Rules for dads

In my previous post last week, I outlined five basic rules of parenthood. In general, though, it’s not so much parents as fathers who need the most help when it comes to this parenting lark. So here are ten additional rules that all dads should take heed of.

(A health warning: tongue is inserted firmly in cheek here, but many fellow fathers will recognise a grain of truth in most of the following situations.)

Rule #1: If you’re not doing something, you should be. You may not know what it is, but there is definitely something. (It will be written on a list somewhere, even if it’s one that only exists in your wife’s/partner’s head.)

Rule #2: Watching The Gadget Show or playing Call Of Duty while occasionally talking to your child does not qualify as ‘quality father/son (or daughter) time’, no matter how interested they are in what you’re doing.

Rule #3: Even if you are the sole bread-winner, change every nappy and are the CEO of a multinational industrial conglomerate, as a father you are the least important person in the household (and that includes any and all pets). Deal with it.

Rule #4: You will lose every argument with your children. If you’re already in a long-term relationship, you should be used to that by now, though. (Zac’s current ace-in-the-hole is to fire up the death stare and ask “Why not?” with utter conviction when told he can’t do something. It’s really quite disarming.)

Rule #5: The slightest whiff of criticism of your partner’s abilities as a mother is a straight red card offence. However, expect to be told on a daily basis about all the things that you do, don’t do, should do more/less of or just plain do wrong. It’s a mother’s God-given right. Grin and bear it.

Rule #6: Under no circumstances – irrespective of how many times your sleep was interrupted during the night or what time your children dragged you out of bed in the morning – ever mention to your wife how tired you are. Unless your ears need clearing out, that is.

Rule #7: When your other half gets all teary-eyed and emotional because they’ve had only three hours’ sleep for the fourth night in a row and have just had to deal with a poo-up-the-back incident, the only correct response is to be understanding and supportive. However, if you go all emo, you are being a drama queen. Man up and crack open a beer like any self-respecting, emotionally-stunted male should.

Rule #8: Whatever you most want your child to be is the thing they will be least inclined to do. (For instance, I want Zac to be as interested in sports as his parents are, but the moment I put the football on he runs over to the TV, switches it off and goes back to his macramé. Okay, I’m exaggerating. But only slightly.)

Rule #9: If, like me, you delivered your own baby BBA (Born Before Arrival of midwife/ambulance/other person who has some vague idea what they should be doing), this automatically confers a degree of coolness upon you as a father, no matter how uncool you really are. Dine out on it while you can. The effect wears off as quickly as your holiday tan.

Rule #10: The ‘illusion of free will’ is a reality. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Or a free evening out with the lads. Or a free round of golf. Everything comes with a price tag. It’s just that you can’t always see it.

The formula to calculate ‘free’ time (where ‘free’ means time for which there is not some quid pro quo child/mother-related action required in return) is as follows:

Free time (in hours) = 0

Think about it. For every boys’ night out there is an agreement (either explicit or implicit) to babysit for a girly shopping trip. Your Sunday round of golf is worth its weight in chocolate. Even that new Wii controller will be offset by an afternoon pushing the pram around Mothercare. It may not always be obvious, but like taxes you will end up paying somehow some day.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go. I’m pretty sure I’m contravening rules 1, 2 and 10, and I’m heading for another slap-down from rule 4.