You’d think 2 weeks would be long enough.

It’s difficult to make informed decisions about products that you buy online. They could literally have been manufactured somewhere near the ninth level of hell, but when we are faced with the choice between something that costs £4, made in heaven, and something made by Satan himself in a factory called Burning Arsenic Desertification Ltd, that costs £1, it’s a decision that needs thought. Yes, Satan is bad, and BAD Ltd does have, what politicians would call, one or two question marks about it’s ethical practices, but £3 is £3. I could buy a coffee at a leading coffee outlet. Only two pounds ninety eight of that would be profit, which seems very reasonable to my coffee addled brain. I am also buying an experience. The experience of being awake.

So I bought the pot of BAD Ltd play-slime. There was a picture of a laughing child. How bad could it be? Oddly there was no picture of angry parents trying to scrape play slime off every surface, then throwing ruined bed sheets away.

I decided to give BAD Ltd one more try. I saved another £3 buying the BAD Ltd play tattoos. I gave them to our children at the beginning of the Easter school holidays. That was three weeks ago. My four year old daughter likes nothing better than to strut around like a red hot chili pepper, her torso covered in biker tattoos that appear to have welded themselves permanently to her skin. Good job school is so understanding. They understand that I’m an idiot.

I try to think of a solution. I go online. Oh, look. BAD Products Ltd make play-tattoo remover. Oh, look, it also removes play slime. And it’s so reasonably priced.


Education is, people tell us, the magic bullet for curing all society’s ills. Given what my son seems to be learning, I’m not so sure.

My son, in key areas, is already better educated than I am. His reading and writing has come on in leaps and bounds. Last year it took him forever to write his name, and it looked like Strava tracking a cat. This year you can read what he writes, it actually looks pretty good. And he’s started reading to his baby brother, something which triggers so many parental emotions in me I can barely be in the same room without blubbing with happiness.

It’s not really what he’s learning from the teachers that causes me… consternation. It’s what he is learning from the real teachers. The real teachers are not the teachers. The real teachers are not even me and his mother. The real teachers are the other school kids.


“No! Don’t say it. I’ve told you. I don’t like it.”


“I… just don’t say it.”

Of course, as soon as my son knows that there is something he can say which causes me consternation, he wants nothing more than to say it repeatedly. It’s like giving him verbal bullets to shoot me with.

“Buuuu-”. “No!”. “Buuuut Snaaa-”. “Don’t! I will catapult you into the heart of the sun!”. “But Sna-”. “I do not like it! Do not say it!”

He grins at me. I layer threat upon threat. He continues grinning. I know he’s going to say it. “But Snack!” He cackles gleefully.

“Right! That’s it!”

“What? What’s wrong with But Snack?” He is crying with laughter now.

Truth is I don’t really know what’s wrong with it. I’m not well educated enough. And, by god, I never will be.

#Ooh, that’s nice

Everything that my children do is completely fascinating and amazing.

There is a level on which this is still literally true. I am fascinated and amazed that a universe exists in which I can convince someone to have children with me. And that the forces of nature can combine in utterly baffling and impossible ways to create something that starts off looking like a tar-pooing alien grub then within a couple of years is walking and talking. Where did that come from? What’s it all about? It’s fascinating and amazing.

And they keep doing amazing things. The billions of other parents probably think exactly the same thing about their own children. They’re wrong, of course. Their children tend to be dull, loud and annoying in my experience. But my children, uniquely, are completely and utterly beautiful and amazing.

However, although they are amazing, and do many amazing things, not absolutely everything they do is amazing.

When they bounce up to you and say “Daddy! Look! I’ve found a stick!”

You can’t really reply, “So what?” or “Big deal.” You just can’t. Doesn’t matter how tired you are. So you say, “Wow. That’s an awesome stick.”. You say it in your parent voice.

The parent voice is the voice you use to tell your child how beautiful their scribble is. To begin with you’re genuinely amazed that they can scribble. But there are a limited number of scribbles that can be amazing. So you have to fake it. This is fine when they are small. Problem is, the little blighters keep advancing.

“Come on guys. Let’s go outside and search for bugs with the magnifying glass!” I say, enthused and excited.

“Yeah. That sounds amazing.” My son replies.

He is using the parent voice. I am genuinely amazed.

#Revenge fantasy

Admittedly I am a flabby, gangly, shy, bespectacled, excessively polite, floppy haired nerd. But I’m also highly emotional. It’s not that hard to trigger me. Injustice makes me grind my teeth. I can barely listen to the news anymore in case my head explodes. If you harm my children. Mmmm. Mmmmmmmm. You may not be able to stop yourself laughing as I gangle towards you, crying behind my glasses and apologising profusely for what I am about to do, but it will be your last laugh.

“Bad day again today, Daddy.” My daughter sighs.

“Oh no. What happened?”

“It was a hitty day, Daddy. And a kicky day.”

“Come here. Give me a cuddle. Who hit you? Who kicked you?” I can feel myself triggering. My blood pressure is rising. I’m grinding my teeth. I dole out the hugs. She likes to tell me about anything bad that’s happened at school straight away to get some extra attention.

“It was Attila again.” According to my daughter Attila is the “king of the baddies”. She did have a brief period of thinking that she might be in love with him, but that passed, thankfully. I should mention at this point that my daughter is a very imaginative person. She has, in her head, several parallel universes, all creepily similar to ours.

I spend a sleepless night grinding my teeth and fantasising about kicking doors down. My wife tries to tell me not to worry so much, but it’s too late. I’ve turned into Liam Neeson.

“I’m going to see your teacher today. Tell me everything Attila has done to you. Everything. Leave no detail out, however small or insignificant you might think it is.”

My daughter looks confused for a moment, then laughs. “Oh Daddy, you are silly. That was just a Joke.”


Should I get a real Christmas tree? Obviously I’ve left the decision a bit late, but that’s a Christmas tradition in itself. Christmas arrives like a predator. You see it on the horizon, look away, then it jumps on you.

It’s pretty odd if you think about it. There are literally lots of trees outside, but we buy one, prop it up unsafely in the living room, cover it in shiny plastic and watch it slowly die. It’s sort of like a ritual tree sacrifice. It’s pretty cool. Normally I’m on board.

Your first child is challenging. Especially for me. I went from a relatively easy life, to what was for me the equivalent of being sent to a Siberian labour camp. It was bad. But we assumed that our first child was basically how all small children were. Yes he was loud and tempestuous and demanding, but we sort of got the hang of it.

Turns out, though, our first child was a pussycat. Life was just toying with us. Our daughter raised the difficulty bar considerably. She was, basically, a wild animal. In some ways she still is. Turns out, she was easy.

Our third and last child has come. He is shouting at me now as I try to hide in the kitchen, he’s rattling the child gate like a crazed ape. A moment ago he lobbed a wine glass over it which shattered on the kitchen floor. He has overcome the child locks on the sideboard. Again. As I cower, I can only think of the inventor of the atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer, quoting Hindu scripture. “I have become death, destroyer of worlds.”

Which brings me to the Christmas tree question. I can’t get one this year, unfortunately, because my third child, quite literally, will eat it.


Parenting, it turns out, is not all sunshine and lollipops. It can be, for me anyway, an emotionally pummelling trial. But as time goes on, some things do get a little easier.

I’ll never forget the first time my son told me that he hated me. There was a tense bedtime standoff. I insisted that he needed to go to bed. He dropped the H-bomb.

“I hate you, Daddy!” He stamped.

The air filled with the Adagio for Strings. We were both shocked. Me most of all. I had to hug him for a good ten minutes while I rode the wave of my own emotions. It was like a gut punch. The air was knocked out of me.

Finally we reconciled. I agreed to put off bedtime, and we agreed the we did love each other after all. Later I told my wife about the incident. I got tremulous. She gave me a hug.

Fast forward a couple of years. Now I have three children. Each of them, in their own unique, delightful, fascinating way, spend most of their time each day trying to break my mind and trample me into the dust. Far from reasoned, sensible negotiations, at least eight times a day I have to pile in like a prison guard trying to quell a riot. They don’t want to do anything I want them to do, and they are prepared to use any means not to do it. It never seems to get any easier. Accept for one thing.

“Right! That’s it! Tooth brushing! Now!” I holler. I never used to holler.

“No!” My son screams at me, shaking a defiant fist at me like a cross between Spartacus and Churchill. “Never!”

“Tooth brushing right now or no more telly. Ever. End of telly. The telly goes to charity. Or to the dump. To be smashed into tiny pieces so no other children can watch it either. Five, four, three, two-”

“I hate you Daddy!!”

“Yeah. Whatever. Tooth brushing. Now.”

I will never bend

I never recommend products. Never. It’s just not something I do. Ever.

So here’s my product recommendation. Unlike all other parenting product recommendations, which are all lies, this one will literally change your life immeasurably for the better. Fasten your seat belts, ladies and gentlemen. I’m about to blow your minds.

Babies are cute. They’re funny. They’re noisey. But most of all, they are disgusting. Why can’t they just eat food? Why does it have to go all over their faces? And clothes? And the floor? Surely evolution should have made babies that can get food in their mouths, to prevent starvation if nothing else.

Eighty percent of the food he gets his hands on ends up as horrible, rancid floor compost. I could hoover it up, but hoovering food seems gross and wrong somehow. And I can’t bare the idea of a greasy tube. The only real answer is to get down there with a dustpan and brush. It was there, while I was down on all fours, amongst the vile mess, being laughed at and having food thrown at me like a slave at a viking feast, that the life changing idea came to me.

Two things will happen when you drunkenly knock over a pot plant in the foyer of an american hotel. Come on, we’ve all been there. The second thing is that you will be escorted from the building. The first is that a man will emerge carrying a dustpan and brush… with handles. Long handles. So he doesn’t have to bend down. It’s called a janitorial dustpan and brush, and it is the best thing that has ever been created. Between 10 and 20 pounds on Ama-bay, depending on crapness. I now officially love my janitorial dustpan and brush more than I love my children.

Just Don’t

I’ve tried, tirelessly, in this column, to help people avoid making the terrible mistake of having children. But I still see you. Everywhere. Having children. Out and about with your first child, carefully fussing around them as if they were unexploded bombs. Oh, the naivete. It’s almost cute.

If you have ignored me, and have one, for goodness sake leave it at that. The one you’ve got might seem horrendously difficult and frustrating, but believe me, you’ve still got it easy. If you have two, you repeat offending fool, then don’t ever be tempted to think that another one won’t make much difference. It so will.

Take this morning, for instance. Others calmly and happily prepare for the morning commute. Showering pleasantly. Bopping to the radio. Eating a crisp, calm piece of toast. Reading a crisp, calm news paper. Reflecting with wise detachment on whatever dark comedy is being played out in the news today. Not me.

My baby son woke me up at 2am. 4am. 6am. Then finally, after I had given up putting him back in his cot, at 7am, by trying to tear my face off by the lip. I lever myself out of bed and drag my other two grumpy, angry children downstairs where they begin their first task of the day. Shouting at me.

“Stop shouting at me!” I shout. I never used to shout.

I make breakfast, change a nappy, find clothes, dress myself, drink coffee, all as calm and poised as a giraffe with a migraine. My children refuse to eat breakfast, or put on clothes, or stop shouting. I hide in the toilet for 4 sweet minutes, too tired to cry. Getting them in the car is like the worst clown act in the world.

We arrive at school, too late to park legally, looking like aliens sent to earth to impersonate a human family, but who missed a key seminar.

Whatever you do, don’t have three kids. Unless you’re my Mum, of course. I’m fourth of five. Thank you Mum.

Get in!

When it comes to football, I’m rather like Donald Trump. Profoundly, disturbingly ignorant. Also, like Trump, I’m not that bothered about being ignorant. “I don’t know anything about football.” I brag, a big smug pout on my big fat ignorant face.

But something strange is taking place. One of the few things I know about football, largely because people who do know about football keep telling me, is that England is rubbish. We won the world cup once, a long time ago, when the team wasn’t paid and smoked pipes as they played, but now we’re rubbish.

But suddenly everyone’s singing about football coming home. Dreams are becoming reality. The sheep is laying with the wolf. Dogs and cats, dancing in the streets. Brexit is definitely going to be a huge success. Football is coming home. (If I were football, I’d wait to see how Brexit goes first, but there you are.)

“Croatia has won only two of their last ten games against england.” I say, as if I know things. Thank God for google. Now I can sort of join in with the excitement, by repeating what google tells me and occasionally shaking my fist in triumph and saying “Football is coming home!”. I can, for the first time in my life, seem like a proper man. Even to my son. We can watch football together, and shout “Come on then, England!”

“Daddy, that’s amazing.” My son says excitedly, pointing at the TV.

“I know.” I say. “It is amazing, isn’t it!” It’s working. We’re watching football together! And enjoying it! I’m a proper Dad!

“How do they make those stripes on the grass so perfect?” My son asks.

“I don’t know. Really careful mowing, maybe. But those really are amazing grass stripes.”

Get in! Dad win!

Avenging Angel

My son clings to my legs as the double doors open. Four or five smiling people in blue operating theatre robes beckon us in. The pre-opp room is a bit like an elevator. The unconsciousness elevator. Going down.

They sit me on the bed, sit my son on my knee, and start chit-chatting to us. We hardly notice as they take my son’s arm and put it around my back. He winces as they put in the cannula. I cradle his head tightly.

They want him to count. He’s too frightened. We all start counting for him. He has no real way of knowing what is going to happen next. All he has to believe in, in this tiny room, is me. And I’m about to leave.

I don’t know what adenoids are. I think they can make you talk funny, like having a kazoo up your nose. My son has a malfunctioning head Kazoo. He also needs comedy plasticine dogs implanted into his ear-drums. I’m fuzzy on the medical details. All I know is that for the first time in his life, I am powerless to protect him, and it’s sending me a little bit Dad-mental.

I pace up and down in the waiting area. Twenty minutes ago they told us he would be out in ten. I fantasize about striding through the corridors, bursting into rooms, demanding my son. “Where is my son!” I dream of bellowing, like an avenging angel, my righteous rage making the walls shake and the lights dim. These Dad-fantasies make me breath fast through my nose and glare at anyone in a hospital uniform. They smile back at me.

We all count. He glances up at me, eyes wide. Three. Four. Five. His eyes close. Six. He goes floppy. We lay him down on the bed. They tell me they’ll look after him. For a moment I cannot let my son’s unconscious body go. “We’ll take it from here.” They say. They mean I have to leave. They literally want me to leave so they can cut my son’s head open. I stand. They smile at me. One of them ushers me out of the double doors. They close behind me.

“If they harm my son, I will destroy the entire human race.”, an odd, primordial part of my brain pops up and announces. It’s a bit of a surprise to me that I have that part in my brain. As a boy I liked flower arranging and Gandhi. I wonder back to the waiting room, jaw clenched.

The next fifty eight minutes is excruciating. I pace up and down making everyone less comfortable.

Finally they bring my son out. He is sleeping. Slowly he comes round. The look he gives me makes me nearly cry. Again.

Later, in the evening, my son is jumping up and down on me, laughing hysterically, trying to make me smell his bottom.