When I am not travelling with my job, (I like to think) I play a key role in the “getting up and getting ready” part of our family’s day, as well as offer some well-timed interventions at the “winding down, it’s time for sleep now” part.
However, at weekends I get the chance to experience the full effects of being in charge of both our children for longer than about two hours at a time. With Lou out shopping yesterday for our upcoming trip back to the UK, up stepped Mr Model Dad, on hand to ensure a day of quality food and entertainment lay ahead for everyone. I realised though, on reflection later in the evening, that I may still have a way to go.
My ‘model’ moments from yesterday…
Table manners, Part 1 – Teaching Flo to eat with her mouth closed at breakfast.
Granted, she is only three and a half, and currently has a blocked up nose, which makes it slightly implausible (and potentially hazardous) to embrace this particular piece of eating etiquette. Despite this, I perservered with playing this one out, having decided to use the time in charge to make my mark on a few things. Result = Flo took in my instructions, but chose to interpret my saying “No one wants to see your breakfast in your mouth” (this is a statement you may have heard before, as most of our parents patented it back in the 70′s) by laughing profusely at the action of sticking out her tongue, covered in cornflakes and milk, and then spitting everything all over the floor. She then giggled so much that she knocked over her drink.
Table manners, Part 2 – Realising that you must ‘Walk the Talk’.
After sacking off the idea of conducting a lesson in table manners, I tried to get through the rest of breakfast without hiccup. Martha made no more than the usual industrial-sized mess of soggy Weetabix and bread all over her high-chair and the floor, and we were almost home and dry, until, out of the corner of my eye I spotted Flo drain the rest of her cereal direct from her bowl. Frowning, and on the verge of reprimanding her, I then mentally rewound to twenty seconds previous, and realised she was simply copying what she had seen me do with mine. Ah. It was time to clear up breakfast.
Educational games – Be prepared to finish what you start.
With Martha asleep for her first nap of the day, and most of the cement-like Weetabox residue removed from the skirting boards, I decided to introduce Flo to the game of “20 Questions”. By involving her Vietnamese version of an etcha-sketch into proceedings, she was hooked. So much so that she wanted play it for the full two hours that Martha was sleeping.
Naturally, I was proud of her enthusiasm, and her desire to learn. Sadly, she didn’t quite get to grips with some of the subtler aspects of the game (note reference, above, RE her being only 3yrs old) which meant the more challenging moments of the full one hundred and twenty minutes we spent together on this, were when I had to guess what it was she had drawn. Which went something like this:
“Right then, it’s an object you say….do you find it outside?” I ask, “Yes,” comes the reply, “In the sky?” - “Yes” - “Are they white and fluffy?” - “yes, Daddy” - “Clouds?” - “No” - “Not clouds?” - “No, Daddy” - “Ah, right, er, are they multi coloured?” - “Yes” - “Kites?” - “No” - “Aeroplanes?” - “No, no”… I think you get the picture. It took me a further ten minutes (we had all morning, so in fact this was not an issue) to guess that Flo had, of course, drawn some hearts (“silly Daddy”).
Martha awoke. It was time to leave the apartment.
Being out in public, Part 1 - Appropriate accessorising.
Flo enjoys getting herself dressed these days, and I decided to let her wear whatever she wanted for our trip out for lunch. With hindsight, I should perhaps have policed this a bit better…
Being out in public, Part 2 – Don’t leave home without the essentials.
A short taxi hop to a local café and play area and, for all the world to see, I was the model father, roaming about with his kids on a Saturday morning. Playtime over, with little cause for concern (despite me at one point getting stuck at the top of a slide having followed Martha up there) and we had lunch on order. Chicken rice for Flo, scrambled eggs for Martha.
Realising, as the food arrived, that I’d forgotten to bring with me any of the things we would normally take with us if going out enmasse (ie with Lou in charge) I decided this was a minor setback, and that bibs and cutlery for Martha were an unnecessary extravagance. Unfortunately, whilst Martha did eat her own food, she was more interested in Flo’s. No problem, I thought, it’s only rice. Turns out I’d underestimated just what sort of a mess an eleven month old can manage to create with handfuls of sticky rice in less than three minutes.
I needn’t have bothered trying to contain the damage. It was instantly everywhere, and I could feel the surrounding tables smirking to themselves at the sight of me on all fours picking up remnants off the floor in a pathetic attempt to make good the situation. During evening bathtime that night I was still finding bits of rice in Martha’s ears.
Gathering up the remainder of our toys, items of clothing and general debris which encircled our table, we paid and went to leave, my sense of karma renewing, as a full blown domestic argument had erupted on the other side of the café between parent and two sons in heavy meltdown mode.
As we weaved across the room closer to the brawling boys, the bounce was back in my step (let’s be honest, the sight of other people’s altercations in public is usually enough to make you forget your own) and it was just then, at the precise moment when a split second hush descended on the entire place, that Flo exclaimed “Oh. My. God. Daddy, it’s so noisy in here!”
Terrific, I thought, thanks to me my daughter is now drinking from the bowl, dressed up in head to toe accessories, and swearing like a sailor.
Fortunately, Lou emerged from Ben Thanh Market later in the afternoon to pick up the pieces and, without breaking stride within minutes of being home, was serving up a sausage pasta dinner to Flo and two of her friends, whilst entertaining the rampaging Martha and making various phonecalls to people about our plans for the evening.
Order had been restored.