PARENTING IS no fun for the anally-retentive.
I should know. This afternoon, in act of extreme cruelty, the Duchess invited the Kids to build their own robot. Within minutes, our dining room was an explosion of cereal packets, glitter sticks and cotton balls.
Of course, it’s essential that parents motivate their children to be creative, stretch their imagination, get messy in pursuit of artistic freedom. I just insist it’s done in our house between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Friday.
Not only did the Duchess ignore my weekday rule: she got the Kids all fired up a mere half hour before she set off to work for one of her weekend shifts. I’m pretty certain I heard her cackle on her way out of the house. Cruel, like I said.
I don’t think I’ve got a medical strain of OCD but I’m definitely not a lover of disorder. When I get home from working away, I have three priorities (which I feel are best expressed in tidy bullet list!):
- Spend time with the Kids, put them to bed and so on
- Hang out with the Duchess, watch three episodes of Masterchef
- Check the cupboards and urgently rearrange the precarious leaning towers of pots and pans before they topple over and ignite chaos across the cosmos
Our house is full of incredible Papier-Mâché sculptures that I’ll always treasure. But, to paraphrase Otto von Bismarck, it’s like sausages and laws: I don’t want to see them getting made.
But sometimes you’ve just got to take one for the team. So, this afternoon we built a robot. We kind of had fun.
I learned that I’m not just good for racing, chasing and wrestling.
The Kids learned never to reply in the affirmative to the frequent question ‘Have you finished with this now, honey?’.
[BEDTIME, LAST NIGHT]
The Duchess: “Time for sleepy now, honey.”
Little Buddha: “I’m going to ballet soon, Mummy.”
The Duchess: “Yes you are, honey.”
Little Buddha: “I’m going to wear a pink tutu… and pink ballet shoes.”
The Duchess: “Yes, you’ll look very cute.”
Little Buddha: “Mummy stay and watch me?”
The Duchess: “Of course!”
Little Buddha: “All the other Mummies and Daddies will stay and watch me too.”
FOR BOY Wonder’s recent 4th birthday, I wanted to do something special to reflect the energetic, thoughtful and creative boy that he has become. He’s currently obsessed with superheroes and one Caped Crusader in particular: Batman (or ‘Mat-man!’ as Little Buddha likes to shout every time a cape comes into view).
Play centres are appealing locations for birthday parties because the staff provide your celebratory entourage with entertainment, libation and insurance should anything go wrong. However, researching a few places near to us I found too many limitations: minimum numbers, rules and regulations as long as your arm and extra costs if you dare introduce a theme. So, it was back to the drawing board.
OUR DAUGHTER has cleared her throat and started to speak. I think Boy Wonder did the same at this point as well, although it’s hard to remember a time when he wasn’t talking fluently.
When Little Buddha was born, I fell for the ruse that she’d reach all of the big milestones much earlier than her brother because she’d learn from him and she’s a girl. Well, she walked at 15 months, just like him, and, like I said, I think her brother started talking at 18 months as well.
Modern parenting is very competitive, of course, with the Middle Class Mafia filling gastropubs and cafes with stories about how their golden progeny had a full set of teeth in the womb and were able to recite Paradise Lost by their first birthdays.
We fell for it first time round, measuring Boy Wonder against bullshit criteria and continually worrying he wasn’t developing quickly enough. It got so crazy that we read he should know 200 words by the age of two and, yes, we sat down one night and actually quantified his vocabulary. He was fine, okay, good, brilliant.
This time we’re relaxed about it. Little Buddha has been communicating for months, with gestures, expressions, nods and shakes of the head. Now she’s talking, singing, imitating. So, to celebrate – and remember – in chronological order here’s her wonderfully random first 10 words:
THIS WEEKEND I TURNED 40. I officially became a Middle-Aged Dad. No one really looks forward to the Big Four Oh-No but a few days on I’m pretty relaxed about it all.
It certainly helped that my lovely little family, led by the imaginative if now bankrupt Duchess, presented me with a gift for each year of my life.
The gifts came in different boxes, each representing a stage of my adult life. Each bore a tag offering a clue. It was, without doubt, the most amazing, thoughtful array of presents I’ve ever received.
It’s a bit indulgent but I thought I’d share the list, as it gives a (strongly alcoholic) flavour of my 40 years, as well as proving what a lucky and loved old man I am:
I liked the recent Creative Review story about how visitors to the Children’s Art Centre at Queensland Art Gallery in Australia are handed coloured stickers as they enter part of Yayoi Kusama’s current show and invited to ‘obliterate’ a previously pristine white room.
Boy Wonder loves stickers but we regularly regret buying him bumper packs or one of the weekly magazines once he’s restyled our floors and furniture, so this show would be ideal. Luckily, he can still go a bit dotty thanks to an online game version from Queensland Art Gallery.