…the Daddy Who Burns the Salad.
…the Dad who is a bit useless, a bit shy, a bit non-committal.
…the Dad who forgets his child’s raincoat on a rainy day out.
…the Dad who thinks everyone else has this parenting thing down, but is afraid to ask for help.
…the Dad who, during the pregnancy, did not read all the required and recommended self-help books by TV doctors. I am the Dad who scoffed at new-age parenting books and advice columns, and now feels like he’s pitched head-first into a game where everyone else knows the rules, and that everyone knows the referee on a first-name basis, and who stands apart and silent, in case everyone susses out that actually I KNOW NOTHING, and that at any point I’ll be caught doing parenting without having graduated from Parent School.
…the Dad who feels like he has gone through life being referred to as someone’s brother, someone’s son, someone’s boyfriend, someone’s mate, someone’s husband, someone’s colleague, and is now forever going to be Someone’s Dad by dozens of other kids, parents, teachers and every single future acquaintance my child will make.
…the Dad who feels a bit socially awkward, a bit reluctant to chat to the other parents, and feels as though everyone is judging him (which they are. You’ve already judged me, haven’t you? If you haven’t already, you probably will have done by the end of this post).
…the Dad who lets the kid play all by themselves; sometimes because he doesn’t feel like having a tea party right there and then, sometimes because he just wants to sit down. Whatever it is, he tells himself that it’s good for the child to have some alone time, and that it encourages imaginative play. That’s my excuse, anyway.
…the Dad who gives in a little too often. Or sometimes is petulantly firm for no real reason – “no, you can’t play outside, because I say so and because you’ve asked too often”. Yeah, that works. Hooray for Consistent Parenting!
…the Dad who stands alone at the children’s’ birthday party nursing a cup of warm and under-diluted squash, who is reluctant to engage in conversation with other parents, and who doesn’t step in when things get out of hand and all the children start hitting each other and bawling (I behave in this anti-social way at more grown-up parties as well).
…the Dad who showed up to school with his kid on the first day, expecting to find all the other parents not knowing each other, and hoping we’d all be in the same awkward boat, and instead discovered the Mums all knew each other already, and were on friendly terms with the school staff, and had read the brochures and the rules, and already bought all the right uniform, PE kit, books and bags. I am the Dad who stood there and felt as lost as his kid (although my own child just ran off into class with all her new buddies without looking back once).
…the Dad who finds gangs of gossiping Mums in the playground pretty much as intimidating as when he was 13 and faced with a posse of gossiping teenage girls. The Mums and the teenage girls display the same characteristics: They are unknowable, unfathomable, and liable to point and laugh at his ugly face, and will always highlight his spectacular ineptitude. Therefore, I, as Awkward-Dad, give them a wide, paranoid berth just in case it happens all over again.
(although I must point out that the Mums on my particular school run are actually lovely, inclusive, welcoming and chatty, and I recently went out with some of them for a very enjoyable evening at a local curry house).
…the Dad who doesn’t play football with his kids because, when I kick a ball, it goes 45 degrees in the wrong direction, and then everyone looks at him with pity. I look like a politician when I play football. I am the Dad who does not go outside to the park with his kids because it’s too much fucking hassle running around a scrap of grass. I am the unfit, wheezing, fat, waddling Dad who can’t keep up.
…the Dad who cooks the wrong food, in the wrong quantities, and is rewarded for doing so with tantrums, rage, tears, and disappointment from the child.
…the Dad who waits for the right moment to show their kid Star Wars for the first time, and then gets upset that the child doesn’t like it (mine did. Phew!).
…the Dad who can’t wire the plug, glue the wood, fix the thing, or mend the broken toy without breaking it further.
…the Dad who tries to “help” with the homework, but ends up doing it himself. It’s much easier.
…the Dad who leaves it to his wife to do all the drawing, sticking, painting, and glueing. Craft items get fumbled in his sausage-like fingers, and he ends up being more frustrated than the kid. I can’t draw. I can’t paint. I can’t stick things together. I can’t even do the thing where you cut sellotape with your teeth – it just ends up in a tangled sticky cobweb of misery, and I end up hurling it into the bin. As a result, wrapping presents for birthdays or Christmas is a major ballache, and involves tears.
…the Dad who, on the rare occasions he goes to the beach, ends up dominating the building of the sand-castle, because “it needs to have the proper crenellations/the walls need to have proper foundations”, and the kid wanders off in boredom, leaving the Dad to build the perfect sand-castle by himself.
…the Dad whose kid tells them they’ve been picked on. They have had a run-in with the child in the class who tends to push other kids over. Instead of sorting it out, I tell them to walk away from confrontation, and to avoid the other child. Instead of marching up to the scallywag’s parents and demand that they control their hellish, furious offspring, I passive-aggressively sidle up to the class teacher and inform them of the incident in a very quiet and discreet way. I know – I KNOW – it’s the right way of doing things, and it is the procedure that schools might prefer, but I do rather wish I could cheerfully discuss the situation with the other parent in an adult, honest, cheerful, mature, and non-confrontational fashion, and not be put off by pre-imagining their outraged and furious response to my concerns.
…the Dad who realises he doesn’t know his child’s friend’s names.
…the Dad whose wife organises the party, sends out the invitations, and despite only doing the school run less than 10% of the time, knows all the other Mums by name, rather than as Insert-Name-Here’s Mum.
…the Dad whose wife knows the social diary.
…the Dad whose wife responds to all the other birthday invites in good time, and whose wife goes out and buys the right sort of present, and not a CD, DVD, toy car, or 12-pack like the Dad normally does.
…the Dad who leaves it to the last minute to get presents for birthdays, organise days out, books a babysitter, or fails to sign notes from school until two days after they’re due in.
…the Dad who plonks their child in front of the telly in lieu of actual engagement with activities. I am the Dad who is much happier shepherding their child around a zoo than taking them to a library, or a playdate with another child. I am Driver, Educator, Gaoler, Co-pilot on computer games. I am not really Artist, Nurse, Chef, Fashion Designer, Imaginative Playmate, Hairdresser, or Evocative Storyteller (although I will try and do all the voices). Mummy does all of that, and many other things, 40,631 times better than I ever could.
…the Dad who trundles along to parents evening, and only then learns about what kind of person the child is.
…the Dad who wishes his deceased Dad was around for some Fathering advice… because asking nearby fellow contemporary Fathers is a major social no-no, and an admission of Parenting Failitude.
…the Dad who wishes his deceased Dad was still around so that I could berate him for his failures, and then demonstrate how I can be a much better Dad than him. It turns out I’m perfectly capable of making my own mistakes as a Dad, and will traumatise and ruin my children in my own unique way.
…the Dad who momentarily freezes when the child’s bottom explodes in a stream of hot diarrhoea, or who responds far too late to the impending signs of in-car vomiting, and who just stands there for entire moments, feeling lost and incapable, before lurching into action and desperately attempting to find wet wipes. When he does, they’re usually dry and the child is stinking, filthy, and beyond being comforted.
…the Dad who rises like a groggy whale at 3am when the child loudly announces yet another bedwetting, and who ineffectively flails at the mattress with Febreze whilst my wife cleans and coddles the distressed child with swiftness, calm soothing, and efficiency.
…the Dad who cannot dress up for a fancy dress party. At most it’s Reservoir Dogs/Blues Brothers typical awkward minimal effort. Cannot do: Pirate, Disney Prince, Disney Princess, Darth Vader, Skeletor, etc.
…the Dad who doesn’t dance.
…the Dad who doesn’t know the words. Who really doesn’t want to join in singing the song over and over again.
…the Dad who sees other dads throwing their kids around with joy in their eyes, chasing after them going ‘RAAAAH!’ as they pretend to be a monster, and have the kids shriek and gurgle with delight. The other Dad can pick their children up and tumble around the playground with them and nobody gets hurt by accident.
…the Dad that looks at the other joy-unconfined Dad, and thinks “Wow, he’s got that whole inner-child thing going on” and is somewhat jealous.
…the Dad who then tries to be the Inner-Child-Dad, going ‘RAAAAAH!’ like a dinosaur, only to have his child and their friends run away from him with genuine screams of terror and bawling their eyes out at the fat, bellowing, hairy man thundering towards them. I then run after them going “No no no! Oh God! No! I’m sorry! Please don’t cry!” which only makes them cry even more.
…the Dad whose social life was once impressive, but now (such as it is) consists of very occasional trips to the pub with old friends, an occasional group hobby or activity of some sort (poker night, band rehearsal, 5-a-side football, model aeroplane club), excruciating middle-aged parties and get-togethers, formal events such as weddings, and looking up old nemeses on Facebook and seething at how much they’ve got their life together/living the dream/doing the dream job that I have always wanted.
…the Dad who loves their offspring, but would like one weekend away with the wife per year, that does not involve going to bed at 9pm, talking about children, or feeling guilt over abandoning child with grandparents for the weekend; and instead feels like a proper break, allows time to rebond and be romantic, and gives a reminder of what life was like “pre-child”.
…the Dad who constantly tells their child not to climb on that, get down from there, don’t do that or you’ll choke, be careful, don’t run off, don’t touch that, take that out of your mouth, look where you’re going, take your hand out of there, no you can’t play outside; and then has the temerity to complain to other parents that society wants us to wrap our kids in cotton wool and that kids can’t play outdoors anymore “like back in the day”. I am the Dad who winces when my child gets onto a climbing frame. I am the Dad who enters a room, and assesses the potential dangers. I suppose that’s what comes of spending my 20s playing first-person-shooters online…
…the Dad who during the school holidays doesn’t know where to take the kids today.
…the Dad who thinks a weekend is wasted if he doesn’t fall asleep on the sofa whilst watching a Bond movie.
…the Dad who sometimes doesn’t notice the housework his wife does, and doesn’t notice how she does the tasks involving house/child/pets/shopping without complaining; and yet, if he has to be the one to take the kids swimming, it’s like the climbing of the fucking Matterhorn without ropes, and by God, everyone knows about it.
…the Dad who reads every newspaper article about new developments in child-rearing and despairs that he can’t do more.
…the Dad who looks at other Mums organising days in and days out as if it were about to be inspected by OFSTED, and feels as though he’s not pulling his weight.
…the Dad who is both appalled and impressed by parents who plan every minute of every day so that their child is never bored or unstimulated. I am both horrified by, and in sneaking admiration of, parents who don’t let their kids watch television (I am, however, totally fed up of parents who boycott Disney films. They’re good films and kids love them. Get over yourself).
…the Dad who secretly thinks that the parents who insist that their child only plays with “wooden toys” are actually tossers. Most of the greatest toys ever are made from plastic. Plastic toys kick ass.
…the Dad who would rather spend some of his days off during summer holidays sitting, reading, lying down, frowning, quietly mulling his own existence, and not being dragged, pulled, yanked, climbed on, screamed at, cajoled, jumped up and down at, and forced into having fun by his entire family.
…the Dad who, when faced with his disruptive and badly-behaving child in public, is reluctant to tell their child off in case passers-by think he’s an abusive monster.
…the Dad who, when disciplining bad behaviour at home, worries that the neighbours have their ears pressed to the wall and are tutting at the way he’s an abusive monster.
…the Dad who fully intends to teach their kid to swim, and who then fails to go swimming with them because going swimming in a public swimming pool is an almighty faff involving cozzies, towels, goggles, swimming hats, and being the only fully grown man in the kids’ pool, and is worried that other parents, the pool’s staff, and even the kids might think he’s a paedo.
…the Dad who doesn’t want to get the kid up for school because he can barely get his own shit together.
…the Dad who is reluctant to check out the sore bit on his daughter’s rude bits and would rather his Wife did it.
…the Dad who doesn’t realise the school trip is today and he forgot about the permission slip, the appropriate warm clothing, and completely failed to get the packed lunch ready.
…the Dad who didn’t realise (or forgot) today is a non-uniform day in school, and whose kid has only just reminded him three steps from the school gate. Child then bursts into tears at the sight of all the other kids running around being hyper ‘cos they’re in mufti, and Dad feels horribly guilty that due to his incompetence, HE has caused his child to experience the most humiliating day of their school existence.
…the Dad who buys the school photo out of some misplaced sense of obligation, even though the photo makes his kid look like a child from a 1980s Romanian orphanage.
…the Dad who loves their kid very much, who would do anything for them, but watch that DVD? Again?? We watched it last week! (“oh pleeeeease!”) No, can we watch something different? (“But I don’t want to!)
…the Dad who doesn’t treat their kid badly, who isn’t brutal or abusive, who isn’t violent, and who isn’t cruel to their child or partner; who instead tries to instil good behaviour, moral judgement, fairness, politeness, an inquisitive mind in their child, a good work ethic, a sense of right and wrong… and then doesn’t teach their kid proper table manners.
…the Dad who, when his wife woke him up to tell him that her waters have broken, and informed him that the baby was on the way, spluttered “What? No! B-but it can’t be!! Not now, surely?”, as though any negotiation was possible by that point, and that by shouting about it, labour would stop. Idiot.
…the Dad who is constantly delighted that someone calls me “Daddy”, and that the novelty will never – ever – wear off.
…the hopeless, quietly desperate, occasionally despairing, frequently bewildered, mostly awkward, largely clueless, hapless Dad. And if you’re a Dad, you probably are too. And also, if you’re a Mum, you might feel the same way. I wouldn’t know (I’m not a Mum).
In short, I am the Daddy, who when left to do the cooking, is capable of Burning Salad.
(although actually, I cook often, and not too badly either. My chilli, curry, and my bolognese kick ass, according to my daughter)