As the proud father of boys aged two years (Isaac) and one month (Toby), I have learned to accept my place as the fourth-most important person in our household. I’ve read the books (well, some of them, anyway), I’ve compared experiences with other mums and dads, and I’ve decided it’s a shame no one ever tells you what the real rules of parenthood are, the ones that really govern our lives as parents and that most of us end up discovering only through painful experience.
Off the top of my head, here are five valuable and immutable rules of parenthood:
Rule #1: Newborn babies are public property (just as pregnant mothers’ bumps are). So when complete strangers descend on you in Waitrose, peer into the pram and engage you in conversation when all you really want to do is pay up and go home, just smile and remember that you’re only the parent and have no rights as such.
Rule #2: Keep the remote control – and any other valuable gadget with buttons – out of reach. You may think it’s difficult to delete the contents of your Sky+ box. To a child it’s, well, child’s play.
Rule #3: There is no better negotiator in this world than a 2-3 year old toddler. By this age, they possess significant native cunning (and aren’t afraid to use it), they have enough vocabulary to state exactly what they want, they are well practised in the art of mega-tantrums and they know they can punch/pinch/slap you in public without fear of retribution with the might of disapproving onlookers and the Child Protection Agency on their side. Just learn to be gracious in defeat: it makes life much easier.
Rule #4: You will always need to do an emergency nappy change when you are already running late for that important doctor’s / dentist’s / hairdresser’s / insert as applicable appointment.
Rule #5: Here is the formula for calculating how long you need to get ready to leave the house with children:
Time required (in minutes) = n(t+15) + x + r
Where n is the number of children you have, t is the time (in minutes) it used to take you to get ready pre-children, x is the number you first thought of, and r is a random number between 5 and 60 to cover emergency nappy changes, toddler tantrums and returning to the house to retrieve wallets / birthday presents / favourite toys. It doesn’t really matter, because you’ll still be late anyway no matter what.
There are many other rules governing parenthood; I’m sure you will have some of your own. Feel free to share – after all, us parents are in this together …