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.


The actually educational TV shows your kids should be watching and their hilarious shortcomings (pt 3 of 5)

Sofia the First

Strong female lead characters are an important criteria when choosing movies and TV shows for Spawn and that’s why this list is mostly populated by “girly” content. But think about it, consumerism is designed for girls. Get past the superheroes (who are technically all the same character anyway) and you’ll realise that there’s more narrative variety for girls. In Sofia the First, for instance, there’s a single mother who falls in love with and ultimately marries a king. The show then follows the exploits of her daughter who now needs to integrate herself into a step family and a royal lifestyle, while seeking the acceptance of her two new siblings and trying to balance her old peasant friends with forging strategic royal acquaintances from other kingdoms.

Sofia is gifted the magical amulet of Avalor by her stepfather, a talisman that grants its wearer a blessing or curse for each deed performed. Naturally the shows producers use this as a moral compass for the story arc and the ever graceful, friendly and helpful Sofia receives mainly blessings in the form of the ability to speak to animals and morph into mermaid form from all her good deeds. The curses are few, but serve as important lessons. When she’s chosen to sing the anthem at a festival and Sofia gets overwhelmed by celebrity, she boasts to her friends and promptly gets a frog in her throat that only disappears once she has made amends with her friends.

Since this show only exists to bridge a generation gap and introduce a new wave of consumers to Disney’s legacy princess merchandise (so they can sell decades old DVDs at premium rates), there’s a plot wrinkle that allows a famous princess to appear whenever Sofia is in a desperate situation. I can live with Ariel, Jasmine, Pocahontas and Belle, but I freak out a little when the traditional damsels in distress like Cinderella, Snow White and Aurora (aka Sleeping Beauty) arrive to popularise their “someday my prince will come” propaganda.       

The shortcoming
The palace sorcerer Mr Cedric is comically evil, but needs Sofia’s amulet to complete his nefarious plan for world domination. While every story needs a good villain, Mr Cedric is possibly the kakkest embodiment of evil ever represented in a Disney show. Granted, this programming is pitched at 6-year-olds, but still. Also, Sofia never realises that he is actually trying to manipulate her. He once turned into a sea monster, with his Raven sidekick in tow as a squid and the girl still wasn’t suspicious that the monster looked and sounded like the sorcerer she knows and was even using a lifeboat from the floating palace.

All this blissful ignorance really undermines the image Disney has sculpted around Sofia’s charming mix of street smarts and intelligence. My daughter is 3 and can identify me in my baby pictures, I think the magic kingdom needs to use her on their test panel.

Even worse
I realise that the show’s longevity depends on Sofia and Cedric’s Road Runner and Wile E Coyote relationship, but there’s a bigger elephant in the room that needs some attention. So unless the kingdom of Enchancia has some seriously ahead of their time doctors, Sofia needs a biological father.

Was he an alcoholic? Were he and Miranda high school sweethearts? Was Miranda then shunned by her family for the illegitimate child? If he was killed in battle, there’s a whole chapter of Enchancia war history that I’m really interested in.

I like to imagine an episode where Sofia’s dad shows up, leading a revolution intent on overthrowing the crown and taking back his family.


Posted from the trenches

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.      


Making space for women: The Feminist Dad manifesto

Contrary to what Beyonce tries to tell you, men run the world. Look at the Run the World music video as an example. “Queen B” uses provocative dance and revealing clothes to bring her message of female domination across. If, as she so boldly claims, women did control the world then surely there could’ve been a more sophisticated way to deliver the message. Something more elegant that emphasises the more feminine side of dominance. You know, like a hand rocking a cradle, or arms embracing a child, or even Hellen of Troy launching a thousand ships. Instead she takes the path of least resistance and panders to the most influetial members of society by putting her wares on show.

Why does the current poster girl for female domination choose this route whenever she preaches to her choir? Because the marketing men tell her to. Beyonce is in the unfortunate position of being moderately talented and pretty. Unfortunate because it makes her a marketable commodity who is open to being used as a pawn.

Wipe the coffee off your screen and let me explain. See, my wife is a strong woman; physically and philosophically. She can chop wood and has lasteda decade of my constant attacks on her faith without flinching. She breastfed for three months and then continued to do the middle of the night wake ups when spawn gets restless, she makes decisions and is my pillar of support through everything. I don’t dictate to her and make a conscious effort to allow her to live an independent life. I say a conscious effort, but it’s only conscious because she comes from a family of many women who play traditional female roles and aren’t really equal to their husbands.

I say the above with all respect, but if the husband is considered the head of the household and makes the bulk of family decisions, that automatically demotes the interests of the wife to a lower priority.

My wife still says she sees me as the head of the household and weights my opinions and decisions as higher than her own, but that’s an unfortunate hangover of her otherwise spectacular upbringning.

My slightly counter-intuitive point is then this: as the traditionally more dominant sex, the onus is on men to shape the role of future women by making space for them to be in leadership roles. It needs to be a clear idea in the mind of all women that they are equal in all spheres of life and even superior in others. Men need to indicate that women can be more than physically attractive to be recognised by renouncing them in the instances where they use traditional ways of appealing to men to get a point across.

It’s a powerful thought to have the assumed ability to empower someone, but unlike the way in which South Africa was liberated, men must clear the room when women are willing and able to use the freedoms granted to them.

I’ve spoken before about my attempts to raise my daughter in a world where women occupy all the influential roles in her life, but I’ve realised that my feminist ambitions started long before I became a dad. I love my wife because she challenges me and although some men might see her as being disrespectful, or me as being too timid, I know it’s for the greater good.

To conclude about the Beyonce thing, it’s true that she should be admired for making good use of all the freedoms granted to her by the men who run her world, but in the same breathe her interpretation of the power she gains from that freedom. Why serve up the same product that they would’ve made you make?

Actions change perceptions and I vow to open more doors for women and step aside as they rule the room.