomit that left me only a few blips of blood pressure away from a stroke, I turned casually to Archie and said, ‘Now, some species feed their children like this... (Hey it’s a fact. Isn’t that right Leroy?)

After reading over these points I realize they are probably not that helpful, apart from Tip 1. It’s been a while since I’ve had a full meal though so don’t be too critical. I think it’s finally time to hire that Pizza. I heard there’s a new thriller out with Angelina Jolie. Sounds tasty.

Aug 19, 2008

Home Dads In The Wild # 1

Interview with Leroy The Emperor Penguin

RD: G'day Leroy. Thanks for your time first of all.

Leroy: No worries. Little Roy just headed out to the open sea. Bit of time on our hands now.

RD: For human families today, finding a balance between work, rest and recreation is a difficult task. You Emperor Penguins seem to have come up with a well-structured and balanced routine.

Leroy: We like to think so. The missus does the hard work, first of all, forming and laying the egg. Not much I can do to help there except talk to her, huddle a bit and share a bit of warmth. Once she pops the egg it’s my turn. She heads out for a few months of feeding and I get to work, nesting the egg in my feet.

RD: Why in your feet?

Leroy: Well I’m not going to hold it for two months with these floppy little arms am I? Who’s the smartarse with the fingers around here?

RD: Apologies. Do you have any advice for human parents who are looking to share child-rearing, or exchange roles all together?

Leroy: Far be it from me to suggest how humans should structure their lives but it does seem strange to palm off most of the child-rearing to one person. We consider this to be the most important job there is. A very difficult one best undertaken in pairs.

RD: I agree. It's very difficult for humans these days though. There just doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day, you have to balance family with career and money is so crucial...

Leroy: I don't get money. I mean I’ve heard of it, but from what I see you guys tend to create a disproportionate need for money. Take me and my partner for example. I look after the egg while she eats for a few months. When the egg hatches she comes back and I head out for a couple of weeks of eating. Fair enough you have to buy food but how much do you need to eat?

RD: It's not just for food though. We've reached a point in our evolution where there as so many cool things to buy. Big houses, lots of cars, latest model mobile phones, plasma televisions…

Leroy: Plasma whaty... ?

RD: Televisions. Massive ones. You get to watch all types of things on them - sport, news, movies, documentaries. There’re even some good shows about you guys. You should get one.

Leroy: Yeah? Maybe... have to talk to the missus.

RD: Anyway, back to the child-rearing. I'm a home dad now. This is a relatively new thing in our society – I mean post agriculture, before that whole families raised kids – but what do you see as the benefits of dads rearing kids?

Leroy: Mate, I can't see any other way to do it. My wife is totally stuffed after forming and laying the egg. All she wants to do is eat. Wouldn't be fair if I told her to sit there for another 64 days while I played around. It's just about sharing the load I reckon. Look after each other, share in the experience. One of the greatest things, and something you humans seem to be missing, is that both Penguin parents have an understanding of how difficult… and rewarding… child rearing can be. There seems to be too much emphasis placed on the human partner who goes out to eat, come back and regurgitate, whereas we have a deep understanding that both roles are equally as important to the functioning of a healthy and happy family.

RD: Well said. The role of child-rearing/home maintenance is undervalued in our society.

Leroy: Yep. It’s just a crazy backward way of thinking.

RD: So you don’t eat anything while you are nesting for 64 days?

Leroy: Me? No. He-he. I gotta focus. Eating would be very selfish.

RD: So you eat shellfish...

Leroy: What? No, I don't eat at all. I just told you...

RD: Don't you get hungry?

Leroy: Shit yeah. Lose about twenty kilograms. But I get to go out for a few weeks after and do nothing but eat. Anyway, it's like I was saying, humans have their priorities screwed up. The child should always come first.

Leroy: So how do you organise the workload after your two weeks of eating?

Leroy: Back to about 50/50. I forage and regurgitate for the young-un. Then the missus heads out and does the same. We like to keep it as balanced as possible. I mean, they’re not young forever are they. Six months and their waddling off to feed themselves.

RD: It does pass quickly, yes. One last question. While nesting the egg you huddle together with hundreds of other males. Doesn’t that raise a few eyebrows?

Leroy: Here we go again. Just because I take on some home duties and look after the baby doesn’t mean I’m not as masculine as the next guy.

RD: Hey, no offence. Just curious as to whether Emperor Penguins swing both ways…

Leroy: Its fricken cold out there. Alright? You try standing in the Antarctic for 64 days. I guarantee you’ll be hugging any male who walks by.

RD: Maybe if they were wearing a little penguin suit…

Leroy: Hehe. Get out of here.

RD: Thanks for your time.

Aug 13, 2008

Building a Repertoire

I got my first “I don’t love you” from Archie the other day. Have to admit, even taking his age, inexperience and lack of empathy skills into account it still hurt a little bit. What hurt even more was that I didn’t have an appropriate response at the ready. I like to think I have the edge when it comes to conversing with a three-year-old but occasionally Archie can show me up.

Truth is, it’s my own inexperience that’s the problem. I’ve only had two opportunities to respond to “I don’t love you” before this. Once when I was in early high school after I delivered a love note to my first true love that started “You are my honey, my Vegemite…”. The second time was at the end of a relationship in my late teens. At that age I was at a point where a weekend with the mates and a lot of beer was the easy fix for hurt feelings.

Anyway, here’s the transcript -

Archie: Daddy, I want to see Mummy.
Reservoir Dad: Yeah, mate. Mummy will be home soon.
Archie: I want to see Mummy now.
Reservoir Dad: Soon mate. How about you come here and help me and Lewis make the train set?
Archie: No, I don’t love you anymore.
Reservoir Dad: Yeah? But… yes you do… what?

I can hear what everyone’s saying - C’mon Reservoir Dad, it was only the rabbity gibbering of a boundary-pushing three year old, you’re much stronger than that.

You’re right of course, but I’d been trying to unpack the shopping for about an hour, Lewis’s nose was chunking out snot like a candy funnel at Charlie’s Chocolate Factory, there was dog-poo under the swing outside which I was determined to clean up before the kids got out there, it was getting on to 2PM and I hadn’t even taken the roast out for defrosting and Dr Drowser was sitting beside me flicking the end of a hypodermic needle. It was my time to crack. It was just my time…

Anyway, I recovered via the usual means. When Reservoir Mum got home I went and chopped some wood, lifted some weights and tore a hole in my favorite t-shirt. Feelings of superiority restored I settled down later that evening to try to come up with some appropriate comebacks for the future.

Here’s some I have come up with so far:

Evil, Vindictive Reservoir Dad:

- Yeah, well I don’t love you either. (Seems a little too easy)

- Mummy’s just called me. She’s never coming back. (Maybe a tad too evil.)

- Is that right? You don’t love me? Now I don’t feel so bad about backing over your puppy. (This one seems to be just about right)

Reservoir Dad reading from the Great Book of Dad Quotes:

- While you’re living under my roof, and eating my food, you WILL love me. What you do after that is up to you.”

- I’ll turn this damn car around… (oh hang on, wrong scenario).

- Kids should be seen and not… (no, Great Book of Dad Quotes is falling short on this one)

Manipulative Reservoir Dad:

-How can you say that? After all I’ve done for you? Wiped your bum. Got up to you in the middle of the night. Sung Incy-Wincy Spider in a crowded shopping centre. Watched The Wiggles 4,076 times…. tell me you love me or I’m torching the DVD player.

-Hey, I’ve got a Chuppa-Chup. What did you say again?

-Pretending to cry. (This is my favorite option. The idea is to put on a real show I reckon. Run from the room bawling with your hands over your face. Run into a wall and fall down holding your leg. Scream in pain. It’s a good idea to have a sauce pill to bite because a bleeding parent really can bring the performance home to the child.)

That’s all I could come up with. I still feel like I’ve got some work to do. ‘I don’t love you Daddy’ is pretty hard to top and kids know it. So, if you’ve got any better ideas send them through to the comments section. Us Dad’s (and Mum’s) have to unite against the children or they will break us down and take over the world.

Aug 11, 2008

Northern Dads Group Guest Blogger #2 – Dan

Ayup all. My name is Dan, father of Liam (11) and Mikey (4). I became primary carer/stay home dad/house-slave when Mikey was 5 months old, and ‘by jiminy’ how long ago does that seem?

Me and Mikey joined the Northern Dads Playgroup when he was about 8 months I think. It’s a relaxed affair, with the emphasis on stress minimisation. e.g. last week – ‘Uh-oh, has Josie just been sick? Oh no, it’s all right, she’s just been eating sand’. Last week I also lost my marbles (ha ha!); hope Josie didn't eat them too!

Thanks Reservoir Dad for the invite. There’s so many things to say about being at home with kids, and what a great forum for saying them. I've put this post in two parts – perplexed/frustrated and joyful/contemplative, cos they don’t seem to slot together too well. So……..

Some things that have perplexed/frustrated me as a stay-at-home Dad. I’ve always liked the saying ‘credit where it’s due’ and while you’re not looking for any medals as a primary carer, not being given some credit for the job really irks. You do the hard work day in day out, getting up in the night, making the meals, slogging through the housework, scooping up the ‘huey greens’ and generally taking care of baby/s. You know ‘your baby’ as well as anyone but even so, it will still be assumed by many you meet day to day, that Mum is really the one ‘in charge‘.

Sometimes this is really blatant, especially with services that are used to dealing primarily with mothers. For example I made all the arrangements when Mikey was younger to check out the Pre-School Dentist, the Sleep-Settling Centre (they were good btw) and the Kinder rego. Each time, despite me having made all the phone calls, filled in the forms and even visited the places, the correspondence was sent out addressed only to my partner. Not only was I not acknowledged as primary carer, I wasn’t even acknowledged as a parent!

Often it’s more subtle though, and I often feel I am treated like an ‘amateur’ by many people (health professionals, doctors, pharmacists, nurses, shop staff); as if if I was just ‘filling in’ until the full time professional was back on the job. You can tell stay-at-home-Dads – especially with babies in their first year – are still a big deal for many people, because they ask questions they would never ask of a mother, and pass comments they wouldn't dare say to a Mum. For example;

- “babysitting today are we?” (asked on many occasions by people in the street, at the shops etc. No, I’m his Dad stupid!)

- “and do you do everything in the house” (translation: so do you do the cooking, washing, clean the toilet, get the groceries as well as look after the kids??)

- while having a coffee with baby in the pram….“good of you to be looking after him while Mum does the groceries” (no, Mum’s not doing the groceries, she’s not even in the shopping centre.)

- (at the clothes shop)……“well done, fancy a man buying clothes for his kids. Most men who buy clothes in here have to bring them back cos they don’t know the right size”. (That would be the Dads who can’t read the labels then.)

- at the ice cream parlor…..“Better take a serviette love. Your wife will kill you if he gets all mucky” (thanks, won’t need to use the wipes I carry round everywhere then!)

- at the chemist… “oh, got your day off today eh?” (er, no)

- the fruit and veg shop….“Ahh, day with Daddy today eh? Have a lovely day!” (see above)

These attitudes will change over time, I guess, as more and more fathers take up the role. In the meantime, it’s good to ‘vent’ every so often!

Things that have made me joyful/contemplative…

One of the things about having watched our older child in his progression through toddlerdom, to primary school, and now approaching high school is that I’ve been conscious of how the really cute stuff of the pre-school years fades over time (to be replaced by equally moving, but slightly different, stuff). So I’ve been trying to treasure every innocent moment with our youngest. Some of my recent favourites:

- Mikey wanted to take Panda, Lion and Giraffe along to swimming lesson last Friday, and all three fluffy animals seemed happy to go along with this. I managed to convince Mikey that they shouldn’t go in the water cos none of them could swim. So there they sat, propped on a chair by the poolside, Lion leaning on Panda, leaning on Giraffe (who was missing the action cos he was looking straight down. Maybe it was the lack of vertebrae in his neck). Halfway through the lesson while I was looking the other way one of the Mums turned to me, smiling, and told me Mikey had managed to sneak in a wave to his teddies as he swam by. Beautiful.

- We were choosing some gumboots for a trip to the snow a few weeks ago. Mikey decided that the pink ones with Bratz Girls on the side were ‘awesome’ and he proudly wore them all day (had to pre-warn big brother not to pass judgment on them).

- Dr Seuss books really get on my goat if I‘m honest but, nevertheless, I had to laugh when we were reading Green Eggs and Ham the other day.

Me: Would you eat them in a box? Would you eat it with a… ? (pause for Mikey to add the missing word, fox.)

Mikey: Dog.

(To be fair, it did look a lot like a dog.)

- Surreal games of I-spy.

Me: I spy with my little eye something beginning with… W.
Mikey: (after a long think): “…………tree?”

It’s being able to be ‘in the moment’ so often that is one of the best things about being a stay-at-home Dad, I reckon.

News flash. Just got a text from Jack that he’s found my lost marbles, or at least some of them. Don’t dare ask him where he found them, just glad they’re safe.

Aug 7, 2008

No Point Crying Over Spilt Weetbix (with an intro to Dr Drowser)

Precursor: This particular day was made more difficult because I was without the usual support from Reservoir Mum, who was out of the house until 10pm due to attendance at a memorial… still, it was a hell of a day.

Remember that eerie feeling you used to get after a hard night on the town? Hours of loud music, conversations morphing into shouting competitions, alcohol, sleep deprivation… There you'd be, sitting on the bed, winding down for a few hours sleep with a high-pitch ringing in your ears and no ability to think through a simple sequence of events – like taking your pants off, turning the off the light and getting into bed.

I experienced that again last night. The day started at six AM with a wet bed (not mine thankfully, although back in my partying days…) and a wet three-year-old. I stood shivering in my jocks in the pale night-light of the boy’s room and couldn’t work out how to manage the situation. Put some clothes on Archie? On myself? Change the sheets? Hop into Lewis’s bed?

I thought about ringing Nanny and Gramps to baby-sit but, shit, it was too early. I thought about putting Archie in front of the TV with a bowl of lollies but no, TV fries kids’ brains, and lollies… well, there’s something wrong with them too.

All the while my internal sleep pusher (Dr Drowser – more on him in future posts) was standing to one side offering me another hour of bliss if I could just come up with the right tricks. Cripes, I would have given him my soul for another hour of sleep. I would’ve knocked over an old lady for her Nanny Blanky and just TEN MORE MINUTES…

Anyway, I somehow got my act together just as Lewis woke up and then spent another ten minutes squinting under the kitchen lights before managing to get two bowls, weetbix, milk and spoons under Lewis and Archie’s beaming faces.

As soon as I turned my back – splat, Lewis swipes his onto the floor.

Spilt Weetbix at six in the morning is enough to kill a man (well, this man anyway).

The day continued in that fashion. It was hectic and loud and filled with tantrums and laughter, bandaids and conjunctivitis, snot-mopping every ten minutes and dozens of toilet trips, fights for overly visible treats at the supermarket and nappy-change wrestling, play-dough piles in the carpet and Texta lines on the floorboards, disagreements on food choices and bowl colours, worm-finding, muddy clothes, hanging out washing, four vacuum runs, thirteen table top wipes, naptime battles and twenty-three unfinished cups of coffee.

So, finally, that night, after an hour of sleep stand-off (Christ kids, if you don’t want the sleep, give it to me!) they were out to it and after some general cleaning and tidying up I was sitting on my bed with the ringing in my ears – just like the old days but without alcohol and without choice. There was dishes to be done, cleaning, ironing etc but Dr Drowser was offering me an extended trip for the simple price of neglecting my responsibilities. Yeah, it would be a bigger job with the kids in the morning but like I said, I am a sleep-addict and Dr Drowser knows it. Consequences, smonseqeunces. Here’s my left arm Dr Drowser. Give me some.

No sooner had I laid back on the bed, Lewis woke up. I scooped him up and headed downstairs in an attempt to avoid waking Archie and sat in front of “So You Think You Can Dance”. For ten minutes I was sure Lewis would nod off in my lap but all of a sudden he jumped up, blinking at me over his over-hot, ruddy cheeks and straining against the conjunctivitis sting in his right eye.

He said, “Weetbix, Daddy?”

I said “Weetbix???” and at that point Lewis started laughing, crazily.

I felt a pang of fear then and turned around half expecting Archie to be standing there with some rope and some wire-cutters. Had they been planning this the entire day? Were they trying to break me?

“You threw your Weetbix off the table, Lewy, remember…”.

Oh, hang on. That was twelve hours ago. Plus, I’m reasoning with a toddler.

Dr Drowser bent down to my ear and whispered: Give him whatever he wants and I’ll give you some slumber.

Okay Dr Drowser.

Into the kitchen again, trying to convince myself I hadn’t fallen asleep and woken up to an entirely new day. Weetbix were served and delirium set in. I ended up having the best time I’d had this far with little Lewy. He somehow thought this was the greatest joke ever and we were both laughing our heads off without any real reason. I’ve never seen Lewis laugh this hard.

I took some photos. Horrid ones – Lewis’s current illness coupled with my skills of photography. But after one of the toughest days I’ve put in as a home-Dad to this point, I ended up with the best laugh I’ve had for ages, Weetbix at 9.30pm, and a bonding experience I reckon I’ll remember for ever.

I never worked this hard when I was a full-time employee but then there weren’t these kinds of rewards on offer either.

Aug 5, 2008

Tops in Pops: The Best Daddy Blog Posts of July

My post "The Invisible Man" has made it to Daddy Brain's Tops in Pops for July. Daddy Brain is a great resource for Dad's and a blog I check in on regularly. Here's a snippet from "About Daddy Brain" -

This is a blog for what I call “real dads” — the kind that love to play with their kids and don’t mind changing stinky diapers. It’s for the kind of father who’s heart breaks because he’s at work all day instead of being home raising his children. Not every dad is a real dad, and that’s OK. But if you’ve sought out this blog, then you probably are.

Northern Dads Group Guest Blogger #1 – Jack

The first guest blogger from the Northern Dads Group is Jack. He and his wife have a one year old, Josie, with another on the way. Good on ya Jack.


Getting together every now and then with a bunch of other dads is fantastic. Your kids can rocket off one another and spill biscuit crumbs or Playdough on somebody else's floor while you caffeinate and enjoy conversation with somebody over the age of 3.

The kind people at Playgroup Victoria send us copies of their 'Playgrouper' magazine every now and then. It makes for pretty scary reading. Apparently there are playgroups out there with quarter-hourly activity timetables, developmental milestones and toy-disinfecting rosters.

Who do they think these playgroups are for? Kids?

Our arrangement is a whole lot more civilised. We trash each other's living rooms on a rotating basis, with occasional visits to a museum, children's farm or some-such, to allow some extra time for people's gardens, living rooms or pets to recover. The activities are more "fluid" to suit the individual child's preference, from arranging toy cars geometrically to eating sand (that's my daughter…), or seeing how far you can jump off the front porch into the rose bed (last school holidays the kids beat the dads. The shame…)

But the real value of a dad's group is the chance to sit down with a bunch of other blokes in similar circumstances, drink some coffee and talk about stuff that could be everything or nothing to do with kids.

It's great to compare notes, especially about some of the totally bizarre stuff you hear people say when it comes to raising children. An example:

Back when my wife was in the early stages of her pregnancy we went to some end-of-year function hosted by my then boss. He'd sucked back a fair amount of wine, and was feeling ready to expound to the restaurant at large his gnomic words of wisdom on the issue of raising kids.

"It's piss-easy," he said, "you just stick 'em in a basket under the table. Then they go to school. My sons are in their teens - parenthood is a doddle."

He sat down, to the sound of his wife grinding her teeth.

A few of the dads have met guys like my ex-boss at some time or another. Sometimes it's a generational thing. Sometimes there are guys out there whose kids are just magically maintained by the invisible snot-and nappy fairy, and they're chief-in-charge of occasional playing. Sometimes you meet people who think that being a parent at home is beer and skittles, with a break for Oprah.

Sure, I don't want to claim that being a stay-at-home dad is like building the Great Wall of China with your teeth - but if it's piss easy, you're probably not doing it right.

Aug 2, 2008


In reply to comments about the title of this blog – yes, I did settle on Reservoir Dad because it had the ring of one of my favourite movies, Reservoir Dogs.

But, no, that doesn’t mean I’m the kind of Dad who’d tie his kids to a chair and cut their ears off in pursuit of a confession. When it comes to kids I prefer more subtle forms of torture. (On the other hand, if that DVD control goes missing one more time…)

Speaking of torture, I’ve been thinking about the disciplining of children lately. We borrowed the time-out-in-the-laundry approach for Archie. It was suggested to us by Sally and Cobes, friends of ours who have four daughters under the age of 10. It worked very well for Archie. Just the threat of the laundry can address inappropriate behaviour.

We haven’t had quite the same success with Lewis though, especially when it comes to discouraging him from one of his favourite past times – hitting things. Everything in our house (including the house), inanimate or otherwise has suffered the wrath of the Mighty Lewy. You should have seen him lay into this helpless banana once. I get the feeling that if he’d had access to a chair, some rope and a razor blade he would have gone to town on the curvy yellow bastard.

I have to admit, I feel a swelling of pride when I witness his patience and fierce focus on the task at hand. I intervened on his attempt to whack Archie on the head several times the other day. Every time I let him go he raised his hand in strike mode and walked steadily in Archie’s direction. Archie continued to dodge and weave but I knew from experience that he’d slowly fatigue and cop a series of whacks. So after repeated warnings it was off to the laundry.

Two minutes later I open the door.

Reservoir Dad “Lewis you mustn’t hit. OK? You come and say sorry to Archie.”
Lewis “No.”
Reservoir Dad “Come and say sorry to Archie or you can stay in the laundry.”
Lewis “No.”

I closed the door but could hear Lewis giggling in anticipation. When I opened it again, two minutes later, Lewis busts out laughing. Peek-a-bloody-boo! I did my best to suppress a smile but failed.

Archie walked down the hall, noticed my smirk and started laughing because I was trying so hard to stop laughing at Lewis laughing. In a flustered, panicked kind of way I said “No! Stop laughing Archie,” before I started laughing as well – at myself mostly – because trying to be a stern, controlled parent in that situation is just a crazy-hard thing to do.

Pfft… I wish I could stay angry sometimes.

Funny thing is, Lewis reminds me of myself. I used to struggle not to laugh when I was being disciplined as well. My Dad always said I’d grow out of it. Well, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.