You leave the chaotic scene behind. Your daughter is singing ‘Jingle Bells’ over and over and over and over. It’s March 23rd. Your son is simultaneously watching ‘Adventure Time’ on TV while playing ‘Minecraft’ on his tablet. Oh, and he also has music blaring out at a level higher than the engines of an Airbus A380 (it’s AC/DC so you don’t mind that). The cat meows repetitively at 5 second intervals. It is unclear what she wants. You’ve opened the door for her and filled her food bowl. You’re out of options. It’s possible she’s just being a dick.
The dog however, is completely and utterly focused on her task – TAILTAILTAILTAILTAILTAILTAIL – round and round she goes, where she stops, nobody knows. You swear she pauses and grins at you. Then: CATCATCATCATOHBOYIJUSTLOVETHECATSOMUCHIWANTTOBITEHERLEG. Your partner is in the kitchen, possibly washing or cleaning something, but more probably pretending to wash or clean something simply to escape the bedlam.
And so, you trudge upstairs, time to answer the call of nature. You’re looking forward to it. Ten minutes of peace, checking out Facebook and finding out how many twats are doing shuttle runs in the rain, thinking that everyone cares (nobody does), while you carry out your business. When you get to the toilet, what appears to be Mike Tyson’s forearm is in the bowl, complete with an entire roll of Andrex. You consider yelling downstairs but it will prove futile, as nobody will hear you or actually cares anyway. You deal with it and clean up the mess.
Now that that’s done, you can carry on. But you’re forgetting one thing: the toilet door is a magic door, for as soon as you shut it, a child mysteriously appears outside.
“Daddy, are you going to be long?”
“I really need to go!”
“Are you finished yet?”
Truth is, you haven’t even begun. You let the child in, let them go about their way, send them out and carry on. As you are browsing Facebook, looking at videos of cats in impossibly small spaces, something catches your eye beside the toilet roll. You peer closer and and discover that one of the kids appears to have used the wall as a tissue. You picture the scene: index finger all the way up the nose, rummaging about until it reaches its goal. The finger is withdrawn, the child inspects the lime green trophy, is satisfied, then inexplicably wipes it on the wall instead of using something sensible, like toilet paper. Which is just beside the toilet.
It’s just then, as you are planning the kids’ lecture in your head, that something else grabs your attention.
A brown smear.
“Is that…. shite?” you think to yourself.
A closer inspection confirms your suspicions. You stare at the shitty arc, this Satan’s Rainbow and wonder what else has been touched by the Brown Finger of Doom, how long ago it happened, and which child was responsible. In the end you decide you don’t care and try to remember where you put the Dulux bathroom paint.
Good old parenthood. Our sole purpose on Earth. But why did nobody tell us it was this hard? People smiled, hugged you, shook your hand and told you how wonderful it was. Not one person told you that one day your baby would shit so much, it not only filled the nappy but overflowed, meaning you had to cut the child’s vest off completely rather than paint them with brown, sticky tar.
However, a shitey baby is not the worst thing. No, it’s not when your toddler ate bolognese for dinner, then had their nightly bottle of milk, then vomited everything, everywhere (Parmesan cheese anyone?). It’s the tiredness. The bone-crushing, all-consuming tiredness. Nobody prepares you for that.
When you first bring your little darling home from the hospital, you are a jittery bag of emotions, with a mind full of fear and a body wracked with exhaustion. The former two dissipate over time but the latter just keeps growing. The late nights and early mornings. The middle-of-the-night feeds. The constant attention. It just keeps on rollin’.
And just when you get used to this constant daze, you have your second child.
What the fresh hell is this? It’s utter chaos. As the old saying goes, one’s a pet but two’s a zoo. How very, very true. You now wonder just what the heck you were doing complaining when you had a solitary child. You find this out when your parents take your older child away for the afternoon, “to give you a bit of peace and quiet with the baby”. And that’s exactly what you get. It’s an ocean of serenity.
Oh look, the baby is crying. There, there, wee baby, shoosh now.
Ah, the baby wants fed. Here, have a bottle.
Uh-oh, a dirty nappy. Let’s change that.
It’s easy. Problem? Solution. Done! Then your first born is delivered back to you. AWOOGA! AWOOGA! Now there’s two. And they both want attention, right here, right now, and if they don’t get it, BOOOOOOOOOOOM! Remember when you used to put the child down for a nap and you could grab a little sit-down with a cup of tea? Hahaha, it’s a distant memory, for no longer will you get any time to yourself, for the best part of, oh, eighteen years?
As time goes on, people who don’t have kids and moan about being tired begin to annoy you. Your work colleague tells you about how nice and relaxed they feel after a lovely evening:
“Yeah, so I thought because we had such a hectic day yesterday, I’d treat myself to an easy night. I got my pyjamas on, cooked a lovely dinner, then watched a great movie on Netflix with a glass of wine. I went to bed early, had a deep sleep then when I got up this morning, feeling refreshed and invigorated, I made a cooked breakfast with fresh coffee and caught up with the news before coming into work. Bring today on!”
Your eyebrow develops a twitch as you recall your evening/morning:
Because you stayed late at work, you were pissing against the wind to get home in time for the childminder. You drove at 248mph and made it back just the ten minutes late. She’s a lovely woman so she doesn’t charge you any more. The kids whine that they are hungry. You announced that since they enjoyed hot dogs so much last week, you got some more. Both children wailed simultaneously that they don’t like them anymore and burst into tears. After what felt like hours of persuasion, they agreed to eat them. In the meantime, you folded one lot of laundry away, emptied the washing machine and hung another one up. Then filled the washing machine again. Dishes were cleaned, dried and put away. Strawberries were chopped and cleaned for dessert. Juice was poured, then spilled, then cleaned up, then poured again. Some of the folded laundry was put in the gargantuan ironing pile, some was put away upstairs.
The kids’ room appears to have exploded. You gently persuade them to tidy it up.
A compromise is reached, consisting of them putting one thing away while you do the rest. You consider this to be a huge achievement. You now announce that it is bedtime.
After what feels like a week, teeth and faces are washed and both are in bed. You go downstairs and realise that you have absolutely nothing for your own dinner. There is zero in the fridge or the cupboards. You have a cheese sandwich. As you munch on stale bread and plastic budget cheddar, it sounds like there is a troupe of acrobats upstairs in the kids’ room. You don’t care. Your partner comes home from working their shift. You are both very tired. It’s time for bed.
The older child has been sick in bed. One of you pulls the puke-covered sheets from the mattress, while the other has to stick the poor thing in the shower at 3:17am. You are all fighting the urge to add your own wee pile of vomit. You are informed that this is what happens when they are forced to eat hot dogs.
In the morning, you kiss your partner goodbye as they start their early shift. Both of you resemble zombies. You wake up the kids and it appears Pukey McVomitface has made a Lazarus-style recovery. In fact, they are really hungry. You get breakfast ready, as well as school uniforms and then make the packed lunches. The kids are placed in the shower like a conveyor belt, dried and dressed and ready for school. There is an average of fourteen arguments by this point. Before you go, another washing is hung up and another one goes on. The kids are dropped of at school and you dash to work, realising that you’ll probably be late.
“How was your night?” your colleague asks.
“Oh, same as yours,” you lie.
Being a parent is tough. It’s filled with a whole load of challenges, some obvious, some you would never even envisage, but all equally fraught with peril that looms around every corner. And while you may read this piece as a long moan about being a parent, I’d like to tell you now how wrong you are. Yes, I’ve listed a whole load of hardships, and made it sound like an absolute chore at the same time. But it isn’t. It’s far from that. In fact, it’s the greatest job that you’ll ever do.
You will never forget the exact moment you see your children for the first time. It’s magical, breathtaking and steeped with emotion. No matter how long ago it was, you can close your eyes, picture it and be taken back into that little snapshot in time. In fact, raising kids is full of these moments and memories, which you store in a giant photo album in your mind.
The responsibility hits you like a sledghammer. WHAM! You have a baby! This fragile little thing is yours to mould and shape, and the journey towards that is both satisfying and beautiful at the same time. Parenthood is the best club in the world, and the rewards are limitless.
Yes, the road is most definitely long and winding, full of more obstacles and challenges than you could ever imagine. But you love those little monsters more than you can ever put into words.
And you wouldn’t swap them for the world.