Technology And Parents

I had to share this Ronny Chieng video with you that Kurt introduced me to the other night. What is it with us middle-aged women and our failure to grasp technology?

We can all identify with Ronny’s mum’s situation. Many of us will have teenagers and younger kids with cruel stories they retell in public that satirise our ineptitude, to match his.

Unless you work in IT (which begs the question WHY?), many of us from Generation X will identify with that same lack of intuition and confidence when it comes to technology, and in particular computers. The sight of a fresh keyboard with its array of buttons, each with the potential to send my work into computer-world Armageddon, is enough to send me into a full body spasm. I blame technology for my anxiety issues. I will never change my job out of fear of some new machine or programme that will out my lack of technology skills; the same skills I highlighted as ‘advanced’ on my CV.

Fujitsu OASYS Pocket, Japanese word processor.
Fujitsu OASYS Pocket, Japanese word processor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve spoken at length about my own magnetic repulsion to technology before, and like Ronny’s mum’s, it has become a running joke in our family.

The old man was trying to explain to me only yesterday how to download music on my iPhone from iTunes, complicated it by mentioning something about being ‘offline’ and the dreaded ‘dropbox’ (shudder), and I could physically feel my eyes glaze over and my organs begin to shut down. That feeling of shame and frustration at just not getting it, was reminiscent of the feeling I used to experience in my D set maths class at school.

No-one likes to feel a fool, yet they insist on updating technology all the time.

Theoretically, communication should be much easier these days with so many options available, but there are some areas where it just gets harder for the older generations.

Our decision not to get a landline was not a well thought-out plan when it came to our parents overseas, for example. No matter how much we used to explain to the old man’s mother that we didn’t need a landline to call her because we could use the Skype app on our mobile phones, she never understood how we did it, and would talk to us with awe in her voice, like some miracle was being performed.

Catching up with my dad in the UK is always fraught with problems, too.

My dad is far from a technophobe – he was one of the more innovative parents back in the eighties to buy a word processor, even though he didn’t know what the fuck it did. He even worked out how to switch it on that very same day. I still can’t thank him enough for his faith in progress, because without it I’d never have completed my final year dissertation to deadline, and would not now have my worthless degree.

But try organising a phone conversation with him these days.

Aside from the major issue that he still doesn’t understand that you are supposed to respond to texts, there is the added difficulty posed by the time difference.

And let’s not even go near daylight savings…

Having said all that, ten years since we moved to Australia, he thinks he’s a bit of a pro when it comes to Skype – even though sometimes I wonder if he forgets that I can see him too.

‘The tex’t to set up a time is the first step to each call and as I said, for a man who has always been so advanced when it comes to technology, my biggest frustration is when he doesn’t respond to them – to the point where I’ve checked his number several times.

Sometimes, I worry that if anything happened to us over here, he wouldn’t find out until the following Christmas when we pull out all the stops to connect.

I text him. Nothing. I give him the benefit of the time difference of 9-11 hours, even though I know he rarely sleeps more than five hours a night. Still nothing.

Emails are the same. I email him. No response. Sometimes the silence can go on for weeks. When we finally connect his excuse is that he’s been so busy. He’s retired.

‘Dad,’ I say, when we eventually talk, ‘why didn’t you text me back?’

‘I didn’t get a text from you,’ he always responds, defensively.

‘Check your phone.’

Eventually, we agree a slot and I’ll call him at the agreed time. No response. For a highly intelligent man, the whole time difference thing is a step too far. I blame the whisky.

Sydney time zone clock winging it’s way for Christmas.

Scoring Parenting Points

Scoring Parenting Points
This photo makes me cackle bitterly. Photo by thegreenhouse2009 at flickr.com

It seems a double standard to me that each time I have disciplined Kurt since my return from holiday, I have been accused of ‘nagging’; yet when the old man does the same thing, he calls it ‘confronting’ bad behavior.

 

Do you and your partner score points against each other for your parenting skills, or lack thereof?

 

Because there’s been a massive shift as to where the old man views his level of importance in the parenting hierarchy since my trip away.

 

As we deal with our son’s special needs on a day-to-day basis, I have noticed a few judgmental shakes of the head lobbed in my direction and several of his now-legendary tuts, because suddenly, (and after twenty-one years of wearing an invisibility cloak whenever one of our children has dared to be in his vicinity), the old man has suddenly proclaimed himself a perfect parent.

 

Even when we have our parental pow-wows, when we hide and whisper in our bedroom to plot our latest dastardly punishment for the most recent of Kurt’s crimes to parenthood, the old man tries to assume leadership and condemns all of my suggestions like some autocratic parenting top dog.

 

Worst still, he has started to undermine me in Kurt’s presence, with snide little pity smiles that suggest I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing, which I know is a criminal offence in parenting law.

 

And even though it is obvious that there was little (if any) guidance, boundaries or dare-I-say-it, interaction, between the old man and Kurt while I was away, our son appears to be revelling in this new, tough-love dynamic that goes hand-in-hand with the old man’s new role as primary parental carer.

 

Or perhaps he just loves their new-found bromantic alliance. AGAINST ME.

 

I might add that while he was supposed to be ‘parenting’ in my absence, the old man took two weeks holiday from work to cope, never discovered the vacuum cleaner nor the Spray N’Wipe and sourced all foodstuffs from the local fish and chip shop, which fortunately has an extensive menu as long as you like hot chips with everything.

 

He didn’t have to cope with the pressure of work or the pressure of the school Rottweiler who tracks down truants in our area like the child-catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and then gets her weekly kicks out of calling parents to remind them just how feral, disappointing and sociopathic their kids are.

 

Kurt probably slept until lunchtime most days as well.

 

I am grateful that he was able to finally experience the role of being a father to our son. Actually I’m not…I’m peeved that my son can’t see through his father’s unrealistic approach to parenting and his laissez-faire attitude, (that really means he’s given up), which has zero chance of working with an ADHD adolescent.

 

Of course life was “chill” when I wasn’t around and he was allowed to do whatever he wanted, I tried to explain to a confused Kurt this morning when I asked him nicely (biting down hard on my tongue) to hang his towels up and refrain from feeding the dog his leftover Nutrigrain because she gets diarrhoea.

 

It’s becoming clear that we need to find some middle-ground in our parenting styles for our son, somewhere between the old man’s archaic die or swim attitude and my need to over-scaffold.

 

I agree that with Kurt’s eighteenth birthday looming hideously closer it is time for the boy to demonstrate some responsibility and to face consequences for his mistakes, but we don’t have to push him over the side of the nest blindfolded and with stunted wings just to score parenting points.

 

KPIs For Father’s Day

Father’s Day is only days away and this year the kids have decided to do something a little different. The old man has everything he needs and so this year they have come up with the novel idea that his special day is focused on self-improvement. They have identified several ways in which they believe he could improve his relationship and parenting skills with me them.

Fathers Day KPIs
What I See… by Normand Desjardins at http://www.flickr.com

Don’t get me wrong, the old man is the best father in the world when it comes to getting them out of financial holes, rough and tumble, communicating and behaving with them at their age level, but there are certain key areas they believe, there is room for improvement.

So here are the KPIs the kids have come up with for him to work on over the next year:

  1. They have requested that he NOT put on his invisibility cloak the minute they walk in the door, when their friends come around or when the doorbell rings.
  2. They have stated categorically that they don’t mind if he plays ‘bad cop’ once in a while, (instead of Mr Whiter Than White), when parenting shit needs to go down.
  3. They have suggested that he could be a better role model in certain areas. That they wouldn’t mind if he backed me up occasionally in what he sees as my petty desire to eat like the Walton family at the dinner table, instead of making a childish beeline for the sofa the minute my back is turned; that he could turn the television off at a decent time on school nights and it wouldn’t kill him to eat all his vegetables rather than making that puking noise whenever I put anything green on his plate.
  4. That he might even consider the consequences of wrinkling his nose at my cooking and the effect that immature behaviour has had on the attitude of our kids to my food.
  5. He might consider using different demonstrative adjectives and verbs other than the F word in front of them.
  6. That his habit of buying them off with presents and handouts on the rare occasions he is in charge could be seen as emotional blackmail by some…
  7. And that McDonalds is not a suitable meal substitute for them when I am not there to cook.
  8. That homework still needs to be completed even when I am not available…
  9. And that, AS A PARENT, he might consider picking up the phone when Kurt’s school calls.
  10. Finally, they have decided that after thirty years even he should know by now that the best way to get around me is with wine and chocolate and that as we are both parents, it might be fairer if he shares the role equally.

Parenting: That Special Father and Daughter Bond

kurt cobain and frances bean
kurt cobain and frances bean (Photo credit: seattlewhat)

Sometimes, I admit that I give the old man a bit of a hard time about his parenting skills on this blog.

 

Parenting doesn’t come naturally to anyone; it’s just that some people are better at faking it than others.

 

The old man took some annual leave this week and has had the opportunity to spend some quality time with his children. What he had forgotten, unfortunately, in his belated quest to bond with his children, is that teenagers don’t necessarily want to spend quality time with their parents.

Luckily for him, though, our youngest hasn’t quite reached that age yet and is still easy to manipulate still compliant, and if I’m honest, a bit of a daddy’s girl too.

 

We are lucky in that all of our kids have talents. Kurt has a talent for music, making lots of noise for no apparent reason and attracting trouble. NC has talents in science, creating unnecessary mess in her bedroom and an in-depth knowledge of rocks, as well as wine which she inherited from her mother.

 

But neither of them has ever shown any huge aptitude for sport. He denies it, but that must have been a bitter pill for the old man to swallow for he assures us that he used to play sport to an exceptionally high level.

 

Admittedly, NC did play soccer for several years and even won a trophy for breaking more bones than scoring goals and one of the highlights of her sporting career and a big bonding moment with her father still has to be the day she broke her collar bone and the old man insisted she get back on the pitch and ‘not let her fucking team down’. Kurt dipped his toe in the game of soccer too, and like the old man he was fast on his feet, but unfortunately he was a little too accurate at scoring home goals because he could never remember which was his goal.

 

The old man consoles himself by blaming me for our children’s allergy to sport.

 

Yet our youngest has not only demonstrated a natural aptitude for ball sports, we have discovered that unlike her siblings, she also has the right temperament to learn. She watches carefully, listens and doesn’t argue. And she is always desperate to please her dad.

 

So while I have been working my butt off this week, while the old man lolls about the house on holiday pretending to find a balance between doing fuck all relaxation and spending quality time with the kids, he has secretly been spending quality time coaching our youngest. You see, she hasn’t reached the magic 13th birthday yet, when like her siblings she will no doubt wake up and suddenly despise us for no apparent reason.

 

And I have to give the old man credit on this occasion. He has taken his parenting responsibilities seriously this time. Lucky third, maybe? That man has taken her out to the park every day and they have come together, united, and returned looking relaxed and happy with their new father/daughter bond.

 

He came back today with tears in his eyes to show me the results of this new-found parenting knowledge.

 

 

It seems there are some rewards to parenting after all.

 

 

 

 

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10 Best Father’s Day Gifts

Father & Child
Father & Child (Photo credit: absolut xman)

As Fathers Day looms the old man has taken to dropping hints at every opportunity.

But what can you really buy for the man who doesn’t believe in spending money?

To further complicate things, he has also imposed stringent rules about what we can and cannot buy him.

Apparently we are not allowed to buy him clothes, for example, as he sees me choosing his attire as a further example of ‘disempowerment’ – funny that he still asks me if he needs a jumper every time we leave the house, though. He assures me that he is more comfortable in his own style, which Kurt describes as his ‘pile of sh*t’ look – an effortless (as in ‘no effort’) layered style of toning brown-on-brown.

We are also not allowed to buy him alcohol, as the family is being forced to endure yet another of his ‘fitness’ fads, and he is currently at the halfway point between giving up and having a heart attack, somewhere midway across the Harbour bridge. He is determined to add to the statistics of men in their forties who try exercise for the first time and think it is easy, then suddenly drop dead.

Luckily, I have a direct line to his insurance company.

But I have come up with a few ideas of my own to thank the old man for his role as father to our children:

1. Chocolate is an obvious choice – I mean who doesn’t like chocolate? The problem is, that the old man likes it a little too much for his own good, and so we realised that in buying him his usual family-sized bar, we would be guilty of supplying him his drug. The old man with a bar of Cadburys is like watching a pig at a trough. Fortunately, he is fully aware that he has a problem and has recently banned all chocolate from the house, so we have to hide it in places he won’t find it, like the laundry and his wallet.

2. Although stylish clothes have been banned, he has suggested he might like to try some of those shorter, more retro board shorts that seem all the rage now. I agree that they may make his legs look a normal length longer, giving the sharks more to latch on to, but as his waist size changes from week to week, (depending on how much chocolate he finds), I don’t know whether to opt for his ‘fat’ size or his ‘kidding himself’ size – as us women know, neither will make him happy.

3. A new wallet would be a good choice for any normal man, but the old man has had the same wallet for the past twenty years and there’s barely a scratch on it.

4. I have also considered buying some Apple shares for the dividends we would get back from the old man keeping the company in business.

5. I’ve already ordered several new remote controls to provide us with some respite from the nightly ‘where is the f..cking remote control, now.’

6. I have privately thought about surprising him with Miley’s rubber two piece outfit that she wore so elegantly to the VMAs, but at the moment I can’t seem to get the tongue extension required to pull it off. This present is a work in progress and I have earmarked some All Black videos to watch this week for training purposes.

7. NC and I both thought that the old man might enjoy a back, crack and sack in readiness for his Summer body, especially if he is to wear those new shorter shorts. That idea seemed particularly appealing as I cleaned the stray urine from the base of the toilet again this morning.

8. Any form of tool is especially appropriate good for the old man, and these are particularly useful for re-gifting at Christmas as they are usually never unwrapped.

9. As a thoughtful treat, I thought I would prepare a special meal and try out a new recipe. Nothing too easy – I thought I’d go all out.  Kurt has even offered to invite some of his ADHD friends to make the evening a truly memorable occasion.

10. Finally, I thought I might truly surprise him with that new car upgrade I have nagged him about until I’m blue in the face we have discussed for those rare occasions when he gets to drive, now that he is God’s answer to Hussein Bolt.  I’ve  He’s had his eye on a new Lexus for a while now and I think it’s time to pay him back for his wonderful contribution to fatherhood and parenting. Fortunately for him, Lexus are having a sale at the moment so I figure that if I can get the GPS thrown in for free so that I can find him when he collapses on the bridge and he realises that I’ve saved him money, he’ll be really happy, right?

One Man and His Man Cave

 

Tip Or Man Cave?
Tip Or Man Cave?

Our celebrations have been tinged with a sense of undeniable loss this week, as we closed the front door for the final time on our old house.

Selling the house was cause for celebration; the ‘loss’ was suffered by the old man who was forced to farewell his leaking shed and the facilities of Kimbriki Tip.

I’ve mentioned the old man’s questionable fascination with Kimbriki Tip before; his home from home. (Why Gardening Can Lead To Divorce.)

My husband is a man caver, (like my son is currently aspiring to be). Man caving is apparently a fairly common pastime of a lot of middle-aged men, who allocate more of their free time to their man caves than to their children at the weekend.

His distress was evident as we began the final stages of de-cluttering the house, and my heart almost broke as I watched him tearfully clear out his crap precious artefacts from  the shed.

That shed held a myriad of good and bad memories for him. It had been his smoking bolthole when he thought none of us knew, our dumping ground for things that had no other home, but most importantly, it was his own precious man-space.

When we first bought the house and planned the renovations needed to create our dream home, (that is, before we got the quotes), I remember him saying to me, ‘Build what you like, Lou, I just want a shed.’

So I gave him his shed, although admittedly it did have one minor design fault in that it was slightly prone to attracting water in wet weather.

Shed With MoatHence the money allocated in our renovation budget to my spangly cushions and weathered oak beach furniture had to be spent on drainage solutions for that fucking shed. None of which worked. And it was only when the old man, either in desperation or because his cave issues had sent him barking fucking mad, suggested a moat, that I finally pulled the plug on financing that useless piece of corrugated iron crap and bought him a pair of wellies instead.

Nerd Child backed me up (for once), helpfully reminding her father of the physics involved in the relationship between water and an un-level garden. Apparently water will always travel downhill and if a shed is foolishly located at the bottom of a garden, (and in a suburb renowned for some of the wettest weather in Sydney), the shed will not always remain dry underfoot. It was a poignant moment in their relationship when she put a comforting arm around his neck and said, ‘it’s time to give it up, Dad.’

So with a white elephant for a shed, the old man was forced to source another man cave and Kimbriki Tip fitted his criteria, becoming his refuge for the next six years.

If he had a bad week at work, he consoled himself at the tip; when things got stressful at home, he scarpered off to the tip.

Which is why it was with such a very heavy heart that we dumped the final load of our shit at the tip on Sunday. As we passed through the first barrier and saluted Dave, there was a weighty silence in the car, only broken by the old man’s observation of, ‘fuck me, they’ve increased the charge for general waste to $15’.

Security At Kimbriki TipSecurity is worse than at JFK Airport at Kimbriki Tip. An unfounded sense of guilt assaults the nervous system even when you know you aren’t concealing any paint pots under your veg, and the body twitches uncontrollably in the effort of trying to appear as normal as possible as you pass through the two Gestapo checkpoints.

I always imagined some Bond-esque action sequence taking place as I waited in that queue nervously. I envisaged this army of helicopters suddenly whirring into life overhead and the garbage men ripping off their yellow fluorescent vests to reveal Federal police uniforms, if we actually dared secrete some illegal paint pots, (or heaven forbid, a car battery), into the vegetation section.

The old man shared many memories with me on that car journey back home. It was obviously cathartic for him, yet it was still an uncharacteristic display of emotion from a very proud man. He spoke of his disappointment that the council had never offered a membership policy for Kimbriki, some sort of loyalty card for people like him, who needed its sense of community. He talked of his fears for the empty weekends ahead, the loss of his two man-sanctuaries that had been so close to his heart.

I can feel his anxiety building as we prune our new rose bushes. His initial enthusiasm for our new maintenance-free courtyard with its few pathetic shrubs has been replaced by a concern that trips to the tip will no longer be warranted. And there is nowhere to ‘dwell’ in the courtyard.

After six years of raking leaves, cursing at fallen Gum branches and Paper bark and wading through a waterlogged shed, it is the end of an era.

Man seeking new man cave.

‘Living’ The Circle of Life

IMG_0279

We don’t really do the whole grandparent thing in our family. It is probably one of the leading causes of our family dysfunctionality, not having grandparents to tell our children how to behave, to advise us on where we’re going wrong, to show us how the whole ‘parenting’ lark should be done.

The family hasn’t truly born witness to the full circle of life.

It’s a little problematic organising Sunday tea with grandparents when you live on the other side of the world from them, and as much as Skype has helped with communication, it doesn’t quite cut it in the same way.

Sad for our children really, because the old man’s mother personifies the perfect grandmother, rather like my own grandmothers did, with her innocent offerings of E-laden lollies and litres of Coke and all the things that send the ADHDer climbing her walls; treats that as the boring responsible parent I have banished from home.

‘He’s very talkative,’ she will comment, like she hasn’t absorbed a word I’ve said about his ADHD. And it should be that way.

That’s the most important part of the grandparent role; to spoil the grandkids.

I was lucky. I had two great grandmothers who have had a permanent impact on my life, albeit that they were taken away from me prematurely.

I spent many of my formative years in the company of my maternal grandmother, foisted on her while my mother worked. I remember those times as halcyon periods of scrabble-playing, walking the dog, sobbing at The Waltons, devouring ‘flying saucers’, and creating lashings of macaroni cheese together – my all-time favourite meal until I discovered alcohol in my late teens, sudden weight gain, and decided foolishly for a while that carbs and dairy simply had to go.

My paternal grandmother was more of a forceful, busy-bee type of grandmother; being one of twelve, she’d had to fight to earn her place. I remember her as someone who appeared to have walked straight out of an Ealing comedy. She was tiny and stocky and sported a different colour hair rinse every time I saw her. And she was ‘busy’ all the time and when her hands shook and my father ridiculed her about it, (shaking her cup of tea as he passed it to her), she would feign upset and admonish him although everyone knew her boy could do no wrong.

I still visualize her gossiping to neighbours over the fence, arms folded on her ample bosom, and constantly berating my father for not having ‘a proper job’ even though he was entrepreneurial and successful in his own right. But behind her hard exterior, she too had a softness, that heart of gold that seems to evolve through motherhood and she was always expressed a fervent interest in what I was doing, listened to me and spent time with me when she could.

Working parents often don’t have the time to ‘listen’ to their offspring as much as they or their offspring would like them to.

We spent Christmas with my father this year, who at only twenty years older than me, has seemed eternally youthful all my life. This time he seemed to have finally come to terms with his age, who he is and having grandchildren. It touched me that in spite of not really understanding the ADHDer, his needs and his difference, he took time to talk to him, to involve him, to really try to get to know him during the Christmas preparations. I remember with fondness the sight of the two of them schucking oysters in the garden (yes, Dad, it is called ‘schucking’) and the sight (and anxiety) I felt as I watched them screech away on Dad’s motorbike. That ten-minute ride fulfilled a dream for my boy.

I was witnessing the circle of life.

And it didn’t seem that long ago that Dad and I were winding our way around Spain on the back of his motorbike, me an impressionable teen and he, a single man in his early thirties.

I still haven’t discovered the meaning of life, but the facial lines and new-found wisdom have made me understand and be finally accepting of the circle of life.

On the plane back to Australia I overheard a girl on her phone saying, ‘I’m 27, but I feel the same as I did when I was 20.’ Most of us can identify with that feeling but you only understand the true significance when you reach middle age. I’m nearly 50 and I feel mentally the same way as I did when I was 20.

My dad has chased his youth through his life, lived life to the full, taken risks, had successes and failures but he finally looks comfortable in his skin now.

And I wouldn’t really want to be 20 again. Because the excitement of youth comes with uncertainty. I already recognize the right and wrong paths I took for what they are; a learning process that is all part of growing up.

The acquired wisdom is that I know what to be grateful for now, even if sometimes I forget how lucky I am.

I watch my children, their cousins and friends, the thirty-somethings we shared time with on holiday, and witnessing their approach to ‘living’ reminds me of where I’ve been and enforces a clearer understanding of who I am. I have done all the things they are doing.

The thought of turning forty used to fill me with abject horror. I mean ‘forty’ was old no matter if you successfully managed to look at it in rose-tinted glasses as the new 30!

Sometimes I envy the antics of my eighteen year old, more often I’m glad it’s her and not me.

But just as my own dad has still not hung up his bike helmet, I understand that life is for living, that we are responsible for creating our own happiness, in whatever way turns us on.

That our responsibility is to ‘live’ through the circle of life.

Good Father Material

Father and Son from YET TO COMECall me sentimental but it seems appropriate on Fathers Day to have just packed the old man and our son off for a week’s ‘bonding’ on the slopes.

It was certainly appropriate for me.

I hugged the old man with a mix of gratitude and condolence as he bravely faced his bonding mission. To be honest, I needed some space to top up my refereeing skills too; the rollercoaster teenage years being what they are.

I did have some qualms concerning the proximity of sheer mountain drops, rocky crevices and ‘off piste’ areas in regards to concealment of evidence, (should bonding prove untenable), but I managed to shrug them off with the thought of back to back chick flicks and repossession of the remote control.

My boys’ ‘bond’ is an evolving one, one which I can only describe as ‘feisty’ on a good day, ‘virtual’ on others – we all know that not every child and parent automatically bonds straight from the womb. While for some, Fathers Day signifies the celebration of a working paternal relationship, for others the journey is not quite as textbook as the commercialism of the day leads us to believe.

Most parents realize soon after the birth of their child that being a ‘good’ parent is not a given. Bryce Corbett spoke of the ‘global conspiracy of silence surrounding parenthood’ in the Sunday Telegraph today, and he is not exaggerating. Parenting is a challenging game with no ‘get out of jail free’ card.

My boys have compromised (a first!) in their choice of Thredbo for their bonding purposes. It’s not quite as neutral as Switzerland, but with the old man being a sportophile, and the ADHDer loving anything ‘extreme’, (preferably with the potential of death, although not of his father, one hopes), the choice of destination seemed to make sense. I’m hoping (while elongated on the sofa, with wine, remote and chocolate at arm’s length), that this could be the making of something beautiful.

You see, for many parents, the (fanciful) dreams that are ignited upon first sight of that tiny blinking heartbeat on the scan, do unfurl naturally, (mostly), but some areas need a little more scaffolding. I would rest more easily if the ‘feel good’ magazines would stop indoctrinating us to believe that unless your dad is managing your sports team or cooking dinner every night (on top of a 60 hour week), he’s not living up to expectation. ‘Doing your best’ is often deemed not good enough.

So we spent this particular Fathers Eve walking on even larger eggshells than normal, as the boys prepared for their groundbreaking trip. ‘Change’ is anathema to both of them, and rockstar son has difficulty in adapting to anything new, and was true to form a venomous catalyst in even the most trivial aspects of the holiday arrangements.

Which made me question several times, (as I spied all those other seemingly happy, perfect families frantically searching the mall for the perfect Father’s Day gift), if very deep down other peoples’ family life is as cushy as it appears to the outside world, to those families who sometimes struggle to maintain harmony in the home, and feel inadequate.

We know that kids spend most of their lives blaming their parents for just about EVERYTHING. And there’s no denying that nurture has a huge responsibility in development; but so does nature. As parents we can’t manipulate or f*ck up what’s already there in the DNA.

I am far and away the worst parent I know. It’s not that I don’t try and it’s certainly not because I don’t love my kids, but parenting is simply not a natural fit. I could hold nurture responsible, but I could equally blame a disappointing gene pool, (I’d have been happy with just ONE talent, honest). But what’s the point?

Who really knows what defines us?

When God (?) sealed the stamp on my ill-assorted genes, he was a bit tight with the squishy, let’s make cookies together, tell-me-about-your-problems-on-my-lap genes that many of my ‘natural mum’ friends inherited. I don’t do fluffiness, I say it how it is, and much to my kids disapproval, I am a bit old-school in my fervent belief in toughening them up, rather than ill-equipping them for life’s curve balls.

Yet in spite of my amateur parenting skills,  God (?) decided to bequest us a child to truly test our endurance skills as parents, with a child possessing often challenging, sociopathic behaviours, the sort of behaviours that can tear a family apart. We have a child that is loved and who is special in so many ways, but who consistently challenges convention and morality and the very foundations that we as a couple agreed on when we decided to share our lives.

And parenting those types of children can test the very fabric of your inner strength; it’s something you certainly weren’t prepared for when you signed up. Which goes to prove the whole conspiracy theory. And which is why sometimes, Dads like Mums, aren’t perfect, in spite of their best intentions.

Which is what ‘unconditional love’ is all about.

Because even though, often sometimes, we don’t handle things as well as we’d like, (in the way that the rock throwers and magazines tell us we should), and we feel like we’ve failed, we know, fundamentally, that we are ‘doing our best’.

The concept of Father’s Day is a positive one, but for some, that precious bond is more of a work in progress.

There are, after all, different ways of demonstrating real love.

‘The path of true love never runs smoothly.’

Father and son photo courtesy of YET TO COME at www.flickr.com

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