Monday, December 24, 2007
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
My Adventures Amongst the Pygmies of Eastern Ontario
Like most parents, I’m always amazed at how fast my kids grow up. As adults we get so used to owning the same articles of clothing for years on end it can sometimes baffle us when we stare at the pajamas that fit our kids just last month and realize that they can now barely get their feet through the cuffs. Still, for most of us this is a normal part of having children and for many a quick trip to the local Walmart, (or Gymboree in my case, a big shout out for Jamie’s Mom!) a quick dip in the bank account and we can hit the snooze alarm on that particular slice of life-awareness for another three months.
Well, most of us can, at any rate. For any who know me, they are well used to the minor eclipse that occurs on even the sunniest days when I’m around. At 6’8’’ I tend to block a great deal of ambient light whenever I come over to chat (and depending on my angle of approach). For any who don’t know me the effect can be quite off-putting and I have actually had people stifle a small scream as they whip out of the elevator only to be confronted by my sternum at eye-level. Living, as I do, in a region of Canada that is literally swarming with the under 5’10’’ set, I do worry as to how my children will cope as they get older. Though my own parents were of normal height it has already become quite obvious that my own size seems to be an evolutionary trait that my children have inherited. Both of them come in at near the top of their class in overall height and already wear two to three sizes above their age range in clothing.
And here, then, is the crux of my concern. Like their dear old dad there will come a time when their ability to find clothes in their size will be put to the test. Consider, I can walk into any shopping mall in this city and be pretty much guaranteed that not a single article of clothing in there will fit me properly. Now, think about that for a second. Walk into the largest mall you can get to. Look down the rank upon rank of clothing shops and try to imagine for a moment that nothing they sell, absolutely nothing, is going to fit. Not the socks, shoes, ties, jeans, whatever. Zero. Nada. Need to replace a shirt? Too bad. Shoes wearing out? Oh well. Winter coming? Sucks to be you. For some reason despite the fact that the population of the rest of Canada seems to be growing at a normal rate the population of Ottawa-Carleton continues to remain, well, stunted, or at the very least they tend to lag behind the national average. And don’t even get me started on what passes for selection in the stores of this backwater outpost we call a capital.
Unfortunately, the infrastructure that serves the local "wee folk" hasn’t evolved much either in the decades I've spent here. Yesterday I watched as the boots of my youngest son brushed against the floor of the bus and I immediately realized that in another year or so his leg swinging days on seats that are too big for him will be gone forever. A few years after that he’ll be wedged into the bus seats at a perpetual back-torquing 45 degree angle, stuck in a spot that was designed for someone who never grew past 5’6’’. This realization regarding the average height of the denizens of Ottawa-Carleton causes an even bigger mystery. How, by all that's holy, with such a short population, do the denizens of this town manage to take up an entire sidewalk. There isn’t a day that goes past when I’m not sidestepping or turning profile to squeeze past one of the many barreling dwarves that seemingly make up the majority of the population of Ottawa's downtown core.
Still, the times they are a’changin’ (if albeit in a glacial way). I have noticed in the past few years a slow trickle of people more my own height poking up above the sea of heads like a humpback surfacing for air. The first few times I was amazed. It’s like being told you’re an endangered species all your life and then realizing that you aren’t the only one of your kind left. Now, it’s just kinda cool not having to be introduced to people’s bald spots before I can look them in the face. As for my kids, hopefully by the time they’re grown Ottawa will have progressed to where the rest of the planet was twenty years ago and they won’t feel quite as awkward. Still, given the issues I found with finding clothes that fit, and knowing that there are only a handful of shops in the entire city that carry my size in, well, anything, I’m halfway tempted to start stocking up on adult clothing for them now to avoid the rush.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
So how do we cope? For all you new parents out there I'd say get yourself acclimatized and fast. You don't want this particular aspect of parenting sneaking up on you unaware. Oh sure, lots of books and experts will tell you to get your rest when you can. Good advice. However, before you reach that stage it's a good idea to figure out not only how you'll react to acute sleep deprivation but how to remain functional between those night time naps. Moreover, if you know there's a good chance you'll be up at night prep your environment beforehand. If you're going to be doing midnight feedings prep the bottles of similac before you rack out. Likewise, if you even suspect your child might be ill lay down a towel under them or stash a bucket within easy reach of the bed just on the off chance you wake up to the unique sound of your child's gag reflex kicking in. The few seconds you'll save knowing where that particular vomit receptacle is might just net you a few extra minutes sleep later on instead of being stuck changing some very funky smelling Dora sheets.
Seriously, being prepared in this respect does wonders for that whole long-term-child-survivability thing. For me, I found the best way for me to learn this particular skillset was through military service. The thinking goes something like this: If you can handle live ammunition and enough explosives to stop a small armoured vehicle on two days without sleep, chances are you can walk the floor with a croupy child at three in the morning and remain calm. Is it hard? Hell, yeah. Why do you think the national average birth rate is dropping. Somebody talked. However, if you do find yourself facing imminent parenthood the secret is don't panic. For all you new parents out there, or parents to be, I can tell you this. You do get used to it. Last weekend I flew back from overseas. Travel time? 21 hours with no sleep stuck in one economy class seat after another with a bunch of drunken Germans seated behind me providing my soundtrack for the flight. When I came home I prepared dinner, gave my son a bath, read him stories and put him to bed and though things got kind of blurry towards the end at least I managed to cover the basics (at least I think I did). Bottom line? It's doable. Besides, just think of when your own kids are grown. They, too, will get to see that half-mad twinkle in your eye when they mention how THEIR kids are keeping them up at night. Remember, that crazed giggle you hear from your parents whenever you kvetch about how tired you are? Now at least you know what caused it.
A couple more pictures from Geneva:
Me and Chateau Chillon
The Chateau on the road to Montreaux. This place doesn't come in unphotogenic.
Friday, November 9, 2007
So, here I am three days into my Geneva adventure, 1 am local time, and rather than sleeping, I'm blogging. Yes kids, daddy's crazy, go get the shotgun. Speaking of kids, that's what this one's going to be about. Well, d’uh. More specifically, it's about how to deal with the steady bleeding from that which makes up your soul when you realize you're on the other side of the planet from your kids. Now many of you would simply raise a glass, sit back and say, "like this!" before downing your Margarita, and that's ok for some. Unfortunately, I'm not wired that way. Proof? I just spent 200 Francs on gifts for my kids to help stem the bleeding. Ah, guilt! It could drive an entire tourism based economy. (Heck it worked for diamonds.) But I digress. Apart from meals the most I've bought for myself is a newspaper. And this is what I'm on about. How do you keep from missing your kids when they are your raison d’etre? Well, thanks to my experience as a part time dad to my eldest, I've gotten a lot of practice in. So what to do?
- The first thing is remind yourself it's temporary. You will see them again. Yes it hurts, but it won't be forever. Think of this as slapping a bandage over the wound. It won't last forever but it'll stem the bleeding for the moment.
- Second: if you're going to focus on them, don't wallow. Do something for them. I don't care if you've been stationed at the ISS. Buy them something. Take a photo of something they might find interesting to share later. Make them something. Anything. Use your imagination. It’s supposed to come “standard issue” for parents. No, really, take a look. See it’s that one there next to the bottle marked “tolerance”.
- Three: Here's a no-brainer. Call them. Even if they can't come to the phone. Tell them you love them. It might not seem like much right now but in the long run consider it as parental CYA for when they’re older and accusing you of not being there. Also email works, maybe a post card, webcam or hhhmmm...blog?
- Four: Borrow someone else's kids (legally, of course. No, no I mean it. Put the baby back where you found it.) But seriously, in my case I got off the plane and there was Chris with his two sons Lucas and Michael. I was jetlagged, frazzled and missing my boys to the point of tears but when a little one puts his had in yours, it doesn't matter if he's biologically related. He's either looking for you to take the lead or wants to take the lead himself. Either works. And it helps stop the bleeding, let me tell you.
A famous quote I keep close to me hits on that last point, something fierce. It goes like this.
" In old days there were angels who came and took men by the hand and led them away from the city of destruction. We see no white-winged angels now. But yet men are led away from threatening destruction: a hand is put into theirs, which leads them forth gently towards a calm and bright land, so that they look no more backward; and the hand may be a little child’s."-
George Eliot, Silas Marner
Heck, I don't claim to be that Christian, but the dude's got a point. And that was something that was driven home to a very tired man who missed his kids who stumbled off a plane three days ago. A big thanks to Lucas and Michael for reminding me of that.
Okay, enough sob story. How about some photos?
In ottawa Jamie wear's his MP3 player on the bus. In Geneva...well...guess he wouldn't need one.
Lucas and Michael challenging each other to a game of Chess.
The view of the lake and the "Old City" from my hotel room.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Still, those days are gone now, and what with the onset of global warming and with the next generation of my family firmly entrenched, a new trick-or-treating past-time has emerged. I, of course, speak of our yearly jaunt to the PM's house and surrounding district. For many years, now, I have taken my youngest to the PM and Governor General's House in his All Hallow's quest for loot. It's always a scary thrill when you make your way up the front drive of 24 Sussex to see the PM, his family, and his staff, decked out in their finest monster gear (or maybe it's their loungewear, hard to tell with the Tories,). And, I might add, it's quite a relief to know that the ominous rustling in the bushes is, in fact, just the RCMP in their zest to be security conscious, ready to spring into action at the first sign of munchkin mischief with tazer's held at the ready. Still, I shouldn't worry too much. Given the number of flash bulbs going off as parents try to snap pics of the kids with the "powers de jour" I suspect the aim of those poor souls assigned to the shadows, (along with their night vision and their overall general ability to see) will be more than compromised for weeks to come.
Then, well, it's off to the embassy district to raid the homes of those who represent those nations less fortunate (but often more laid back, I find) than ours, only to cap it off with a trip to the Governor General's residence, a trip, I must warn you, that is not for the faint of heart. At one time it was left up to the parents and children to navigate the shrouded grounds alone on the way to the massive manse, slipping between the darkened trees with the frightening cries of "Expeliarmus!" being directed at you from the shadows from a host of would-be Hogwarts applicants; though this practice has been curbed of late in favour of a Halloween "tour de chill" at the front gate. But even that can be frightening with spooks and spectres of all kinds, where the normally friendly (hah!) scarlet-coated, bear-capped footguards are replaced with menacing cloaked figures bearing scythes in honour of this dreaded night (or maybe it's a matter of logistics and their kit just got sent to the 'Stan). Regardless, either possibility is unsettling and I'm always slightly relieved (and very tired) when we make it back to the car after a long night's haul, there to do my best to convince my sleepy boy that he does not need to go out trick-or treating again when we get home (seriously, go to bed, child,) and that he needs to wait until daddy has gone through his candy before devouring it. I mean, before he...gets...to devour...ah well, y'know what I mean. I gotta make sure it's safe after all. Parental responsibilities and all that... Urp. 'Scuse me. Happy Halloween, folks.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
For those of you who don't know me (and to be honest I'm kinda big on the whole arms length thing except where family is concerned) I'm a dad. I know. "So what?" you say. But, from what people tell me I'm not half-bad at it. Moreover, I'm a different kind of dad. No, I'm not a stay-at-home. Lord knows there are enough of those these days and I seriously envy them. No, I'm kind of a hybrid. I'm both a part-time and a full-time dad (in many respects, anyway) and, so far, I seem to be doing relatively okay at both ends of it. Will it stay that way? No idea. I'll let you know when I finally get to stop being a dad. I do hope so though. In the meantime, I figure I'll lay down my insight, my findings and my experiences as best I can. Share what info I come across, out there in the webverse with others and, who knows, maybe it'll do someone some good. Or at the very least it might show others what NOT to do. At the very least, maybe I can entertain as I scamper hither and yon, trying to figure out what fatherhood means at the pointy end of this 100 year lark we call the 21st Century (okay, okay it's late. I always wax poetic when I'm tired.) So, in the interest of wrapping this up and getting a good night's sleep, without further ado, I give you "Dadly Off In All Directions". Thank you for that round of indifference.