Cheating on my local

With Father’s Day behind us for another year, there is a place where many Amateur Dads will be frequenting, either to change their gifts or spend their gift cards: Bunnings.

For international readers, Bunnings is an Aussie man’s utopia. It’s our version of Home Depot, carrying a massive range of hardware, outdoor furniture, and on weekends and public holidays, the holy trinity of sausage sizzle, sauce and cold soft drink cans – as a fundraiser for local not for profits, of course.

When we moved back from Singapore and ended up buying a house, I did internal cartwheels when I saw that it was less than 10 minutes from our nearest Bunnings. Since then, it has taken plenty of my hard-earned, and has become a good place to drop into and find all manner of things that I didn’t realise I needed until I was right in front of them.

But the honeymoon is now over, and I wonder if I can stay faithful to my local big barn of hardware nirvana?

You see, my ‘local’ is undergoing a refit. That has meant that things are a little all over the shop (pardon the pun), and more and more they don’t actually have what I need. It is frustrating sometimes, and has given me little choice but to ‘cheat’… albeit at another Bunnings that is not going through a refit.

The other Bunnings carries a wider range than my local, but has more restricted trading hours, so it’s a bit of a trade-off.

But lately I’ve found another avenue to get my hardware fix, and it’s one that I blame my own dad for.

Auctions.

You see, I grew up being dragged along to all manner of auctions by my dad who was a self-employed computer engineer. He was mostly seeking out cheap used computer parts, and often succeeded. He also succeeded in buying all number of weird and wonderful things too, a number of which would meet their fate at the tip some years later.

I’m not saying he’s a Daryl Kerrigan, but he does love a bargain – and so for him auctions have now been replaced by Aldi.

I, too, have succumbed to the weird and wonderful ‘Special Buys’ of the German supermarket chain, and often when they have tools on sale. I became one of “those people” on Saturday who queued up waiting for the doors to open to grab myself some roof racks for our car.

And before you scoff, they were only $79. What a bargain!

But back to the auctions, and this week I scored a Black & Decker drill set that has attachments for eight other tools, including a small circular saw, router and air compressor, for less than half the RRP, from Grays Online.

It is a thrill getting the email that you have ‘won’ the opportunity to pay for goods, like a gateway high onto hard drugs. For now though, like a deluded addict, I think I have it under control.

So, yes, I have strayed from my local Bunnings. No doubt I’ll be back once the refit is finished because it is ridiculously convenient, but it’s now on notice that I will be demanding an open relationship to explore bargains elsewhere, like Aldi and Auctions. Amazon’s looming arrival in Australia is also giving me the come hither look.

Somehow, I don’t the local think it will care, and she knows that while I will stray, I will always come back for the sausage sizzle.

On the faith and domestic violence firestorm

There is something of a storm in a teacup going on in Australia at the moment after the ABC did an investigative piece into domestic violence and the church.

Oh yes, I’m going there.

As a Christian, the topic immediately came to my attention. It is something that Common Grace has been trying to bring to the attention of the church at large, and it has to be said something that I have never heard a sermon on in my nearly 30 years of attending church in this country.

But Julia Baird’s piece put it front and centre. And, if reading it with an open mind, it makes for sobering reading.

Some commentators have reacted with outrage, claiming it is the ABC’s “cultural Marxism” at play and having a go at Christianity.

Some, in ignorance, claim that “they wouldn’t do an article like that on Islam”…. Except that they already have.

Others, including a certain Andrew Bolt, claim that the ABC has misrepresented the statistics used in the report. That does have a point, as the source of the statistics cites a New Zealand study that found those that identify with no religion have the highest rates of domestic violence, followed by irregular churchgoers, and then regular churchgoers.

But, to her credit, Baird stresses in this video that it is those men on the fringes of church that are more likely to have an issue with domestic violence. In fact, what looked to be setting up for a debate came out in what I think was a civilized and useful discussion – praise God!

And the ABC has defended its handling of the stats, citing US seminarian Prof Steven Tracy’s study on the issue, which is the original source. It says in a statement:

Professor Steven Tracy found “that evangelical men [in North America] who sporadically attend church are more likely than men of any other religious group (and more likely than secular men) to assault their wives”. Tracy cites five other studies to support his claim: Ellison and Anderson 2001; Brinkerhoff et al 1991; Ellison and Anderson 1999; Wilcox 2004; Fergusson et al 1986.

Source: ‘ABC statement on 7:30 reports on religion and domestic violence’

Without access to the quote in context, it’s hard to make a call on how accurate the ABC’s reporting of the study is.

The danger in all of these reactions is that we miss the point that domestic violence is something that needs to be confronted by the church in Australia.

Put aside the stats and read some of the stories of women who have been financially, physically or emotionally abused by controlling husbands that distort the beauty of Jesus’ vision for the world for their own, sinful means.

It is painful to read that some women have gone to their priests, pastors or other church leaders and have been told to “turn the other cheek” to domestic violence, or even to stay in their abusive marriages.

It is abhorrent that some churches choose to cover up abuse, or even defend the abuser, and turn what should be a place of refuge and sanctuary for the most oppressed people into a place of danger.

That is not the good news of Jesus.

Let’s be clear – it is of the devil.

If we go by the stats, it is only a small percentage of Christians that have been perpetrators of domestic abuse – but that is still too much for a community called to love God and love others – especially for the men who are commanded to love their wives and give their lives up for them, as Christ did for the church.

And so, if there is anything good that can come out of this, I hope it is a sobering call to action to the church in Australia to put this issue on the pulpit, and speak out about it.

Because nobody who has truly experienced the transformative grace of Jesus can justify any kind of abuse of anyone – most of all their own spouse.

But we need to confront it in churches, and make it clear that any form of domestic abuse is not acceptable, no matter where your theology lies. We need to make that clear to both men and women, and as the community, hold people to account to that.

We should be a strong voice for the oppressed, and my prayer is that we will become a stronger voice on this issue.

Because my daughter needs to grow up knowing that she is a beautiful child of the most high God, made wholly acceptable by the work of Jesus – even if she chooses not to believe that – and thus worthy of only the best treatment, especially from her spouse.

And that, my friends, is good news.

Whilst mummy is away, Hey Duggee will play

Last Wednesday night I was thankful for every cent of taxpayer’s money that goes into the ABC, as it was instrumental in helping to settle my little child.

But, I have to admit, it was not as I had planned.

The night was the first that mum was away from her little bubba due to a surgery. That left me on duty with my mother-in-law.

It’s fair to assume that the child knew that mum wasn’t around. Add to the mix three teeth cutting through at once, and her having just got over a virus, and conditions were set for a challenging night.

The first wave hit at 9:30, when she woke up crying. Cuddles weren’t helping, and putting her back in the cot only seemed to escalate things.

So I reached in for the modern parent’s friend and broke one of the ‘rules’. We have for a long time been stringent about not allowing our little girl screen time and pushing it back as far as possible. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

Yes, I went for the cartoons. Armed with ABC iView, I looked up the first children’s show I could find. And that was Duggee.

It’s a short cartoon, probably aimed a little bit higher than our little girl’s age, but that didn’t matter. Kiddie voices, bright colours and short episodes had her hooked in. And I’ll admit, I did enjoy the little gags put in for the parents.

It worked a treat, providing the reset that she needed to let the tiredness overcome her. After watching an episode where the ‘Squirrels’ earned their snowman badge, she had stopped crying, the tiredness had overcome her, and she went back to the cot pretty contentedly.

Round 1 to dad – with assistance from Duggee.

But, lo and behold, at 3am the child awoke again, this time wailing uncontrollably. I went and picked her up, and three times had her fall asleep in my arms, only to wake as soon as I set her down in the cot.

At this point, I realise that other parents here are probably saying either, “Welcome to my world”, or “You’re preaching to the choir.” But we have been used to her waking maybe once or going through the night not waking, so a couple of times in a night is quite rare.

Around 3:30am I tapped out. I left her room, hoping and praying that she would settle.

And of course she didn’t.

But then, before I could get out of bed, her Oma, my mother in law subbed in and had much better results than me.

Round 2 to Oma.

Round 3 kicked off two hours later. Thankfully (or not) I hadn’t fallen back asleep, so went in.

This round was much like the second one, with nothing working to settle her. So, once again, I reached for my woofy friend, thankful that for all the “lefty bias” articles and cuts to its funding, that the ABC still provided free on-demand children’s programming.

This time, it took two episodes of Hey Duggee to calm her down enough so that I could get some Panadol into her, after which she went down OK.

So for Round 3 the judges split the points between the two parents’ friends: Duggee and Panadol. And, thoroughly exhausted, I headed back to bed and did not surface again for three hours.

Moral of the story: in the middle of the night, pragmatism rules.

And in tribute to his instrumental role in my parenting journey thus far, I would like to share this ode to Duggee (with apologies to The Beatles)

Hey Duggee

You’re like a snuggly

You make a sad girl, and make her better

Remember to Duggee cuddle her into your heart

Then you can start to make it better

Does Daddy always know best?

I always thought that I was a feminist, but since having a daughter, I now feel like I need to buy a bra and burn it in a defiant show of solidarity against the man!

OK, so that may be exaggerating a little, but you get my drift.

So it has been pleasing to see women’s rights progressing in different ways. Take sports, specifically the growing professionalism of women’s sports in Australia. I have no idea what sports that my little girl will get into – I’m hoping for cricket and soccer, and no netball – but seeing many sports now with professional women’s leagues coming up makes me happy to think that my little girl will probably have that option open to her, if she is talented and wants to do it.

In short, I take the view that I don’t want to see any barriers put between my little girl and what she wants to do. I want to see her flourish, and nurture her abilities to be a contributor to society in whatever form that takes. Sure, she will have to choose wisely what to pursue and what not to, but as I see my role as her dad, it is to support her to achieve her dreams.

Which was why I was dismayed by the article that I read today by CR Wiley, subtly titled ‘How to Make Sure Your Highly Educated Daughter Doesn’t Have to Freeze Her Eggs

OK, so you got my attention, Mr Wiley.

Here’s a small excerpt

In this cacophony providing guidance to children is one of the more important roles of a father.

Clearly many fathers are letting their daughters down in this regard. What I see more and more is highly intelligent, well-educated women, who have everything that they’ve been told they should want, but who are miserable nonetheless.

The misery is usually due to their singleness and childlessness.

 BTW, the bolding isn’t mine – it was in the piece.

And on it went into how Wiley was counselling his daughter away from pursuing a college major in literature at a great university to a double-major at another college where she could also do entrepreneurship and help out in her brother’s business. Oh, and doing that would also mean that she would meet better husband and therefore father material.

OH. MY. GOSH.

In equal measures of disbelief and rage, I was getting a clear message from the author that ‘Daddy knows what’s best for his daughters, no matter what the age or decision.’

And the other strong message was not to pursue your dreams, as you’ll end up regretting not following your true calling of popping out kids.

At the end of reading it, I felt sorry for his daughter.

I felt sorry that, even though she is an adult, her father felt the need to direct her future career path.

I felt sorry that her father was making marriage and children out to be the main aims of a woman’s life.

And the worst part is that the writer, writing on an evangelical Christian blog, seems to feel that in doing all that, he’s standing up for Christian values.

I did some quick research and found that the writer has indeed written a book that calls for a return to how family structures have been in the past. It seems that there is a whole lot of revisionist history in his writing, and more than a few broad-brush statements about the “failures” of modern “liberal” society.

What I find a little more disturbing is how, in privileging marriage and kids for women, he seems to ignore that Jesus and the apostle Paul actually advocated that unmarried people shouldn’t be in a hurry to marry, or even at all. Which makes me think that for some singleness is OK, even for women, and perhaps there is too much of a focus in evangelical subculture on finding a mate and making babies.

In fact, in my own experience – which is not prescriptive – it was only when I was able to find contentment in my singleness that I was actually best placed to enter into the relationship that is now my marriage.

Perhaps my view is also being amplified by watching the recent TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale – a novel that I studied in high school literature. It is a dystopian story of a woman who is forced into state-sanctioned rape for the benefit of producing babies in a twisted theocracy called Gilead.

That is the last thing that I want for my daughter. If she marries and has children, that’s great. If she has the talent to be a sports star, or the mind of leading scientist or academic, or anything else that contributes to the flourishing of society – that’s also great.

But those are not my decisions to make – they are my daughter’s. I hope that I can provide some guidance, and that she will trust that, but ultimately I want her to make. And that means that she may make some bad choices, hopefully ones that she will learn from.

Yes, I want to have influence in my girl’s life, but at the same time perhaps, as I am not her, Daddy doesn’t always know best.

Mum, on the other hand…

Playing the bad cop

Our little bubba has been sick this week with an eye infection, which has meant that I have had to play the meanie who administers the eye drops.

That has meant that I’ve become well acquainted with the heartbreaking wails from our usually bubbly and happy little girl as hold her down and she fights against me trying to drop the medicine into her eyes.

It also means that, for around 20 minutes afterwards, she avoids me and clings to her mummy. Eventually she warms up to me again, but then again another round of drops is needed and the whole situation starts again.

No matter how much I try and tell her that it is necessary, and that it will make her feel much better, she still seems to hate me after I’ve applied those drops. Of course, she doesn’t understand that the burn of those eyedrops, and me holding her down to put them in, will make the infection better – she is only one, after all.

But at the same time, it makes me feel like a terrible bloke. At best, I am the bad cop – at least for now.

And, to be fair, the ‘good cop’ in all this – mummy – has still been copping it too (pardon the pun). She hasn’t really been able to head out and catch up with friends for fear of accidentally passing the infection on. Also, as the good cop, she is the only one able to settle the bubba when she wakes wailing at night. In part, I just don’t have the, ahem, equipment to do what mumma can.

Still, being the bad cop in this situation is necessary. The simple fact is that the drops are helping to cure the infection, and we need to be vigilant with them, otherwise the repercussions could be much worse.

Indeed, the fact that we could get an appointment to see the doctor the day we noticed it, see them for free, and get the drops at what is really only a small cost for us, is a luxury in many parts of the world.

As I’ve written about before, I’m astounded that there are 25 million people at the moment who are facing starvation in eastern Africa. I’m even more astounded that we’re not reading about this in the newspapers every day and being confronted with it on our TV screens.

Perhaps we’re just too busy focusing on our own issues to pay attention?

But, seriously, how does me feeling bad about having to administer eye drops to my baby compare to millions of parents who are not able to give their kids food – let alone themselves?

So, please, take a moment to read up on what has happened, and more importantly please open your wallets to the charities that are responding to this crisis. I’ve personally given to World Vision, but other such as the Red Cross, Oxfam, Baptist World Aid and Caritas are also responding.

Don’t make me be the bad cop, now!

Do they do cake smashes in Africa?

I’ve only recently become acquainted with the term ‘cake smash’, but apparently it is all the rage among one-year-olds at the moment.

The idea is that you set up a camera shoot to capture your one-year-old smashing through a lovely decorated cake. The photos then become a treasured keepsake, and the child remembers the joy of smashing up a cake for the rest of their lives. Or something like that.

So, as my wife and I are soon facing our little angel’s one year birthday, I had to learn about this trend, and then we pretty quickly agreed not to do one.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against those who have chosen to do a cake smash. Many of my friends have, and it does looks like fun. Perhaps for my 40th birthday I can organise one then.

I do however have an issue with wasting food, especially when the food is not necessarily meant to be eaten. Plus, if we were to do one, our child would probably devour the cake, and the world certainly does not need a little child like ours with a burst of sugar. Or, at least mum and dad don’t have enough patience to even consider our already energetic girl on royal icing and sponge cake.

And, frankly, we get the same effect every time we feed her these days, albeit with yogurt and Weet-Bix rather than cake.

Curiously thoughts of cake smashes came up today as I read an email from World Vision warning that east Africa is on the brink of the worst humanitarian disaster since World War II.

It started in April with a famine declared in parts of South Sudan. That means that people are already dying from starvation, and there are now severe food shortages in Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen.

 

Up to 25 million people are facing starvation from the deadly combination of poor crop yields, political crisis and civil war.

Think about that for a minute.

25 million people.

That’s more than five times the population of Singapore or Sydney, and more than the whole population of Australia.

That is entire families – men, women and children – who may die due to a lack of food.

Let that sink in for a moment.

For all out advances as a human race, we now have the population of entire countries facing the age-old killer of hunger. In our day and age.

This is outrageous.

And I’m guessing that you have probably only just heard about this. Heck, I only heard about it because I am still subscribed to a mailing list from a charity I supported in Singapore. In Australia we are cocooned away from this tragedy unfolding, and it seems that the local media has been choosing to cover other events.

And to be fair, we are also probably a little fatigued given the crises occurring in Syria, Europe and elsewhere, to actually pick out this event from the crowd. It is possible to be overwhelmed with all of the tragedy going on in the world, and even on our doorstep.

But…25 million people? How can we ignore that?

I can’t.

And I can’t, in good conscience, go ahead and plan for a rocking party for my one year old’s birthday, knowing that there are other one year olds that are facing starvation.

Forget cake smashes – there are kids in east Africa that will not have enough flour to make enough food to sustain themselves from day to day.

So, can I please urge you to read up on the crisis and donate to World Vision, Red Cross, Oxfam, Baptist World Aid, or any of the other organisations responding to this crisis. I am, and we will be urging the people attending our baby’s party too as well.

Because if, as a society, we can afford to do cake smashes, surely we can afford to save people from starvation.

 

Stoic to the end…and it’s killing us

In the last 48 hours, I’ve viewed two different media with different stories to tell on what has been seen as a key part of the Australian male character: stoicism.

A couple of days ago, I started watching a series called ‘Man Up’, looking at masculinity and mental health topics of the modern Australian male. It’s built around the host, Sydney radio presenter Gus Worland, struggling to understand the suicide of one of his best mates almost 10 years ago, and looking into the modern man. It’s funny, but also pretty raw at times, and certainly well worth a look at.

In a more lighthearted moment saw the cameras follow Gus to meet with a farmer from rural NSW, John Harper, who is trying to meet the issue head-on by trying to get other farmers to open up. During a talk, he gets the blokes to stand up, grab their crotch, and then turn to the guy next to them and tell them how they’re feeling. He then gets them to let go of their crotch.

“Can you hear balls dropping?” Harper asks after the exercise. “No. You can’t hear balls dropping. And this silly little exercise is about showing that men can talk about their feelings without losing your manhood.”

Simple, but poignant.

My takeaway from watching the first two episodes was that blokes need to open up more and share about what is going on at the deeper levels, rather than bottling it up inside until it blows open. Sadly, for too many men, that comes out in choosing to end their own lives.

But then a couple of days ago, an article by the king of the bandanna, former rugby player and author Peter FitzSimons, seemed to go the other way.

In it, he praised the “extraordinary stoicism” of Bryan Cousins, the father of troubled ex-football player Ben Cousins.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Cousins was a prodigious footballing talent who scaled the absolute highs of the game, mostly with my home team, the West Coast Eagles. Sadly though, he was never far from controversy, with well publicised battles with substance abuse, a restraining order from his former partner, and a string of other bizarre brushes with the law.

This week, he was sentenced to a year in gaol for drug possession and breach of restraining orders. Having avoided it at times before, it seems that Ben, once a superstar and arguably the ‘Prince of Perth’ was heading down the path that many struggling with substance abuse have.

His dad Bryan has largely kept out of the spotlight, seemingly only stepping into it when needed. Publicly, he has been very supportive of his struggling son, even though there are signs that Ben’s spiral into drug abuse has taken a major toll on the family.

But there was a line in Peter’s article that, having watched Man Up just before, stuck out to me, when he was describing Bryan’s response to all his son’s problems:

And the fact that he is not only still there, all these years on, but is the first one his son looks to in his darkest moment is a tribute to him, and I, for one, salute his extraordinary stoicism and dignity, in the face of overwhelming challenges.

To be fair, given what I had watched before, I am putting too much emphasis on the word ‘stoic’, but I can’t help but feel that, perhaps inadvertently, FitzSimons appears to be reinforcing stoicism of the Australian male as a virtue.

And that is a big problem, because as stony faced as one may be in public, the writhing and wrangling on the inside does come out, and often not in good ways.

I’ve been pretty open about my journey with post-natal depression, and am thankful that I have found a great deal of support. I’m off the medication now, but there are still some days that angst and depression get the jump on me.

I’m trying to equip myself with tools to better spot when my head’s not going into a good space, and how to move out of those deep ruts. I can’t claim huge amounts of success, but slowly I feel like I’m making progress.

Being open about that has been freeing. It is almost like confession, which is not so much a religious act of telling all the naughty things you have been doing, but simply speaking what is true that one might be healed.

As a new dad, I have to admit that I feel a whole host of different pressures to keep up the appearance that the good ship parenting ship sailing along smoothly. There is now – rightfully – a greater expectation on dads to be involved in raising their kids, but let’s be honest: we generally have no idea what to do, or how to best help out. That makes the reversion to the stereotype of dad as the provider and mum as the nurturer all too easy to fall back into – and with that, the assumption that we have to put on a stiff upper lip and just get on with it.

Talking with my mates who are new dads, it’s a common experience to feel some level of isolation by it. Suddenly the evenings where you might catch up with a mate are taken over by bottles, baths and bedtime routines. On the odd occasion that you have a moment free, there are all sorts of other things that a new dad feels that they should be doing – mostly sleeping! – rather than checking in with others and sharing their struggles.

And I have to admit that I have been pretty bad at that. My posture tends to be one of “nobody wants to hear what’s going on with little old me”, which, it turns out, isn’t true. In putting my struggles out for the world to read, I’ve found others who have been on a similar journey which has helped me to see that.

Things are starting to change, but only a little at a time. Nonetheless, it is progress.

If we all just embrace stoicism, none of that comes out. When we decide that we have to just keep going on, bottling up all the crap, it comes out in all sorts of other ways, and generations of people have been wounded by hurting fathers who expressed their pain often in hurtful words and actions.

It’s time to end this myth of the stoic Aussie man, because it is killing way too many Aussie men.

Ebony, Ivory & Harmony (Day)

As I write this, it is ‘Harmony Day’ in Australia – a day set aside to recognise the diverse backgrounds, cultures and races that make up this fine country.

For most school-aged kids, that has meant dressing up in multicultural wear and consuming lots of foreign food.

I think it’s great. Australia has always been a nation of immigrants – even the first Australians – and that is something to be celebrated. Sadly, it seems that more recently it is also a fault line that gets exploited for political gains, especially when one group feels that it has the monopoly on what an Australian is.

It’s interesting – or ironic, depending on your point of view – that on the same day the government has signalled that it will make changes to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. There have been a few people that have been sued under the Act after being found to have said or done something in public that is “reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people” on the basis of race, colour or national or ethnic origin.”

The proposed changes will see the words “offend, insulte, humuliate” changed to “harassed”. The government argues that this allows for freedom of speech, while also protecting people against racial harassment.

I’m not about to get up on a soapbox about 18C, but sadly Australia has a legacy of racism and white cultural imperialism since it was settled by the British in 1788. Our history is littered with massacres of the indigenous people who, incidentally, were only recognised as people in the 1960s. Throughout most of the 1900s there was a formal ‘White Australia Policy’ that actively discriminated against people not from an Anglo-Celt background.

Nowadays, the white Australia still permeates the mindset in a number of ways. I was reminded of this when I read a series of tweets from Malaysian-Australian MasterChef winner and television personality Adam Liaw. Here is the main nib:

I’ve had my accent (do I have one?) mocked THOUSANDS of times. I’ve been told to go back to where I came from THOUSANDS of times.

I’ve been called a ‘gook’, ‘nip’, ‘ching-chong’ or any number of racist names THOUSANDS of times.

My beautiful, adorable kids will be called those names. I KNOW that because it’s happened to every single Asian person I know in Australia.

They’ll be physically abused for their race, too. I KNOW that because it’s happened to every single Asian person I know in Australia.

I cried a bit typing that, but that’s life.

The odds of me, or them, bringing legal action around it are next to nil. Amend 18C or don’t. I truly don’t feel strongly about it.

But don’t pretend it solves the problems we have in this country with race either way.

The racism I worry about isn’t getting abused on a bus while someone films it on their phone. Or running into “a racist” in a dark alley.

Most Australians aren’t racists. Neither are the kids who will one day tease my kids for their race. The racism I worry about is systemic.

It’s under-representation media, boardrooms, or the slightest inkling that kids with brown skin are less Australian than if they were white.

I’m lucky to do what I do. Maybe for it Asian-Australians of my kids’ generation won’t grow up thinking they need to be somebody’s sidekick.

I don’t mean to come across as preachy or anything, but thanks for listening. Happy #HarmonyDay!

I think that shows that, as much as we have made good progress, there are areas that race is still an issue in this country. And I find that sad, and sincerely hope that it improves as my little girl grows up.

It hits me personally, as I straddle racial lines. My Dad is from a Celtic background, and my Mum is a brown-skinned Guyanese with a mixed background that includes Spanish, native American Indian and African races. As a child, I was a little brown boy, and it wasn’t until I started taking medication for my terrible acne as a teenager that my skin lightened considerably.

Nonetheless, I still have a number of dark features, so much so that I often get mistaken for being at least partly Indonesian, Malaysian, Latino, Arabic, Jewish or Persian. Or, as I like to think of myself, ‘not quite white.’

And with those genes, I’ve managed to pass on some of my naturally darker skin colour to our little girl, even though she has inherited the blue eyes and lighter hair of her Aryan super-race mother.

So far, that has led to some funny situations, such as when the child health nurse gave my wife strong recommendations to keeping the baby out of the sun, only to undress her for weighing and exclaim, “Oh, she’s brown all over!”

Even in spite of that, I am aware that my default mindset is that of a white, middle-class male – with all the privilege that brings. It means, at some level, I exist within systems that can reinforce racist stereotypes.

But I sense that things are changing. While you could dismiss it as tokenistic, days like Harmony Day play a role in celebrating the diversity that is in Australia, which I am convinced makes it a much better place.

I hope that my little girl grows up firmly embracing all of her roots, which stretch around various parts of the world. I hope that as she grows up, she makes friends with other kids from a diverse range of backgrounds, and sees that we’re all equal, no matter what our skin colour or ethnic background, and celebrates that.

So, on this Harmony day, it’s a good day to consider how far we’ve come, how far we still have to go, but also to look forward to a brighter future ahead together.

Sliding Doors and Pictures of Egypt

“Do you miss Singapore?” someone asked me recently, and it’s made me do a bit of a ‘Sliding Doors’ exercise about what may have been if we hadn’t come back to Perth.

In April last year, my wife and I moved back to Perth after nearly four years of living in Singapore, just under two months before our baby was born. Those years were, in some ways the toughest ones for us, being away from family and friends who had become family, dealing with new cultures and, at times, being a little out of our depth. But they also grew us greatly.

For me, much of that growth was in a professional capacity. My job title changed over that time, and I got a major step up in pay. I went from largely working for small companies to working within a division of a global information and data conglomerate. I got better as a journalist, and was able to parlay my experience with working in an airline into that role. I felt like I was able to contribute a lot to the company, and was getting great recognition.

I was even fortunate enough that when I advised my employer that we would be moving back to Perth that they bent over backwards to allow me to continue to do the same work remotely. Practically, that meant that I still had a job with me when I touched down back in Perth, and that has allowed us to be able to buy a new house, and also taken any pressure off my wife going back to work.

Do I miss Singapore? Sure, I do miss some things.

I miss the church community that we became involved in for the last five months we were there, and the other friendships that we made there. I miss being in an office with my colleagues and the watercooler talk, as well as being able to contribute a lot more by just physically being there.

I also miss the weather – although the past week in Perth has been a good reminder. I got used to the humidity, but more than that love the wet season when it pours down for a couple of hours and then cools wonderfully. Perth’s dry summer and cold winter have made me miss the constancy of Singapore weather.

And, yes, I do miss the food. From where we lived, there were literally hundreds of places to eat out within walking distance. It’s hard to beat a char kway teow or satay by the beach at East Coast Park, washed down with an icy cold beer.

So, yeah, I guess I do miss Singapore. At the same time, with how life has changed since then, I’m also a little glad that I’m back in Perth.

I can’t imagine not having the support of our extended families who have helped us out in more ways than they understand. Sure, if we were in Singapore, we could hire a maid to help look after our little bub, but at the same time it’s not the same.

Financially, I’m not sure that would be feasible for us to have stayed in Singapore either. While my wife and I both earned good money and were doubly blessed with low taxation, if we were on just my income alone, it would be a struggle to pay the rent and all the other living expenses. We had a good amount of savings that would have been a cushion, but my wife would also have had to go back to work after only three months off.

The more I’ve thought about it, I just find it so hard to picture how life would be with the three of us now over there. Indeed, the Singapore chapter seems like that part of the pre-kid life that passed almost nine months ago. Amidst nappies, soft food and grizzly teeth, it seems like a bit of distant blur.

That little mind exercise made me think of how reminiscing can be a double-edged sword. No doubt, it is good to look back and see what we have learned, acknowledge the good things (or bad) and be thankful.

But at the same time, we can’t live there. Thinking of how things were doesn’t address the challenges that we face today, nor the future ahead – as bright or tough as that may be.

Quite a few years ago I heard the song ‘Painting pictures of Egypt’ by Sara Groves, which has these poignant lyrics:

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
Leaving out what it lacks
The future seems so hard, and I want to go back
But the places they used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I’ve learned
Those roads were closed off to me
While my back was turned

The lyrics reference the story of the Israelites leaving Egypt. After seeing God do massive things, they hit some hard times and a few people start grumbling that they want to return to the country that had oppressed them. At least we would get a meal there, they argued.

When the future looks scary, it’s easy and natural to seek the comfort of the past, even if that was terrible. It’s one of the reasons why people stay in abusive relationships, or dead-end jobs, or as the immature party boy/girl.

Or, as is tempting sometimes, to get stuck in how things were before a baby. When you’re ridiculously tired after a rough few nights, haven’t had a night out in a while, or any of the other changes that come with being a parent, it’s easy to look back at pre-baby life and wonder how to get back there.

But, amid the challenges of being a new parent, it’s important to remember that there is much more ahead than those challenges. I am so looking forward to seeing how our little girl grows up and being involved in her life. So much so that it is hard to imagine life without her now.

Sliding doors exercises are amusing, but at the same time, I am so glad with the path that we are now on, and the future ahead for our small family.

Like growing teeth

Having your teeth pulled is unpleasant, but I’m finding out that a teething infant is even more unpleasant for everyone else around.

OK, that may be putting it too strongly – but seriously, who took my pleasant little girl and replaced her with a fussy, clingy and totally out of whack clone of her?

Our little bubba cut through her bottom two teeth about a month ago. That saw her have a couple of days where she was irritable, not sleeping as usual, and a bit more clingy than normal. A couple of doses of Nurofen later, the teeth poked through and order was restored to the world.

This time however it is taking much longer. We’re into our second week of her little life being ruled by the pain of her top teeth making their way south. And this time, the teeth are taking longer and seem to be having a lot more of an impact.

That has meant that I have been demoted from being an equal favourite parent to a mere commoner. She gets more irritable when I hold her,  and overall has become a lot more attached to her mum. She’s also not going down as easy as she was for her naps, which makes her over-tired – and god help the parent of an over-tired child!

The most annoying part for us is that her previously great sleep record is now in the past, with the little girl waking up a few times a night, which combined with the earlier sunrises of summer here, are robbing us of sleep.

And, yes, I do hear many readers rejoicing at the comeuppance that we are receiving.

But, as with many painful events in life, this is just normal.

The good news is, if the first set of teeth was anything to go by, she should be back to normal once they have punched through. Which hopefully will be soon.

As I’m learning from the parenting gig, sometimes you just have to ride it out, so we’ll do our best with that.