So, like the rest of you, I am faced with the nightmare of having a little monster trail around with me every waking moment for the next six weeks. I can’t say that I am looking forward to having no spare time and being required to be teacher, entertainer, policeman and dinner lady every day until the schools start up again. Most families will shrug their shoulders and say “so what?” The long summer is something they deal with every year but things are different for me. Not only is this the first year the kids have been in school but unlike most primary carers I am a bloke and so this raises a whole host of new and interesting “challenges”.
Some of them are pretty obvious. I am a man living in, what is still predominantly, a woman’s world. This means that when we go to playgroups and to pick or drop children off I am often the only man there. Whilst some women take pity on me and try to engage me in stilted conversation I know that deep down they are humouring me. Women, seem to easily and casually meet up with one another for playdates and morning coffee to keep themselves and their little terrors entertained. As a bloke this sort of socialising is alien to me. I don’t really hang out with my friends in coffee shops. We go to the pub and I am reliably told that playdates in the beer garden of the Devonshire Arms are frowned upon by social services.
I also refuse to engage in some of the activities that some Mum’s have recommended to me. I would rather saw my left leg off than take the kids on a shopping expedition. Bumbling around Debenhams is equivalent to Dante’s third layer of hell in my book. I also hate theme parks. I’m afraid I find fairgrounds and roller coasters a little dull. I’m sure that when my children grow up I’ll get dragged along but for now, I am sticking to the delusion that I’m in charge.
I also have another failing common to most men. I hate asking for or accepting help. Somewhere between my earlobe and my brain, offers of help get translated into something quite different.
So, when the cashier at Sainsbury’s asks, “do you need help with your packing?” I hear, “you are a pathetic excuse for a man who should not be allowed anywhere near a supermarket.”
If someone, God forbid asks, “Are you lost? Do you need directions?” my brain hears, “You have a small penis.”
So, understandably, I am reluctant to ask neighbours and even grandparents to share my burden in looking after the children because to do so would be tantamount to stating that I am a failure as a father and cannot cope.
Somehow, though, I am going to have to make it through. I do have some strategies that play to my strengths and a Dad. In the summer months when we can run around in the garden and park, rough and tumble play comes into its own. I am teaching my little ones to chase each other around in a toddler game of “tick”. I am adamant that Arun and Meri will know how to throw a ball by the end of the summer and maybe even have the rudimentary skills to catch one (I suspect that Matt Prior’s place in the England team is not yet under threat but who knows…). For some reasons, my little ones love museums and so we are planning a trip to the British Museum to look at the “Treasures from Heaven” exhibition. I think it is about time that they learnt more about medieval Christian relics.
Nothing but time will tell how well things go. My wife is running a book to see whether the house will still be standing and whether we will still be talking at the end of the holidays. However, I am determined to enjoy it and refuse to be one of those Dads that looks forward to the end of the holidays when their little horrors are back at school so that they can get on with their lives again. Deep down inside I realise that my children are my life and so I’d better make a good go of enjoying it.