Tag: Parenthood

The Yorkshireman Speaks: The only daddy in day care

This month our Yorkshireman talks about being the only daddy at playgroup…

Recently I gave up my day job to follow my dream to be a stand-up comedian. Part of the deal of my wife going back to work was that we would share the childcare. This meant that I was launched into this new world of the playgroup.

I’ve realised that kid’s clubs and playgroups are a lifeline for modern parents. Like the soup kitchens for the homeless or Ikea for couples who like to argue, it’s an essential part of your life.

This is why there are so many kids clubs available, covering all sorts of weird and wonderful activities. You can take your baby for a massage, presumably this is because babies are highly stressed individuals. They probably are experiencing stress levels akin to those of a doctor in the NHS. Just look at their days, they only get 14 hours sleep, someone to dress and bath them, even dinner time is a high-pressure decision, will it be the right breast or the left one? No wonder their Chakra’s are all out of whack. To be clear I am talking about babies here, not doctors.

For the toddlers there is pottery class, painting, and even cake making. Although frankly if you are willing to eat a cake made by a toddler you’re braver than I am. Personal hygiene is never top of their priorities list, I’d rather play Russian roulette with a cat litter tray and a packet of chocolate raisins than tuck into Poppy’s Bakewell tart.

I’ve spoken to so many parents, with their children it’s all about killing time, an hour here, forty-five minutes there, anything to fill the days. This isn’t parenting, it’s the mindset of a prisoner on death row?

At the local playgroup I am the only dad there. My wife said to me before, now don’t you go flirting with all those mummies. Flirting? I’m in a church hall at midday with a hand full of wet wipes and poo under my fingernails, I’m hardly on my A game love.

I have realised that I have quite simply used up all my empathy on my own two children, so I find myself scraping the reserves for other people’s kids.

I found it hard initially. Kids would come up to me, “are you my daddy?” one of them just came and sat on my knee during the biscuit break, which incidentally is one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever witnessed. Children swarming around a plate of chocolate digestives like a pack of lions circling a wounded Zebra. Wet fingers claw at the chocolate, children put back half-finished attempts, with the coating licked off. Other children pick these up like biscuit batons and carry on munching. Within five minutes there is more DNA swapped than a corrupt copper at a crime scene.

What do you do when a random kid sits on your knee? I’m the only dad there and at the time I’d been there only two weeks. It’s a tricky decision, throw them off and look like a bully, allow them to perch there and look like something way worse.

I have realised that I have quite simply used up all my empathy on my own two children, so I find myself scraping the reserves for other people’s kids. I stand there just mentally judging other people’s children and brutally predicting their futures, it’s a game I call Pregnant or Prison.

There are some horrible kids. There’s this one, he’s got a furrowed brow, wears a neckerchief that catches his saliva, which I think is the bile and hate leaving his body. What is it with toddlers? These kids leak, they are like cullenders in dungarees. Some parents don’t attend to the nose, they just leave the kid as it runs into their mouths, recycling this ectoplasm fountain. They run at you and you panic, they may as well be holding a handful of anthrax.

They all fight over this one car. One day my daughter was in it, and this kid came over, the neckerchief down over his mouth, he looked like an outlaw in the wild west and he opened the door and shoved her out.

I was about to go over to this little carjacker, I was ready to bundle him through the window, like an American cop, but just then his mum arrived and gave him a pushchair with a baby in, it’s almost as if she was saying, there you go, you have responsibilities now, sort your life out.

Being at playgroup makes you realise just what a visceral and raw experience parenting actually is.

The place always smells of poo, it always does, I’ve been on nicer smelling farms. I’ve noticed that as a parent you can’t just go up and discreetly look in their nappy, this isn’t the way at playgroup. The correct method is what’s known as the lift and sniff!

I’ve learnt that the main thing to remember with this technique is to be careful not to do this in any doorways where you can bump their heads and secondly, make sure you are always picking up your kid.

You see parents everywhere holding their children aloft like Simba in the Lion King, taking deep breaths, then they put them back down “It’s not mine this time.” But parents develop those skills, they know when it’s the family brand, it’s like a fine wine, “Ahh, this is a 9.35am Farley’s rusk, full bodied, plenty of nose, baked for three hours under corduroy trousers in little tykes’ car.

Forget sniffer dogs to detect drugs at customs, you just need to bring Janice a mother of four from Ilkeston, she’d nail it in a second, she’d just lift up the accused, “The drugs are up his bum, next!”

One week I went, the smell wasn’t coming from the kid, it was traced to one of the Grandma’s, she’d just broken wind and they were just leaking out of her as he walked around the room, but no one had the guts to say anything.

Find The Scott Bennett Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes

SB

Motherhood #5: Life and Death

2016 and 2017 took some of our best loved celebrities, David Bowie, Charles Manson, Tinky Winky, Glenn and Abraham from The Walking Dead. The list is long. The nation has collectively exhaled and wrung their hands at the losses which seemed to dominate the news.

It’s a strange sadness to mourn the loss of someone you didn’t know personally, a grief which must feel something like a child feels when an adult dies who they didn’t know particularly well. Over the last year 3 of my good friends have died, and my daughter has observed my grief from the sidelines, a news report featuring familiar faces but ultimately unconnected to the emotion which I was trying not to display overtly.

Death is such a huge and unknown quantity, forever is a ridiculous idea linked to thoughts of summer while they wait inside on rainy days or how long it will take until they are allowed pudding. Time is elastic and mouldable, an element they can control with enough pleading and wishing. Forever is laughable. Mummy getting upset because she misses a friend is such a remote and strange thing to our daughter.

We’ve always been very honest with our child, she’s very intelligent and knows when we aren’t telling her the whole story. She knows our friends died through illnesses which the doctors couldn’t give them medicine for. She has realised all of us can get these illnesses and that people don’t always die when they are old. We don’t have a faith, so we can’t tell her we believe that they are in any kind of ‘better place’ or that they are happier now that they aren’t suffering. We don’t lie to her about ‘heaven’ or ask her to blindly believe what we do, she knows she’s free to believe in which ever God she chooses. (She’s currently leaning towards Hinduism because the Monkey King is ‘awesome’).

She’s seen the reality of death this year and knows it’s ugly and sad and has given her bad dreams about losing her dad and I. We’ve tried to reassure her that we are healthy and unlikely to be going anywhere soon, but I feel like something has been taken from her with the deaths of my friends. Not ‘innocence’ or anything that profound, but maybe the idea that ‘forever’ is a Thing. Parents can leave one day and not come back, and doctors can’t cure everything. People are fallible and temporary, and time is permanent and can’t be reasoned with. It’s a sad but important lesson, and hopefully she will learn to see that the good parts outweigh the horrid parts and that there’s really no point in being mean when we can choose to be kind. Maybe she’ll grow up with a little more tolerance as a result. Or maybe she’ll just ask for more pudding, because, in the end, why not?

DL

Motherhood #3

Back to school with you.

What’s that odd sensation, the feeling like something is missing, like you’ve left your phone at a mate’s house or forgotten to pick the cat up from the vets? Oh riiiiiight, the kids are back at school, and for a few brief, precious hours you are ALONE. That’s unless you have more kids, in which case I can’t help you, you’ve only done this to yourself.

Our summer was long and full of babysitters, playdates, picnics, boredom, work, boxsets and colouring-in. None of us were sad when September rolled around. This year our daughter has started year 2: she’s just turned 6 and is starting her SATS year where she will be tested and evaluated on her ability to jump through the hoops our government deems appropriate. She doesn’t care – she is a bright little thing and takes it all in her stride for now.

It’s a strange sensation to have your little girl suddenly so influenced by things other than you

The biggest change we’ve seen so far this year has been socially. She came home after her first day and coyly suggested that ‘all the other girls’ are still wearing short sleeves. She’s never really paid much attention to her appearance before, but now her hair must be done correctly in a style fitting with her classmates and her backpack must be from the shop in town where all the others buy theirs. It’s a strange sensation to have your little girl suddenly so influenced by things other than you and your partner It feels like they should have a few more years before the inevitable self-doubt and need for peer validation creeps in, but there we are.

The most jarring moment since she went back to school has been seeing her lose confidence in herself. She decorated a homework folder and it was a glorious, colourful, glittery mix of unicorns and clouds and we all loved and admired it. After taking it to school she came home disheartened after seeing the other kids’ efforts. Now she wishes she has done it differently, and watching her enthusiasm and pride in her work turn to indifference and worry is utterly horrid. How can I maintain her confidence when there are so many factors around her which knock the wind from her little sails?

The next few years of this kid’s life will only expose her to more social  pressures and worries which as adults didn’t even exist when we were younger. The internet wasn’t around when I was growing up, and no one had a mobile phone until university. Hair straighteners didn’t exist, so everyone looked slightly feral in the 80s, whereas our kids will grow up with a sleekness unheard of until 1998. It’s a different set of rules, but as long as we maintain an unwavering confidence in our kids, we just have to trust that they will meet each worry with the knowledge that we are there to set limits and install filters which will sift out the rougher edges of their childhoods. If that fails and they still complain, I suggest showing them your childhood photos and explaining that things could be a heck of a lot worse. Although I do NOT regret my 1989 perm. That bad boy was awesome.

DL

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