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.

Father And Son Bonding and Being The Bad Cop Parent

in the doghouse
in the doghouse (Photo credit: jamie h)

The old man spent Father’s Day weekend in the doghouse.

I’m not quite sure what our therapist is going to think of his latest parenting exploits, to be honest.

I can already hear her asking Kurt and me ‘and how did that make you feel?’

My reaction to Friday night is a feeling of being ‘betrayed’. Somehow the old man always finds a way to cast me as the bad cop parent in our relationship with our son.

I’m sure he had the best bonding intentions, but as usual he went around them completely the wrong way.

On Friday night Kurt was biting at the bit to do something/anything exciting and unfortunately the old man was out. I get a bit anxious when the old man isn’t around and Kurt starts to climb the walls, hyper, looking for trouble – not because he ever does anything particularly effective to discipline him, but just because he’s there as an invisible support, rather like Xanax.

At 8pm, the old man called to say that he would be later than planned.

I began digging my own grave.

Kurt was pacing the house by this time, like a caged animal – it might have been the Coca Cola or the bag of lollies he bought with his school lunch money. Sixteen is a difficult time for teenage boys, but particularly for those with ADHD. They’re not yet old enough to go out and drink and social anxiety can render them awkward around girls, but the heightened testosterone levels fuel them into a state of expectation at the weekend and they want to experiment and behave like an adult.

Mix the unpredictability of Kurt and his dopamine-starved brain and the new-wave parenting approach of the old man, and you come out with a recipe for disaster.

My bribe of the latest Ironman movie and his favourite takeout, which I had hoped might sate Kurt’s appetite for destruction, didn’t work for long. He then hung around NC and I as we shared a glass of wine and moaned about men and periods – at which point he left. By 11pm we were all playing a fun game of cat and mouse, as Kurt persisted in disappearing down to the corner shop under the pretext of buying soft drinks (which I now know is teenage code for ‘having a fag’).

By 11.30pm he began sniffing at NC’s door promising to be a ‘normal’ brother if only she would give him the last vestiges of a bottle of Vodka left over from her recent birthday. I had two choices. I could either lose my shit completely or metamorphose into an ostrich and find the nearest sandpit to bury my head in as far as parental responsibility was concerned and pray my son would follow my lead and go to bed after me.

So I lost my shit. It doesn’t happen as often these days, (apart from during homework obviously – here), but when I blow, it’s not attractive.

It was Friday night, my ally was out, and I had been forced into a corner and morphed into the Bad Cop again. I sent the boy to bed using every threat imaginable. How on earth I planned to have any life over the weekend when I had removed his Xbox, Ipad, phone and had grounded him, I’m not sure, but it sure sounded scary when squealed in the tone of a Banshee.

But luckily for Kurt, Good Cop then sauntered into the house, obvious of the war preceding his entry, and undid all my parenting.

Just like that.

The old man simply forgot our therapist’s advice, to connect, to communicate, to find out what abject misery had occurred while he was out – to fucking SUPPORT me. So he and Kurt decided to have this mega bonding session instead of what Kurt was supposed to be doing, which was thinking about his errant behavior in his bedroom.

Out came the chocolate I had been saving for a dinner party, the biscuits and the ice cream and on went the music at full volume – it was fucking PARTY TIME and suddenly rules were only for losers.

What I can confirm from the very loud conversation that my boys had together (that reached my bedroom at the front of the house, from the courtyard), is that men never grow up. The humour of a forty-seven year old is not very different to that of a sixteen-year old male.

Like we didn’t know that already.

Here’s what they talked about:

  • Me. And my apparent need to nag. Apparently it’s something women have to do (!). I watched them nod knowledgeably together in agreement and acceptance, like they suddenly understood womankind.
  • Girls. A lot. This then escalated to Kurt phoning the girl he likes at school and leaving an ‘I love you’ message that he was mortified about the next morning. Some things never change.
  • Penises and penis size, and when boys discuss penises this can escalate to them handling themselves a lot defensively, which is what they did at 1am when I came down to bawl them out for the noise they were making.
  • Music – this replaces sport in our house and this interest of theirs escalated to them bringing out any musical instrument they could find in the house, as well as improvising their own out of drumsticks and my new outdoor table. Kurt even allowed the old man to play Mull Of Kintyre several times, which is ‘acceptance’ in my book.
  • Wind. This escalated to the sort of competition Kurt used to have with his primary school mates when he was about six.

The old man has obviously been in the doghouse ever since and I would be contemplating throwing away the key, if it weren’t for the anticipation of sweet revenge – I can already see the look of disgust on the therapist’s face when I snitch on him.

Sometimes you get fed up of being bad cop ALL the time.

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?

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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