Before I became a father, when people told me that parenthood was a great educator, I would scoff with the flamboyant malice of a reality dating show villain and walk out of the room.
Since our daughter was born, however, I’ve learnt some important lessons, one of the most vital being that suddenly leaving somebody alone in a room can make them very very upset to the point where they forget to breathe, leak saliva from the mouth and slam half a banana in your eye when you return and try to console them.
It turns out those I had ridiculed were right. Sorry to all of you reading this that I did scoff on.
Many of the things I’ve come to understand since becoming partly responsible for our little marshmallow addict are applicable outside the world of domesticity.
Here are just a few:
Fake crying is an artform. Those who do it well are emotional manipulators worthy of your fear and grudging respect.
If a friend or colleague is hostile to you and to your ideas, try hanging him upside down by the ankles. It’s an excellent way of changing his mood and his mind about you (although returning him to an upright position is always tricky). If it doesn’t work, throwing him onto a bed and tickling him between the ribcage and hipbone is a high-risk, high-reward back-up plan.
Audibly expelling flatus in public need not lead to social humiliation or exclusion, so long as you can pass it off (excuse the pun) as something distractingly hilarious – no matter how unlikely. “That was a little froggie” is the one my daughter goes with, but you can use your discretion and fit the sound to suit the situation.
If you work or live with creative people, you might hear them talk about being ‘blocked’. Don’t take it figuratively. Creative people love coffee and excessive caffeine intake leads to dehydration, which in turn leads to constipation. They’re likely talking about a bum cork. Try laying the person on their back and cycling their legs.
Jam this hard-won wisdom dummy into the mouth of your professional or personal life and you’ll be rearing a prosperous new existence in no time.
An edited version of this article first appeared in the MyCareer section of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
You can read the column – Benign to Five – in those papers every Saturday, and if you miss it, you can look it up online in the Workplace section of The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Canberra Times, WAToday and Brisbane Times. (I now wankishly call myself a “syndicated columnist” on my CV.)