September 27, 2005

Matrimonial Harmonies

Originally uploaded by billyjoebob.
This weekend, punkin, was characterised by weddings. We visited the beautiful Edinburgh Gardens in downtown Fitzroy to attend the nuptials of one of your dad's very very old friends. Old in the sense that I have known her for a very long time, you understand, not old because she's 17 days older than me and therefore ancient .

I wonder if, by the time you're ready to declare undying lerve for someone, the whole wedding thing will still be around. Certainly, it's lost much of its necessity in terms of being a vehicle for societal acceptance, but I think that, if such a thing is possible, that's made it all the more special. People that we know, punkin, don't get married because they have to, they get married because they want to.

The ceremony was, as these things will generally be, beautiful, and your dad, who is a great big wuss, was seen to wipe a tear away during the really mushy bits. Unfortunately, due to the rapidly encroaching darkness, there was little use in me bringing my camera, and we'll have to rely on professional photos to get a view of the event for posterity.

The bride was, however, beautiful, and I gave her a kiss from your Grammy as ordered.

The next day, we heard of another weddering event in the offing, and began to formulate a plan for how we're going to attend it. It's all very exciting really, and takes us back to when we got married, what seems like a very very long time ago.

Watching all that lerve go flying about on the weekend was exhilarating and wonderful, and made us appreciate you all the more. When we came home from the wedding, you had just started your 7pm screaming time, and the look on your face when you saw your mum was priceless. To think now that I can see what you're going to look like as you grow is presumptuous at best, but I don't think I'm alone in saying that there's laughter in them there eyes, punkin, and it makes my heart swell every time I'm the one who puts it there.

Love you.

September 21, 2005

Home again home again

Originally uploaded by billyjoebob.
It's nice, being a dad and coming home. It's nice that you recognise me, that there's a huge grin on your face whenever you see me.

It's awesome that you grab me by the ears to steady yourself so you can look into my eyes. It's super cool that when I get home, if you're in your cot, I can go in and say hello. That I know which toy is your favourite, that we have special games that only we play ("bonjour monsieur poopoo" is currently getting a lot of airtime)

I love getting the chance to spend time with you by myself, and I love sharing you with your mum. I love seeing you do something new or exciting and yelling out. She comes running to see your new funny face or manouvre. We still haven't gotten the rolling over on tape, punkin, but I promise we'll get something by the time you're in high school.

I saw a young man on the tram today, with someone who seemed suspiciously like a grandmother. I'm excited that my parents will get a chance with me to watch you grow, to show you new things and take you on adventures. I'm filled with joy about you being here.

Having said all that, punkin, when you wake up at 4am, it would be awesome if you would just go back to sleep quietly, instead of grizzling for an hour.

Love you.

September 15, 2005

And the gang's all here

Originally uploaded by billyjoebob.
Apparently, punkin, you are already posessed of a social network that I am no part of. Apparently you already have a circle of friends (although this is likely to be almost the last time that they are presented in such a literal fashion), few of whom I'm acquainted with.

As a father, I'm conversant with this concept. Certainly I know that this is likely to continue throughout your life. I know that, as a young man, I had many friends with whom my parents were unacquainted (for various reasons, most of which can wait until you're older for explanation).

The people represented here might drift away as you get older, if we move out of the area, or as you develop new interests and hobbies that take you away from this core group, or they could remain in your life for a substantial period to come. In my life, I had friends who I went to kindergarten with that stayed in my life until I was well into my 20s.

My grandfather, your great-grandfather, often told me as I was growing up that it's not important to have a lot of friends, that it's far more important to have good friends. One should count oneself lucky, he said, if one could count one's good friends on one hand. People that you can count on, people who know you well. Certainly, I can say with pride that the people with whom I share my life have been in it for a very long time. Some of my best friends now have been that way since I was about 14.

Of course, people change. Priorities change. Sometimes people who you thought you'd lost come back.

One of my very very close friends has just returned from a long sojourn overseas. He's been gone for eight years. When you're small, eight years could seem like a very long time, but I can tell you that I feel like we're able to pick up almost exactly where we left off. I feel like our friendship has not diminished over that time, that we're still able to connect well. He hasn't had a chance to see you yet, but he's anxious to get to know you. Given that you already have a Guardian of Geekiness, we'll have to find him a niche to occupy in the Council of Elders, but I'm sure we can come up with something. I'm not sure that his dedication to roasting his own coffee beans is something you should be interested in quite yet.

Love you.

nb: clockwise from you, located at 5 o'clock in the white babygro, is Rudy (screaming), Chloe, very fetching in fuschia and seemingly fascinated by, Jaida, Damien, then Oskar (also screaming), Stephanie, Massimo and Mia, then Ava, then Riley and finally Olivia (whose father can take the credit for this beautiful photo, which I Did Not Take).

September 14, 2005

Three plus two equals FIVE!

Bram and Mum
Originally uploaded by billyjoebob.
Your mother, Brambling, turned five today. With the reaching of that milestone, it's interesting for me to look back and see what was happening last year.

Before your arrival, punkin, on your mother's birthday, it appears that I took her to dinner at a LUDICROUSLY expensive restaurant.
This is all very well and good, punkin, but it's hardly the way that we choose to celebrate things now that we are enbabied. The way that we will celebrate tonight will involve, as discussed previously, pizza, sparkling wine, Rockstar and CAKE. The cake part is very important. As you grow older, you'll come to appreciate just exactly how fantastic is cake in all its forms, the particular form of which your mother is inordinately fond is baked cheescake. The reasons for this will become obvious, once you get an opportunity to taste some cake.

Enough about cake, let's talk about your mother.

You know that I love her, sure, but I don't know that you understand just how fully your mum and I have become parts of each other's lives. When we first moved in together (a story that can wait until you're a bit older), we each had our own social circles, outings, hobbies etc. As the months and years passed, we became more and more involved in each other, more and more we just wanted to spend time with each other. They sometimes say that when two people are intrinsically involved with each other they can each finish the other's sentences. Your mum and I, punkin, have invented our own language.

Every second I spend at work, I think of her. For her to undertake this great ordeal, of having you and bringing you up and creating you with me, this speaks volumes. You, punkin, are the living, breathing, smiling, laughing, giggling, gurgling embodiment of that love, and when I look at you I see your mum reflected in your eyes.

Having said all that, punkin, I have some fatherly advice for you. As you grow up, you're going to have lots of friends. As they grow up with you, they will enter certain professions. Keep track of these, and use this knowledge to make sure that you benefit from their skills and creativity. One can do considerably worse, punkin, than to have a friend who is a lawyer, or a doctor, or a plumber or an electrician.

Or a jeweller.

As you grow up, punkin, you will also learn that women like jewellery. Women particularly like jewellery that is custom made. By someone clever. With access to photographs of all of that person's other jewellery.

Love you.

September 13, 2005

No Hands!

No Hands!
Originally uploaded by billyjoebob.

I'm not sure what to tell you today, punkin, except to tell you about birthday season.

I'm not sure how we managed to have a baby born in May, when it seems like everyone else in this family was born in September or October, but that only means that people will have time to save up for your present.

It's your mum's birthday tomorrow, her first birthday as a mum. I don't want this whole thing to turn into a catalogue of firsts, but speaking as one who's had the pleasure, I have to tell you that getting a present from your son is pretty exciting. Of course, knowing that she reads this, I can't talk about what we got her, but I'm sure you'll agree that our long drive last night (even including the bit where your dad looked around and realised that we were in the country, and swore and turned around), was very much worthwhile. I won't mention any names here, for fear of giving the game away, but you know who you are.

Being that the birthday in question comes smack dab in the middle of bad reality TV season, we will be celebrating by sitting at home watching television. This might not sound like such an exciting time, but let me assure you that an evening of pizza, fizzy wine and Rockstar is tailor made for good times at casa Peeny-Deeny, the place you choose to lay your head on the rare occasions that you deign to favour us with some silence.

Speaking of which, your mother tells me that you're sleeping like an angel at the moment.

I'm looking after you again tonight. It's interesting that, after being thrust into the position of looking after you by myself, I've begun to really look forward to our time together. I have begun to feel more capable of looking after you, and I'm surprised at the pride that I feel in knowing what you need (primarily, being your pushover dad, this appears to be playing with you all the time and not putting you in your cot because you cry if I do that).

Love you.

September 07, 2005

Two of us

Originally uploaded by billyjoebob.
Over the last few days, punkin, you and I have had a chance to spend quality time together by ourselves.

Being that your mum is incredibly clever, her work decided that they couldn't do without her for very much longer (the fact that they are going to pay her was not without impact on our decision), and she's back teaching an evening class.

Of course, being your father (and therefore both eminently qualified, and also free), I was the first, and I think best, choice for a babysitter.

This gave me more time to spend with you that I think I haven't had since the exact minute you were born.

Because you were a ceasarean (I am going to check the spelling of that before I post), after you were born, they had to sew up your mum's belly before she could go back to her room. About four minutes after you arrived, they handed you to me, showed me to a chair, and told me to wait. I sat there with you in my arms, tears streaming down my face, unable to do anything, too scared to move, completely at sea. I will be eternally grateful for my photographer's reflexes at that time. All I could think of to do was to take photos of you, looking like a boxer and peering at me with eyes that have never since then failed to transfix me.

In any case, since that day, we've always been around other people. Given how gorgeous you are, it's no surprise that there's always plenty of hands ready to hold you, and with your mum around, I'm able to hand you off when you get too hard to handle.

Being in a situation where I didn't have that capability, punkin, was a real eye opener. Particularly when amplified by your predelictions.

You see (and again we hearken back to your first hours of life), since you were born, you've had formula exactly twice. I was the administrator of said formula on both of those occasions, and so can safely say that you've had sustenance from a bottle precisely the same number of times. Both of these when you were approximately two days old.

Since then, my beautiful boy, your diet has been exclusively dedicated to Jus De Boob 2005 (a particularly good vintage).

Being the child of your parents, who are children of your grandparents, it is, then, no surprise what happened when I attempted to convince you that the missile shaped device known as a bottle being shoved towards your face was food.

The grimace of distaste that furrowed your brow was akin to the look on my face the time I whipped a litre of milk out of the fridge and got half of it into my mouth before realising it had chunks in it.

I've never seen your hand co-ordination be so direct, so obvious, as when you grabbed the bottle and attempted to fling it as far from your gaze as possible. You spat formula at me, you puked up what you'd accidentally swallowed. I persisted.

Silly daddy.

I should have been gladdened. I should have been overjoyed, punkin. I should have rejoiced that you were remaining true to your roots and utterly rejecting inferior foodstuffs. Of course I didn't. I got all tense that I wasn't a proper dad and why wouldn't you drink your formula and oh my god what's going to happen if you don't and will you get through the next hour OK without a feed and OH MY GOD.

And then I remembered the sage advice of Annette.

I took the bottle out of your mouth. I went and got a beer.

I looked at you when I got back. You were lying on your back, playing with your frog and giggling.

I repeated her words. "Look at this child. There is nothing wrong with this child."

She's right, there's nothing wrong with you. You're perfect, and I

Love you.

September 05, 2005

When he calls me Dad

Originally uploaded by billyjoebob.
So I awoke yesterday morning for my first Father's Day, punkin.

I don't know, as a son, that I ever appreciated how much it meant. I'm not sure that I ever understood how important my handwriting was on the card that I made in school. I don't know that sticking bits of macaroni to cardboard was ever given the appreciation it deserved.

I know that, for me, opening the card that you had written on with your own fair hand, knowing that I was the only person who could decipher its arcane text, seeing you try to eat the ribbon in which my present (a loverly 14cm vegetable knife from Global)


was wrapped, these were all moments of extreme emotional intensity for me. I think that, the night before, my feelings of anticipation were akin in my memory to how I'd felt the night before Christmas as a child. That feeling of... approaching transformation was intense. The idea in my head that somehow I was only going to be a 'proper' father after I'd been through a Father's Day was hard to shake.

Being told that yesterday was my day, knowing that I had done a good job in playing my part to bring such a beautiful well mannered baby into the world, having someone say "keep the recipe", having complete strangers walk up to me and feel compelled to talk to you. All these things add to the amount of pride I have in you. Knowing that I'm at least partly responsible for bringing you into the world makes me think about how I relate to my own dad.

Now having some concept of how he feels about me and my brothers and sisters, his actions become more understandable. Seeing him stare off into space when we're all gathered around a table, eating, drinking and all talking ten to the dozen, I know what he's thinking. Look, he's saying to himself, look at the beautiful, strong, intelligent, passionate children I made. And they love me.

Looking at you sitting at that same table, cradled in someone's arms, I know that you'll sit up here one day too. You'll join an argument or throw cheese at someone. You'll tell Uncle David that he's being reactionary, or laugh when someone does a Monty Python impression. You'll have a (small, watered) glass of wine with us, and marvel at the culinary expertise of Fabulous Aunt Jann. My feelings about how soon this day is coming are mixed. I love the fact that you're growing up, that when I come in to see you in the morning there's no telling which direction you'll be facing in, that you stand up in my arms and laugh at me when I make silly voices.

This, however, will pass. I'm not looking forward, punkin, to the lengthy period of time in which you decide I'm an idiot, but that's at least 15 years away, so I'll have time to prepare.

So, for me and for my dad and my stepdad and my grandad and my father in law and all the dads in the world, I tell you this, kid.

We love you.

September 02, 2005

You can go your own way

Originally uploaded by billyjoebob.
Recently, punkin, we've seen an interesting post on Rae's blog. She talks about the fact that she's chosen to stop breastfeeding her tiny wee man Albert.

People who know us will know that this is not something we are considering, given your - how to put this delicately - voracious appetite for the jus de boob. People who know us will know that we are earnest advocates of the concept that 'breast is best', and that we never, throughout your mum's pregnancy, seriously canvassed the idea that you would be a bottle-fed baby.

But here's the thing, punkin. We didn't dismiss it either. If there had been a compelling reason, if your mum's milk hadn't come through properly, if you hadn't been thriving, if your mum's nipples hadn't been able to cope, or if any one of a million other things had gone wrong, you would have been on the formula so fast your head would spin.

As a father of almost four months standing, I feel qualified in saying that parenting is a game of compromise. That, as a parent, you identify your ideal goal, and then get as close to it as you reasonably can. You don't pursue goals that are fruitless, or that are causing your baby undue distress. You and your partner make these kinds of decisions together, and they are sacrosanct.

It is not anyone else's place to pass comment on one's parenting decisions as long as they are not endangering the babe. Rae in writing her post about forgoing breastfeeding, turned off the comments on her blog, as far as I'm aware, as a method to forstall violent and vitriolic criticism.

I've been consistently surprised, as a new dad, by the amount of venom that some members of the parenting community are able to generate when they find someone who isn't living up to their ideas about how to raise a child. Babies, in my humble opinion, need to be warm, dry, well fed, and to know that they're loved. As long as these most basic needs are being met, the rest is up to their parents.

People wouldn't dream of telling others that they are buying the 'wrong' groceries in the supermarket, or that they have planted the 'wrong' trees in their backyard. With everything else in the world, people are prepared to accept the decisions that others make at face value, to offer the benefit of the doubt in passing judgement. But not, it seems in parenting. Time and time again, I have seen comments and writings from people that make no bones about guilt-tripping new parents into following a specific agenda in their birthing and parenting style.

Your grandmother told me once, when I was waxing lyrical about the horrible partner that a friend of mine was with, and how I couldn't see what they had in common, that the only people who ever know what's going on in a relationship are the people who are in it. That stands true for families too, punkling.

The only people who are qualified to make a decision or express an opinion on the way that people are raising their baby are the people who made it.

Love you.

Love you.