Open Letter To A Mango

My little girl turns 3 on Saturday. I wrote this to her before she was born.

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Dear Voldemort,

Let me introduce myself. My name is dad, and before we immediately get off on the wrong foot let me just state for the record that:-

  1. I am the boss
  2. Assuming mum isn’t around and,
  3. I have no intention of naming you Voldemort

I just used Voldemort as a placeholder because as yet I have no idea what you will be called. Voldemort is a character in a very popular book and (overlong) film series about a boy wizard called Harry Potter and no one likes to actually call him by his name settling instead for “he who cannot be named”. Which in my mind is close enough to “she who has yet to be named” but sounded a lot funnier before I wrote it down. Just go with it, this is how I am – you’ll get used to it.

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The Groundhog Misery Triad

“Have kids,” they said.

“It’ll change your life,” they said.

After another evening where my drought-stricken reserves of joy were sucked clean out of my dessicated marrow I can confirm they were right.

Yes, yes before you start piling in with wisdom I know there are elements of having children that are amazing and wonderful and rewarding. Like those days when you come from work and they’re not at home because your wife has taken them somewhere.

Don’t get me wrong – I do love the little shits otherwise not all of us would still be alive – but after approaching six years of what can best be described as the bath-supper-bed triad of misery I could do with some time off.

A decade or so should suffice.

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Taking Out The Trash

I sometimes lose track of the things I’ve written and, more importantly, the things I haven’t written. This is partly down to age and partly down to the fact that I’ve now written two hundred blog posts. I had no idea of the landmark – I went off to count the blog posts on the three blogs I’ve written and the stats told the story. The Afrowelshman weighs in with 155 posts, NikEveleigh.com adds another 21 and my new happy home on WordPress accounts for the other 24.

Ok so there’s been some overlap and a few reblogs of stories but who’s counting. Continue reading

Redressing The Balance

Given that I am prone to epic parental failure it is no surprise that I have been unduly harsh on my little girl recently. I’ve shouted at her, lost patience with her, smacked her on the bum (arrest me now) and even gone as far as calling her feral in my last blog.

Ok so she is impossible. And she likes to take her nappy off and poo on the floor during nap time. And she likes to scream. And she likes to hit me in the face. And kick me in the nuts when I’m changing her. And bite, pinch, scratch, slap, hit, kick and punch her brother at the drop of a hat (although he needs to grow a set and quickly to be frank).

Sure, she likes picking up our cats by the throat, thumping our dog and destroying toys. And she likes to pull things off the kitchen counter and cry and yell and stamp her feet and blow her nose without a tissue.

In short. She’s a terror.

A torment.

She is Chucky.

And yet…the very things that drive me to drink (actually nothing drives me to drink – I walk there willingly and with an open cheque book) are the very things that I hope will never change. I love her stubbornness, her defiance and her unflinching desire that “ARWEN DO IT” whatever the task might be. I love the fact that she is tough as nails and refuses to lie down and accept defeat for anyone or anything.

I love the fact that she will carry a toy bike the same size as her for five meters and then throw it to the ground while staring at me just to prove a point. I love the fact that she’ll do it again, and again, until she is satisfied you’ve noticed. I love the way she steals food from our plates. I love the fact that she eats mud, and snails and is obsessed by “Pepper POO” in the garden.

I love the way she wants to sing with me every night and that a song will only last a couple of days before she needs a new one. I love the way she watches her rare moments of TV in slack-jawed wonder. I love the fact that she loves books and wants to hear stories. And I especially love that she every now and then lets me brush her hair.

In short. She’s a treasure.

A treat.

She’s my baby girl.

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I Don’t Want To Turn Into Nothing

As anyone who is a parent can attest to, there is rarely a dull moment when there are kids around. This past weekend alone was filled with moments of extraordinary contrast and wonder.

– The moment when Rhys told me I was the best daddy ever

– The moment when Arwen packed out laughing after learning to say winner winner, chicken dinner

– The moment when Rhys starting riding his bike without training wheels

– The moment when I walked into Arwen’s bedroom after her nap and watched a large lump of poo being quenelled by the movement of the door after she had once again decided to take her nappy off during nap time and had chosen to add some fresh bodily waste to an already beleaguered carpet.

That last moment spawned lots of little moments that will stay with me, not least of which was grabbing a wet wipe in both hands and cleaning the underside of the door in a sawing motion not unlike the one you make when trying to towel your back after a shower.

Despite this beginning, I’m not here to talk shit.

Rhys broke my heart tonight.

I tucked him into bed and as normal we had a story from his epic collection of Thomas The Tank Engine books. Our heads were on the pillow and we were jointly cuddling a small blue and green toy dog.

“You really love Scout don’t you big guy?”

“YES daddy! He’s my favourite toy EVER.”

“That makes me very happy. The lady who bought that for you was very special, in fact she knew me when I was little just like you.”

“She died didn’t she daddy? Just like Polly.”

I didn’t know how to respond to this at first. Polly was a beautiful ginger cat who had adopted us before Rhys was born and died on Christmas Eve two years ago. The family friend who died was a wonderful (and no less beautiful) lady called Myra who along with her husband Clive had been Aunt and Uncle to me for as far back as I can remember.

It’s hard to know how to tackle death with children and like most things it’s a subject that evolves along the way. With Polly it was simply a case that after several months of driving past the vet on a daily basis and listening to Rhys say “That’s where Polly is sleeping. Will she come home when she wakes up?” we decided to explain that Polly had died and wouldn’t ever be coming home. When Myra passed away we explained to Rhys that she was no longer with us without making a big fuss and left it at that.

“Yes, she died Rhys, but she would be very happy to know how much you love Scout.”

And then it came.

“Why do people die dad?”

Kids ask a lot of tough questions and I’m only scratching the surface of what will no doubt come as they get older. Until today the toughest one was genital related and we’ve settled on cookie-that-is-also-called-vagina and winkie-that-is-also-called-penis. This has led to two knock-on effects so far:-

– Arwen yells out wash the COOKIE every time she has a bath

– We have no idea what to call large flat American style biscuits

Death is in a whole different league. But I did the only thing I could do. I tried my best.

“Well big guy sometimes people’s bodies get very old and parts of their body don’t work so well any more and so they die. And sometimes they get very sick and medicine can’t make them better and so they die. They just go to sleep and don’t wake up.”

“I’m scared to die daddy.”

“There’s nothing to be scared of Rhys. You aren’t going to die for a long, long time. Think of how old daddy is. Think of how old Grandpa Micky is. You have a long life to live.”

“But what happens when they go to sleep daddy?”

“They just sleep Rhys and they don’t wake up.”

By now he is staring at me with big tear-filled eyes and I’m drowning.

“But what happens when you die daddy?”

I’m not a spiritual person but I’m also not sure how you tell a five year old “Well, as far as I’m concerned bugger all happens and you just become worm food.”

“Well, some people believe that your soul and your mind come back as something else. Maybe a cat, or a leaf or a star. And some people believe that you just stay asleep.”

“But I don’t want to come back as something else daddy. I want to be me. So will my body just stay asleep and then I will be nothing?”

“I don’t know Rhys. But that might be what happens.”

“I don’t want to be nothing daddy.”

After that there was much hugging, hair stroking and kisses. I told him over and over that there was nothing to be scared of even though lots of people die.

“How many people dad?”

“Lots of people Rhys.”

“Even Che Guevara?”

He’s a big fan of the t-shirt we brought him from Cuba.

“Yes, even Che Guevara – he died a long time ago.”

After a few more cuddles I climbed out of his bed to let him go to sleep. I had reached the door, when…

“Daddy?”

“Yes Rhys.”

“I’m scared of being nothing but I’m going to hold Scout very tight and then if we die we can be together and we won’t be scared.”

I dust-panned up my heart later on.

About an hour later we heard him coming up the passage towards the living room and found him sitting in the hallway clutching Scout.

“I’m still scared to die.”

After a few cuddles I took him back to the room and tucked him in once again.

“What can I do to make it better Rhys?”

He looked at me and thought for a little while, and then gave a smile.

“You must tell my body that he mustn’t die and that if he does he must still be Rhys.”

“That sounds like a good idea. Where should I talk to him – through your tummy?”

So I ended up having a chat to his tummy about life and death. Never a dull moment.

I have no idea whether I played this whole incident correctly or horribly. There isn’t a rule book for this stuff so I tend to fall back on my instinct which is to be as truthful as possible while remembering that I’m chatting to someone very small. These moments as a parent are brutal simply because they force you to acknowledge that you can’t protect your children from everything, no matter how hard you try.

So I suppose you do the only things you can – talk and listen.

Holding The Baby

Five years ago, almost to the exact hour, I was left holding the baby.

This was not entirely unexpected given I had been an equal player in the initial act and, despite being relegated to a prominent supporting role during the seemingly endless (and drug free) final scene of actual labour, I was fairly certain I’d be giving the new bundle of joy a quick cuddle (after it had been suitably hosed down). I also assumed I’d shortly thereafter return said bundle to my wife before becoming an irrelevance in its life for at least six mum-filled months.

That’s not quite how things went down.

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Trial By Wife

I’m being tested by my wife.

I’m not sure what I’ve done wrong, but she’s definitely on to me for something.

It all started on Friday when she decided to go to a yoga class. The setup was perfect.

“Ok love I’m going now” (note: when you are reading this blog out loud do so in fairly hushed tones to be sure the kids don’t hear it.”

“Cool – enjoy it. Drive safe.”

“I will. I’ve left their dinner in the kitchen. See you later.” Continue reading

All aboard the change train

Over recent weeks I’ve had the inescapable feeling that I’m living my life along a set of rails. There are twists and turns, sure, but generally I feel like a passenger travelling along some pre-ordained, ramrod-straight journey through my own life.

Nothing wrong with that in principle but in my case the driver seems in one hell of a rush to get somewhere and I’m not sure I’m all that keen on the final destination.

So in an attempt to derail it while there’s still the odd bit of scenery around I’m trying new things and acting differently wherever possible.

Right now as these words are forming on the page I’m doing something utterly maverick. I’m listening to music. Continue reading

Ruining the kids

I’m ruining my children’s lives.

Oh, don’t be alarmed. I do this most days.

Yesterday for example I yelled at my son for putting his feet on the table for the fifth time during an epic hour long supper challenge. This evening it was my daughters turn when I chose not to pick her up for the tenth time and instead abandoned her in the living room while I went to change into a fresh t-shirt. The one soaked from bath time was making me a little shivery but it’s no excuse.

Basically I am a bad parent. Continue reading