All I want for Christmas is…. a violin

I was at a Christmas fair a couple of weeks ago when I ran into someone I’d not seen for a while, a fellow father of small children. This in itself is unremarkable; there are plenty of parents around. The continuation of the human race largely depends on it.

What’s more, having small children myself I rarely engage with people who aren’t similarly encumbered. It’s reached the point where I no longer know how to conduct myself around those without kids. What do the childless talk about? I can see how people end up resorting to the weather.

Anecdotally I’ve heard that many parents are in the same position, their circle of friends so diminished that it consists entirely of other parents. This is a form of ghettoisation that has been sorely underresearched. I suspect it could be shown to have contributed to Brexit.

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Putting kids in wheelie bins and other questionable practices

Does putting your four year old inside a wheelie bin for the sake of an Instagram photo make you a bad person?

And does it change anything if the photo gets lots of likes?

I should add that the wheelie bin in question was brand new. So sparklingly clean that I would’ve happily eaten my dinner out of it. So I had fewer qualms about putting Lola into it than if it had been full of fish heads and soiled nappies.

Nevertheless I couldn’t help feeling a pang of guilt. I sold the whole stunt to her as a bit of fun but isn’t it a bit more sinister than that?

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How does my employer benefit from me looking after my kids?

Working dads. Boy, they have it hard, away from the kids for all that time. I’m one of the fortunate ones though. I recently returned to work after five months off looking after my youngest daughter.

I was able to do this thanks to the Shared Parental Leave policy that came into force in April 2015. A policy which gave my employer very little say in the matter.

I’ve been a clear winner from SPL. Those five months were the best five months of my life. One would also hope that Mina and her older sister Lola benefitted from having my undivided attention, although in truth Mina probably won’t miss the training plan I devised to get her walking which made the preparations of most Olympians appear desultory (well they say you should encourage your kids).

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Mina at one

I expect very few of you to read this post. It’s one for the superfans. Of the girls that is, not my superfans (inevitably a much smaller clique). So I’m mainly speaking to my mum and dad. Perhaps my in-laws. And possibly Mina when she’s old enough to read this, assuming she’s even interested. And that the internet still exists then.

By all rights, this should rank as the dullest post I’ve ever written. A doting panegyric to my youngest child is hardly a crowd-pleaser. But Mina isn’t dull. She’s one of the least dull people I know. I spent five solid months with her and never had a dull moment. Even her hair is arresting, remarked upon wherever she goes. So maybe it won’t be such a dull post.

Mina hit the big numero uno a couple of weeks ago while we were in Portugal (if you’ve read this far, you’ve probably also read about that holiday). Not that she particularly cared where she celebrated her first birthday. For her the novelty of having some new toys to play with was sufficient.

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Last night I dreamt I went to work again.

It felt surreal, as if I’d returned somewhere I’d once visited a long, long time ago, in a reverie perhaps or a past life.

But as it turns out it wasn’t merely a dream; I genuinely was back at work yesterday. Today too. And I’ll be there tomorrow. Only I’m having a little trouble coming to terms with this after spending a thoroughly life-affirming five months at home with my two girls, a period during which I categorically shelved the day job.

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What holiday?

I appreciate that it’s a colossal cliché to say that holidaying with small children is as relaxing as a military coup (Turkey, anyone?) Every parent knows this. In fact, everybody who’s sat near a young child on a plane knows this. It’s no state secret.

But I’ve just spent a week in the Algarve with two kids under the age of five so allow me a post about holidaying with infants. I’ve got to get something positive out of the experience*.

Someone recently said to me that as a parent your holiday lasts as long as it takes you to walk from the back passenger door after strapped your kids into their car-seats to the drivers’ door. We didn’t take the car this time, so based on this theory I didn’t even get a holiday.

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