Not you, the one with the boobs.

Frankie loves boobs. And while my wife is gradually weaning her off, she is still an avid breast feeder. So Mum’s boobs are still the go-to when it comes to putting the Frankfurter to sleep, including when she wakes in the night like a vampiric banshee. For the most part, we’ve been blessed with a fairly good sleeper, and if she is being difficult it’s often just a case of the hangries. So, for the most part, when Frankie wails it’s Mum who stumbles through the bedroom door holding, as far as Frankie is concerned, a fully loaded Restavit Rocket Launcher.

In an effort to break this cycle, I’ve recently taken over the role of the night-watchman. And the Frankster’s reaction to this has been nothing short of hilarious.

Frankie will stir in the night and begin screeching, as toddlers do.  Often, she’ll hear me trudging to the door of her room. This causes the crying to momentarily cease in anticipation of ‘the one with the boobs’ coming to her rescue. I can only imagine the bubbling cauldron of suspense and excitement. The infinite power that she wields. After causing a whole lot of noise and disturbance, she’s to be rewarded with a face full of knockers. Only that’s not what she gets. She gets me. And that will simply not fucking do.

Her initial reaction is akin to being told that Elmo’s died in a horrible Snuffleupagus riding accident.  Her arms are thrown in the air and slammed back down again, before she completely collapses face first into the mattress. It’s like a scene from a 90’s action movie where the slightly-crooked-but-lovable cop reacts to losing his veteran partner during a raid on the dodgy warehouse that the Chief warned them not to go near and now he’ll be suspended and have to chase down the generically non-specific Eastern European ringleader of the notorious drug gang. A violent eruption of anger, frustration and utter, utter disappointment. It says to me, UUUGGGHHHHHHH WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?

From here, generally I’ll try and snuggle her a while, as she thrashes around like a freshly caught Sturgeon fighting its way off of the boat in a desperate attempt to slip back into the ocean. Eventually, after most likely losing the battle, I’ll release her back into the crib.

Then, more often than not, she’ll continue to whine, unhappy with the initial outcome. In her head, she’s thinking, ‘this time the one with the boobs will come’. But no, it’s me again. And she really loses her shit now. It’s like the moment a super-villain realises they’ve lost all their powers due to their heroic arch-nemsis shattering the dreamstone they dug out of a cursed Egyptian tomb. Or something. She screams to the heavens and throws herself into the mattress, like Macho Man Randy Savage finishing a foe from the top rope. It says to me, ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS? AGAIN!?

 

It’s nice to know that, at only 16 months old, I am already a monumental disappointment to my daughter. At least I didn’t have to wait until she was a teenager and we just got it over with quickly.

Sometimes if she gets really, really angry she’ll do a ‘doo throw’, where she communicates her intense displeasure at my presence by aggressively throwing a dummy across the room. This says to me, FUCK THIS SHIT. YOU GUYS ARE FUCKED…

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All the while, my wife watches this play out on the baby monitor, in hysterics.

Generally, we’ve been repeating the above process until she comes in, like a SWAT (Special Weaponised Assault Tits) operative, and knocks her out.

Recently, however, we’ve had somewhat of a breakthrough. It’s somewhat of a breakthrough in that we seem to be putting an end to Frankie’s prolonged tantrums aimed at getting a milk cannon stuck in her face, but not a breakthrough in that she’s reacting in a ‘oh hey it’s my Dad!’ kind of way. That’s still very much as it was.

Now the disappointment has become so ingrained that she just throws in the towel. I open the door, she sees that it’s me, and drops her head in anguish… Even if I try and pick her up, she’ll just point back to the bed in a clear admission of defeat. Complete surrender. A white flag flapping in the breeze.

 

And then, she just cuddles her plush donkey, and goes back to sleep.

So, it seems that we may have discovered a streamlined sleep time routine, in lieu of me being treated like some kind of terrible cover band who’s just walked on stage in front of a packed stadium who were expecting the real deal.

I have become the sacrificial lamb sent to the bedtime slaughter. But if that is my burden to carry, in order to squeeze a few more precious moments of sleep, then I suppose it is my cross to bear.

Because, some of the time, that’s what being Dad is about. To just be there when you’re needed. To show up when your name is called. To take a few on the chin.

So, Dads, mould yours of granite, and not glass.

 

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How to prepare your child for the harsh realities of life.

Frankie is now 16 months old, and it’s time she started learning a lesson or two. Having an imagination is all well and good, but I see play time as an opportunity to replicate real life situations and their real world consequences.

Because let’s face it, there is no benefit in wrapping your child up in cotton wool. There is no real life situation in which that will be of any benefit, unless you are going to a precipitation-bearing-weather-themed dress up party as a cumulus cloud. Life is not all fun and games and the world is not as warm and nurturing a place as some wish it was. It’s a dog eat dog world out there. I mean, I’ve never seen a dog eat another dog, but someone, at some point, must’ve seen a dog eating another dog to coin that phrase. The dog being eaten was probably raised by ‘progressive’ dog parents who didn’t keep score during games of ‘fetch’.

Toddlers love to mimic adults. And this provides the perfect opportunity to replicate scenes they will one day encounter themselves. Some experts call it ‘pretending’, whereas I prefer to look at it as an ‘intense simulation’.

For example, we recently bought Frankie a tea set. She very quickly picked up on the process of pouring and sipping the tea, and before no time we were having a full blown tea party.

Then, disaster struck.

Frankie poured a cup of tea for Mum, and was then bringing the freshly boiled teapot over to me. As she went to pour me a cup, she dropped the teapot. On to my foot.

Now, some ‘parents’ out there, if you can call them that, might simply say ‘Oops-a-daisy!’ and pick the pot back up again. But is that really how someone would react? If you’d just had a ceramic pot full of scalding hot water dropped on your foot, would you just say ‘Uh oh spagghetti-o’s!’ like it was nothing? This was the perfect opportunity to engage in an intense simulation.

“OH MY GOD IT BURNS!” I yelled. “I HAVE BEEN MAIMED. I MAY NEVER WALK AGAIN.”

I screamed. She screamed. There were tears.

Then, for the rest of the day, I proceeded to walk with a limp as a constant reminder of the pain and suffering her fumbling fingers caused. I plan to continue this ruse for the remainder of her upbringing. My foot will never be the same, and on cold and stormy nights it will play up, and I will sit in a dark room staring out the window, watching the droplets of rain teeming down the glass, each one representing an opportunity that I missed due to not having the full use of my foot. If she tries to talk to me, I will grumble “Leave me be, goddamn it…” and pour another glass of Scotch.

You must always be on the lookout for these opportunities to prepare your child for the outside world. Another example is the application of sunscreen. Frankie likes to put her palm on the pump of the sunscreen bottle and then rub her hands on her body, mimicking what Mummy and Daddy do before we go outside.

Now, on the surface, this might seem like good practice. Except that she always misses a few spots. And does not reapply. So as ‘cute’ as it might sound, in a country like Australia it simply isn’t good enough. So, to simulate what would happen if we weren’t there to make up for her ineptitude, I colour in all the parts of her body she didn’t apply sunscreen to with permanent red marker.

Sometimes, you have to show how actions can have a domino effect, causing your life to spiral out of control. Like when Frankie spends a significant amount of time pretending to talk on her toy phone. There are many instances in which people don’t read the terms and conditions of their phone plan and end up racking up a massive bill. Then when they can’t afford the bill, their phone is disconnected. And then the debt gets sold to a debt collector. And then the Repo Dad comes and repossesses all their toys and puts them up for auction.

These are just a few examples of the fun and creative ways that you can interact with your child, and teach them a few valuable lessons along the way. At the end of the day, it will ensure they become the jaded, cynical adult they’re guaranteed to be, but just a couple of decades earlier than the other kids, aka ‘the competition’, ensuring they stay well ahead of the game.

 

Don’t leave me here, you asshole.

For the last year, as far as Frankie is concerned, she has spent every day at home with her best friend, Mum. She gets to play with her toys, go to the park or the zoo, and catch up with some of her buddies from mother’s group. Every day is a ball. Life is grand.

But then, all of a sudden, everything changed.

Two weeks ago, my wife resumed part-time work, meaning that for three days a week Frankie was to be placed in day care. Of course, being a supreme tactician who could out-strategise Hannibal of Carthage, my wife orchestrated an arrangement where Dad would be the prick who bundles her into the car in the morning, drags her through agonising slow-moving traffic, before finally dumping her in a weird place full of strangers. Then, at the end of the day, Mum gets to ride in on a majestic white horse and rescue her from her dreaded captors.

Deceptively so, the first day wasn’t at all bad. Frankie calmly sat down, played with some toys, I said goodbye and that was that. It was, however, purely a case of ignorance being bliss.

By day two, she had already cottoned on to the obvious rouse, and was acutely aware that I was merely a prison transport warden shipping her off to the Gulag. Upon arrival at the penitentiary, Frankie immediately lost control over any and all bodily functions and collapsed on the ground like an inanimate puppet. Imagine that Gepetto had finally had enough of Pinocchio’s shit and cut the strings. This is Frankie’s new trademark move. A sneak preview of her blossoming  tantrum throwing abilities.pinocchio
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So, I got down on the floor with her, where she threw herself on to my leg like a rag doll and attempted an impression of a limp noodle, preventing me from moving, and threw her head back and screamed to the heavens like a Peanuts’ cartoon character on the set of Platoon.

After gradually detaching myself, I had no choice but to back away slowly, while she clamoured at me with her hands like a distraught child being separated from her parents in one of these ‘virus outbreak’ movies.

And that’s how we start our mornings now.

The other major ongoing concern is bestowing me with such a major responsibility in the early hours of the morning. I am as much a morning person as Keith Richards is an advocate for clean living.

And on that note, If you’ve ever spoken to an alcoholic, they’ll tell you that one of the scariest things about alcoholism is the recurring blackouts resulting in total memory loss. This is something that I have had to live with for most of my life. Not the alcoholism (in my line of work that’s just called ‘being a writer’), but the blackouts.

From about 7-10:30am every morning, I am about as useless as an unactivated almond at an inner suburban mother’s picnic. The prime example being only a few days ago. I received  a series of texts from my wife informing me that I hadn’t left Frankie’s backpack at day care, and that she’d had a huge poo blow-out and now had no clothes to wear. The day care people had to dress her in some ‘loaner’ clothes. I imagined that Frankie was now likely sitting there in a Hessian bag, or a wooden barrel with shoulder straps.

To me though, this whole scenario made no sense as I did distinctly remember unpacking her water bottle. I even gave the day care girls some cookies that my wife had baked…  so I had to have left the backpack there. All that stuff was IN the backpack.

The only other possible option was that I had unpacked Frankie’s backpack and then somehow left with it myself. Which would mean that, and you should picture this, a bearded, tattooed man in a Faith No More shirt had walked OUT of a day car centre wearing a tiny backpack with a smiling watermelon on it, then placed the backpack in the back seat of his Liberty GT, before driving off. What a ridiculous sight that would have been. Which is, of course, precisely what I had done.

It’s a miracle that I manage to leave Frankie there every morning, to be honest.

 

I Review Frankie’s Books. Episode 1.

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Higgly Hen by Axel Scheffler

Imagine if everyone you knew, everyone you considered a friend, immediately became a prime suspect in the brutal kidnapping of your own unborn children? Where would you turn? Who would you trust?

This is the harrowing scene conjured by the dark mind of Scheffler in this pulse-pounding, spine-chilling, ‘whodunit’ psychological thriller, set on an unassuming rural farm that, as we later discover, may hold secrets yet to be unearthed by one of its inhabitants.

Scheffler sets the scene early, playing on the single most heart wrenching fear of any parent. Our protagonist, Higgly Hen, discovers that her precious eggs are missing. Snatched from right, quite literally, under her. The farm, the only world she’s ever known, her sanctuary, immediately becomes a hotbed of paranoia. Who can she trust? If anyone at all?

Was it the cows? Was it the pig? The horse? Scheffler bends and twists his readers, guiding their accusatory finger at each and every one without ever pointing it directly at any character in particular.

The suspense builds to an inevitable climax when Higgly reaches the barn. The barnyard cat offers to help Higgly search, but his motives are never quite clear, and immediately arouse suspicion.

This is where a writer like Scheffler weaves his magic. The reader is bound by the very same mental anguish and emotional torment that our protagonist, Higgly Hen, experiences. He is the M. Night Shyamalan of barnyard suspense. Twist after twist after twist is layered in such a way that one can never quite stop second guessing themselves.

This is his “what’s in the box?” moment.

The barnyard cat, who we immediately suspect to be of ill nature, reveals that Higgly’s eggs were not stolen at all…

… they had, unbeknownst to her, hatched. And the chicks had wandered into the barn.

Rather than eat them, like any barnyard cat would, he had kept them safe and sound.

In a bundle of hay.

Under his watch.

And all this time, we, through the eyes of Higgly, have accused and blamed everyone we loved for what is essentially our own horrific lapse in judgement.

Which leaves us all to ponder… who is the real monster?

Who, indeed.

Higher Ground

It’s happening.

The next stage of evolution has begun.

The quadruped is going bipedal.

A few weeks ago, Frankie began pulling herself up to stand at every given opportunity. Her jelly legs wobbling with the grace of those wacky inflatable flailing tube men that flounder above car yards run by guys with gold teeth and the moral compass of a FIFA Committee Member.

As each day goes by, her strength and confidence grow, leaving the wobbles in their wake. It’s like watching Hulk Hogan make one of those shaky returns from the dead, but over a four week period. And now, as long as there is somewhere to place her hands, she can cruise along the couch with the grace of an acrophobic atop the Eiffel Tower.

But now that she’s moved up a level, literally, nothing is sacred.

Remotes, cords, keys, wallets, phones, everything is in immediate peril.

Her modus operandi is to ‘take things out of things’. The floor is regularly littered with $7 worth of those organic bamboo nappy wipes that my wife insists on buying. You can really notice the difference, compared to the generic brands, in how they don’t irritate the sensitive carpet in the lounge room. Rather than constantly clean them up, I’ve given in to telling people that we’ve had the floors decorated in a de-constructed bamboo sheet to encourage positive Feng Shui.

My wallet is also a hot target, with debit and credit cards often violently dragged from their home, kicking and screaming, before being dumped at unmarked locations around the house for me to hurriedly find before I head off for work. Like a real life treasure hunt that decides whether I get to eat lunch or put petrol in the car that day.

Then there’s the bookshelf, which also houses DVD’s, known to Frankie as ‘The Goldmine’. Seeing titles such as Half Baked, Friday and How High strewn across the floor offers a humorous reminder of what we were doing with our lives the last time buying DVDs was actually a thing that people did. The house regularly looks like it’s been ransacked by an autistic group of bandits who place a high value on tissues, pens and Playstation Controllers. There are post-apocalyptic buildings in Fallout 4, that 200 years after a nuclear bomb has hit them, look more organised than our house.

While honing her hunter-gatherer skills, Frankie’s managed to develop a ‘snack sonar’. Mum’s handbag and the undercarriage of the pram are often raided for Cruskits and tiny tubs of cheese and carrot sticks leftover from a trip to the park. Her ability to seek out a dummy is similarly impressive. All of a sudden, I’ll turn around to discover she’s materialised one from thin air with some piece of alien technology she’s keeping hidden from the rest of us.

On a positive note, a lucrative opportunity may have opened up in the salvage industry, as she has an uncanny ability to find coins (and then attempt to eat them). She even managed to find a 500 Rupiah coin, most likely from a trip to Bali that we took about 4 years ago. Where in the hell she dredged that up from, I’ll have no idea. I’m thinking of taking her to the beach to use as a metal detector to find lost valuables. When she’s old enough to wear a snorkel, we’re going hunting for the sunken treasure of Nuestra de las Mercedes.

The baby gates are up, the wall sockets are plugged and the troops are dug in for the long haul. But somehow, I feel like we are inevitably fighting a losing battle. Just like the torn and chewed on page of once important notes I have just spotted on the floor next to me.

BONUS STORY : A couple of months ago, on Grand Final Day, I had my quintessential ‘Dad’ moment. If you’re not familiar with it, the AFL Grand Final is the Australian version of the Super Bowl. A huge ad that I wrote was premièring at half time. A big moment in any advertising creative’s life. I was at a friend’s house, perched on the couch in front of the TV with Frankie on my lap, waiting for it show, and then… all of a sudden…

Frankie projectile spewed all over me.

I raced over to the bathroom to clean up, only to hear everyone yell, “It’s on! It’s on!”

And I missed it.

Because I got spewed on.

You will never live that one down, Frankie.

It’s coming out at your 21st.

 

 

Going Commando

The graduation from rolling to crawling is not always clear cut.

Infant development has been studied down to such a fine science that baby websites now send an e-mail update to advise you what your baby is going to learn this week. It’s incredible on one hand, but incredibly boring on the other.

The transition to crawling is a real opportunity for babies to show some character. To do something unique. Something unpredictable.

It’s fascinating how they come up with their own way of getting around.

Firstly, there’s the ‘vanilla‘.

A certified classic. This is your run of the mill hands and knees, left, right, left, right routine. A tried and true method. This is for babies who don’t fuck around. They might not pack any creative flair, but they know how to get the job done. If your baby learns to crawl like this they will probably be an accountant or a data analyst. I’m sorry to break it to you, but that’s just how it is. Someone has to do the tax returns.

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Then there’s the ‘bum scootch‘.

This involves using your arms to drag your ass around the room. While being an inventive way to get from A to B, it does awkwardly resemble a dog desperately dealing with a serious case of tapeworm. This type of crawling is for babies who find the quickest and easiest way to do something with a blatant disregard for fundamentals or aesthetics. They’re the kids that get the math question right, but get penalised for not ‘working it out the right way’. So, they’ll seem like slackers at first, but will probably end up becoming entrepreneurs and invent the next Uber or something.

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Then, there’s ‘the worm’.

This crawling style pays homage to the infamous dance move responsible for setting discos ablaze across the globe. At its peak popularity, it was responsible for burning down, on average, three discos per night in the mid-80’s. If you’re in your late 20’s or early 30’s, your mother was very likely courted, successfully, with this manoeuvre. But let’s be honest, these babies are flagrant show-offs. They’re the flamboyant ones. Likely to end up as dancers or fashion designers, and will undoubtedly be the life of the party.

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Frankie, on the other hand, had adopted the most bad ass crawling technique of them all. THE COMMANDO. This is like Special Forces shit. I like to think that, much to my wife’s grievance, she’s subconsciously absorbed the ability while watching me play Metal Gear Solid. This is, without question, the raddest crawling technique of all. If your baby does this, they are already too cool for school. They are too legit. 2-legit 2-quit, in fact. Probably destined to become an advertising creative, or a funny blog writer, or if your lucky, BOTH.

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The Frankfurter has been officially on the move for a few weeks now, mastering the technique so precisely that she could easily make it through a barbed wire-strung and mud-laden Tough Mudder stage. The Australian SAS have already earmarked her for sniper training, but I have told them not until she is at least three years old.

And she is lightning quick. Like Matt Preston on the fourth and final pork and prawn dumpling at a table for three. If someone steps outside and leaves the door open, she is on it in a flash, making a break for it.

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Much to the cat’s dismay, she is now adept enough to seek him out and administer her uniquely styled form of patting, otherwise known as ‘forcefully grabbing some fur and pulling’. Safe to say, he’s not a big fan, and looks about as impressed as someone who’s just endured a deep tissue massage from Captain Hook.

In the mornings, when I have to leave for work, she’ll shuffle her way to the door in what has become a heartbreakingly beautiful routine. It’s hard to know whether it’s more ‘goodbye, have a good day’ or ‘why are you leaving?’, but it is nevertheless endearing.

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All in all, she’s a real mover. Before the commando, she would roll from one of the house to the other, and it won’t be long before she’s standing and walking.

Then the cat is in some serious trouble.

What A Time To Be Alive…

Modern technology never ceases to amaze me.

In 2015, we’ve formed a crew to colonise Mars, we’ve found a planet equally as habitable as Earth, and we’ve gotten clear photographs of Pluto, a planet (never forget) 7.5 billion kilometres from Earth.

And, perhaps most impressively, I can get live updates of Frankie taking a shit while I’m at work.

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