Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The not so secret Parenting plan (or divide and prosper)

If your kids are anything like mine, they can go for days or minutes with out fighting and play like long lost friends rediscovering why they were friends in the first place.

But when they don't it can be brutal (I have two boys) and difficult to determine what or whom caused it.

Its a little like Cabin Fever, just getting on each others nerves.

The last thing I want to do try and work out who to punish so I end up just punishing them both for being involved but that leads to an unhappy house.

As parents this can be exasperating, right ? After all its not like they handed us a "How to be a Parent " manual straight after the kids were born (I doubt I would have read it anyway) with all the answers to raising the perfect son/daughter.

Image courtesy of

So we hatched what at the time we thought was a perfect secret little plan.

So we do what we call "Divide and Conquer", I'll take one combatant boy and the Talented One will take the other and we will do things that each of them they enjoy. Call me old fashioned if you will but nothing works better than complete and un-distracted focus, even if  it's only from one parent.

Now this isn't as easy as it sounds. We are a one car family and intend on staying that way for sometime. It forces us to do things together and ensure that we all participate in each others activities. I'm hoping that the boys are learning empathy and tolerance from this little exercise. It's like learning to enjoy visiting your mother in law but when your 10 and not allowed to drink beer in the car on the way there.

So the weekend can go a little something like this:

Get up and prepare a break fast feast to power up for the day.

Clean up from this feast ( as I've used every pan and there is bacon fat on the wall)

Saturday basketball 

Come home and cook another weekend feast for dinner

Sunday get up and try to recreate prior days breakfast feast (using less pans than the day before and putting the bacon in the oven)

First Choir run for The Eldest

Lunch (by this meal SWMBO has us on salad sandwiches)

Second Choir run for Eldest which encompasses "The Sunday walk"
 to drop the Eldest at choir and then walk back the
 long way home to talk to the little guy one on one.

Not that I get a word in - with all the questions he has.

I'm pretty sure has saved up every question he had during the week and needs them all answered whilst we walk. I think he does this because he doesn't want his brother to know he has so many questions. I really see the difference in my sons when I deal with them on their own. I suppose they feel a little more comfortable with the one on one time as there is no risk of being judged when your other competitor sibling isn't present.

During the week the early morning 0800 start for the Eldest's choir is when we walk though the leafy suburbs of Melbourne just chatting one on one. Sometimes we pick a topic of discussion and then talk it through over the 30 minute walk. Sometimes we just talk about Minecraft the whole way. We never stay on topic for long and it's been a real eye opener for me.

As well as these weekly activities there are weekends planned where depending on schedules special one off excursions are planned.

For us it's all about that fine balance between together time and one on one time. The funny thing is no-one can tell us whether it's right or wrong because the final conclusion will only be known many, many years from now.

So that's our solution. Simple and so far completely effective. I'm not sure how secret it is though.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dad dating (a lesson for families)

When the kids make a new friend, the wives usually become friends because they are picking up / dropping off the kids to and from school and so by default get to spend more time to get to know each other. The kids spend all day to together and then you throw in a few play dates and everybody is comfortable with each other.

So that means all that's left is for the Dads to become friends.

Sounds simple right ?


Like everything in the world all men (whilst being perfect ) are different and will have different interests (and sporting codes / teams etc )

Well duh , I hear you say. Shush - thank you, just hear me out.

Kids make friends pretty simply. Another kid would have to do something pretty drastic to have someone say " I don't like them "
Same with wives and significant others. They have the kids, the school etc, as things in common. They then build from there.

So what do we have ?

We have the expectation that we will just get along with the other Dad because, hey we're guys right?  We have simple needs right ?


Well imagine you are off to the said first meeting ( herein referred to as "Date")
There will be a mammoth amount of conversations and questions going through our minds prior to the date.

What if he drinks Corona ?

What happens if he pokes holes in the sausages whilst cooking them ?

What happens if he has the BBQ on too high and he burns the food ? 

     What happens if he doesn't like sports ( has happened )

Image courtesy

The stakes are high, you don't want to be the one that brings the whole thing undone by by some simple throwaway comment.

This means that the whole time you are trying to guess what to say (or not to say) and trying to learn as much as you can about the potential suitor by carefully drawing out the information whilst not being overtly suspicious or obvious.

I have been at first time dates and seen normally quite open and easy going Dads turn into human ostriches. They simply just didn't know where to go with the conversation and just completely withdrew in order to not wreck the date for everyone.

So to Dads embarking on the first date - Be prepared - ask your family about their new friends, background intel prior to the date is always usable as conversation starters when you have exhausted other channels.

And to families - I implore you to go easy on your Dad next time you want him to go to your new found friends house or catch up with them. There is a lot for your Dad to worry about and a lot of pressure on him to get it right.

After all it's pretty hard to replace us and start again - Right ?

Right ?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Keeping up with the kids (a cautionary tale)

As the road rises to meet me, I am reminded of two irrefutable laws of this planet.

1) Gravity

2) You can't teach an old dog new tricks

So how did I end up here. Was it vanity  ?


Was it stupidity ?

 No comment.
Image courtesy of

As I watch my sons grow into men, I have to remind my self that some of the things they will do / learn , they will have to do by themselves.

It is a natural instinct to try to simply tell them  " Hey don't do that because..."
We are parents first and people second. So I constantly have to try not to get in the way of learning. No matter how tempting it is.

But who will tell me ? Who will say "that's probably not a good idea ?"

Anyway back to the story. So here I am on a pavement in Melbourne, a brand new pair of jeans shredded. Blood trickling down my leg and my dignity no where to be seen.

All because I tried to keep up with the boys.

By trying to ride a scooter.

You know the type, the ones with little skateboard wheels and a thin platform to stand on.  The scooters were bought on line ( like a dad gift, that we all use) sort of like so we could get around to places faster and have some fun. I had just finished a delivering Older Son to choir practice and was returning home.

It had all gone well until now.

As I limped home the only real thought I'm entertaining is "how do I hide this from She who Knows best"

That's not going to be easy, the new jeans were a joint purchase on a recent trip to Sydney. The scab that was forming on my leg is sizable. Both will be hard to hide.

Once I have cleaned up I realize that I am 41 years old. I am not as nimble as I thought. I should not try am not going to be able to do all the things that the boys can do.  I ride and run regularly and try as best I can to keep in good health and I do this to keep up with my boys.

I do this because every day I see parents who just can't keep up with their kids and that makes me sad and spurs me on to not fall into this trap.

I love the fact that we run together. I love the fact that we play footy together and I will keep on trying to do all these things  until I draw my last breath (or my hip disintegrates into dust)

But it has become plainly and painfully obvious that there are now somethings I would like to do or think that I can do, that I will just have to pass on.

So I stuffed the jeans into the cupboard and put the bloodied tissues in the bin. I looked into the mirror and I said out loud " Well at least you didn't land on your face "

The next day it looked like this.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The School holidays (part 2)

As the car turns in to our street it hits home that the holiday is really over.  Finally we got a week (together ) of doing all the things we wanted to do as a family. We headed of to Nungurner (just near Metung) in the picturesque Gippsland Lakes region and got down to serious holidaying.

Went fishing with the boys and never caught a fish (did catch a seahorse -  but they're not that meaty, nor can you ride on them)

Played golf with the boys

Shaved 15 stokes of my golf game which is great because I was 100 now I'm at 85 ( for 9 holes) and I have managed to get down to only losing one or 5 balls per round.

Went for walks on the beach

and we even found road kill in the car park !

Invented a new toasted sandwich (yep those are cocktail franks and cheese)

and for a short while I was Dad on the Row 

Did some slightly faster water sports

Spent quality time with my family and really relaxed (and of course played UNO !)

As I unpacked the car I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. Not because the little dude was asleep. Not because I hadn't hurt myself doing anything dangerous. Not because we stopped the boys having an argument everyday at 0930 precisely after 3 days. 
but for the simple reason that we had now started to create our own memorable holidays.