Monday, 27 June 2011

On parenthood

I am not wearing a hat. In fact, I don't think I even own a hat. We can be pretty confident about the absence of hats, as far as I  am concerned.

But if I was wearing a hat, I would be taking it off. I would be taking it off and bowing gently to all parents. In particular, all parents of young infants.

Bloody hell. How do you do it? Seriously, how do you do it, without going start staring mad?

I ask this heartfelt question because I spent Saturday watching over my 13-month-old niece. I wasn't alone - brother number 1 was with me. But his wife and my wife were out doing girly things involving nail polish, retail therapy and large glasses of wine. The chaps were drafted in.

Now, my brother, he should be an old hand at this. As far as I know he's taken his fair share of responsibilities to date. He certainly looked like he knew what he was doing. But me? Oh dearie me no. I was as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike.

It's just constant, isn't it? You can't let your guard down for a second. You think, "Oh, there is some vitally-important sporting event on the TV which is demanding my attention right now," but the moment your eyes are off the child, she will be heading with unerring accuracy towards something that will leave a scar. And it will be all your fault.

And you have to entertain. The blocks have to be ready to be stacked. Then unstacked. Then stacked. She sat in her ball-pit, and seemed perfectly happy to throw balls around the room. Which meant getting down onto the floor to get them back.

Again. And again. And again.

Pull a funny face. Make a daft noise. Blow a raspberry. Get a reaction. It's quite exhausting to be entertaining for so long. Witty anecdotes weren't going to cut it with this audience.

There were the feeds. Which were quite cute actually; she let me feed her and fixed me with these ocean-sized blue eyes as she steadily devoured whatever-on-earth it was I was shovelling in. The food was this gloopy mixture - I have to be honest, it looked as if someone else had already started digesting it before it got to us.

Of course, putting food in at one end meant there was the inevitable outcome at the other. She smiled beatifically at us as she gently filled her nappy. As we took her upstairs to change her, brother number 1 calmly said, "It will either be a neat pyramid. Or it will be a bit of a train wreck."

It was a train wreck.

People, I feel like a Vietnam veteran when I say this. But you weren't there man. You wouldn't know.

This happened at least twice. I can't be 100% sure, folks. My addled brain may have blocked some of the memory out as a self-defence mechanism.

At one point my brother offered me a beer. I can't believe this, but I refused. I thought I had to try and stay at the top of my game. The 13-month-old was winning, though.

Eventually the cavalry arrived in the shape of our wives. I had to go and sit in another room and twitch gently for a while.

Seriously, parents, you do this all day? Every day? Blimey. That hat is staying off.

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