Having children changes you in ways you can’t anticipate. For instance, when you spend all your time with kids, you find yourself possessed of an entirely new catalogue of cultural references. Familiarity with cartoon characters (or worse, glove puppets) who exist entirely on CBeebies. An intimate knowledge of all of the films nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar. The ability to recite from heart every single Justin Bieber song.
What’s more, the cultural references that you once held dear – being able to name an indie band that’s put out a single this decade or recognise an actor under the age of thirty-five – suddenly fade away.
As you desperately search for ways to entertain and enlighten your offspring, you inevitably return to the formative years of your own upbringing, freezing your frame of reference at a point in time which passed roughly three decades ago. Which explains why I’m writing this while listening to Phil Collins hollering his way through Against All Odds.
I digress, but there’s a tenuous point to the above observation. Lola has had us watching Mary Poppins on repeat since Christmas (see: the formative years of your own childhood). Now we’ve gone one step further and found ourselves reading her the original P L Travers novel at bedtime. In the film, Mary Poppins (always Mary Poppins, never simply Mary) famously recalls in song a few of her favourite things*. I could list a few of my favourite things about being a full-time dad but that would be less interesting than a few of my least favourite things, so here we go.
Supermarkets: Never before have I visited so many supermarkets in such a short period of time. Patronising supermarkets is all Mina and I do in the seven hour window between dropping Lola at school and collecting her again. No matter where we end up, we are irrevocably drawn into the nearest Tesco, Sainsburys, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Lidl, Costco or whatever.
Somehow there is always something we require, something we failed to buy when we were in the supermarket the day before. I should register as a mystery shopper. At least then I could monetise the countless hours I while away in the fruit and veg aisles.
Dry hands: Seriously, this is an issue that doesn’t get talked about enough. It’s horrific. The self-perpetuating mess that results from rearing kids (mealtimes, the endless dirty dishes and utensils, changing nappies, bath time etc.) requires you to wash your hands or otherwise have them in water for approximately 80% of your day. My hands spend so much time being washed, they’re virtually aquatic.
The upshot is that no matter how much moisturiser I slap on, after less than three weeks with Mina I’ve ended up with hands that the make-up artists on The Walking Dead would be happy to put their name to. We’re talking cuts, welts, lesions, skin that looks like someone has gone at it with a cheese-grater. Nobody tells you this before you have a baby; for some reason they focus on lack of sleep, the financial burden, sore nipples. The toll on your hands – that’s the real issue facing new parents and it hasn’t received the attention it deserves.
Powdered formula milk: Where to start on powdered formula? What in God’s name is that stuff? The ingredients list doesn’t do it justice; it paints far too benign a picture. Formula powder is a foul concoction. It has the consistency of fine wet sand and smells as I imagine a female shot-putter’s bra would smell after a particularly rigorous workout at the gym. Should Satan rise from the underworld to lead the final reckoning, flames shooting from his nostrils, his diabolic contingent in tow, I’m convinced he’d kick things off by coating the entire world in baby milk powder. None would survive.
* After I posted this blog, my good lady wife pointed out that Mary Poppins doesn’t in fact sing about her favourite things and that particular ditty is from The Sound of Music. Goddamn. Where’s a decent sub-editor when you need one? It’s all bloody Julie Andrews though so I was in the right ball-park. I’ll take the hit on this one.
You can see more pictures of the girls, probably stood inside a supermarket, on my Instagram feed.