WARNING: This blog contains acts of violence and neglect. Please note, however, nobody was hurt during this stage of my life, except my kids!
So am I, myself, a bad parent?
Let me share a few instances where I may well have been judged (well I know I was!) as being a bad parent!
1. We used to live in a two story home. My youngest child, Charlie (who was 4 years old at the time) for some reason, decided that sleeping on the floor at the top of the stairs seemed to be the most comfortable thing to do! I forgot this fact, and whilst navigating the last step when retiring to bed one evening, my foot connected with her head! The tears eventually subsided (I stubbed my toe!) but needless to say, the bruising on Charlie’s face in the morning told a different story!
There followed an anxious few weeks of questions by my friends and teachers, all of whom were forming their personal judgments on my life and what sort of a father I must be!
2. Fast forward a few years and Charlie has a naturally loose baby tooth. Dad being a dentist, thought that he should show her how to remove the tooth with a little wriggle and duly got out small pliers from the surgery. “Hold still Charlie, One, Two, Three” and click there you go… one tooth extracted. Unfortunately, it just so happened that the tooth probably needed a few more days to ripen before being plucked, as Charlie’s face immediately flushed red as she swept a small tear from the corner of her eye!
This is Charlie – see, no harm was done (I think)!
Concerns from her primary school teachers had to be allayed when Charlie reported that dad had “ripped out” her tooth!
3. When she was 9 years old, we were playing cricket at our work’s social function at the beach! I am from the UK so there was a friendly rivalry between the Australian staff and myself, (a mini “Ashes Series”)! Even though I am pathetic at cricket, I had watched a lot on the telly and fancied myself as a fast bowler. In hindsight, I probably took it a tad too seriously though…
At one particular time, I had to bowl to Charlotte. My gut feeling was to just lob it gently to her so she could hit the ball, and be happy that she could score. However, being a little more competitive than I really needed to be, I took a long run up and jokingly let rip with a fast ball that I intended to soar way over her head and give the onlookers a bit of a laugh! Bear in mind, the last time I bowled, I was probably 9 years old myself and did not even reach the batsman! Unfortunately for Charlie, I must have grown a little since then as the ball did indeed travel the distance and landed right on her forehead!
Before you call social services or the police, please note we were playing with a small soft ball (not a real cricket ball).
The rest of the players hung their disapproving heads in their hands whilst Charlie stoically said nothing, dropped the bat, and slowly walked back to the picnic area to tell mum the story. I had to endure the wrath of my friends, staff, wife, and Charlie for some years to come. After my latest traumatic encounter with Charlie’s head, I had to suffer the indignity of being called ‘Britney’ after the popular song…” Oops, I did it again” by Britney Spears!
4. Finally, I remember taking Charlie to the Royal Children’s Hospital when she was 6 years old for a minor investigative procedure. We live 4 hours away so got an early start to be there by 9 am. After waiting another few hours everyone seemed to be getting a little tired and ratty. Charlie was eventually called in for her X-ray procedure at the same time mum had disappeared to the ‘rest room’! I was alone with my child! Or at least I thought it was my child until I had to prove it! That’s right, the first few questions went a bit like this…
‘Good morning Mr. Johns and this must be young Charlotte?’
“Yes”, I replied proudly as she willingly hopped onto the examination table. ‘I’ll just have to ask you a few simple questions before we proceed!’ the doctor exclaimed.
‘Now, what is Charlotte’s full name?’
“Charlotte Leah Johns, named after her grandmother!”
‘And you reside where?’
Feeling confident, I replied with our address as requested. I thought I could be a “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” contestant on this form!
‘Now, what is Charlottes Date of Birth?’
Oh!!! My mind went blank! Now I know it was around the end of financial year Tax-Time, but could not, for the life of me, remember the exact date! It was either 1st of June, the last day of June (whatever that is) or the 1st of July. I had one in three chances but I knew I could not “phone a friend” or “ask the audience” so I had to make a decision then and there! It was up to me!
Argh, the pressure! I was flustered, I had never been asked this question before. I was always reminded of the big day, weeks and sometimes months building up to it, so I never needed to think about the actual date! This wasn’t in the job description for being a parent! Is this just a ‘Dad’ thing? Was I supposed to know? Am I a bad parent? What will happen if I get it wrong? Should I feign a faint to deflect from the question? Can I ask Charlie quietly without the doctor noticing?
I could not stand the pressure anymore, so I smirked and came out with “She was born at 10.30 on a Monday morning!” – That I do remember! By the look on the doctor’s face, I knew he had no sense of humour! I sheepishly gave him all three date options! It was obviously not enough! Charlotte could have died from embarrassment (but that is definitely in my ‘Dad Job Description!). The doctor smiled judgingly and said ‘Well we’d just better wait for Mum, shall we!’
Despite my own obvious embarrassment, I did not hold what I thought to be, a judgmental attitude, against him! Afterall, he is just doing his job, dotting the ‘i’s and crossing his ‘t’s, but did I learn anything? Was I indeed one of those receptive parents that we love to manage?
Of course I was! – I now know when Charlottes birthday is… It’s the first of June!
Or was it July!
Being a parent is not easy!
Neither is being my child for that matter, but I believe what makes a good parent is learning from our (my) mistakes and being prepared to take constructive criticism which in my case, is often from my wife! From Charlie’s perspective, however, I was a very slow learner!
With this in mind, I now make sure if she ever sleeps at the top of the stairs that she always uses a pillow (to break my fall) and I now only take out baby teeth from other parent’s children! I also only go to the doctors with Charlie if Mum is there to back me up! As far as my cricketing career goes, I had to retire, as Charlie hid my bat! Check out what I am missing with this “Backyard Ashes trailer…
Despite being related to me, Charlie has managed to develop into a typical teenage girl as you can see from this lovely photo she posed for! We do speak, albeit occasionally, although I have not dared ask whether she remembers these incidents!I thought the turmoils of the teenage years were mainly hormonal, but now I am not so sure… it may be karma or revenge for all those parenting mistakes I made along the way!
So am I a bad parent? You be the judge!
The Auto Racing Incident
Charlie has an older brother called Harry, who surprisingly turned out quite well considering his mum dropped him on his head whilst breast feeding early one morning. She was so tired, he must have just slipped off the breast and also the bed! Lucky we had carpet! Anyway, he is eighteen next month and knows 2 plus 2 is 5 so nothing wrong there! He reminded me of this incident and thought I should share it with you…
We were, fortunately, able to go to one of the Whitsunday Islands many moons ago, where I met up with my ‘Best Man’ Jez and his family from the UK. On this island, the only modes of transport are walking or use of a hired golf buggy. To cut a long story short, Jez, his daughter, Charlie and myself (as the driver) were returning to the apartments in a buggy, and I had to stop next to a set of steps at the top of the hill. The apartments were on the bottom so I challenged Jez and his daughter to a race! They could run down the straight steps and I would take the meandering path in the buggy! Jez was as competitive as me, so the call went out…
“Ready, set, go!”
I saw Jez and his daughter disappear down the steps so I slammed on the accelerator! The buggy had a top speed of 5 mph (not exactly Formula One standard but great fun)! I took the first corner safely (not fast enough for two wheels) but then noticed a few elderly people gathering at the start line. As I swerved past, I got that overwhelming, horrible, sinking feeling – you know, the one when you realise you have forgotten something important or done something wrong!
Oops, it was Charlie again!
I forgot she was on the back of the buggy when I took off and she face-planted the path! The elderly couple consoling her did not say much as they reluctantly handed her back to me! I bet they were judging me, given the looks I was getting!
Not Charlie, but similar to the injuries sustained!
Anyway, Charlie does not remember the incident and I hope she does not read this blog! It may explain why she does not like golf though!
Charlie gets her own back…
On the same trip, we managed to get a tour on an old Sydney-Hobart sailing boat called the Banjo Paterson. At the early morning briefing, the skipper warned us that when they take the large caps off the sail covers, we must make sure to stay away from the ends of the sails, otherwise we would get covered in the huge amount of water trapped within (as it had rained overnight).
We motored out of the heads and then 20 minutes later we were on the open ocean videoing the beautiful islands and my son Harry, vomiting on the skipper’s ‘thongs’ (or ‘flip-flops’ to our UK readers!). The call went out that the sails were being raised. The crew rushed to their stations and I got my video trained on the sailing professionals. Off came the cover and just as the skipper had warned, the cold, dirty brown water poured out of the mast cover! However, one of the passengers did not heed the warning and duly suffered the consequences! The look of surprise on her face as she was drenched head to toe and performed her impromptu wet-T-shirt competition was priceless!
Best of all, I had captured the moment on video! I was chuffed. There was a TV program running in Australia called the “Funniest Home Videos”. The prize for winning was often 10s of thousands of dollars or a new car and I was convinced I had the winning video!
Anyway, on returning from that wonderful day on the high seas, we all retired to our apartment where I connected the video camera to the TV to get ready to show all the other families my prize-winning edit! The ladies were doing their hair and makeup whilst the blokes had a beer waiting for the girls (typically Australian)!
Charlie appeared, looking cute with her bruise from the buggy accident, and asked if I liked her new sun hat. “It was very pretty”, I replied. “Do you want me to take a photo?” Charlie was very happy with my suggestion and I thought she may have at last forgiven me for my earlier misdemeanour! I picked up the video camera and I captured some footage of Charlie showing off her new hat!
Shortly after, all the guests arrived and mingled with anticipation of my hopefully prize-winning funniest home video! I connected the camera to the TV again whilst everyone was charging their glasses and rewound the tape (yes it was before the digital era!) to the beginning.
It had been a hoot, capturing the moments of everyone’s day. They all leaned forward from the edge of their seats for the moment we had been waiting for! We stared in anticipation as the unsuspecting woman in white turned towards the sail covers and was about to get drenched, when…
The video clip is interrupted by Charlie modeling her new hat and bruise, on screen, for the next 45 seconds!
Time stood still for a fleeting moment when I realised I must have rewound the tape to start the playback, only to record Charlie showing off her new hat! I had just taped over the most important video I had made in over 15 years of recording, well, that’s if you do not count the time I allegedly taped over an old VHS recording of my own wedding with a rugby match, (wife not happy even though my team won!) but that’s another story!
My friends and family erupted with laughter, as soon as they realised what I had done. What could I do but give Charlie a hug and join in the merriment!
Game set and match to Charlie! I love her dearly, even if I can’t remember her birthday!