The Cynical Dad – The Pursuit of Happiness

Congratulations to me! I got a promotion this week.

Instead of just looking after the kids before and after school, I got to pander to their every whim and need 24 hours a day for the past 5 days.

Yes, this week illness hit our house. Sunday night saw all 3 kids take a nosedive with all of them staying in bed most of Monday. On Tuesday the eldest had recovered enough to go to school (suspicions of dodging a test still remain to be disproven), while middle child’s throat decided to swell up and youngest developed a temperature.

And so began a week of them sitting on the couch, watching TV (arguing over what to watch), coughing and sneezing (giving out to each other for coughing and sneezing) and reminding me that “my throat is sore” and actually competing to see who’s throat was worse!

As they sat there waiting for their next hit of Calpol, unable to eat anything more than yoghurt and ice cream, as a parent you well up with feelings. You look at their pale little faces. You think “I hate to see them in pain”.

You wish for a release…..for yourself.

Yes they’re sore and miserable, but God they make sure you know all about it!! Even when one lost his voice he still managed to start fights! Of course you’re there for them, and love and care for them. But sweet baby Jesus you miss those few hours while they’re in school!

Every parent needs their escape time, though the definition of this changes. Sometimes it’s a half an hour in the evening catching up on that TV programme you recorded before Christmas or the book you started in 2016. And 2015. And 2013.

Other times it’s getting out for a walk or a run with someone or just with the squashed down over-filled rubbish bin of your own thoughts.

Every now and again it’s a night out, no strings attached.

I understand that for younger people in different circumstances a ‘no strings attached’ night out means something entirely different. For a parent (or at least this parent) it means friends, alcohol, no curfew and – most importantly – no kids in the morning.

No. Kids. Before. 12. Noon.

Nothing can match that feeling when you’re heading out for a night and the babysitter/Keeper of Hell’s Gates says, “Take your time in the morning. No rush. Have a lie in!

Oh the joy! At no other time will you see a parent actually skip out the door, shouting a cursory and rhetorical “Are you sure?!

Now I realise my scattered thoughts have brought us on a journey from caring and worrying about sick kids to gleefully abandoning those same kids in the pursuit of alcohol* and adult conversation.

Consider my rubbish bin of thoughts slightly lightened!

 

*alcohol was not actively pursued while the children were sick. Greatly desired and sometimes secretly prayed for, but not actively pursued.

The Cynical Dad – Then and Now

I recently had a conversation with another parent about the scourge of mobile phones, particularly when it comes to kids. I know it’s a cliché to say it was simpler back when we were young and didn’t have the same technology, but it’s true.

And it got me thinking about what else has changed since I was growing up…cue wavy lines and flashback…

Music:

I’ve always had a keen interest in music. As teens, most people listened to pretty much the same few bands – Pearl Jam/Nirvana, Oasis/Blur, The Cure/The Smiths, and so on. We used to watch “The Beat Box” and “Top Of The Pops” to find out the charts. In December we’d listen to Fanning’s Fab 50.

These days, with YouTube, SoundCloud and others, there’s an unlimited selection of music available. But there’s almost too much choice of music and ways to listen to it – kids and teenagers just share and stream music now with a click or a swipe and usually don’t have a clue who sings the song or even the name of it!

Playing:

We used to play. Sounds simple, and it was. We played with Lego, little army men, Barbies (or Sindy!). Outside, we played rounders, 52 bonkers and just kicked a ball. We used cycle around and go for hikes.

Young kids do still play nowadays, but it’s far too short a window. All too soon they’re grown up, too cool for school and parents and playing etc., and trying to act like grumpy teenagers.

The whole process of growing up has shifted back by a good few years, much to my dismay.

TV:

Gone are the days of 2 channels or even the ‘luxury’ of the English channels. Bruce Springsteen’s declaration of “57 channels and nothing on” seems laughable now. Countless channels to satisfy everybody’s tastes, from documentaries on sex dolls to mind-numbingly repetitive cartoons; from weird Asian sports to white-suited Evangelists preaching eternal salvation; all kinds of ways to slowly fry your few remaining brain cells.

But it’s not just the content, the way we watch TV is light years from Glenroe of a Sunday night. I can’t remember the last time I watched a program ‘live’. Anything I want to watch is recorded and must be retrieved from among hours and hours of baking programs and highlights of football matches.

Social life:

Most of us started venturing into the grown-up world of ‘going out’ in our teenage years. We stood awkwardly at teenage discos, dying to approach someone we fancied, but nowhere near brave enough to do so. There are still discos for the young ‘uns, and I’ve brought teenagers to enough of them to realise that they’re a far cry from my own experience.

The people attending these events look like a different species to me and my friends at that stage. We all dressed similarly, in dark, baggy clothes, afraid to stand out. Now the kids get the hair done during the day, meet at each other’s houses before the disco, and could never wear the same clothes to 2 discos in a row.

And that is literally just the boys.

And don’t get me started on the girls and what they’re barely wearing!

I know I sound old and out of touch. That’s because I am. I’m a parent, and so in my kids’ eyes I was never young, never lived and haven’t a clue what it’s like to be them.

God, I suddenly feel the urge to ring my own mother and apologise….

The Cynical Dad – Family

I look at my kids, tearing strips off each other, and I wonder how long it’s going to last.

Not this particular fight (where 2 are arguing over who kicked who first), but this phase of not being able to stand each other’s presence.

I cast my mind back to when I was growing up, fighting with my 3 sisters. God, we used to really go at each other, particularly those either side of me. I see the same pattern with my 3 – eldest and youngest get on OK but any other combination causes eruptions.

We would fight over all the usual things – invading ‘my space’ in the back of the car, someone setting foot in the wrong bedroom and the classic ‘she recorded over MY tape!’ (cassette or VHS, take your pick).

While the subject matter has changed over the years, the vitriol with which siblings attack each other hasn’t lessened. Again, I wonder when my sisters and I evolved from mortal enemies hating each other to actually wanting to spend time with each other.

I cannot stress enough the importance of family, especially when you have kids.

You rely heavily on your own parents for advice and babysitting. Both my mother and my mother in-law have always been there to provide relief and sanctuary, not to mention allow for the occasional night out.

And both my father and father in-law have become the stereotypical granddads; keenly interested in their grandsons’ sporting achievements, while doting on their granddaughters. My sisters have become more than friends – they are advisors and psychotherapists.

We all have friends we tell stuff to. And then we have close friends we tell difficult and personal things to. But with family – you can tell them all the really messed up shit.

And they generally won’t judge you for it. OK, they will, but they’ll still accept it and you and move on. OK, that’s partly because they have to, but mostly it’s because they’ve seen you at your best and at your worst; when you’ve been carefree, innocent and happy; and when you’ve been broken and at your lowest. Well my family has anyway.

I hope you’re lucky enough to have a family that’s been there for you too.

They say you don’t get to choose your family, and until I find a legal loophole proving otherwise, I’ll agree with that statement. But I also have to say I wouldn’t swap mine for a minute, even if the youngest is still spoiled…

 

The Cynical Dad – Never Work with Children or Animals

This past week brought a whole plethora of crap, so if it’s OK with everyone, I’m just going to have a bit of a rant.

Firstly, illness hit our house, quickly followed by bad parenting.

On Thursday, middle child awoke (was woken by me) saying he felt like he was going to get sick. After the holidays, travel, back to school, etc., I figured he was run down, so let him stay at home for the day. By the evening he was back to normal, so I said he’d be fine to go to school again Friday. Good parenting, right?

WRONG!

On Friday morning, said middle child was tired but OK, and so was packed off to school along with the youngest. Eldest said he was now feeling unwell, so he stayed home.

At the time I thought maybe he’d caught whatever middle child had the previous day. In hindsight, I think he may be due for an Oscar nomination.

Anyway, by 9 am I had 3 missed calls from the school and 1 from my mother telling me middle child had puked in school and had to come home. I went from great parent nursing 2 children back to health, to terrible parent duped by one child into a day off while sending the actually sick child to school!

The weekend was survived with no other major incidents. Monday morning rolled around again as it tends to do. After rousing the older 2 and leaving them to get ready for school, I awoke the smallest monster. I came back down to find middle child in tears, holding a now empty box of chocolates (“fancy” ones he got for Christmas).

Naturally eldest was accused (wouldn’t be the first time), but he vehemently denied it. On closer inspection, there were teeth marks in the box.

Now while I have often accused my children of being savages, I don’t think any of them are feral enough to open a box with their teeth.

Realisation dawned that the beloved dog had eaten 6 luxury chocolates during the night! A quick call to the vet meant a day sitting watching the dog for signs of a reaction (i.e. death!). The damn dog was fine and happy out with the attention!

To round off a crappy day, I had to attend the middle child’s Parent-Teacher meeting. Sitting in line time after time to be told, “He’s getting on fine, could work a little harder on the study”.

  1. I live with him – I know what he’s like.
  2. He’s in 1st year, what young lad at that age couldn’t study a bit harder?! They’ve been in school for 12 weeks!! How much damage/genius potential can they have shown in 12 weeks?!! Just tell me he’s grand and move it along. I know they have a job to do, but really, two and a half hours and I still didn’t meet all the teachers?!

So this morning I ended up cursing at a rabbit because it wouldn’t go back into its hutch while I was freezing in a mini-blizzard, all the while contemplating where I might get a “good” sieve.

I used to play in a band. I used to think I was cool. God, what happened?

I Won’t Say it Again!

I’ve heard tell of a woman who only says things once.

She has five kids and never repeats herself.

Imagine that?

I would pay money to actually see this legend of a woman in action, to sit in her house for the day taking notes. She could make a fortune running master classes!

Or maybe it’s just another urban myth. Like Bigfoot or the perfect family day out. Because honestly;

How is it possible?? I repeat the same damn phrases every damn day:

 

“Stop picking your nose”

“Please don’t feck your socks into the far corners of the room”

“Go back in, flush the loo and WASH YOUR HANDS!”

“Don’t take your hair down, it’ll get full of knots and you will scream the house down when I brush it out at bedtime” (queue screaming at bedtime)

“Stop touching the telly. Stop touching the telly. Stop touching the telly”

“Don’t stand on that, you’ll break it”

 

And every time I say “I won’t tell you again!”  we all know fine well I will in about five minutes.

IT’S EXHAUSTING.

But why are kids designed this way? Genuinely? Animals only need to be told a few times then they don’t repeat the behaviour. So why do our little humans just keep on doing it??

Some days ‘the eyebrow’ works but it can get very achey stuck in a high arch while your child stares at you figuring out the message you’re trying to convey as they lean over the arm of the couch eating a jam sandwich, standing on a toy and hitting their sister.

And then other days I get wholeheartedly sick of the sound of my own voice, like a broken record scratching over and over. I’m hoarse come bedtime after nagging and moaning all day.

Those days can break you.

I know a lot of parenting is ‘pick your battles’ but when it’s the basics like hygiene or not damaging their siblings, you can’t pick and choose; the shittier part of the job just has to be done.

Over,

and over,

and over.

(Until we manage to track down where that lady lives…)