The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


We Are All The Same. We Are All Different.

So for the past 2 days I’ve been writing a lot about equality.

It’s a subject very close to my heart.

To be honest, it always has been but being a Father has raised it’s importance.

In some ways, having Otis grow up in China made things easier as it meant he was exposed to different cultures from day 1 but I didn’t want to take that for granted, so when we knew we were going to move to the US, I spoke to a friend of mine – a Brit, who is black and lives in the US – about the [thankfully small] issues his kids faced being in the US and what he thought parents should teach their kids to stop that happening.

His response was phenomenal.

In essence there were 2 parts.

The first was the obvious one – treat every person from every culture the same way – with respect, appreciation and consideration.

So far so good … but it was the next bit that really made an impact.

Don’t tell Otis different cultures are all the same.

Don’t ‘whitewash’ our differences, acknowledge them … enrich Otis with understanding about different cultures history, struggles and values.

Or said another way … celebrate the differences but treat everyone the same.

Brilliant.

Absolutely brilliant.

In a World where so much hate is built simply on ‘being different’, helping break down those walls through knowledge and understanding is even more powerful than just saying ‘don’t see the colour, see the person’.

Of course it’s vital to treat people the same, but understanding the background isn’t just a mark of respect – it’s a way to celebrate strengths and understand behaviours that you may otherwise judge for no other reason than your own in-built prejudices.

So among Otis’ books on animals and dinosaurs and Peppa fucking Pig, he has books that explore the cultures associated with Africa [‘Africa Is Not A Country’ & ‘Sundiata’], Mexico [‘Tequila Worm’] and the Middle East [‘My Fathers Shop’].

Now I appreciate some people may think we are going a bit over-the-top with this.

After all, Otis is only 2 and a half.

But, as I have written before, I’ve learnt not to care what others think.

I’ve learnt people often mistake being a parent with being an ‘expert’ on kids.

I’ve also learnt kids develop so many of their behaviours by being masters of mimicking how their parents behave.

[Jill hopes she can stop him fall victim to ironic t-shirts and Birkenstocks]

At the end of the day, we believe we have a responsibility to him – and society as a whole – to encourage the values and beliefs that can enable him to be a good human being … someone who doesn’t just contribute to society in terms of what he achieves, but in terms of what he helps others achieve.

Of course we know he will face challenges.

Peer pressure. Unexpected circumstances. The allure of mischief.

And while we can’t dictate how he handles those things, we hope we can prepare him to deal with them in a way where he can hold his head high … which is why on top of being loving, supporting parents, we will buy him books on understanding different cultures, give him dolls to play with and encourage him to play with his beloved pink kitchen.

Being a Father is one of the most amazing things that has happened in my life.

I feel embarrassed to admit I had no idea how good it would be … and while being a good parent is basically a matter of trying things with good intent, I want to say a big thank you to Karrelle Dixon … because he may not realise it, but he made a big difference to how my little boy will grow up. Not in terms of respect, but in terms of understanding … and when you think about it, that’s one of the most wonderful gifts you can give anyone.

I hope my parents would think we’re doing good with their grandson.

I think they would.

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You Wish Your Child Was Like My Son … Asshole
July 21, 2017, 6:10 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Family, Fatherhood, Love, Otis, Parents

That photo is of my son, Otis.

He is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

He is cheeky, curious, kind, loving, beautiful and absolutely full of energy.

Now I’m sure most parents would describe their child like that, but based on a situation we experienced recently, it seems even other parents would regard Otis’ energy as being at another level.

Maybe it’s because he was restricted from going out in China because of the pollution.

Maybe it’s because he’s just loves being with other kids.

Maybe it’s because he is excited and curious about life.

Whatever it is, he can make the Energizer Bunny look like a sloth – and while we love seeing him run around and laugh – some other parents view this as a fault.

A few weeks ago, he was running around while some other kids were sat on the floor. He wasn’t bothering them, but in his excitement, he accidentally fell onto another child.

The reaction of both this other kid – and their parent – was extreme.

They acted like Otis had attacked them, even though he got up and [remember he’s only 2 1/2] said sorry and patted the child on the arm as a way of apologising. [We did the same … apologise I mean]

Apparently that wasn’t enough, because the parent came right up and ‘suggested’ Otis should be given a 2 minute time-out as punishment.

Fuck you!

Who the hell are you to try and dictate how we deal with our son?

Who the hell are you to try and curb his enthusiasm for life?

It was an accident. If it wasn’t, he would have been reprimanded, but he’s a sweet, caring, happy kid and all he did was fall over because his energy was running faster than his little chubby legs could go.

But as much as this parent fucked me off, it taught me a valuable lesson.

Before, when parents saw Otis running around like a happy lunatic, they would say things like, “He’s got a lot of energy hasn’t he?” and I would respond with a World-weary sigh and say something like, “You have no idea.”

But now I don’t.

Now I look at the person and say, “Yes, isn’t it awesome”.

Because it is.

As is my son.

And I’m not going to help a stranger feel better about their self-declared parental expertise by putting him down.



53 Years Ago Today …
March 28, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: Family, Mum & Dad, Parents

… my wonderful Mum and Dad got married.

I always felt for Mum when she had those 16 years without Dad, which is why – even though I’d do anything to still have them here – I’m glad they’re back together again. Or as back together as you can be.

Happy anniversary Mum and Dad.

Thank you for finding each other.

Love you.

Rx

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Simple Advertising Is Great Advertising …

I’m 46.

I’m a husband.

And a father.

I supposedly hold down a senior job at a highly respected company.

I have responsibilities … mortgages and a bunch of other things ‘older people’ should have.

And yet despite all that, when I saw this ad for Hot Wheels, I totally got what they were saying.

Oh Hot Wheels.

When I was a kid, they were the toy cars to have.

Matchbox made the practical but Hot Wheels made the sexy.

The daring.

The souped up.

The ‘fuck, that looks cool’.

Kids who were good at maths would play with Matchbox but kids who could play the guitar would have Hot Wheels.

I must admit, I am shocked at all this emotion coming out of me despite the fact I haven’t bought – or played with – a toy car for at least 36 years. And that’s why I love this ad so much, because in an instant – and without showing any product whatsoever – I get it.

I totally get it.

Given this ad appeared on a motorway, I am assuming Hot Wheels actually want to target people like me.

Their goal being to awaken my memories of their brilliant toy cars and introduce my kids to them.

It could be because a while back I read Hot Wheels was a billion dollar company under threat.

Not from other toy car competitors, but because parents didn’t know how to play toy cars with their children. Especially Mum’s with boys.

[Don’t call me sexist, this is what they said]

Whatever the truth is, this ad worked for me.

It not only reminded me how much I loved Hot Wheels, it made me want to play with them with Otis. Which all goes to show that while the features of a brand can be copied, it’s spirit and values are always unique.



Running With Only The Odd Glance Back …
March 9, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: Anniversary, Comment, Dad, Death, Emotion, Empathy, Fatherhood, Mum, Mum & Dad, My Fatherhood, Parents

Today is the 2nd anniversary of my wonderful Mum passing away.

If I’m being honest, I’m going through a strange time with it.

On one hand, it seems like yesterday.

The pain. The sadness. The despair.

When I stop and think about it, it re-awakens all the trauma from that day and the days that followed.

However, I am conscious that these thoughts only occur when I give them time to happen.

They are no longer just sitting in my mind, waiting to jump out … I have to open the door to let them in.

I think Mum would be happy about that.

She would never want me to still feel paralysed by the sadness of her loss.

All she would want is for me to think of her in happy terms … remembering the good times we had together.

And I do.

Almost every day.

But I have to admit, I feel a bit guilty about that.

It’s as if I’m not honouring her properly.

Part of it is because it took me 10 years to come to terms with my Dad dying.

Of course the circumstances between the two situations were entirely different, plus I now have Otis who ensures there is never enough time for darkness to fill my heart … but it still feels strange that only on her anniversary do I go back to ‘that day’.

I loved my Mum so much.

I still do.

I miss her every day.

I would do anything to talk to her one more time.

There is so much I want to tell her.

Of what has happened in the past 2 years.

Of what is about to happen.

I’d love to hear her opinion.

I’d love to hear her reaction.

I’d love to hear her questions.

I know this will sound ridiculous, but there are some days where I think I can.

No seriously.

It’s as if I’ve forgotten she has gone and all I have to do is ring her up.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I have stared at her Skype photo, just looking at her face.

I’ve talked to it. I’ve gently caressed it. I’ve even clicked on it a couple of times and let it ring … hoping she’ll pick up and everything will carry on as before.

But of course she doesn’t and she can’t … and yet there is something comforting that I still feel she is in my life.

By that I don’t mean it in terms of my memories – she’ll always be there – I mean the feeling that I’ve simply not spoken to her for a little while.

It means she lives in my present, not my past.

I know that sounds weird and I don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable – but while today represents 2 years since one of the worst days of my life – she, and Dad, would be happy to know I face this day looking forwards rather than being stuck in the past.

Love you Mum.

As you can see from the photos, we’re doing well, especially Otis, so don’t worry about us.

I hope you’re holding hands with Dad and laughing.

Rxxx

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Baby Chair Manufacturers Make Donald Trump Look Like A Labrador Puppy …

I’ve written a lot about my hatred of pushchair companies.

How they try and sell their seat-on-wheels as a fashion item or a bloody 4×4 vehicle.

But now iCandy – one of the worst offenders – have decided to fuck me over by releasing this:

I know my hatred is bordering on irrational but I hate this so much.

I hate the name.

MiChair. MICHAIR.

Apart from it being utter bollocks, why can’t they spell it properly.

Oh I know why, because by making the ‘i’ in MiCHAIR lowercase, they think it makes it sound like it’s some kind of next-gen product when all it is, IS A FUCKING HIGHCHAIR FOR A BABY.

Then I hate the Dad in the photo.

Look at him …

They might think he looks young, relaxed and good looking – the sort that holds down an uber-successful job in the city – but I just think he’s a smug fuck who is sleeping with his secretary. Probably in the marital bed when his wife is out at her sisters.

And don’t get me started on that kitchen.

Oh you just know the client demanded it to look clean and contemporary because that reflects ‘the brands values and aesthetic’ or some other contrived marketing buzzword bullshit.

And the irony is, by doing that, it highlights how much bollocks this all is because anyone with a kid will tell you that regardless how immaculate a place may be when you start to feed your child, the moment you try and put food in their mouth, the entire room will resemble a war zone within 3 seconds flat.

But I can even overlook all that compared to the worst bit … the line.

LIVE EVERY MOMENT. LOVE EVERY STEP.

What the fuck?

Seriously, what the fuck?

Love every moment of what? Feeding your kid?

Are you insane?

Unless that chair can strap a kid in like their Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs, you’ll never live every moment … you’ll be too busy trying to avoid it.

And then there’s that LOVE EVERY STEP.

Maybe they mean it in terms of how the chair adapts to the different life stages of the kid, but even if it does [which I totally made up, by the way] IT’S A CHAIR … IT CAN’T GO ANYWHERE SO WHY ARE YOU USING WORDS LIKE STEPS???

OK … OK … I need to take a deep, deep breath but I hate how these companies try to exploit the love we have for our kids by making us feel that we are not treating them well unless we put them in some pretend designer bollocks.

To be quite honest, that strategy – while sadly effective – is utterly evil because what they’re saying is it’s the stuff you put around your baby that is more important than the way you actually treat them.

Bastards.

I would absolutely love to know how many of the people behind this are parents.

Then I’d love to know how many have called their kids Tarquin or Apple-Baby-Boo.

I don’t know why knowing their kids name would be important, but I’d just like to know.

Because I’m angry. And irrational. And just really, really fed up of how these companies are turning kids into a fucking accessory for certain parents to show off how fucking rich and stylish they are.

Though I admit, if Birkenstock did a high chair, I’d be there with fucking bells on.

ARGHHHHHHHH!

[I’ll be better by tomorrow. Promise. Well, semi-promise]



Dear Dad …
January 16, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: Childhood, Comment, Dad, Death, Jill, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad, Otis, Parents

Oh Dad, how can it be 18 years.

How is that possible?

I remember that phonecall like it was yesterday.

You had been in hospital since Christmas having taken a turn for the worse.

And then on the 27th December, Mum called to say it was very bad and the Doctors had told her that I should come back right away.

In a weird way, this did not worry me.

We had gone through the same situation twice in the last 3 months and both times, you had pulled through.

But then I realised Mum’s voice sounded a bit different … more scared … and that’s when I started to get worried.

As you know, after a rather traumatic flight from Sydney, I got to Nottingham and was by your side at the QMC.

You were very poorly, but you knew I was there and it seemed to help.

But the strange thing is I can’t really remember what happened between arriving by your side and the Doctor asking me if I wanted him to remove the suffering you were going through.

I know Mum and I spent every day – from the moment visiting hours started to when they ended – next to you.

I know I told you how much I loved you. How I tried to will you back to health.

But the actual conversations and considerations are a total blank.

I’d like to say it’s because 18 years is a long time, but it’s actually because my brain refused to let me deal with the realities of your situation until that conversation with the Doctor.

4 years of delusion and denial pricked by a single conversation with the Doctor.

4 years of ignoring Mum as she quietly and tenderly tried to prepare me for the inevitable.

I certainly hope I was better when Mum passed away.

Of course, it was less expected than your situation and yet, deep down, I feared it may happen – as, it seems, did Mum – which is why I was much more aware of what was happening or what may happen.

So I need to thank you yet again, for helping me learn.

For trying to ensure I didn’t face more pain than I absolutely needed to.

Oh Dad, I wish you were here.

I wish I could hear the questions you would have for me.

I wish I could look into your bright blue eyes as you heard what I’d been up to over the last 18 years.

The decisions I’ve made …

The situations I’ve encountered …

The life I have somehow managed to live …

I would give anything to hear the pride – mixed with incredulity – you’d express about the career I’ve managed to forge.

The places it’s let me live. The people it’s let me meet. The experiences it’s let me enjoy.

The family it has let me have.

The daughter-in-law you would absolutely adore.

And the grandson you would be totally obsessed with.

But you’re not here … not physically, anyway … but in a weird way, Mum passing has made me feel closer to you.

Not that you were ever far away, but 18 years meant I had got used to the memory of you rather than the presence of you.

However now Mum has joined you, I kind of feel you’re both near me again.

I know that’s mad and I can see you shaking your head at me … but it’s true.

Don’t worry, I’ve not become a religious fool – but the fact you’re together has helped me a lot because I never was happy that you were both apart from each other.

But now, my mind, you’re back together, as you should be.

As you always were throughout my childhood.

And I cannot tell you how special that was to me.

Even more so now.

So while today is a day of sadness, it is also a day of joy … because you will be happy to know I am no longer lost in the pain of your final few years and can now focus on the wonderful life you had and we shared, exemplified when I had the honour of discovering the card you wrote to Mum when I was born.

I never doubted how much you loved me, but finding this was the verbal equivalent of one of your warm, wonderful hugs.

Sure I cried my eyes out, but oh what a feeling that was.

I so hope Otis feels the same way when he finally stops trying to wriggle out of my arms everytime I give him a cuddle. Ha.

So now it is time to go and I want to leave you by saying that while it has been 18 years, the love I have for you has never faded – if anything, quite the opposite – and even though I wish with all my heart that you were still here to be involved in the daily rituals of my life, the fact you’re with Mum makes the sadness a bit more manageable.

Still miss you though.

Love you Dad.

Rx

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