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A broken BOAT! A broken BOAAAAT!

“Broken boat! A BROKEN BOAAAAT!”

That was the mantra that little YY exclaimed every five seconds as we watched… Titanic. That’s right, the somewhat sappy but very much a masterpiece of 1990s cinema, our generation’s answer to Gone With The Wind, and the direct cause of Canadian director James Cameron’s cringing “I’M THE KING OF THE WORLD!” proclamation when his movie won its 11th Oscar of the night – the most Oscars for a movie since, I think, Ben Hur…

But those are but trifling matters. It was interesting watching our little boy watch Titanic for the first time – as any parent will tell you, kids can be very impressionable especially with stuff they see on TV. Normally we are careful about what we watch with him – no violence, no swears (well, I do admit to a few Louis CK binges during the daytime but I’m not sure if much of the language actually gets into YY’s head), and particularly nothing scary or disturbing.

Titanic to us is quite honestly just an old classic that warrants re-watching from time to time, if for nothing more than the spectacular visual effects that are still impressive even today. The way the boat – sorry, the majestic ocean liner – sinks is just unreal. The iceberg hits the boat just a little more than halfway through this three-hour epic, which means the sinking scene takes up most of the second half of this movie.

So, that’s a long time sinking. And there are numerous jarring moments throughout all that, with a babyfaced Leonardo DiCaprio and a young, cute Kate Winslet running hand in hand through all the water splashing around them… but the absolute highlight of the film has to be when the boat actually sinks.

First, it’ll kowtow over so that the back end of the ship lifts up into the air, its nose disappearing into the ocean depths. And of course, the weight of the back end is such that the bloody boat cracks in half in a scene that will make the hairs on your neck stand on end.

And yes, it quite clearly affected little YY – who up to that point was just farting around playing with his Thomas the Tank Engine toys and babbling happily – and now he’s suddenly sitting there with us watching, his mouth wide open, screaming: “Broken boat! A BROKEN BOAAAT! A BROOOOOKENNNNN BOAAAAAAAT!” at the height of his impressive voice.

And X turns to me and wonders aloud: “Do you think he should be watching this?” just as the bodies fall from the Titanic’s suddenly fractured body into the frigid waters.

“I dunno,” came my reply. Honestly, I had no idea. I’ve heard horror stories about kids happily having baths, and then one day, just because they saw something somewhere or on TV, they’re all freaked out about the water and it’ll take a massive battle just to get them into the bathtub once again.

After all, just a week ago, we went through about a week’s worth of the most frustrating, hand-wringing, exhausting parenting we’ve had the displeasure to experience – little YY throwing tantrums every 10 minutes, crying like you wouldn’t believe, and just about flipping out over the littlest things. And it would take such a valiant battle on my end just to change his diapers, change his clothes, get him into the tub, get him out of the tub, and so on. We’d heard about the terrible twos and the terrible threes, but holy smokes, we didn’t think it would be this bad.

So, we’re still a tad traumatized from that experience. So anything that could happen makes us wonder and probably overthink things. So, is little YY traumatized by watching such a massive ocean liner crack in half and sink into the ocean’s murky depths?

The way he watched it, the way he screamed, the way he was so actively and emotionally involved, told us: yes, he’s traumatized.

I mean, screaming “A BROKEN BOAAAAAT!” 20-30 times in succession? Yeah, we’re torturing that poor kid.

But the bath afterwards was no biggie. Nor was sleep – although he did have a somewhat fitful sleep. Perhaps that’s what it was – he was a little overstimulated from the movie, but no more fitful than he is during some of his more fitful nights.

Later, I talked with X about it and asked her opinion. She offered this possibility – the way we act and react as parents has a much stronger impact than anything YY will ever see out there. And since we were clearly chuckling, smiling, watching, and overall relaxed about the situation, perhaps little YY learned to be relaxed about it too. If we had been freaking out, or if we freaked out in trying to keep little YY from watching, perhaps the effect would have been more adverse.

But as it happens – a broken boat? Pah, it’s just a movie. An expensive movie, the second-top grossing movie of all time, but still, a bloody movie about a broken boat. Little YY has moved on, and there’s no PTSD to be seen here.

Thank goodness.

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The great outdoors

The last few months – five or six months, even – have been horrid in New England. I don’t think anyone can tell you they’ve been through a worse winter than this past one, with freezing temperatures, cloudy skies and blustery conditions the norm every day for weeks on end.

Still, people do go off to work, even if they grumble about it a bit. They still get in their cars, they still march off to the transit stop, and some hardy ones still get on their bikes and pedal against the icy winds.

But as a stay-at-home dad, it has been a pretty rough ride. With a two-year-old in tow – well, 2.5 years old now, but same difference – it’s a little harder to go out. As any parent will tell you, a young child’s skin is more sensitive to the elements than adult skin is. That’s why they always tell you to put a hat on your young’un when you go to the beach – they get sunburn far more easily than you will, and moreover, the consequences of getting sunburned at a young age can be long and far reaching.

The flip side goes for cold conditions too. The rule of thumb is to dress your kid as you’d dress yourself for the elements, but add one more layer. That way you can be assured they’ll be comfortable. But that doesn’t change the fact that their face is bitterly exposed, and frostbite is a very real possibility.

So what do we do? We stay inside. Sans car, because X takes the car to work every day. We stay inside, and develop the worst case of cabin fever, and drive each other mad.

It did happen to me. I could hear the frayed ends of sanity calling me, to quote the good people of Metallica. It was a tough ordeal, and it’s hard to come up with any creative endeavours if you’re in the house all day long.

I did come up with a few clever things though:

1) Make a house out of the beanbags we have in the living room. Little YY never gets tired of that.
2) Take some large paper and draw train tracks on it, and build tunnels out of cardboard cereal boxes and tape them down. Presto, your very own homemade train track! And YY loved this too, especially with his little Thomas the Tank Engine trains.
3) TV.
4) Read books.
5) TV.
6) TV.
7) TV.

Yes, that’s pretty much it. In the beginning, I get clever, I have fun, I enjoy doing stuff with the little guy. But after some time, when he’s bored of everything I’ve come up with, then we resort to the surrogate babysitter, the idiot box, the boob tube, whatever you call it. Our Netflix subscription page is now covered in recommendations of Super Why, Scooby Doo, and all kinds of little cartoons.

But now, it’s April. The weather’s getting much, much better. We are going outside a lot more. Interestingly, I find it so much easier to look after little YY when we’re outside. He’s more occupied with discovery, with exploration, with doing stuff on his own. It’s also a great pleasure to see him wide-eyed with wonder, big, smacking grin on his face, and exclaiming and running around like a banshee, and making the most of his time out there. It’s fun to be outside.

And he really does follow after his parents, being an outdoorsy type of person. As we head into spring and summer, going camping, going on hikes and bike rides, going to the beach, going to parks with lakes filled full of ducks and geese, squirrels, birds, and all kinds of neat little animals, I’m really looking forward to doing all that with the boy.

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The end of early-morning shut-eye

About 20 years ago, when I was attempting to start a new business – in air-duct cleaning and sanitation… yes, air duct cleaning and sanitation – I was conversing with an employee about the perks and pitfalls of getting up early in the morning. At that time, I was a precocious, spoiled 22-year-old with long hair and I wasn’t terribly disciplined. In fact, that year, I was taking time off from university because I just couldn’t – or more accurately, couldn’t be arsed to – keep my grades up. Was spending to much time partying and socializing.

So I took a year off, but my habits remained ingrained: I liked to sleep in a little bit every morning, and this job involved me getting up at 7:30 – 8 every morning. For me, at the time, that was a horrific concept. The employee made it clear to me that many, many people in the so-called real world get up ridiculously early to get started on the day, and my response was probably something equally ridiculous like: “Why would anyone want to get up that early? It’s a free world, and I’m not gonna conform to it!”

Well, then. It’s some 20 years later, and I’m a proud poppa to little two-year-old YY. As any parent will tell you, kids like to get up early. It’s strange, really, because you’d expect them to want to sleep in all the time since they can do whatever the heck they want until they turn 20 or so.

Maybe it’s because they usually hit the sack around 8-8:30 and they’ve already put in their quota of sleep hours that night.

Maybe it’s because the old human instincts to rise with the sun haven’t yet been erased.

But really, maybe it’s because the world is so gosh-darned exciting for a two-year-old that they can’t wait to get up and experience every single minute of it.

Wow – that must have been quite awesome. Imagine being so excited about the world that every morning is a Christmas morning and you just wanna get up, wake your parents up and get started on the day, every single morning?

And at six in the morning, too!

Wait a sec – did you say six in the morning?

Yup, six in the morning. The last few days, that’s what time little YY has been getting up. Even at this age I’m still particular to snoozing until a somewhat decent hour – such as six-thirty or seven. But six?

This morning, he woke up at 5:50 a.m. Phew. It was so early, I could barely pull my eyelids open to see what time it was.

I remember staying at people’s houses where they had kids, and I’d come downstairs bleary eyed at, say, 8 in the morning, for breakfast, and well, it seems that everyone’s already up and about. “Where are the kids?” I’d ask. “Oh, they’re already at school,” comes the response. Whoa, really? The day’s already a couple hours ago by the time I even get started on my own day?

Well, it’s actually become quite normal now to live like this. I come downstairs with little YY in tow, and kiss X good morning, and look at the clock. 6:25 in the morning, or something to that effect. I’m now one of those parents. I’m up at the crack of dawn. Now, really, I actually don’t mind it that much. It’s become normal. The new normal.

But still, I wouldn’t mind some shuteye until 8 on weekends. It still does happen. But gone are the days of sleeping til noon. Do I miss those days? Not really. It’s nice to have such long days, and to see the beautiful morning sun, to smell the crisp air, and all that. Thanks YY, for yet another eye-opening experience.