Songs I Sing to my Son

This is something of a follow up to my earlier post on the same subject.

Babies love to hear singing. Even if the singing is not that good. They love music too – we have a CD player in Pip’s room which is usually playing something decent. Currently it’s playing Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” album. Jazz from that era is great if a baby is trying to sleep. Hopefully all the music I play him will give him some musical taste, but I’ve also caught D playing him Kylie!

I’ve printed out lyrics for some of my favourite songs, picking those which have lots of words and a pleasant enough tune. My taste tends toward industrial music, dubstep, underground industrial hip-hop, rivethead and indeed 80’s American punk. Which makes finding songs to sing to Pip a challenge. It’s not so easy to sing Ministry songs for example, they have few words, they’re always weird and distorted, and Alien Jourgensen (yes that’s really his name) has a voice like a band saw. And… he tends to sing a lot about his heroin habit!

Choosing a song is complicated. As well as lots of words, it’s got to have some kind of tune that I can at least attempt to sing. The song “Pets” by Porno for Pyro sounded like fun, but when I went looking at the lyrics, there’s not really that many of them. Contrast that with “Grand Ol’ Party Crash” by Cage, which has a lot of lyrics delivered at a frenetic pace. Tried to sing that one, ran out of breath.

Thankfully Pip is too young to understand the content of the songs I sing him. I have found some which are to both our likings, such as “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Aeroplane, “Tomorrow Wendy” by Andy Prieboy and “Restin’ Bones” by Primus. Although… you notice all of these tracks are about drugs or death or both! I’ll have to learn some new stuff before he’s too old.

Now for an embarrassing confession. The only song I sing him that I know all the words to is… “Smoke On The Water” by Deep Purple. I learned the whole song after I heard the story behind the track. Short version: the band was in Montreux in Switzerland, on the shore of lake Geneva, to record an album. During a Frank Zappa concert a fan set the main venue in the town, the casino, on fire – hence “smoke on the water”. This was also where they were trying to record their album, so they had to find another place to record. I’ve been to Montreux, so for some reason this song stuck!

It’s the best thing in the whole world when I can sing him to sleep. He has to be on his way there already, but still in need of some help to fall asleep. The other night I sang him to sleep in my arms, he had a cute half smile on his face, which made me feel like I was really succeeding at this daddy thing.

Here then are some of the songs I sing to him now:

(Yay an Australian track.)

(Yay another Australian track.)

Looking Forward to Winter

Winter Is Coming

Winter Is Coming

It’s approaching winter here (Melbourne, Australia) and for a change I’m looking forward to it. I’m half Dutch, and the rest is Scandinavian, Irish and goodness knows what else. European, basically, which means I really should be north of the Arctic circle herding reindeer or farming tulips in a bog somewhere in the Netherlands – and not sunning myself in the antipodes!

But winter can be grim here. Less so than it used to be, I remember it being a lot colder with a lot more ice back when I was a kid in the 70’s. It’s never snowed at this level, and it very very rarely gets below zero degrees Celsius. But it does get cold.

This year, however, I’m looking forward to breaking out my collection of warm clothes. My (very worn) long black coat, my ancient leather jacket, gloves, scarves etc. And dressing entirely in black like the born-and-bred Melbournian I am. When it’s hot there’s really not a lot you can do to stay cool, whereas the cold can be dealt with with many an extra layer of clothing. I hate the heat, so the second option is somewhat better.

But also this year I have a new and excellent reason to be at home in my warm house of an evening – a little baby called Pip! Now I have an excellent excuse to curl up on the floor in front of the heater. Now I don’t mind that it’s cold at night and it gets dark early, I can play on the rug till my little man falls asleep. Getting home from work is going to be quite different, even if the rain is pouring down. So here I am, looking forward to winter, maybe stomping in the front door with rain dripping from my coat or indeed my cycling gear, to greet my partner and my baby and get some warm cuddling going on.

My main job as a Daddy: Preserving Mummy’s Sanity

I have one important job as a new daddy, and that is making sure my partner retains her sanity!

The best way to do this, I’ve found, is to make sure she gets sleep. Her level of sanity is directly proportional to the amount of sleep she gets. Which is why I’m sitting up now watching Pip sleep while she gets at least a few hours before he gets hungry again.

D might also argue that preserving her sanity is a bit hard because of existing, underling insanity. Which predates this whole pregnancy and baby thing.

I’m back at work, which means I’m often spending my evenings minding Pip while D sleeps. This has the added advantage for me of providing lots of time for baby cuddles. Baby cuddles are the best thing in the whole world.

Quiet lately

Hey, it’s been a few days since my last post. Hasn’t been helped by the heatwave this city is experiencing. Sitting in front of a computer, or under a hot laptop, is not the best fun at the moment.

And… I started this blog thinking I could write down all my revelations about parenting, my insights into being a daddy and the like. The trouble is… I haven’t had any. As I’ve mentioned before, everything has been going very smoothly, and almost exactly as expected.

There must be revelations to be had for those who are first time parents, that I might reveal here. But there really can’t be many adults who haven’t been around children or people with children, long enough to glean some insight into what it’s all about. I myself baby-sat and changed many a nappy well before I became a dad. My little brother is fourteen years younger than me, so I was fiddling with safety pins and playing with Duplo when I was a teenager.

So the routine of changing nappies, burping a baby, giving him baths and so on, is just a routine. There are millions, nay, billions of parents out there who are doing these things every day. It’s not likely that there are many insights left to be had. It’s not like it’s any big secret. I have amused some of my childless friends with stories of epic shits and wee fountains, but these stories are entirely wasted on other parents. They’ve been there and done that and can usually top any gross story with an even grosser one.

I’m tired a great deal, although less so than D. Again, more or less as expected. I find I have less spare time than I used to – which isn’t helping me blog – but again this is also not a surprise. The house is often a mess, and we do lots of washing. We’ve had an endless stream of visitors. So far, so normal.

And I adore my son. Everybody who’s ever had a kid will tell you that, though, everybody who has a child knows the special intensity that comes from that kind of relationship. Stronger than you can imagine. Well, actually no, I pretty much expected to feel this way when D got pregnant, in fact I started to feel this way well before Pip was born.

Which leaves me with not a lot of material. A switch has been flipped in my life, from not being a daddy to being a daddy. And every parent on earth will already know what that feels like. I can’t even evangelise about it, the way some parents do. You want to have kids or you don’t, it’s your choice and I ain’t going to try and sway you one way or the other. Unlike, say, I might about politics. I’m liking being a parent, but I can see how some people might shy away from it their whole lives. Whatever, more pooey nappies for me.

So I will blog when the mood takes me, and when that mood coincides with actually having the time to do so.

Pip’s First Bottle

Pip is a lucky baby – his mother produces lots of milk, so he has been exclusively breastfed since he was born. In fact, D produces so much milk she frequently expresses. 100 mil in 10 minutes is not unusual.

We decided, as part of our ongoing efforts to preserve D’s sleep, that I should feed him breast milk from a bottle, say, late at night. First, we thought we’d do a test run. Which went fine, I got the milk to a good temperature, Pip took to it heartily… And D stood over us both with an expression on her face that said “what are you doing with my baby!”

She had a seriously intense reaction. On a rational level she could see that it was working fine and Pip was feeding well, but on an intense maternal level she felt that her role was being usurped. Feeding the baby is this mummy’s job!

D calmed down eventually, but I’ve only fed Pip once since then… Which didn’t really work because he was sound asleep and couldn’t be roused. Which, you know, is a good thing in a baby…

Songs to sing to my kid

Apparently kids like being sung to. We’ll see how long Pip puts up with that when he realizes I can’t hold a tone and always sing out of key! Thankfully, the songs I know don’t require much by way of tunefulness.

But, at the same time, not entirely sure that my favourite songs – the one’s I actually know the words for – are going to work for him. Some examples…

“Wake” by the delightfully titled Godflesh.

“Just One Fix” by Ministry.

“Grand ole Party Crash” by Cage, featuring Jello Biafra. “I wake up to a caffeine cigarette vaccine and bathe in water I wouldn’t drink before gasoline. Feel like a loser because I’m not in Fallujah…”

“(He’ll never be an) Ol’ Man River” – TISM.
Damn it, now I want to go to a TISM gig. Which would be hard since they’ve broken up and their lead guitarist is dead…

You get the idea. I’m sure I can sing these songs to him, so long as no-one overhears me, and until he starts wondering what “I’m on the drug that killed River Phoenix” means! Or I suppose I could learn a nursery rhyme or two. Sigh.

*Flails arms in the air* “I’m on the druuuuuuuug! I’m on the druuuuuuuug!”

Misunderstanding the term “Helicopter Parenting”

I only heard the term “Helicopter Parenting” recently. More of the things one learns when about to be a daddy.

And I completely missed the point. Maybe it’s because I’m into aircraft that I didn’t think of a helicopter as something that was constantly hovering, but a craft that would drop in briefly out of the sky, then flutter off somewhere else, drop back in again etc. etc. But no, apparently a helicopter parent is one who is always hovering over their kids. A real helicopter wouldn’t do that – they’d run out of fuel or the pilot would get bored!

Not sure what kind of parent I’m going to be (aside from an awesome one, obviously). Given that I don’t jump and flail when Pip cries, I’m going to be more of a… hovercraft, floating smoothly above it all…

So far everything has been incredibly…. Normal…

Pip is 17 days old today. And so far, everything has been… exactly as I expected.

I’m no stranger to babies and infants. I’m a member of not one but two enormous extended families. My mother was one of six, my father one of four. I have about thirty two cousins, many of whom are old enough to be reproducing themselves. My “little” brother (now 27 and 6 foot 6) is 14 years younger than me, so I was changing his nappies and helping raise him when I was a teenager. And I have a three year old niece. Lets just say I’ve been around a lot of babies and kids!

So little Pip has so far presented no surprises. I helped him be squeezed out early one morning after an incredibly normal 38 week and two day pregnancy. The labour was incredibly normal, requiring no intervention and no pain relief. And life since has been exactly as expected. Pip feeds every two to four hours, is asleep for most of the rest of the time, except for maybe two fifteen minute periods awake a day when he’s not actively hungry. He poos his nappy about six times a day. He drank too much and got a bit colicky, and has managed to pee in his own face about four times. The perils of owning a penis!

Like I said, all incredibly normal. They tested his hearing in the hospital – it was normal. He lost some weight after birth, also normal, then started putting it back on hand over fist, which is, you guessed it, normal.

We’re both tired, in the last couple of weeks the longest uninterrupted block of sleep D has gotten was three and half hours. I’ve been tending to stay up late just watching him so she can sleep. But again, this is more or less exactly as I expected. Even the occasional poo accident, such as today where his nappy leaked all over D’s belly, was on the agenda months ago.

We had his two week checkup yesterday. There’s a simple list of things he’s supposed to have “achieved” by now such grasping fingers, look at sources of light, all of which he’s doing. If this keeps up I’ll have nothing to blog about!

Going Gently into That Good Parenthood

Do not go gentle into that good night – Dylan Thomas

So, that poem is a bit more morbid than this entry deserves, it is after all about death. But I just love that line so much.

I’m probably an older dad. I say probably because at the birth classes we went to in December, there were a lot of cracking knees when we had to get off the floor after one exercise. I’m 41 and Pip is my first child. My father was 26 when I was born, and my mother 31 – which was quite old for a first child back in 1971. In fact, my father was this age when his third child was born.

But there’s something to be said for being an older dad. Being a parent involves a lot of sitting around at home, looking after a kid and one’s partner. Which is, you know, kinda similar to what I was doing before Pip came along. My days of going out late drinking or spending evenings in disreputable bars listening to live music were already over before I had a kid. And I don’t mind, I’ve done a lot of stuff in the twenty three or so years I’ve been an adult.

Some examples. In February 1997, I saw Something for Kate’s 4th ever gig. In late 1990, early 1991 I spent three weeks at a party in Hobart (of all places). I’ve traveled around the world – literally – MEL-SYD-LAX then Washington, NY, London, Paris, Berlin, Prague, Lausanne Switzerland, Phnom Penh. I’ve seen the inside of the United Nations building, including the security council chamber. I’ve barbecued snake at a restaurant in Siem Reap, ridden the NY subways, stood outside the White House. I’ve been to concerts by Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Iggy Pop, Kraftwerk, Ben Harper, Primus, The Melvin’s, Public Enemy (6 times over 20 years), Bob Dylan, Devo, and hosts of other bands like TISM, Blood Duster, The Beasts of Bourbon, Regurgitator, and Pre_Shrunk. I’ve seen the stage at the old Punters Club set on fire by some fire-breathing gone wrong. I once carried a small Japanese singer on my shoulders at a gig at the Tote.

I’ve acquired a huge collection of music and books, I’ve been in eight or so major relationships, I’ve lived in five share houses over 13 years, I’ve hosted many a party and been to probably hundreds more. I’ve made (and lost) more friends than I can keep track of, and had what must be thousands of conversations over the years. I’ve had my own radio show on a student-run radio station, I ran a small group of direct-action activists for a period, met the artist Vali Myers, been interviewed on the radio by Red Symons, got married in front of a cardboard TARDIS, ridden a bike through the Burnley Tunnel and… Well, you get the idea, I’ve done stuff.

And I suspect if I tried to relive any of this stuff, I’d be disappointed. I suspect that if I dragged myself to one of my old favourite music haunts, I’d probably find the bands reminiscent of something I’d heard years before.

So, now, I’m pretty content to be at home with my new and interesting hobby – staring at a small baby.

Some days I do think of things I haven’t done and would like to. The band Einstürzende Neubauten, whom I have been listening to since about 1991, are doing a very rare Australian tour. They’ll be in my town in a few weeks. I’ve never seen them play live, but this early in Pip’s life, I can’t spare the time. More importantly, I can’t leave D here alone for a whole night just to go to a gig. And…. I suspect I’d be disappointed. The band has changed a lot over the years, and what I really want is to see them playing under a highway underpass in 1982. So if anyone has a time machine…. I will probably still get a tattoo of their logo.

Yes, I will accept your offer of Sleep

Here’s a useful rule of thumb: when the baby sleeps, you sleep! So what am I doing up blogging? Hmmm…

Here’s another useful rule of thumb: if you find a flat comfortable surface, make use of it. Case in point: we popped into the hospital on Monday night to get Pip’s jaundice looked at. There was an (adult) examination bed there in the room they popped us into. So without hesitation I lay myself down on it and took a rest! Pip was asleep in his car seat, and D was comfortable in a chair. Medical types wandered in and out, they’ve seen tired daddy’s before and didn’t bat an eyelid. I answered questions as required from the bed.

BTW, Pip’s jaundice turned out to be “perfectly normal” and we just had to keep feeding him and get him some indirect sunlight.