Dear Me – A letter to my pre-children self

You’ve all seen it.  The celebrities that write reflective, retrospective letters to their ‘teenage selves’.  Typically full of pointed advice about first loves, drug habits and hairstyle fashions, smattered with some heartfelt sentimental moments that make you squeeze out a little tear and go ‘awwwwww.’

The teenage version of me was only interested in rugby and girls, and I highly doubt that he would take the time to even read some advice from present day me – let alone take it on board.  Besides, the teenage version of me, while an arsehole at the time, actually turned out reasonably ok without the need for any advice from present day me. That’s why I decided I’d have more luck writing to ‘post-marriage / pre-children me’  of circa 2008 instead.  He’s more likely to actually read the damn thing in the first place, and there are more than a few things that he really needs to know. So here goes….

Dear 2008 Me.

So by now you’re ticking along pretty nicely.  You’ve finally got around to making an honest woman out of that gorgeous girl you’ve been knocking around with for what seems like forever. Your career is on the up and people are starting to sit up and take notice of you in the corporate world.  You’ve got a pretty chunky mortgage, but you might as well get used to that because you’ll have it for a while.

Even though you think you’ve got it pretty well wired, there’s still a few things that I should really give you the heads up on before the next phase of your life comes along and kicks your arse.

Firstly, you’re not busy.  Let me say that again.  You are not busy.  I know you feel busy, but you’re going to look back on this period at some point and you will wonder WTF you ever did with all of that spare time.  With this in mind, you need to make better use of the freedom that you currently enjoy.  Sleep in as much as possible, because soon you will be willing to sell your soul for a sleep in past 6am.  Also, be more spontaneous.  Nothing kills spontaneity like small children, when even a quick trip to the shops can feel like a huge logistical operation.  And never say no to an invitation from a friend.  You’ll get plenty of practice at making excuses and saying no to things once the kids arrive.

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As well as busy, there’s something else that you’re not. Tired.  There’s times where you might’ve felt a bit weary after a hard day at work or a big night on the beers, but that’s nothing compared to the ‘drive 20 minutes to work (with baby vomit on your business shirt) and not remember any of it’ kind of tired that’s still to come. It’s no wonder that some armies use sleep deprivation as a form of torture, and you will have moments where you feel like you’re being tortured, except that your torturer will be in nappies rather than combat fatigues.  Remember this before you tell your friends with kids how tired you are, and they will be more likely to remain your friends, and less likely to fantasise about choking you to death.

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Be more empathetic and less judgemental. You can start with your sister-in-law and her husband, as well as your other friends with children.  They’re all f*cking amazing parents, and you need to pull your head out of your arse and be a bit more supportive.  They will repay it to you tenfold in a few years time when your own offspring arrive so the least you could do is lend them a helping hand once in a while and cut them some slack.

You’ve got no business saying things like “when we have kids we won’t let them change our lives…”.  Your kids are going to turn you into a completely different person (mostly for the better) and will piss all over your pre-conceived notions and your social life for many many years.

Your dog is a legend.  You know this already, and that won’t change into the future.  What will change however is the amount of attention you can spare him.  This may be hard for you to believe right now, but when the kids arrive, you will actually love them more than the dog. Crazy huh?  He will slide down the pecking order in your affections, but you’ll always remain number one in his.  Don’t just ignore him and step over him when he’s lying in the doorway, and make sure you’re there for him in his hour of need.  Also, don’t leave a whole kilogram of playdough lying around.  He is a Labrador. He will eat all of it.

Take up Crossfit. Today. It will hurt a lot but it is the gateway to a better version of yourself in every respect and will introduce you to an amazing support network (some would say “cult”) of like minded people.  It’s also an incredibly time-efficient form of exercise for when the kids arrive.  And on that topic you can kiss those leisurely 4+ hour bike rides goodbye. You look like a tool in lycra anyway and your balls and backside will thank you for it.

What none of the parenting books will tell you is that husbanding is even harder and more important than parenting when the little fockers first arrive. So work your arse off to be an attentive, supportive and loving husband and the parenting thing will fall into place for you.  Trust me on this.

You’re going to spend a lot of time gazing at your children while they’re sleeping or otherwise pre-occupied, and wondering how the hell something so astonishingly beautiful could possibly be 50% attributable to you and your balls. You’ll also spend a lot of time wondering if others are looking at you and your kids and wondering the same thing.  They are, but that’s ok.

Lastly and most importantly, I want you to know that I’m really excited for you because you’re about to learn to love in a way that you can’t possibly comprehend right now, and it is truly amazing. Sure you love your wife, your parents, your dog, the All Blacks, but nothing can prepare you for the depth or intensity of the love that you will feel for your kids.  Embrace this feeling and throw yourself headlong into this next phase with whole hearted enthusiasm.  I promise you won’t regret it.

Yours

Future Me.

PS – You’ll be pleased to know that the All Blacks will shake the “choker” tag and will go back to back in the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cups, so don’t bother losing any sleep worrying about that.  Your son will end up supporting the Wallabies and that wound will take some time to heal, but you will find some comfort in the fact that they keep losing to the All Blacks.

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Dadding. It’s a Doing Word.

Dadding – Present participle of the verb “to dad”.
To care for offspring in a very male way. Often, but not always, accomplished with beer, tv, and half-truths. Successful dadding involves the child being whole and unmarked, clean, fed, in diapers and PJs, and napping/asleep by the time the partner returns from whatever they were doing.

“I didn’t get the chance to clean up the apartment, repair the front porch, or wash the cars. I was dadding.”


“Our child is fed, bathed, and asleep. Nice dadding!” (Alternate usage: “Our child is still alive and in one piece. Nice dadding!”)

Source – Urban Dictionary – Dang_elf January 2013

Social media has been responsible for coining so many good terms of phrase that have found their way into the mainstream.  In amongst all of the yolos, baes and cray crays, there is “dadding”.  I love the term dadding for its sheer simplicity.  If you’re a dad, and you’re doing dad stuff, then you’re dadding.  I recently spotted this definition on that most esteemed source of modern English – Urban Dictionary.  There’s a couple of things that I love about it.  Firstly, that “to dad” is recognised as a verb (or a “doing word” for those of you that struggled with grammar at school).  Being a dad is exactly that.  It’s something you do – not necessarily something that you are.  Any clown can be a dad –  a few shots of tequila, a smooth pick up line, and 30 seconds of passion can be enough to earn you the title – but to master the act of dadding requires something a bit more special than a hangover and a broken condom.

As an aside, I also enjoy the reference to half-truths in this definition.  If only I had a dollar for every half-truth that I’ve told my kids, their education would be well and truly funded by now.

“If you don’t let me brush the knots out of your hair you’ll end up with a family of crows living in it.  caw caw…” *Dad imitates crow (poorly) and chases kids around the room with hairbrush in hand*

“Yes son of course I’m stronger than the Hulk and could pick up this house if I felt like it. Just not right now…”

 “Sorry kids, when Mr Whippy starts playing that music that you can hear it means that he’s run out of ice cream.  Better luck next time.”

Anyway I digress….

It’s very cool indeed that dadding is a recognised verb (in Urban Dictionary nonetheless), however, I do have some issues with this definition and I need to get them off my chest.

The definition, whilst amusing, implies that dads are somehow less competent and more lazy than our spouses, and that doing the bare minimum of feeding kids and getting them to sleep, whilst drinking beer and watching shark week on the Discovery Channel is all that it takes in order to be deemed to be good at dadding. This seems to be a common perception amongst large segments of broader society as well. Case in point, this image, which I spotted on social media just this morning.

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This is complete bullshit, and I’m not sure what’s worse.  The fact that this is a real child’s perception of his / her dad, or that it’s being celebrated on Facebook like it’s an achievement.  Now don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against either beer or television, with both having played a major role in my formative years.  But there’s just no way that we as dads should accept that beer drinking and tv watching is good dadding form.  The moment we do, we’re accepting mediocrity, and that’s really not ok in my books.

So what is good dadding then?  Obviously it includes all of the fun stuff that dads do with their kids like camping, fishing, building a fort, going to a sports match, throwing rocks at inanimate things, lighting your farts on fire  – that sort of stuff is both awesome and essential.  The problem is that if dads only ever do the fun stuff, then that leaves all of the more common ‘not so fun but still essential for your kids survival’ stuff to poor old mum (do we call this mumming?), and that hardly seems fair to me.

I believe that we should all be aiming much higher, and striving to achieve dadding virtuosity.  The term “virtuosity” is occasionally defined as “performing the common uncommonly well” and is a very apt term when it comes to dadding.  If you really want to achieve dadding virtuosity, you need to specialise in doing the common stuff with your kids and making it uncommonly awesome. Here’s a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Strap sponges to your kids limbs (hint – don ‘t use duct tape, superglue or industrial adhesive) and let them ‘help’ to wash your car – even though everyone ends up wet and the car doesn’t really get clean.
  • Use rude words to help the kids learn the alphabet (because no dad is ever too old for a bum or poo joke).
  • Convince the kids to pretend they’re a giant diplodocus (herbivore dinosaur with a really really really long neck for those that don’t have a budding palaeontologist in the family) and that the broccoli on their plates is actually trees that need to be chomped. And then turn dinner into an exercise in deforestation.
  • Turn packing up toys into a full blown race against the clock with prizes for the winner.
  • Be like this guy and do the shopping with your kids dressed as superheroes. So virtuous.

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If you can manage some or all of these things then you’re well on the way to being a dadding virtuoso.

Above all else though, I think that dadding is about being the best version of yourself that you can be, and most importantly, letting your kids see you doing it every single day.  Author Clarence B Kelland, who once described himself as “the best second rate writer in America” wrote:

“My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”  If ever there was one succinct quote to sum up dadding, then this is it.

So to all of you dadding virtuosos out there– you know who you are – keep doing the common dad stuff uncommonly well, and keep lighting those farts.