Dadsentials

The 5 stages of Dadism

Child number two is a game changer. I love both my children, but I must be honest and sat that at the moment I feel stronger for my daughter. The boy is starting to find some personality and is growing on me, but there’s no crushing weight of expectation. Nothing. Zip. Nilch. Which is odd because I was kind of counting on the deeply philosophical bouts of melancholy and feelings of inadequacy to help push me back into exercise.

But it also got me reflecting on the process I went through when my daughter was born. The five steps to the summit of confidence in my abilities as a father.

 

Stage one: the dawn of enlightenment

It’s a suddenly overwhelming feeling. It’s usually around just after you change your third nappy that the flood of emotion washes over you. I remember holding my daughter, looking down at her and realising that everything I do is to ensure that she has the best chance at life. I worked harder, planned better and became a better human because of it. Humans are designed to breed and serve our offspring, imparting everything we know to guarantee the future for them.

 

Stage two: changing the world

Shortly after stage one new dads realise how unfairly weighted the world is. You count your #blessings and realise that all of it came from inexplicable luck. Yes, you make your own luck by acquiring skills that allow you to take advantage of favourable situations, but being granted the opportunity to showcase your skills is pretty much a lottery. Your only goal from then on is to level the playing field. I’ve worked and been interested in content creation for a very masculine market for my entire professional career, so I immediately needed to change my perspective of the world when I found out that my first born was a girl. I consciously started collecting media that depicts or was created by the type of women I would want my daughter to emmulate. I started tearing down the walls of the patriarchy as far as I could. I’m still not done, but I need to tone it down now that I have a boy.

 

Stage three: crushing sense of responsibility

Around the time my wife went back to work and our life settled into a new rhythm, I realised that my decisions had much broader consequences than I first thought. A few drinks on New Year’s eve is the norm, but what if there was an emergency and I needed to cart my family somewhere in a car. Those drinks stop seeming like such a great idea. That’s just one of the uncountable new considerations you have to make as a dad, and all those little things can weigh down on you when the start piling up.

 

Stage four: desparate denial

“But the child will adapt to my life,” you think. You’ll make plans with friends and cart the kid along and carry the stroller up five flights of stairs to spend most of your time rocking a restless infant on the far side of the table because it’s a bit drafty. And that’s if you’re lucky enough to make it out the door before the tummy bug manifests itself in a torrent of projectile vomit, ruining your wife’s new dress that you bought to help boost her body confidence. You’ll endure, until you stop.

 

Stage five: content acceptance

You’re a dad now. Your instagram account is now the storefront to your joy. You take pride in racing the stroller through the aisles while your child shrieks with unadulterated happiness. You finish lollipops. You judge yourself by the number of smiles you can elicit from that unthinkably beautiful face. You can’t praise your wife enough for shouldering the load of early parenthood with such grace and strength. Your personal happiness is now found in cuddles and giggles. You think about the example you are setting and strive to be better every day. Your life moves at a child’s pace, and it’s better that way.

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The actually educational TV shows your kids should be watching and their hilarious shortcomings (pt. 2 of 5

The crazy dad with way too much time on his hands and an almost unhealthy obsession with his daughter’s media consumption is back with another chapter to the tale of good value tot TV. Today my sights are locked on Disney Junior, or DSTV channel 309. Check out my Dora the Explorer ramblings in part 1.

Doc McStuffins
You wanna talk about a layered TV show? Try an African American family who live in a leafy suburb where the mother is a doctor and the father is a stay-at-home dad. Dottie, the daughter and eldest child is “Doc” whose mother gave her a set of doctor’s tools of which the stethoscope brings her toys to life. You know where it’s going from here… She fixes toys, documents their ailments in the Big Book of Boo Boos, gives check ups and pretty much does the usual kid thing where they emulate their parents — I, for instance, can’t open up a laptop in Spawn’s presence without going 12 rounds with a toddler who wants to “work”.

The beauty of Doc McStuffins however are the plot lines. Everything is a metaphor. My favourite episode is when Rita the Cheetah comes to visit and all the toys don’t want to play with her because they think she suffers from mystery pocks (one of the other toys had mystery pocks in an earlier episode; it ended up being paint and was cured with the advanced medical technique called hand washing). So Rita the Cheetah is from Africa, plus poorly understood disease equals metaphor for AIDS. The moral of this episode was all about understanding each others differences.

The show is packed with similar themes and plots, scores extra points for the feminist angle and has almost cured my daughter of any doctor fears. But there’s one thing that bugs me.

The shortcoming:
Every show needs comic relief and usually it’s up to the feisty black woman to be just that. Don’t believe me? Tyler Perry made an entire career out of flogging that old horse. Now remember this is a show about an upwardly mobile African American family who all speak without a hint of common accent. How do they inject some humour? They give the most obviously black female character a thick southern drawl and a no nonsense attitude.

Hallie is the nurse in Doc’s clinic. Hallie is a hippo. Hallie’s don’t speak so good. Unsurprisingly Loretta Devine voices Hallie.

So for a show with so much going for it in terms of removing stigma, why then are we painting by racial profiling numbers? Did the script writers get bored or was this the work of the producers? Hallie’s antics doesn’t add anything to the show from my daughter’s perspective because the only way the humour works is if you know it for what it is.

I’m not boycotting Doc McStuffins for it, but I am disappointed.

Even worse
Besides for the various mental issues presented by the rest of the regular cast (Chilly the neurotic snowman, Stuffy the anxious dragon and Lambie – the lamb, not the flyhalf – the overly-attached lamb), we never see what the father does. Yes he mows the lawn and does a spot of gardening, but what does he like do.

Maybe he’s a retired football player, or a freelance journalist, or even a drug dealer… Anything would do. This is a no judgment zone Mr McStuffins, just tell us how you remain sane and blissfully ignorant to your daughter’s magical powers.

I’ve decided that he’s a functional alcoholic, until the producers tell me otherwise.      

  

The actually educational TV shows your kids should be watching and their hilarious shortcomings (pt. 1 of 5)

Let me kick things off with some full disclosure: I work from home at least two days a week and take an almost insane interest in my offspring’s media consumption. We have one of those PVR things and I think it’s annoyingly cute that she refers to her shows as movies. (Side note: because I’ve recorded a bunch of her favourite episodes and she can watch pretty much on demand, so it causes havoc when we’re in a setting where she is forced to wait for an episode of something).

Bottom line, I’m crazy enough to write an entire article on the best educational kids shows when I’m also fully aware that these things exist purely as a vehicle to sell merchandise through. And to take pressure off of competitive party parents, because kid’s birthday parties are now a contact sport played with money. So read on and see how far this rabbit hole has taken me.

Dora the Explorer
The feisty Latina with the comically over sized head goes on adventures solving problems with the magical powers of logic and Spanish. To assist in her heroism she has at her disposal a sentient map and backpack. So I’m not sure whether or not Dora can actually read because the map only communicates with the audience, prompting the children to deliver information to her. Which is strange because the map is hers and my kid is not stupid; she knows that the TV show doesn’t exist in the same universe as she does. Further more, if the backpack (named Backpack) is supposed to be so smart, why doesn’t it just spew out the correct item whenever Dora is in trouble?

What the show does well is teach problem solving and some basic maths and physics. Also there’s the Spanish bit, which kinda makes Dora a miniature version of Pitbull — on a crusade to teaching the world Espanyol, one hook at a time.

The shortcoming:
Dora is always accompanied by her friend Boots, a sentient monkey with a shoe fetish. My quarrel isn’t with the inappropriate nature of Boots’ adoration for Dora, but rather that I’ve neither see nor heard about his family. Like does his mom speak? Is he the result of some science experiment? Is he suddenly going to go ape and share the serum with his other primate pals and overthrow the government, claiming the planet for themselves?

What’s your deal Boots?

Also, I’m not a fan of primates as pets and now my daughter is thinking that it’s a natural thing. And she has no concept that monkeys are actually wild animals and are dangerously unpredictable when they come in contact with humans.

Even worse
So this Swiper the Fox character is a kleptomaniac fox who wears a bandit mask and instead of the show addressing his obvious problem and trying to find a root cause, kids are encouraged to just tell him to stop swiping. Now I suffer from junkie empathy and would hate for my kid to grow up ignoring the social issues that really contribute to criminal behaviour. Dora the Explorer’s ignorance to Swiper’s situation is deeply disturbing, but Spawn’s wellbeing seems to rely on a daily dose of the show so I let it slide.

A case for exposing your child to rap music

My daughter makes up her own songs. While this isn’t peculiar for a 2-year-old, it’s the uncanny rhyme schemes and subject matter that I find strange. She narrates her life experiences (morning routines make a regular appearance) and arranges it along new rhythm patterns. Yes, all parents think their offspring as special, but hear me out.

I got to her early with in utero listening sessions of RHCP and the Smashing Pumpkins to get a solid grounding in funk, melody and songwriting.

After birth came lessons in flow from Notorious B.I.G., Eminem and a conscious decision to push more female rappers. Iggy Azaelia and K. Flay were the most obvious for the whole strong female character vibe I try to brainwash spawn with.

I’ve found that no other genre strikes the same balance between great technique and flexible rules. Despite what the grammar nazis say, English is constantly evolving and bends with the populace. As long as people are being understood, the language is doing its job.

Rap music then allows the child to hear the magic of word play and break free from the strict version that gets taught in books. It also adds context with rhythm techniques and conceptual thinking. Spawn, for instance now knows that she can manipulate a rhyme by emphasising syllables – which is a big deal for a 2-year-old, whatever class you come from.

The downside though is that she swears like a sailor, actively practicing her pronunciation of the word “fuck” to maximise impact. And while I’m okay with naughty words not being taboo in my house, and she’s been wise enough to only use fuck in private with me and the wife, the wife is not happy at all. To be fair there was a church incident that could’ve been quite embarrassing for other parents.

While I’m certain that exposing spawn to rap music from a young age will serve her well in the language classroom, I’m also have a well prepared argument for when I inevitably get called in by her teachers to address her cursing. But that’s a story for another day

My Daughter Does Burpees

http://instagram.com/p/nh31oIht92/#

I don’t force her to and didn’t teach it to her as a party trick, but my soon-to-be 3-year-old does burpees for fun.

It started after I joined CrossFit for a work thing at the old gig. Now the thing about CrossFit is that it’s a moerse effective strength and conditioning programme, but will point out your weaknesses like pedophiles at a playground. One of my weaknesses was a painfully slow burpee, so I practiced at home.

I make a point of doing my fitness things away from my wife’s gaze because I’m a little self-conscious. I also try and keep it from our spawn because she automatically thinks it’s a game and then there goes my PB.

And one day spawn caught a glance of her dad being ridiculous and decided to join in.

Burpees became squats, and then escalated to mother and me carting our little princess to CrossFit on a Saturday morning.

I know what you’re thinking: “You overbearing idiot, let the kid be a kid. A CrossFit box is no place for preschoolers.”

You’re right to a point, but her tender years only puts her at a disadvantage when she’s asked to do things that require advanced coordination, all her attention, or pure height. In every other activity spawn has been outstanding.

She has the best squat in the class and even corrects her form if the coach led her astray, she has astounding stamina — something she proved in the first class when the “ladies first” rule meant that she was doing three times as much work as the rest of the class.

That said, I’m just happy that she enjoys being active as much as I do and was super emotional after seeing her do well at and genuinely have an appetite for CrossFit.

If you’re a CrossFit member, or are looking for an alternative to the traditional more chaotic kiddies fitness programmes you should definitely give CrossFit Kids a try. It’s fun, they’ll meet new friends, you’ll have something to share and they’ll be learning to more accurately move and control their bodies. Also, you’ll be able to shame your globogym-frequenting friends by telling them that your kid can make it through their toughest workouts.

 

 

Learning

An important part of fatherhood is teaching — transferring skills and knowledge to your spawn. It takes a village to equip your offspring with the required social and emotional intelligence to navigate the world, but only you and your partner are responsible for fostering the child’s curiosity.

The first lesson I learnt was when I reflected on the human condition (something that can only be pondered when under the influence of extreme narcotics or boredom). Robert Ardrey’s words feed the arrogance of man: “We are born of risen apes, not fallen angels.”

What this means to me is that like apes, we learn by mimicry. We copy good ideas and try and perfect it to make our lives more efficient, so we have more time for pleasure. Crawling around isn’t efficient, so children watch adults and copy their movements.

And when you master the thing that you copied, you begin to play around with it and find ways to express yourself in it. Messi and Ronaldo both learned the same basic movements that any able-bodied human has access to, but once mastering the basics they take it to another level with sheer imagination.

Imagination is driven by curiosity. “What if?” is the starting point of all innovation, but the ability to question is determined by exposure.

Exposure to other ideas and practices broadens your reference and allows you to be more creative in your what ifs. If you’ve been exposed to the many ways the question has been asked and answered, you can then pick your favourites and expand on them.

You’re the only person who is responsible for your child’s exposure to the world. Use this power wisely.

New dad primer

So the pregnancy test is positive, now what?

Don’t be an asshole and steal your wife’s shine. You had life-changing sex, but she has to deal with the consequences. Everything you say from here on out should be to glorify her.

The girl you married is gone forever, accept this now. Your wife is going to change in ways you never thought possible. She’ll grow more beautiful and irritate the life out of you in equal measure.

Read all of the books, but remember that each child is different – the trick is to find out about every possible different type of child. Preparation is everything.

Plan that expensive trip, it’s going to be years before you can enjoy an intimate vacation, do it now. Also cram in all the romance you can into the next nine months, and double your efforts in the last trimester.

Fuck like rabbits, pregnant women are horny all the time and the sex helps her body prep for childbirth. You won’t hurt the baby unless you’re using your wife’s belly as a trampoline – you’re not that gifted. Also, the joys of consequence free unprotected sex (with your wife) are endless!

Don’t sweat it working out a budget is the most difficult thing about early parenthood. As long as you have money to cover everything, you’re fine.

Book the antenatal classes because no man wants to be that guy who rushes his wife and kid to the emergency room for a false alarm. Also you get to meet other men in the exact same situation as you, and the snacks a generally good.

Lift more, 3kg will become 15kg in less than two years. And there will come a day when it’s you and a cranky toddler at a shopping mall on Christmas Eve – the stroller is not an option.

Don’t skip the cardio. Toddlers are balls of energy and love nothing more than running around. Don’t ever be the guy who would rather have a drink than indulge his kid with some healthy playtime.

Prepare to lose friends. Just like when you got married and started finding more in common with your similarly attached friends, fatherhood is the same.

Get ready for the ride of a lifetime. You can’t even comprehend the gravity of the love you’ll feel for your child and admiration you’ll have for your wife in the first few months. It’s a kak jol by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s fulfilling.

Have fun. Be yourself. It’s your kid and no-one can tell you how to raise it. Show them who you are and love them in your way.