Sometimes I Don’t Want To Be A Parent Anymore.


It is now officially two months since we have had team Toto! Which is about fourteen months in dog years! (I don’t know, can we actually convert it like that? In all fairness, it has felt like more than a year!)

Like all new parents, there is still a time for many firsts – Toby’s first time obeying the command ‘Down’ where he lies down on all fours, Tootsie’s first longest lasting toy (a home made toy made of two fabulously pink socks wrapped over two flattened mineral water bottles, and tied together – Voila, nunchuk Mt Franklins! Bruce Lee would be… erm, confused.) and their first ever shower by us!

They actually tolerated the showers quite well, although it was quite scary watching them totally wet – they looked like large radioactive hairy rodents who were wondering where their cheese went, and were ready to kill whoever stole it. Fortunately, we blew dry them into their fluffy cute selves again. Massive rodent attack averted!

There are still some things that we have not gotten accustomed to. Case in point – Tootsie’s obsession with tennis balls. She would always play with them near our entertainment unit which has this gap underneath. Inevitably, the ball would roll under the unit, causing Tootsie to tunnel away at our impenetrable tiles in order to get her ball, failing which she barks angrily at the entertainment unit. The entertainment unit, to its credit, has yet to retaliate.

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We would finally succumb to Tootsie’s incessant barking and get on our knees to retrieve the tennis ball while she sniffs at our butt or licks our plumber’s crack. We throw the ball into the dining room, sending Tootsie scampering madly, and she retrieves the ball, only to play near the entertainment unit and push it underneath again. We try to ignore this stupid repetitive behaviour but her barking each time is rather persuasive.

I have always had a fantasy that we would have well-behaved intelligent dogs. You know, like Lassie. The reality, however, would look something more a little like this if the title role was played by Tootsie:

Timmy’s Mother is washing dishes at the kitchen sink, with her favourite flowery apron on.

Toot-ssie comes bounding in.

Toot-ssie: Woof! Woof. Woof.

Timmy’s Mother: What is it, Toot-ssie?

Toot-ssie: Woof! Woof, woof. Woof. Woof!

Timmy’s Mother (who somehow understands Dog Morse code, suddenly develops a concerned look on her face): What is it you say, Toot-ssie? Little Timmy is trapped down the well?! Oh no!

Timmy’s mother starts to undo her apron while rushing to the well. She rescues little Timmy from the well, a little bruised and dirtied but who is otherwise unscathed while Toot-ssie sniffs her bottom. She hugs little Timmy tightly and brings him back to the house.

Toot-ssie waits for Timmy’s mother to be distracted by housework before grabbing Timmy and pushing him down the well again.

Woof! Woof, woof. Woof. Woof!

Rough Collie or Scottish Collie over nature background


Seriously, these dogs!

There are so many joys in having dogs – their unconditional love, their excitement in seeing you whether you’ve been gone for two days or two minutes, and they’re just so darned cute sometimes. I feel my heart rate slow down and my blood vessels relax every time I run my fingers through their soft fur.

What kills me is still the occasional random barking at 2 am in the morning, the 530 am starts when they are scratching at our doors, whenever the two fight violently over a bone or a toy, every time Tootsie goes ballistic at other dogs or cyclists.  We are walking back alleys and quiet lanes in order to avoid other dogs, so violent have their reactions been at the sight.

Yesterday Tootsie devoured a whole jar of dog food which we (erm, I) had accidentally left open. And just when we thought we had the dogs toilet trained, Toby the Pond Maker surprises us with another pee next to his bed on the landing this morning.

I think my main problem is that I expect these dogs to be human beings, in fact adult human beings, which they are not. I somehow expected that with some training they would stop barking at cars which drive pass the house, that they would be Great Friends to All Other Dogs and learn to share and play with each other, and that they would stop putting poop in their mouths.

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Which explains why two months in, as much as we love these dogs, we occasionally still toy with the idea of giving them away. Not that we ever would, of course; but I think it is something that both Karen and I have had the chance to honestly talk and work through.

We joke about it with our friends, and we get some interesting responses, the most frequent of which is – Yeah, at least they’re not children, those you can’t give back! Mired in that single sentence is a little anguish, a little surrendered humour, and a lot of truth.

I am binge-watching How I Met Your Mother on Netflix at the moment, which is fast replacing Frasier as one of my favourite sitcoms of all time. How I Met Your Mother follows the story of Ted, a 20-something year old New Yorker who takes nine whole seasons to explain to his kids about how he finally met their mother. The sitcom follows Ted through disastrous relationship after disastrous relationship; through it all, the only constant is his friendship to the wise-cracking Barney and his first love, the tomboy Robin, and the happily married couple Lily and Marshal Eriksen.

PASADENA - JULY 15: Cast of "How I Met Your Mother" at CBS's TCA Press Tour at The Rose Bowl on July 15, 2006 in Pasadena, CA.

There is a wonderfully poignant scene on a rooftop of their apartment one winter’s evening, where Lily, who has just become a mother to baby Marvin, is trying to get Ted to confess that he still has feelings for Robin, who is now engaged to Barney. (complicated, I know!)

In order for Ted to admit to this awful secret, she trades him with one of her own darkest secrets – ‘Sometimes, I wish I wasn’t a Mom. Sometimes I wanna pack a bag and leave in the middle of the night, and not come back,’ she blurts out, her voice almost choked with tears.

‘You serious?’ Ted asks her.

‘I don’t know,’ she wipes away a tear. ‘I mean, I love being a Mum. I mean, I love Marvin so much. But do you remember when I wanted to be an artist? Art was my whole life, but now, it’s been months since I have even picked up a brush. I spend the whole day taking care of kids at my job, and then I come home and it’s more of the same’ – her hands fling up in despair – ‘it just never lets up. It… it’s just, really, really hard, Ted.’

They go on to talk a bit more, and after awhile, she quietly makes her peace with this difficult admission and with being a mother, while Ted realises he has to let go of Robin.

This wonderfully written scene brings to the fore something that is rarely talked about, because we are all so afraid how terrible it will make us look. Parenthood is supposed to come naturally. The desire to sacrifice yourself for your children should be an innate one, and if it isn’t, there must be something wrong with you.

Well, it is not so easy. How do you go from being an adult whose only concern was for your own wellbeing to one who is now responsible for another life, whose schedules and priorities are now dictated by these little beings who are dependent on you? They demand your time, your finances, your sleep, your careers, your dreams – they turn your world upside down.

How do you go from being someone whose love was transactional – where whether or not you were my friend or my lover was dictated by how you made me feel or what you could do for me – to one where it was unconditional – that I love you because I can, because of who am, despite who you are or what you can offer me.

For my friends who believe in a God who reaches out to us, I guess parenthood offers a glimpse into the agape or unconditional love of God.

I am not divine. I am human, and sometimes I fail at being even a decent one.

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I look at my dogs and wonder why they can’t be better behaved. We sometimes watch with envy other owners with their well trained dogs who sit quietly while they brunch, who invite people to pet them, who get along famously with other dogs. And then we look at our own madly barking ones, who cannot even stand the sight of television dogs, and we are quietly disappointed.

I can only imagine the frustrations of parents with poorly behaved children – who go around yelling the place down, who have to attend the principal’s office for the eighth time this year because little Johnny punched another kid, who are paying bail because their child was caught for drug possession. I can imagine them remembering the 3 am wakes to feed the child, all the money spent on clothing them, feeding them and putting a roof over their heads, and thinking, This is the thanks I get?!

And who can blame them. I can only remember with guilt all the times I have upset my own parents, and finally understanding their exasperation when they say “Lei ah! Kum kuai geh! Seng yat te mm teng wah! Yau si hah, sang kau char siew te ho ko sang lei ah! Ngo ho yee sek cho ke char siew ah!” (You naughty child! Always so disobedient! Sometimes I wish I had given birth to a piece of barbequed pork instead! At least I could have eaten the pork!)

Asian parents – even when they scold you, it is food-related.

And yes, they would have eaten us. Ask any of your Asian friends.


Not all of us struggle with this. Some of us take to parenthood naturally and some of us accept it as our lot in life. Some of us, though, will wrestle with these ‘awful’ thoughts and worry about how selfish or self-centered we are, and what terrible human beings we must be.

Let’s talk about it. Let us say that parenthood is not easy, and sometimes it is a full-out struggle. Let us admit that some days we want to give the kids away. Let us be okay with that confession. Let us allow a healthy discussion of these feelings. Let us make our peace with parenting, and support each other through what is actually such a challenge for first-time parents.

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‘One day when you have your own kids, you’ll understand,’ our parents used to say. And then one day we finally do understand.

May we all forgive ourselves and grow into the parents we had always hoped we would be.

Poop Du Jour.

So it is Week 6 of #totoadventures and so much has happened in the past fortnight! Toby and Tootsie have both been to the groomers, who took one look at all their matted hair and decided we had to go crew cut to allow it to grow back naturally again. It was hard enough hearing their heart-breaking whimpering as I left them alone to these canine barbers, but even worse was coming back to see a completely bald Toby, who had lost his boyish Korean boyband member good-looks, and now just looked like a withered old Korean auntie who asks if you would like more bibimbap.


I have decided that the actual make up of these two dogs are:

Tootsie   Toby
 5% fur  90% fur
 10% meat and bone  10% meat and bone
 85% brain  May contain traces of brain

We also had a dog behaviourist (Ooo, an animal Mentalist! Not as cute as Simon Baker, though. Oh wait, that’s right, I am a straight married man.) come over and teach us how to best settle the dogs and learn the Request-Response-Reward technique. This is me trying the Request-Response-Reward technique:

Request: ‘Toby, sit!’
Response: *Toby stares at me blankly, the wind swirling in his right ear and coming out his left*
Request (again): ‘Toby, sit!’
Response: *The wind is blowing fiercer now, whipping up a frenzy in such a vast amount of space*
Request (please, Toby): ‘Toby, sit!’
Response: *The wind is now blowing at full gale force, if there were anything in there it would be holding on for dear life now! But, y’know, nothing.*
Request (defeated): ‘Okay, Toby. Look like an old Korean auntie asking me if I’d like some more bibimbap.’
Response: Toby does it!
Reward: ‘Good boy Toby! Good boy! So clever!’ *treats galore*


Okay, so it wasn’t so bad. Toby can now 1. sit 2. shake hands 3. up! and has also been seen to fetch the occasional ball.  Tootsie is, on the other hand, yawning frequently at these tasks which she has already mastered awhile ago and is wondering when we would get the unicycle already so she can ride it on a tightrope 50 metres in the air, juggling doggie treats with one paw whilst holding an umbrella in her other.

For all their differing intelligence, these dogs are pretty much the same when they go out on walks. They are sniffing everything from telephone poles to grassy knolls, and are still barking madly at other dogs (the AniMentalist assures us that if we expose our dogs to other dogs in a graded fashion, they may finally be able to play with other dogs calmly, oh,  in about ten years) but were surprisingly quiet when their Master (T.O.H.) was swooped by an idiot magpie the other evening while on a walk with them.

You don’t got my back, dawgs. You don’t got my back. (The magpie gots my back. The back of my head, to be precise. Repeatedly.)

What is even more frustrating is that these dogs are indiscriminately putting shit into their mouths. I mean, like, literal poop. I mean, I would be walking with them, my eyes dead up in the air looking for swooping Collingwood mascots, and the next minute I look down, and Tootsie and Toby are both sniffing vigorously at another dog’s poop, with the occasional tasting of these delightful hors d’oeuvres.

‘I say, Toby,’ says Tootsie. ‘Come and sample these fine delights. Come here, good chap, and allow me to train your nose. Take a whiff of that poop. Go ahead now, take a whiff. Nice and deep now. Now, tell me, Toby,what can you smell?’

‘Poop!’ barks Toby.

‘Ah yes, good sir. That is indeed an astute observation, but you see, there are so many more intricacies than mere poop to be enjoyed in this wonderful little morsel. Go ahead, take another deep breath…’

‘Poop!’ Toby barks again.

‘Yes, yes. But look, smell it now, inhale the oakiness and musk of this poop, and if you are really careful, sir, you will detect fine traces of shredded chicken and beef, some carrots and dried dog food. It is, *sniff sniff* I believe, Hills Science Diet Healthy Development and this poop is *sniff sniff* about 23 hours old, which makes it a great vintage. I believe it has been aged before for about *sniff sniff* 3 hours in a *sniff sniff* two-year-old *sniff sniff* Labradoodle, and is that some tissue paper I detect? Ah, wonderful!’

‘Poop!’ Toby agrees.

‘Go ahead now, carefully put a tiny piece onto your tongue, and ohp… sure, inhale the whole piece. That works too. Can you taste the subtle hints of the chicken and the slightly overpowering taste of the dried dog food in there sir? The chalkiness of its vintage should bring out the butteriness of the beef.’

‘Taste poop!’ Toby nods in agreement, his mouth crunching on the poop-truffle. ‘Much yum! Very more!’

‘Okay, now just take another small… Say, I do say. Excuse me, do you mind, The Original Hengster? I am trying to teach Toby here the finer art of poop appreciation. You want him to have a bit of class don’t you?’

‘Toby! Tootsie!” I cluck my tongue in frustration. “NO!! Poop is bad for you!” I say, pulling them away.

‘How do you know?’ Tootsie’s educated gaze challenges me. ‘Have you tried some before?’


There are some flower beds around a park nearby where I bring them on walks, and I no longer let them sniff in amongst the leaves, because I have realised to my horror, that is actually a poop-fet (a crappy buffet, a Smorgy’s if you will). Too often I have had to pull them away from sampling some other dog’s confectionery hidden amongst the plants there.

Just the other night, we had a steamboat dinner at my house and Mum and my brother and sister-in-law were over. Toby and Tootsie kept coming to the table repeatedly hoping for scraps. We have a No Scrap policy in our house, so they eventually lost interest and slinked defeated onto their beds, watching our festivities from afar. They finally drifted off into a disappointed sleep when it came time for dessert.

Now Karen had gotten us a special treat for dessert – Malaysian durians packed away in a box. Now for the uninitiated, the durian is a most divisive fruit – you either love it (in which case, you are, officially, Asian) or you hate it (in which case, most definitely, Caucasian). It is known as both the ‘King of Fruits’ and ‘a mixture of cheese, vomit and farts’ depending on your leanings. No sooner had I cut the plastic wrapper holding the box of these fruits when Toby and Tootsie suddenly snapped awake, leapt out of their beds and quickly approached the table – so mesmerising was the durian.

woman hand is peeling a durian monthong

‘Ah Toby, can you smell that?’ Tootsie’s tail wagged in excitement. ‘The intoxicating mixture of truffles and honey and milk and cream and day-old sock and custard. How heavenly, how marvellous! See? The humans enjoy their poop too!’

(P.S. Karen wants me to tell you that a lot of creative license was used in the writing of this blog. She reassures you that our dogs do not actually eat poop. It is still safe for them to lick your hands.)