Hard To Handle


I’ve operated a cement mixer and I’ve had conversations which reminded me of operating a cement mixer and yes that sounds smug and arrogant, but they just happen to be the two words I have tattooed on my testicles, there to remind me life’s too short for boring exchanges. Here’s the god’s honest; I’ve never been bored while interacting with my girls, Lilly and Malina. Their spaced-out, mash-up of Elfish and Screaming is often homicidal, yet is invariably edgy and compelling. Take this following exchange –

‘Hey Dad?’


‘You’re a testicle head!’

‘Malinaaaa…knock it off!’

Then Lilly hops up on the funny-word wagon.

‘Don’t get penisy Dad!’

This is where my four and five year old are at with their vocab. They like bad words and they’re currently going through a groin-phrase phase.

‘Hey Dad, did you go for your testicular-test yet?’ And then the laugh so hard that bright green snot flies out their noses.

Don’t look at me. Despite being over forty and a hypochondriac, I keep any testicle-related information to myself and all references to penises are exclusively reserved for scientific/educational purposes.

But it’s not just penis talk. Their ‘interesting’ behaviour can also involve climbing, hitting, biting, slandering, constructing explosive materials – the kind of multi-purpose mania designed to crush a parent’s mind into a find powdery substance. It used to drive me batshit crazy. Now I see it as a signal. Their energy is building up and it needs to be released.

With this in mind, my PRACTICAL SILESIAN WIFE and I took our foul-mouthed offspring on a weekend designed to light a match under all that energy and burn it up into the stratosphere.

Here’s the itinerary; camping on Czech border, 8km hill-walk, journey to Wroclaw, up-late playing with our friends’ kids, then a garden party in honour of their great-grandfather Andrej.

We got home on Sunday evening, so tired we couldn’t find our feet with two hands and a flashlight.

Lilly was filthy dirty, her body home to a good collection of scar-tissue. Malina was quiet, possessing the specific maturity that comes from being pushed ass-first by her sister into a patch of nettles.

And for the last few days they’ve been, you know, good.

Wasn’t always this way.

Both girls used to be cranky, introverted little shits, moaning, allergic to life, finicky, socially maladjusted and generally hard to handle. I regularly worried about Lilly’s personality and how she was perpetually communing with the world like a witch giving birth to a kangaroo. Malina was worse in that she constantly gave the impression she was auditioning for the lead role in Rainman, albeit without the gambling super-intelligence.

We weren’t alone. There’s no amount of parents out there who have kids with behavioural problems. Some are deep-rooted and need more than a three-hour hike or a playground re-enactment of Return of the Jedi. But if like me, you’re a child of the eighties, think back to the stupid, crazy shit you regularly did. My wife openly admits to setting fire to fields. In between having my head walloped with a Space Hopper by Niall Feeney and Paul McDonald, I used to throw apples at cars and tease the local priest by flashing my arse at him as he sat eating his breakfast.

The girls in my class would regularly pester a certain teacher by ‘knick-knocking’ – ringing the doorbell and running away – fnar, fnar – stupid in the extreme, but enormously funny and a great cardiovascular work-out at the same time.

What did our parents know? They didn’t have time to take us canoing or to art galleries. They threw us outside with a buttered cream-cracker and a toe in the hole, because common sense told them life would be better for all if we got rid of all that bubbling dark-matter energy.

Yes, it verged a little on Lord of the Flies, but what kid in 2017 wouldn’t benefit from being taken out of their gluten-free, safety-mat existence? In Poland it’s very noticeable. You got a large population living in small apartments with both parents trying to pay the bills by working the daylight away. The kids are left to the kindergarten lottery, many of them crying out for a male figure to show them how best to fall off a tree or take out an enemy with a bow and arrow. The same in Ireland where suburban development and computer entertainment means it’s a car-to-tablet world, so the child’s energy builds up and you are left with a contingent of unlucky kids who are labeled hard to handle…

Grab your kids. Take them out and breed a bit of recklessness into them. Stir it up. Cut it loose. 


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