Monday, September 20, 2010

If my children could click "like"

Here are some brief introductions, for both my readers.

This is Rose:

Rose likes ballet, swimming, balloons (preferably pink), Barbie (ditto), singing You Are My Sunshine at her baby brother in a raucous voice, tickling and being tickled, cartoons, chocolate cake, ice cream and - she just told me - electricity. I didn't ask.

This is Max:

Max likes food.

The best way to feed him is quickly. The best thing to feed him is all of it. Quickly. Count your fingers before and afterwards. Fear his terrible, terrible hunger.

The Max has awoken. I must go to service his needs. Soon he will be ready to eat human flesh. I hope to survive by appeasing his hunger.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Top Tips for Distressed Dads: Part Two

Cling to the lifeline I'm holding out to you, oh shattered fathers. My wisdom will help you.

Actually, it won't. But I hope it's a bit of a laugh.

Here are more of my thoughts on surviving dadhood:

Your standards will slip

You will probably have started out with big ideas. You may have wanted to be an eco-friendly, nutritionally-balanced, hands-on dad but—trust me—there will come a time when you are up to your armpits in broken toys and Calpol.

At that moment, you will happily hand your child a tube of red Smarties and plonk them in front of the idiot box. That’s okay. You’re not Superman. Just try to time their sugar rush for the moment you hand the brat over to someone else.

Know your limits

It looks easy at first. Washing? The machine does that for you. Dishes? Let them pile up and I’ll do them later. Cooking? How hard can all this stuff be?

The answer is: pretty damn hard. Like a garden rake hiding in the long grass ready to slam into your face, trying to get stuff done contains unpleasant surprises. Even if you were fairly domesticated before—this is the 21st century, after all—childcare is a surprisingly-onerous job. Also, remember you will want to add manly tasks to the list. There are always things which need pruned or hit with a hammer.

So how do you deal with it? The answer is to set achievable goals, and don’t make them too difficult at first. As someone who really did refine an excellent recipe for quiche while simultaneously looking after a toddler, I guarantee you will find yourself wishing you’d just done beans on toast. If beans on toast were your target, you will feel very smug indeed. Just try to time the dirty nappy for… oh, you get the idea.

No, you can’t have a break

Now shut up and get on with it.

It’s okay to use children for your own amusement

Children really are fun. Once you’re fairly confident that they’re in no immediate danger, it’s time to have a laugh.

One day they might even be grateful that you shared you own interests with them. You never know. Stranger things have happened… somewhere.

When my daughter was just shy of her third birthday, I dressed her up as Judge Dredd and took her to a comic convention. Even as I cut out pieces of felt to make her costume, I was chuckling, and planning the photographs that will one day illustrate a wedding speech. Yes, she will hate me for it but I’ll deal with that when it comes. I expect I’ll be paying for the damned futuristic space wedding anyway, as I hover there in my silver jumpsuit.

Anyway, remember your child will never be this age again, and you should cherish the experience. Fill every day with as much fun as possible. Have a laugh. You all deserve it.

Measuring your success

It’s the end of a difficult day of solo childcare. The house is in utter disarray and your eyes are, just possibly, a tiny bit puffy. You definitely have less hair than you did this morning. But are you a terrible dad?

Assess your results. Are any of the children still bleeding? Did they put at least one fruit or vegetable in their mouth at some point today? (It still counts if they vomited it up later.) Was there at least one incident which involved laughter?

Most importantly, do you have at least as many children as you did this morning? If the answer to most of these questions is yes, then your day has been a success. Your task, as parent, is to make sure your children end the day happy, healthy and fairly clean. Anything else is a bonus.

The bit Jerry Springer does at the end

And that’s about it. I don’t pretend to be perfect—you should see the shameful state of my garden—but I like to think I try hard. Neither of my children seems too afraid of me yet, and nobody’s called the authorities.

Yes, children cry a lot and sometimes you will want to join in. Yes, there will come a time when you fantasise about handing them to a random passer-by and making a run for it. Yes, you will be a bit rubbish sometimes.

But remember this: you’re their dad. It may seem unbelievable, but you really do know best. You love them and they love you back.

And you are an incredibly lucky man, even if can’t grow an impressive moustache.