A few weeks ago, I was discussing this blog with Sarah. I was all puffed and proud about having done one hundred posts (champagne, bunting, cheers, tickertape parade, concert held in my name with artists from many nations, etc)
“OK, how about next week, you do a 101st post about parenthood stuff that can go into Room 101?”
(in this case, rather than the Orwellian version of Room 101, being a place for your worst fears; Room 101 for Parents is basically all the stuff that parenting involves that, in no uncertain terms, can fuck right off)
Well, I didn’t manage to make it the 101st post, because lazy, but it’s not a bad idea. In fact, it’s an excellent idea. It’s reasons like that why she’s my wife and I love her, plus boobs.
And lo, fellow parents, this is a list of over 50 things that can go into Parenthood Room 101. Feel free to tell me yours!
1. Early mornings. The mornings on precious weekends when you NEED another two hours’ sleep, but your offspring decides that this is the perfect moment to wake up the entire house by singing Uptown Funk.
2. Early mornings #2. The mornings when you NEED to get up early – for school, for a day trip, to get to the airport to catch the only reasonably-priced flight you could book. Nope. That’s the time your blessed five-year-old child decides to age by 10 years and become a teenager, growling at you when you fling open the curtains. Should small children growl like that? Is that normal??
3. The battle of wills over food. It’s FOOD, child. You need it to SURVIVE. Don’t you UNDERSTAND?? (no wait, you’re a kid, you understand nothing).
4. Clothes. There is ice on the inside of your eyelids. It is a perilously cold day. The wind is gusting from the planet Hoth, and your kid has just insisted on being dressed in her sleeveless summer dress that is two sizes too small, and made of material thinner than paper.
5. Clothes #2. We are in the summer and even the UK is basking in freakish, roasting-hot weather (25°C). It is a day for summer dresses, and the daughter comes downstairs in a jumper, leggings, trousers over the leggings, a bodywarmer made from wool, and wrapped in a squirrel onesie.
Alice, get changed, or you will cook.
“Hmmm. What will I taste like?”
6. Clothes #3. It’s school photo day. “I’ll wear my best school dress and school shirt!”, she says. You trust her to get ready in her school uniform. She comes downstairs in a Harry Potter costume, complete with Gryffindor tie.
That’s not your school uniform, Alice.
“It’s the best school uniform I’ve got!” she snaps.
You really shouldn’t trust her to get ready in her school uniform unattended.
7. Clothes #4. You haven’t learned from your mistakes, and still you trust her to get dressed in her school uniform. It is only on the walk to school that you realise her shirt is COVERED in stains from last night’s curry. This happened to me only just this morning.
8. Handling toxic, biohazardous waste with your bare hands. I once – years ago, during toilet training (not mine, Alice’s) – attempted to find the source of an unpleasant smell, reached blindly under the sofa to pull out whatever was making that smell, assuming it was a rancid piece of food that had fallen under there, and my hands closed around a semi-firm poo. The mystery of how it got 18 inches under a sofa has never been solved. And yet, the stuff keeps on coming: urine, vomit, occasional blood, used tissues, food that has been cached somewhere, as though she’s a semi-tame hyena.
9. Fighting your child’s irrationality with reason and logic… and losing. Arguing with a child is like arguing with an implacable religious fundamentalist. You’re not going to change their mind, despite them not being aware of the fountain of bullshit that comes spewing out of their mouths.
10. Bed time. Bedtime is when your child realises they haven’t used up every ounce of energy today and so they try to cram it all into the last ten minutes (usually by bouncing up and down, running around, and doing the opposite of what you tell them what to do, all the while giggling insanely). It also coincides with the time of day (apart from 3am) when I least want to wrestle an insane giggler into pyjamas.
11. Soft play. Soft play is a Godsend when it’s wet out, and your child is climbing the walls. However, it is also an echoing 4th circle of Hell full of screaming monsters and beaten-down parents drinking over-priced dishwater coffee. No childless couple would ever willingly go to soft play, unless it was late at night and they were on drugs. It’s the part of Dante’s Inferno reserved solely for parents.
12. When your child is resisting being taken by the hand, and they go limp, and you have to drag them. This is fun, especially when crossing busy roads.
13. When your child unexpectedly grabs you by the arms, and lifts their feet off the ground, thus forcing you to pick them up. Hello slipped disc!
14. Having to answer the same questions over the course of many years.
15. Having to repeat every single instruction many times over the course of many more years.
Don’t do that thing!!
What am I waiting for you to say?
How many times must I tell you not to do it?
“Errr… just once?”
Do I ever have to tell you again?
[five minutes later…]
You’re doing it again! ARE YOU FUC-LIPPING DEAF, CHILD?? WHAT DID I TELL YOU NOT TO DO BARELY A NANOSECOND AGO??
16. Having your child suddenly, and without any provocation, spout an opinion that Hitler would deem a bit much e.g. all bullies should have their eyes torn out, and pushed into a volcano while their parents have their limbs cut off. All this just because some twatty little boy says to her that girls can’t play football.
17. The controlling of your child in public. Feel the hot sensation of embarrassment creep up your neck as your child suddenly bursts into singing ‘That’s What Makes You Beautiful‘ in a church during your uncle’s funeral. The sound of adults tutting at you has the same physical sensation on you as bullets from machine guns, as your child gets fractious and bored in a quiet restaurant known for its supreme poshness (top tip: don’t take your kid to a posh restaurant, you ninny. That’s what fast food chains are for). The sudden rush of shame as a child comments on someone’s facial deformity in a loud and penetrating voice.
18. Parents’ evening at school. Just parents’ evening alone can get into the fucking sea.
19. Parents’ evening at school when the teacher tells you about your child’s poor behaviour and you realise that it is behaviour inspired by you e.g. giving other kids a Vulcan Nerve Pinch because you encouraged your child to watch Star Trek. What’s more, the teacher knows that you know that you are responsible, because they’re giving you a very hard look.
20. Realising that your child has very nearly had a serious, and possibly life-threatening accident, and you spend the rest of the day wondering if, in a parallel universe, the outcome had not been OK.
Example: This actually happened. The other day, I was walking through a supermarket car park, and Alice was about 15 feet in front of me, skipping along. Normally, she holds my hand in a car park, and we walk together, but on that day I wasn’t really paying attention. Alice was walking past the back of a parked car, when it suddenly roared into life, and backed straight out. It missed Alice by a tiny margin. Alice yelped and dodged out of the way, the car stopped, and for a brief moment, Alice looked terrified at me, the driver looked at us both in horror, and I realised I was glaring at both of them in shock. Thing is, if Alice had been only 13 feet in front of me, the car would have backed straight into her and would have probably knocked us over. It was everyone’s fault at once. The driver clearly didn’t check behind them until after they had pulled out; Alice knows better than to walk separately from me in a car park (it has been a strict rule ever since she could walk), and I really should have been paying attention. It was sheer luck that there was no accident. And that has provided me with all sorts of nightmare images my brain ensures I can watch every time I close my eyes at night, and it’s another parenting moment I could well do without.
21. Watching your child bully another child. That’s a moment of parenting that could fuck right off, followed by…
22. Having to tell your child off in public after your child has just bullied another child, all the while knowing that bullied child’s parent is watching you, and you have to assess whether you tell off your own child in a forceful way, but not too forceful, in case the other parent judges you for bullying your own child.
23. Telling your kid off in public, and realising halfway through that you’re being unreasonable, but having to go through with it anyway (because stopping what you’re doing, and saying “hang on, I’m being unfair and unreasonable”, and apologising to your child is not the sort of thing you think of doing in public). It’s one of those out-of-body moments you wish you could never have.
24. Having another parent tell your child off for some infraction or other. How do you react? Do you agree with them because your child actually deserved it? Do you get cross at them for telling your child off, because only you should tell your kid off? Are you reacting out of bruised ego? What the fuck are you supposed to do??!!
25. Being obliged to sit through hours of tediously awful and cloying television aimed at pre-schoolers.
26. Then, after a few years, being obliged to sit through hours of shouty, gooey, hectic, screeching, strobing television that is one big animated commercial for a crappy series of toys aimed at primary school kids, featuring kung-fu cyborg mice with mystic powers, and a weekly moral message.
27. Television programmes for kids; particularly a shouty, gooey, hectic, screeching, strobing live-action Saturday-morning television programme which is some sort of activity/quiz thing hosted by a team of mixed-gender presenters who yell at you down the television which is subjected to you after #1 has taken place.
28. Television programmes #2; being obliged to watch a programme where the main character is actually a massive arsehole (e.g. Horrid Henry, Dennis the Menace, Bing, Hannah Montana). A shit so massive that if it was a child in the same class as yours, you’d encourage your own child to not associate with. You realise, with dawning horror, that this appalling character is somehow both appealing and inspiring to kids.
29. Realising that your reaction to #28 could possibly mean you are now one of those parents that gets shrill and complains a lot about stuff that most people would deem unimportant. OK, so it’s about positive vs negative role models, and it affects your child (and possibly other children), but it’s the same reasoning that causes idiots to force schools to ban Of Mice and Men from the shelves, or organises bonfires of Roald Dahl books because he worships Satan, or something.
30. Television programmes #3; watching a programme where the implied message is at odds with your fluffy Liberal ideals e.g. boys must marry girls; girls must look thin and pretty at all times; the programme is actually a subtle pro-gun Christian thing; the programme encourages an obsession with frivolous material goods; the programme is full of white kids spending obscene amounts of money in a gated community; and so on…
31. Listening to pop music and realising that you have finally lost all remaining instinct over what is deemed hip, cool and current, because even though the song is in English, you understand less than 32% of the lyrics
32. Listening to your child’s favourite pop song and realising how grossly inappropriate it is, and then having to decide whether or not to just let the kid listen to it, or whether or not to be a total square and be all draconian and refuse to let your child listen to it any more (see also #29)
33. Going to a party with your child, have your child insist that you dance with them, so you get up and shuffle awkwardly around, and you catch the DJs eye, and they look at you slightly pityingly, and then you catch a glimpse of yourself dancing reflected in a window or mirror, and you realise that you dance like a bell-end.
34. Being forced to entertain a child in a lively and physical way which involves standing up and possibly running/jumping/dancing, when all you want to do is read a good book.
35. Watching the news, and having one fascinating news story interrupted by a child having a screaming melt-down because they’re bored and they want to watch Horrid Henry.
36. Watching a really interesting programme and then realising you have to change channel because it is not child-appropriate.
37. Having your child really upset by something tiny and trivial, and having to explain to your child that they’re being a bit unreasonable, but your kid doesn’t understand, and they’re still upset. And then you get frustrated, and they get more upset.
38. Being asked about sex, and having to explain it to your kid, only for your kid to repeat what you’ve told to her classmates during show-and-tell the following day, and hope that they don’t use the word “boner”.
39. Reading the Harry Potter books, and attempting to avoid all spoilers (which is hard when peers of your child watch the films first, out of sequence, and then blab all), read up to book five, only to have a character in a TV programme you’re all watching as a family say that Snape kills Dumbledore at the end of book six.
40. Not being able to listen to Led Zeppelin in the car, and instead having to listen to I Am A Gummy Bear on repeat. Putting on the Zep would risk the enraging your child (frankly, it’s a risk I’m more than happy to take).
41. Having had a bad day at work, only to find your kid has had a much worse day at school and needs a lot of comforting
42. Having had a bad day at work, but your kid has a motherfucker of a flip-out over something tiny, and you need to bury your shit deep inside you, because first and foremost, you have to calm a screeching dervish before you tend to your own needs.
43. Your child having a shit birthday, especially if the shiteness of the birthday being in some way your fault
44. When playing a computer game, have your child loudly demand a go, reluctantly pass the controls over to your child, and then watch your child make your avatar walk into walls, jump up and down 481 times (“but it makes a nice sound!”), and spin around on the spot for 12 minutes. And then your child kills your avatar through incompetence, and it ruins your savegame and your stats.
45. Going out for a big family day out, end up going to a place that you and your spouse might really enjoy (art gallery, big country house), only to have a whining, complaining voice follow you around all day saying what a rubbish time they’re having .
46. Child being ill. That’s just horrid. Not just the bodily fluids, the smell, and the need for constant attention, but also the feeling of utter helplessness as your child whimpers. Yeah, that shit can get to fuck.
47. Spending weeks on a Big Important Thing at work (presentation, meeting, report, big project, etc), and then on the day when it has to culminate, and many people are relying on you, your kid is very ill. And when you ring in to excuse yourself, there is a slightly sceptical tone in your boss’s voice, as if to suggest you’re just buying time.
48. Talking to an old and dear friend who you haven’t seen in years, and having your child interrupt you repeatedly and rudely because they’re bored of adults talking to each other and you’re not paying enough attention: “I’ve made a thing from this mud LOOK DADDY LOOK!”
49. Introducing your child to a book or film from your own childhood, that was a crucially inspiring and important work to you, and have your child dismiss it as being rubbish.
50. Having your child commit to something vitally important (e.g. swimming lessons) only for them to demand to quit two months, and a lot of money later, because “It’s hard and I can’t do it”
51. Not being able to have any privacy whatsoever. Visiting the toilet is NOT a team effort. Why can’t you understand this? Why do you want to watch me poo?
52. Your body is no longer yours. Any time you take clothes off and a child is nearby, you suddenly find a tiny finger poking bits of your body to see if it wobbles like jelly. And then it gets laughed at for being wobbly. Thanks kid, I’ll make sure to laugh at your puberty awkwardness in about ten years time.
53. Your rude bits are sensitive at the best of times. Add a curious child into the mix, and it’s both sensitive and ewwwwwww. Your breasts get prodded (not easy to come to terms with when you’re a man, trust me), and your crotch is questioned. Why is it hairy? Why does it dangle? Those look like marbles in a bag; are they marbles Daddy? Can I tou-
No. No no no no no no NO NOOOO NO NO NO NO NO NO.
54. When you, as a proud Dad, take pride in your parenting role (take the kid to school, be primary carer, do the housework, cook the meals, do the shopping, have your wife or girlfriend be the primary earner, be a Stay-At-Home-Dad), and then see an article in the newspaper about Stay-At-Home-Dads and primary-carer Dads… and the accompanying picture is of a man wielding a vacuum cleaner and wearing an apron.
55. Having to put your child first ALL THE TIME
And here’s just 0.5 of a thing:
Realising that parenting lasts the rest of your life. Once you become a parent, you are a parent forever, and you cannot get out of it. Being a parent forever is fine – brilliant, even. But that moment of realisation, when you have a flash-vision of parenting defining you for the rest of your natural life, that selfish, horrible “oh… shit” moment BEFORE you go “and that’s… OK. Yeah, it is definitely OK. I’m well up for this!”. That brief moment of selfish doubt and fear can be dumped into the shittiest of sewers. What comes afterwards, I’ll happily take.