Sunday, March 28, 2010

Westfield Chermside and Frank Bloody Lowy

I’ve never really been in a minority before, I mean white middle class male in western culture, you don’t get much more dominant paradigm than that.

And being of conservative liberal political stock I’ve never been against a business venture from maximising its fiscal position with entrepreneurial spirit. Maybe then it’s the fact that I’m a little ’l’ liberal with a social conscience, not a neo-Liberal, that my current world view has shifted.

“What’s he on about?”

Well, on a regular basis I find that the position of ‘parent to young child’ and the concept of ‘free market imperatives’ collide and when this collision occurs, it is us ‘parents to young children’ that are thrust into a minority, put up or piss off position.

“Hurry up man, you’re speaking in riddles.”

Ok then, so this is the issue as I see it. Kiosks. They’re the bloody problem. A modern day scourge I tell you. Bloody kiosks popping up everywhere. I can’t stand them and my biggest gripe is with Westfield at Chermside, probably happening at Westfields everywhere so I blame Frank Bloody Lowy. Because their kiosks aren’t those little fruit cart ones, they’re huge, multi-roomed even.

“Good Lord, that’s a bit of a rant. You’re still not making sense.”

Alright then, let me set the scene. Young(ish) dad, beautiful wife and robust toddler venture to mega-mall to run errands. Young(ish) dad parks car, beautiful wife places toddler into pram. No problem so far. Young(ish) dad wheels pram to automatic sliding doors and enters mega-mall. Problems commence. The procession around mega-mall requires stop, start, stop, start as the masses of humanity walk around, in front of and between this family.

Dad thinks to himself, there aren’t that many people here, why all the bottlenecks on the thoroughfares. Ah, bloody, pissing kiosks. They’re everywhere on the concourses now. Once upon a time it used to be just the key cutting guy, now you can get a mixed berry frappe, a massage, assorted trinketry, mobile phone accessories, hell, these days you can even get your teeth whitened in front of the multitudes.

So, well done Frank Bloody Lowy and Westfield Chermside. You’ve seen that under used space in front of shops, the space that people used to walk along, and you’ve plonked kiosks there. Well done, you’ve just made some more money.

And what else used to inhabit this space? Ah, that’s right. Chairs. Chairs? What a useless, out-dated, antiquated, old-fashioned idea. Chairs in a shopping mall, how ridiculous? People don’t come here to sit, they come here to shop. And spend their money … at the bloody, pissing kiosks.

Well guess what, people, namely parents with kids and prams do use chairs. A good place to sit, they are. You know, to rest for a bit, feed the young toddler, wait for the missus while she tries on a new outfit. Because you know what happens these days? Young(ish) dads find themselves standing in the walkway between the boutique and the crazy popcorn kiosk, bottlenecking the space for those walking past.

This young(ish) dad has tried following his beautiful wife into said boutique but a) it’s a women’s shop and 2) the pram often doesn’t fit between the racks. (Another problem identified.)

So the end result is the pram pusher is constantly apologising because there isn’t enough space for parent and pram. And older people complain and mutter that no wonder kids turn out so bad these days when their parents are so selfish. And the teenagers who are scoping out the mall in their four abreast packs aren’t too keen to give way, in fact they don’t even really know the road rules and are prone to keeping both left and right.

These days when I’m shopping at the mega-mall and I’m part of the minority that is ‘parents with prams’ I’m able to exchange a knowing nod with other members of this group and because we know the difficulties attached with pram pushing there is invariably the courtesy of space given.

And since I often need to have a bit of a sit, well as much as it pains me, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em and now toddler James has the whitest brightest teeth you’ll ever see and his dad has rested feet.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Terrible Twos

Before I was a dad, back when I had less of an idea than I do now, I used to think that the ‘terrible two’s’ actually commenced when a child reached the age of 2. Crazy, I know.

So, through the first 12 months I have been cruising along thinking to myself that all of the ups and downs we have experienced are good prep for the ‘terrible two’s’. I have also been contenting myself with the belief that we were still a ways off that marker, you know, James is 15 months, take that from 24 … we are still 9 months off him becoming a monster.

What’s that I hear? I think it might be the sound of parents down through the eons of human existence laughing out loud. I know, I know, again I’m guilty of being na├»ve, but give me a break, James is our first and I’m kinda learning on the run.

Courtesy of the clinical trials that James has been running and the observations that he has allowed me to make, I have acquired new knowledge in this subject area. So this is what I now know. Just as babies learn to walk gradually, or just as speech requires a progressive development, so too does their understanding of how to crack a wobbly.

“It is through a series of incremental, yet precise developmental stages through which the subject is able to suitably adapt their behaviour in order to finally exhibit the complete ambit of traits that are associated with the ‘terrible two’s’.”

Well, that’s how it would look if I were writing some scientific tome on the subject. So, what does all this mumbo jumbo mean? It means that my 15 month old toddler is becoming, how should we put it … disagreeable. My mother on the other hand would probably describe it as him developing a sense of independence.

In order to support my hypothesis I’m aware that you require some evidence of James’ change in behaviour.

James has always been a terrific eater. He has been happy to ingest all food prepared for him and consequently he has grown very well indeed and has been near the top of the class in the weight for age category. (That’s the proud parent coming out in me). Lately, however, he has not been such a good eater, spitting food out, throwing it on the floor, pursing his lips, turning his head away, waving his arms and generally saying ‘no thankyou’.

I had been prepared to put that behaviour into the ‘fickle eater’ category but when coupled with other new characteristics you will see a pattern emerging.

As previously recorded in an earlier blog, James has learnt the word association of ‘ta’ as a request for whatever the object is that is in his line of sight. As we know, there are some things that 15 month olds should not be allowed to handle, scissors, hydrochloric acid, dynamite … James, unfortunately doesn’t understand this and no matter how gently the negative position is put him, it can suddenly and inexplicably result in tears, bottom lip quivering and shrieks that make you consider giving him that acid just to stop the noise.

In the past there have been all sorts of things that James has mildly object to, but of late, his objections have become louder, more forceful and sustained. Previously I would put these responses down to a tired baby who needed a sleep. These days I know it’s just a toddler who is frustrated that he cannot communicate what he wants. But all the same it can drive you mental.

So, with this epiphany realised by myself, my question for the experts is this: By its name, i.e. ‘terrible two’s’, I was lead to believe that this stage lasts for the period between their 2nd and 3rd birthday. Since this is clearly not the case, as it has commenced prior to James’ 2nd birthday, for how many years will my son exhibit symptoms of terrible two-ism?

Signed: Confuddled Aussie House Dad

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Nelson

There was a time when I barely saw daylight on a Saturday or Sunday, certainly I wasn’t familiar with mornings on those days of the week. These days I really look forward to family time on weekends and I hate wasting this precious time.

Sometimes it’s just errand running, maybe a trip to Bunnings and a sausage, if I’m lucky, other times it’s a day trip to some destination of child and parent interest.

So last Sunday was a fairly ordinary sort of weekend day. We bundled into the car bound for Officeworks, a shredder was apparently necessary for our household to operate. Silly me, I had been under the misapprehension for all these years that you could dispose of paper by way of ripping it to pieces, but apparently clever identity burglars are able to jigsaw your rubbish back together and bish, bam, boom, you’re stuffed.

After purchasing the cheapest option and with the world again spinning correctly on its axis, I suggested that we check out the children’s adventure playground we had been told about in a well to do suburb of Brisbane.

I have come to realise that there is a hierarchy in children’s adventure playgrounds, with some offering far superior methods for kids to break bones compared to the boring old swing and slippery dip parks of my own youth. Soft fall matting I laugh at you.

Ok then, that’s the back story to this particular blog.

So, we’re checking out this new park, there is full scale adventuring going down. We were playing on the swings, on the fort, down the slippery dip, having laughs, engaging in problem solving, generating grunts of exertion. All good signs.

And while James was toddling from equipment piece to equipment piece I happened to notice a kid and his mother being dropped off by one of those European 4WD, then the dad drove off, probably to run his own shredder errand.

Anyway, James, Kylee and I continued our playing. Mum and Dad each holding one of James’ hands to steady him as he defied death and walked up the slippery dip. We steadied him as he walked across the wobbly bridge and then caught him as he was about to slip into the abyss between the webbed funnel contraption.

And so, as our time in the park was nearing an end, James decided that he would have a go on one last piece of equipment. It was one of those springy rocker thingies. Mounting it from the head on direction caused some difficulties of the slipping and bumping variety and at the moment James let out a cry of frustration the aforementioned European 4WD kid raced by with his mum close behind. Hearing James’ cry, Nelson, as I will now call him, gave his impression of his namesake from ‘The Simpson’s’ as he let out a ‘Ha ha’.

Our response was automatic.

Kylee and I spun around and as we did so, we met the eye of Nelson, who had turned on instinct to continue to soak up the enjoyment of the situation. Unfortunately for Nelson, he discovered that Kylee and I had morphed into parental defence machines.

It happened in some sort of Matrix style slow motion, but as our eyes met, daggers were shot at Nelson in unison. The eye daggers cut the air as they tumbled end over end towards their target. And Nelson was momentarily paralysed…. Fffffftttt … Fffffftttt…. Both daggers hit their mark square in the chest.

I’m sure that Nelson wasn’t unfamiliar with the look of derision that he experienced when he saw Kylee and my response. He just seemed to be one of those kids. Proud I am to say that Nelson was shut down and castigated in one stroke.

I realised where Nelson was running as he passed us by. The European 4WD had returned and as he now shuffled to the family car, Nelson continued looking back in our direction with a look of disappointment that somehow we had ruined his fun. And although surprised by my own response I couldn’t help but feeling good.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

What’s In A Name? (Number 2.)

From my teaching days I can inform the class that a noun is a naming word. In the case of the original ‘What’s In a Name’ blog, James’ name is a proper noun. This blog, however, is about a common noun and the name it is to be given.

James has discovered something and it gets his attention every time it’s exposed. It’s the thing that separates the boys from the girls. That’s right folks, James is aware that he is a boy and this is now a source of curiosity to him.

At every nappy change James’ hand shoots south. As he sits in the bath, invariably, one hand holds his toothbrush, the other is below the water line. And Kylee and I are now in the process of discouraging this behaviour.

‘James, don’t touch yourself’ I heard myself saying. ‘Don’t touch yourself’. Hmmm, that’s a bit abstract for a toddler. What is ‘yourself’?

We have been learning the names for things, so it seems time to introduce a new noun.

If I might quote from the genius of Ivan Reitman’s ‘Kindergarten Cop’ on the subject, “Boys have a penis and girls have a vagina”. So, ‘penis’ would be the anatomically correct term. Thanks Ivan.

I know a lot of parents take the view that children should be taught the correct names for anatomy. They also tend to be the type of parent that have their kids call them by their first name. That’s all a bit too lentils, tie dye and new age for me.

I’m a bit uncomfortable with the use of the word ‘penis’, so I fall into the second camp that seeks out an alternative name.

We worked with ‘willy’, but I like the name William and if we were to ever have another boy I’d hate for his older brother to tease him because of the word association between name and nether region.

Kylee and I convened a special meeting on the subject. What were the other options? We needed a name that we would both use for consistency. I put forward ‘tool’ and ‘member’. Too low brow apparently. ‘Sausage’? No. ‘Todger’? Too Benny Hill. This was becoming problematic.

The answer however was staring us right in the face (so to speak). ‘Doodle’. Not to vulgar. Socially acceptable if needed to be used in public. So, doodle it is.

Bath time now gives rise to conversation along the lines of, ‘James, hands off your doodle.’ ‘Good boy, well done.’