Rachel – a virtual pal of mine – wrote a blog post last week. 10 Things being a Parent has Taught me. Respect for my mum, makes you a better person, discover patience you never knew you had… And, of course, 3am no longer means alcohol.
Nope, it means vomit trickling down your back and a knacker-whacking from your lovely wife.
“You’ve woken me up.”
“I’m frozen. I thought cuddling you would – ”
“Well it won’t. Go and freeze in the spare room.”
Rachel’s son is two. As my eldest is now 22, I thought I might offer a little advice. Just in case she thinks she’s got this parenting lark licked. Four things you need to do now your son is two…
Get Fit: Keep fit
I remember reading a quote. ‘By the time they’re ten they can nearly beat you, at 12 they can beat you and by 14 they let you win the occasional game.’ Sadly it’s true: but you need to delay the inevitable. Rage against the dying of the body swerve. You also need to postpone the moment you’re lying on the back lawn clutching your back/hip/hamstring/knee – or all of them in my case – screeching “get your Mother. And tell her it’s an emergency.”
More self-respect to be salvaged. A more blink of an eye and your little one will be starting school – and getting homework. It’s your job to help – and you don’t want to be waving the white flag in year 4.
Maths is the tricky one. I was looking forward to the old favourites. “Now, sweetheart. If it takes four men six days to fill a bath, how long will it take two men?”
“Won’t they smell a bit if they haven’t had a bath for six days, Daddy?”
Obviously an answer which shows you’ve passed on your intelligence gene, but not the one that nice Mr. Gove was looking for. So start revising and keep your self-respect intact: bow out with honours at quadratic equations.
4(x – 3) – 2(x + 2) = 0
Takes you back, doesn’t it?
While we’re talking about school, buy Tact and Diplomacy for Dummies. You’ll encounter plenty of teachers who seek to blame their own inadequacies on your child. One of the few sensible things I’ve done in my life was to make babies with a woman who more than compensated for my own spectacular failings in this department. However stupid the teacher, be tactful. It will save your child (Jessica in my case) having humble pie for tomorrow’s school dinner.
Children are expensive toys. I daren’t look at the current cost of raising a child: I assume it’s equivalent to the GDP of a small country. Now you may have won the lottery and have a child who says, “I’m 16 now, Mum. I’m going to get an apprenticeship and give you £50 a week for my board and lodgings.”
Sadly, it’s much more likely that you’ll be spending a weekend in 2032 completing a university application. Further education is a hideously expensive process so start saving now. If he’s two you’ve a good 16 years. A tenner a month will be around £2,000 by that time which, trust me, will make a big dent in the first year’s expenses. And if you’ve been blessed with a daughter you need to cut and paste this paragraph in bold. Jessica took our entire kitchen when she went to Sheffield.
Hope that helps, Rach. Four simple tips and you’ll sail through to your son’s teenage years. The time when 3am doesn’t mean alcohol or vomit. Just lying awake wondering where he is…
I’m now working on a 30,000 word e-book about the 5 day, father/son walk Ben and I did on the Pennine Way: if you’d like to read a few sample chapters before publication, just use the contact form to let me know. In the meantime if you’d like a copy of the ‘laugh out loud’ Best Dad featuring 27 of my favourite columns from all the years I’ve been writing, it’s available here for 99p on your Kindle.