Some days I'd rather try to feed a cat a worming tablet than try and feed my kids. Some days I'd rather tuck an angry alligator into a pair of pyjamas than try to wrestle a 5 and 7 year old into bed. Some days I'd rather not be a stay at home dad trying to run a small business and raise happy and healthy children, but thankfully not every day.
Why is it that when you tell people you're going to have a baby the first words out of their mouths are "Ooh! Congratulations. Good luck getting any sleep". Why isn't it "are you emotionally prepared to raise a noisy wet pillow for 3 months, then a cutie for a bit, then be ready to chase them about in traffic and get them unstuck from under things?"
I remember staring into my daughter's eyes after a particularly milky bottle feeding and wondering what she was thinking about. This was before she could talk. I wondered what we'd chat about and I got lost in a daydream imagining our conversations about poetry and The Borrowers. What I didn't take into account is when you have a child of talking age, the word they use the most, about 98% of the time, is your name. "Daddy!" I tried counting how many times my children said Daddy in a day and I stopped counting after just 5 minutes and 28 iterations. TWENTY EIGHT. In just FIVE MINUTES. It's like they have Tourettes. If I had a dollar for every time I heard my name in a day I'd make Elon Musk look like a penny pincher.
They also don't warn you about the mess. I'm not a religiously tidy person, but the state my kids leave any room in drives me to distraction. I can clean a room, leave it for 2 minutes then come back in and find my little darlings have made it look like a recreation of the Battle of the Somme. They seems to have the attention span of a moth and demand that every toy they own gets some interaction. Every. Single. Day.
Feeding a child is an enigma. One day they demand pasta, for pasta is their favourite food in all the world. Low betide any parent who tries to feed their child pasta twice in a week as now it's the spawn of the devil and they're not going to touch it. Bananas? Love them. I therefore buy a bunch of them, only for them to be abandoned like Chernobyl and turn into a fruit-fly's wet dream. At least I've learned how to make a delicious banana cake now. Bedtimes. Bedtime dramas are hinted at in Hollywood movies but they don't really go in-depth into the true horror that awaits a tired parent at the end of the day. I won't even go into bath times, but I will say trying to get a 5 year old into a bath is like trying to get a cat into a travel box.
So, yes, bedtime. You've finished jet-spraying mud off the kids and soaked yourself in the process, forced the kids out of the bath they didn't want to get into in the first place, and now it's 'quiet time', and story time. Pre-kid days I'd envision my little ones cuddling up to me on the bed, smelling fresh and delicious, listening intently as I regale them with stories of pirates and knights. The reality is they fight over which books they want me to read, so I end up reading about 8. One of them doesn't listen at all, instead choosing to squirm about hanging upside down off the bed or attempting cartwheels, which drives the other kid, and me, insane.
About 40 minutes later and they're finally ready to settle down to sleep. Or that least that's what they want you to think. Next come the hostage demands; "I need the toilet" (again). "I need water/ milk/ my favourite doll/ the door cracked just enough to let only 30 lumens of light in and it must land on a specified area of bedroom. The number of times I've fallen asleep next to my kiddos out of pure mental and physical exhaustion, then woken up just as my wife is tucking into bed... It doesn't create a happy household.
But it turns out having kids is one of the most rewarding things you can do. They smile at you for the first time and your heart feels like it's going to explode out fo your chest. Then they roll over and you cheer them on as if they've just won gold at the Sydney Olympics. Then they take their first steps and you miss it because you're working and you feel numb that you're missing out on your child's major life events (Parental guilt is a whole other blog post!) Then they have their first day at school and you're more nervous than they are, but you try not to show it and you watch them toddle off carrying a school bag bigger than they are. You watch them swim without arm-bands and you can't believe how old they're getting. You then watch them make their school swim team and wonder where the past 6 years have gone.
Raising kids is hard. I believe if you're doing it right, really giving it the beans, raising kids is one of the hardest things you can do. My ear-buds came with a bigger instruction manual than my kids.
Every day we're just trying - Trying to feed them well; to teach them manners; trying to stop them hurting themselves but wanting them to push barriers; trying to get them to sodding sleep; trying to teach them to read, spell, do multiplication. Trying to answer their incessant but brilliant questions. "Daddy, what's hotter, the middle of the earth or the surface of the sun..."
I love my children with all my heart. They're the greatest thing that ever happened to me, but if you ever see me looking tired, distant or a little broken, it's their fault!
I'm dreading raising two teenage daughters...