I blame it all on my dad

(This is my annual Father’s Day post.)

We can trace a lot of things back to our childhoods. For better or for worse it’s those early years that form who we are.

I’m now coming to realise that there are many things that I see in my self today that can be traced directly back to my father and the influence he still has on me.

I blame my father.

I blame my father for the fact that time and time again I suddenly find myself awake in the middle of the night. I wake up and sense someone is in the room. Someone small and furry … with whiskers. It’s one, or often both of our cats wanting to get in under the covers. I love cats. I love them because my dad loved cats. He loved most animals but especially cats.

I blame my father for some of the music that is still stuck in my head. Dad was almost 44 years older than me and so his musical tastes weren’t exactly ‘current’. Which explains why to this day, among an very wide range of music in my collection, covering many different styles, I still listen to Bing Crosby, dad’s favourite singer. (Just don’t mention that I also listen to Sinatra. Dad was certainly not a fan.)

I blame my father for the fact that I’m a qualified chef. Dad was a chef and I followed that career for a number of years. I completed my four year apprenticeship then decided it really wasn’t for me, but it has given me skills I’ve been able to use ever since. It also meant that some years later I was able to work alongside dad for a week when he was cooking at a camp on Rottnest. It was a memorable week.

There are many more things I can see in me that come from my dad. Some good, some not so good. I also know there would be many other parts of who I am that I don’t even recognise as coming from dad but are still part of his influence.

It’s Father’s Day in Australia.

This is my fifteenth Father’s Day without my dad. George Thomas Olsen passed away in August 2002, just a few days before his 83rd birthday and around a month before Father’s Day of that year.

I really do miss dad but it’s not with an overwhelming sadness because I know he’s in a better place and I know I’ll see him again one day.

I still wish he was able to see Emily and James growing up into the wonderful young people that they’re becoming and to get to know Pauline even better.

I look forward to a new day when we’ll catch up on everything we’ve missed over the years.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:4

Today won’t be a sad day because I’ll be spending the day being a dad to my own children and working hard to ensure that there are many ‘good’ things that they’ll be able to blame me for in the years to come.

(Yes, that me with my dad and mum in the picture above. You can click on it for a closer look.)

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Going Ape Online


When I first entered the courtroom I had no idea of the events that were about to unfold. I didn’t know I’d be there for around six weeks, listening to dozens of people being questioned by prosecution and defence lawyers.

It was several years ago and I’d been chosen to serve on the jury of a criminal case. The case was estimated to run for a couple of weeks but one and a half months later we finally ‘retired to consider a verdict’.

It was only after all the twists and turns of the evidence, direction from the judge, copious legal arguments and much more along the way that we were ready to consider all that we’d seen and heard and then deliver a verdict on each of the charges. It still took the twelve of us many hours to finally agree. That process involved reviewing the case, including expert evidence, and discussing various points together to ensure justice for everyone involved in the case.

What fascinated me at the time was the media reporting. I had no doubt that people would have been making up their own minds on the case based on the occasional 90 second television reports and the two or three hundred word reports in the paper. We had heard countless hours of in depth evidence, they had seen a 90 second report. How could they make a solid decision on such a small amount of evidence? Quite obviously they couldn’t.

Everyone’s Going Ape

Over the past week we’ve seen hundreds of thousands of people making grand statements online and in the media about the sad case of Harambe the gorilla and the four year old child who found his way into the gorilla enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo.

Since Harambe was shot dead and the child was rescued we’ve heard and seen endless commentary about everything from bad parenting to inadequate infrastructure at the zoo. We’ve been told who’s at fault and even had people suggesting that the gorilla’s life was more important than the child’s. All this from people who weren’t there and only had brief media reports to rely upon when forming their opinion.

I won’t say who I think was at fault because I really don’t have enough evidence to know, but that obviously hasn’t stopped hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, being quite convinced they know enough to confidently assert their opinion and that their opinion should be the final word on the matter.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against developing a conversation and seeking the facts to understand more about what happened but that’s a million miles away from taking on the job of judge, jury and executioner based on media reports.

Whether it’s a major news story or simply a fun YouTube video, our unlimited access to various forms of social media has given us unprecedented opportunity to share our opinions and the fact that most of those opinions aren’t supported by the facts doesn’t seem to trouble anyone. This isn’t just about Harambe’s story, this is about every single thing that finds it’s way online. This is about people using social media to constantly tear down others rather than building them up and offering help in times of need.

Whenever someone publishes anything online you can almost guarantee a barrage of comments that range between sycophantic worship and death threats. Where’s the middle ground? Where’s the reasoned discussion?

We’ve lost the ability to display compassion and empathy.

Many seem to forget that those involved in the stories they pronounce their opinions on are real people who are very likely to read those comments and suffer from the words of those who don’t know or care to understand the wider story.

When we cross the line, when we mess up and get it wrong, we hope that others will take into account what brought us to that point, not to excuse our behaviour but to understand it, and then that they’ll offer forgiveness. Why are we so unprepared to offer that to others? Why are we so quick to pass judgement on those we don’t even know? Why do we feel such a strong desire to vilify others publicly without knowing their story?

Sadly, as well as causing untold damage to those who are targeted, those making comments can end up looking foolish and uninformed. It would be better for many to simply remain silent.

Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent. – Proverbs 17:28

Social media has given us an incredible platform to share our stories and our humanness but we shouldn’t take it lightly and we shouldn’t simply use it as an opportunity to bring others down. None of us ever know what lies around the corner for us but whatever it is, I hope that there’ll still be people ready to offer words that heal rather than words that tear down.

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Party Peer Pressure


I really don’t remember having birthday parties when I was young. That’s not to say that I didn’t. I just don’t remember them.

I know I had at least one party during my primary school days because I still recall mum wondering why I had invited Murray Lorimer. She knew all my friends and she’d never heard of Murray before. I know I invited him but I can’t even remember whether he was at the party because I don’t remember the party. It was a long time ago.

Parties these days are a little different. They’re a major event. If your five year old doesn’t remember the $4000 you spent on their birthday I guess you’d make sure that there were enough photos of the day so that they could never forget. Yep … that’s right … $4000 for a five year old’s birthday party.

Parents are going to great lengths to pull off large-scale events, some worth thousands of dollars, for their beloved children, says director of Bash Events Alison Chibnall.

“We did a party that cost about $4000; that one was for a five-year-old,” she says.

“I think the cheapest one we’ve done was about $1200.

”It is almost like parents feel they need to outdo the other parents. Each party needs to be bigger, better and have more.” – News.com.au

I do wonder if it’s about providing something wonderful for their children or more about how the parents are perceived by others. Have you felt pressured to put on a big party for your children?

Peer pressure doesn’t end when you reach a certain age. It’s always there.

Maybe you’ve felt pressured in other ways to live up to the expectation of others. You may not even have children but there are still lots of ways that we feel we have to live up to the standards that others are setting.

I’d love to hear about how you feel pressured to do things a certain way or focus your attention on certain things. When have you been swayed to go down a certain road because it was an expectation from peers, parents, children, co-workers or someone else?

Do you regret actions you took at some stage because you felt pressured?

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Mum’s iPhone Contract for Son


Most of us have had to deal with phone contracts but most contracts come from our telecommunications company, not our mothers.

Janell Burley Hoffman has made news around the world by issuing her 13 year old son with an 18 point contract along with his Christmas gift of a new iPhone.

Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay the hell out of the crossfire.

The contract is full of rules to govern the use of the phone, including a reminder that it’s mum who pays the bills and she will control the phone.

Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.

Most of the rules are just good common sense and would be useful for everyone who owns a smart phone. In fact, many of the rules apply to a range of areas in life and remind us that people are more important than ‘things’.

Do not text, email, or say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room. Censor yourself.

Rapid advances in technology often mean that good guidelines for using new technology lag behind their availability. However, this mum has reminded us that manners and simple common sense go a long way in whatever new situation we find ourselves.

No porn. Search the web for information you would openly share with me. If you have a question about anything, ask a person — preferably me or your father.

Parents around the world are hailing the contract as a return to common sense. It’s a reminder that when we hand over a new responsibility we, as parents, still get to decide how far that responsibility stretches. Just because a smart phone is full of features, it doesn’t mean that every feature should become immediately available to a young person. The contract is a great mix of compulsory rules and an encouragement to develop self-discipline.

Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public. Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that.

A lot of parents have been asking if they can use the contract for their own children. Janell Burley Hoffman has responded via her Twitter account, “To all that have messaged about using “the contract” in your home for your family, go for it!”

Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without googling.

What do you think of the contract? Would you hand someone a contract like that?

Do you think that there are guidelines in the contract that we could all do well to follow? What other rules do you think should govern the use of smart phones for everyone, not just children?

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How do you rate as a parent?

I was interested to read today that Australian actor Gary Sweet only rates himself a 6 out of 10 as a dad. I wonder how highly his kids would rate him. I wonder what score I’d get out of 10 if my children had to rate me.

I’d give myself a five or a six out of 10. I wish I was better.

Frank is the one I see the most of these days because he lives in Melbourne. Sophie lives in Adelaide and my two little blokes – well, they’re not so little – live in Sydney.

I try to be as good a father as I can be when I see them, but I often don’t see my younger ones as much as I’d like to. I do the best with the skills I’ve got.News.com.au

Parenting can be a tough job. Every parent is different. Every child is different. Every circumstance we face as parents is different. Yet amongst all the variables we’re asked to bring up our kids to be fine, upstanding members of the community. The weight of expectation can be enormous.

So how do we rate ourselves? What scale do we use to judge if we’re doing alright?

I’m not sure if I’d join Sweet and give myself a 6 out of 10 for my own performance as a father, whether I’d go higher or even lower.

I suppose the first task would be to decide the criteria for judging our worthiness as parents. What kind of criteria would you use? Quality time with our children? Being there for special occasions? Providing for our kids? What do you think?

I’ve heard it said that the best thing a father can do for his children is to love his wife, the mother of his children. Is that one of the things we should focus on to become better parents?

I’d love your input in the comments section of this post.

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