Archives for posts with tag: Parent

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While the Proles were at school I got the cuddly toys down from the loft.

In actual fact it was four bin liners full of cuddly toys.

Four bin liners full.

These are not the current population of the bedroom.

At present the cuddly toy level in both the Proles’ beds is pushing maximum density.

Prole1 has his in neat rows at one end of the bed, compressed into a block in height order, Winnie the Pooh at the back, the Hatty-fatners      at the front.

Prole2 swims in a soup of soft toys, tangled up in dalmations, monkeys, rabbits ducks and bears.

I have to sweep them aside when I put him to bed.
They spill across the floor and I occasionally find infestations of them behind the sofa or in a kitchen cupboard.
They lie helpless on the floor, staring glassy eyed at me as I try to sort the washing.
They appear in ones and twos, scattered down the stairs.
The cats make nests in them.

I always try to know the whereabouts of the Alpha toys, Eeyore and Teddy.
The rest are a plush, fun fur and fabric plague that could be anywhere at any time.
Tripping me up.
Getting stuck under doors.
Being trodden on.
Getting covered in what ever that grey fluffy stuff is under the sofa.

There is a certain amount of guilt that comes with all this.

I remember being six years old and trying to wish my toys into life.
I remember Peter Pan telling me never to grow up and promising myself through tears that I never would.
I remember Kermit the Frog singing that song about Rainbows and thinking “Yes Kermit, YOU speak for ME”.

And yes, I am a forty three year old man, but that was what I was formed out of.
Sentimentality does run through me.
I do have a squashy middle.

Not so much mind.
I remember when the building I was working in became a nesting place for pigeons and I was asked to clear them out.
The rest of the crew were supremely unhelpful so I ended up on my own.
Londoners hate pigeons.
This is well known and well documented.
‘Flying Rats’ is how they are often described.
Vermin.
In fact they are no more or less diseased than any other ‘urban animal’.
The population explosion of pigeons coincided with the post war Fast Food boom.
This was when Londoners stopped eating them and started hating them.

Being from Cornwall and living in or near the countryside most of my life  I approached the problem in a no nonsense manner.
The building had vermin.
My old geography teacher told us about vermin in his shed, he said that the best place to drown rats was in the sceptic tank.
It was a horrible job but it had to be done.
I cleared all the nests into a large cardboard box and, in the absence of a sceptic tank, tipped them all out into the Thames.

The Production Manager just stared at me.

Production Manager: You did what with them?

Me: I threw them in the river.

Production Manager: I said get rid of them, I didn’t mean…I meant….

He never finished the sentence, I have often wondered what he thought I was going to do with a box of pigeon nests.
Re-home them in Trafalgar Square I suppose.

The crew, made up of big people with bald heads and tattoos, barely said a word to me for the rest of the day.
Not all the nests had been empty.
Apparently this was considered bad form.

Anyway, it was with brutality like this in my heart that I mounted the ladder to the loft and pulled the bags down.

I grabbed a really big canvas laundry bag with a zip top.
I emptied the bin liners onto the floor and began stuffing them in fist fulls to the bottom of the bag.

I knew if I kept on going and really pushed them down I could get them all in.

These are the retired cuddly toys.
These were found in corners after weeks of being alone.
These were left in friends’ houses and forgotten.
These were cleared from the floor of the bedroom, corralled in shopping bags under the stairs until there were no more questions before being smuggled into the loft at night.
These were the ‘inconvenient’ toys, noisy, loud or not quite ‘fitting in’.
These were the toys from years of “everyone is a winner” tom bolas in town, interlopers that were rounded up within days of arriving and disappeared.

There were friends in here too.

Girraffey.
Possibly the worst named toy in the house.

Blue Dad.
Named after me.

Buzz Buzz.
The Bee. Probably. Might be a wasp. Or a kind of fish. I am not making that up.

Bananas the orangutang.

Those three Aliens we bought from that hopelessly trendy children’s boutique in Peckham.
Idiots.

Polar Bear 3
Not quite as popular as Polar Bears 1 and 2.

Max the Parrot.
A good friend in the early days.

The Cuddly Rastafarian.
The one that played “Don’t Worry be happy” when you squeezed his bottom.

The Kiwi.
It is hard to make a Kiwi cuddly, this designer had failed like so many others.

Nemo.
The fish that looked a bit like a character from ‘Finding Nemo’ but wasn’t.

Green Bear.
Smells like lavender. Why?

There were snakes, monkeys, endless bears, elephants, fish, parrots and more.
A menagerie of fluff.

So I stuffed them all down in the bag and I tried to get the song “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” from the film Toy Story out of my head.

When Loz died the boys were given toys.
Lots and lots of toys.
Cuddly toys were great, both Proles regressed into more juvenile behaviour.
Soft blankets, lots of cuddles, snuggling on the sofa and tucked in with cuddly toys were the sorts of thing they bot responded to well.
I read that on a Widowers’ website.
I tried to make it happen a lot and the landslide of cuddly toys that arrived in the next eighteen months were great for that.

Tucking the boys up in bed, with a favourite toy was part of our ritual.

But the Proles are bigger now and those bin bags have been up there for over a year.

Time to go.

No time to be sentimental.

I will take them to the Proles’ old nursery this week.
I have seen Toy Story 3 as well but, as I say, I have no time to be sentimental.

 

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At 5.30am Prole2 came into my room.
He went to the toilet and came back and I could tell he was on his way to see me.

He actually fell over all the cars he had left there in the doorway and a tiny bit of me rejoiced.

My house is not tidy, you would not call it a tidy house.
The floor surfaces are slowly being removed and the results are a dusty house.
There are things around.
You can find stuff here and there.
A lot of bits are in the wrong place.

It has a level of tidiness that I am happy with, we could not become more untidy, messy or dirty without me getting quite upset about it.
I think everyone has their level.
Mine just happens to be relatively low.

I have been asked if I would not feel better about the place if I was more tidy.
I can only say I am very happy living as I do. It is only when other people come round that I feel self conscious about it.
I am selective about who comes round these days.
I hate to upset people.

The Proles’ ability to colonise whole parts of the hose with extensions from “Busy Island” or exploratory expeditions by “Captain Skull” or, as in the case of last evening, a super long racetrack, is one that I tolerate for a while, anything up to a week, before punitive and wide reaching clearing up.

By the time I went to bed last night an extensive series of garages, service vehicles and mechanised transport was making up the Pit area of the upstairs raceway.
his Pit area was just inside the door to my bedroom.
I often tell the boys that these things are a trip hazard and so it was that after Prole1 had trotted off to the toilet I heard him come up the last three stairs, step into my room and fall over his own Pit crew.

This I felt, served him right.
He climbed into my bed and we both fell asleep without speaking.

I had a good sleep for the next hour and a quarter or so until the alarm went off.
I sat up and Prole2 lolled over in the bed.

Prole2: I feel sick.

I switched instantly Parent-With-Sick-Child mode.

Me: You feel sick? Do you need to be sick now?

I was moving and getting dressed. Or at least a bit more dressed. The landing window has a clear view of my young neighbour’s garden and the last thing they need is the sight of a half naked mid forties man carrying a vomiting boy first thing in the morning.

Prole2: Yep. I was sick last night too….

His words trailed off as he began gipping and I got him out of my bed just in time.
He retched and burped and chucked his way to the toilet.

The tally of sick, not including the sitting on the sofa with a bowl on his knee, was impressive.

He was sick on my bedroom floor.
He was sick on my socks and my shirt.
He was sick on the landing carpet.
He was sick on the bathroom floor.
He was sick on two bathroom mats.
He was sick on a bath towel.
He was sick on himself quite a lot.

His attempt to wee and be sick simultaneously was daring, courageous and not entirely successful.

I looked at the utter devastation and at Prole2 cured up and shivering on the one remaining clean bath towel.
This was going to be a day of disinfectant, washing machines and not going to work.

Looking after sick children is an odd experience as an adult.

I am worried enough that I cannot stop myself checking him all the time, just to see if he is displaying new and terrifying symptoms..
I am aware it is a day off school enough and remember what that means enough to really get quite excited.
Neither of these attitudes really prepares you for how boring it can be.

Washing, scrubbing the floor, spraying anti-bacterial nonsense around the house, this is not much fun.
Sitting watching my son breathe wears a bit thin after a while.
Getting any work done is a bit of a non starter.

Sleeping, while not actually illegal, is probably immoral with a sick child.

He did look really peaky.
We tried breakfast.
Well, he sort of flirted with it in a digestive sense before returning it to the bowl.

Prole1 saw the whole thing as a bit of an adventure.
he stood with his hands in his uniform pockets and ‘stray sick’ spotted for me while I tried to clean up.
He looked like a diminutive Health and Safety Officer.
I should have taken a photo, just to compare to when he grows up and becomes a real Health and Safety Officer.

The dangerous bit of the walk to school is crossing the road outside our house.
It’s a very narrow road and the only think I am worried about is drivers not seeing him trying to cross between all the parked cars.
I walked him across the road and he went off to school on his own.
He bounced round the corner and off he was so excited.
I stepped back through the door.

Prole2 was dozing on the sofa.
The cats had found him and were draped all over him.

I sat in the kitchen and had a cup of tea before round two of washing.

It was quiet.
It was odd not to be at work.

Life suddenly seemed really very fragile again.

I squashed all that back down and started the clear up.

Never finished that cup of tea,

Got to keep going, the alternative is awful.

 

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Tonight Prole1 is taking a break from ‘The Hobbit’.

He was finally convinced to start reading it by his teacher.
It has been on the bookshelf for ages now and has been by passed for two re-reads of the Harry Potter series.
My words of encouragement and reason were bulldozed aside by Prole1’s desire to read ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Lord Of The Rings’ back to back.
He wanted to read them in the correct order.
I tried to explain about Tolkien’s books, why he wrote them and who he wrote them for but in the end Prole1 wanted to read ‘The Silmarillion’ first, “to get the stories in the right order”, so I shut up.

Anyhow, he has just breezed through Mirkwood and Smaug just got shot by the Black Arrow and Prole1 has decided to take a bit of a breather because he found the Smurf Anthology.

He is now up there following the adventures of the Smurfs while the Battle of the Five Armies is on hold.

He actually negotiated extra reading time for this.

He argued that if they did not have a bed time story he could read for a bit longer.

I reluctantly gave in.

Wel I tried to sound as if I reluctantly gave in.

Truth be known, I kind of wanted a bath and perhaps to watch a bit of telly later and spending half an hour reading ‘Monkey Do’ to the Proles just seemed so…so not like relaxing in  bath or watching telly.

We read every evening together.

When I can be bothered.

This is quite often, we have tackled the greats together like ‘Goodnight Moon’ and ‘Moo Baa La,La,La’ which were in rotation until very recently.
We have followed the Little Red Train’s battles against road transport and the private sector.
We have tracked Thomas and his friends from surreal beginnings to techni-colour saccharine endings.
We have read enough of Julia Donaldson’s rhyming couplets. Enough.

We moved up to Winnie the Pooh, Prole2 grumpily telling me to “get on with it” while I was sobbing over the last chapter.
We have run with the right wing Dalmatians and punted with Mr Gumpy.
Roald Dhal has wandered in and out occasionally.

We have had a glorious run of books and books, the floor of my bedroom has been un passable on occasion with spent stories.

It was Christmas that put a spanner in the works.

It was Prole1’s teacher that did it.
He totally broke the spell.
I remember him saying “I urge you all to read to your kids every day, even a few words”

And I thought, hang on.

I have a choice in all this?

I might not read them a bed time story?

I was mulling this over as the holiday started.

We had a few late nights, a bit of a break from it.

The New Year started with a wobble and then the system broke down again when we went to visit friends at half term.

I found that sitting in a chair staring at the floor was quite an attractive prospect and some how we have been de railed.

It was like someone had said “I urge you not to eat cream cakes, even one a day”

Some sort of link to the future happiness of my children as well balanced and literate individuals had been broken

Now, suddenly I was a bad parent who does not read to his kids.
There seems to be no way back over the fence.
I was actively thinking tonight of ways to get out of doing it when Prole1 offered me a life line.

The Routine has been broken.

Never break the Routine.

Don’t mess with the Routine.

Don’t even think about the Routine if you don’t know what you are doing.

It will take me ages to fix this.

It’s not the parts, it’s the labour.

We have ‘The World of Winnie the Pooh’ up on the ramp and ready to go for a glorious second outing.
Prole1 is ready for a bit of nostalgia and Prole2 might hear all the bits he slept through the first time round.

There are clean sheets and fluffy pillows on the bed where the stories happen, it all smells faintly of lavender, childhood and joy.

The real work is in pushing my conscience  all the way back up the hill of apathy again and hooking it back up to the Routine and sparking the whole thing up.

I know I will enjoy it when we start.
I know the Proles will love it.
I know this is one of my opportunities to really give them some of the magic of childhood.

Believe me, I can hear Luther Vandross singing ‘Dance With My Father’ as I write this.

I am editing out the Casio keyboard solo and hoping none of my indie friends can hear of course.

I know I am talking about reading a bed time story but I always hear Luther Vandross singing ‘Dance With My Father’ whenever I think about the Proles looking back on their childhood.

Honestly if someone played Luther Vandross singing ‘Dance With My Father’ and then followed it with Trelawney by the Holman Climax I would be in bits for days.
My eyes are actually stinging at the thought.

Give me a minute.

Any how, yes, reading the Proles stories.

I probably should.

I just have to stop thinking about chocolate, telly, hot baths and relaxing.

Some things are probably more important than that.

Like their entire outlook on life in the future, or something.

Tomorrow night.

Winnie the Pooh, not Smurfs.

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Today nothing was achieved.

We got up and breakfast took a little to long.
I was sorting out washing and drying and school uniform and games kit and only had a quick cup of tea.
Getting the Proles dressed ended with them shouting at each other.
There were no socks.
Home work was tough and was finished just as we had to leave so we were a bit pushed.
A large lego spillage hampered our final moments in the house.
The Proles left their coats at a friend’s house at the weekend so we improvised wet weather gear.
I hoped it would not rain.
It rained.
School busy, dodged through toddlers and buggies.
Pavement crowded, dodged through toddlers and buggies and dog turds.
The grass in the park is still waterlogged so I had to walk the long way round.
I sat down at work to endless phone calls and emails and could not really solve any problem at all.
Computer refused to ‘save changes’.
Stupid computer.
Meetings over ran and I ate nothing.
Spent the whole day running up and down the corridor, never quite managing to take time to go to the loo.
I left work a couple of minutes late and had to hurry to school.
It rained on the way so I ran for a bit and got to school early but overheated.
Scooped the Proles and headed home to pack the car for Swimming lessons.
We set out as soon as we were ready but today the journey, that last week took half an hour, only took eleven minutes.
Swimming pool car park is on the college campus and students’ universal attitude to road safety FREAKS ME OUT.
We arrived at the swimming pool in the rain and ran inside.
We had to use the broken locker.
I hate the broken locker.
It is a sad locker.
We sat on a bench together for twenty five minutes waiting for the lessons to begin.
We had nothing to say to each other.
Nothing.
The Proles were well grumpy by the time they went in.
I was well grumpy when they came out.
The showers were all taken and we queued, the changing booths were all taken and we queued.
Pizza club at a friends house was a triumph, this time no tears or shouting.
Must remember this one island of joy.
Back out into the rain.
The journey home took half an hour again.
How am I to plan a regular routine with unpredictable timekeeping on the A30?
We got in and a cat had been sick by the stairs.
The boys argued as they got ready for bed.
We finished the strangely right wing and mildly offensive ‘One Hundred and One Dalmatians’.
I felt like I had been licked by a Tory.
Proles went to bed.

Prole2 gave me a kiss.

Prole2: Thank you for a brilliant day Dad. I can’t wait for tomorrow.

Prole1: Here Dad, you can borrow Harry Potter and read it after you have done all your work. I love you.

Prole2: I love you too. To the moon and back.

Prole1: Love you always Dad.

I looked at them both, tucked up in bed, snuggled in for the night.

They both smiled.

Sycophantic gits.

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Prole1 is playing with his electric shark in the living room.
Prole2 is in the kitchen, sitting at the table and watching me.
He has been staring silently at me for some time as I do the washing up.
I decide to strike up a conversation.

Me: Did you enjoy yourself at your friend’s house?

Prole2: Yes.

Me: What did you do?

Prole2: Stuff.

Me: What stuff?

Prole2: Just stuff.

Me: What did you have for tea?

Prole2: Food.

Me: Nice food?

Prole2: Yes.

Me: Did you eat it?

Prole2: Yes.

Me: Did it have a name?

Prole2: What?

Me: Your food, what was it?

Prole2: What?

Me: What was your food called?

Prole2: Dinner.

Me: Right….ummm….good day at school?

Prole2: Yes.

Me: What did you do?

Prole2: Stuff.

Me: Right, stuff….good stuff?

Prole2: Yes.

Me: Who did you play with?

Prole2: Friends.

Me: What did you play?

Prole2: Games.

Me: Ok..good..ummmm…in the playground?

Prole2: Yes.

Me: Right…right…playground….

In strolls Prole1.

Prole1: What are you talking about?

Me: School…

Prole1: I had a good day at school today, it was non-uniform day, as you know,  and we all gathered in the hall for an assembly in which there was a collection for the RNLI and I…

Prole2: HEY! EXCUSE ME PLEASE! WE WERE TALKING! PLEASE DON”T INTERRUPT! THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

Prole1 sticks his fingers in his ears and heads back to the living room.

Prole2: Sorry Dad, we were having a nice chat. Go on, ask me some more questions.

Me: Right….what did you have for lunch?

Prole2: Food.

Me: What was it?

Prole2: Lunch.

Me: Of course….

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At the end of a long day I am aware of the things I don’t do.
As a parent this is fairly universal.
Like a huge weight of failure that follows us round.

I don’t store the beans upside down.

If you store the beans upside down, or indeed many kinds of food cans with ring pulls, then when you open them all the thick stuff is at the top.
Turn it upside down over the pan, quick shake, everything plops out, no need to scrape out the tin.

It is so easy when you store the bean cans upside down.

I ALWAYS forget to store the bean cans upside down.

I know that if you put half a lemon in the dish washer the plates come out sparkly and fresh.
It must be ten years since I have actually done this. Even when I actually have half a lemon in the house and it ends up going manky I somehow manage to block out any connection with the dishwasher at all and throw it away.

Flat coke cleans toilets. Pour it in, leave for an hour, flush and scrub with the toilet brush.
Except in my house where it gets poured away.

The Proles’ drawers stick on their wardrobe.
I know that if I rub candle wax on the runners the problem will be gone.
I can see a candle from where I am sitting now.
It’s over there.
But the Proles are asleep (this is a lie, they are in bed but Prole1 is re-reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for the third time and Prole2 is under the duvet with the cat, ‘cooking her dinner’ any way I can’t go in there now, it would be chaos)
Tomorrow I will forget all about it until I sit here again and look at that candle.

The things I could do with white wine vinegar and bi-carbonate of soda.
If I had any white wine vinegar.
If I had not removed the label from the bi-carbonate of soda and now can’t tell the bi-carbonate of soda from the baking powder or cream of tartar.
I should leave more labels on as well.

I take that back, those labels were rubbish.

I should have left them on though.

I don’t usually mind my failings.
To be honest I don’t often have coke in the house so I can almost forgive myself that.

It is more the principle of the thing.
I think culture tells us we should really be doing these things and the more we do them the more super beings we become.

I don’t want to be a Domestic Goddess (as far as I can tell there is no male equivalent to this, any how whatever it is I don’t need to be it) I think it is just entropy getting me down.
The tendency of the universe to revert to chaos.

I blame popular culture.
Specifically I blame Lucy Liu.

Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and by proxy any one who has ever starred in a ‘kickass’ action film ever.

Daniel Craig, Sean Connery, John Wayne even.

The problem is, they set out to do something and they just ‘do’ it.

In the film Charlie’s Angels the Angels are infiltrating the evil criminal’s base. Their strategy seems to be to be ‘kickass’.
They come out of the sea ‘kickass’. They remove wetsuits ‘kickass. They beat up bad guys ‘kickass’.
Lucy Liu goes up to the roof ‘kickass’ to set up a satellite link or something ‘kickass’. Something on the roof. It was ‘kickass’ anyway.

She arrives at her roof top destination with her ‘kickass’ computer satellite stuff but has no where to put it.
She reaches out her foot and ‘kickass’ flips a wooden crate onto it’s side and puts her techno ‘kickass’ stuff on it.

Even thinking about that moment depresses me.
I can’t do that.
Not with kids.

You know that you would take ages getting up the stairs making sure the Proles were using the bannister and then you would be all hot and be distracted or thinking about lunch and the crate would fall over and you would have to put everything down and pick it up again and then if you did get it back up one of the Proles would ask what you were doing and then use the crate as a drawing board or a fire engine or something.
And you could not stop them because you are too afraid of them falling off the edge of the roof.
And if you were trying to set up some kind of laptop satellite nonsense uplink thing the other Prole would just be asking if they could play Angry Birds.
What takes Lucy Liu a second and a half to achieve would take me several minutes and include a break for carrot sticks and a drink.

I could not even put the nappy change bag on the floor without it slowly slumping to one side, just out of reach of fingers, so I had to shuffle over and retrieve it, off balance and holding a squirmy child in the least ‘kickass’ way imaginable.

Nothing I do is ‘kickass’.

Please don’t get me wrong.
I have no desire to be Lucy Liu.
I don’t want to wear impractical leather wear and have ‘cute’ conversations with Drew Barrymore.
Really I don’t.

I just want the beans to come out of the tin first time.

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I have been reading a lot about families just recently.
I am not sure why it should be but it got me thinking about the transition from husband to father.

It is odd that something so universal as having children can have such a profound effect on families. You would have thought we would all be better at it by now.
Lets face it, we have been at it for years.
We can accept that the internet exists and we can send probes to Mars but we are constantly surprised by how tough parenting is.

It was often said before I had children that the first three months are the hardest.
By the end of three months I found that was very true, that this tiny thing that had invaded our lives and home was developing a character so very fast and we were not only dealing with the day to day wall of work a baby can provide you with but also our developing relationship with someone we did not know.
His personality was slowly unfolding in front of us.
This was a challenge, to get to know this person and discover everything there was to know about his wants and needs at the same time as he was working out the same questions.

I have also heard it said that 80% of advice is reminiscence.
This was certainly true of almost everything we had been told.

We had been told how other people raise their children, not how to raise ours.

It was becoming clear that we were in the realms of informed guessing.

About three months in I remember sitting on the edge of the bed trying to get dressed. It was dark and I could not put the light on in case I woke Prole1. His cot was wedged near the drawers so I could not get clothes from it and I had not left clean socks out for myself.
Somehow this was the moment. Prole1 had completely invaded every inch of the house and every second of our lives, we had not slept well, we had not eaten well and he was up several times in the night.
Loz and I were exhausted from mis-timed body clocks and now I could not prepare for the day because he was there.
I felt like I had lost everything and in that feeling I felt like I had failed, because Dads should not resent their children.
Not that early in the game surely?

I have the grace of perspective now which I did not have before. This was my low ebb.
This was the week I was prescribed antidepressants by the Doctor.

He hardly blinked.
‘Why don’t you try them for a bit? Don’t worry, it happens a lot.’
Happens a lot?
HAPPENS A LOT?
I didn’t read about that in “Raising Boys” or “Fatherhood”. The books kept that one quiet.
No where did I get told that the joy of fatherhood can hide spiralling depression and prescription medication.
This is a recognised moment for fathers. It can happen at different times and if you are lucky it never happens, if you are really lucky you forget it ever did.
The statistics for relationships that break up within the first 18 months of having children are eye watering.
I probably should have picked up the clues and going back through the books I could see the hints and suggestions.
It came as a real shock at the time.

Loz and I talked a lot about it.
This is hard with a baby. Finding time to talk.
Loz pointed out that not talking was dangerous for us.
Loz was great at not allowing danger into our relationship and she was a good listener.
She was also a great talker and told me she was feeling disturbed by the whole experience too.

We talked a lot.
Loz loved talking and sharing ideas.
Before we had Prole1 we had sat down and talked about what we thought having children might mean.

The thought process we talked about went like this:

Prole1 had not asked to be born. We made him.
We planned to have a baby and Prole1 was not consulted.
He was brought into being.

As such it was likely that he would have no idea what was going on.
It was likely he would not thank us for anything.

We thought this would probably be the case and that there would be a price to be paid for bringing a new person into the world.
No one else was going to pay. It’s not the sort of thing you pay off in cash.

We would have to pay in time, effort and emotion.

It is no good ordering something and then resenting the price

Having children is not about sacrifice.
Sacrifice means to give up something valued for the sake of other considerations.
In the face of the enormous debt I felt I owed the Proles there was nothing of greater value.
Once we began the thought process of having children the consequences were blindingly obvious.

I did not care about pubs or cinemas, meals out, night clubs, house parties, the theatre or spontaneous social gatherings, I was prepared to lose all these things before I started down the fatherhood path.
What was dangerous and what I could not tolerate was the excavation of my ability to function.

The danger was in ill health, in a break down of communication between Loz and I and in there not being an inch of the house in any room where I felt I was not boxed in.

The danger would be in not talking and the threat was to my family, not to me.

The solutions were simple and huge.
I visited the doctor. Ultimately his readiness to prescribe drugs scared me into action, no prescriptions.
I kept my clean clothes in the bathroom.
Loz and I would give each other an hour each day in another room to get away if we needed it.
I cleared the kitchen table every day so there would be a small rectangle of order in the house.
I worked really hard on talking to Loz, listening her and to it all and tried to get some perspective.
I went part time at work and I kept that up for the next six months.
Loz and I shared the childcare 50-50.

Prole1 had a huge effect on our lives and we underestimated what it would take out of us.

It was not all about loss.
There is repayment for all this of course.
Prole1 loved us unconditionally.
He absolutely loved us.
Nothing would make him happier than lying in bed with me and Loz and giggling.
He kept on loving us. No matter what.

He loved me.

I’ll be honest, I have friends who no doubt like me but I can be difficult to love.
Prole1 had no problems with this.

The debt is still there. He did not ask for any of this. I will be paying him off for the rest of my life.

Fortunately he pays me back too.
He bends his life around me and this family and I bend my life around him and Prole2.
I don’t feel I have given anything up, that party ended a long time ago.

I know I don’t get it right all day every day but the Proles know that too.

They have ways to let me know when I am letting danger back in and I try not to.

When it gets too much we clear back the kitchen table and talk.
Stupid, silly, ridiculous, heartbreaking, brilliant and wonderful talking.

Having a family is not about giving something up. It is about exchanging all that love and joy, carrying and being carried, holding and being held.
That is not losing something, that’s the best thing there is.

Me and the Proles are where it is at these days.

Prole2 and I are standing in the rain.
Prole2 is playing the ‘I can step on your feet’ game.
The rules are not subtle and we had been doing it for a while.
I am watching all the children filing out of school.
The steady stream of children and parents started to peter out.
Then the after school clubs started to pass by, rugby and football, already changed and carrying flags and string bags stuffed with balls.

Eventually the flow of people dried up completely.

The teachers began putting locks on all the playground gates.

A passing teacher smiled and nodded as if to suggest standing in the rain was the great tragedy of parenthood.
The rain gave a little flurry as if to try to nudge us.
Prole2 got both his feet onto mine and tried to jump up and down which is the end game and final set of the ‘I can stamp on your feet’ game.

Me: What did you do at school today?

Prole2: Nuffin, nuffin, nuffin, nuffin, nuffin.

Each ’nuffin’ is accompanied buy a jump on my feet.

I shuffle him over and out of the wind. It is tricky to walk with a small boy standing on your feet but fortunately it’s a talent you are just blessed with by sheer dint of being a Dad.

Finally Prole1 heaves his huge bag into view.

He seems in no hurry.

Me: Hello.

Prole1: Hello. How are you today?

Me: I am, um, wet but good. Why are you late?

Prole1: Well, to explain that I will have to tell you what I have been doing this after noon.

Me: Ok…

Prole1: Did you see the double rainbow? The one that started over there and came down there and was so beautiful?

Me: I saw a rainbow today but not a double one.

Prole1: It was lovely.

Me: Is that why you were late?

Prole1: No of course not.

Me: Ok. Um…why were you late?

Prole1: Do you remember I did Art Progression last year?

Me: I…Art Progression…um…No.

Prole: I drew a picture of my cousin?

Me: I..your cousin…have I seen it?

Prole1: Yes, the purple one?

Me: Oh, was that your cousin?

Prole1: Yes. It was terrible.

Me: Yes. I mean yes I have seen it. I didn’t know…I did not know it was your cousin.

Prole1: Well it was supposed to be. Today I spent all afternoon drawing a rugby ball.

Me: Right…I imagine that was easier than drawing your cousin?

Prole1: It took a lot of shading.

Me: Yes, I imagine it did.

Prole1: I drew the outline, then I put in the groovy lines and started shading…

Me: Groovy Lines.

Prole1: Lines. Grooves. On the ball.

Me: The seams? Where it’s stitched together?

Prole1: Yes and then I…

There follows a long description of the Artistic process. I know enough from work to encourage this without necessarily engaging with it. The mind of an Artist can be a murky place.

Prole1:….and finally after I had done the green it was finished.

Me: Right. Good. Excellent. And everyone in the class was shading rugby balls?

Proel1: I don’t know what everybody else did this afternoon I was thinking too much. I just looked up at the end of the day and I was the only one still doing it.

Me: Shading your rugby ball? Is that why you were late?

Prole1: NOooo….I did such good shading I got a golden ticket, well for that and knowing glass is made of silica. The teacher could not find the tickets so I showed them where they are kept. There were no more gold ones so they gave me a purple one.

Me: Of course, and that is why you are late?

Prole1: No, I had to take it to the office and then I came back and it was the end of school.

Me: Right…?

Prole1: Then we packed up and I got my coat and bag.

Me: Ok..and you were late…why were you late?

Prole1: Well I had to go and say thank you to all the teachers and two of them were not there so I had to go all around the school to find them and say thank you to them for teaching me today.

Me: Do you say thank you every day?

Prole1: Oh yes.

Me: Right.

Prole1: They were in the staff room putting on their coats by the time I found them.

Me: I bet they were….

I was told once that having children meant that you would never be free again because they were hostages to your emotions.

I have to admit I have learned more about myself and become a happier more rounded person since I have had children.
They have let me see the world in a new way, to question the future and the past whilst I struggle with the present.
They have shone a light into the dusty cupboards of my life and I have become a new person with them.

Still there are things about having kids that knock me back, that make me tread carefully, that have really made me unsure about how the wold perceives me.

I blame the glitter.

Ever since Prole1 went to his first ‘art’ workshop aged 9 months I have been plagued by uncertainty.
Do I have a tiny bit of glitter stuck to my face?

The ‘tiny bit of glitter stuck to your face’ is the STD of the children’s ‘art’ workshop.
You don’t know you have it and for the most part it goes unnoticed but it singles you out in social situations and it is impossible to get rid of.

I always have a tiny bit of glitter stuck to my face. Just because I can’t see it does not mean it is not there.

All through Christmas I would catch myself in the mirror, a tiny flash on the forehead and it was gone.
I would then have to rock backwards and forwards until the light flashed again. Then it was gone.
I spent ages rocking backwards and forwards.
Surely life is too short.

Can you really pay attention to what someone is saying if they have a tiny bit of glitter stuck to their face?
I can’t.

In the early days I did not mind it so much.
In the early days though I would go out covered in glitter, pesto, baby sick and bits of breakfast cereal and frankly could not care less as I joined the ranks of other parents and we would nod hollow eyed at each other as we shared an understanding that eighteen months before we may all have been bright young things, flashing ultraviolet smiles as the DJ worked the ones and twos but now we just wanted some sleep.
And a tidy front room.
And for someone, anyone to come and clean the toilet because THERE IS NOT ENOUGH TIME IN THE WORLD.

Later as things levelled out, people in my house started sleeping for longer than three hours at a time and a tiny modicum of control came back into my life.
I liked it.
Sleep had a system, laundry had a system, food provision had a system, personal hygiene had a system. Sort of.

What I had no system for, what no one warned me about, what has devastated my life and house was the wall of cardboard tubes covered in bottle tops, crepe paper, sugar paper, newspaper, tissue paper screwed into balls and stuck to old bottles, painted boxes, drawings in chalk, crayon, felt tip, pencil and poster paint of all colours daubed everywhere. Sandwich boxes, take away tubs, cardboard boxes of all shapes, sizes and origin turned into cars, robots, binoculars, planes, submarines, worms, diggers, houses, castles, in fact anything the fevered minds of the Proles could come up with.
Paper plates, does anyone actually use a paper plate for eating off? The ones I see have pasta PVA’d to them and splurged with paint.

And glitter, glitter, glitter.
It is a common ‘art’ technique to paste glue all over an object and then pour glitter all over it.
You can shake the excess off if you like but the Proles like to keep things loose.
And glittery.

The phrase that keeps coming up is that it is ‘recycling’ and creating art.
Recycling?
It is not recycling, it is going through the bins and dragging out all the crap you can find and getting small children to Pritt stick it all together and then sending it back to my house in a form that is almost IMPOSSIBLE to recycle. Wrapped in sellotape and glued up.
There is not enough room in my house far all this stuff. At one point the Proles were averaging 14 pieces of ‘art’ each week.
At that rate we could be absorbing 728 pieces of ‘art’ every year.
Into one two bedroom house.
Each of these pieces of ‘art’ has immense sentimental attachment for the Proles.
Each one is like a Picasso to them.
The nice man on Antiques road show could value this stuff at thousands and the Proles would just laugh sheepishly and say no, these things have been in the family too long, they mean too much and they won’t be selling.

I wouldn’t mind if they were any good.

I have to get rid of this stuff.

I have a line of ‘art’ quarantine bags. If the ‘artwork’ within any given bag is not requested within 12 months then it leaves the house, never to return.
It used to be 6 months but recent uncomfortable questions from the Proles have extended the timings of the system.

I need to bring it under control.

But there is no controlling the tiny bit of glitter stuck to my face.
It’s not just handling the ‘art’, just being in the same house puts me at risk.
I will never know whether I have been infected or not.

I can deal with the big stuff, the threat posed to the Proles by eye operations, illness, heart conditions, cuts, bruises and the constant threat of being run over by an idiot.

The tiny unsettling everyday things are much more worrying.

It will be years before I can step out the door without worrying that somewhere there is a tiny bit of glitter stuck to my face.