Utopia

It’s all these “rules” that make everything so much of a downer. And Daddy’s tired. So let’s just not have any rules. Makes sense, man.

Initially, it seemed to work. The kids did more or less what they wanted, and the Beloved Leader made wise suggestions about what they should do next. This lockdown Utopia lasted approximately one morning.

Turned out that they didn’t like the idea of home school. What’s the point of being at home if you still have to do school? I could not argue with this impeccable logic. But parenting often means having to force your children to do illogical and boring things. Which is sure to make you popular.

What followed was the dark time. The Beloved Leader turned into a terrible, grumpy, shouting monster. Everything was an argument. It was awful. Then the beloved leader had an idea, born more out of desperation than inspiration. The kids should decide when they want to do everything, and write it all down on a piece of paper and stick it on the wall. We all abide by the schedule without having to shout at each other. And democracy is born.

Unfortunately, as we all know, democracy doesn’t work. It quickly started to go wrong. After three days, the eldest child was making an impassioned speech about the tyranny of the “piece of paper on the wall” and how he was going to “tear it down and rip it into tiny pieces”. This naked populism was, not surprisingly, very popular.

Now we have adopted another system. It’s a mixed system. Some shouting, followed by some argument, followed by brief, reluctant compliance, followed by some whinging, followed by telly. Followed, at the end of the day, by the Beloved Leader drinking quite a lot of wine.

Bananas

You don’t need me to tell you, things are getting weird.

Example one: People everywhere have started cleaning behind the sofa. And it’s an emotional roller coaster. The severed heads of toys. A cherished remote. Enough change to purchase five sheets of black market toilet paper. That book you wanted to read. Cutlery. A plate. DVDs. Some now worthless tesco vouchers. A gut wrenching amount of dirt. And… something weirder. Six banana skins in various stages of mummification. One looks like some sort of hideous giant spider. Six banana skins. Six. You shake your head, perplexed. Six. At least it explains one of the layers of stench in here. Six, though. Six.

Example two: Parents everywhere are getting to know their children better than they ever intended. My two year old son, a kind of proto-intelligent chimp-human hybrid, shrugs when I show him the banana skins, and mumbles “I don’t know.” He looks as if he is going to add something profound, then he lets out a long fart, chuckles, and wonders off.

My eldest son, who’s entire purpose in life is to annoy his sister and make me look foolish, points at his sister. “No I didn’t!” She screeches. My daughter likes to organise impromptu theatre shows, lessons, quizzes, and group activities which she initiates with a teacherly clap of her hands. This is very useful given the poor quality of my home schooling. I am extremely sceptical that she has been throwing banana skins behind the sofa. To my amazement she suddenly rolls her eyes and sighs, “Alright. It was me.”

“But… why?” I ask, shaken.

“It was quicker than taking them to the kitchen.” She explains, as if to one of her slower students. I have to admit, she has a point.

Weathergeddon

I don’t know. It seems more rainy to me. I haven’t done my research into the science of climate change. I’m too lazy. But it seems like something is going on. It feels like it has been raining for about a decade now. And for the last few weeks it has gone from traditional drizzle to torrential drizzle, a sort of British version of a winter monsoon.

The ground has had enough. It is simply lying there, arms crossed, with an annoyed look on its face. Every time we ask it to absorb more water, it just shakes its head angrily. This means that everything is slowly turning slimy. And the bits that are not slimy, are now sub aquatic environments where confused fish swim past garden gnomes. 

None of this makes school runs more enjoyable. My two year old is still behaving like an addiction era Robert Downy Junior on the set of a doomed movie. Each morning he screams “let me go!” as I carry him through the school gate under my arm, like it’s normal. The teachers smile at me sympathetically, making a mental note never to have children.

Then I glimpse the half term break, like sunshine through dark clouds. It keeps me going. I trudge towards it grimly, dreaming of having an extra half an hour in bed in the morning instead of being physically and mentally abused by a tiny RDJr as I slip and slide through weather Armageddon.

Finally half term comes. Miraculously the sun really does peak through the clouds. Everything is going to be alright. We start planning our very cheap day trips into the great outdoors.

As we plan, smiling and laughing naively, bit actors in the bad disaster movie our lives have become, the camera pulls back, up and up into a gathering storm of bad CGI in the cloud tops far above. An evil storm. A half-term wrecking storm. A storm called… Dennis.

Simple Pleasures

“You’re usually here with three kids.” The self service checkout man says with a smile. “How are you?” He asks.

Oddly, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.

I say oddly, because almost everything about my life is measurably worse. I’m tireder. I have less time. I rarely watch TV or go to the movies. I never go to wild parties or the theatre. I don’t chase women or drive cheap cars too fast or have any spare cash at all. Ever.

When I was younger life was measurably better. I didn’t really appreciate it. My son doesn’t appreciate the multiple on-demand entertainment streams or the millions of toys and books and crafts and parties and playdates. His life is crushingly boring. Waiting the seconds it takes to choose the next thing is agony.

I never appreciated my freedom. Or spare time. Or spare cash. All excitement goes. And yet I’m still happier. How? Is it the wonder of having kids? No. Well, maybe partly. But mostly it’s something else.

I never used to enjoy the supermarket. Ever. It was a boring place. It still is. And yet now, just being on my own in the supermarket has become almost blissful. As is sitting on the loo uninterrupted. And staying in bed a few extra minutes. And walking without the drone of whinging. And watching TV with my wife. Life gets better not because life gets better, but because life gets worse, and we become more and more pitifully grateful for the little things.

“Your’s are well behaved.” The checkout man says about my kids. “Some just lie on the floor and scream.”

My son did that last week. I am enormously enjoying the simple pleasure of the checkout man thinking my nightmare child belongs to someone else. Life is good.

Recognition

My son had to design an alien, and make a spacecraft, for his space project. Luckily I am a bit of an expert in spacey things. I should help.

“An alien in the atmosphere of Saturn would probably need to be able to fly.” I say, cleverly guiding my young protege.

“Rocket feet!” My son shouts happily.

“Hmmm.” I nod. “Rocket feet are probably unlikely to evolve in a biological species. What about some sort of buoyant gas sack?”

“Rocket feet.” My son repeats slowly, as if I hadn’t heard him the first time.

“OoooK.”

Later we begin to sketch out some ideas for his spacecraft. “So, lets start thinking about what we would need to carry out a space mission.”

“Finished!” He says, having scribbled some lines with a crayon.

“Hmm. OK. What are those things?”

“Solar panels.”

“Oh!” I say, pleasantly surprised. I think I can get on board with this design.

“My goodness, that’s impressive!” The head tells us at the school gate. The juice bottle space-craft is orbiting a paper-lamp earth. Astronauts are doing a space walk, bobbing on the end of pipe cleaner life lines.

“Finally!” I scream inside, shaking an internal fist at the world. “Finally my genius is being recognised!”

Turns out the way to get your very well disguised genius recognised by the world is to pass your work off as that of a six year old. Yes, it was his ideas, but the execution is mostly mine! There is no way he could have used the glue gun! It’s far too dangerous. Look at the quality of those glue lines!

Later my son comes out of school, beaming, carrying his space craft. “I got two merits for it!” He says.

“Yeeeeeees!” I shout inside. “Well done, son. I’m proud of you.” I tell him.

Namaste

Namaste.

Welcome to this Yoga lesson for beginners. Yoga is excellent for reducing stress, increasing core strength and flexibility, and maintaining overall health. But particularly good for  reducing stress, particularly when you have small children who are trying to destroy you.

First, place a folded blanket on the floor. You should have a yoga mat, but yoga is not something you ever imagined yourself attempting. You’re just desperate. Now, try to squat on your knees with your toes splayed, as I am, but then quickly realise that that is agonisingly painful and move to a more comfortable cross legged position. Place your hands together, close your eyes, breath deeply, and calmly imagine positive goals for your day.

Next, brace yourself as your two year old grabs hold of your cheeks and demands that you switch the TV back to Cbeebies. Try to stay calm as he rhino-charges you and knocks you over like a chubby skittle. Pause the video, carry him to another area, place crayons and paper in front of him. Resume the video.

Next, fail to adopt any positions other than something called “the warrior”, which is basically just standing with your legs apart. Now, annoyed with yourself, attempt something called “downward dog”. Simply bend over until you start feeling dizzy, then walk your hands out in front of you until you are in a position you’re not sure you can get out of. Notice your breathing. Also notice your two year old crawling in beneath you to attempt his own downward dog. Panic as you feel your hands start to slip. Screech at him to get out of the way. Hear him laugh and say “no”.

Finally hurl yourself sideways and land painfully on the floor. Then, swearing, stop this video and put Cbeebies back on.

Namaste.

Fat Idiot

I’m wondering if people can tell that I have no idea how to hold my newborn. It’s warm and it smells like slightly off milk and sick. It has weird, dark, alien eyes that follow the fluorescent lights along the hospital corridor. Sometimes they seem to focus on me when I sing softly.

I have my earphones on. I have made myself a hospital playlist. Somehow a Queen track has sneaked onto it from my childhood.

“Don’t stop me now, I’m having such a good time…” I find myself singing, and I look into his wobbly eyes, and something weird happens. I start crying. It’s happiness, but I’m also emotionally flattened by a big lump of time and memory all landing on me at once. Yesterday I was twelve doing Brian May air-guitar. Today I’m making embarrassing electric guitar noises at my first-born son.

What feels like the next day I’m sitting in a school hall listening to twenty kids singing, together physically, but all choosing their own tune and tempo. “Don’t stop me know, I’m having such a good time…”. My first born son looks like a rock star, long hair and confidence, beaming after a transformative week at summer holiday stage school. They are performing a thinly concealed version of School of Rock. I sing along, crying a little, grinning like I’m insane.

Afterwards, my first born son is thrilled and energised. The show has awakened his inner rebel and he is, to say the least, a bit sassy. I have to tell him to do something he doesn’t want two do. He gives me a look. His weird, wobbly, newborn eyes seem to focus on me.

“No I won’t, you… fat idiot.” He says.

He seems confused when I laugh crazily and my eyes moisten with emotion.