Get Busy

The eldest comes skipping out of pre-school, waving some pieces of paper at me. It’s a school portrait in which she’s braced, ram-rod straight, smiling a vaguely terrified smile, the way you might smile if your photographer were a 6-foot bunny rabbit with the voice of Timmy Mallett. The youngest takes advantage of my distraction and pulls the pic out my hand, into the buggy. She wants to look at it, which means chew it, obviously.

In the 25 minutes it takes us to make the 5 minute walk from school, we have a discussion about funerals , a low blood-sugar tantrum and countless gentle prompts on road safety that pass in, through and out the other side. One day the youngest, who routinely ignores everything I say, will learn how to ride a scooter properly. Then things will be interesting.

Actually, things are going to be interesting a lot sooner than that. Thins are re-emerging from the loft: a carrier seat; a Phil and Ted’s cocoon. And lots of very small clothes. We are about to get very busy in our house. I’ll enjoy these relaxed school runs while I can.



Don’t Worry; It Gets Harder

June 2012. A pub garden. Warm summer sunshine. Two Deckchairs. Next to them, two pints, untouched.
It’s our first social adventure outside since the three of us became the four of us, and the pandemonium really started.
Our two year old and the newborn have managed to simultaneously crap themselves and we’ve run out of wipes.  “Don’t worry’, says a woman with a toddler, as she hands MsUrbanDaddy a fist-full of Wet Ones, “it gets easier”.

This memory came back to me as MsUrbanDaddy and I walked out of the girls bedroom on Sunday evening, puffing our cheeks and shaking our heads. We’d had what most parents would recognise as ‘a difficult day’.
The eldest really does style herself as ‘The Intransigent’ sometimes. She was antithesis with chubby cheeks, all day long (and on days like Sunday, that’s a long time). The toddler, as her Auntie Rachael notes wryly, spends her days channeling Father Jack from the Father Ted show. To be fair, they were both tired from a late-ish night watching fireworks. But that’s no reason not to shut up and do as you’re bloody told once in a while, now is it?

But what do I know? My brother reports far greater challenges with his twin boys, who are nine. As well as the old favourite troubles, such as getting them to brush their teeth and put their shoes on.
For all the advice on surviving with babies and young children, we know the real challenges start once they’re in their tweens. And later, when they start screaming at you and slamming doors in your face. When you’ve never liked them less, and they’ve never needed you more.

Sometimes, I miss the simplicity of the pandemonium days. Or rather, I laugh ruefully at memories of a time when our parenting ability could be stretched by having to change two nappies at once. There’s no point waiting for things to get easier because this is the easy bit! Next time we’re late for the school run, I’ll try to remember as much.

Feeding Time: Every Kitchen Tells the Story

5pm. Kids’ suppertime. And supper is being served, in all directions.

I try to make resignation look a little more like composure. Vanity, eh? Mentally, I am already hunkered down under the kitchen table, waiting for it all to be done. And while I’m down there, a thought suddenly takes me on: that the kitchen could tell the story about us. The real story.

I have two children, one aged nearly 3, the other, 9 months. For them, the single most tedious thing that you can do with food is to eat it. My infant daughter will release her inner Jackson Pollock with every tray of finger food she gets. The eldest, meanwhile, has clocked the fact that her parents are happier when she eats her food, and presumes this to mean that, somehow, she isn’t getting her way. Meal-times become the perfect cover for insurrection, with food as leverage (unless it’s cheesy pasta, of course – then it’s definitely food again).

The real story is on the floor, mostly. A rookie C.S.I. technician could outline our day pretty quickly: dried cereal means that we’ve managed breakfast; dry cereal means that daughter no.1’s bizarre dry-cereal-eating habit has returned; cherry tomatoes indicate that baby Pollock has lunched (cherry tomato on the ceiling means I gave her food, when she wanted the sippy-cup). And paint or glitter reveals that the morning coffee was waaay too strong, and one parent has set off at an unsustainable pace. On paint-and-glitter days, supper-time is very interesting.

But then, supper-time is bound to be interesting. It brings the perfect-storm conditions: low blood sugar and witching-hour tetchiness. The girls can get moody, too… Yet, even from my mental safe-place under that table, there’s an obvious funny-side: I’ve been psychologically duffed-up by a couple of cherubs; my kitchen is a land-fill (again).  And a similar tale is unfolding, in family homes across the land. If you should meet the four of us in a café – all chubby cheeks and latte-harmony – just remember what the kitchen told you, and smile.

The Daddy Dossier

top secret





Received: 05/02/2013 14.55 G.M.T.

Type: Surveillance

Location: Kitchen

Present: MsUrbanDaddy; Daughter No1.


MsUrbanDaddy: Sweet-heart… Sweet-heart, come and talk to mummy for a minute.


MsUrbanDaddy: Can you come and talk to mum for a bit, lovely?


MsUrbanDaddy: Can you get up off the floor and talk to mum? Just –

[Daughter No.2 can be heard crying from another room]

MsUrbanDaddy: Ok – just sit on the floor, then, and talk with mum, please?


MsUrbanDaddy: That’s right, you sit on the chair and talk with mum. Now…

Sweet-heart… if you shout and scream and lie on the floor like

that, I can’t understand what you want…


MsUrbanDaddy: Next time you’re upset, instead of screaming, just

tell mummy what’s wrong. OK? Then I can help you feel better.


MsUrbanDaddy: Can you do that, then, lovely? Can you try to stop shouting next time?

Daughter No1: No.


Toddler Tantrums: Comedy Gold

So, I have a daughter who is nearly two.

I always thought the ‘terrible twos’ was a rather shrill cliché. As it turns out, it’s closer to euphemism.

It’s also, I’ve learned, a misrepresentation. That 15 minute floppy-fit in a busy thoroughfare this morning was actually an expression of yearning for some form of control, some leverage.

None of which knowledge makes a tantrum any less annoying to put up with.

So, The Urban Daddy has been taking notes…

1. I’m learning the territory: My daughter’s skies tend to darken when she’s tired or still sulking about something else.

2. I make an arse of myself: A mid-range hissy-fit can sometimes be nipped in the bud with a quick Mr. Tumble impression (my Mr. Tumble impersonation is rubbish. Maybe that’s why it works).

3. I pick my battles: My daughter has more stamina than me. I let the low-level stuff slide.

4. I’m learning to feint: Here’s a snippet of a conversation between my daughter and me the other day…

Me: Can Daddy have his phone back?

Daughter: Mine!

Me: No – give it to Daddy please

Daughter:  Mine! Waaaaaa!

Here’s how it should have gone:

Me: Want to play Duplo bricks?

Daughter: Yay!

Me: OK, you start. *Quietly moves phone to high shelf*

5.  I’m learning to love her tantrums: Every so often, my daughter’s hissy-fits contain moments of pure comedy gold; often she’ll over-cook her protest and stray into parody. That moment is my (and her) ticket out of the mayhem.