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Saturday, June 16, 2012

This Week on Planet Fatherhood

(To save on Day Care, as well as not actually wanting our children to be full time Day Care Casualties, I have changed my weekend to be on Thursdays and Fridays. Here’s how this “weekend” went… oh, and due to sleep deprivation, this may or may not be entirely accurate.)

Its two o’clock in the morning and I have been abducted from my sleep by the horrific screams of my three year old in the room next door. It’s as though at that moment the kid’s room has become the tangible imagination of Stephen King and I am lying in my bed, half in shock and the rest of me in delirious denial. The screams continue unabated. I’m trying to gather together my fractured consciousness, wondering at the terrible torment obviously taking place in the other room, thinking, hoping, maybe she’ll just go back to sleep?

“DADDY! DADDY!” She cries from a throat that has become the very trumpet of fear in its most concentrated form.

I try to go back to sleep. Am I a bad parent? Only if this was the first time this has happened but in truth it’s happened almost every week for the past 3 years and I’m at the “if you ignore it, maybe it will go away” phase. Though for a moment I wonder if just maybe there is a genuine alien abduction taking place in the adjacent room? That wakes me up a little more. The screams continue.

“Daddy, Daddy! Don’t go Daddy! I want to go with you!”

Nope, not an alien abduction at least. A legitimate Nightmare featuring the Fear of Abandonment. And of course this one is my fault.

A few weeks ago I had spent a relentless hour trying to get her ready for a small trip to the shops. After what seemed like a geological age of trying to get my wonderful child dressed I finally snapped, having asked her to find her shoes for the fourth time in the space of ten minutes. There seemed to be a million other things requiring her attention before she could carry out my complex request. So I grabbed my keys and simply said, “That’s it, I’m going, see ya!” And walked out the door, pretending to stomp to the car. This tactic went down like a last second tsunami warning and she came running with sprinkler like tears ejecting from her eyes. Of course I was waiting around the corner, ready to say, “Well, I told you to get your shoes!” But mum wasn’t very impressed with my style that morning, and in truth I had just reached breaking point and wasn’t thinking clearly about the consequences of this sort of undisciplined discipline.

Which brings me to the now, paying for my bad parenting.

“Daddy! Daddy! I want to go to the shops with you!” At two in the morning. How long has this been going on for now, five, ten minutes? My wife stirs and I calmly say, “I’ve been hoping she’ll go back to sleep.”

We both get up and what would normally take me a glacial era to achieve, my wife does it in less than 5 minutes – she settles her down, at least enough to stop the screams.

The worst part is Haydn NEVER remembers the actual nightmares! Being a man, I want to know what could possibly make a kid scream as though visions of Armageddon have coursed through her tiny uncomprehending mind. Surely it can’t really just be about shopping? Can it?

I end up climbing into her 5 foot long toddler bed next to her, in a sort of bent “S” shape to help her back to sleep and spend the next 3 hours in that position, caught in that realm between consciousness and paralysis, where you know you should just get up and go back to the mother ship but your whole body is asleep despite your ticking brain that is well aware the child next to you has been picking her nose and is now stroking your numb face. I have just entered the nightmare.

That was Wednesday morning. Not quite my weekend yet.

My actual weekend started in the same middle of the night battlefield where an explosion of cries thrust me from my bed, my brain stabbed with the shrapnel of my second child, Chelsea’s, screams. It’s her turn for a night terror this time, but she has subliminal cause – in about 8 hours time she’ll be getting her 15 month vaccinations and maybe her dream machinery is giving her ample warning?

Haydn by this time is already in our bed from a previous sleep attack and after changing Chelsea’s nappy we realize that there’s no way the two of them are going to sleep soundly between us. So again I find myself in that 5 foot long toddler bed, with Chelsea squirting her bottle on my face once she’s had enough, followed by the occasional poke in the eye before she drifts off to sleep.

At least this time I got to sneak out without disturbing her so I could catch the last hour of the sleepy morning in the coziness of my own grown-up bed. Dozing off amidst fears of the wind changing, and my body permanently taking on the shape of that famous archaeopteryx fossil for having slept in that bed yet again.

The morning is a smudge on my memory but Haydn is concerned as Mummy explains that we’re going to the Doctor’s so that Chelsea can get her needles. We of course try to explain the science behind the necessity but all she hears is “We’re taking your sister to the Doctor so he can stab her with needles, want to come?”

It’s comforting to see that even after nightly trying to drown each other in the bath and the constant rumbling over toys; she would still prefer to be the one who kicks her sister over having this Doctor man stick her with pins’.

But not to worry, I try my hardest to turn the horrific event into a fun family occasion, suggesting that we get the Doctor’s visit over and done with quickly, then we can visit the Pukeko Reserve to feed the birds before ending the morning with a 60 cent icecream from McDonald’s. Except I forgot a certain constant of the universe that in the same way that complexity declines to chaos there is also no such thing as getting a Doctor’s visit over and done with quickly!

I would pay for this oversight for the rest of the day.

Because getting children dressed on time is an oxymoronic notion we were running late enough for me to cut off a fellow road user. Not something I would normally do but I was paying more attention to the distractions in the car than the ones on the street. My bad. Except the guy I cut off also pulled into the Family Practice car park and he gave me those evils that only a sick person suffering also from vehicular injustice can. I might as well have parked in a handicapped zone.

Once inside we wait. The kids play with the toys that a thousand sick kids have played with before in the waiting room. Somehow this doesn’t bother me because they’re having fun and keeping out of trouble. In my efforts to avoid the belligerent gaze of the man I had tried to play dodgems with earlier, I pick up a women’s magazine and wonder how much of Rachel Hunter’s face has been photoshopped. Two magazines later (having gotten frustrated once I reached the recipes section of each) I finally pick up a real magazine about real things and begin to read an interesting article about the New Zealand Conservative Party’s Leader, no photoshopping either. Before I can read two paragraphs the nurse comes in and calls us to her dungeon.

It dawned on my wife on the way here that I haven’t been involved in any of our children’s vaccinations so far, so it’s my turn to hold the tortured child. I do this with the utmost reluctance. Stripped down to almost just a nappy the nurse lunges in with three different needles. Chelsea doesn’t understand why this hornet like women keeps jabbing her with her sting. She cries, both clinging to me for comfort and pushing away from me from a sense of infantile betrayal. I don’t feel the stabs, but my eyes well up anyway. The needle must have been two inches long!

Chelsea’s cries are quickly silenced though when the Jelly Bean Jar appears, thankfully the nurse offers me one two, and like one of the girls I take one in unto my quivering mouth to free me from the moments trauma.

We still have things to wait for though so it’s back to the waiting room and back to that interesting article when Chelsea starts to lose it. No longer do the sick touched toys do the trick. The illusion of being somewhere fun has been shattered and I have to leave my article a second time to take her outside to look at the flowers.

This is one of those treasured moments where the child realizes she’s alone with daddy and she just looks at you with that smile that says, “Hey, I know I’ve just been stabbed three times by a woman I don’t know, and I know that you had something to do with it, but Daddy, I love you and I want to sit out here with you forever.”

My heart is melting when a car pulls into the driveway. A door slams. A teenage boy in a grey School Uniform is walking around the car like an angry orangutan. His mother winds down the window and in that wobbly tone that only the mother of a teenager can match she yells, “Don’t you slam t my #$&@ door when I’m talking to you! I should just leave you here and you can walk home!” He looks at her like the Orangutan I’ve already described him as. You can almost imagine him flinging feces at the car at this point. He says, “Why don’t you just go then?”

She gets out of the car. They both look directly at me who, I realize, has been watching the whole drama like it was one of those morning soaps I’m currently missing out on. I pretend, badly, that I wasn’t watching. My lovely moment of enjoying my baby daughter forever; shattered by a vision of things to come. Still 15 years to go at least.

The Doctor’s visit wiped an hour from our morning and my wife needing to go to work leaves us with only enough to time to get that ice-cream.

“Daddy, can I have chippies on my ice-cream?”

“You sure can!” I said.

In the old days Ice-cream with the kids was a difficult task of wishing the youngest wouldn’t somehow manage to eat the ice-cream as if every part of her body was a mouth. However I have learned the trick of ordering just an empty cone with a plastic spoon, that way you can give her a fake ice-cream with just the smallest amount.

We sat, we ate, and we laughed and just enjoyed being a family dunking French fries into our ice-creams. Does anyone else do this?

Unfortunately with the last bite of McCreamy goodness Haydn comes to the realization that we have abandoned the expedition to the Pukeko Reserve and Mummy and Daddy have robbed her of the fruition of a perceived promise.

Don’t promise or even hint at things you might not be able to deliver. Ever.

The rest of the day was punctuated by demands to visit the bird colony and no amount of explanations can change the fact that we said we were going to go so why aren’t we going already? Never mind the fact that mummy has taken the car to work and that it’s too far to walk. The never ending request becomes a virtual torture device in a medieval prison, a broken record with sharp edges, a constant dripping.

Once home from our outing and ignoring my child’s admonishments over a promise broken, I take to the laundry like a nun to a leper colony.

To be continued.... Eventually...

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