Monthly Archives: May 2015

The eat and eat and eat

The big guy has begun a phase of growth that can only be described as otherworldly. So much so that when I look at him for any length of time I can see the hem of his jeans drifting up and away from his ankles.

Ok, perhaps not that quickly, but it is really quite fast. The stack of clothes he grows out of each month seems comical, until we try to replace them of course. This textile scrap heap is aside from the clothes that fall into the cannot wear anymore category because they are too torn or too uncleanable or too played in or even items that were simply misplaced while he was visiting Neverland and will as such never be seen again.

He’s the youngest child in his class by a good two months and some of the children in his class were actually born before he was even conceived. That said, my boy is the tallest among them. Everyone else in the class looks like a toddler standing next to him or at best apprentice children standing next to the journeyman kid.

There’s a corollary to his height though which is that he fuels his unchecked growth with food that needs to be available on demand and in abundant supply. In short, my boy eats like he’s preparing for hibernation. He is by no means portly mind you, he’s a slender guy and is very proud of his hard earned muscles, which he has because he eats all his vegetables – obviously.

Of course there are some difficulties around the food. For instance, he will sometimes refuse to eat two helpings of the same food whether he enjoys the first plate or not and is likely to request a new plate of food from entirely different food groups to the first. There may also not be anything with an unknown sauce on it (including tomato sauce). Vegetables must be readily identifiable for what they are and may not be transformed to mimic another food like mash or rice (both of which these days are made out of cauliflower). Butter is also taboo and if there is any end user involvement in a process to complete the presentation of a meal, like adding a sprinkle of cheese over the top of a bowl of bolognaise, this must be left to him to do.

His mother will accommodate him in these demands as far as possible, whipping up a tuna pasta for the first course and an assortment of biscuits and cheese and yogurt and fruit for the second. I must admit that my offerings are somewhat less varied, usually consisting of peanut butter and syrup on bread cut into squares followed by peanut butter and syrup on bread cut into triangles. I very rarely get any complaints and I think it’s because he gets it. We’re guys. When left to our own devices, we just make do. But put a mom in the room and we’re like the judges on masterchef demanding an array of a amuse bouche to sate a hunger.

He may also officially be well on his way to transforming into a monkey. He eats bananas every day. This I expect is more to do with us as parents than with his taste in fruit. Often we’ll announce ‘bedtime’ and immediately there will be a complaint from him that he’s still hungry.

Now, a child that is determined to delay bedtime can make the process of eating an apple take a month. Literally. Each tiny bite can be chewed in excess of thirty times or at least to the point where the child doesn’t even want to swallow the bite anymore. Each bite location on the apple itself can be chosen with excruciating care and this excludes all the breaks in chewing that are required to allow the jaw an appropriate amount of rest before the next bite.

In short, apples are never to be fed to children at bed time. Page one.

That said, there is virtually no food more easily or quickly consumed than a banana. A banana, is your ‘friend’ at bedtime. A few small bites and it’s done. It’s mostly water and so isn’t that filling and it’s like a story in that it has a start, middle and end. An apple, by comparison, is relatively ambiguous  in that it can be milked for every last little bite and drive you to the point where you want to ban apples from the house altogether.

Again, see page one.

As I look forward into the future and imagine my boy in his teenage years, I get the feeling that I should be setting aside funds for food now for not only future rainy days but for breakfast, lunch and dinner on any given day of the week too.


The bye bye bye

Often we make assumptions about what our children understand or perceive and I think this is especially true when they are young. We think that the subtleties and complexities of our daily lives float sight unseen above them and we often prescribe how they should feel about something; he will enjoy this food or that activity or he won’t understand that story or this situation.

We’ll even say something daft like he won’t really understand that his Aupair is leaving today. He’ll say goodbye, he’ll be fine.

I was reminded today that my youngest boy is a sentient little being and for him, today was a really tough day. We had prepared our boys for the fact that their Aupair was moving on and starting her career in teaching. We downplayed it a little so as not to cause any undue emotional stress leading up to today and I have to say that the big guy handled it all with aplomb. He was smiling, happy confident and carefree.

He was also swinging the bunch of flowers that we gave our Aupair around above his head like a lasso

But as we were saying our goodbyes this evening, the little guy moved towards the front door and set his back against it. Facing us he said matter of factly that his Aupair wasn’t allowed to go. The air in the room was lighthearted and so it didn’t seem like a problem really. Then as we began to move toward the door the tears started to tumble down his checks. A switch flipped and suddenly he let out all of the anxiety and emotion he’d obviously been feeling build up inside his little chest over the past couple of weeks.

It was a bittersweet moment. I was struck by the realisation that he had really developed such a great relationship with his Aupair and this was from a boy that can really take or leave hugs and would just as soon play with a diecast car as say goodbye to his mom and dad in the morning. He really is a truly independent little guy. 

And yet here he was, saying please don’t go through salty little tears and a running nose and in that moment all I wanted to do was wish away his sadness and say it will be ok my boy.

As his mother tried to soothe him and explain he’d see his Aupair again soon, it dawned on me that this was the first time he was old enough to actually comprehend loss like this and at the same time be forced to deal with it. 

Unfortunate timing I guess.

Also, I understood that this wouldn’t be the last time in his life he would have to feel this way and if I’m honest, that made me quite sad.

Today I was reminded that we grow with our children. I thought I was an adult before our little family started and now I see that really, in many ways I’m still learning what it means to be an adult and a parent.

And you know what? It’s tough.


The firemen and the helicopter and the foam

VWS is a volunteer organization that holds an indispensable position in the protection and rescue of the Cape Peninsula from wildfires. The men and women of this organization put life and limb on the line and do it all on a shoestring budget that they work tirelessly in the background to supplement via fundraisers like the one I attended recently.

The volunteer firefighters were in full attendance running all the stalls and activities and posing for pictures with hundreds of star-struck little people. It must be said that the day these guys put together was brilliant and they do it every year with just as much enthusiasm. There was a Huey helicopter collecting and then dropping water payloads on open flames. There were all manner of fire engines, old and new with sirens blaring and onboard visits aplenty. There were snakes too, that don’t have anything at all to do with volunteer firefighting but were very cool nonetheless and my little guys got to handle them – albeit a little tentatively. There were activities like tree climbing, zip-lining and firehose wrangling which I have to say was a big hit for my boys. The eldest took it upon himself to put out the imaginary fire on his mom with a real firehose, to the great amusement of the VWS team member helping him hold the hose.

It must be a genetic thing that boys of any age, who find themselves in charge of a hosepipe or indeed a water pistol or even a cup of water, will immediately turn it on their mothers, sisters, girlfriends, wives and friends. It’s right there on the first page of the ‘being a boy’ manual.

The main event for the day was a Huey putting out a fire while a ground crew contained it. Hay bales were laid out and set alight. The Huey flew in and dropped off a team of ten or so firefighters to contain the fire while it then swooped over the small dam adjacent to the field where the fire had been set and filled it’s basket with five thousand liters of water. It circled the field once giving everyone reason enough to to readjust their hairdos and block their ears and then strafed the fire with the contents of the bucket with the accuracy of a blue brushstroke on a fiery red canvas. The Huey helicopter itself incidentally, was a veteran of the Vietnam War, commissioned and built in 1969 and deployed to Vietnam. After the war it was refurbished and has now ended up in active duty as a workhorse for the VWS, having I’m sure served in many other capacities between 1969 and now.

The day was rounded off perfectly for about a hundred and fifty children with a foam party on the field where the fires were started and then quenched. The sun was still high in the sky and it was warm so chattering of teeth was kept to a minimum. The foam erupted from the back of a VWS support vehicle and quickly engulfed the little people clambering around the truck, literally blanketing them in a deep foam.

Children immediately vanished under the whiteout only to reemerge several minutes later looking for all the world like snowmen, spluttering foam and stumbling zombie-like from a mosh. As an aside, I’ve been to a foam party in a nightclub (in another life) and while it is possible to breathe the foam, it’s not an especially pleasant thing to have to do. The little guys on the field didn’t seem to mind a whit though and scattered from and surged towards the source of the foam in waves and shrieks of joy. Every so often a nondescript child would pop out of the foam and request a face wipe with their respective parent. The parents, for their part could just as easily have been wiping the faces of primates from Borneo as their own children since there really was very little to distinguish your child from another after a while.

Cleanup time was a ten out of ten on the fun scale too. The children were all hosed down with a real firehose, operated by a real fireman. The water was arguably a little cold but that really didn’t seem to bother anyone. My boys had an absolute ball and were so played out at the end of the day that the little guy nodded off in the car on the way home. Proof positive of a good time.

I think next year I might bring a speedo with and dive right into the foam with the little guys. In so doing I will of course embarrass my wife and possibly even get hold of the firehose and do what I’m genetically programmed to do and spray her down with it.