Shedding a tear at the school concert. When daughters still dance into Dad’s heart.

October 29, 2013

This was going to be about something else. Until the girls started dancing.

Why was this performance so special? Remember, I’ve been watching them jump and twirl since they came up to my knee.

I’ve sat through concerts where fathers should have been receiving the medals.

We’ve done shopping centre recitals. Strutting their stuff in front of the fruit shop, as bananas are weighed.

They’ve always been good. Natural dancers. Both practice hard, at rehearsals and at home.

This particular show was for school, on a Sunday afternoon. I went alone, and managed to snare a seat close to the stage.

Their first dance was a lively number. They nailed it. The kids around them were great too. Such a confident, talented bunch.

But it was the second dance, a more sedate affair, that blew me away. I have no idea why. I’d seen them perform it before. In the same flowing red dresses.

For some reason, this was different. They LOOKED different. Older, both of them. With perfect hair and make up.

It was like I was watching in slow motion. I saw things, in those precious few minutes, that I hadn’t seen in months.

Teenager Too was glowing. I had to look twice, to make sure this tall, graceful young woman, was the daughter who used to fall asleep at the dinner table.

She stood out, among girls much older. Every move was perfect. But it was beauty shining from within, that lit up the stage. Her smile, lit up my heart.

The Teenager is now a leader in the group. The others follow her. When did she get so .. mature?

She works so hard, to be so good. Every spare hour, she’s trying to get better. I watched her glide across the floor, and saw the passion in her eyes. Ridiculously long limbs, making complex moves look easy. Every teenage boy in the room was watching too.

I thought back, to when this gorgeous young woman could hardly get out of bed. Not that many years back. A stomach problem that had us visiting every specialist in town.

She couldn’t eat. Constantly felt sick. Reflux you would normally see at the end of the bar.

The little girl who would listen to stories in bed until I fell asleep, could hardly keep her eyes open. She had no energy. And she was scared.

I feared the worst. That’s what Dads do. So one night, running out of options, I prayed.

It was a shout out to anyone who was listening up there, to swap the pain. Whatever this bad thing was, I wanted it. Or anything else, to square the ledger. That’s what Dads do.

To this day, I don’t know what that sickness was. One doctor said he thought it could pass, with time. And so it did. With or without my help. Slowly, her old spark returned.

So here she was, with the sister she squabbles with on the hour, but loves like no other, dancing like there was no tomorrow.

Near the end of the performance, they linked up, and for a split second, they were as one on the stage.

It was then, sitting alone in the dark, that I shed a quiet tear. So very proud, and so incredibly lucky.

I wish every one of you had been able to come and share those few minutes with me. Even my old racing mates, who last waltzed to the Glenn Miller Band.

That one dance, made me as happy as a father could be. Sometimes, you can’t beat the simple things.

An important online security warning. Why bumbling dads need to be protected too.

August 20, 2013

There are those out there willing to take advantage of the innocent. Tech-savvy types, ready to make fun of the unaware. They’re called daughters.

Yes, these delightful young ladies, with perfect manners and sweet smiles, have a secret agenda to humiliate poor old Dad. I hear some of you muttering that’s not a particularly difficult task. You’re not helping.

Like most of their age, The Teenager and Daughter Two are immersed in the world of social media. But not the ones you and I know.

Forget Facebook and Twitter. They barely rate a mention. It’s all about Snapchat and Instagram. And a few others I can’t fathom.

For those who remember black and white television, let me explain. As best I can. Instagram is all about photos, with smart comments. Snapchat is the delivery of photos and videos with smart comments, that disappear after ten seconds. Are you still awake out there?

I don’t understand the attraction. But then again, I still take Daily Doubles. For teenagers, Snapchat is the perfect way to communicate. Minimal effort required. Just a few words. Let the technology do all the work. And then it’s gone.

Armed with their new i-phones, my daughters are ready to capture anything, at any given moment. A squadron of friends is doing the same thing, waiting to swap whatever comes their way. The more ridiculous the better. And when it comes to ridiculous, Dads are hard to beat.

When we’re in the car, music is played at a decent level. The perfect place to trap an unsuspecting driver. And it’s taken me weeks to realise.

Their cunning system is as follows. One will take the front seat, and find a song that they know I like. As I launch into a version that may or may not be pitch perfect, they begin recording. Secretly, with the phone casually pointed in my direction.

Sometimes, I may be doing daggy dance moves while driving. They find this amusing. Apparently, so do their friends.

It came to a head on the weekend. My sneaky offspring slipped a favourite Christmas carol into play. I’m battling city traffic and red lights, and suddenly Mariah Carey springs into action. ‘All I Want for Christmas is You.’ What was a man to do?

I launched into it with great gusto. The judges are still deliberating on whether I hit the high notes. All in all, I was happy with my performance.

That was, until the giggling began. They couldn’t help themselves. Nor could hundreds of others. Thousands maybe. I was being shared around the globe. Well, South Brisbane anyway.

There’s every chance I have my own YouTube channel, and don’t even know. Someone could be getting rich from my unique sound.

Where are the i-phone police when you need them? Dads have rights too. I’m sure I read that somewhere.

Let this be a warning to all fathers. You are now a target. Do something remotely silly, and you will be a star. Sons and daughters will see to that.

I’ll be toning down my car singing in future. And my crazy arm waving. You can’t trust anyone. Especially family. And Mariah Carey.

Christmas shopping, Dad-style. Making a daughter blush earns extra credits.

December 11, 2012

It was like Daughter Two had found a priceless artifact, right there in the surf shop.

She held it aloft, as one would present a rare Egyptian print.

It was a one-piece thingy, with the print of a tiger on it. Something like an extended singlet. Part costume, part underwear. Sister and friend both cooed approval. Even I could see it was pretty fancy.

She told me how she HAD to have it. Explained how she’d wear her new black skirt over the top. And right there, on the busy shop floor, father saw an opportunity.

“Why don’t you wear it without anything else, just like that?” I made sure my question was loud enough for the surrounding tweens and teens to hear. There was a gasp from the major players.

She looked at me as if I had just cursed the family name. There were no words. Just a wide-eyed stare. Followed by uncontrollable giggles. Sister too. They fell in a heap. With the one-piece thingy still held high.

It’s one of the joys of fatherhood. Being able to make a 12-year-old red-faced with utter embarrassment. Only a Dad knows the feeling.

It was all part of our weekend Christmas shopping expedition. Bags were piling high. And I have to admit, we were having loads of fun.

It had taken several hours to find a parking spot. We ended up on the roof in a nearby suburb. Or so it seemed. I’m sure some of our fellow shoppers are still doing laps.

For once, we had given ourselves plenty of time. This allowed us to stroll from shop to shop. The girls had been given a budget, and to my great surprise, they were sticking to it.

I have been shopping with these young women many times before. But on this particular day, I noticed something I hadn’t been aware of.

They are expert shoppers. I mean, they are REALLY good. I watched them in action, and was struck by how they go about spending my money.

The Teenager knows exactly what she wants. She will go straight to the dress that suits her best, from the dozens on offer.

She is cool and calm, flicking through those racks. At fourteen, she has found her style, and sticks with it. For a shopping novice like me, it was impressive stuff.

Daughter Two takes an almost forensic approach. She’ll look, and touch, and match. And look some more. When she likes something, she smiles.

Each time she made a purchase, she’d thank me, and give me a hug. Another joy of fatherhood.

We celebrated our good work by munching on as much fast-food as we could carry. That’s how Dads roll in big shopping centres. We aren’t capable of packing lunch, and the kids know it.

I’m pretty sure we’re all done now. A boot full of gifts will do the job. With a few weeks to spare.

Someone should write a book on the secrets of a male shopping day. What a help it would be for all those ladies still to venture out. Tips for everything, except embarrassing daughters. That’s the role of a Dad.

My video stars. The beauty of memories, when big girls weren’t so big.

September 4, 2012

Our home videos are carefully stored. In a box, somewhere. With labels that make little sense.

Golden memories, of less complicated times. Before young ladies knew how to text.

All gorgeous in their own way. Some funny, others emotional. Especially when my Mum bobs up, trying to avoid the camera.

Photos, too. Lots of albums. For too long, I didn’t appreciate the importance of recording the journey we’re all on. Now, every image reminds me of something magical.

I thought about those memories over the weekend. On the day Dads get to reflect about the things most important to them.

The girls were playing with some old photos. When they were younger, and I was lighter. The sort of snaps families take most weekends.

They ended up on one of those websites that I don’t understand. Where photos are shared, and friends make comment. I tried to have a look last night, but it wouldn’t let me in. Too old, probably.

There’s a video of the girls, taken a decade ago. It doesn’t go long, and my camerawork is anything but fancy.

I find myself thinking about those few minutes more and more. Such an insight into how the girls would develop. Enough to brighten the saddest hour.

It was at a park, across the road from where we were living. The Teenager was all of four. Daughter Two had only just started to walk.

It was chilly, and both were rugged up. Cute clothes made by their Mum. The Teenager in a groovy jacket. Her sister in warm tights, straining over her nappy.

As was her way at the time, The Teenager was in charge. From the swing, to the slippery dip, to the climbing castle. With a frenzied commentary to match. The chat was non-stop. I can hear that little voice in my head right now, and it makes my heart sing.

Her sister, still mastering this walking caper, followed her every step. If The Teenager went on something, she’d have a go too. A desire to get it right, way back then.

The afternoon was pain-free, until Daughter Two changed the script. Instead of following, she decided to lead the way. While The Teenager was busy getting tangled in the rope ladder, her younger sibling decided she would have another crack at their park favourite.

The camera joined in, as she toddled towards the smaller seat of the swing set.

I helped her up, and there she sat, proud as punch, despite doing very little swinging.

That lack of movement would be changed soon enough. Courtesy of her sister, charging into the shot from right of screen.

This would not do. Baby sisters did not set the agenda. Especially when the camera was involved.

Daughter Two had no idea the push was coming. There was no time to brace. Down she went, exchanging her comfy seat for a mouthful of bark and dust.

This was all done to the sound of The Teenager explaining to the cameraman what his next shot should be, as she took her rightful place on the swing. “Video camera me Daddy! Video camera me!”

It remains one of my favourite items on tape. My oldest daughter, refusing to allow the spotlight to be shifted. And Daughter Two’s cry. Not from pain or injury. A squeal of defiance. With the added note, that she wouldn’t always be a pushover.

I stopped the camera and brushed her off. The urgings of The Teenager continued. I fought back giggles, and explained that there would be no more video camera-ing, while family members were getting knocked down.

They made their peace, and moved on to the next activity. From memory, Daughter Two was sent down the slide head first by her loving sister not long after. To laughter, thankfully.

A tiny snippet of life, that says so much about us. A few wonderful, fun minutes. Things a Dad never forgets.

Confidence, laughter, determination, resilience and love of family. All on show, right there in that park. And the sweet, innocent voice of a four-year old, that I don’t get to hear anymore.

I bet you have similar memories tucked away, in boxes somewhere. Cherish them like I do now. Take more photos and videos. You never know when you might need cheering up.

My precious Christmas angels. How they’re lighting up our street, and costing me a fortune.

December 6, 2011

I live in a house of Christmas fanatics.

These girls, they refuse to live by the regulations set down by society. When it comes to the festive season, they go by their own rules.

Christmas trees go up on December 1, right? Well, tell that to Daughter Two.

She’s taken responsibility for the tree. Her pet project. This year, she decided mid-November would be a good time to get to work.

I explained that this was way too early. Bad luck. Bordering on foolhardy.

Daughter Two wasn’t listening. She was on a yuletide mission. No need to check the calender. It was tree time.

She enlisted the services of The Teenager. Together they emptied several dozen boxes onto the lounge room floor. Tinsel, and coloured balls, and angels, and candy canes, and tiny stockings. A mass of green and red and silver.

They are famous, these two, for their inability to finish any household chore. All things done by half. Their motto is “Make a start, so it looks like we’re actually doing something, and then let someone else finish it”. But not the tree.

They worked all that Sunday arvo. With Christmas carols playing in the background. Not a cross word between them. Another first. And by the end of it, they’d done a spectacular job.

It didn’t take long for them to turn their festive fingers to another project. One that splits our family down the middle. Christmas lights.

They were inspired a few years ago, by a great mate of mine. A crazy man who dedicates weeks of every year to turning his humble house into a showpiece of blazing electricity.

He spends thousands on those damn lights. Works every spare day and night. People come from far and wide to see his dazzling suburban spectacular. He even cooks a sausage sizzle for them, while guzzling cool drinks.

The girls thought it was wonderful. And immediately, demanded to know why I was so lazy, and so lacking in the Christmas spirit.

I explained that my friend was well-known for spending vast amounts of money on ridiculous projects for no clear gain. They were having none of it. We needed our own light show.

My dissenting voice was barely heard. I pointed out how high our power bill already was. It rivals newly created African nations most months. This is because the girls have a medical condition, whereby their fingers are physically unable to turn light switches off.

No-one was listening. Before I knew it, I was wrapping long lines of coloured lights across the deck and around our garden.

I did this task poorly. It didn’t help that ants were munching on me as I stretched across the bushes. But mostly, because I am incapable of untangling anything beyond a shoelace. And Christmas lights are designed to instantly tangle.

It took hours. Neighbours complained about the language, which I admit wasn’t fit for the season. Someone mentioned that my rows may have been comically uneven. It was my first and last time.

This year, out of courtesy, the girls asked me to help. I declined. To their great relief.

They’ve discovered that they can do the job much better without me. Quicker too. What took me half a day, now gets done within the hour. Something about that bloody untangling.

I could happily celebrate the festive season in the dark. As long as I can have a cool drink on Christmas Eve, and play Neil Diamond’s carols, I’m at peace.

But the rest of you seem to like the lights. The concept isn’t fading. I accept defeat.

The Christmas fanatics in my house are doing their bit. More power to them. I just wish I wasn’t paying for it.

Gifts from a Father to his Daughters. Sizzled snags, and freaky feet.

August 16, 2011

It’s amazing what makes a father proud of his daughters.

There are the usuals. Academic excellence. Sporting greatness. Anything that might attract riches to accelerate an early retirement.

And then there’s how they like their meat cooked.

When you’re talking classic BBQ fare, my girls are in the Well Done camp.

Only the blackest of steaks. Charred snags. It’s enough to bring a tear to a weekend chef’s eye.

None of this medium rare stuff. Like their Dad, they want to know that the beast being eaten is beyond saving.

It’s a trait you’d expect from a beefy son. Instead, my very feminine daughters are holding up a family tradition.

It surprised me at first. And for some ridiculous reason, made me happy.

Dads like to know that they’ve passed something on down the line. Especially to the females.

Boys are easy. They usually have the same bowling action as the old man, and enjoy similar taste in action movies. Carbon copies. Girls are different.

To discover that like me, they’ll turn their nose at any chop that isn’t on fire, was a satisfying moment.

No surprise that all this careful evaluation of family habits came to me while I was burning meat on the deck.

You may be aware that the mere mention of BBQ in our house is accompanied by a cool drink. Two if the gas happens to be turned low.

That could be the reason I started thinking of other things that The Teenager and Daughter Two have inherited from their dear dad.

It would be nice to think the list would include items that the Good Parenting manual spruiks. Respect. Manners. Consideration for others.

Or Toes. Skinny, ugly, protruding Toes.

Mention this to the youngest one, and her usual dazzling smile will go missing. Something of a sore point.

It’s true that my feet aren’t the highlight of an impressive anatomy. Extended family members have barred me from exposing any flesh below the ankles.

Fork Toes, they call me. Such insults from my own people.

Sadly, Daughter Two has them too. As much as I adore her, I must admit those feet are pretty scary. Long, and bony. Don’t tell her that though.

She has also made the outrageous claim that I have a head not dissimilar to a melon. And that the Huge Head gene has been passed down to her.

The Treasurer says the area above our neck is nothing like the bowling ball being suggested by others. Her soothing words work for me. The girl is having none of it.

The Teenager is a little luckier. She has normal feet, and a head of regular proportions. The benefit of being in the image of her striking mother.

Between them, they’re loud, and they laugh lots. They have a love of family, and a desire to look after each other. We’re happy with that.

It’s a bit early to tell if either has taken on my party habits. Let’s hope not. A beautiful young lady belting out a Kenny Rogers classic might not the ideal way to trap an eligible gent.

Still, he’ll be a lucky lad, the bloke who eventually wins the heart of one of these fair maidens. No steak he cooks will ever be too tough. And the snags can sit on that hot plate forever.

A few tips for the boys though. No mention of the melon. And don’t complain if someone happens to keep her shoes on.

Sorry, Miley Cyrus, but I’m taking a stand. And you can’t talk me out of it..

June 21, 2011

The girls were puzzled. How could I turn them down? Who would knock back the chance to see the one and only Miley Cyrus in concert?

They were crowded around the laptop, buying tickets to her first Brisbane show. Four tickets. One for each of us. Quick thinking was needed.

I’ve mentioned the young American songstress on these pages before. She’s very popular in our house. To be able to scream at her from close range was a dream come true, apparently.

The tickets are not cheap. Think of being front row to see Elvis in action. In a comeback spectacular. With Frank Sinatra as his backing singer. The girl’s nickname might be Ned Kelly.

As much as I want to party with my wonderful daughters, I’ve had to take a stand. I’m on a self-imposed ban from tween and teen concerts.

I told them they’d have more fun without me. An all-girl affair. Yell as loud as you want, without Dad shaking his head. Dance crazy. Just don’t tell me later. And it would save us some money. The Treasurer agreed.

The Daughters have form for dragging me to these type of concerts. They enjoy seeing me out of my very limited comfort zone. The last one was Miley’s Nashville buddy, Taylor Swift.

It must be said, I don’t mind her music. She has a catchy, country sound. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

The first thing I noticed was that the crowd was pretty much all female. Maximum age 16. With no intention of sitting down.

I knew the first couple of songs, and tried to join in the fun. Difficult, when you’re not screaming, or crying, or dancing. Or all of the above at the one time.

What troubled me most was the talking. From the stage. The star of the show wanted to chat. Between every song. Long winded, heart-felt yapping. Is that what they do these days?

It was too much. I left early. When I walked outside, I found Dads everywhere. Sitting on lounges. Lying on the floor. Reading books.

No one spoke, but they nodded in appreciation. I’d gone through those doors. They hadn’t. But I couldn’t last the distance. How times had changed.

In the early days, we’d sneak into pubs, to watch some of the legends of Australian rock. Angels. INXS. Australian Crawl. Midnight Oil. Chisel.

They were just kicking off, all of them. And so were we. In grimy places full of smoke and grog and agro.

Truth be told, we shouldn’t have been there. Luckily, ID checks were not the done thing.  We’d get in through an open toilet window. Sometimes a friendly bouncer would turn a blind eye. No one seemed to care.

I don’t remember the greats talking between songs. Although Barnsey might have sometimes. We just couldn’t understand what he was saying.

The focus was on the music. Great, rocking tunes. One after the other. Until the bar closed.

Granted, my memory may be a little hampered. And as a card-carrying member of the Our Old Fart Music Was Better Than Yours society, I might be a little biased. But examples remain.

I’ve never heard a sound like The Eagles produced, when they played in Brisbane a few years back, on their (second) farewell tour. Magic. The concert DVD gets a belt here every few months. I never get sick of those good ‘ol boys.

Anyway, none of that will matter to the girls tonight. Miley will talk. They’ll scream. Better that I’m not in the way. They’ve even given me permission to go for a steak and a beer while they’re out. That’s called a win-win.

Don’t worry, I get dragged along to everything else. Wouldn’t have it any other way. A man has to have something to whinge about.

Daughter One turns 13 this weekend. Very special. And I’ll be playing my part. I’ll tell you how it goes next week. We’re staying in a hotel, with some of her friends. She’ll go through the front door, not the toilet window. And they’ll be way better behaved than we ever were.

I haven’t told her yet, but I’ll be looking after the music. I’m sure her friends won’t mind. No talking allowed. Some of my old cassette tapes should work just fine.

A warning to all Dads – watch out for Year 8 boys who dance in baggy shorts.

May 31, 2011

The kid was looking straight at me. Blue eyes under a shag of blonde hair. I swear this young punk was mocking me.

He’d just done a high energy dance, with another young punk. Hip-hop, I think they called it. They wore caps, and drooping baggy shorts, designed to show off their undies.

The crowd was excited. What we’d seen, apparently, was good stuff. Girls were screaming. But this kid, he didn’t care about the cheering. He only had eyes for me.

The Treasurer accused me of over-reacting. He wasn’t looking at me, she said. He was a nice boy, she said. And good-looking!

Let us be clear. High school boys are now the enemy. Well, my enemy. No-one else seems to notice. Here they were, these thirteen year olds, confident and friendly. And talented.

It was high school dance night. Daughter One’s debut as a Year Eight performer. She was wonderful. Dads can say that. But there was a problem. Those damn boys noticed her too.

I’m no novice when it comes to dance concerts. Fathers with music-loving children become experts on matters of the stage. How ironic.

Dancing is not one of my strengths. I can sway with The Treasurer when ordered to, and have been known to break into an awkward tap late at night. Outside of that, I have nothing.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be attending these concerts. You just assume that as a dad, you’ll be at footy training. Or in cricket nets. If I’m to be perfectly honest here, it takes some getting used to.

Early on, the girls would wear cute costumes, and jump around on stage to the beat of Nicky Webster. I would sit and nod. Others around me would explode into applause. Not quite a length of the field try or a boundary through extra cover. But I played my part.

Later, it became clear that both girls were serious about this dancing caper. Afternoon practice sessions. Weekend concerts. As long as they took place outside of Saturday racing hours, I’d be there.

That last bit was a joke, of course. As if I’d put my punting ahead of the joy that is watching my daughters express themselves. A pocket transistor and earpiece worked just fine.

My greatest complaint with dance concerts, is that I don’t particularly care about other kids. No offence. I only have so much dance love. And I have to save that for my own.

These concert programs usually contain 70 or 80 performances. Yep, that many. Dance after dance. With 5 year olds, and ballet girls, and youngsters learning circus acts. All crammed into my afternoon.

It is the law of being a Dad that your child never comes on stage before act number 68. And you don’t know this until you’ve taken your seat. So you watch, and clap, and watch, and clap, and ignore the impulse to stab yourself in the eye with the nearest sharp implement.

I spent an entire Sunday at a cheerleading competition. I was not well, because of activities undertaken the day before. I took my seat, and suffered through a grand total of 112 routines.

That’s not to say that the kids weren’t talented. They were marvellous. Doing positive things to stay fit and keep out of trouble. It’s just that I had to watch them.

Just when I thought I had the dance spectator thing sorted, along comes high school. For all the problems associated with those junior outings, there was a positive; no boys. Except little ones in bow ties and bowler hats. Not any more.

As I watched the other night in the big auditorium, it hit me. My baby girl is growing up. At home, I can be blissfully ignorant of the signs around me. But here, at her high school, surrounded by these confident, talented, self-assured young people, I could no longer pretend.

She becomes a teenager in a few weeks. I’ll tell you more about that soon enough. With this new age, comes change. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m not the only one who now marvels at her beauty. Others, too, have their day brightened by her laugh. And the absolute warmth of her heart.

I’m bracing for what’s ahead. I don’t have sons, but I know boys. That’s the problem. Those mums and dads who had to put up with my antics several decades ago are clinking glasses as we speak. Payback time.

Maybe the Year 8 punks aren’t so bad after all. I guess we could learn to get along. And maybe, he wasn’t mocking me. I must admit they were impressive up there. But if our relationship is going to work, could they at least pull up those bloody shorts?