Make. It. Through.

My single New Year’s resolution is only three words long, ridiculously simple in its philosophy and yet will probably prove to be more difficult in its implementation than I can ever imagine. It’s going to take all of my will-power and determination to effectively make a success of it, and continue to make a success of it for the 12 months ahead.

Make. It. Through.

Make it through the next hour, day, week and the next month.
Make it through for the sake of my wife and kids.
Don’t ever let the pain win!
I. Am. NOT. Broken!
I am a husband and a father and I WILL Make. It. Through!!!

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Owning my okayness. 

When we found out that my wife was expecting our firstborn, I made a conscious decision then and there that I was going to be the perfect father. In fact, legends would be written about my perfectness, people would reverently whisper my name in the hallowed halls of daddyhood, knowing that no one would ever reach my level of epicosity for generations to come.

It was going to be easy too. I’d read all the books, joined a daddy internet group, received all the advice in the world and, as an ex-kid, I knew all the mistakes NOT to make.
What could possibly go wrong? Right?
The euphoria lasted until about the point that we brought Nicnac home from the hospital. Suddenly, the life changing reality of “oh my God, I’m a father” set in and we had a son who wouldn’t sleep, was really difficult when it came to breast feeding, wouldn’t sleep, cried all the time, (did I mention the sleep thing?), had to get his nappy changed constantly and, please for the love of all things holy, MAKE THIS CHILD SLEEP!!!!!
And that was when my cleverly thought out plan went horribly askew.
I realised that in order to be the perfect father, I’d need to sleep sometime but that’s not easy when you’re working a full day and come home to a wife who is also exhausted and desperately needs a break from the baby. So there you are again. Exhausted at 2am and wondering why your son won’t stop crying and go to sleep and is it normal to want to get in your car and drive away forever?
See, I’d set myself up for failure from the very start. For the very simple reason that the perfect father doesn’t exist.

I’ll say it again. He doesn’t exist. A myth. As real as unicorns, dragons and Jenny McCarthy’s breasts.

And it’s even worse at the beginning. When you start believing every success story you read or take to heart the “Why isn’t he/she crawling/walking/talking/sleeping yet (choose applicable)” comments, you start to doubt yourself because you’re judging yourself by other people’s standards or achievements. You set the bar too high and it becomes less of a challenge and more of a burden.
I recently joined the most amazingly supportive group of fathers on Facebook and I asked them the question, “What makes a perfect dad” and I got some wonderful responses. Patience. Living by example. Unconditional love. Being present and involved in their lives.
But for me, as I listen to my three healthy, well adjusted, happy children try to kill each other in the next room, it’s this. I will never be the world’s most perfect father, but I will be the most perfect father in their world.

An Unexpected Addiction (or, Why My Dealer Wears A White Coat)

Something rather strange happened to me last week…
With the third back operation that I had in June looking like a huge success and the memory of the chronic and incessant pain I was suffering now just a dusty ghost town in the rear-view mirror of life, it seemed only logical for me to stop taking the pain medication that has regimented and divided my life into six-hourly segments for the past (nearly) five years.

Suddenly and to my horror, I found out that I was a bonafide drug addict.

The withdrawal symptoms I’m feeling have the hallmarks of pretty much all of the effects of stopping long term drug use. Night sweats, nausea and irrational anger. My skin feels too tight for my body and I can honestly hear my eyeballs moving. (It sounds just like a light-saber in my brain which would be terribly cool if it wasn’t so terribly horrible)

So I did a little digging and found out I wasn’t alone. In fact, I wasn’t alone to the tune of hundreds of thousands of people all over the world who tried to give up prolonged schedule 5 and 6 medication usage. And, like most of them, I wasn’t properly informed of their addictiveness before-hand and certainly not advised against quitting cold turkey. I didn’t even know they the drugs that I was using qualified the term ‘cold turkey’ because at the time. It never occurred to me to ask questions about what I was pouring down my throat three times a day because I was so desperate for some kind of relief.

But isn’t that true of all drug addictions – prescription or illicit? We’re all just looking for some sort of relief from whatever burden we are finding increasingly difficult to bear. The worst part is that we don’t realise that there is a problem until it’s time to stop taking it. Hell, I didn’t even know that there could be a problem. Trust me, coming to the revelation that you are addicted is a bit of a shock, especially when the drugs you are on are prescribed by a doctor, dispensed by a qualified pharmacist and paid for by medical insurance.

(One does not simply go cold turkey)

(One does not simply go cold turkey)

Just for the record, I’m not against painkillers at all. I do believe that they serve an important part in pain management and, used responsibly and correctly, can enhance your quality of life when you are suffering from chronic pain. What I am against and even angry about is the casual manner in which they are prescribed with seemingly no warnings or concerns about long term usage being raised by anyone.

My advice to you is simple. Ask questions. If your doctor can’t answer, insist that they find out and tell you. It’s important because it’s your body that has to deal with the side effects and no one should feel like I have for the past 10 days. I’m not so sure how much longer these symptoms will last but if there’s one thing that I’m certain of, I will beat this.
Because I am a husband…
Because I am a father…
Because I am not done!

Why I don’t believe in gay marriage.

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I’m male, I’m straight and I need to get this off my chest. There has been a lot of media coverage over the legalisation/delegalisation/decriminalisation/illegality etc of gay marriage all over the world for quite some time now. People are passionate about their views on the subject and there has been a fair amount of hate spewed forth from both camps. So I thought I’d put in my two cents worth as a blogger that no one really reads.

I don’t believe in gay marriage. At all.

Before you light your pitchforks and sharpen those torches, hear me out on this.

I don’t believe in gay marriage any more than I believe in inter-racial marriage any more than I believe in straight marriage any more than I believe in a mixed faith marriage.
When two people find each other in this cesspool of a world, why do we need to give it a label and structure laws around it so that only some of them are able to live as the rest of us do? Why is it necessary for us to condemn or judge one person’s love for another human being as less than ours? Are we so closed minded that we cannot celebrate in their love?
I grew up in a country where, for a very dark period, people were beaten, tortured and even killed for even thinking about a relationship with someone of a different race – a situation abhorrent to most of us now. But there are so many similarities. (Recognise any of this Mr Putin?)

And I’d also like to call bullshit on the “But gay marriage is unnatural!!!” brigade. 50 or so years ago, being left handed was considered unhealthy and unnatural and people looked to ‘cure’ it, most times with disastrous results. Must I then change the way my son’s brain is wired because he chose to be left handed?
Wait, he didn’t choose to be a lefty?
He was born that way?
Exactly.

Let’s also remember that gay couples don’t usually have unplanned or unwanted children. When they do become parents, it’s out of a genuine desire and love to raise and nurture another human being – a human being that all too often is not wanted by its own blood family.
I’m incredibly fortunate to know a woman who looks after and loves her stepson without even blinking an eye. The love that she shows this kid (who happens to have some severe medical conditions) is above question or reproach. She is a true hero in my book, not for her sacrifices (which are commendable) but rather for her love she chooses to share with this young kid. Her wife’s kid. A kid who she would lay down her life for, protects more ferociously than a mama lioness and will literally move to the ends of the earth to better his life.

So, in conclusion…

I’m male
I’m straight
And I don’t believe in gay marriage.

(inspired by an amazing person I’m privileged to call my friend)

Aside

Teach Your Parents Well.

Crosby, Stills and Nash famously wrote the classic song, “Teach Your Children Well” and while I believe this to be true, there are certainly some things that as parents, we can learn back from our kids.
Here are a few of the life-lessons that Nicnac has taught me in the 9 years he’s been around.

1. To be quick to forgive. No matter the situation, whether it’s me or it’s you at fault, you are always so quick to give me a hug, make a joke or just be yourself that the incident is quickly forgiven and forgotten.

2. I have places in my heart I didn’t know were there. You showed me that I could love entirely unconditionally and what it feels like to know that I would die for another human being.

3. You taught me that everyone doesn’t share the same idea of a “good time” and that being a bit of an introvert isn’t necessarily a bad thing…it just is.
You taught me that my children don’t have to have the same views on life that I do, but they have the right to discuss them openly with me.

4. Different doesn’t need fixing just because it’s different. From this lesson I’ve learned that other people have their own way of responding to the world. When I allow myself to be open-minded and respectful there is much I can learn from their ways. I can even change my way of doing things if someone else’s works better.

5. You taught me to fight for what my children need and not to care about what people think of me. You taught me that marching to a different drummer is not a bad thing and that more people would be happier if they listened more closely to the band in their head. You’ve taught me to be more intuitive about all my children and their different needs and you also taught me to look back and remember myself at a given age so that I would know how you are feeling and could give you the love and respect I so desperately craved at that age.

6. Humility. Parenting continually humbles me when I realise that I don’t always have the solution, nor do I know how to fix everything. Even a simple toaster comes with an in-depth instruction manual – even if the translation from Korean to English is laughable at best – but we didn’t get one when we had you. I often feel like I’m winging it and just hoping for the best. I am not God. It’s a tough one to swallow, but I’m working on it.

7. I’ve learned from you that everyone deserves respect as do their time and their endeavours. From this I’ve learned that just because I’ve got something I want done now doesn’t mean that my desires are a top priority for everyone else. And so I’ve learned patience from this one too.

8. You have taught me that listening is a skill worth developing. From this I’ve learned that most words are superficial. When you want people to take you seriously they’re more likely to do so when you listen more and talk less. And when you do speak you should always come from a caring place.

9. Fun can be had in pretty much any situation. You just bring your imagination and your sense of play. From this I’ve learned you don’t need a reason to tweak the ordinary into the extraordinary or the outlandish. Weird is it’s own reward. If it amuses you and brings a smile, that’s reason enough. So why not?

10. Being up your father has taught me that many of the childhood dreams I thought I had given up are still inside me. Inasmuch as they might be good, I’m still trying to pass them on to my children; insofar as I might try to live out some of them through my children, I try hard to resist.

11. Lastly, you have helped me realise that being a dad, YOUR dad, is truly an amazing honour, privilege and joy. Like the best ever. Thank you so much Nicnac, I am eternally grateful for what you have taught me and I unconditionally love you SO very much for every single day of the rest of my life.

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(Picture courtesy Kei Acedera)

Pain, pain, go away! Come again…well, never actually.

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It’s not easy living with chronic pain. I had a disintegrated disc last year which, before I was operated on, managed to get my sciatic nerve caught between two of my vertebrae, leaving behind a Gordian knot of frayed synapses. This was the culmination of a previous unsuccessful microdiscectomy and a work schedule that is far from being conducive to a healthy spine.

Most days, the pain hovers around a five or a six. Yeah, I know. That doesn’t sound like much but imagine that the five or six is there for every single second of the day and night. It starts to feel a lot worse.
And then there are the bad days. The pain will get to a seven or an eight – sometimes even a nine. And those are the dark days. The really dark days.

The days when the handfuls of schedule 6 painkillers I take twice a day seem to have all the effect of half a kiddies Aspirin.
The days when the pain is an angry, red hot, malignant ball of hateful, spiteful malice and it becomes all that I can focus on. All that I can see.
The days when I look at a full box of sleeping pills for a few seconds too long and have thoughts that I should never, ever have.

That’s the problem with chronic pain. It never really leaves you and then starts to take over other parts of your brain. My memory is shot. On most days my motivation is non-existent and my ego and self image have taken a huge knock.
“I’m a man damnit! Suck it up. Deal with this!!”
It’s easy to doubt yourself when even the simplest of tasks becomes an agonising chore and being a functioning, active member of society is an onerous task.

But there are always two thoughts that keep me going. Two thoughts that stop me from taking twenty or so sleeping pills with a shot of Jacks. Two thoughts that will not allow me to surrender to this monster I battle every day.

I am a husband.
I am a father.

And those two thoughts are enough to get me through.

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Drowning In the Static

“Simon is impossible to teach”
“A major distraction in class”
“Wastes his and others’ time”
“One of the worst students I’ve ever had the misfortune to try and educate”
“Will amount to nothing in life if his attitude doesn’t change”

When I was at school, they didn’t have things like ADD or ADHD. What they DID have however was me, labelled a problem child from early on, a reputation that stayed with me until the end of high school. Back then, the ‘treatment’ wasn’t a controlled diet, OT or medication; it was a solid thrashing with a cane. No matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t concentrate in class, the facts and figures that were thrown at me made absolutely no sense so I became the class clown, trying to annoy the teachers so badly that they’d throw me out of class to sit in the corridor for the remainder of the lesson so they wouldn’t have to deal with me. Needless to say, I barely scraped through school which in turn brought on its own smorgasbord of problems at home.
Being labelled like this led to some serious self esteem issues that I was only able to sort out much later in life, some of which I’m still dealing with to this day so when my son was diagnosed with ADHD, my wife and I decided then and there to give him the best possible chance, no matter what. We changed his diet, added supplements and vitamins, and sent him to occupational therapy for two years. These all helped to a degree but we finally had to accept that medical intervention was inevitable and necessary. Now before you pass judgement, yes, I agree that Ritalin is way over-prescribed and often used by lazy parents who just don’t want to deal with their kids just being kids, but for us it has been a real game-changer. Nicnac is currently in the third grade, acing his reports and getting full mark for maths at a grade four level.
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I think the clincher for us was when I asked him why he couldn’t seem to concentrate in class and he answered, “Dad, it’s like when the radio isn’t tuned in properly and all you hear is that irritating noise” and THAT was when I understood. He was drowning in all the ‘static’ and only the occasional snippet of information was getting through to him. See, ADD and ADHD don’t let you filter out and concentrate on one specific thing; you’re trying to concentrate on everything all at once. It’s like having 20 tabs open in your browser, each of them with their own audio playing at full volume and trying to understand every single one of them, all at the same time.
I’m not saying that medicine has ‘cured’ him completely though, we still have challenges, small and big, every single day. When we do homework together in the afternoon, he gets angry and frustrated easily and I have to maintain the calm by speaking softly to him. He obsesses over the tiniest details to the point where it’s all he can think about until he either has a total meltdown or the perceived problem is sorted out. Part of that problem is that he battles to see the forest for the tress. He’s a very emotional kid who is easily hurt which means we have to be careful how we reprimand or speak to him, being firm yet gentle. When he wakes up in the morning, he goes from fast asleep to completely hyperactive in the space of a minute; loud and boisterous with a dash of insane at the crack of dawn can be frustrating to say the least. It’s also a challenge because we have six year old twin daughters who also need time with mom and dad so it becomes a bit of a juggling act to ensure that everyone gets the attention that they need and, unfortunately, sometimes one of them will inevitably feel left out.
Nicnac is also keenly aware that he is different to a lot of his peers and I think that plays on his mind a lot. At his last check up with the paediatrician, he turned to my wife and said, “what if they can’t fix me properly?” and the fact that he worries about it so much is difficult for me. It’s a burden knowing that I’ve passed this on to him, making his life a lot more difficult and complicated than it needs to be. Yet, the strides he has made to overcome his ADHD leave me in awe of his determination and strong will. I’m trying to teach him to celebrate his differences, to revel in them, and to be proud of them because they are what make him, to me at least, the most special little boy in the world. And I wouldn’t change a single thing about him. He’s taught me how to be a kinder, better, more gentle father and human being and despite the challenges we face each day, we face them together as a family FULL of love and respect for each other.
I love you Nicnac. No matter what.