In Defence of Two Year Olds

Two year olds cop a bad rap.  Sure they’re wildly erratic and hyper-emotional at times. Sure they like to trash clothing, furniture, cars, siblings and well….pretty much everything.  But there’s got to be some good aspects as well right?

I spent a big chunk of Focker #1’s terrible twos hidden away at the office.  Perhaps that’s why I don’t have too many memories of major meltdowns or terrible tantrums. I do recall some of his little quirks, but only with fondness. Although, Mrs D-E-D assures me that he definitely had his moments.

On the flip side, now that I’m a SAHD, I’ve had a front row seat to Focker #2’s finest ‘terrible two’ moments.  And she’s had a fair few.  Rather than write about the horror of it all, I’ve decided to find the silver lining in this little storm cloud, and document some of the advantages of having a two year old for company on a daily basis. Here’s five of the best.

  1. Toddlers are fantastic for incidental exercise.  They’re heavier than a baby, but still like to be picked up and cuddled.  Except when they don’t.  But then they do.  And then they don’t. Up down, up down. Likewise they’re too big for the pram, but not strong enough to walk, ride or scoot on their own for any distance.  Inevitably you end up carrying them, as well as their bike / scooter, their teddy,  blanky, and the bunch of sticks and frangipani flowers that they’ve insisted you stop and collect along the way.
  1. You will never get lonely while using the toilet.  There’ll always be a little helper there to unroll the entire toilet paper roll into a pile on the floor for you.  Likewise the shower.  While it’s lovely to have some company in this daily ritual, the fact that your nether regions are in her direct line of sight is slightly disconcerting – particularly when she slips on the soap and has to reach out and grab something to stabilise herself.
  1. Two year olds are great for reducing your own screen time.  In moments of desperation, when Focker #2 is approaching DEFCON 5 and a full meltdown is imminent, I have been known to quickly YouTube some Wiggles on my phone in an attempt to create a diversion.  It usually works.  Now whenever I pull out my phone to make a call, read an email or just veg out, within seconds there’s a little person standing beside me demanding to: “Watch Wiggles daddee phone.”  This has made me think twice before pulling my phone out when she’s around, meaning that she gets my undivided attention instead of my phone.
  1. You become exceptionally good at cooking macaroni and chicken nuggets. And not much else.  I have a massive arsenal of toddler friendly recipes where the healthy stuff is supposedly so well concealed, that the toddler is deceived into eating it. This might work on your average two year old, but not our Focker #2.  That kid can smell a vegetable from 100 yards out, and will stubbornly refuse to even sample anything that’s not laced with MSG. If there was a MasterChef series where they cooked nothing but chicken nuggets and macaroni cheese I’d be certain to take out the title.
  1. Two year olds give you a new appreciation for the comfort of your own home.  They achieve this by making any form of travel that takes more than about 30 minutes a complete nightmare. I recently took both kids on a short flight to visit their grandparents in regional WA.  What would ordinarily be a pleasant 50 minute flight- just long enough to quickly browse the airline magazine, throw back a beer and close my eyes for 10 minutes – turned into an epic battle of wills.  To my horror and shame, Focker #2 refused to conform with every civil aviation regulation ever invented and instead screamed her defiance to anyone within five rows of where we were seated for the entire flight. I’ll spare you the gory details, suffice to say that the time we reached our destination I was mentally and spiritually broken. Too shattered to even walk off the plane.  As the departing passengers filed past me and my little fockers, a surprising number of them threw me a sympathetic look, a quiet word of encouragement, a reassuring pat on the shoulder, and even an awkward hug from a strange smelling grandmotherly type.

And that I guess is another advantage to having a toddler.  They promote solidarity with your fellow parents. Because we’ve all been there.  We’ve all been that mum or dad with the terrible child on the flight.  We’ve all been the one cooking a delicious new recipe only to throw the whole lot in the bin.  Uneaten. We’ve all sat on a toilet wishing for five minutes of solitude while the toilet roll unravels before your eyes.  Solidarity forged through the  adversity that is raising a toddler.

On that note, Focker #2 is currently taking a nap (another advantage right there) and the house is blissfully silent, so I’m off to sit on the toilet on my own.  Perhaps I’ll even get the chance to look at my phone…

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Daddy Pig Isn’t Helping

It started just like any other morning of my blissful SAHD existence.

Me, tearing around the house in my #activewear, brandishing the hairbrush and spray bottle. Focker #2 with hair resembling the feral kid off Mad Max II, shrieking as she tried to avoid the dreaded brush. Focker #1 just standing there in the middle of the room, mesmerized by the television. Nude, except for one lonely looking sock on his foot.

As the opening bars from the Peppa Pig theme song tinkled from the television, we stopped to pay our daily homage. Focker #2 and I puffing and laughing. Focker #1 in his sock.

In this particular episode, Peppa Pig was being a pretentious brat (for a change), George was crying about his dinosaur (nothing unusual about that), and Daddy Pig was being lazy and inept (ditto). While the children go off to the fire station with Mummy Pig, Daddy Pig stays at home with his football mates to cook a barbeque. Unable to locate the tomato sauce, Daddy Pig calls the fire station emergency line to see if Mummy Pig can tell him where it is hidden – presumably because he’s too lazy or incompetent to actually go and look for it himself.  Mummy Pig and her fellow mummy firefighters share a laugh about how useless Daddy Pig and all of the other dads are before going back to the serious business of waiting for an emergency. The next thing you know, Daddy Pig is back on the phone, and the barbeque is on fire.  When the firefighting mums arrive, the dads are all standing around it with drinks in their hands, watching it burn.  The mums rush to put out the fire, before everyone shares a joke about how dads can’t be left to cook unsupervised or something like that.

It was during this latest display of Daddy Pig’s ineptness that it occurred to me. In a very long line of bumbling, incompetent (but loving) father figures on television, Daddy Pig is the latest, and by far the worst offender. Not because he’s any more of an idiot than some of the other TV dads that spring to mind. But because his audience is millions of kids as young as two years old. For a lot of these kids, he will be a key father figure as they start to form their own views of society and the world.

Now the portrayal of fathers by mainstream society as bumbling but well intentioned boofheads is the subject of a lot of social commentary – most of it by writers far more credentialed than I. But as Mamamia editor Holly Wainwright pointed out in her piece titled “Dads Aren’t Dumb,” if we want society to stop portraying dads as bumbling idiots, then us dads need to stop being bumbling idiots. Simple right? The problem is, as Wainwright so cleverly points out, is that it’s not always in our best interests to do so.

“There is a certain breed of father who has a vested interest in maintaining a façade of bumbling incompetence. After all, if you are rubbish at stuff, eventually people will stop asking you to do it.”

It’s so true. For example, how can a dad competently operate a lawnmower, but not a vacuum cleaner? After all, vacuuming is pretty much indoor mowing, and the same rules apply. Don’t miss any patches, don’t run over toys, pets or children, and empty the bag when you’re done. Simple.

Likewise, so many dads profess to not being capable enough to prepare a meal for their family. Yet if there’s some outdoor barbequing to be done, then suddenly they step up, tongs in one hand, beer in the other and produces a gourmet spread.

At this point you might want to lean in closer, because here’s where I risk the ire of my fellow dads and lift the lid on some highly classified, never heard before man secrets. We absolutely can operate a vacuum cleaner. Capably. Accurately. Efficiently. Equally, you’ll be shocked to the core to know that pretty much every man can cook indoors. Even those dads with zero cooking experience are competent enough to follow a simple recipe or instructional video on YouTube. They can even produce something edible at the end. After all, blokes are hard wired to follow systematic and sequential instructions, which is all that a recipe is at the end of the day. Furthermore, kitchen appliances that chop, slice, grind and heat are basically the power tools of the indoors. What guy wouldn’t want to play with a hand-held stick blender with rotating blades? Or better yet, one of those little blowtorch things that you see on MasterChef? Especially if he can still hold a beer while he’s doing it?

While we’re perfectly capable of doing these basic tasks, some of us just don’t want to. Because as we all know, cooking and vacuuming are the ‘gateway drugs’ of domestic chores. It all starts with a humble lasagna and one simple lap around the living room with the Dyson. Before you know it, your partner will be asking you to steam mop the grout in the bathroom tiles and churn out a croquembouche for a school cake stall. It’s a very slippery slope.

All sarcasm aside, I think that it’s really f*cking sad that there are dads out there who are happy to be thought of as incompetent by their partners and children. All because that way they can avoid having to help out around the house, and can spend their leisure time lying on the couch instead. How do we expect the role of dadding to be treated with any respect by others when we don’t have the respect for our families to man up, get off the couch and do a few f*cking domestic chores once in a while? This is where Daddy Pig and other TV dads let us down. In the 200 odd episodes of Peppa Pig, and believe me I’ve seen most of them, I’ve yet to see him demonstrate any level of competence on the domestic front. This is despite him being a structural engineer (or possibly an architect), world record holder for jumping in muddy puddles, and an otherwise loving father. Given his capabilities in other areas, you really have to wonder if Daddy Pig is “maintaining a façade of bumbling incompetence” as Wainwright suggests, or is he just in fact a dick?

With that in mind, I’d encourage all of the masquerading dads out there to drop the façade. Surprise your partner by picking up the vacuum cleaner and mowing the carpets. Maybe whip up a cheeky omelette or a batch of cookies (using at least one kitchen appliance with motorized blades of course). Most importantly, let your kids see you doing it so that they know that dad is just as capable as mum at all things domestic.

While you’re doing that, I’m off to find some pants for Focker #1 and finish taming Focker #2’s crazy hair. Then I might have a crack at throwing together a quick croquembouche.  After all, how hard can it be?