Childless couples won’t be really aware of this but when your first child is born you are given an instruction manual. It’s quite a nice idea; out pops baby and you’re automatically given this manual to go along with it. Cool. It’s quite a weighty tome but the surprising thing is that when I looked inside mine it was completely blank. It seems one has to fill it in oneself.
I still have mine, it’s divided into various chapters, chapter one is roughly from birth to when the little tike starts primary school, chapter two is primary school years, chapter three secondary school years and four is university years..
Chapter one has advice on how long it takes for stitches to heal up (way too long), who’s turn it is to feed the baby (always yours) and what is the best cracked nipple cream to use (Lansinoh). There’s also an explanation of words/phrases a man has never come across in his life; like episiotomy, colostrum, meconium and “you’re never coming near me with that thing ever again”.
Additional areas for reference is what to say when your friends pass their (utterly ghastly) baby clothes down to you in a large black bin liner (Oh wonderful, thank you so much, these are all so CUTE!) before placing same bin liner in loft to lay there collecting dust until one of your friends has a rug-rat of their own and you get to (completely guilt free) dump – umm I mean ‘donate’, same baby clothes to them. It’s a bit like an extremely slow version of Pass The Parcel, eventually this bag of baby clothes will end up back with original couples baby, who by that time will have her own baby and the whole cycle starts all over again.
Chapter two involves such delights as choosing which area you will be moving to get into a good church school catchment area and just how many times you have to make a big show of going to the local church so the priest/minister sees you and will approve your sons application to said school. (every single bleeding Sunday for at least three years if you’re wondering – and you have to help out at church summer fairs, spring sales and completely naff dances etc). Also, here’s a tip, try not to pick a church were said priest is elderly and about to retire or you could be going to church for a few years of wasted effort and have to make friends with new priest.
Chapter two also involves the transition from taking son to school were he cries like a little girl and hangs onto your leg like a limpet mine as you try to prise him off at year one to year six were he runs ahead of you into the school playground because he doesn’t want to be seen with you in those cheap sneakers you bought in Pound Stretchers.
And the baseball hat.
And is excruciatingly embarrassed when you shout ‘Bye Bye Darling, I love you’ across the playground whilst he’s in deep conflab with his school chums.
(ahhh one of the few remaining pleasure’s of fatherhood – tormenting your first born!)
Chapter three AKA pre-empty nest syndrome is broadly where I am now with my two rug-rats.
I have already asked the Army what is the minimal recruiting age (16 and a half) so I have to wait at least two more years before I fill in the application form – I mean ‘they’ fill in the application form. What the manual doesn’t tell you about this age (14 & 12) is that your children turn into monosyllabic Neanderthals who seem to spread their mess around the flat like the black death infecting everything* and everyone.
My only role in this chapter of their lives is to provide money, sugar, internet access, taxi and general dogsbody as they become much more independent and only pitch up at doorstep when it’s raining – or as is more often the case, call me on their mobile and ask for a lift from some god forsaken hole whilst I am snug as a bug in a rug.
And this is the surprising thing that no-one tells you, it seems like once rug-rat #1 pops out then you have no life, at least no social life and when you chat to other parents this is the story you get but none of them actually tell you that once the kids start secondary school they become much more independent and will spend time with their friends or away on adventures. So as a parent chapter three of the baby manual should be sub-titled the Pre-Empty Nest Stage and it actually can be quite fun – especially if you are a tad mischievous like me… For example, I left rug-rat #1 off at college this morning at 7am where he’s joining the other 300 Neanderthals of his year group and heading to the deepest darkest jungle of Kent to learn the art of bushcraft for three days. Not washing for three days and cooking by open fire will be the order of the day.. This is going to be complete shock to him because as far as he is concerned all food comes precooked in a polystyrene box with a side order of fries and a thick shake.. shock number two is going three days without internet access or his laptop, he will be going ‘cold turkey’ for these three days, which by co-incidence will probably be what he’ll be eating as well.
Being somewhat mischievous I’ve had some fun messing with him. Some of you whom are of a certain age will remember the 1977 Roots series on the telly, in an early scene young Kunta Kinte is taken away from his village into the bush by the elders to undergo the initiation ritual from boyhood to manhood. This involves spending a few days out in the bush drinking various vile concoctions and then lining up to be circumcised with a rather terrifying looking double bladed knife;
It was probably very mean of me to show #1 that particular clip over and over again last night and suggest that’s what’s going to happen when he gets there..and was probably even meaner of me to tell his year tutor who is accompanying them about it, the tutor just happens to have a large machete for chopping his way through the forest..
Ahhh.. tormenting your first born, can life get any better?
I’m going to hell, aren’t I?
(*thank you Snowbunny)