Losing control

Today I found myself stood at the checkout a broken man, my hollow eyes staring into the abyss (or whatever Tesco call their café).

 

Around my ankles a battle ensued. Power Ranger versus Sonic. Cucumber versus swinging bag of carrots.

 

Shoppers looked on incredulously, clearly thinking,

 

“Surely you’re going to do … something?”

 

So I did. I shrugged my shoulders. You see this fight had been lost many aisles ago.

 

It hasn’t always been like this.

 

Last half-term the three of us skipped through the town centre holding hands. The Mancunian Von Trapps. A vision of resplendent smugness.

 

But that was then. Today, and for the first time in public, I’d well and truly lost control.

 

It all started in the precinct. They’d bolted in opposite directions and were lying flat on their backs on the pavement, eyes closed, playing dead.

 

Concerned onlookers who bent over them were met with a loud,

 

“BOO!”

 

Eventually I rounded them up after a prolonged game of One Man and his Feral Children.

 

Once in the supermarket they thought ‘why walk when you can slide on your knees!’

 

Nothing I said stopped them. Polite requests became threats, threats became pleas, pleas became outright sweet bribery.

 

“If I have to tell you again…”, repeated over, and over, and over … I really do need to come up with an end to that sentence.

 

They blatantly ignored me, instead taking it in turns to walk slower so they could continue sliding behind my back.

 

There was a brief moment of amusement to be taken from Sonny’s panic-stricken face when he over-committed on a newly polished aisle and slid way past me before crashing into a shopping trolley.

It was very brief. Before I’d had a chance to berate him for the umpteenth time I caught sight of Luca juggling pears. Juggling pears like the three year-old non-juggler he is.

 

The Kung Fu started at the bread counter. We didn’t need bread but this was where I finally cornered them after a game of chase that had started five aisles away by the milk.

 

My constant reprimands barely registering, blinded by the basket of consumable weaponry I was now carrying.

 

After finally paying for our battered fruit and veg Luca broke free from my grip once again, this time running head first into a swinging sign. I say swinging, to be fair to him I thought it was a swinging sign too. It wasn’t.

 

Dazed and confused he staggered back to howls of laughter from Sonny.

 

“Do it again Luca”, he baited.

 

So he did. Twice. It was like Hole in the Wall less the hole.

 

They finished with a game of ‘how many ways can you say’,

 

“Ooh Banana!”

 

There’s more than you care to imagine. Way more. Like 15 minutes more! Boonana. Banini. Banoona … how many do you want, I’ve hundreds!

 

In fact enough for an entire queue at the lottery desk. And then Boots. Made worse by the poor couple unfortunate enough to share both queues with us, their initial amusement quickly descending into utter despair.

 

In an attempt to break the mental torture I let them help me at the cash machine. Something I immediately regretted when they turned my pin number into a song to be sang at the top of their voices all the way back to the car.

 

Is post Tesco stress disorder a recognised condition? Well it is now, I’m suffering from it!

 

I’m also thinking our daily shop may need to become a weekly one until they’re back at school. Ordered online and delivered.

 

In the meantime I’m off for a lie down. Just as soon as I’ve changed my pin number. Again.

 

Home Alone

Last weekend Janet took the boys up to Edinburgh to surprise her sister on her birthday.

 

Whether having Sonny and Luca arrive unannounced qualifies as a nice surprise only their Auntie Jackie can say but still, a surprise all the same.

 

Anyway what did I care …

 

I was home alone!

 

It was like winning the lottery but knowing you’ll blow the lot in two days.

 

Not wanting to waste this rare opportunity I decided to draw up a schedule, and by schedule I mean sleep diary.

 

Early night/lie in/afternoon nap. The holy trinity of the sleep-deprived parent; and it was every bit as good as I’d expected.

 

It also turned out to be a weekend of self discovery … of sorts.

 

A kind of weekend retreat where you don’t leave the sofa and everyone around you does the retreating … and yoga.

 

I discovered that contrary to what Luca would have you believe my natural wake-up time is far closer to 11am than it is to 5.

 

That the best coffee of the day isn’t necessarily the first, but any that doesn’t include UFOs (unidentified floating objects).

 

That the Saturday Guardian comes with supplements I didn’t even know existed, and that there’s such a thing as men’s designer fabric conditioner?

 

The irony wasn’t lost on me having just taken a shower with Mr. Matey followed by a blast from Janet’s deodorant. Clearly I’m not their target market.

 

That when I’m in the shower at least 50% of the screams, cries, and yelps emanating from downstairs can be attributed to next doors dogs, which is a relief.

 

That having full weekend access to my phone is no guarantee I’ll beat Luca’s high score on Temple Run.

 

And that I really need to start taking responsibility for some of the smells in the house I’d previously blamed on the kids … and Janet.

 

I also discovered something altogether more sinister and troubling. Something that’s left me a little disturbed. Something I’m calling Parental Institutionalisation. (This may already be a thing but I’m far too lazy to google it let alone try spelling it again.)

 

Let me explain….

 

I can’t pick up a TV remote without instantly typing in 615. Nick Jnr.

 

I watched Ben & Holly. A double bill!

 

Worse still, I also watched Dora, albeit taking the opportunity during one of her extenuated pauses to tell her a few home truths. Like why, in my humble opinion, she only has imaginary friends (I’m not having it that Boots exists anywhere but in her head).

 

Lets face it, if you had a bilingual friend who flitted between languages and constantly asked you to repeat what she’d just said you’d also find someone else to play with.

 

For lunch I cut off my own crusts?

 

My afternoon nap was interrupted by my alarm going off at 3pm, at which point I jumped off the sofa to find my shoes for the school run. (Yes I set a reminder on my phone to pick my own kids up from school every day.)

 

But most troubling of all was leaving the bathroom light on when I went to bed. This wasn’t an oversight, oh no, I went to turn it off but decided against it? I’m thirty-bloody-nine!

 

I’ll not lie, I really enjoyed my weekend if for no other reason than I managed to watch two games of football without missing any crucial goals due to the flailing limbs of a four-year old launching himself from the arm of the sofa I’m sat on.

 

However possibly my greatest discovery of the weekend, and I can’t quite believe I’m saying this, is that sometimes the house can be … too quiet.

 

That what makes our house a home is the incessant background noise of,

 

“I’m hungry!”

 

“Stop pouting at me Sonny!”

 

And from the bathroom,

 

“Luca, you don’t have teeth in your bum!”

 

I’m reserving the right to change my opinions depending on how these next two weeks of school holidays go, but in the meantime, well, I’d better go and buy some new toothbrushes …

Janet’s Birthday

As a cash-strapped stay-at-home dad it was a relief when for her birthday Janet asked for a Brief History of Time.
brief-history-of-time
In hindsight, and given she was watching a documentary on Stephen Hawking at the time, she probably meant the book but hey ho.

 

The boys each made a card on the Friday afternoon so the secret only needed keeping for twelve hours. They managed one. Minute.

 

“Mummy! We’ve got a secret but I’m not allowed to tell you it’s a card we made for your birthday!”

 

I’d already asked them what they thought mummy might like for a present. Their top three answers were:

 

1) Warmth.

2) Sleep.

3) Daddy to change the light bulbs in the kitchen.

 

Proof were it needed that even when staring at screens they still pick up on all the adult conversations around them.

 

Luca nailed the warmth issue with a pink foot muff. Now who doesn’t want a pig shaped £4.99 itchy foot muff from Quality Save?

 

They both nailed the sleep. They’d ‘allow’ her a lie-in.

 

They even woke her at 7am to tell her so, then stood next to her as she enjoyed it. I’m not sure she did.

 

Thankfully Janet had her own ideas for how to celebrate; a day in Manchester.

 

janetWe started with lunch at Jamie’s Italian.

 

I’ll be honest, I had my doubts about taking the kids to a restaurant but they behaved impeccably.

 

They have a great kids menu, and Sonny even adapted his pretentiousness to match his surroundings.

 

Seriously, what four-year old asks the waiter if his fruit salad can include pomegranate?

 

Given it was a birthday meal I didn’t even pull a face when Janet ordered the Lemon Sole special without checking the price first! Although to be fair, as the wage earner she was paying for it.

 

I went with a burger and chips. Well, you can take the boy out of Burger King but you can’t take the Burger King out of the boy!

 

We then had a fab afternoon at Manchester Art Gallery where Luca and I skidded on the wooden floors while Janet and Sonny created … something?

 

The gallery staff were full of praise for his masterpiece. I on the other-hand took it as further proof that modern art is little more than inanimate objects randomly scattered by a four-year old.

 

As always it was a relief to see them pointing at statues after shouting,

 

“That man’s got his willy out!”

 

I’ve really got to revisit the story of The Boy Who Cried Willy!

 

iron-manWe finished with a trip to the toy shop for the boys to spend their gift cards from Christmas, and they even got to meet their hero on the way.

 

It was a lovely day, and a perfect reminder of how lucky I am to have Janet and the boys.

 

The light bulbs? Oh c’mon, of course I’ve not changed them yet, it’s not like it was her 40th!

 

Sleep


We all have our
crosses to bare.

pyjamasJanet’s is being able to stay asleep when the kids shuffle past her side of the bed and scale the makeshift barricades I built out of dirty laundry to reach my side.>

 

I know this because I’m already awake. I have the worst super power of all; I know they’re coming before even they do.

 

I wake, brace myself, and then,

 

thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, across the landing.

 

If I’d known their midnight meanderings were to carry on past their fourth birthday I’d have adopted teenagers.

 

I’m not normally one for conspiracies but it’s rarely the same child on consecutive nights which can mean only one thing. They’re bloody conspiring!

 

I’m convinced that when my back’s turned they’re discussing who’s on the night shift.

 

Call me paranoid but I’ve even taken to sneaking up on their conversations to try and catch them out.

 

So far it’s proved inconclusive, although I suspect Paw Patrol may be their codeword for grumpy sleep-deprived dad.

 

Occasionally, very occasionally, there’s a mix-up and they both sleep through. On these mornings there’s a tense atmosphere at breakfast. One of them has slept on duty and their brother is not happy. I assume a court marshal follows.

 

I’ve tried everything. Night lights and landing lights, alarm clocks and confusing their body clocks.

 

There is nothing this side of the Geneva Convention that’ll work.

 

My lastest desperate attempt is rewards. They start each night with the promise of three stickers and lose one each time they come through before 6am.

 

They’re both in negative equity.

 

I’ve even taught Sonny how to tuck himself back in. The following night,

 

1am: “DADDDDDYYYY! I’ve tucked myself back in!”

 

3am: “DADDDDDYYYY! Do you want tucking in?”

 

5am: “DADDDDDYYYY! Shall I wake Luca up to see if he wants tucking in?”

 

5.05am: “Sonny woke me up! Can you tuck me back in?”

 

6am: “Daddy, I stayed in bed ALL night, can I have my stickers?”

 

There’s not even a pattern to their reasons. Aside from the nightmares and kicked off covers they often don’t even speak. You can turn them round, guide them back to bed and walk away.

 

I’m then left trying to get back to sleep whilst pondering on when ‘very late’ becomes ‘very early’?

 

I’ve yet to reach a definitive answer as I’m normally interrupted by,

 

thump, thump, thump, thump, across the landing. Again.

 

I say they don’t speak. Sonny did ask me at 3am whether he was a vegetarian. At 4am Luca wanted me to know that 1,710 was a REALLY big number.

 

The problem is I’m grumpy when I’m tired.

 

I know your body adapts to the sleep you get but look what only a few hours a night did to Margaret Thatcher.

 

I don’t have the luxury of coal pits to close down, and the only miners minors I can take it out on are my own children, and there’s laws against that!

 

I may just snatch their milk in the morning.

 

Thankfully they know not to bother me before I’ve had my first coffee of the day. Now I just need to persuade them that I didn’t, and will never order room service before 6am.

 

In fairness to Janet she does do more than her share. If I lie very still under the covers they’ll occasionally return from whence they came and poke her in the face instead.

 

Fortunately my laughter can’t be heard above her scream, although by admitting this there’s a good possibility I may go to bed tonight and never wake again.