He says “I’m tired of saying sorry...” i say “especially when...” He says ”It’s not all men.” i say, “women fear men...” He says, “Men protect women.” i say, “...from other men.” He says, “They should be thankful.” i say, “...yet still they live fearful.”
No it was me, not you, no way, That stopped the BBQ that day, Just said what no one could see, Yep point the finger, it was me. Great day for it, eh? Still daylight? Got the pecking order all right? Who cooks, who stands by, Who gets drinks, me i looked at the sky! So mate, what’s the subject of choice? The one us men speak with one voice, Cars and sports, what’s you view? Kids, jobs, the safe topics we all knew. After the meal, the children running outside, Wives gathered in prayer, all safe inside, We all looked around, looked askance, Out of their hearing, us men took our chance! Each bloke had the same sad tale, She thought me perfect now I’m a fail, Favours given, favours lost, none she could see, Their love always reconciled, till they came to me. Yep, I said, the first few weeks are tough, Reconciliation with me was never enough, I left out the rest of my story that day, Besides, by then, they had packed up and walked away!
3:06am. He’s crying. The father groggily wakes and looks at the digital clock on the bedside table. The shrouded corpse far across the bed doesn’t move. He hears the seconds dripping.
3:05am. He’s still crying, even if time has ticked backwards. Confused at first, he realises it was 3:05 then 3:06. But the last three hours sleep? Gone in an eye blink. He’s still crying.
And once his other eye opens, the real day will begin. Post the forced wake up, yesterday’s washing must be hung out, snack for breakfast, shower in between, shave while not being cut by an unsteady hand, the new washing hung out to dry, perhaps most of last night’s housework, then the final reluctant rush to work. She’ll sleep through. And the son too.
Maybe a deep sleep on the bus might save me, he thinks. Yeah! But that’s some hope! Then nine hours of bobbing his head up and down with the interruptions and interrogations every minute or so. Selfish people with trivial wants, urgent phone calls or exaggerated crises. Then he’ll tank ten cups too much of coffee. And on the way home, he’s as jittery as Methuselah the bus driver.
And silently, as a burglar, he enters the empty house of no welcome. A kitchen of bowls, cups, saucers, baby bottles, plastic spoons and congealed saucepans. The lounger with scattered clothes both clean and dirty to be gathered, or worse. Somewhere in the fridge, there is a covered dinner of leftovers. Usually his only friends are the freezer, the microwave and frozen pizza.
He slips hopefully unnoticed to visit to his son. As he creeps through the hallway, she’s there. The mother of their child, back to the nursery door, wordless and childless, a pillar of salt with eyes blazing.
He draws close. He takes the usual half step backwards. Then he pushes down the door handle and skips into the open space. If he’s quick, he’ll glimpse his son. Some days he doesn’t make it that far.
“Perhaps this is the day,” he says to himself. “The day when St Thomas finds out who his father really is.”
There he is, in yesterday’s dirty jumpsuit. A covered head, a small contorted face, dolls hands protruding. “My son?” he thinks. He reaches to touch the arms stretched each side of the cot. He stops his breath to listen to the whispered intake of another’s. But she steps inside, blocks his way, steps into him and shuts the door.
“I didn’t disturb him,” he soundlessly whispers. But the standard admonishment is always administered.
Then the flight back to the kitchen, the clothesline and the laundry. Undresses himself in the dark, and slips unnoticed into bed. To sleep wakefully.
3:06am. He checks. Yes they are now both awake. Dreamily, he finds a small mercy. That cry isn’t the endless one-note scream. He forages for the proper definition: a night terror?
A terror shared both by father and son. For nothing can wake her.
If it was that one-note call from hell, it would be okay. He would be at battle stations ready to repel demon boarders. He’d sprint in the dark. He’d take a nanosecond to snatch the child from cot. Forget about unlatching the cot side. Leave that for later. He’s stolen the baby. For then there’s the piercing shriek that dissolves them both. Then that hour long second to pass inconsolable baby to consoling mother. Then silence. Then the bottomless ocean of post pregnant sleep. Which only subtracts a little more from him.
It’s the mummy cry, he recognises. Not to be confused with the daddy cry. Perhaps that doesn’t exist, he thinks. It might if fathers could become pregnant. No it’s the natural order of things, he muses. But it’s still wrong.
“How can she sleep through this? It’s her cry, not mine.” Perhaps a few more moments and she will wake…
He dunks face first into the first pillow, then smothers the back of his head with the other. He turns over and in on himself. He binds himself in his blanket. And he sets a imaginary alarm. She’ll wake this time and there will be peace for all.
Eyes half open he watches and sleeps. The pile of blankets to his right doesn’t move. She’s going to sleep through.
3:07 He’s still crying. Was there a minute of sleep? He can’t remember. In the dusk, the wall of sheets and blankets opposite is unclimbable. But a small gap, might be enough. If he gently disturbs her, she’ll softly wake, yawn and stretch, hear her baby, go to him, St Thomas will be comforted.
And it will be like the old joke. Now we all can get some sleep. That’s the punchline but what was the joke? He scrabbles across and meets two pillows, one on top of another, pressed down under the blankets. He could burrow through but the danger of course is real. For once awake, there will be the usual set-to in front of the baby.
Yet again it’s come to this, he thinks. Maybe this will be the time, when he’ll be lulled to sleep by his father. And know it.
That would be a welcome addition. Then St Thomas will know he’s not a baby napping stranger. Or an absentee father practising for the future. Knowing that, we both can sleep, peaceably, however long that takes. With his mother grateful for the sleep won.
Now, he’s the reproached lover who has started the long walk back. He approaches the cot, walking on the sides of his feet, approaching unheard. But he’s caught out again, even before unlatching the cot. Same as last night. Same as yesterday. Same as the last three months. Or four?
Through the cry, he hears rustling. He looks back. Blankets, sheets and pillows have flown upwards and outwards. The mother, dishevelled, now a phantom. She strides quickly towards the nursery. He’s too tired to shrug off the blow. He never did duck or flinch before. In case you’re wondering , he rehearses, the mark is shaving rash. That is, if anyone asks.
What is she doing? She’s plucking her head. Pulling her hair out? She’s pulling at her ears. Two or three snatches then, two bright objects appear. She throws the earplugs to the floor.
She bares her white teeth and snarls. “Why didn’t you wake me?” Most of that is lost as St Thomas screams even more loudly. She gathers the child, still robed in her blanket and departs to her queendom.
He’s left standing there, too tired to rub his cheek. He thinks, it’s too late to go back to sleep. But too close to dawn to get up. Same and again.
One happy addition, as they say, but all subtractions from now, he thinks. Twelve weeks, two days out, now, isn’t it? Or is that when mother and child came home? Twelve years after that. Then the six or so teenage years. Chained in a land he will never understand.
3:11. He’s crying.
A bald head crowned by a few curls peeks out. Two eyes large and watchful wait and see what I might do.
I’m not moving. I stand silent. I’m a daddy statue.
Tiny hands cover her eyes. She tries to catch my gaze.
No way. I’m having no part of it. Not yet.
She opens them. She peeks carefully at me. Then covers herself with the blanket.
“Peep bo!” The blanket speaks.
That’s my moment. My eyes close. Although I keep the good one only an eighth open. Enough to cheat. Enough not to get caught.
Each time she closes her eyes, I open mine. Each time I see her open her eyes, I close mine!
Blanket on. “Peep bo!”
Blanket off. Blanket on. “Peep bo!”
Blanket off. “Peep Bo!”
“Peep bo!” I say again. Before the blanket went on.
I chuckle as the blanket giggles and rolls on the floor. Then smile at her laughter while she wriggles her way out. Usually she beats me to it. Then as she unwravels…
“Peep Bo!” She got me that time.
The blanket again wraps itself up. It giggles and rolls on the floor. Then she crawls out. And stands a little taller than this morning. Now her jumpsuit is too small for her. But that’s no matter now.
Two arms stretch to the sky. She starts to waggle her fingers. Twinkle twinkle? Yes i’m happy to sing that with her. But no peeking. Otherwise she’ll catch me lip syncing.
Then she stops stock still.
No. I was lucky there. Then not so lucky.
Oh no! Daddy workout time.
Arms stretch high. “As high as the sky.”
I squat down. I waddle towards her. I put my shoulders under her arms. Then my hands around her waist.
I lift her up. Until her head is level with mine. Her eyes are already laughing. Daddy’s doing the heavy lifting now.
I stand up and throw her high into the air.
Giggles, then laughter.
I stop just before I let her go. I’m not a dad, I’m an astronaut trainer. Besides she’ll never get vertigo from me!
“Again. High as the sky.”
More deep squats. More overhead presses. My knees ache. My shoulders sing. I sneak a glance at my burden.
She’s frozen in time!! One arm up, one arm out, frozen in a ballet pose.
Carefully I shift her to my stronger arm. I lean forward, most weight pushed backward and draw back the coverlet, sheet and blanket. Then i place her in her bed as if one false move would be the last. She slumps flaccid in her bed. I cover her up. I start to lightly leave…
Her hand finds my finger. And crushes it. I hold my breath. I listen to her breath slow and deep measuring eternity one second at a time.
Last night’s ABC Q and A on domestic violence and the ongoing bullying of Gillian Triggs by the LNP would appear to have little to do with each other. But to me both events are more synchronous than coincidental.
Last night Q and A exposed some of the private stories of domestic violence. Today the Senate hearing that interviewed Gillian Triggs exposed the ongoing public corporate violence towards an individual.
Whether public or private, individual or groups, all of these stories run in parallel. They have the same theme. Much like Anastasia Steele in the movie 50 Shades of Grey, Professor Triggs and domestic violence victims all have been offered a deal.
Just do as you’re told. Don’t disagree. Don’t fight back. And all will go well with you.
What’s unacceptable includes having your parenting abilities called into question (both Rosie Batty and Gillian Triggs), being subject to gaslighting, having false rumours and allegations spread about you, etc, etc, right up to and including mental, physical and sexual violence.
What’s then unacceptable is then being asked “Why Don’t You Just Leave?” as if finding new accommodation, packing and leaving, paying rent and bond whilst leaving a relationship is easy. Rosie Batty’s response to Joe Hildebrand and her eloquent words last night say more than enough.
What’s also unacceptable is being implicitly asked to leave a role and then possibly promised another for not towing the line (See transcript).
As to the question “Why Doesn’t Gillian Triggs Leave?” No her perpetrators should. At least we know who they are.
And then we can focus on the children.
It was a great party. I’m mingling with strangers asking them how they knew the guest of honour. It was easy. All I had to do was be quiet and let them talk.
I was having a very enjoyable time until…
The conversation turned to parenting. Initially it was easy to listen. I’m a parent and the speaker just happened to be the second best looking person in the room.
But then this one person put it to me that only natural parents are the best parents.
I was taken aback. I didn’t really respond. I side stepped and said that all parenting is challenging. Then I side stepped again and changed the subject. Then ended the conversation and spoke to someone else. Thinking back it really wasn’t much of a response at all.
Since then however that idea that only natural parents are the best has recurred. The last time it recurred it was refuted by my children (see Mothers Day is for Everyone). Not by me. Otherwise I’ve tried to ignore it. Until the latest recurrence. Then I got what being a parent really is.
We’re sitting at a table and my friend looks out the window. She sees a child crying and instantly is involved. I look and see that he has just fallen over. His mother quickly picks him up. I look again and his mother has enfolded him in her arms. I said he’ll be comforted in a minute. And he was.
And then a family walks in. Two adults and a small child. They’re meeting friends. The child jumps up and laughs as each adult leans down and gives him a high-five. Again my friend is enjoying herself. As am I. Until…
The conversation turns to parenting.
But it’s different this time. My friend reveals that she had been a step mother. Listening to her story, I sense here is someone who became a parent through circumstance and thoroughly embraced and enjoyed it. Listening to what my friend says encapsulates exactly what I did and how I felt and acted as a parent. Listening to what she says completely challenges the view of the woman I met at the party. I hope they never meet. On second thought they should meet. It would be an interesting conversation.
But the question remains unanswered. Is physically having a child the only prerequisite to being a good parent?
In no way am I denigrating the physical bond between mother and child. I have friends and relatives who have lost children through miscarriage and early death. The pain is absolutely indescribable and always unforgettable. Even as a parent I can offer no empathy just mere sympathy.
But if the woman at the party is right, then there are quite a few groups of people who would be excluded from being a good parent.
The first and most extensive would be men. The ineligibility of men as parents is happily embraced by mainstream advertising : dumb inept father and smart adept mother. That ineptitude is being refuted by the all too rare stories of men who are successful sole parents or stay at home parents. Obviously they neither identify with nor are discouraged by that stereotype.
Then there are foster parents. Whilst working as a trainer for a government department I remember reading a newsletter praising a pair of long-time foster parents. These people had looked after children in all kinds of hardship for over thirty years. Not only were they ineligible but they didn’t retain the children. Yet they were certainly parents and recognised as such.
Next are adoptive parents. I can recall conversing with a woman who was adopting her second children from overseas. To adopt even in this country is a difficult process yet to adopt again from overseas was well-nigh impossible. Even after the first child she still did not know what to expect. But she was going to be a parent though ineligible.
And finally step parents. Much like my friend and my ex-partner and even me, the strong natural bond just doesn’t exist. Consequently, there’s that initial sense of I’m not really a parent. In that place it’s easy to walk away or not get involved. Yet there is a child that needs love and help and that supersedes anything else. And you either embrace it or you don’t.
The next time I see my friend, the conversation again turns to parenting. I tell her the Mothers Day is for Everyone story. She gets it.
And in telling the story I finally get it. The best parents are those who choose freely to be a parent and embrace it wholeheartedly.
Like the old expression, “Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage“, there isn’t much of that anymore.
Yes, unfortunately, I’ve heard this all before.
In the throes of a disintegrating marriage, I turned to reading books many of which made the same recommendations.
The prescribed panacea was that if a man did more housework or spent less time with his mates, marital bliss awaits.
In truth I did step up and I fervently believe that men should (see Having It All). But there’s no guarantee of reciprocation. Not that reciprocation was my motivation.
Unfortunately, the opposite argument is of course is that the woman should do more. As set out by Laura Doyle in her book the Surrendered Wife where women need to step up so the man can step down. Again there’s the implicit guarantee of reciprocation.
These viewpoints seem to treat marriage as some sort of reality show (Wife Swap perhaps?). Marriage is seen as a game where you amass points for doing the right thing, are penalised for doing the wrong thing and receive or forgo prizes. Marriage in this light seen as territorial and transactional with winners and losers.
My real problem with all of this is that both viewpoints are both motivated by the guarantee or expectation of reciprocation. If I do this, I get that and if you do this, you get that.
What that creates is a relationship based on mutual selfishness. Both partners keep score and amass points and expect to be rewarded. The problems occur over keeping track of the points, rewards, penalties and prizes. From my personal experience after arguing over that there’s little energy left for vacuuming or sex.
Nor does it foster much love. Nor create an environment that fosters compassion and generosity.
So what’s left from this? My dull insight is this. Perhaps we could try an unselfish love for oneself and for others for a change? Perhaps we could create an environment of compassion and generosity?
I wrote before about being a stylist in training for my partner.
I don’t stand outside the dress or shoe shop when my partner enters. I follow her in. It is the option of least boredom. I feel quite silly hanging out like I’m loitering with intent or stalking or something.