If you are thinking about having children one day and you’re not too sure what to expect, or if you are just curious from hearing your co-workers and friends moan and groan from the beautiful delights that come with parenthood, like the lack of sleep they get or how their phone is now broken because of their ‘darling’ children, or you are a parent and want to have a laugh and make sure other people are feeling the same way you are. Have a gander and rest assured we are all in the same boat. For being a dad, in my opinion, is by far the most rewarding challenge life has to offer.
1. Silence means danger.
Have you ever been to the zoo? Before you enter the zoo, you can hear the animals and it brings excitement to you knowing what you are walking into, birds singing, monkeys ohh ahh ahhing along with all the amazement and excitement from the children inside. It’s fair to say that if you couldn’t hear anything when arriving at the zoo you would be alarmed and wondering what the heck is going on. This is the exact same thing that happens with children, like the zoo, no noise means alarm bells. One minute you’re screaming at them to leave the kitchen because you’re cooking and their honest efforts of help is tipping the milk all over the kitchen floor, next minute they are leaving the kitchen smashing into the tables and every door as if they are drunken adults banging their toys together and arguing who gets the favourite cars. When it goes silent, you don’t notice at first the 5-minute window of pure bliss. You are busy doing what you’re doing then suddenly, you feel calm and at peace thinking with a timid smile “ah that’s nice, peace and quiet finally”. At this very moment, your brain connects the dots and you jump out of your skin thinking, “crap! Where are my kids!” (censored version) Rushing around the house to find your ‘darlings’ putting all of mummies expensive face creams all over their bodies along with all of daddy’s hair wax clumped into their hair. Only to hear them say “we want to be like YOU and mummy, daddy”. You can’t help but look at them with a hearty smile and say shhhhhh, don’t tell mummy about her creams, ending with a little giggle.
2. The toilet becomes your best friend.
Toilet business was always just about getting it over and done with so I can get back to living my peaceful ‘childless’ life. But now I almost have a basketball team living under my roof, every inch of the house, garage and property is owned by my tribe of misfits and is now treated as an episode of ‘Dora the explorer’. Where they treat the ‘private’ and ‘not allowed’ areas of the house as ‘The temple of doom’ off ‘Indiana Jones’, where the reward of exploration and thought of possible forbidden treasure is far greater than the punishment of being caught. The one place a man can find peace and can lock the door, sit down in the quiet where he feels likes he is actually in control of his life, is in the sanctuary of the holy throne, ‘The Toilet’. Where the kids have been embedded since birth to know ‘the locked’ toilet door is an impenetrable fortress and no matter how loud they scream, they are met with silence, or “go find your mother”. Where a 5 min poop turns into a 45 min episode catch up, a scroll through social media and messaging back the friends that you forgot about replying to, which of course was the kid’s fault. Classic ‘get out of jail free’ card. This is the one time where you tell the wife, “babe, I’m going toilet” and you both know exactly what that means as if it was code language for, “I’m running away, I need a break, good luck with the kids’ babe”. A mutual and congruent statement used by both. A nod by your spouse knowing you got the next 45 min to yourself is what gets you through those hard days and keeps you sane.
3. You must fight for your bed.
What kind of night person are you? Do you have a routine before you sleep? A certain side of the bed? A certain pillow, a certain number of hours you need of sleep to function properly? Maybe you’re not so fussy and just need a bed and you’re good. If this is you, then hold onto your seat, I’m about to lay down some truths that might scare you. I used to have a small routine before bed, used to enjoy sleeping in a super king-size bed just for my wife and me. The biggest issue we had in bed was that my wife became a cold-hearted thief in her sleep. Where it became her objective to steal the blankets from me and wrap herself into a cocoon where I was not permitted… Easily remedied with a big tug on the covers each night. Four children later, our bed has become our children’s base and safe place at night. Where I wake up to our bed being invaded, and I find myself squashed in between my children. My wife nowhere to be found, as it feels like endless bodies are in-between us. Because the bed isn’t big enough for the whole tribe, 1 child must resort to sleeping down by our feet. The saying “first in, first served” feels fitting for this occasion. Waking up half asleep to go to the bathroom where you find yourself surrounded by, what feels like endless trip mines, then maneuvering yourself out of the bed without accidentally crushing a child is no easy task. Putting them all back into their beds, kissing their cheeks whispering, “sleep tight my Schatz” always brings a smile to my face, only to find myself waking up to the exact same situation a few hours later. Rinse and repeat. There is a little secret us dads do, where instead of taking the kids into their rooms and then jumping back into bed with mum, we leave the kids in bed with mum, while we retreat to their small cozy beds, climb under the covers and have the best-uninterrupted sleep, ever. Not at all feeling guilty about the dark bags under mummies eyes in the morning.
4. Your children become parrots.
If you have never owned a parrot like me, we have all seen the movies where the parrot in the movies mimic their masters’ words. Well, that’s the picture I get of a parrot from one of my Disney favs ‘Aladdin’. Largo goes through the movie mimicking his master Jaffar. Good words, bad words, attitude and even character are all mimicked by his loyal and beloved pet. My children loved and cherished are like 4 Lagos from ‘Aladdin’. Whatever daddy does, my ‘darlings’ do, whatever daddy says, they say, how daddy acts, they act. It’s all good and well when you are a role model parent, but if you know me, I’m far from it. The best and worst thing about this concept is that in order from oldest to youngest they repeat what I say and do. Like an echo, they are a constant reminder of my ‘brilliant’ ways of talking. For example, imagine you in the car flipping out at someone for cutting you off, “you flipping piece of crap”, (censored version) then repeated 4 times, from oldest to youngest all saying the exact same words, one after another, like domino's. While you sit there with your hand on your head whispering, “dang it, dang it”, (censored version) and your wife staring at you with, ‘the look’, saying, “shot babe”. Do you know the best part about these parrots? They hear you swear once and then go on to repeat it like it’s the gummy bear song. But they never remember to use their manners, no matter how many times you drill it into them. The irony.
5. Your car, their playground.
I don’t know about you, but my car is my little slice of heaven in this world. I love listening to music and audiobooks, it soothes my soul and puts me in the mood I need to tackle the day. But to my kids, my car is a playground, or somewhat extension of their bedroom. My morning routine of dropping them to school consists of this ridiculous song by “the gummy bears”, called ‘gummy bears’ where it repeats the words ‘gummy bears’ over and over and over and overfilling me with the enthusiasm of wanting to destroy my stereo with a swift punch to the console. On top of this lovely song is my children’s love to dance. So, to fulfill their dancing needs they kick the back seats of my beautiful car leaving their distinct footprints scattered all over my seats. Collecting them from school they trample in their muddy footprints, dirty clothes and all their papers from school. Chucking their clothes/bags wherever they feel like, papers all over the ground and then decide to eat their well-prepped school lunch in the car because they are, ‘starving’ as if we didn’t give them any lunch at all. Arriving home to find their half-eaten sandwiches on the ground and mandarins being squished into the dark corners of the back seat. We won’t even get started on the nightmare crackers bring! You gotta love it though; my children genuinely want to help clean the car when I clean it. I give them each a cloth to wipe the inside, which they happily do for the space of 5 minutes then assume my car is a cockpit in a spaceship and start treating it like Captain Kirk and Spock from ‘Star Trek’. In the end, my car is left with fingerprints all over the centre console touch screen, windows and toys scattered throughout the car and yet again footprints everywhere making it worse. But let’s be honest, it brings the biggest smile to my face!
I thoroughly enjoyed writing this piece, I found myself laughing contently, typing away thinking about my children. A joy that has grown that little bit more from typing it out. These 5 things came to mind like flowing water, standing out to me in my life as a father. What is the big life change that you had to adjust to when you had kids?