Saying “YES” is easier

Parents have a crappy job.  It starts with wiping of said substance from the soft posterior of the little angels we bring home from the hospital and then it goes downhill from there.  Fast.  I’m not referring to the countless moments of joy and regret kids provide parents with on a daily basis.  I’m specifically referencing the task of forming, sculpting and trying to raise responsible adults who will do more than simply wipe their own butts one day.

I’m talking about discipline.  That’s the tough job.  The part of parenting I hate.  The having to say “No” part.  The part where you create boundaries and then struggle for the rest of eternity to make them stay within those boundaries.  And for every parent it’s different.  Some of us have narrow boundaries, whilst others have boundaries as wide as the universe itself.  There’s no right or wrong.  To make matters even more complicated, it’s also our job to decide when we need to make the circle bigger, to expand the boundaries, even if it’s just a little at a time.  And we need to make them bigger because the aim is to reach the point where you can demolish all the boundaries and simply let them fly.  Or at least fall out of the nest without breaking their neck in the process.

Let’s be honest, saying “No” is not fun.  It’s evident from the earliest beginnings.  The first toddler tantrum was probably because you said he/she couldn’t get something they really and desperately wanted.  And needed.  It seemed more important than life itself.  Like that Wonder Woman blow up doll I really, really, really want…

I suspect cavemen battled with the same thing when their kids wanted to help them in painting those weird stick figures on the walls of their caves.  Looking at some of them, I’d say the kids actually did help them.  Saying “No” makes you the bad parent. Immediately. It doesn’t matter what you did before the moment you said the N-word. Whether you donated your kidney or sold your body on the Internet and didn’t get the price you were hoping for.  The second you say No, you are the unreasonable parent who never gives in.  The kind of parent who doesn’t understand how kids operate.  The parent who never lets their kids do anything.  The parent who is not like any of their friend’s parents.  Can we all agree that it just easier to say “Yes”?

But saying “Yes” instead of “No” makes you a friend, not a father.  It’s your responsibility to protect them against themselves.  Like Wife is protecting me from buying a shitload of superhero t-shirts. (I only have four.)

Tantrums evolve as kids get older because it’s not cool for a teenager to fall down in a public space, kicking and screaming at the top of your lungs because Dad didn’t want to buy the jumper that cost the same price as a two week holiday in Venice.  They simply throw their tantrum in a different way, showing their disappointment by sulking, or pouting, or complaining, or dropping sighs that sucks the will to live out of everyone in a three km vicinity.  The most popular teen tantrum is simply isolating themselves from any interaction for a prolonged period of time which normally coincides with the time they want food.

I must confess, I’m not one to complain about my kids and their isolation tantrums because being able to watch what I want on the television is extremely rare.   It just doesn’t happen often enough.  My kids are not notorious for bending their boundaries. Maybe it’s because it’s too wide?  (I said I’m not complaining.)

The irony is that in those rare occasions when I do use the power of parenting and say “No” and I do end up with a tantrum, then I’ll be the one who ends up sleepless in bed wondering if I did the right thing.  I’ll be lying there, second guessing myself about my rules, wondering whether I’m being too strict or too harsh or too unreasonable. Or just a little too parenty…

Based on my experience of sleepless nights, here’s some advise: You’re not wrong.  You’re not being too strict or too unreasonable.  You’re simply being a Dad.  Or a Mom.  You’re simply trying your best in navigating your kids through the landmines scattered on the road of growing up.  In order to move forward you would need to take another step, and you need to accept the fact that the next step might set of a landmine.  Hopefully you’ve built a strong enough bond with them kids, to survive the explosion that is bound to happen.

And if you’re really lucky, they might even offer an apology for their own unreasonable behavior and realise why you used the word “No.”  When that happens, it’s better than anything I can think of at the moment.

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Dude doesn’t have to be a pimp

One of the most difficult choices any person will make during their time on earth would be whether they will have another donut, especially if they already had three.  Another difficult decision is the choice of a career.  Choosing something that will ensure we earn enough money to pay for socks and wine, but also prevent us from suffering from homicidal tendencies three years later because we hate our boss job.  What makes this decision even worse is the fact that society expects kids, at the tender age of 18, to make this life changing choice, simply because that’s when they finish school and has to move onto something bigger.  And more expensive.

Back in the day when I was 18 and music were great and men still hid from dinosaurs (as per my kids), I had limited options. Not because I’m stupid but because I simply didn’t know better.  My exposure to jobs were confined to those which existed in my neighborhood. So I became an engineer.  And hated every minute of it.

In order to prevent Dude and Princess from making similar semi-disastrous life choices, we’ve spend countless hours talking to them on things that might interest them.  We probed (in a legal way of course) and challenged and asked them what they would want to be when they grow up.  What would they do for free? Their choices ranged from a superhero for him and an actress for her when they were small, to “whatever you’re doing dad” for him and “a teacher like mom” for her, as they grew a little older.

Now we’ve reached the waterfall.  The lazy river ride is behind us and it’s time to buckle up and brace ourselves for the proverbial brown stuff to hit the turning device meant for cooling.  Dude has 18 months of school left before he has to enter the great big world as a student of something or another.  This is challenging as most teenagers don’t even know what they want for dinner, never mind what they want to do with the rest of their lives.

Being who we are, we took him to a career counselor.  It’s a person who makes a living by charging parents a small fortune to psycho analyze their kid for three hours and then spend another hour telling you things about them you already know.  He also recommends career choices based on intelligence, interests, personality and study habits.  I have to admit the best part of this session is when a third party tells your son something you’ve been telling him for centuries, something he always choose to ignore. It’s a very special moment for any parent, even if Wife doesn’t want me to use the “I told you so” card.

I’m downplaying the importance of the process because the professor did break some new ground and opened Dude’s mind to choices he didn’t really consider prior to the consultation.  Even though it wasn’t a complete home-run because the guy didn’t reference Dude’s dream job which would probably be staying at home, playing games with his mates, and a genie on hand to serve their every wish and desire…

Dude is super intelligent but that’s no surprise as he takes after me.  He also suffers from a condition that prevents the desire to study from entering conscious thought.  Another condition that seems to be relatively common among teenage boys.  The marks he’s getting in school is probably attributed to his ability to bribe teachers with a smile and good conversation.

We’re grateful for being in a position to provide some guidance for our kids in this very important but tough decision we all have to make one day.  I’m grateful that he has the ability to do most of the things he wants to.  I’m grateful that he is excited about his future.

I’m not grateful for the second bond I need to pay for tuition and I’m certainly NOT grateful for this counselling session being a vicious reminder as to how little time we have with Dude in our house.  (That last part is excruciatingly painful.)

The good news is that it turns out he doesn’t have to stay at home forever, and he has a few options besides the obvious engineer, professional gamer and/or pimp.

Happy Father’s Day

Being a father is tough.  Just like being a mother but without the whole giving birth and having kids suck on your tits thing.  It’s the most difficult job in the world, they say.  It’s the most rewarding job in the world, they say.

What “they” don’t say, is that you’ll make mistakes.  Mistakes that will probably result in your kids having to book a therapy session or two.  (Besides, it’s not my fault they walked in when I was posing with the Borat bathing suit. Moving on…)   What “they” also don’t tell you is how much you’ll end up loving the fruits of your loins.  How much you are prepared to sacrifice for the little angels who can suck your wallet dry in one trip to the mall.  How much pride and joy they can make you feel, and how nothing else on this blue ball makes any sense without them in your life.

Being a father is having the opportunity to experience the ultimate high of the human existence. Being a father is the reason why I’m alive.  It’s why I get up in the morning.

Because I’m a Dad.

And I’m so very grateful to be one.  It’s a blessing.  It’s my purpose.  It’s my joy.  It’s my entire life.  It’s my everything.  It defines me as a person.  And having such an amazing partner to do it with, makes this journey indescribable.

Dude and Princess, I love you more than the Deadpool movie.

To all the other fathers out there, who like me, make mistakes out of the sheer goodness of your intention, lets stand up and laugh at this poor dad who is obviously in a lot of trouble with the wife.

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Happy Father’s Day!

How a fidget spinner saved my life.

I’m a self-diagnosed sufferer of ADHD and it is Google verified and everything.  I started believing my condition after the eighth site confirmed it to be true.  And I’m not mocking the condition because this is serious shit.

I am the “hey, look there’s a squirrel” guy.  A man who loses interest in any conversation at the drop of a hat.  And this is in a literal sense.  If you drop your hat whilst speaking to me, I might not be there when you stand up again.  And this is in a figurative sense.  My parents didn’t raise a buffoon.  My body will still be standing in front of you but my mind will probably be hovering over the plot of the new Deadpool movie.

*Cue the fidget spinner

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This saved my life and my marriage.  In that order.

I was intrigued about the concept of a mechanical spinning toy that could assist people who were battling with concentration.  It doesn’t really make sense when you think about it but I was suckered into the thing against my better judgement.  Like that time when I bought a romper.

I placed my order for a fidget spinner as soon as my kids found a kid at school who could supply me with a cheaper knock-off version from China. Mine is blue because I’m a big boy.  I was devastated to hear that there is one that turns into Captain America’s shield when you spin it.  Even though I suffered from a severe case of buyer’s remorse, commonly known as sulking, I showcased amazing control and didn’t buy another one.  What kind of sad adult owns two fidget spinners?  (Please sit down.)

And now that I have one?  How did it change me life? Well, to be honest, it has changed my life in the same way my life is affected by the fact that Donald Trump drunk tweets at three in the morning.  Bottom line: A fidget spinner does not help with improving my concentration.  It actually does the exact opposite because I’m now trying so hard to make the damn thing spin that people are lost to me.  Never mind me trying to hold a conversation when I try and play with it.  A fidget spinner doesn’t add any value to my limited attention span.  Not even remotely.

But it does help with the remote…

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Out with the old, in with the new

When I sit, or walk, or wait, or breathe, I tend to fidget with things. Pens, keys, buttons, rope, paper, myself… Just like any normal, stressed-out adult who is raising two teenagers, have responsibilities and a house owned by the bank.  That’s all fine and dandy but when I sit in front of the television my go-to-fidget-thing is the remote.  I can spend countless happy hours opening and closing the battery cover at the back of the remote.  I say I can do it for hours but I don’t.  This little habit of mine irritates my darling wife to the point of her having a seizure when she finds me doing it.  And even though she has perfected the look that would stop my kids from doing something, the “look” doesn’t work with me because I’m her equal.  And a grown-up.  So she actually has to ask me to stop.  Every day.  Through clenched teeth.

Most times it’s a friendly “Love, if you don’t stop with that remote, so help me, I will crush your skull with this pot plant.”  And other times it’s a little more aggressive.

And here is where the fidget spinner enters my life and not only prevents me from breaking ordinary household items but also saves me from dying a violent death.

The only problem I have now, is the spinning sound of the toy seems to be kind of annoying to those creatures who can actually hear it spin.  Even when the television is on.  These creatures would include dogs, bats, people from Krypton and my lovely Wife.

Can we get a fidget spinner that spins without making a sound, please?  Because my life might be in danger once again.

Rise up

A little inspiration. And no funny business.

A Song Diary

We are surrounded with inspiration every day, we just need to open our eyes to see it.  People who do amazing things against the odds.  People who live and breathe and get up every morning despite the difficulty of doing so.

We don’t have any excuses.  Life does bitch slap you every so often and I would be the first to admit that things doesn’t always go your way but the choice to get up and rise above your situation is yours.  Unfortunately no-one can get up for you, that is all you. They can provide support and a whole lot of encouragement but in the end the “standing and facing life” part is all up to you.

And it’s not easy.  It takes courage.  And commitment.  And an endless source of positive energy.  But IT IS POSSIBLE.  I was floored by this amazing anthem last night about the pure…

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The piling system

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Actual footage of Dude’s room

Teenagers are wonderfully skilled at throwing clothes on the floor.  If they decide to introduce “the ability to generate piles of clothing” as an Olympic event, all the participants would be between the ages of 13 and 19.  Like gymnastics.  Even though modern society has invented wonderful ways to keep clothes need and tidy.  Useless inventions like coat hangers, shelves, cupboards, organizing compartments and the shirt folders made famous by Sheldon.  Not to mention the whole practice of ironing.

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Another thing that is wasted on the young

What makes the situation worse is the fact that teens find it difficult to make a decision on what to wear just by looking at it.  It has to be taken out of a neatly folded, shelved position, tried on and in the event of it not passing the damn-I-look-fine-test, it simply gets added to the pile.  And they move on to the next shirt/skirt/jacket/trousers which run the risk of falling victim to the indecisiveness of teenagers.  (I’m thankful for our South African school uniforms because I think the situation could have been a lot worse!)

These piles grow at an alarming rate. I once saw a pile so big, I invited a friend who plans on scaling Everest, to come and test his climbing skills.  Unfortunately he never reached the summit because he didn’t bring enough oxygen to cope with the altitude he had to face on the top of the pile.

There are no specific place for a piling system.  It can be found on the floor, on a desk, on a bed.  I’ve even seen piles forming in cupboards because “folding clothes neatly” is highly overrated and something only old people do.

This piling system is also not gender specific.  It’s a general trait of all teenagers of both sexes, like their ability to have an answer for everything and their criticism towards 80’s music.

In defense of my kids and their obvious inability of putting clothes away, I should take some responsibility.  I tend to employ a piling system during weekends.  Sometimes my piles can also be used to hide an elephant.  At some point I do see the risk (Or Wife makes me see the risk) of being crushed to death by a heap of clothes forming on a chair. Then I will mine the mountain and put the clothes where they belong.  In the laundry basket.

Whereas teens do not to no such thing out of their own free will.  They will only react and do something about their own textile mountains when threatened with death, or even worse, no Wi-Fi for a week. That makes the piles disappear like do-nuts at a cop’s convention.

A parent needs to be vigilant when issuing the dreaded instruction of “Go clean your room.” You have to be extremely specific about what you as a parent consider that action to include.  Teenagers have their own definitions of “cleaning my room” which include but are not limited to, (1) Moving the pile from one area of the room to another, or (2) Redistributing the big pile into several smaller piles, (3) Stuffing everything under the bed and (4) Overloading the laundry basket.  It’s advisable to have a before photo as a reference check.

We do come across golden moments when an instruction is not necessary.  When a simple confrontation results in teens painting themselves into a corner.  Precious moments when the wiser-than-life teen understands instinctively that it would be better for their own self-preservation to shut up and go clean their room.  I almost walked into such a conversation over the weekend.

Dude: Mom, did you find my watch?

Mom: No, I couldn’t.

Dude: I told you it was in my room, under my clothes.

Mom: *wearing an expression that makes her look like she’s folding her arms without her actually having to fold her arms* Which pile would that be, exactly?

Dude:

Wive:

I backed away quietly.  And Dude left rather quickly.

Dude is 17!!

I try to acknowledge the birth of my kids with an annual post because without them there wouldn’t be a blog.  I also would have had less grey hair.  And a lot more money.  No-one warned me about the amount of money I would need to spend on raising kids.  It’s the single biggest reason why people in their forties don’t own a sportscar.  Well that and the limited boot space.

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But can you believe it, Dude turns 17 today!

He’s managed to retain all of his amazing qualities and grew of few more.  Now he is also handsome, funny, considerate and tall.  Just like me.  Except for being considerate because I’m a selfish bastard.

I can’t believe you’ve turned out the way you did in spite of me.  We all know who deserves the credit for shaping you into the astonishingly brilliant young man you have become…the secret is my hilarious jokes and debonair dress sense.

Nah I’m kidding, again…it’s Mom, it’s always been Mom.

She’s been pivotal in raising us three kids to become semi-decent, semi-productive and totally dependent semi-adults.

A few things did change in the last year…  You’ve become less interested in your PlayStation and more interested in girls.  You’ve learned how to make coffee and how to make your bed.  (Kinda.)  You actually seem to like your sister now and you dish out hugs like you’ve bought them in bulk.  You’re still a great friend with fundamentals as deep and strong as the foundation of the Bhur Khalifa.

You’ve become my biggest inspiration in the last few months because despite the odds, you never gave up, you never complained, you worked hard and showed brutal determination.  And it finally paid off and we couldn’t be more proud.

I can’t help but wipe a tear every time I look at you, thinking how grateful and blessed I am to be your Dad.  You have always been my favourite son, albeit the fact that you’re my only son…

Happy birthday Dude and remember you are awesome no matter what the Cosmopolitan quizzes might tell you.

We love you almost as much as you love chicken.