Muffins, front bums and fine China

Having sons, I was fully aware that - at some point in the distant future - there would come a time when my boys would be predominantly preoccupied with vaginas, and their teenage heads would contain nothing but food and furry triangles (if they were so inclined, of course).

But that was all in the back my mind, a far flung matter in my child-rearing schedule. I figured that I had a good twelve or thirteen years of V-free parental concerns.

Beau only gave me three.

It all began rather innocently, with Beau understanding the fundamental differences between boys and girls. Namely: penises and vaginas, amongst other far less intriguing and less humorous things.

Jas and I didn't clutter or colour the facts with willies and ginnies, as many other parents do. Why provide cute nicknames to avoid the precise terminology? And with so many cutsie labels for their noodle, wang-wang, peenie, pecker, donger or doodle, which one would you use?

To our boys, everything downstairs was either a vagina, a penis or a scrotum; they would learn all of the nicknames in the playground classroom.

Now the problem was, once Beau understood these differences, he was keen to share them with the WHOLE WORLD.

Beau created some consternation on the topic with his female playmates at day care. When the little girls were having a quiet pee, Beau took it upon himself to educate them on their anatomical make-up: "Do you know, you are a GIRL and you have a VAGINA?"

There was instant conflict: the girls argued that they did not have a vagina as they had a ginny, a foo-foo, a twinkle, a bajingo, a front bum or whatever their parents told them to call their hoo-hoos. And Beau - being Beau – was fully armed with the facts and would not surrender to emotional pleas to the contrary.

So washroom war broke out and the teachers were parachuted in to bring peace to the Battle of the Sex Bits. They had to resolve the matter of terminology by explaining to the little upset lasses that they did, in fact, possess a vagina.

That wasn’t all. Shortly after the toilet skirmish, there was an occasion - again at day care - I truly wish I was a fly on the wall.

Now Beau was often one of the last children to be picked up each evening. The social creature that he is, Beau has a little chat to parents as they collect their offspring and he has come to know all of the parents. By child. By name. And by the car they drove.

On the oh-to-be-a-fly-on-the-wall-day Beau greeted one of the mothers as they came to pick up their child.

"Hi Michelle! "

"Hi Beau! How are you?" Everyone knows Beau.

Beau then cut to the chase and rendered Michelle speechless: "Michelle, do you know that you are a GIRL and you have a VAGINA?"

The teachers in earshot struggled to keep a straight face.

I wonder if Michelle now avoids Beau.

On a shopping trip some time later, Jas pre-occupied Beau with some colouring-in. A shop provided some pencils with paper containing images of people. Beau began colouring in with earnest as Jas went about her business.

On reviewing Beau's work she found he had only coloured in the female images on the paper; not only that, he had only coloured in one specific part of them….all with a brown pencil.

Beau had spent all of his time creating anatomically correct maps of Tasmania.

Mini Manners

A part of responsible parenting is ensuring that your offspring learn the nuances of a considerate citizen so that – when they are older - they perform all of those courteous little acts that our society expects. In short: manners. 

We do it is so that our kids will be accepted as polite individuals and not be outcast as someone who burps the alphabet in public or gargles custard at dinner parties. 

And so we responsible mums and dads spend a large portion of our kids’ upbringing trying to teach them some manners:

“Say please!”
“Say thank you!”
“Say hello.”
“Say goodbye.”
“Say pardon.”
“Don’t talk when I’m talking.”
“Don’t talk with your mouth full.”
“Don’t play with your fork.”
“Don’t stab the table with the fork.”
“Don’t stab your head with the fork.”
“Don’t stab your brother with the fork.”
“Don’t blow bubbles in your milk.”
“Get your fingers out of the milk.”
“Get your fingers out of your mouth.”
“Get your fingers out of your nose.”
“Get your fingers out of your pants.”

And so it goes.

As an adult, if we stare at someone’s boobs while dribbling slightly or fish a marvellously large booger out of our nose and present it to a stranger for a score out of ten, it isn’t well taken, is it? We get a little black mark against us in the mind of the boob owner/booger audience. Or maybe a restraining order.

But if little kids do it? It’s a bit funny. 

Well, most of the time.

On one such occasion I was on a bus with Zane when he was only 6 months old; he was on my lap having a brilliant time, being in a big moving box on wheels full of massive windows with a fascinating world passing by through all of them.

And then he discovered the hair.

A woman sitting in front of us had a marvellous mane of long blonde hair that cascaded down on our side of the back of her seat. It was something that I had naturally noticed but an appreciative glance was all that I gave it. I certainly did not gently fondle it in amazement - society and probably several laws do not condone that sort of activity.

But Zane did.

I didn’t notice him doing it at first so he was softly bothering this lass’ locks for a good 30 seconds before I quietly stopped him doing it, hoping the long locked lady hadn’t noticed. The moment I took his hands away the woman looked around at me, her face a picture of stern disapproval. Surely she didn’t think it was me? 

I smiled and gestured to my incredibly cute boy and apologised. For him. 

I don’t think she bought it. 

One of the more humorous breaches of etiquette was during a recent visit to interstate friends. As we pulled up in their driveway, our friends greeted us and so began the hellos and hugs and handshakes that generally occurs when friends meet up. 

And according to custom, even Zane got out of the car and enthusiastically greeted our guests.

But Beau failed on all formality fronts. 

He had not even been to the house before and yet the instant he was released from his car seat restraints he sprung out like a cat on Red Bull, bolted through the legs of our guests and into the open front door of the house. We all peered quizzically at the doorway wondering what the hell he was doing. 

Moments later Beau reappeared with what looked like relief on his face and a large yellow Tonka truck. It seemed that there was no way he was staying somewhere that didn’t have an over-sized toy vehicle on the premises.

At four years old, Zane is not quite yet a shining beacon of protocol perfection. I took the boys to a friend’s house one hot afternoon to cool off in their pool. During the course of our splashing about Zane announced that he had to go to the toilet; as I had done before in the same situation I told Zane to go on the lawn so he didn’t run through the house in wet clothes. 

And why not? We males are made to pee anywhere. While I couldn’t pee under a tree in public I enjoyed that fact that I could instruct Zane to without any social repercussions.

So Zane got out of the pool and dashed over to a patch of grass. I looked over at him a less than a minute later to ensure he was following my instruction. He was following it perfectly, however there had been a misunderstanding: he was in the middle of our friend’s newly turfed lawn, his swimmers cast aside and squatting as he squeezed out a turd the size of New Zealand.

I meekly apologised to our host before I went to fetch a New Zealand-sized plastic bag as our host’s laughter rang out around the pool.

Bible studies

“Mummy, what’s the bible?” Zane asked recently, as he held a picture book version of the World’s Most Famous Story in his hand.

If he had have asked me the answer would have been something about a work of fiction that was marketed wonderfully well, but Jas provided a far more sensible answer: “Well, it’s a book about God who made the world and his son Jesus…”

She didn’t get very far as Zane interjected: “Oh yeah, Daddy knows him, he says ‘JESUS’ all the time!”

Word perfect

There was a time – not so long ago - when Zane’s vocabulary was very much a work in progress. We were constantly telling him the names of things in our surroundings and he sucked up the new words as eagerly as he did banana smoothies. 

We had a little person who listened to every word we said and carefully noted how the sounds rolled out of our mouth.

Sometimes the new phrases he heard weren’t perfectly stored in his fledgling mental dictionary. To Zane, the device that changed the TV channel was “The Fat Controller”. When he was offered horse radish at dinner he knowledgeably informed us that he didn’t like “horse rubbish”

But overnight, Zane knew absolutely everything. He started correcting us. All the time! I thought I had at least ten years of being a fervent fountain of useful information about our world and that it wouldn’t be until he was a teenager that everything that I said was wrong.

I didn’t even make it to four years. The fervent fountain was a derelict dribble.

This was all a bit inconvenient as we were in the process of teaching Beau the basics: if I pointed out a “car” to Beau, Zane would very condescendingly note that it was a “Jeep”.

“Look Beau, there’s a bird”, I’d enthuse, but Zane would correct me: “Dad, that’s NOT a bird, that’s an ibis”.

It was a bit like having a live Microsoft Word word-check on everything I said. 

Now I couldn’t tell Zane off for repeatedly interrupting my fatherly education for Beau: he was simply repeating what I’d taught him.

(I must say, though, Zane didn’t rectify everything we said; there were times when he never corrected us. Whenever I said something like, “Zane, you are a clever boy, aren’t you!” he heartily agreed: “I am daddy, I am!”)

However, the constant corrections weren’t just to satisfy his need to perfect everything we said. The little smarty-pants used it to deflect being told off for something he shouldn’t be doing. 

On one memorable occasion, when Jas stopped him from performing a particular activity, he haughtily informed her that: “I’m NOT playing with my penis mummy, I’m playing with my SCRO-TUM!”

Fallen angel

There was a whisper from the darkness: “Come in here.”

I walked into Zane’s room. Jas was standing by his cot in the gloom. “Look.” I stood by the cot and peered down at the boy. He was surrounded by the usual collection of teddies, monkeys and penguins. Aside from the fluffy characters, Zane always likes to take something incredibly un-cuddly to bed - something like a bus or a kitchen utensil. Tonight it was his favourite car book, but that was not what was unusual.

What was unusual was that he had a pair of his shorts on his head.

Many things that Zane did defied reason, but this had us miffed. Zane had seen fit to fetch a pair of little blue shorts wear them on the wrong end of his little torso, like a King’s crown or the head-dress of a red Indian, and then just gone to sleep.

He looked like an angel who had gone to a Funny Hat Party, drunk too much fairy punch and nodded off on the couch.

Eye of the storm

During every waking hour Zane burns brightly. From 7am until 7pm Hurricane Zane blows wildly, and combined with Beau’s dribble, every day our home is the epicentre of a fierce storm that few can escape without soiled clothes, bad hair and saliva trauma.

But at times Zane displays wonderful moments of tenderness, being keen for a cuddle or quietly helping his mum or dad with some household chore. Although beautiful to see, some of these moments have a hidden purpose.

One day he quietly came up to Jas, sat on her lap and took her face very gently in his little hands, beautiful and soft. He brought his face his face very close to hers, noses almost touching, looked lovingly into her eyes and softly whispered... 

“Chocolate, mumma?”


You need to develop a streak of cunning-ness when you become a parent. Small people – children, not dwarves – are difficult to reason with. They’re still learning how things work and why things happen, so you need to stretch the bounds of your ingenuity just to keep one step ahead of the little ones and use the right easy-to-understand facts to persuade them to do as they’re told.

And it starts pretty early; not long after they exit the womb, in fact. Just after they’ve had the cord snipped and their first bath they’re searching for chinks in your kiddie logic, probing your parental barrier of authority. They basically try to find ways to be as cheeky as they can and get their own way with absolutely everything. 

One challenge we had was to convince Zane that ownership was a fluid thing and that when other little ones invaded his little world of toys – including his brother – it was a wonderful thing to let others play with his possessions.

So we introduced the concept of sharing. Whenever he cruelly snatched something of his from out of the surprised hands of another, we’d say “Share, Zane”, and prompt him to hand over the toy that he clung to and then gush praise once he had done so. 

He picked the idea up quite quickly. He began to enjoy handing his things to other kids. Job done! How easy was that. What marvellous parents we were.

Not long after this triumph I helped myself to a bit of ice-cream and sat on the couch. Zane sidled up to me, patted my knee and said “Zane some?” I wasn’t going to fall for his little charms; there was only one King of Cunning in the house and it wasn’t a two year old. “No, you’ve had your dinner.” 

He stood a bit closer, his nose almost touching the dessert bowl. Persistence: “Zane some?” 
I shook my head. He didn’t move. He stared up at me over the bowl, his bright blue eyes unblinking, calmly assessing his options and my resolve. 

And then he came out with it; he turned my own shrewd scheme against me. “Daddy: share.”

I was going to have no hope once he went to school.