Close Call

angelI was in my local cafe yesterday morning, quaffing a quick cuppa and watching the antics of the extended family occupying the al fresco area. Grandpa was having a ball as the dynamic duo of Lilliputian princesses climbed all over him. Grandma had a very young one all snuggled up in her lap, and mummy was gently rocking the perambulator back and forth in a vain attempt at coaxing the tiniest one of all back to sleep. It was a privilege to observe such a happy family unit, but as I paid for my cappuccino all hell broke loose.

The first thing I heard was mummy’s scream. It was loud, plaintive and came straight for the deepest part of her soul. No horror movie has ever captured such a sound of wretched terror and the only noise to compete with it was the elderly banshee with the baby in her lap. My head swivelled sideways faster than a barn owl just in time to see a yellow angel, with pink ribbons adorning curly brown pigtails, race across the road after her Grandfather, who had taken her older sister to the park on the other side.

For a moment it appeared that time had actually stopped and was trying to reboot in a slow, deliberate process.

A tiny frightened girl stopped in the middle of the street and burst into tears, unsure whether to turn back or keep going, and afraid that she was going to get into enormous trouble.

A seated Grandmother threw her arms out, desperately hoping that her reach would magically extend to ensnare her grandchild.

A mother’s shoes refused to grip the ground as she tried to leap the many metres that separated her from her child.

And, with three mighty steps, a Grandfather found the strength of youth when he bounded into the road and scooped up the crying little one.

MinionThankfully the bus service was running late and no other traffic was on the road at the time, so everything ended fine with the siblings happily heading off to the playground.

The whole experience occurred in mere moments, but as the adrenalin began to wear off it caused me to reflect on a similar circumstance that happened many years before. Our third son Granny, who was always pushing the boundaries of acceptable behaviour and is single-handedly responsible for the majority of my grey hairs 🙂 decided one day that it would be fun to run out on the road and see how far he could get before mum or dad caught him. The street he chose though was not as quiet as the one yesterday and I can still see the look of panic on the occupant’s faces as their cars swerved to miss him.

Granny is fine of course, and has just graduated from high school. But I learned that day that the price of parenthood includes vigilance. Kids are predictably unpredictable and that can place them in all sorts of predicaments – both good and bad.

So, as thousands of our little monsters hit the streets hunting for Halloween treats, please do iDad a favour and hold onto their hands.

iDad the Eighth

Move over Maradona.

By the time I had become a proud father of five I was nearing my late thirties. Unfortunately I had gained weight with each and every child that came along and my physique was no longer the bronzed Adonis of my early adolescence. My body had matured, like a fine wine or mouldy cheese and had slowed down to the speed of a turtle wading through treacle. I was in shape though. ‘Round’ is a shape after all. However, at the insistence of my partner, I returned to the sporting arena.

Standing in the Colosseum as rambunctious Romans bayed for Christian blood, shortly before the lions were let loose, was an exhilarating experience.  A crisp breeze dispersing the scent of blood before fear and defiance set in. At least that’s how I imagined it. The indoor soccer grounds at the local gym smelled more like old sweat and dirty socks, and the kids had come along to laugh at poor iDad as he waddled around breathlessly trying to compete with men not much more than half his age.

I lasted twenty minutes that first day.

As I stopped and spun anti-clockwise so as to kick the ball back into the field of play I heard a muffled gunshot. A millisecond later and my left knee could no longer bear my weight. The referee’s whistle blew and the young official approached me.

“Are you ok mate?”

I had no idea. Pain hadn’t set in yet. Nausea on the other hand…. Something was wrong.

“I don’t know. What happened?”

“Your knee popped. I heard it from over there. You need to go put ice on it.”

As I hobbled off the pitch for my ignominious exit I saw the man from the food shop walk round from behind the counter. He was carrying a bag of frozen peas, which he threw towards me.

“Get this on your knee quick smart mate or it will blow up like a balloon.”

“Did you hear it pop too?”

He grimaced at me before replying.

“Everybody heard that mate.”

He was right. The entire gymnasium had gone silent, and I was off to hospital.

Glory, Glory to South Sydney

Being an armchair athlete and the son of a Rugby League referee helped instill a passion for sports, and my favourite team is the South Sydney Rabbitohs. To date I have never seen them play in a grand final, let alone win one, but with Russell Crowe on board as the owner, iDad is quietly confident.

Rugby League is the dominant winter sport played across the eastern seaboard of Australia with the local competition boasting clubs from Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and New Zealand. It is played in over thirty nations throughout the globe with annual Test Matches between international sides and a Rugby League World Cup competition, with fourteen representative nations, held every four years or so.

It is a full contact, tribal game with some teams (and their fans) harboring grudges that go back over one hundred years. The annual State of Origin series pits New South Welshmen against their Queensland rivals, many of whom play in the same local sides together. Friendships are forgotten once the athletes walk out into the cauldron and the punishment these men put their bodies through needs to be seen to be believed.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs are the most historically successful Rugby League team of them all. Unfortunately our glory has been few and far between in recent decades and it has become a sad reality that our supporters seem to have a mortgage on disappointment. This is reflected in our club mottos including:

The very popular, ‘oh well, there’s always next week.’

The seasonal, ‘oh well, there’s always next year.’

And the most frequently used of them all – ‘bugger’.

The love we have for our team can never be questioned though and in the year 2000, a crowd of 80,000 people marched on Sydney Town Hall to protest the way News Limited were treating the game and to demand that our club be reinstated back into the national competition. No. 1 was there with me. God Sakes and Granny had stayed at home. Fans wearing club colours from new teams, old teams and extinct teams vented their frustrations to the media; and the Rabbitohs went to court with a fire in their belly. We have not enjoyed much success since winning our case and resuming our playing status in 2002, but a true supporter never gives up.

One day, after a particularly bad beating at the hands of the New Zealand Warriors, three sad little boys came to have a chat to me. No.1 was the spokesman,

“Dad, we love you.”

I could tell right away that this was not going to go anywhere good. God Sakes and Granny looked at their shoes as No.1 continued.

“But do we have to keep going for Souths?”

iDad was speechless.

“They never win dad.”

God Sakes was right.

“They suck dad.”

Granny was too. I nodded sagely.

“No boys, you don’t have to keep following Souths if you don’t want to.”

It hurt for me to say it, but I felt I had no choice. Then they delivered the coup de grace.

“We’re also going to start going for Queensland in the State of Origin. New South Wales never wins that either.”

As the terrible trio toddled off to cause chaos in the rumpus room I slumped back into my armchair and watched wistfully as another Warrior was congratulated for his part in decimating our once beloved red and green footy team. My knee throbbed from the recent reconstruction and I wondered how I would tell their grandfather of the betrayal.

Then a cunning plan formed in the grey matter of my cerebellum. Time for a Chinese meal.

Power to the People.

Stuff of legend...John Sattler, suffering a broken jaw, is chaired off by Bob McCarthy after Souths beat Manly in the 1970 grand final. Source: The Daily Telegraph

The South Sydney Rugby League Club in Redfern had arguably one of the best Chinese restaurants around. Nothing flash or fancy, just plenty of prawn cutlets, gow gee and fried rice. It was inexpensive, tasty and kid-friendly, which made it the perfect ‘westwomp’ as the boys had come to call it. Generally we would go as a family unit with uncles, aunties, cousins and grand-parents. Our table was large and round, and the Lazy Susan was kept incredibly busy.

Outside the restaurant, but still within the building, was the South Sydney Football Club Hall of Fame where photos of players that had gone on to represent their state or country, were hung with pride. The most memorable of all was the picture of John Sattler, South Sydney’s captain in the late sixties and early seventies, being carried off the field after wining the 1970 Grand Final against Manly-Warringah. Blood coursed down his chin from a badly broken jaw he received in the opening minutes of the game. In spite of his horrendous injury he not only played on, but captained his side to one of the most courageous Grand Final wins of all time. As I told the story to my boys their eyes widened.

“Souffs are cooool!”

Once again Granny was right.

One Little Girl hadn’t arrived yet and Mini Me was still bottle fed, so it was just the five us at the table this night. The staff were amazing in spite of the mess Granny made with the ‘chomp-stinks’. God Sakes had given up on them ages ago. He just couldn’t stuff the food in quick enough.

By the time dinner had ended there was a fine layer of rice coating the carpet like sago snow and no more talk about supporting rival teams. To this day my boys are all still members of the football club, waiting patiently for success.

As my boisterous boys embarked on another brouhaha in the brasserie, possibly high on monosodium glutamate, I noticed that there was a minor commotion in the kitchen. Curious onlookers peered from the double doorway as the head-waiter approached me with a purpose.

“Are these all your children?”

For one horrible second I thought we may have finally outstayed our welcome.

“Yes, they’re all mine.”

He turned to the scullery and nodded prompting ‘oohs’, ‘ahhs’ and eyes widened with awe. Then I was posed another question.

“They are all boys?”

“Yes they are.”

More vigorous head bobbing evoked a round of applause from the chef and his crew.

“You must be a very powerful man.”

With that last comment he left to process my credit card. He was right you know, but he still got a big tip.

iDad 007 – Mini Me Meets One Little Girl

Mini Me

I have mentioned previously about God Sakes love for all things miniature and his unfortunate inclination to eat said tiny toys. Well Granny also had a predilection for the pint sized. To him, every itty-bitty item was somebody’s baby and, like his brothers before him, his favourite were prehistoric monsters. Plastic dinosaurs (or dinoos as they had been so named by the terrible trio) were everywhere and even though the Brontosaurus was occasionally seen grazing on the T-Rex, and Stegosaurus could sometimes fly, Granny loved them.

It was a cute obsession from our chubby-cheeked cherub that frequently drew a chuckle from family and passersby, until the unfortunate incident at the fancy pizza parlour. Someone had ordered a Mediterranean pizza that was topped with scallops, mussels, prawns and barbeque octopus. It smelled fantastic but was destined never to be eaten, for as it was placed on the red and white checked stereotypical table cloth, Granny’s inner demon let fly with a blood-curdling,

“WHO KILLED ALL THE BABIES?”

The sight of baked hoods and charred tentacles were too much for Granny to bear and I was forced to take him for ice cream to calm him down. Apparently the pizza was really nice. I guess I’ll never know.

Later that year Granny got his own baby to care for when the stork dropped our fourth son down the chimney. With dark curly hair, large brown eyes and a big beautiful smile, number four quickly became known as Mini Me and has lived up to the title ever since.

The Lego Revelation.

The arrival of Mini Me had necessitated a move to a larger house, the purchase of a bigger car and a mortgage akin to the national debt. Six people just do not fit in a Camry no matter how hard you try and although iDad had considered using the boot space (especially for those long holiday miles) the need to keep my license always outweighed the temptation.

Our children were very happy though, in spite of my threats to shove them into the luggage pod on the roof if they didn’t keep their hands to themselves. In the morning they would race me to the front door as I left for work. Breakfast covered fingers smeared my suit with love and Weetbix as I staggered up the hallway and extricated myself from the apartment. Their enthusiasm was no less exuberant when I returned home, only this time it was tomato sauce and fish fingers that coated my clothing. The local dry-cleaners still send me Christmas cards as a thank-you for helping to put their kids through University.

A house full of cubs tends to lead to a floor covering of pre-school detritus and the most prevalent mess at our place was Lego. Colourful bricks, wheels, critters and people littered our lounge room, bedroom, hallway and every other place there should have been carpet or ceramic tiles. It clogged the vacuum cleaner, disappeared under the refrigerator, went through the washing machine and often found itself within the blades of my lawn mower. The kids loved getting it all out, iDad hated putting it all away.

Unfortunately Mini Me had developed a medical problem that caused him pain whenever he went wee-wees so, after a few months of almost zero sleep, his parents were not much better than zombies. Oh sure we avoided nibbling on our neighbours brains, and our hygiene was more than acceptable, but the shuffling shadows of human beings we had become left us frequently drooling on the couch and falling asleep at the dinner table.

The doctors couldn’t seem to work out what was wrong with Mini Me, yet the bills kept coming in. The economy was still holding its breath after September 11 and we had another little miracle on the way. The mess, the lawn, the bills, the asthma, the lack of sleep… It was a hard time for the parents of four little boys and the pressure was beginning to take its toll. Then, when life seemed at its lowest point, something wonderful and just a little bit painful happened.

It was either late in the night or early in the morning, my eyes would not focus on the alarm clock and all I knew was that it was still dark outside, I staggered toward back to the bedroom after comforting No. 1 through another Night Bear. In the dim I did not see the booby trap laid out for me and suddenly found my left foot had decided to introduce itself to the smallest, sharpest piece of Lego in the pack. Now I was awake! Crimson spots dribbled from the gash on my sole as I began scooping up the playthings, but I stopped almost immediately when I noticed the intricate pattern in which they had been laid out. The boys had created an entire Neanderthal village complete with cavemen, palm trees, dinosaurs and farm animals. The Stone Age family had a mother, a father and four children living happily in their little plastic cave. A McDonalds French Fry was the centrepiece of the display. I guess they had hunted and gathered it from the locale fast food franchise, Flintstones style.

Next to the Lambeosaurus was a bunch of drawings by Granny where he had practiced writing his name and spelling the words ‘I love mummy and daddy’. Underneath the drawings was a booklet written and illustrated by God Sakes called ‘These Elephants.’ It was a story about a daddy elephant and his son, and all the adventures they did together. Life no longer seemed so challenging.

The Tooth Fairy.

I’ve never been entirely comfortable holding a piece of someone’s head in my hand but losing a tooth is a natural occurrence and with five kids, well the tooth fairy was going to need an assistant. The American tradition is to hide the fang under the child’s pillow and some pillow cases even have a little pocket to place the chomper within. In light of the thrashing antics of No.1’s night terrors we thought it would be wiser to place the tiny tusk in a glass of water and leave it on the sink for the fairy to find. This was a great idea which served us well for many a discarded denture until the one fateful night that iDad arrived home late from the office Christmas party, a little worse for wear. Staggering into the darkened kitchen, trying desperately not to wake the family, iDad topped up the glass of water he found and drank it.

Have you ever heard the saying when something comes back ‘to bite you in the bum’? Well I know what that actually feels like. Thankfully it was only one of God Sakes front teeth and not a molar or, Heaven forbid, a fifty-cent piece.

One Little Girl.

A couple of months later we brought our fifth and final baby home. One little girl was here, and she was perfect. She was also a little girl, something we were not entirely used to in our household. Hand-me-downs were no longer acceptable. Ponies replaced the Pachycephalosaurus. Pink and purple became the primary colours instead of red and green. The boys didn’t know what had hit them and neither did iDad.

Mud pies, tree climbing and footy became bubbles, ballet and Barbie. Fairies invaded the living room and Princesses were everywhere. One by one the Matchbox cars were replaced with all manner of dolls. Some burped, others cried and a few even soiled their nappies. Only the ubiquitous Lego, with its asexual appeal, remained acceptable. Life as we knew it was inexorably altered forever, but we didn’t care.

From the moment she arrived One Little Girl was the master of her domain. No.1, God Sakes and Granny would rush to pick her up at the slightest squeak, lugging her around the house and playing with pink ‘things’ to keep her amused. Even Mini Me was besotted.

Our last first birthday was a magnificent experience. More time went into the creation of the culinary masterpiece that was the cake, than the rest of the fare we prepared. With marshmallow mushrooms, magenta butterflies, silver cachous and mauve coloured icing that still does not appear in any paint chart on the planet, a bemused One Little Girl finally got to blow out her candle. It was a day I will never forget.

Mini Me and One Little Girl are in primary school together. Granny and God Sakes are almost finished high school. No.1 is studying at college.

Where did the time go?

Gen Y – an iDad Perspective

What is Generation Y?

The simple definition of the generations is as follows:

1901 – 1924: The Greatest Generation aka The Veterans.

These guys were born during the Great War, grew up through the Great Depression and fought in World War 2. They were fed on food stamps, handouts and the grapes of wrath. If you want to argue their right to call themselves the Greatest Generation then go for it. Unfortunately you are likely to be clobbered by a walking frame, prosthetic limb or Stephen Spielberg 😉

1925 – 1945: The Silent Generation.

These poor buggers grew up in the shadow of the Greatest Generation. They were the children who were supposed to be seen and not heard, and when they tried to speak up they copped an earful of:

MP: In them days we was glad to have the price of a cup o’ tea.
GC: A cup o’ cold tea.
EI: Without milk or sugar.
TJ: Or tea.
MP: In a cracked cup, an’ all.
EI: Oh, we never had a cup. We used to have to drink out of a rolled up newspaper.
GC: The best we could manage was to suck on a piece of damp cloth.
TJ: But you know, we were happy in those days, though we were poor.
MP: Because we were poor. My old Dad used to say to me, “Money doesn’t buy you happiness, son”.
EI: Aye, ‘e was right.
MP: Aye, ‘e was.
EI: I was happier then and I had nothin’. We used to live in this tiny old house with great big holes in the roof.
GC: House! You were lucky to live in a house! We used to live in one room, all twenty-six of us, no furniture, ‘alf the floor was missing, and we were all ‘uddled together in one corner for fear of falling.
TJ: Eh, you were lucky to have a room! We used to have to live in t’ corridor!
MP: Oh, we used to dream of livin’ in a corridor! Would ha’ been a palace to us. We used to live in an old water tank on a rubbish tip. We got woke up every morning by having a load of rotting fish dumped all over us! House? Huh.
EI: Well, when I say ‘house’ it was only a hole in the ground covered by a sheet of tarpaulin. But it was a house to us.
GC: We were evicted from our ‘ole in the ground; we ‘ad to go and live in a lake.
TJ: You were lucky to have a lake! There were a hundred and fifty of us living in t’ shoebox in t’ middle o’ road.
MP: Cardboard box?
TJ: Aye.
MP: You were lucky. We lived for three months in a paper bag in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six in the morning, clean the paper bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down t’ mill, fourteen hours a day, week-in week-out, for sixpence a week, and when we got home our Dad would thrash us to sleep wi’ his belt.
GC: Luxury! We used to have to get out of the lake at six o’clock in the morning, clean the lake, eat a handful of ‘ot gravel, work twenty hour day at mill for tuppence a month, come home, and Dad would thrash us to sleep with a broken bottle, if we were lucky!
TJ: Well, of course, we had it tough! We used to ‘ave to get up out of shoebox at twelve o’clock at night and lick road clean wit’ tongue. We had two bits of cold gravel, worked twenty-four hours a day at mill for sixpence every four years, and when we got home our Dad would slice us in two wit’ bread knife.
EI: Right! I had to get up in the morning at ten o’clock at night half an hour before I went to bed; drink a cup of sulphuric acid; work twenty-nine hours a day down mill and pay mill owner for permission to come to work; and when we got home, our Dad and our mother would kill us and dance about on our graves singing Hallelujah.
MP: And you try and tell the young people of today that ….. they won’t believe you.
ALL: They won’t!

Gotta love Monty Python 🙂

1946 – 1964: The Baby Boomers.

So called because all the hippy free love and LSD of the sixties promoted a massive population explosion. They are responsible for bell-bottom trousers, love beads, chunky plastic jewellery and other fashion faux pas so gaudy that even St Vincent de Paul won’t accept their donations. Many of these people are still coming down from their high and are busily making sure they don’t leave behind any inheritance.

There are over 5,000,000 Baby Boomers in Australia alone and their motto is:

We believe that fun doesn’t have to be the privilege of the X or Y Generation, and that Baby Boomers (BBs) have the right to feel as young as they like for as long as they like.

Be nice to the X and Y Generations BB, for we will be funding your nursing homes 😉

1965 – 1982: Generation X.

Charged with repairing the damage done by the baby boomers’ excessive / compulsive nature and high-level consumption of the world resources, Generation X missed out on the Beatles, Vietnam and the good music of the Rolling Stones. Your average Gen-Xer is early forties, raising a family, worried about the cost of electricity and fed up with petrol prices. On top of that Generation Y is nipping at our heals with their tweets, Facebook likes, visible butt crack and abbreviated text language.

We were the first generation to grow up with computers and as such we are technically adept. We came of age in an era of dual income households and we often known as ‘latchkey kids’. Divorce rates were high amongst our parents and as a result we became self reliant and skeptical of authority. We grew up with grunge music and MTV (back when it was cool) and, unfortunately, we live to work rather than work to live.

1983 – 2000: Generation Y.

Y should I get a job?

Y should I leave home and find my own place?

Y should I get a car when I can borrow yours?

Y should I clean my room?

Y should I wash and iron my own clothes?

Y should I buy any food?

Nuff said 😉