Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

Archive for the tag “Manners”

Instant offspring

From the last blog:

The other night, I had a dream that my brother was only a child say about ten years old. He had a red parka on with the hood up and I couldnt see his face. He was autistic. He was playing in the playground and fell over. I ran over to help him up and to hug him better and he pushed me away because he didnt like being touched. It broke my heart. I woke up sobbing and it took me a good five minutes before I could wake up enough to realise it was a dream, calm down and go back to sleep. Im not sure what Shereen thought. She was very sympathetic. When we were talking about it the next morning, I said that if we found out she was pregnant any time soon Id be highly nervous following that dream.

And so the dice is thrown again, and another reality is realised in blog form. This is how the blog could have gone.

stork

I was sure that there was more to having a child than this…

I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to tell you that Finding Damo is, in part, about my finding out that I have a son. It is the first chapter of the book. The mental challenge has been: how would I react to having a son? How would he react to me being his dad? And what are you meant to do with a teenager when one is dropped on your doorstep?

The dream made me think through this in a lot more detail. How much luckier am I, who has perfectly happy son, who is a stranger to me, than the woman with the autistic child, who is an alien to her? She loves her son with all of her heart, but can’t get inside his head or in many cases understand his motivation.

But how would Damo react to the first fight? What would the major power struggles be? How has he been disciplined by his mother before Damo was on the scene?

I have to believe that being a teacher would give me a bit of an advantage over someone who has never dealt with students before. The “dealing” with teenagers is what I get paid to do. But apparently there’s more to it than that. All of a sudden you are not just responsible for his grades and schoolyard behaviour, but you have to take responsibility for his every action. Some of it I could blame on his mother – her genes and her rearing. But for the most part, all of a sudden, when a teacher complains about his behaviour in class, it’s my fault, at least in part. And I’ve felt it – even with students in my homeroom. I know what they’re made up of. They are so much better than how people see them. And I want to protect them. God knows, if that’s how I respond to students who aren’t genetically related to me, it’s going to be worse for my own son.

On the bright side, now I’d have someone to join in on the destruction of the evil forces of the Horde. Someone to train in the ways of Red Dwarf fandom. I’d have him do drills of Coupling quotes… That brings up another issue.

A student comes up to me and said “hey. I finished GTA IV last night. That last scene was an absolute killer. Blood everywhere!” And I responded: “Are you kidding me? You’re in Year 7!” I’m incredibly strict with anyone I have responsibility for. And totally lax with anybody else. My aim as a child-rearer is to create someone as self-aware and together as I am. Hey, don’t laugh. I wasn’t allowed to watch M-rated movies until I was 15 and it didn’t hurt me. I did, of course, go to my friends’ places for access to anything more adult – Predator and The Toxic Avenger come to mind, not to mention the videos I won’t mention (incredibly educational). More on this in a sec.

Sidebar for teachers: have you ever (and you know you have, don’t deny it) sat in Parent-teacher interviews and seen an attractive parent and thought “hmmm”? And then seen whose parent it is and put all those thoughts out of your mind. Luckily, I found the mother with the most gorgeous child imaginable. And not during parent/teacher interviews…

I try not to talk about my current family too much on Finding Damo. This blog is about a man that I used to be, that never was, but could have been. The person I am now shouldn’t enter into it. That’s spoilers! But in this situation, my current family is relevant.

My two stipulations for dating, two-and-a-half years ago, were:

  1. Must love cats.
  2. No children.

Now, I am married to my lovely wife, who doesn’t like cats and has a seven-year-old daughter. Which means I now have a seven-year-old step-daughter. Voila! Instant parent. And it’s all been very easy. Too easy, he says, eyeing the forest uneasily. I love my wife. I love my step-daughter. They both love me. Shereen’s favourite story is of the time Young Miss O said to her “I love you so much! I love you as much as Damian!”

O’s other major comment on me is “He’s strict. He’s teaching me manners!”

I’m really not. I’m teaching her my manners. The rules of conduct that I was raised with, and that served me well in polite society. I will admit here (and try and dissuade Shereen from reading it) that it might not be the only way of interacting with society. But it worked for me and, like a basic knowledge of Christianity (and Buddhism, and Islam, and SCIENCE!), at least knowing the rules is an invaluable part of getting on with the people she’ll be dealing with. Most of them, anyway.

How is this relevant? Young Miss O has been like research. How would I respond to this situation? Well, that was enlightening? What would she do if I did this? Oh. Well, there you go! Scribble it all down in the little note book and get back to the book.

As for the book, I’m going to start posting a word count at the start of each blog, from next blog onwards. It’s time I start progressing again and get this one finished. I have a clear understanding of everything I want to happen, I have an incredibly detailed plan. I have a multitude of interesting characters, with most of the names changed to protect the guilty, and all I have to do is get it all down on paper. So here we go.

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Excuse me?

yawn

yawn

I honestly don’t know how to beat last week’s blog. Thanks to everyone who commented. I’m glad it had such an effect. However, in the interests of continuity, I’m going to pretend it was a season of Dallas: “Wow. That was an incredibly vivid dream! Everyone loved my blog. Oh Gods, I’m late for work!”
The PTB (Powers That Be, not Psycho Teddy Bear) beamed an incredibly vivid dream into my head last night. Completely different from anything I’ve dreamt in years. In it, I was in a massive house and. . . did you just yawn? I can’t believe you just yawned! That’s incredibly rude!

Is it? Apparently. I was at a student radio session this morning and the local radio guy was making comments on how the boys had performed during the show. He kept picking up on the fact that one of the boys was yawning. “You shouldn’t yawn in public. If you have to yawn, cover your mouth. It’s extremely bad manners!” I don’t know. Yes, it’s bad manners, but is it extreme? And should there be some allowance made for the fact that it’s only eight in the morning and we’ve all been up since five? But why am I defending the lad? Manners have gone completely out the window since my day!

Gods I feel old.

Call it Manners Evolution. What was completely inappropriate when I was a teenager is now commonplace. And it might be family based, or region based, but I’m surprised at some of the behaviours students and strangers don’t consider to be even mildly rude. For example, mealtimes were always sacred. You wouldn’t answer the phone at dinner time, and the world didn’t end. This was before mobile phones (cell phones for the weirdo foreigners – sorry, was that rude?) but the concept remains the same. Unless you’re an on-call professional or worried parent, there is no reason to answer a phone during a meal. Don’t even get me started on people who have the phone on the table throughout the entire meal, or those who hold text conversations during dinner!

Aside from dinner, mobile phones in themselves are a curse of modern society and something we just have to get used to. I personally love listening to other people talk loudly about their medical conditions and secret affairs on the number 55 tram into the city. Gives me something to write about. So by all means, keep it up. If I attempt to strangle you with my headphone cord, it just means you’re either a) boring, or b) severely limiting my ability to concentrate on the book I’m reading.

My fiancé’s bugbear is road rage. Vans and urban 4WD lunatics in particular. I love watching tiny angry people in massive vehicles taking out their frustration on other drivers by tailgating – nay, LOOMING OVER – their victims. It’s like BattleTech. Inside the “safety” of their giant robots they feel invincible. If I can’t see the wheels of the driver behind me, I slow down until they either get the message or get out from behind me. I’M TAKING BACK THE ROAD PEOPLE!

I actually enjoyed a column by Andrew Bolt where he talked about manners and basic common sense. Of course, he was leading up to the fact that if you are a teacher, you really shouldn’t make porn videos with ex-students and allow them to be leaked online. By “allow” I mean “don’t put a password on your phone so that anyone can steal it and copy the files onto their own drives”. But his initial comment was that we now need signs in the toilets of businesses telling us not only to wash our hands after going to the toilet, but how. He goes on to say that once upon a time, it was a sackable offence for a teacher to be caught gambling. I’m not sure what you have to do to get sacked now, but apparently, making porn doesn’t count.

I’ve been wracking my mind the entire time I’ve been writing this trying to remember why I wanted to write about manners in the first place. I’ve finally remembered and can now stop waffling.
When did it become ok for individuals to start eating at restaurants before all of the meals come out? More importantly, when did restaurants start to think that it was acceptable practise to bring meals out staggered over the course of ten-twenty minutes? It used to be that meals for a table were kept in a warmer, or prepared so that they all came out at once. If one person at a table hadn’t received their meal, it was because the waiter didn’t have enough hands. For the last few restaurant meals I’ve experienced, the arrival of main meals has been almost random. I’m naming names here, because I really like Thai Nee Café on Lygon, but our last couple of meals there have not been pleasant experiences.

It is most definitely ok for diners to tell their companions to “start without me, it’ll get cold”. It’s the choice of the diner, and shows consideration to the others in his or her party. It is most definitely NOT ok for restaurants to take that as complicity in the seemingly standard practise of not serving an entire table at once.

Pick up your game, restaurants. Manners still matter. People shouldn’t have to choose between a cold meal and a cold shoulder.

Now excuse me, I have a commuter to strangle.

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