A dear friend and work colleague’s daughter, whom I’ve known since she was a baby, has asked me to be the Godfather of her first child, a beautiful daughter. I was both humbled and honoured by the request and accepted gladly.
They live near my old stomping ground, just over an hour’s drive away. The journey provides a good opportunity for a discussion with the cubs.
I explain the concept to them both. Youngest, unconcerned with my happiness is more concerned with the replica snake, which he has somehow managed to smuggle into the car. (He’s in smart clothes and has been patted down. My game is obviously off..)
Eldest, is listening intently and joining the dots.
‘But you already have me..’
She’s not replacing you.
‘Do you have to do anything, in general?’
It’s about spiritual guidance
No not ghosts. You go to a Church of England School. More the Holy Ghost.
‘So ghosts then?’
Ok Ghosts. It’s more about taking care of her spiritual upbringing, should anything happen to her parents.
She’s silent. That can only mean one thing; the processor is in full tilt.
She eventually looks at me.
‘So how many people have to die for me to get a sister?’
Well, if it’s down to me and your mum, every other person on the planet, I think but not say. I chuckle to myself anyway.
We hit traffic; I’m worried about the snake charmer. He’s not long out of nappies and is still prone to the odd accident. He’s 4, so I don’t expect miracles. Journeys such as these are now bookended by toilet breaks.
He assures me that he’s ok.
In all honesty, the drive is taking twice as long as it should, and I could do with a …. break myself. The cubs are starting to unravel. Not prone to ‘are we there yet?’, they begin to ask.
SatNav is rarely my friend and it chooses today to renew our ill blood. Even with the contingency time I built-in, we may be late. I call my friend, who directs me to the Church, and into a parking space outside. Thankfully, I text them when I left home, so they got a sense of the traffic issues.
We all walk in.
Key players are in the front pews. It’s an intimate service; family and a few friends. The cubs are loving it. Eldest has been tasked with holding the Christening presents. Youngest, has energy to burn. He spots a play area off to the left. It’s immediately embargoed. My mistake..
Whilst the Vicar is delivering the sermon, I notice something unusual on her cassock. I can’t, quite, make it out. It looks brighter in one square patch. Within that square patch appears to be a shape. I look a bit harder. I think it’s a picture of some description.
What in the world…
It appears to be a T-Rex.
The Reverend catches me looking at her robes. I look up and catch her catching me. Without losing her stride, she looks across to my son, who is shining his prized, dinosaur slide show miniature torch directly onto her.
My pat-down game is way off. He’s allowed into the play area.
Post Service, we have a buffet at the local public house. The Jurassic incident went unnoticed by most and my blood pressure is almost back to normal.
Across a couple of tables I noticed the wife of a friend. I haven’t seen her in a while so we smile at each other. Even though it’s October, it’s unseasonably warm and she’s wearing a lovely, flowing maxi dress. As I’m smiling at her, I tilt my head in curiosity. I reinforce the tilt with a congruous gaze. I head over.
Ooh I say! Looks like you guys have some good news!
‘Eh?’ she replies, slightly confused.
I make some eye gestures at her bump.
‘Oh….. no. I’ve just had a few too many pizzas and pies over the summer….’
What felt like a month later, but was actually a split second, youngest cub ran past, dropped some sweets and bent down to pick them up, exposing a poo stain that went up his back.
I taught my boy a tough lesson today and it almost broke me.
Youngest cub has now joined his sister at big school. The change in educational level has done wonders for him. His language has come along in leaps and bounds and so has his interpersonal behaviour.
He’s not the finished article yet and at 4, neither should he be.
We do have some challenges. He gets frustrated easily and when he does, he can lose it quite badly. Foot stamping, screaming and saying no to everything.
On Saturday, I had said that we’d finish the day with a trip to the park but this had to follow him cleaning up his room. His sister will maintain her’s on a regular basis, but he plain and flatly refuses, or states that he can’t do it without help.
Again, given his age I don’t expect much, just a token effort.
At times I help him, at other times I get on with other aspects of housework to show them what is required to maintain a home.
As he’s grown, we quickly (and sadly) moved from the response to the tidy your room request of ‘No thank you!’ to plain and flat ‘no’.
We never made the park.
As I had no wish to punish his sister, I told them both that we’d go after breakfast the next day.
Next morning, after a hefty porridging, they headed for the bathroom. A quick wash and then out, was the plan.
All went south after hair washing. Water in his eyes was too much to bear and foot stamping began. Followed by screaming, and then kicking his sister.
At 4 years old, he seems to be experiencing the terrible 2’s.
I won’t stand for kicking so tell him he’ll lose a star. ‘I DON’T CARE!!!’ he screams, and kicks out again.
I pick him out of the bath. He screams and stamps. I ask him to apologise to his sister. He’s in full flap and now cyclically repeats that he’s not listening to me and he never will.
Admittedly, I can feel my blood pressure rising, so I decide to remove myself from the situation. I leave him dry, but naked.
Eldest cub gets ready and I shave and brush my teeth. She does her hair, which takes a while. He eventually stops screaming and comes in to my room. I’m now reading and pay him no attention.
He climbs on the bed next to me and slowly attempts to capture my gaze. I change position away from him. His sister declares that she’s ready.
Right; let’s go downstairs.
‘Dad! I’m not dressed yet…’
I walk down the stairs, telling her to put her shoes on.
In his nakedness he’s smiling and laughing as we get ready. He asks me a few questions, which ignore.
He persists. I stand firm.
His sister opens the back door and heads into the garden. Still in a state of undress, he puts his coat on.
I walk away from him and step into the garden. He screams…
I stop and go back.
I bend down and hold him tight.
We have conversation about what it feels like to be ignored; I do my best to keep it simple. He says he understands.
His sister, a witness to the entire charade, comments on my ability to maintain the ruse.
As I said; I don’t believe in striking a child but I do believe in discipline.
On a conversation I had with a ex-work colleague some time ago.
Knowing me to be a doting dad, she always asks after the cubs. I give her updates whenever we catch up.
I take great pride in recalling a recent shopping trip my daughter and I had, where the command of the morning was that the only way to make progress through the shopping mall, was by stepping on rectangle floor tiles and only rectangle floor tiles. She was quite specific in this.
We held hands, shopping bags evenly distributed and made our way gingerly through the centre.
We moved with the accuracy of a Suisse timepiece. A watching Police Officer nodded his approval with a smile, whilst a retired couple commented that ‘it may take us a while’ to get where we were going.
We don’t care. This was our moment and where was the harm?
All was going well until we happened upon a large area of circular tiles. Our expedition ground to a halt. Very, very poor and inconsiderate architecture. What were they thinking?
We stood in contemplation for what seemed like an age, before I turned to her and asked, well now what?
We decided to turn back. Rules are rules.
My ex-colleague seemed puzzled. ‘Sounds like she has you wrapped around her little finger!’
Perhaps, I smiled.
I then told her that we dance a lot too. It doesn’t matter where we are. If we hear good music, we dance. We’re quite uninhibited.
‘You do realise’ my colleague said, ‘that you’re setting the standard to which she will judge all men…’
Yes I do.
‘She might be disappointed if her partner doesn’t respond to her needs in a way that she’s become accustomed’
But my daughter will also know her worth. She’s not a princess; she’s a determined individual. She will know that if her partner doesn’t give her butterflies in her stomach, knows effortlessly how to make her smile and is comfortable enough to show her his true feelings, then he’s probably not the man for her.
I’m sure I’m not growing a monster so for now, we dance, we pathfind and we make memories. This is what life is about.
As ensuring that my nurturing turns strong children turn into strong adults. I try to do this in the most subtle ways possible, taking every opportunity to reinforce subtle lessons with real life examples.
I don’t think I’m doing anything out of the ordinary, but I am conscious of who my cubs are, and how the world may view them as adults.
Over here we’ve finally had some solid data on pay differentials. Industry was compelled by the government to post pay grades, gender percentile and other qualitative data that basically, didn’t look good.
On average, women are paid less; people of colour are paid less. Not looking good.
On the plus side, my two are still in single digits age wise, and working a job isn’t what it used to be years ago. Nonetheless, I need to build my pack strong.
My daughter is a brainbox. Recall, attention to detail, enquiring mind, tick tick tick. Her desire for knowledge never fails to amaze me. Remembering me promising her things could ease off a bit though…
Historically, I’ve made her make her own giant leaps; from climbing up onto a chair before she could walk to riding without stabilisers, watching her tears of frustration turn to tears of joy when she finally mastered it. Watching her realisation, that effort brings rewards.
Now, when asked ‘How did you know to do that?’ by anyone, her answer of ‘the idea was in my head’ renews my pride.
He’s still only 3, so the transition out of nappies to peeing standing up ‘just like daddy’ was a great moment. All those uncomfortable, accompanied trips to the toilet served a purpose.
As parents, we ultimately do our best. We have our ideal of what we want them to be. The nature/nurture argument plays into things as does free will.
My goal is to give them both the tools to know their worth in the world; to know that the path to success is rarely straightforward and that their ultimate power, lies within.