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?

iDad Part Six – More Cake

St Andrew’s

Growing up with No.1, God Sakes and Granny was as entertaining as it was educational and iDad’s influence over his children was profound. As a fledgling golfer I was forever talking to my boys about the three or four good shots I made out of the one hundred and thirty it took me to get around the course. Needless to say they were suitably impressed by my prowess with the Ping and would happily inform all those who would listen, and many who would not.

My Aunty, who actually was an A-Grade golfer, decided one day to show the older two how to play the grand old game. As she lined up a chip shot No.1 piped up with an innocent query.

“Wotcha doin’ Aunty Ba-Ba”

“I’m going to show you how to play golf.”

No.1 began to laugh.

“You don’t know how to play golf Ba-Ba.”

My Aunty stopped mid back-swing.

“Of course I do. I’m a very good golfer.”

In fact she was! The hall stand, book case and lintel over the fireplace all bore trophied testament to the fact that my Aunty was an accomplished A-Grade golfer.

Regardless, No.1 continued chuckling.

“No you’re not. Only mans play golf.”

Thus endeth the lesson.

WWW.

Running an IT business when the Internet was a newborn, Netscape was still a browser and Windows was only 95, iDad always managed to keep up to date with the latest technology. I still have my first mobile phone, complete with the monster battery pack that hung over your shoulder like a five kilogram acid-filled satchel. We use it as a doorstop. My boys however we suitably impressed with my ability to work in the car, the backyard and even the toilet. To them the black brick with the twisted cord and battered handset, meant that dad could come home early to spend time with them, and finish his job after they had gone to bed.

The evolution of cumbersome telecommunications to a more compact format did not lessen the mystique and my boys always enjoyed the ever-changing midi ringtone my Nokia spouted forth. One afternoon as we sat by the shores of Lake Macquarie, the sun setting in the west and the children splashing about in the shallows, Aunty Ba-Ba pulled out her mobile phone to place a call. No.1 was stunned.

“Where did you get that Ba-Ba?”

“This is mine sweety.”

No.1 burst out laughing.

“No its not. Only mans have mobile phones.”

Later that night No.1 would zap my beautiful Aunty once again as she scooped a dollop of hot English mustard onto her plate.

“You’re so funny Ba-Ba.”

“Why’s that sweetheart?”

“Only mans eat mustard.”

Aunty Ba-Ba passed away shortly after Granny was born. Cancer is a terrible disease.

More Cake!

As I had mentioned before in an earlier story, our closest friends had had a baby girl in between our No.1 and God Sakes. She was a beautiful little blue eyed tomboy who could scale fences, climb trees and escape through windows. On top of that she had made it her personal mission to send her parents grey; and she was succeeding. Her nickname ‘Cake’ had been earned during God Sakes first birthday party and she has had a lasting influence on my boy’s development into adolescence.

From Church to MTV, no part of life was immune to Cake’s touch. She would rally the boys together to sing the latest hits at the top of their lungs, usually whilst bouncing up and down on our couch. The sight of three little pre-schoolers exuberantly vocalising the words to the Bloodhound Gang song,

‘You and me baby ain’t nothing but mammals. So lets do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.’

…is permanently seared into my retina. As are all the church bulletins upon which God Sakes and Cake had scrawled sacrilegious slogans such as ‘I am farting’ and the classic, ‘this is my butt.’ All of which were expertly illustrated before being placed onto the collection plate. I never found out what the old priest thought of the pencilled profanities but hopefully he had a sense of humour.

Finally our friends had their second baby and balance was restored to their Universe. So-See was an angelic little girl with blonde bubble curls and big blue eyes. She liked Barbie and ponies and all things pink. She was the first girly girl my boys had ever known and, frankly, they were nonplussed.

“What do you think of the baby?”

Blue Eyes was trying to engage her boy’s interest in their new friend. No.1 feigned a slight interest.

“Its ok I guess.”

God Sakes remained unusually quiet.

“What’s wrong honey? Don’t you like the baby?”

“No.”

His mother was shocked.

“Why?”

“It hasn’t got a doodle.”

iDad fell on the floor laughing as Blue Eyes tried to explain the situation.

“This is a girl baby. Girl’s don’t have doodles.”

“Oh.”

God Sakes turned on his heels and walked away. What’s the point of life if you don’t have a doodle?

Postman Pat and the Gobbellin.

Like most Australian kids, my boys grew up watching the vast array of children’s shows on the ABC. Play School, Sesame Street, Bob the Builder, all got a fair amount of exposure; but the favourite for a while seemed to be Postman Pat and his Black and White Cat. Little God Sakes face would light up as the theme song started and then he’d sing a long at the top of his high-pitched little lungs which, for him, was to be expected 😉

One day however, I decided to pay attention to the words as my little angel harmonised with the tune from the television. Something wasn’t right.

“Postman Pat. Postman Pat. Postman Pat and his black and white cat.”

Only he didn’t say ‘black and white’.

My brown eyed, sunny faced cherub had replaced the words ‘black and’ with an f-bomb.

What Jess had done to become known as an f***ing white cat I’ll never know, but God Sakes offensive mispronunciation was quickly corrected before he started pre-school.

Obnoxiousness is not a personality trait of any of my children. Unfortunately though, forthrightness is and telling it as they see it often became a cringe-worthy experience.

I’ve mentioned before about a shopping trip where Granny received his nickname. Sitting in the trolley batting his big blue eyes at all the passers by when one kind lady with a Rubenesque physique stopped to pinch his cheeks and comment on his cuteness. Granny replied in a voice that seemed to channel the Cookie Monster,

“Hello Fatty.”

After much apologising Blue Eyes attempted to educate our little boy on good manners, respecting elders, and overall acceptable behaviour. With remorse written all over his face Blue Eyes ceased the lesson and began to clean up the drink that God Sakes had spilled. As she collected the last piece of broken glass she heard the biscuit eating muppet fire up the voice box one more time for the elderly couple that had stopped to say hi.

“Hello Granny.”

Marginally better.

So-See and Cake had a little baby sister arrive not long after Granny learned how to talk. As per usual, our friends had produced another beautiful blonde girl with a gregarious nature and bubbly disposition. As we sat around admiring the newborn I noticed Granny squinting at her and cocking his head to the side. Then he spoke in that unmistakably deep voice.

“What’s wrong wiff her ears?”

The adults were perplexed.

“What do you mean mate?”

“They’re funny lookin.”

“What are you talking about son?”

“She looks like a Gobbellin.”

Ok, so my lovely goddaughter had slightly pointy ears due to the process of being born. Trust Granny to give her a nickname that has lasted forever.

iDad © Matthew Green 2010

iDad and the Great Migration

Late last year the National Geographic Channel ran a series of fantastic shows on the Great Migrations of the animal world. Monarch butterflies, nomadic elephants and herds of bleating zebras graced our screen and entertained the children. One of my personal favourites was the red crab from Christmas Island. Each mating season millions of these land animals make the move from the rainforest to the beach to lay eggs and propagate the species. On the way they have to contend with car tyres, commuter trains and the yellow crazy ant, which has decimated the crustacean population. I think the reason I am so fond of these single-minded creatures is their dogged determination to get to and from the beach in spite of the adversity that awaits them, much like the coastal migration we humans undertake every Christmas holidays affectionately known as – The Sydney Summer Evacuation.

Every year, as if spurned on by the arrival of the summer solstice, families of bipedal gnus work themselves into a frenzy in preparation for the long and perilous northern road trip. In what can only be described as a miracle of nature, large metallic beasts, engorged with human detritus roll along the tar in a honking, hooting symphony of sound and colour. This is not a trip for the faint hearted though. As the mechanised mammoths plod along in the intense heat and humidity the symbiotic relationship between the four-wheeled host and its two-legged parasites gets severely tested. In an effort to make ‘good time’ the poor, ever-obedient animal often gets pushed beyond its boundaries and many end up being herded away by one of its blue-flashing cousins.

In one of the more gruesome spectacles, the many McCrocodiles that lurk beside the busy stretch of bitumen between Hornsby and the Gold Coast often pick off weary travelers. These ambush predators decorate themselves in brightly coloured plumage to attract the adolescent humans and entice them to stop with promises of fried fat coated in sodium chloride. Even the lure of eleven secret herbs and spices can prove too hard to resist for the tense iDad teetering on the edge of insanity. Sadly, many of the older and weaker creatures are frequently found by the side of the road hissing and steaming in the last throws of life as their perplexed passengers look on aghast.

Two weeks later, as if drawn by some invisible magnetic force, these pitiful critters will endure hardship all over again – in the opposite direction. It is an anthropomorphic adventure the likes of which are not seen anywhere else in the world.

Yours truly has undertaken this odyssey on many occasions and has lived to tell the tale. I hope that my advice below will help you to plan your next great migration.

Tip 1. Don’t forget the batteries.

A portable DVD player will distract even the crankiest child. However, as most cars only have one or two accessory charging points, which are usually filled with teenager’s iPods, make sure you bring plenty of spare batteries. Sure you can pick extras up at the service station, for three times the price, but if money was no object then why aren’t you flying? Also ensure that you have comfortable earphones for the little movie goer. After listening to Finding Nemo for hours on end I was really wishing that Bruce the shark would recant on his slogan, “Fish are friends, not food.”

Tip 2. Resist the temptation to allow your teenage son to play his iPod through the car stereo.

I like to think that I have a rather eclectic taste in music, but screaming death metal at any volume is too loud. It is especially offensive after your five-year-old daughter has finally gone to sleep. This is your time for peace and quiet. Nemo has been found, the Little Mermaid got her man, Barbie is still a fairy princess and everything is right with the world. Why spoil it with a toneless howl bellowed from the diaphragm of a psychotic wannabe rock star?

“But dad, it’s a love song. Listen to the lyrics.”

“You mean there are actually words to this banshee’s wail.”

“Yeah. See! He misses his girlfriend who got run over by a freight train.”

“Lets listen to Cold Chisel.”

“Old stuff is rubbish.”

The sulking teenager goes back to his earphones and begins to actively destroy his aural capacity with a sound that is best described as someone trying to scream over the top of a whining jet engine.

Tip 3. Not all sunscreen is created equally.

Everyone knows that under the harsh Australian sun an SPF factor of 30 or higher is essential if you want to go out and play. What a lot of you probably don’t know is that the wrong type of sunscreen can really put a dent in your day. Holiday dollars never seem to go as far as you had planned so this year iDad tried out some budget branded lotion in order to save a few cents. Big mistake.

The first problem I noticed was that the cream itself had the consistency of molten tar and a smell that reminded me of industrial paint. Rubbing it on my children was an excruciating experience. Ensuring that your five-year-old is sitting still is a hard enough job at the best of times. When there is a beach to get to this task becomes practically impossible.

I spent hours coating the kids in white treacle only to find that it washed right off within thirty minutes of hitting the surf. This became my second problem. Luckily my children have great outdoor skin inherited from their Lebanese ancestry. iDad on the other hand does not and by the end of the first day even the lobsters were laughing at me.

Tip 4. Sweet treats are great to keep the kids quiet on those long drives, but not so good to clean out of the upholstery.

Regardless of the week-long scorching third degree burn that eventually managed to exfoliate ninety percent of my six-foot frame, our holiday was a great success. With the car packed and extra batteries in the centre console we began the long journey home. I had purchased some lollies to distract the kids from the various fast food restaurants we would pass along the way and before we were one third home the complaints started.

“I don’t feel good daddy.”

“What’s wrong little man?”

“My tummy hurts.”

Being somewhat of an expert with motion sickness I know exactly what to do.

“Adjust the air conditioner so that the cool air is blowing on your face. That’ll make you feel better.”

As my eight-year-old leaned forward to do as he was told his breakfast, lunch and a dozen or so jellybeans exited his oesophagus, poured into the aircon outlet and all over the carpet. His brother, who had been feeling ill himself but had suffered in silence, followed suit and proceeded to coat his siblings in the same masticated and partly digested mush.

I don’t remember the name of the backwater burg we stopped in but I will never forget the barely stifled guffaws from the locals as five kids and their father stood staring blankly at the barf bag my Landcruiser had become.

My final tip for surviving the holidays is to make sure you have a change of clean clothes inside the car. Climbing onto the roof in forty-two degree heat to rummage through the luggage when you are already sunburned is no fun. Accidentally giving your teenage son dirty socks to wear is a stench worthy of its own postcode. Combining that aroma with congealing bile that you cannot get out of the air conditioner is… well I’m going to leave that to your imagination.

At long last our arduous journey is at an end. As the family wagon pulls up inside the garage children leap from open doors like baboons escaping a lion, leaving iDad with half a dozen suitcases to unpack and a mountain of washing to get through. Thirty minutes later the banshee is shrieking abuse from the stereo upstairs, the youngsters are watching Nemo yet again and the teenagers are demanding to know,

‘What’s for dinner?’