It had been a few minutes, three maybe. I looked at him, as encouragingly as I could, and spoke. “OK, that’s good. It’s easy, just one, two, three and push.” I’d tried to hide any stress (rapidly growing within me) from my voice. My son looked back at me, seemingly unconvinced. “Cuddle?” “We can have a cuddle when you come down the slide.” “Cuddle now?” “Just go down!” chimed in a boy, about twice the age of my son - part of the growing queue for the slide forming behind my little one. “He’ll go when he’s ready,” I said, once again trying to appear calm - reminding myself that empathy isn’t a skill kids are born with. “Just one, two, three and push!” Still nothing. It was going to be a long day.
This I just don't get. If I present an item to my son, on his favourite plate, there's a 50/50 chance of his eating it. If, however, I get the same item and throw it on the floor... 100% certain he'll pick it up and munch away happily. For some reason, toddlers want to put everything in their mouths. So any walk in the park, trip across town or visit to the supermarket is perpetually punctuated with me saying: "Take that out of your mouth! We don't eat off the floor". Leaves, rocks, bits of twig, squashed chips & a whole assortment of litter have all been whisked from his grubby little mitts just before he attempted to eat them. If I'm honest, there have been several times when I didn't get there quickly enough - so these items have had to be wrestled from between stubbornly closed lips. He, of course, thinks this is hilarious - while all I can think of is a potential night of projectile vomiting should he catch some lurgy or other.
I remember his mother and I would discuss, in those oft-remembered (much missed) quiet relaxed evenings before our son was born, television's role in our household. We'd pretty much decided that our offspring would never be sullied by exposure to the telly. Equally he'd never touch sugar, only eat organic and spend his life with well-thought through educationally relevant play. What mugs we were!
Nobody, and I really mean NOBODY is interested in other people's holiday snaps. They are the photographic equivalent of watching Songs Of Praise at your nan's house or uncomfortable chats with taxi drivers - something to be endured and got over with, as quickly as is humanly possible. I'm sorry to say it, but it's the same with other people's kids. We all love our own offspring, we find what they do absolutely fascinating. We talk about them endlessly. We rearrange our entire lives for them. Yet, despite all this, our kids are ONLY of interest to US. For everyone else they are (at best) dull and (at worst) actively irritating.
I feel like one of those highly painted ornamental figures that you see in Bavarian clocks - going round and around in circles on a pre-allotted path every morning. Some day soon I'll find myself clanging a bell and singing some indistinguishable ditty as each quarter hour strikes. Why am I wearing out the pavements? It all comes down to the time of day. Between 10 and 11 EVERY morning, I walk in circles with my son in his buggy. Why? Because this is his 'Nap-time'.
I firmly believe that we, as a society, need to find new role models for our boys and young men. We need to do this quickly. Traditionally, we've expected boys to look up to movie stars, sportsmen, musicians, politicians and the business elite. Yet, the starry ensemble has repeatedly shown itself unworthy of this honour.
In the meantime we parents, who have enough on their plate, are beaten with (metaphorical) sticks. Trending hashtags, focusing on parenting perfection, tell us we’re doing it all wrong. Instagram images of perfectly dressed, puke free, angelic children make the rest of us sick to the stomach as we battle to dress our toddlers without WW3 breaking out. Linked-in profiles that show parents simultaneously looking after kids, pursuing an amazing career, charity work, an interesting hobby and maintaining great hair – make the rest of us feel like crap.
I briefly considered trying to wrestle the pouch from the woman, but quickly dismissed the idea. One of the issues of being a large man is that, if discovered fighting with a Miss Marple look-a-like in the Co-op, few people are likely to believe that you didn’t start it.
It's these people, and their blissful ignorance, that contemporary parents must learn to navigate around. Like hidden rocks among the flotsam and jetsam of parenting - they must be spotted and avoided if possible.
So Sam just turned One...