When should my toddler stop listening to Kanye? – Friday 18 December 2015

When should my toddler stop listening to Kanye? – Friday 18 December 2015

This morning something unusual and wonderful happened; Milo and I slept in. Unfortunately, however, this caused us to be embarrassingly late for an important appointment.

Given we rarely have social engagements at 0630am, we have of course not required a morning alarm for the last 14 months. This morning we had our regular gentlemen’s breakfast with Milo’s pal ‘White Lightning’ and his dad, a delightful affair that occurs most Fridays at 0730.

At 0745 my left eye levered itself open cautiously, like a Pipi checking its surroundings before burrowing feverishly into the sand. The morning light was glary and sharp, the house silent. My right eye had by now taken lefty’s cue and with my depth perception restored I checked the time.

In one swift motion I pulled on a trouser with one hand whilst texting ‘White Lightning’s’ envoy with the other. Simultaneously I hopped into Milo’s room and found him sleeping soundly, a peaceful little angelic boy who quickly turned into a snarly brute as I poked him. Milo channeled his inner teenager and turned over belligerently with the clear and unabashed intention of returning to slumber.

Having been a teenager myself in the past I quickly recalled the inhumane tactics utilised by my father in such situations and began pulling on Milo’s toes. As tiny and elusive as they were, I was able to cling on to one or two as they danced around, desperately trying to evade my pincering. Finally Milo relented and sat up, scowling.

Well we had no time for scowling so I scooped Milo up and assumed the role of Kate McCallister in the classic scene from Home Alone 1; dashing around Milo’s room, throwing mismatched clothing on him, buckling shoes onto the wrong feet, tripping over cats. Surely had we owned more than one child somebody would have been left in the attic.

We made it to breakfast and enjoyed some gentlemanly company, Milo learning important lessons about older boys, weight differentials and Newton’s First Law of Motion.

Due to our tardiness breakfast was truncated and we were soon in the car ready to execute our plan; our first drive to Canberra without mum. Kuepps was otherwise engaged this weekend so Milo and I were hitting the highway together to spend a family weekend in Canberra for early Christmas celebrations.

Milo, not a man who enjoys restriction of any kind (mental, physical or metaphorical), will only tolerate his car seat for long periods of time under very specific conditions; that is, he is asleep.

So the plan was to keep him awake until the Botanical Gardens in Mount Annan, run him around like a Hungarian Vizsla, return him exhausted to the car for an immediate transition into sleep, avoid the temptation of McParenting at Sutton Forest and cruise triumphantly into Canberra several hours later as Milo gently roused himself from a peaceful rest.

Phase 1 was fraught with danger from the outset; and failure here would almost certainly set-off a chain reaction that would lead to laps of the Big Merino with a red-faced infant not impressed by high thread-count yarn.

My solution was to turn the radio up really loud, to create a mini Guantanamo Bay in the back seat. My album of choice was Kanye West and Jay-Z, which seemed to work rather well. After three or four songs however I remembered that if you listen closely, or not at all closely, Kanye’s lyrics are really quite rude. And I began to wonder at what point a toddler should stop listening to such eloquent, but objectively inappropriate musical material.

This is another of those topics for which there is really no particularly good advice in the literature; like when is my child old enough to care for a cactus? Or, how old is too old for Crocs?

I started thinking more broadly about being a role model, how and when we as parents need to start weeding out some of our less palatable, or at least non-model habits, such as ‘borrowing’ wifi while sitting outside the First Class Lounge at the airport, mixing whites and colours in the washing machine, starting to cross the road when the red man has already begun flashing, claiming ‘home office’ supplies at tax time to an amount just below the ‘receipts required’ limit (I have never been brave enough to do this).

Clearly none of us is even close to perfect but somehow many of us still manage to raise pretty decent children. Is it a case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’? Like my skin doctor who has made it his life’s work to identify and aggressively burn off the slightest hint of skin irregularity with extreme prejudice, but smokes a pack of Marlboro Lights a day. On balance I believe he is anti-cancer because of his fine work in the skin realm , but his lung work leaves a lot to be desired.

Or perhaps as a parent you need to save up your anti-social habits and perform them all at once when your children are asleep; like answering a question correctly in Trivial Pursuit and then giving some additional context to let everybody else know that you really know the answer, or starting a new yoghurt before the old one is completely finished because you don’t really like that watery stuff that tends to accumulate at the bottom, or cutting your toe nails inside and not completely worrying if a few fragments fly off into the unknown.

I don’t know the answer to this but I hope it becomes clearer, I’m a little baffled and nervous that Milo will soon learn how bad I am at drilling.

But perhaps that is the point. There is no hiding our foibles from our pesky little sponge-like infants; perhaps their very presence simply causes us to try the watery yoghurt, to just give the answer ‘Mont Blanc’ and leave it at that, to stop and wait when the red man starts flashing and to cut your toenails in the garden.

And every now and again, when the mood is right, you can listen to Kanye with your headphones on.

  Released from the vehicle

Attempts at parenting – Friday 11 December 2015

Attempts at parenting – Friday 11 December 2015

The following is a self-help checklist to determine if you are likely addicted to Crystal Meth… or Baby Einstein:

  • You have developed a dependence and tolerance to it. Do you feel like you need it to get through the day, to feel better or for any other reason?
  • You experience withdrawal symptoms, you use again to counteract withdrawal symptoms;
  • You are losing or have lost the ability to control your usage;
  • All of you priorities start to revolve around its use; eg. you are preoccupied with getting it, you have to have it in your possession to ‘feel okay’, you do whatever you can to get it including missing work, family obligations etc.

Based on the above checklist we have concluded that Milo is developing, or potentially already has, an addiction to Baby Einstein, the nonsensical, psychedelic, youtube sensation that bypasses a baby’s capacity for conscious thought and injects itself directly into his or her reptilian brain. Readers may recall Baby Einstein was introduced to Milo some months ago to counteract his regular distracted demeanour at breakfast time. We found that Baby Einstein rendered Milo immobile, save for his little jaw which pistoned up and down in an involuntary fashion, allowing a well-timed spoonful of Weetbix to be deposited.

Unfortunately what started as an innocent folly has spiraled out of our control and can now only be described as a breakfast dependence. All manner of distractions and other strategies have been employed to break this oppressive cycle; cats chasing a laser pointer, eating with novelty sized salad servers, using the baby-monitor handset as a mock telephone, dad wearing a cycling helmet, mum wearing Oma’s sunhat. None of it works. Milo points frantically at our pockets which house the Baby Einstein machine saying ‘baaa, baaa’ over and over (Baby Einstein regularly features puppets of animals, including a strange baby hippopotamus that sucks a schnuller and is pushed around in a pram. It is weird). If Milo’s efforts are not rewarded swiftly he, quite frankly, loses it. The chance of any Weetbix being deposited anywhere near his mouth is immediately forfeit, any projectiles within his surprisingly extensive radius are immediately seized and projected, and he begins to clamber his way out of his high chair with the unbalanced determination of an injured T1000.

Earlier this week I decided it was time to break the cycle. I visualized an addiction gnawing away at my poor child. I saw him shunned from sleep-overs in primary school because of the embarrassment the morning after would bring. I imagined my dream of hiking the Inca Trail with him some day shattered; no phone reception means no youtube, and no youtube means no Baby Einstein. And no Baby Einstein for three days means, well, I shivered at the thought. It was time for some parenting.

Being an expert on addiction, and parenting for that matter, I decided the cleanest and most logical approach would be ‘cold turkey’. Surely a child as hungry as mine would quickly concede defeat, return to his chair, apologise for his disruptive behaviour, daintily consume his Weetbix and then likely thank me for my provision of sustenance, and adroitly administered discipline.

Not so.

Milo bellowed as if his very world was collapsing; as if the planes would never again take off and land, as if the global supply of corn cobs had been exhausted, as if the little guy he sees sometimes in the mirror had stopped waving back, as if organic macro crackers and mini Italian bread sticks were no longer a thing, as if the little daisy buds that he loves to pluck from the sacrificial bush had just stopped growing. He was sad. And angry. And confused. But mostly angry.

As I am the adult and he the infant I held firm, reasoning with him as he writhed around on the ground, mucous and tears running in rivulets down his cheeks and joining forces just below his neckline to flow together into a damp stain in the shape of a V on the front of his shirt, as if he were a slightly out of shape middle-aged man shamed back to a lunchtime cross-fit class with his colleagues, sweating uncomfortably and wishing he’d just gone to Subway.

Eventually Huckleberry mustered the courage to investigate the cacophony, which distracted Milo momentarily and caused the bellowing and sobbing to eventually peter out. I congratulated myself on my patience and thought Milo and I had achieved a great parenting victory together. I welcomed him back into his high chair and offered him a little more Weetbix. Milo paused, his mouth firmly shut, looked at my pockets and delicately but definitively said “baaaaa”. I declined Milo’s gentle request for a quick glimpse of Baby Einstein which, perhaps predictably in hindsight, quickly precipitated a return to yelling, sobbing, writhing, injured but determined T1000.

It was about this time that Kuepps emerged from downstairs, showered and ready for the day. It was a Tuesday and therefore her day at home with Milo. Needless to say Kuepps was none-too-impressed with my attempts at parenting, and far from amused as I handed her a pink-faced, hungry, disheveled, slobbery child… but I was late for work.

Needless to say this morning (Friday, our day of adventure) Milo and I laughed heartily together at the antics of the creepy little hippo baby puppet, our jaws moving up and down with involuntary reptilian unison, as we enjoyed our Weetbix together.

A man sits alone; alone with Baby Einstein