Daddy Diaries

A lot of people ask if my wife gets angry at the things I write in this column.
Or, more accurately, how we’re still married. Putting aside the fact I mock
myself far more than I make fun of her, I could answer that it’s all about love,
communication and trust: that our passion and intense feelings for each
other override any minor disagreements. And while all that’s true (though
sometimes she assures me the ‘intense feelings’ are of an “intensely want to
throttle you” manner), I think for us the biggest thing is the ability to laugh
with each other. We don’t easily take offence and it’s quite common to have
each other in stitches by throwing each other’s words back or highlighting
habits in a playful light.

It’s about maintaining our sense of humour in the face of very busy and
stressful lifestyles. We celebrate our differences rather than let them become
points of tension. And no matter how close a couple is there are always points
of difference. For example:

I don’t care about accommodation as long as it’s clean and hygienic; Sandra
prefers five-star. I love Queen; she prefers Madonna. She’s very driven
(Anthony: *cough-workaholic-cough*) whereas I’m quite laidback (Sandra:

I’m very maternal and nurturing while she’s… umm… not so much.I know how
to cook. She knows how to order in. Or tell me what she wants. She owns a
Kenny G CD and I try not to hold it against her. And while I like intelligently
written, layered TV shows, she religiously watches the Crime Channel – in
particular, the shows where a wife murders her husband. Which I’m sure is
completely unrelated to her recently making sure my life insurance policy is up
to date. Hmm…

Anyway the point is that life isn’t a rom-com or a fairytale. It’s never seamless
or perfect when people interact. Relationships can be hard and they need
to be worked on. And when kids come along there are even more pressures.
Despite what The Beatles told us, love isn’t all you need.

Since becoming a parent I often find it very difficult to not put the kids first
so there are times when ‘couple-time’ is hard to come by. We all know it’s
important to find ‘me-time’ even if it seems impossible. And it’s just as
important to remind your partner they’re still loved and to find time for the
two of you to remember why you fell in love.

So in 2016 I’ve made a pledge to spend more time with Sandra and do more
things we – and she – like to do. So we can laugh with each other even more.
Right after I have the crime channel removed from our Pay TV package.

The ‘C’ word

Parenting brings out the best in us most days. But then there are always days when you just have to give into frustration and swearing and, yes, ‘the C Word’. Don’t be scared dear parenting compadres. C-Words are your friend.

Well most of them.

My twin girls hate ‘the C word’. No, not that one. The other one – “consequences”. They’ve learnt there are consequences to their
actions. And while there are good consequences for good choices, they tend to remember the
consequences for poor choices a bit more intensely.

My wife doesn’t like the word either but hates ‘the other C word’ even more. No, not that one. The other, other one – “consistency”.

Most parents know that consistency is incredibly important with kids. Whether it be setting rules and enforcing them consistently or making sure your lessons and messages are consistent. But it’s the constant application of these two words that helps set boundaries and encourage positive behaviours.

Like most primary carers I struggle a little occasionally with my other half and her failure to be consistent. However this is not your typical rant about how the working partner often comes home and acts like the fun parent with a cavalier attitude that hurts both boundaries and your sanity. No, because I kind of get it. Working 9-5 (or 8am-9pm in my wife’s case) is stressful
and intense and carries with it a lot of pressure. Coming home to cuddles and enthusiastic smiles would lift your burden and it would be easy to give into that. Kid cuddles are like crack to the stressed. But those of us who are pretty much
on kid duty 24-7 know that we need to be consistent and, in particular, with consequences.

So how do we get the other half to buy into that? And, in some cases, keep them up to date with the fact “We no longer use THAT word” got added to the rulebook only today after an embarrassing supermarket incident? Well it’s another C word I’m afraid (still not that one): “communication”.

You need to keep your working partner (bless them) up to date on not only the boundaries but the whys. Yes, sometimes we have to teach them the same way we teach our kids. Spell out the – you guessed it – consequences.

It boils my blood when my wife gives into the girls’ demands easily therefore creating an environment where they feel they can ignore what they then see as ‘requests’. I’m convinced I will one day have to say, “Seriously girls, this is the fifth time I’ve had to tell you to exit the burning building!” But I need to show my wife why. Because if you don’t do it together (grandparents included too, though they are subject to a sugar exemption whether I like it or not) then there’s little point. You need the other, other, other, other C word: commitment.

In summary, you need to be committed to communicating your consistency over consequences. Do you C what I mean?

May the force be with you


You see, this isn’t a reflection of an already poorly spent youth catching up with them, but the continuation of a rather odd family tradition. A few years ago, I spied a police car at our local shopping centre. The police officers were walking back to it with their coffees and I asked if the girls could look at it. I was surprised by the enthusiasm the officers responded with. They happily talked to them, even allowing them to sit in the car. They actually took some time to actively engage with these two little girls. They might have even flashed the lights for a few seconds (unless you’re a police supervisor reading this, in which case they totally didn’t). They laughed with the twins and told them stories.

When I thanked one of the officers for their time she said, “No, no. Thank YOU for bringing them over. You don’t know how scared of us most kids are”. Somewhat surprised, I queried her about it and she said most parents use police as the boogeyman.

“So many parents tell their kids that the police will come and take them away if they’re not good,” she said. Her partner agreed, saying it was the opposite of what they stand for but extremely prevalent.

“It’s so frustrating because it’s against the spirit of what we do and why we do it.” I checked in with one of my best friends who used to be a federal police officer and he confirmed a lot of kids shied away from them when in uniform and that some parents even loudly scared their kids in front of the officers.

“We’d hear people saying ‘Look – there are the police. They’ll take you away if you don’t start behaving’ and we’d want to go over and say ‘We should take you away if you keep scaring kids that way without cause’ but of course you can’t.”

So since that day we’ve regularly said hi to police officers in the street and even in the local station. I want the girls to recognise that our emergency services are populated by good people doing a difficult job. Whether it be the police force, the fire service or our ambos, these men and women risk their safety and lives to do what’s right for all of us. They deserve respect. And if my girls ever need help in the future (heaven forbid), I don’t want them second-guessing whether these brave souls are the people to call. Because even if you’re a Star Wars fan or just a member of society, you need to remember the Force is with you. Always.

Travelling with Kids


As ‘good’ parents (and by good parents I mean “we have survived so far and so have they”) we have sought to expose our twins to the wonders of other cultures. To marvel at the sights. So it will come as no surprise to any parent that during our recent trip to Fiji – an island paradise full of activities and exotic scenery – the most excited our kids got was when they saw the Golden Arches of McDonalds.

True story. During our time there we went to mud pools, tribal dancing, watched walking on coals, visited an amazing garden, petted animals, went out on a boat and even spent a day in the world’s largest inflatable water park. So what were their favourite parts of the trip? Swimming in the pool and playing mini-golf respectively. And yes, we live on the Gold Coast – the mini-golf capital of Australia where you can swim nearly any day of the year.

Much like when they were smaller and the box was more fascinating than the present, sometimes the scenic spectacle is lost on children.

Me: “Behold the stunning Grand Canyon!” Twin 1: “Daddy, can we have an ice cream?” Me: “Maybe later, honey – look at this incredible place. Did you know that tiny river down there eroded all this and made this huge canyon?” Twin 1: “Can I have a chocolate chip ice cream this time?” Twin 2: “How far away is that McDonalds?”

Last cruise we signed up for all these adventures – zorbing, glass-bottom boat coral tour, water music, dancing, and a kids’ tour. And they didn’t want to do any of them. Unlike the previous cruise they wanted to stay in Kids Club (don’t even start me on the consistency of children). All the time. They resented me picking them up “early” at 8.30pm. They would have slept there if they could have.

But it’s not all bad. Even though they’re not always seeing things the way we do or even appreciating what is, to our eyes, an exciting adventure, they are learning important lessons even if it’s just osmotically. When we were at Pentecost Island recently a lady made a rather poor comment that focused on the colour of an islander’s skin.

Gypsy very loudly asked, “What difference does the skin colour make, Daddy?” I proudly – and just as loudly – replied, “Absolutely nothing, honey”. At the end of the day that’s a more important lesson than the fact the tuatara has three eyes.

But I still believe travel is important and now we have a globe so they’re building up a mental map of the places they’ve been. They know the locations of the eleven countries they’ve visited so far.

And, of course, where all the McDonalds are in those countries.



Yes, that’s right. My wife has to look after the twins for approximately 27 hours by herself.

As I write this I’m on a plane flying away from my babies who to me feel like they’re all alone in a strange land. They have their mother of course, who is not a stranger to them but who is in fact a stranger to hands-on parenting.

In a perfect world I pick up my family tomorrow at the airport and my wife has a newfound respect for parenting. More likely she will have a newfound craving for alcohol.

I’m joking of course (mostly) but I have to admit to trepidation whenever I manage to have some ‘me time’. Grandma is awesome but not always available and while the lovely wife loves the kids she struggles somewhat when it comes to the little things of parenting.

Like cooking. Or supervision. Answering questions. Or being patient for more than five minutes.

A few times a year I have a boys’ long weekend with mates who go way back. Who know all my dirty secrets and hang out with me anyway. Or because of them – it’s all a bit a fuzzy.

Anyway these ‘bro-breaks’ are wonderful chances to kick back, catch up, play cards, enjoy a few drinks, lambast politicians and review quantum theory. In theory it’s 72-86 hours of quality time away. In practice it’s 24 hours of missing the girls and worrying about how they’re doing, followed by a few drinks, a sleep and ‘oh look it’s time to pack’.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a great time but I can’t help but spare a few thoughts about the kids’ diet, their bedtime and my wife’s mental state. Perhaps I’m being unduly paranoid. Just because she has burnt microwave meals before (yes, it is possible as it turns out) doesn’t mean she can’t put something in front of them. Baked beans and two-minute noodles are easy enough.

And maybe a day of just the three girls will bring them closer together. Let them bond. Turn out to be quality mother-daughters time.

But just in case I might pack that bottle of wine for the airport pickup.

Thinking of the children

Not long before last Christmas I was driving home from a visit to Grandma’s when the twins started reciting a long list of things they wanted from Santa.

A bit disturbed at the length of the letters, I politely pointed out to them that they couldn’t have everything on their lists. Predictably they asked why and I explained to them that there are poor kids in the world who only get one or even sometimes no presents.

There was a heavy silence from the backseat before a small voice piped up with “Daddy, why doesn’t Santa like poor people?”

Sometimes I think we forget that these little people who are apparently growing up so quickly have very little in the way of context and comparison.

At this stage I’d already committed to volunteering to work in an orphanage in Thailand and this cemented the idea that my five-year-old twins needed to come with me.

So earlier this year we jetted out for Thailand where we spent just under two weeks working in an orphanage originally set up for orphans of the tsunami of 2004.

I wanted to help and make a difference and showing the girls that ‘poor kids’ aren’t just an abstract expression was a bonus.

But I hadn’t counted on the intensity of the visit upon me. I certainly expected it to be difficult but it was far more harrowing than I ever anticipated.

Hearing stories of how the children ended up there was nothing short of devastating. I’ll spare you detailed recaps because they will bring tears: both to you and me. We truly live a sheltered life in a very lucky country.

We built temporary shelters (30 seasons of being a Survivor fan finally bear fruit), we planted gardens, we created a paved road, we scrubbed floors, we cooked for the entire orphanage one night (Spaghetti Bol), we took them out to restaurants (a huge treat), we bought them a giant washing machine because they were handwashing for over 200 children.

And we took turns looking after each other’s kids when it just became too much. I cried a lot and I wasn’t alone.

The orphanage is strict on their children attending school but when they weren’t there they played with our kids with zest. It’s sad to see children so hungry for hugs.

Not that they weren’t happy – in fact they were largely extremely positive – but the visit and playing obviously meant the world to them.

I went over hoping to make a difference. I came back feeling I hadn’t done enough. And wanting to adopt 200 kids.

Which is why I’ve signed up for a ride across Thailand next year to raise money for the orphanage. It’s through an amazing organisation called Hands Across The Water which ensures 100% of monies donated goes straight to the orphanages. No admin or marketing fees.

No funny one liners or final lines this month. Just a plea to help me make a difference. You can donate at or go to the and search for me.

Help me help them.

Because a smile on a child’s face is truly priceless.


However the cards may fall

This week was ‘free pick’ week in Show & Tell. Gypsy took her new monkey (Tails) she received while in hospital last week. Rhapsody on the other hand took her poker set.

Thanks Granddad.

*sigh* I think I may have the world’s only five-year-old girls who can explain what small and big blinds are.

Like a Girl


Giving girls the opportunity to do what they want is easy in theory but getting them to believe they can is often another thing altogether.

A few years back I was being given a delightful lecture by the then-three-year-old Gypsy about her turtle and its “natchel habitat”. It included what they eat, what they like to do (swim, eat and surf currents apparently) and even how they got their shell.

It was a lovely way to start the day and through my smiles and laughter I called her a clever girl. I was shocked at her answer: “I’m not clever Daddy.”

“What? Honey you’re VERY clever.” She hung her head sadly and said “I’m not clever. I not a boy.”

Heart smashed. I was horrified. Then mortified. Then angry but with no one to be angry at. Then incredibly sad. All these emotions raced through me in two seconds.

I picked her up and forced a laugh and told her that anyone could be clever and it didn’t matter whether you were a girl or a boy. And tickled her to reinforce the point.

And while she soon ran off laughing to jump on her twin sister, my queasy stomach tormented my addled brain for the rest of the day. I had a few stupid moments of “how could I have prevented this” and “should I have started on equality earlier” before taking a few deep breaths.

I want my girls to grow up knowing they can do anything and not be limited by archaic ideas of gender and it’s something I’ve always planned to instil in them. It’s one of the few things I have in the MUST LEARN column which is why it cut so deeply.

But at the end of the day she IS clever and I’m not being a biased father when I say that. This is a girl who built a ladder to climb onto the couch before she could walk. Then not long after she started walking she stared intently at a doorknob before constructing an intricate and huge ramp so she could open the door.

She wants to know how things work. Unlike her twin, she’s often quiet and contemplative. She remembers things in detail from years ago (bear in mind she’s only five). She knows more about turtles, platypii and Wonder Woman than kids twice her age.

My point is that she is parsecs away from being “not clever”. And incidentally Gypsy will tell you a parsec is “a long, long way”.

Anyway I spent an entire day of worry stressing about why this had happened and how I must be a bad parent. I’d worked out it probably came from daycare and it might be as blunt as a little boy telling her the ‘fact’ or that she simply misunderstood the application of the word. And that’s what I was forgetting in all this. She was not even four. I couldn’t treat her like an adult with adult comprehension. She could have declared “only a platypus can be clever”. All I can do is to calmly correct her when she’s wrong and hope she learns the lesson somehow.

So perhaps next time I need to try and bite down my horror and not over-react. That’s probably the real lesson here. Even if they learn osmotically, they still spend more time with me than the little boys of the world, clever or not.

The post-baby body (man version)

Every Dad has abs.

A bold statement perhaps and I know a lot of women are sneaking sideways glances at their partner’s beer belly and scoffing at this point but it’s true. Just ask him.

He’ll tell you he’s in good shape. If pushed he’ll go on to grudgingly admit that he’s let himself go “just a touch” but dismiss it as “just a temporary thing”.

You see males really can see their abs. Granted, occasionally they may be beneath a layer or two or fat but we can still see them. We know they’re there.

And we’re convinced they’re only a footy game or two with the lads away from coming back.

The first three years of the twins’ life I pretty much holed up in the house. It was such an effort to go out. Heck, it was such an effort to get through a day let alone finding time for me. Meals were eating whatever the girls didn’t or munching on a pack of rice wheels that were lying around.

As a result I didn’t sleep much and I put on 10 kilograms. And by 10 of course I mean 15. Or a figure in that vicinity.

But I always consoled myself with the fact I could get it off when I needed to. A quick diet, some exercise and I could drop that weight just like I did when I was 20. It’s a man thing. Our confidence is so strong it can become delusion without us even noticing.

A woman looks at her body and only sees the faults. She then magnifies them by a factor of approximately a million. We men look at our bodies and minimise the faults and amplify the positives. Even if those positives are actually from the timestream rather than the here-and-now.

The problem is we’re not 20 anymore. It doesn’t come off as quickly as it used to.  Personally I blame the pretty bland fashion of today. The strength of 80s and 90s haircuts and clothing was you either pulled them off or lost 10,000 kilojoules through sheer embarrassment. If you don’t believe me then google “80s fashion”.

But robbed of neon colours and spiky hair what can I do today? I could go to the gym but who wants to be seen there when you haven’t got a gym body?

There are dozens of miracle devices advertised on television but unless I’m supposed to lose calories laughing at the ‘science’ behind them they’re no good to me.

It looks like I may have to resort to old-fashioned sweat: exercise and diet. I could even get a personal trainer because nothing makes feeling like you’re about to have a heart attack better than someone screaming at you to work harder and have that damn heart attack. I think my last personal trainer used to chase me with defibrillator paddles. I’m still not sure if it was incentive or precaution. Or perhaps a hallucination caused by oxygen deprivation.

The point is (there is one here somewhere) that it’s hard work having a good body. But to get one you need commitment, dedication and discipline and not just go to the gym because you paid for it. You need to give up sugar, run until you drop, be the best you can be, have the eye of the tiger and know the difference between core strength and cor blimey!

Or alternatively I could just stop caring what others think about my body.

Because I’d really miss sugar…

It’s a Dad Thing


What did stop them was when they got off, not being able to pull the zipline back because of the steepness of the hill section. You would have to be almost six foot tall to do so.

So of course I jumped up and pulled the saddle up the incline to a waiting line of eight or nine where the next child was also quite small. So I jogged after her and carted it back along the entire run and then up the hill. And again. And again. For the next twenty minutes I went back and forth. For the children. Then on about my 50th journey another father appeared at the base of the hill.

With just a nod he took the rope from me and went up the hill. I did the long flat and he did the hill. Not long after a third father appeared and, once again with just a nod, made himself part of the support crew for the children.

Ten minutes later another father relieved me and for the next hour or so we swapped in and out of the production line. All without a single spoken word. It was just a responsibility. Something to be done so we simply did it. A lot of women complain about their husbands not talking but sometimes you don’t need to talk but just to understand.

It’s a dad thing.

They mightn’t be engaging the same way you do, but most dads are bonding with their child almost osmotically. It’s not about words: it’s just about presence (not to be confused with presents although sometimes that’s part of the equation too). It’s just being there when they want to show him they can now stand on the roundabout. And for a possible ensuing trip to the emergency room. It’s even more pronounced with daughters where men sometimes struggle to understand the situation but persevere regardless. Like when her heart is broken and he doesn’t know what to say so he just holds her.

It’s grumbling about her wearing make-up then beaming about how beautiful she is even if she looks like the Joker. It’s letting go of the two-wheel bike despite saying they wouldn’t. It’s about suffering silently under a pretty hat at the tea party. About not showing the hurt the first time she declares she no longer wants to do that activity with her dad anymore because it’s for babies and/or boys.

Men don’t use words like women do or how women want. But don’t mistake a silence for indifference. Most men – real men – would do anything for their children. It mightn’t come with a running commentary or outward emotion but when their child is laughing there’s nowhere else they’d rather be.

And if their kid needs help, he’ll be there. Maybe not always with words but there regardless.

It truly is a dad thing.