To mark Father's Day, former Campbell Live staffer and freelance journalist Ali Ikram muses on modern fatherhood.
When the mighty fall from grace or simply jump before they are pushed, one line in the accompanying press release massages the discomfort away. A smirk would always cross my lips on reading that an outgoing politician or CEO was leaving to "spend more time with their family". No one, on accepting a high-powered job, ever states they are doing so to "spend less time with their family".
I smirked and held the smirk, right up until it happened to me.
"What are you going to do next?" the journalist on the phone asked as I negotiated the first dwindling afternoon post-fulltime employment. "Well, I'm going to write, plan my next move and spend more time with the kids."
There it was, not just a horrible cliche that I ejected from my mouth like the stone of a bitter olive, but also an outright lie.
For the majority of their lives, a combination of shift work and flexible hours has allowed me to be a constant presence in the lives of my children. Since they were born I have earnestly attempted to fashion myself into the epitome of the modern father: attending ballet classes, Brownie camps, changing nappies, learning what Minecraft is and twice riding the Spongebob Square Pants slide on the Gold Coast beyond the limits of human endurance.
On the psychiatrist's couch in 20 years' time, they will not wail, "Dad wasn't there for me," but instead, "I wish he would have bloody left us alone for five seconds."
The joy of parenting at close quarters is having the world made new as your children walk along explaining it once more as they go.
The first time this happened to me, my elder son was 2 and I had been out late at a friend's wedding. Laith was soberly playing with his train set and asked where we were the previous night. "Out watching Sam and Alice get married. Do you think you will get married one day?"
"No, I think I'll get a horse instead," he replied without hesitation.
The irresistible image of a boy forgoing matrimony to instead gallop across the landscape on a trusty steed inspired me to keep a record of the wisdom of my three children, Laith, now 9, Farah, 7 and Tahir, almost 4, on all the big topics: war, religion and Angry Birds, the best of which is presented here.
The wisdom of Ali Ikram's children
Laith (on seeing the lit-up windows of Calendar Girls):
"What is that?"
"I'll tell you when you are older."
"I can't believe you won't tell me."
"Okay. It's where men go to look at boobs."
"That's disgusting! Why would anyone want to do that?"
"It's easy to be mean. It's hard to be nice."
"Being little is good. Being grown up is boring."
"Some people grow up and they're taller but they're still kids."
Tahir (aged 3, after being splashed by a boy at the pools):
"I want to kill that punk, do you have a sword?"
"The world is a ball so no matter which direction you head, if you go far enough you will end up in the same place."
"Well, that's pretty useless."
"Dad, can you help me look after my babies when I have them?"
"How old are you going to be when you have them?"
"You're not a man till you've gone on the waterslide at Mt Albert."
"If we move out of this house then the people in the house we are buying will have to find another one and the people in that one will also have to move. It's a circle of life."
"Guess who I spoke to last night."
"Farah, aren't you impressed?"
"No, can you shut up and stop talking about it."
Me (after spending $300 to get us both to a Katy Perry concert):
"Can I have a chip?"
"Who won the Olympics?"
"The USA got the most medals."
"That's not fair. They have more people than us."
"Who do you think will win the race to be US President?"
Farah (pointing at Obama):
"Him, he looks like a faster runner."
"Dad, do you know about the Beatles? One got cancer and another got shot."
"The Beatles isn't a good name. Super Cat is a good name."
"George Harrison died of cancer and a man called Mark Chapman shot John Lennon because he was mad and thought he was a phoney."
"It's not okay to shoot people even if they are phonies."
On another occasion Laith and I were doing an online quiz. One of the multiple choice questions featured a picture of John Lennon and asked where he died. "New York," Laith said. "He looks like the sort of person who would die in New York."
New Zealand politics
"I support National."
"Why is that?"
"I don't know who they are. It's just something I say."
"I don't like Labour. They only care about rich people, not poor people."
Farah (on Dirty Politics):
"Why do people write books about famous people saying they are naughty?"
"Do you not think John Key could be naughty?"
"No, he gets a bit shouty sometimes. But the people who wrote the book are the naughty ones."
"Why do the
need a catapult? They are birds. They can fly."
(from the same company that brought the world
) is just trying to make money. What's next -
"What are you reading?"
"Oh, I don't like those letters. I like L and S."
"Ages ago we were fish. Then we became monkeys."
"Brush your teeth. It doesn't smell too good."
"Why? Everyone in this family stinks anyway."
Laith (to his grandfather):
"When \you die I will make sure you have a nice funeral and get put in a nice box."
Laith (after first martial arts lesson):
"Can I have my black belt now?"
"Mum's mad with us."
"No she's acting like that because she's frustrated."
"No, she's doing it because she's Italian."