Over the past fortnight I’ve received a couple of comments about my endeavours to expedite ten month old Mina’s development. Last week I wrote about how she has just learned to crawl, an activity that my little red-headed princess has been working to perfect for some time. Walking is next on the checklist.
I don’t deny that I have a propensity to egg Mina on. Helping her become more mobile hasn’t made my life any easier but I’ve gradually developed a low level addiction to the sense of achievement that comes with every new trick she learns. I now understand how Mr Miyagi was getting his kicks.
It was this enthusiasm to get Mina racing through the milestones that saw me accused of being a Tiger Dad. I don’t like this term though; it doesn’t quite do me justice. I’m not the male equivalent of those Chinese mums whose approach to raising children involves dispensing with the carrot and replacing the stick with a riot baton.
Yet being called a Tiger Dad set me off on the hunt for a more apposite term for my parenting style. As one does, I started online. It turns out that the variety of beasts that has been suggested for the male counterpart of the Tiger Mum is extensive, a bewildering menagerie. There’s Wolf Dad. Cat Dad. Dolphin Dad. Koala Dad. It reads like the visitors’ book on Noah’s ark.
Wolf Dad is an interesting case. He’s a real person, also Chinese, who wrote a book in which he proudly calls himself Wolf Dad. It begs the question what sort of bloke can keep a straight face while calling himself that. If you read his book, Wolf Dad explains that when his kids don’t meet his exacting standards he beats them with a feather duster. So in hindsight he does seem rather like the sort of bloke who could keep a straight face while calling himself Wolf Dad.
Cat Dad is at the other end of the scale. Cat Dad is emotionally literate (which immediately rules it out as a label that I might adopt) and takes a laid-back approach to rules and discipline, prioritising happiness above academic achievement.
Neither of these profiles particularly describes me. There’s something fundamentally amiss with Wolf Dad; with his feather duster he comes across like a malevolent Ken Dodd. Cat Dad, on the other hand, needs to grow some cojones and get his offspring in line now and again.
So I began to think long and hard about animals. After much deliberation – certainly far more than the subject rightly deserves – I pinpointed my bestial equivalent.
Thus: Orangutan Dad.
Orangutans are characterised by their general sluggishness but are capable of putting significant effort into certain important activities – swinging through trees for instance, or singing I Wan’na Be Like You.
This basically encapsulates my approach to parenting. Lola and Mina will attest that I’ll generally let them do their own thing as long as it doesn’t result in them choking, falling from a great height or otherwise checking out in an untimely fashion. This is good for them as they can sod about at will, and good for me as I can get on with the things I quite like doing such as drinking coffee and writing about which animal I most closely resemble.
However – and there is a big however – certain important activities receive my full attention and I have a propensity to veer into pushy parent territory. Take Mina’s crawling and walking. No time like the present. The quicker she masters those, the quicker we can focus on something else. Talking for instance.
Lola also finds herself at the receiving end of my bursts of zealotry, whether it be my efforts to help her improve her reading and writing or to get her to run a four-minute mile. There’s no such word as can’t, Lola.
What’s more, tigers are orangutans’ main predators, meaning that Orangutan Dad’s nemesis is Tiger Mum. I haven’t made this up. It says so on Wikipedia. The orangutan analogy works perfectly.
Pleased with myself, I began wondering about the rest of the family. If I’m King Louie, which animals are Lola and Mina?
Lola, a little homebody, would be a domestic canary. She spends much of her time singing (particularly whilst on the toilet oddly) and these pretty little birds are of course yellow, like Lola’s hair.
Mina, who our cleaner refers to as ‘Little Ian’ because she allegedly looks like me, could also be an orangutan, although for different reasons. There’s her red hair obviously, and the fact that she’s a proper little monkey. Yet we can do better than that. The baby of our family is a red squirrel, scuttling about, rarely stationary, trying to scale anything in her path, collecting small trinkets that she can put in her mouth and transport elsewhere to play with at a later point in time.
As for Mrs Burge, I’ll refrain from publicly comparing her to any animal. Like most primates, orangutans tend to avoid conflict where possible. That preference for an easy life is shared by Orangutan Dad.
You can follow the antics of Domestic Canary Girl and Red Squirrel Girl on my Instagram account.