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I Have Kids

By Paul Yeoman

Forget Personal Development courses. Paul Yeoman summarises the skills he’s acquired just by being a parent.

I have kids.

A pakeha may ask you what you do for a job; a Maori may well ask where you come from. As we get to know someone, we start to build a picture of the things that are significant to them or the things which give them significance.

Maybe we find some common ground, or a shared interest, or just find out about what the other thinks.

Maybe skills and competence are important to them; perhaps physical abilities and strength, or appearance.

Perhaps their sense of humour is really important to them, or their life experience, or their family history, or their hopes for the future. Well, I have kids.

To those who know, it means a lot; to those who don’t, let me explain.

As a dad, I have developed skills, and confidence in them.

I am now able to deftly, carefully scrape up a small lump of soft, mushy brown stuff that has escaped from its intended place and, flagging yet another trip to the rubbish bin or bathroom, I eat it, recognising it as a remnant of the gingernut that recently was dipped in my coffee by a wandering two year old.

I have developed physical abilities, a degree of strength, and some insightful knowledge. I have been weight lifting a steadily increasing amount over 4 ¾ years now. The greater part of this turns five in 3 months, plus another dumbbell added two years ago.

I am now able to physically restrain the aforementioned two year old from jumping on her mother. When toddler joins us for company in bed, bringing the stillness of a ferret on “V”, I know the one place that she will happily remain still.

It is perhaps a small personal price to pay for peace in the bed, that this position is found sitting directly on my face while wearing nappy fitted the night before. One aspect of physical strength and dexterity that has challenged me, however, is that miss, while having her nappies changed, has an ability to adopt about 17 different body positions, 16 of which are incompatible with nappy changing.

This makes the task about as easy as putting stockings on a crayfish.

I have developed a clothing sense that I never had before. I used to be reasonably disinterested in what I wore, but now it takes on new meaning. Stripes and spots particularly are useful. A stripe down my back means that one of the children is sick; a stripe on the shoulder means a runny nose; a stripe from shoulder to centre of chest means a runny nose, mouth and chin. Spots are just drool, sometimes from the kids.

My sense of humour has been refreshed, too. I have rediscovered how funny a fart can be, which is just as well, for this is a daily encounter.

I don’t beat my kids when they fart; but I figure if you can’t beat them you may as well join them.

I have a finely honed will-power. When one of the kids just won’t settle in bed and every other technique seems to fail, I crawl up alongside the bed and rest my head beside hers, looking like I am lying down to sleep.

I stroke her head and close my eyes, projecting in every way possible to her that now is a good time for her to go to sleep, virtually willing her to sleep and before long, peace reigns again and all is quiet. The now silent child carefully climbs out of bed and retires to the lounge, leaving dad smoothly angle-parked against her bed, completely unconscious.

So I have ridden the steep learning curve, and developed a healthy repertoire of abilities and attitudes. No doubt as my children grow these things will be tested and refined, added to or dropped off. But there is one bone-chilling phrase that I will soon be able to add to my personal CV.

It opens a whole new dimension of fear and happiness, ignorance and fulfilment and understanding from those who know. In two days time I will not only say “I have kids”, but I can play a trump with “I have twins.”

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