Smile, Dad, and bite your tongue. Daughters who want to be the life of the party.

March 12, 2013

It’s party time. Every weekend, it seems. Day and night. And anywhere in between.

The girls have hit the fun stage of their young lives. The Teenager has been leading the way. Daughter Two is keen to make up for lost time.

Parties are springing up like post-monsoon weeds. Both ladies seem to be firmly on the major invite lists.

As difficult as it is for me to set aside the terror that such activity brings all Dads, I must admit that I’m happy for them. They’re finding new friends, and celebrating their youth.

Think hard, and you’ll remember doing the same thing. The excitement of a group invite, to the biggest bash in town.

There’s nothing like getting your best buds together for a kick-arse party. But with impeccable behavior, of course. We never know who might be reading.

There are a few things that seem to be different these days. One relates to attire.

It would seem that a rule was introduced recently, that forbids young women from wearing the same outfit to consecutive functions. New clothes are essential.

I hear this constantly. Forget looking into that bulging cupboard. The latest top and skirt combo is an absolute must.

The reaction to denial in such situations, borders on hysterical. It’s like they’re being deprived of oxygen.

I remember no such urgency as a young man. In the words of the great J. Cash, I would find my ‘cleanest dirty shirt’. The pile on the floor to choose from was large.

There was nothing else to wear but the favourite pair of jeans, and we were away. Not complicated, or expensive.

The other great difference I notice today is that the sexes seem to have no trouble talking to each other. The interaction appears to be very natural.

I get to see photos of the girls having fun, plastered over numerous social media sites. There is usually a muscle-bound young man lurking nearby. With a flashy smile. An easy manner. And a clean shirt.

Back in the day, it took us years to work up the courage to talk to the opposite sex. When we did, it was typical male gibber, usually related to how we fared at footy earlier that day. Looking back, it’s a miracle that any girl uttered a kind word in our direction before the age of 20.

Returning back to the world of extended credit cards, things will only get worse, of course. I’m ready for what’s ahead. So I tell myself.

As long as the girls are happy and safe, then I’ll be fine. Until the next batch of photos. It’s going to be a long decade.

Where did all those candles come from? Coping with birthdays for the elderly.

February 19, 2013

I have a birthday coming up. It’s not The Big One, but it’s fair to say I can see that disturbing number looming large.

This one will be relatively painless. A few nice dinners, with no need for reflection. That will come next year.

There was a time when we celebrated our birth date with gusto. My 18th party was one such occasion.

It centred around one of the all-time great games of backyard cricket. We played over an entire weekend, and into Monday morning.

There was a large keg, and little else. Our dog, the tennis ball-chasing border collie, was exhausted by the end of play.

Players came and went, but the game rolled on. The effect of refreshments meant the pace bowlers lost their line, and the batsmen had trouble seeing several feet in front of them.

Someone told me they witnessed a streak as part of the event. Up the road, past the club, and back to the game. Without video proof, I still refuse to believe it.

There were other great parties around that time. A bunch of us were born within a few weeks of each other. Each event was a triumph.

Perhaps the highlight was a mate who ended his 18th night, clinging to the Hills hoist, while playing a harmonica. Naked. There were photos, which I believe have since been destroyed.

Through the years, milestones have been celebrated in various locations. The 30th was in Cairns, during a rain storm of biblical proportions. The pub we were in became a temporary houseboat.

Year 40 was marked at the races. A lovely day at Eagle Farm with some good chums. We then had Chinese, and were almost arrested, because of a dispute over the cake. Good times.

The celebrations since have been a little less spectacular. Hard to get too excited through the mid-forties. Still good fun, but no marathon sporting events or nude musical interludes.

Next year could be different. The old boys are emerging from their slumber, and starting to prepare. Once again, we’ll have a clutch of events within weeks of each other. Medical teams will be put on standby.

I’ll keep you posted through the year as the plans take shape. All ideas will be considered. Just one condition. No harmonicas.

‘Tis the season to go to the track. The punter’s guide to enjoying Christmas.

December 15, 2012

Any punter worth his rum balls knows the festive season is a special time.

Sure, the Group Ones are over, and most of our champions are chomping on hay in paddocks with tinsel hanging over fences.

Don’t let it bother you. There’s no better time than the next few weeks to organise a trip to your favourite racetrack.

It’s a four-week window, give or take a few days. From now up to Magic Millions day, in the summer heat on the Gold Coast.

There’s something special about heading to the races over the holidays. Everyone’s a little more relaxed. Even more fun to be had than usual.

Groups get together to enjoy some festive cheer. Sometimes it’s a once a year thing.

Permission is granted to have a few extra cool drinks. The holidays will do that to you.

You will see some racegoers in funny hats. Santa shirts. No one will mind.

We had a Christmas race day last year, and a mate of mine couldn’t stop winning. He was collecting trifectas like lucky dips. He told me he hadn’t had a bet in months. I forced a festive smile.

Friends will give us tips at the most unlikely meetings in the weeks ahead. Most will do nothing. We won’t mind, because we’ll be full of Christmas cheer.

We get to have a flutter on Boxing Day, between overs in the Test, and on New Year’s Day, before we head for a recovery swim.

There’ll be Christmas Cups, and Yuletide Handicaps, and Santa Sprints. Late in the day, we might even look for some omen bets. Anything with Rudolph in the title is worth throwing into the quaddie.

The quality of holiday racing has improved in recent years. Brisbane’s summer series is great fun. Randwick is famous for those late December races. January in Perth is always a hoot. And of course, Magic Millions.

A few of us will be trackside next weekend. Spirits will be high, even if we won’t be wearing flashing ties.

Come and say g’day if you see us. We may or may not be singing Christmas carols after the last. Depending on how many winners we’ve found. If we’re in silence, don’t tell me about your successful trifectas. I only have so many festive smiles.

My sleeping beauty. The latest lessons in life from a September 11 girl.

September 11, 2012

She came into the world with a coo and a gurgle. No extreme crying.

It was almost peaceful, compared to her sister a few years earlier.

The Teenager’s first scream could be heard in nearby suburbs. A noisy sign of things to come.

I can still picture the look on Daughter Two’s face, in those first few minutes. It’s like a photo in my mind. More than a beautiful baby. There was a presence, that remains to this day.

Her Mum felt it too. Like this tiny one was letting us know early on, that she was something special.

It didn’t take long to discover that these two much loved little girls were very much their own ladies. So similar is some respects, but so different in others.

Older sister loved hearing bedtime stories. One book after the other, night after night. She refused to go to sleep, even then. Nothing’s changed.

Younger sister would last about five pages. Sleep came so naturally. Try as she might, those gorgeous eyes would close swiftly. Nothing’s changed there either.

She can still call it a night, hours earlier than her sibling. Like both Mum and Dad, she appreciates a long sleep.

She went to bed early, on this day eleven years ago. Hard to argue with that, when you’ve just turned one.

We’d had a first birthday party for her, a few hours before the unthinkable happened in New York. The day her birth date became synonymous with terror.

There are mixed emotions for us at this time every year. So many families feel such awful pain, on the same day we celebrate our amazing gift.

She loves special occasions more than anyone I know. Birthdays, and Christmas, and Easter. Weeks out, plans are always very much in place.

So it was this weekend just gone. We held the party a few days early. Lots of fun. But very different from those early celebrations.

Back then, she couldn’t get enough of us. Didn’t matter who else attended, the biggest hugs would always be for Mum and Dad.

When you turn 12, you realise how ridiculous those same parents actually are. This time, we were warned about talking to the party guests. There would be no need for such idle chat. And don’t organise any games. Leave it to us, she said. She wasn’t being mean. Just being 12.

We behaved ourselves, and the party was a success. Not that she told us as much. But we could tell. There were even cuddles at day’s end.

As parents, we see wonderful things ahead for our daughters. Most Mums and Dads do. That they can do anything they turn their delicate hands to.

It’s not easy though. So many distractions. This girl who still falls asleep in the car, could be anything. Once she decides what it is that she actually wants to do.

She can sing, and act, and make people laugh. But it’s all confined to the lounge room. Too shy, she tells us.

Modelling agencies have snapped her up. Why wouldn’t they. Those same traits of beauty that afflict all the women in her family.

She has a flair for sport, especially athletics. Won relay gold at the regional carnival just yesterday. But doesn’t have time to compete on weekends. Far too busy with social activities.

Her love of dance continues. She’s great at that too. But only on her terms. Push her to do more, and be prepared for a battle.

Maybe this is all just a proud Dad boasting about the little girl he adores. Guilty as charged, your honour.

I know she’ll work it out. Big things are ahead. And we’ll be with her every step of the way.

She will change the world, you mark my words. For the better. Along with her sister. We’re so lucky to have them both in our lives.

In the meantime, she will give us those looks that only a Grade Seven girl can. And let us know how we have most things wrong. In the nicest possible way. Great practice for when she becomes Teenager Two. Twelve glorious months to go. Happy birthday beautiful girl.

Tips on how to enjoy State of Origin night. Wear a beanie, avoid other people, and give me your ticket.

May 22, 2012

A bloke’s life story can be told through his viewing of Origin.

There are phases we go through. Early on, the experience could last for days.

Now, the smart money suggests I’ll be asleep before they announce the man of the match

So many ways it can be done. With huge crowds, or home alone.

As you chill the drinks and prepare the dip ahead of tomorrow night, let’s reflect on how to make the most of the big event.

#Go To The Game – (highly recommended).

Everyone has to experience at least one Origin at the ground. It’s the ultimate for any footy fan. And I’m talking all codes here.

You will breathe in the colour, the noise, and the passion. Come kick-off, your heartbeat will match the players.

If you’re lucky enough to watch a win, you will be overcome with a desire to celebrate, as if you scored the winning try yourself. On the way out of the ground, you will share that joy with fellow fans. And make life hell for the opposition. Like I said, everyone has to do it once in their lifetime.

#Go To The Game And Sit In A Corporate Box – (very highly recommended).

If you’re lucky enough to jag an invite to an Origin box, we officially hate you.

You’ll enjoy all of the above, as well as sampling free drinks and lashings of decent tucker.

There is also the added bonus of boasting to workmates before, during and after the event.

A word of warning though. You might end up with people who have absolutely no interest in sport. They are easy to identify, because they have their back to the field, and talk about things that you don’t care about.

If this is the case, you have permission to ask security to eject them. Or, if the discussion moves to shoe shopping, do the job yourself. No court in the land will convict you.

#Go To A Pub With A Huge Crowd Of Drunks – (recommended only for the young and foolhardy).

There was a time when this option held great appeal. In fact, it’s how I watched many Origin games in my youth.

We would be stuck in the middle of hundreds of drunken, sweaty fans in footy jumpers. Of course, the availability of cool drinks played a part.

These days, I would rather remove my toenails with rusty tools while listening to Andre Rieu’s latest CD.

The problem is, you can’t hear the game. You’ll be bumped. And have a colourful cocktail splashed all over you.

There will be a fight nearby, you’ll spend the first half stuck in a line for the bar/toilet/hot chips, and when it’s done and dusted, you have absolutely no chance of finding a taxi.

If all that appeals to you, good luck, and see you next week.

#Go To A Party Hosted By A Neighbour Or Friend – (recommended if you have no food left at home, or your tv is on the blink).

Some people think Origin is the ideal evening to host a party. They invite lots of people, who have to rush home from work and put proper clothes on.

The problem is, most of those people will want to talk to you throughout the game.

They’ll see it as the perfect opportunity to discuss the latest Walk-to-School initiative. Just as Billy Slater crosses for his second try.

In this instance, you are well within your rights to order everyone out of the room, except for those who are former State of Origin greats.

#Host A Party For Neighbours And Friends – (seriously, are you nuts?)

Don’t do this. Under any circumstance. You’ll see none of the game. Someone will drink your beer. And you’ll have to do the washing up when they finally go home.

#Stay At Home, Take The Phone Off The Hook And Eat Nachos – (if you’re REALLY lucky).

Yes, it’s come to this. If you can’t be at the game, the perfect Origin night is in your very own lounge room.

No disruptions. You can wear your warm pyjamas, and no-one will know. Just make sure you add your Queensland beanie.

Heat up the nachos at the end of the national anthem, grab a cool drink, and hit your comfy chair. You won’t miss a second of the action. And you can yell mindless insults as much as you like.

Wherever you plan to watch the game, good luck, and enjoy your night. Just don’t disturb me.

So, my daughter’s not good enough? Round two between Father and the Boy.

September 13, 2011

After weeks of planning, Daughter Two was having her eleventh birthday party.

A house full of school friends. Games and loud music. Enough sugar to send a Bundy farmer on a Pacific cruise.

Oh, and one other thing. There were boys.

Two in particular. The object of my precious daughter’s affections, and his mate.

You may remember me mentioning the lad in question a few weeks back. From memory, I was calm and laid back about it all. Despite suggestions to the contrary.

At least he had his shirt on this time. Unlike in that ridiculous dancing video. He had a mop of shaggy blonde hair, that was in need of a date with a brush.

He had a go at the hula hoop competition, but was no match for the girls. I almost felt sorry for him.

Defeated, he sat down to watch the others. The opportunity was too good to ignore.

In a classic military move, I came in unsighted from the right flank. No escape path.

We shook hands. He seemed tiny, and uncomfortable. I asked him about footy. He went a shade of red.

All the while, I could feel a pair of eyes burning deep into my back.

Daughter Two was watching my every move. The potential for embarrassment here was deep into the red zone.

I was trying to be cool. No boring dad stories. I didn’t even break into song. But there was a problem.

The last time I’d checked, they were about to be the Year 6 version of boyfriend and girlfriend. Everyone seemed happy. Not counting me.

I’d heard nothing more, and assumed that they were, indeed, an item. Apparently, this is something one needs to check before engaging in conversation.

The girls, all ten of them, were sleeping over. Madness, I know. But the boys were being picked up. Departure time prompted a flurry of activity from the young ladies present.

There was a rush for the door, with a squeal common at sleepovers. They were screaming things like “Don’t you have something to ask the birthday girl?”, and “You still have time!”

I was confused. Nothing unusual for a Friday evening. Until the Treasurer took me aside.

She explained that there’d been a hitch. He hadn’t asked her out yet. The girls thought he would muster enough courage by the end of the party. They were wrong.

It then dawned on me. This kid who I’d been interrogating, was only Boyfriend (pending).

The girls ran inside laughing. It was Pass the Parcel time. For just a second though, I thought I detected a hint of sadness in the eye of my beautiful daughter.

This was an outrage. What was this pint-sized cad thinking? Standing up the most eligible eleven year old in the school?

Because one of the young gum-chewing party guests had taken my comfy black chair, I pondered the situation briefly from the deck. My life till now has been about keeping boys away. Now I wanted one to come back.

I decided the best thing I could do was to go to another room and watch the footy. A sacrifice that fathers make on such nights. I hope you understand.

The rest of the party seemed to go well, apparently. Except for the girl with the allergic reaction to the guinea pigs.

I’ve been told that such matters take time. The boyfriend thing, not the allergy. Although I have given thought to training up the little critters  to attack him during his next dance performance.

Daughter Two just laughed when I asked for details the following day. She said all was ok, and that I should ‘chill’. It seems the family is getting some perverse satisfaction from my suffering.

I hope he realises that this isn’t over. Fathers have long memories. He’ll have to answer my questions again one day. Just as soon as the game  is over.