The advantages of being a parent

Anyone who thinks parenting is easy hasn’t had kids! Even coming from a large family didn’t prepare me for the sheer intensity and complications of having little ones totally reliant on me.

So when I overheard someone the other day claim parents have it easy, I nearly choked on my leftover Wiggles fruit bar.

He was referring to government payments, which is laughable as (a) not everyone gets them and (b) kids are more expensive to run than this guy’s sports car. But it got me thinking: we all know the negatives but are we, as parents, receiving secret advantages over those with proper sleep patterns?

Certainly in the event of maritime emergency, it’s the women and children who get out first but that doesn’t help me. I  can’t imagine “I’m a stay-at-home dad” would get me very far at the lifeboat station.

I suppose you could say I now have an excuse to go to kids movies but to be honest I did that without fear before becoming a parent.

Some would say you’ll never be bored again but to be frank sometimes sleep-deprived insanity makes boredom look like nirvana.

One benefit I have enjoyed however, is parent parking at shopping centres. Quite simply it reduces my hassle and makes things much safer for my girls. Friends without kids don’t understand and often rail at the perceived injustice being perpetrated upon them (#FirstWorldProblem much?) but when you have little ones who have no focus or attention span then the last place you want to be with them (or twins of them) is a space full of heavy death machines moving around.

As such I have learned to truly appreciate a parent-park which is closer to the footpath and shops thus greatly reducing risk and heart failure. For those of us struggling with enough problems it’s a sweet relief – and a rare perk – to be able to park close to the shops.

Which why I now become very angry when I see non-parents stealing those parks. I know I’m not alone. One of my friends, let’s call her Alice, was recently so enraged she lashed out at a lady, who responded haughtily with “I’m only going to be five to ten minutes”. Forty-five minutes later the lady was still parked there and laughing in a coffee shop which prompted Alice to leave a nasty note on her windscreen.

She punctuated this letter by breaking off the woman’s aerial and spiking the letter with it.

Not that I’m condoning letter-leaving, vigilante justice, or taking to the streets to fight crime: For starters most of us don’t look good in Lycra. And anyway, apparently we parents live the “good life”, according to some. We should just stay home and count the benefits of being a parent.

But to be honest, I’m struggling. You see, despite intense thought, (which lasted at least three, mostly uninterrupted minutes) and a Facebook plea, I couldn’t come up with much more in the way of tangible benefits outside of priority seating on planes. And while being let onto aircraft first is great, it doesn’t seem much compensation for the trials, tribulations and terror of raising children. And flying with them is hardly a paradise anyway.

To be fair though, those without kids don’t know that amazing feeling when you children run down the hallway with arms extended and their faces full of the purest joy at the mere sight of you. At that moment not even dirty nappies, sleepless nights and financial destitution matter. It lightens your heart and brings peace to the soul.

So to those people out there who think we’ve got it easy, you may be right in some senses but before you mouth off about it, I urge you to stop and consider the most important factor: Alice is out there somewhere and you don’t want to cross her.

Fixing everything now

Following the crash I’m piecing things together. It didn’t back up properly but I have fragments everywhere so it’ll just be a few weeks or so before most things are back and in place. I seem to have lost some of the letters sadly but am looking through old computer backups to try and locate them. If not, I’ll reproduce those I can remember.

I only have about 370 posts to recover.

Thank you for your patience.

20 Things I’ve learnt about pregnancy

I am an educated man and my friends tell me I’m intelligent, yet pregnancy and children have thrown up so many unexpected twists and turns I’m left wondering a) all why people go through this, and b) why aren’t we taught what will happen during and after gestation?

So, to educate and warn you, I present just some of my observations so far. Let’s start with pregnancy.

  1. It’s quite common for a pregnant woman to have a blocked nostril. Which can mean chainsaw-level snoring. However, it must be at a certain pitch that only men can hear because the woman will deny that she snores.
  2. When they’re ‘older’ the babies don’t just kick – they move from side to side. This creates bizarre effect on the stomach that inevitably invokes images from the movie Aliens.
  3. When experiencing kicking you can very easily delude yourself into thinking they’re having a strange conversation with you.
  4. The statistics on problems with pregnancy is the stuff of truly horrific nightmares and will make you paranoid. Do not every read them or do any research, ignorance is sometimes bliss.
  5. Everyone will offer advice. Don’t follow blindly – some will be good, some will be bad, some will be from the Dark Ages. Take what you need.
  6. “Tummy time” (something I’d never heard of) is NOT the same as “Hammer Time”.
  7. You will be sucked into conversations about your children’s education years and years before they’ll ever set foot in a school. Or are even born.
  8. Women really do glow during early pregnancy. They also go through a stage of near-bliss for a few weeks. Enjoy this period while you can. Later hormones will reduce this ecstatic period to a distant and unlikely memory.
  9. Nearly everyone will want to know the names before they’re born.
  10. Absolutely everyone will ask about the gender before birth. Some people will actually get upset if you tell them you’ve decided you’d rather be surprised. they will justify this aggressive position with talk of presents and clothes needing to be pink or blue. You can either a) point out that yellow, green and black are gender neutral, or b) tell them that reinforcing the stereotypes of pink and blue is a stupid tradition that helps no-one. Neither of these options will make any difference to the crazy people.
  11. People are genuinely happy when they discover you’re expecting. We’re talking huge smile, dispelling of any anger, rainbows and fairy-dust happy. It’s very heart-warming and further proof most people are good deep down.
  12. In weeks 24-30 or so the tummy will start to harden like a turtle shell.
  13. Comments about Mutant Ninja Turtles do not go down well in weeks 24-30.
  14. Not only do feet and ankles swell up but hands and fingers as well. You have to remove rings before too long or they may need to be cut off.
  15. Pregnancy cravings are real. Not all of them are weird. but a lot of them are…
  16. The first time you hear your babies’ heartbeats during scans you will feel tears well up in your eyes.
  17. Ask two doctors the same question and you will get two different answers. It seems baby doctors don’t talk to each other much.
  18. You will start talking funny ‘baby talk’ voices at her stomach even before they’re born. I think this must be a genetic imperative.
  19. You hear stories of pregnancy affecting memory. They are all understated. The pregnant woman is like a goldfish or a Queensland schoolkid. Sometimes they will even forget halfway through a sentence that they were talking and begin repeating the very same sentence. Having them say the same thing five times in half an hour will be entertaining – at first.
  20. Similarly, women are supposed to be prone to mood swings during pregnancy. Something I’ve not experienced. At all. Ever. Please don’t kill me if you read this honey.

And if you dare think you’ve learnt something, then the kids come along and your levels of bewilderment and amazement go through the roof!

TO BE CONTINUED IN “Things I’ve learned about having kids” aka “What the hell?!? Why didn’t someone tell me…?

In Search of a Group to Belong To

Early on in my stay-at-home dad experience, I was a bit overwhelmed and barely left the house. This was partially out of fear, partially out of paranoia, mostly out of exhaustion. But that’s a story for another day.

The point is that when it came time for me to finally leave the baby cave and attempt adult conversation once more, I just assumed I would simply find a parenting group to join and all my problems would be solved. I didn’t hold much hope of finding a father’s group, but I figured there would be any number of ‘mother’s groups’ I would be welcomed into.

Though I didn’t know what to expect from a mother’s group, I assumed they involved support, networking, nurturing, interaction and, of course, delicious snacks.

Apparently I was wrong about both what these groups are, and how easy they are to find.

The first group I tried was a riot of colour and chaos featuring screaming blurs, twitching mothers, fire and brimstone… I came home more stressed than when I left.

The second group were nice, but treated me like a scientific oddity. Apparently a male voluntarily looking after the kids isn’t as common throughout society as I thought. They figuratively poked and prodded me to the point where I felt like an experiment.

Time to try another playgroup.

Group number three consisted of seven women bitching about their husbands. The babies were almost forgotten as a seemingly endless tirade against men and their laziness was the only point of discussion.

After 45 minutes I decided to finally chime in and lighten the mood with, “I know! And then they come home and just expect sex! It’s as if they have no idea what we have to do during the day.”

Stone silence.

Oooookay. Cross the Bitchy Bee group off the list.

The fourth attempt brought me to what I think of as the Olympic Trials playgroup. Here everything as a competition. “Your baby look their first steps? Oh, well mine did that last month.” Mine, is running already.” And so on.

Seriously, I was waiting for one of them to scream, “Well, mine was walking in the womb!” Incidentally, they were obsessed with brand name labels too, And apparently not even pronouncing it “tah-jhay” makes Target acceptable to some.

My next attempt found me in a large warehouse with very nice people, but my kids were the youngest by about 12 months. So I got brief polite conversation before they went off to talk to people they knew, leaving the girls and I somewhat isolated.

I enjoyed it, but as I didn’t like feeling like my babies were holding interaction back, I marked this group “for later exploration”.

At the end of my tether I was just about ready to abandon my search for a sympathetic voice. Support and understanding are overrated anyway, right?

Then, just like that, Queensland Health introduced me to a group of women who were in the same boat – not only from search perspective, but they had twins as well. So I’m now a regular in a gathering that puts the “group” in “playgroup”. And they’re wonderful.

We understand, emphathise, help each out, answer questions, share experiences and genuinely like each other. We share laughter. We care about each other’s kids and, in fact, are just excited their milestones as our own children’s.

And, of course, the snacks are delicious.

To find a playgroup near you visit

Daddy’s Swear Jar

My Twins are at an age where they pick things up very quickly. In fact, their learning skills are both extremely surprising and a little scary.

From Rhapsody fetching and trying to fit keys into locks, to Gypsy constructing a ladder to overcome her inability to reach doorknobs, the girls are a constant source of amazement given their age.

But there are times when their observational ability isn’t smiles and roses.

Take the other day. It had been a wonderful day with the girls, but they had hit that witching hour full-on and were impersonating terrorists just as their mummy got home.

Tired and frustrated, I pleaded with them to behave, “Come on girls -you’ve been so good today. Don’t ruin it now by being little ships right at the end”.

But, of course, it wasn’t “ships”. My word was naughty, rather than nautical.

And guess which single word, out of those twenty, Gypsy chose to repeat.


Her Mummy didn’t know whether to yell at me, or laugh at her.

Yes, now I know not to make a big deal out of it, otherwise this guarantees that my child will make it her favourite word. Of course, I know this from experience as the only other time a gem slipped past my lips, the word was forgotten as soon as it was uttered.

Not this time. She randomly blurted it out for the rest of the evening and despite our affected obliviousness it continued the next day.

My favourite part was in aisle 7 of Coles as little old lady was cooing over what a pretty girl she is.

So it appears I have to accept that having curious and intelligent children means having to be very aware of my every action and word.

But as for my baby girl’s ears remaining pure? It seems that ship has sailed.

Books Rule!

Reading is the gift that gives and if you’re a parent, what it gives is a blessed silence. I was interested to read a recent study that said despite a general decline in reading, girls today aged 6-13 years were actually more interested in picking up a book. As a bibliophile, I think this is great. As a dad of twin girls aged six, I think this is awesome.


You see I love books. A lot. And I’ve always worried a bit about forcing my loves onto the girls. After all, they’re already just as likely to dress up as a superhero as they are a princess – which of course makes me wonder how often we influence our kids subconsciously?


I’ve been careful to not force reading on my girls as I didn’t want them to shy away automatically from something that has given me countless hours of joy in my life. I don’t want it be a chore: I want it be a love.


As someone who used to devour books of all genres (pre-kids, when I had the time), my passion for stories has been with me for as long as I can remember. It’s only natural that I want my girls to experience the same exultation when Aragorn is crowned king and surprise when it’s Neville Longbottom who destroys the last horcrux.


And yes, also the heavy sobbing when Charlotte the spider dies.


Because good books are about life: whether it be hopes and dreams or shared emotional experiences. Good and bad. We lose ourselves in books but we find ourselves there as well.


The study also found that girls are more likely to read than boys. This is surprising only to those who haven’t spent time around teenage boys. Teenage boys are too distracted by sports, hormones and girls to worry about books. They seem incapable of reading a situation let alone a hardcover.


And while my girls will have to face those same boys (at an age of life I don’t wish to think about too much), I know they’ll go in armed with knowledge. With imagination. With a love of life fuelled by words. With the experiences of a thousand authors to guide them.


Because at the end of the day we become the books we read.

Liar, liar

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m very passionate about honesty. So parenting has been a bit challenging at times. I’ve had to accept that sometimes complete honesty isn’t an option. Like most homes with kids, there are certain untruths that are not only accepted but uttered often: ones about Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and “no, there is no more chocolate in the house”.

Despite our predilection for fiction we expect our children to be scrupulously honest but new research will break your parenting heart.

It seems that not only do our kids start lying a lot earlier than we thought, we are actually all terrible at telling when they do. The study showed that at age two only 30 per cent of kids lie but it grew to 50 per cent at three and passes the 80 per cent mark before their fourth birthday.

Don’t panic. The head scientist assures that it’s perfectly normal and indeed he’s more concerned with the kids that aren’t indulging in untruths around age five. Apparently it’s part of the maturing process with kids exploring their skills and their abilities to manipulate the environment. And he points out the skills involved in lying – theory of mind and self-control of expression – are essential to function well in society and a lack of them often points to developmental problems.

“So if you discover your two-year-old is telling his or her first lie, instead of being alarmed, you should celebrate.”

I know he meant that to reassure us but it’s as comforting as Donald Trump at a tolerance rally. Or in a political conversation at all. Because it turns out we don’t even know when we need to ‘celebrate’ the ‘landmark’ because we truly suck at detecting dishonesty. The study showed that regardless of occupation (and they tested jobs that deal with dishonesty regularly such as judges, childcare workers, police officers etc) nearly every adult detected the dishonesty less than half the time. Even parents were just over 50 per cent.

To put that in perspective, tossing a coin for yes or no would be just as accurate as we are now. Once I thought about it I realised I used to be able to tell – after all, Rhapsody had a lying smile I used to make fun of when she used it. But in retrospect all I was doing by pointing it out was training her to lie better. And we have to be honest – we’re teaching them to lie. Even outside of the previously mentioned fictitious characters, look at how we actively encourage dishonest behaviour. No kid has ever liked receiving socks or a jumper for their birthday but we still make them thank Nana.

And forcing a child to say sorry when they’re not truly remorseful might be an attempt at teaching them to make amends but if they’re not genuine we’re simply teaching them to make the problem go away with an insincere apology. Hmmm. Exactly who is it that can’t handle the truth? Maybe it’s us as parents?

Daddy Diaries

I recently went in for the parent-teacher conference: the time-honoured
tradition where you hope to find out that your child has both managed to learn
some things and is still welcome in the class. Except I left concerned there was
something wrong with the teachers. And no I’m not talking about declaring
they’re bad at their job because they dared to question my child’s inherent
right to do whatever she wishes. Quite the opposite. They said she was very
intelligent, creative, was exceeding all the benchmarks and was a delight. There
was a pause. Then a longer pause. Finally I prompted them: “Buuuuuut…”

“There’s no but. She’s wonderful.” Which was of course followed by a longer
pause. Finally I came to the obvious conclusion: “Oh you’ve got the wrong child.
Rhaps is the one with blonde curly hair?”

They laughed and reassured me they knew who she was but I remained
unconvinced: “Loud voice. Speaks over others. Walks around in constant song?”
“Yes she’s such a wonderful child!”

I am caught between bewilderment and suspicion. Am I being punked? I know
my daughter is amazing in many ways but I also know she can be an emotional
dictator capable of wreaking havoc on the immediate vicinity to a level almost
requiring UN intervention. But haven’t we all been there? Left the kids with a
babysitter or at a party and sneak away for a few hours of freedom? Which
you, of course, spend with one eye on the phone waiting for the inevitable call
demanding you return home for the exorcism and that, no thank you, I will
never look after your children again. Except it doesn’t come and when you get
home you’re told they were angels. You look at the sitter as if she’s speaking in
tongues. You briefly wonder if she could have drugged the kids to sleep before
realising she’s both nice and genuine. Possibly deluded but lovely.

But it happens all the time. In the company of others without you there
everyone speaks glowingly of them. I’ve been left to wonder if the kids have
worked out this is actually the best trick they could play on their parents ever.
It’s like an anti-Schrödinger experiment but instead of the cat being both alive
and dead until observed, the child is both good and bad when observed by you.
And just good when you’re not around.

Back at the parent-teacher conference I’ve pulled out a photo of Rhapsody
on my phone to fully confirm we are talking about the same little girl. They’re
rolling their eyes at me now. I walk away unsteady but with a dawning
realisation there’s a possibility that she really is capable of being delightful for
hours on end. That the halo is on in my absence and the horns reserved for
homelife. Wait, does that make ME the problem?

Daddy Diaries

Mothers come in all shapes and sizes and that’s never been truer in an age where women can do it all. Or at least as much as they want. The balance that most women face is somehow fitting it all in. Especially when work and career come into the equation. Take my wife (but don’t take her far because I need her to pay the bills).


But seriously, my wife is an intense workaholic with the maternal instincts of a rock. No wait, that’s not fair – I’ve seen rocks lay next to kids for hours.


I know I make fun of my wife a lot but the simple fact is she doesn’t like kids too much. Well she does like them but not just for long stretches of time. She’s actually very good with them in short bursts. Some people will frown upon that or not comprehend it but I know it’s ok. There isn’t one correct way to be. Simplistic views of genders and emotional expectations are grossly outdated.


And for us it’s about balance. We play to our strengths to ensure the girls get the best upbringing we can give them. More importantly – and what people don’t get – is that just because she struggles with spending a lot of time with them doesn’t mean she doesn’t love them. She really does. It just doesn’t manifest in the same way. She mightn’t run around or throw a ball with them but she takes an interest in conversation and daily recaps. She tries to read with them before school. But she works very long hours – 70-hour weeks are common – and she sometimes comes home needing to unwind. And let’s face it, often the last thing you need when you’re looking to relax is a little person jumping up and down on you asking a bajillion questions.


That’s what being a team is about. Complementing each other. And by complimenting I, of course, mean doing whatever the wife says. Just joking. But it isn’t exactly easy on her at times either. Just this morning, Gypsy and I were bowling and Gypsy jumped on my lap and started covering my face in kisses. When Sandra saw this she smiled and asked for kisses too. Gypsy rolled her eyes, went over and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek before scampering back to me and kissing me repeatedly. I don’t know whether this is a case of daddy’s little girl or me being the primary carer but while she found it more amusing than hurtful it does highlight some of the problems she faces. Remember – she does love them even if she doesn’t always relate.


Being a parent is hard. Probably the hardest thing any of us will ever do. Add in the pressures of expectations that women face today and you start appreciating just how difficult it truly is. So to all you mothers out there – whether you work, stay at home or mix and match – congratulations on being part of something special. Even if you share the rock’s instincts.


Daddy Diaries

When I was younger I played a lot of sport and I never played to come second.
I didn’t believe in holding back. Passionate, intense, driven, even combative;
there were a lot of words to describe me. Some positive, others not.

I have incredible sporting memories and most of them revolve around success. I
also have a few I’m not so proud of. That’s the problem with passion. I strongly
believe that competition can drive you to be better. To instill discipline as you
test yourself. To give you goals to work towards. But if left unchecked, it can
also consume you. And make you lose perspective. So when it comes to raising
kids and competition you have to walk a fine line. And when you have twins the
competition is never far away. One of our girls is super competitive. She gets
petulant at losing a coin toss (I’m not exaggerating) or a game of rabbit-carrotgun
(the modern equivalent of paper-rock-scissors apparently). I have to admit
I often struggle with getting the balance of keeping them competitive without
becoming a bad loser but we are having some success.

Last year our girls participated in a tennis tournament as part of their tennis
lessons. As they’re only six, it was more a series of drills for points rather than
matches. Because the groups were done on experience levels rather than
age, the 5 and 6 year olds were also competing against 7 and 8 year olds.
Unsurprisingly, the older kids with more strength and better coordination
scooped the trophies and I have to admit one twin didn’t like losing regardless
of what I said. When it happened again the following quarter it was even worse
as the well-meaning judges pointed out to her she had missed third place
by only two points. Their ‘encouragement’ was not well received. The third
tournament it was another fourth-placed finish – this time by one point.

But it was what happened next that gave me hope. A few weeks before the last
tournament of the year, she disappeared outside each afternoon to practise
drills. She consciously made an effort to really improve. And not only did the
competitive twin pull off a Hollywood story with a first place finish, the other
twin finished second. Now I’m happy about two things here – and neither of
them are about the girls winning. Firstly, it was a great example of effort being
rewarded and of determination and practise equaling improvement. But my
favourite thing was when the winner was announced, the other sister positively
beamed for her sibling. Her trophy seemed irrelevant in that moment.

Nowadays I’m a lot calmer when it comes to games and sport but, do you know
what? I still play hard and to win every time: the only real difference is that if I
do lose now I can smile and be happy for the other person/team. I don’t know if
it’s maturity or a recognition that games are indeed just games but the changed
perspective hasn’t dulled my drive for success. Just my reaction to it. It took me
decades to reach this attitude. Here’s hoping I can teach my kids a little quicker.