1. Construction Skills
A father will need to know how to assemble everything from Lego spaceships to push bikes to swing sets. It took me a long time to fine tune this skill. Now I place whatever I need built in the middle of the kitchen and invite Tracey’s dad over for a coffee.
As any mother worth their salt will tell you, there are different cries. Fathers? Not so much. If we can hear a cry at all it’s usually for one of two reasons. The first one is the cry is so loud we can’t hear the telly. Cries of this magnitude tend to mean physical pain is involved so a father will need to find somewhere to safely deposit his drink, pick up his wounded child and go look for his wife so she can decide between kiss, band-aid or hospital. The second, and far more worrisome, reason he might notice his kid is crying is when his wife is standing between him and the plasma telling him about it. In this instance he must do something quickly, or otherwise he might be the one in need of a hospital. About the only time you can be sure a father is actively listening for the telltale cries or patter of feet is when he’s in the bedroom practicing making another child with mummy and he doesn’t want to risk getting up to lock the door in case his wife’s mood changes while he’s away.
3. Important Dates
Remembering birthdays is the kind of thing a kid looks for these days. The more kids a father has the more difficult this becomes, but super sperm is no excuse for missing a birthday. You need to write them down. Thankfully, this is why they invented Lotto forms. By using your kids’ birthdays to complete your entries you’ll never forget a birthday again. You’re welcome.
4. Favourite Things
A good father knows which toys, books or electronic devices are his child’s most loved. This is so we’ll know what we can take off the little buggers to get their attention – a very handy bit of leverage when they won’t do what we’re telling them. Not all favourite things work though. For this reason, things like our kid’s favourite number or colour will likely elude dads because you can’t, for example, take the colour blue off them; therefore knowing this sort of thing is useless and a waste of brain cells to store. Although if they still don’t behave after you’ve relieved them of their DS, you might be tempted to put a splash of the colour blue on their backsides.
5. Sporty Stuff
Active kids are happy kids, and every dad wants happy kids, if only because it means mummy won’t come and stand between him and his plasma. To achieve these active, happy kids a dad needs to know what his kids are interested in. This might be totally different to what his kids are good at, what he wants them to be good at or what he can afford them to be good at. Listening is the key. Recently two of my girls decided they wanted to do Ireland dancing. Unfortunately it turns out I enrolled them in Highland dancing by mistake. The good news is so far they haven’t noticed.
6. Car Smarts
Growing up we all drove jalopies. My theory was dads back then gave their kid a crappy first car so they themselves would have something fun to do on weekends. You see, inevitably these death traps would stop moving, meaning dads and their mates could come out of the house with arms full of spanners to help get them going again, stopping briefly on the way home to grab a six pack. Well, this is one area where I shine because I know exactly what to do when a car breaks down – I call the local breakdown service, RACQ. Over the years I’ve called these fine fellows for everything from complete engine failure to faulty wipers. Without any doubt it is the best value $80 a year I ever spend. Usually the complete engine failure is a lack of this thing called fuel although I once had the breakdown people, and then a shop full of mechanics, baffled for days over why my car wouldn’t start. They eventually ordered a $2000 new computer chip before realizing I’d been trying to start the car with the wrong key.
I don’t have the answers, but I do have Google. For everything else, there’s Wikipedia. I’ve heard the odd parent describe doing homework with their child as a great bonding experience. This has never been my experience. Sometimes I just want my two hours back so I can watch Top Gear. And by sometimes I mean always.
8. Other Kid’s Names
A father is supposed to be able to name their kids’ best friends. I don’t know why, but I know this is true because I once saw it in a movie. Well, I fail. When Tracey and I recently played this game I named the school kids my lot least got along with because, well, they were the names in all the stories they were telling me. Well I’ve done some research now and if we ever play this game again I will go with the following: Jacob, Michael, Joshua, Matthew & Daniel for the boys and Emily, Madison, Emma, Olivia & Hannah for the girls. These are the most popular names for the last decade so I figure they give me the best odds for success. Seriously, the identities of my kids’ friends are generally as foreign to me as a Chinese menu in Beijing. But then I have seven kids so there is potentially a cast of thousands.
Where young kids are involved dads need to keep the menu simple because here’s the thing – little kids quite often don’t like chilli or overly spicy meals. Don’t surprise the wife by making the family dinner and expect her to be thrilled if it’s your famous Green Chicken Curry, because all she’ll see is she still has to make dinner for the kids. If you want to cook dinner for your family, fellow fathers, you can’t go far wrong by firing up the BBQ. FYI, if you do manage to feed your family with a minimum of female assistance the chances of you having to listen out for the patter of little feet approaching your unlocked bedroom door later in the evening are greatly improved.
10. When Mummy Needs a Sleep In
The big one. Huddle round fellas. Some telltale signs to watch out for are a darkening around the eyes, a higher pitch from her usual speaking voice, glaring, snapping, yelling, hitting, slapping, crying for no apparent reason and generally looking at you like you’re a moron even when you know you’re being hell cute. You must learn these subtle signs because it is unlikely you will simply be asked. Letting mum sleep in will generally involve more than just mustering the kids in front of the telly and then falling asleep on the couch. The moment your guard is down the little sprogs will inevitably sneak beneath your snores and burst into your bedroom, waking their mum up with demands of breakfast. If this happens all points earned with good intentions are out the window. For the safety of all you need to get you and your children out of the house immediately. Take the mobile – she’ll call you when you’re allowed to come home.
Bruce started his blog because friends and family kept wanting to know how he managed to feed and clothe such a large family while still having fun and being able to afford holidays and beer. He had no idea, but thought if he started writing things down some sort of pattern might emerge. When not at work Bruce enjoys reading, writing, hiding from his children and not changing nappies. He’s recently taken up the cycling challenge with a view to surviving long enough to see all his kids out the door so he can finally sleep in.