Thursday, June 23, 2011

Just call me Uncle

My son turned four a few months ago, which also meant that I will have been a househusband for almost the same amount of time.  A lot has happened over those four years, some of it good some of it bad, some of it printable, most of it not.  I have learnt a lot in those four years, and some of it is even useful.  I had an Uncle-in-law who always used to tell me that he had forgotten more than I had ever learnt.  He meant it as a taunt, but last year he fell up a kerb, bashed his head and developed amnesia, so maybe it was just a strange prophecy?
My rambling point being is that I have learnt quite a few tricks of the trade in these recent years and I feel I am honour bound to pass them on to the younger generation of Househusbands and Stay At Home Dads.  I think it is my destiny, nay my duty, to become an Agony Uncle to these fledglings who follow in my ever turbulent wake.
You may ask what qualifies me to dish out such far sweeping advice to my fellow brothers in arms.  Well firstly I have three children of mixed ages and all of them are in one piece.  Sure, one of them nearly chopped her ring finger off trying to get ice cream out of a tub with a carving knife, and I will freely admit that another took two years to grow bored of being a cat only to become a dog.  I will also hold my hands up to the fact that the youngest is so used to being mis-dressed that he cries when given matching socks.  These things don’t weaken my argument, they strengthen them. 
Do you want advice from somebody that centre parts their child’s hair, or from someone who knows what time the sun passes over the yard-arm in 57 different countries?
Do you want to listen to somebody that recycles and biodegrades their used nappies, or somebody that used an old Guns’n’Roses tour t-shirt as an emergency nappy then cried at the injustice of being a father?
Do you want relaxation advice from somebody who locks himself in the toilet with a copy of stamp collecting monthly and a packet of wet wipes, or from somebody who invented a Teflon coated toilet whilst sitting on the throne with a bottle of JD grabbing a moment’s peace from screaming kids?
There isn’t a mistake I haven’t made, a social occasion my presence hasn’t made awkward or a politically correct yummy mummy that hasn’t needed a long hot shower after speaking to me.  We Stay At Home Dads are the parents of the future.  Do you want to face that future standing on your own in the playground, whilst a group of well dressed and bad mannered Mums thumb their noses at you?  Or do you want to stand with me and proudly shout “I am a Man in a Woman’s world, but it won’t be yours for much longer sweetheart.  Now whose round is it?”
If your answer is the latter, then come take a seat around the fire.  Let us tell tall tales and swap pieces of slightly dubious in origin advice.  I tried to raid the letter bags of some of the more politically correct and lily livered Agony Uncles, but the pickings were slim, and by slim I mean none.  I spent 3 hours searching online for some sort of real Agony Uncle and I came up with zip, nada, nowt.  Imagine all the decent stuff I could have looked up in those three hours, or how many whining on-line Yanks I could have slaughtered on C.O.D. Black ops.  This is how dedicated I am to you fellas.
I guess in the age of equality and fairness, I really should also offer my services to all those lost and bewildered Mums as well.  Don’t worry, you can ask anonymously, your secret is safe with me.  Jemima, Lucinda, Arabella and Meredith will never find out that you had to ask a mere Dad how to deal with a snotty nosed bully or his even snottier nosed Mum.
So ask if you dare, send me an email at I can’t promise to answer them all, I definitely can’t promise not to laugh at the more stupid questions, but I can promise to read them all at least.  You will always be safe in the knowledge that someone out there knows your problem, and a problem shared is a problem halved.  Unless that problem is some sort of disease of course, then it’s a problem doubled and please wash your hands before you send me an email.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Of all the modern acronyms my most bitter sweet favourite is F**k My Life.  This is my FML moment from today.
Was having a very pleasant dream when my son decided to deliver a piledriver slam to my testicles.  This wasn’t my FML moment.
Realised it was Sunday and only 7am.  This wasn’t my FML moment.
As I wearily dragged my tired arse down the stairs I realised I had a hangover head on.  This wasn’t my FML moment.
Discovered, after I had watched and waited for the kettle to boil, that
a) whilst the saying ‘A watched kettle never boils’ isn’t strictly true, it may as well be.
b) We had run out of coffee.
This wasn’t my FML moment.
Settled for a glass of green lemon tea, which tasted like a cup of hot water that had once seen a lemon, on TV, in black and white.  This wasn’t my FML moment.
Wife informed me that she was taking the kids to church this morning and of course I didn’t have to come, although her eyes said otherwise.  I got the guilt hint and begrudgingly said I would come as well, hoping she would recognise my gesture of goodwill and let me off.  She didn’t.  This wasn’t my FML moment.
Arrived at church five minutes before Kick Off and all the seats had gone, which meant we had to stand at the back for the whole service, which meant I had to lip sync to all the songs lest I get spotted.  This wasn’t my FML moment.

Kaede started drawing what looked like the priest in his high robes and hat, but actually turned out to be a picture of a toilet with a floater in it, helpfully captioned ‘Im sick’.  A mad dash into the church hall ensues and we almost make it.  Half a toilet roll and one thrown away pair of knickers later, we re-enter the church.  This wasn’t my FML moment.
Half way in and Nate is beyond restless, his feet are everywhere, the deck of oversized cards are strewn all over the place.  The wife whispers to me “Where are the bribes?” the bribes being raisins, apples, breadsticks - basically anything that will fit in my pockets and his mouth.  I reach into my coat pocket to grab something for him and realise it’s summer, I don’t have a coat.  I turn to my wife and actually wish that looks could kill, because the one I’m now getting would at least send me to an early grave and spare me the rest of the service.  This wasn’t my FML moment.
The swag bag starts to get passed around for the collection so I search my jeans pockets for the non-existent coins there.  Now the church has reached the 20th century it actually takes our money by direct debit, yet they still guilt trip you for more every Sunday.  Receive another crappy look from the elderly parishioner as I pass it on without chucking in.  This wasn’t my FML moment.
It’s nearly over now, time for communion and then we can escape into the sunshine, hell I would even settle for pouring rain at this moment.  My leg starts vibrating as I walk down the aisle towards the front of the church and I thank the Lord I remembered to turn my phone to silent.  Except that in process of putting it back in my pocket I must have knocked the stupid switch back on, my phone is no longer silent.  This wasn’t my FML moment.
Recently I had discovered how to create ring tones from the music in my iTunes library so I had done just that.  Marilyn Manson was now blaring from my phone.  This wasn’t my FML moment.
Oh, and he was singing his cover of ‘Personal Jesus’.  This wasn’t my FML moment.
When I eventually get the phone silent and scuttle red faced back to the pews I look to see who was calling.  It was the Mother in law, she’s left a message.  With a great deal of trepidation I listen to the voicemail and all my fears are confirmed – she’s coming round this afternoon to see the kids, she’ll see us at noon.  THIS was my FML moment.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

There's no such thing as a free lunch

Recently the lovely people at contacted me and asked if I would like to participate in a new project of theirs called The Most Wanted Fuss Free Dining Report.  The idea is to get to the bottom of which nationwide restaurants really are the most child-friendly, welcoming and serve up the best value-for-money fare.  Now I must admit that I don’t normally look forward to taking my feral brood out to eat, add to that it was now the end of a long hair-tearing half term and I was about to turn their kind offer down.  Then I spotted the words “and it’s on us” and I was sold.
After a quick conflab with the family, it was decided that we would visit Prezzo in South Woodford during Saturday lunchtime.  Prezzo sets its stall out as an Italian Restaurant chain and I had eaten there before, albeit without the kids, and had enjoyed the experience.  Now to find out how it would cope with the Harding’s en masse.
We arrived at 1.40pm and had missed most of the lunchtime rush, so we were ushered straight to a table that was within view of the chef who was making pizzas in a wood fire oven.  I have to say the ‘front of house’ welcome wasn’t exactly the warmest I’ve received, as my Dad always says “A smile doesn’t cost a penny”.  I considered passing this snippet onto our waitress, but her icy stare stopped me short.
I hate to use the word ‘posher’ but as I can’t think of a suitable alternative it will have to do.  Prezzo is a bit posher than  the Pizzas Huts, Harvesters or any of the chains with a play area, which is why we don’t normally bring the kids here, they tend do need to run about between courses.  Luckily for us (and the other diners) the kids had realised that they were in somewhere a bit nicer than Kathy’s Café and were behaving appropriately.

The waitress brought over the obligatory ‘kids menus that doubles as a puzzle/drawing mat’, but neglected to bring pencils as they had run out.  Kaede started to express her outrage at such service and the waitress quickly found two pencils that had fallen behind the till, a lucky escape.  Plus they had a good mixture of puzzles and drawing on them, so they would be a welcome distraction.  I promised my 17 year old daughter Storm that I wouldn’t mention that she got stuck on the crossword, so that never happened OK?
Our waitress then went through her super speedy spiel and took our drinks orders.  To my horror Kaede asked for a beer only for Nate to tell her they were only allowed Daddy’s beer at home.  I ignored my Wife’s stare of shame and buried my head in the menu.  Luckily for me they have a good wine list, so I ordered a bucket of wine for the Mrs and a super-sized Peroni for myself.
The kids starters arrived quite quickly, pizza dough garlic bread, and I used the rare moment of silence to take in the ambience of the place and enjoy my beer.  With starters finished and a change of waitress, we were asked if we were now ready for our mains, thus giving us the chance to move the meal along at a faster pace if we wanted. 
The new waitress overheard Kaede say that she was going to run her own pizza and pasta joint when she grows up.  Her speciality is going to be the cheese-free pizza, in honour of her mouldy milk hating Dad.  She asked Kaede if she would like to watch the chef make the pizzas to which she got an excited ‘yes’ answer.  This was Kaede’s equivalent of being asked into the cockpit of a plane to meet the pilot and she was gone like a shot.
After another round of drinks our mains arrived.  Fusilli Alla Rusticana for Storm, Spicy Beef pizza for the Mrs, Pepperoni Pizzas for the little’uns and Spaghetti with King Prawns for me.  Again, the silence gave testament to how good the food was.  Everybody enjoyed their meal, including my Wife the wannabe food critic, who has walked me out of more restaurants than she’s walked me in.  The kids deal was £4.95 for three courses plus a drink which really represented value for money.  The portion sizes were more than generous and yet the kids still had room for the obligatory ice-cream dessert. 
The toilets were clean, spacious and included baby changing facilities, although I count my blessings that I no longer have to avail of those.  Something we also no longer need is a high chair, but my good wife informed me that the ones they have there are the good ones, the ones she always felt safe (?) with.  Although Prezzo doesn’t pitch itself as a kiddie restaurant, you aren’t made to feel unwelcome for dragging your little monsters in with you.  It does act as a good stepping stone between the noisy play area eateries and the kind of restaurant you wouldn’t dream of bringing children to.
All in all the whole meal was a success and one I hope to repeat soon. have asked us to score Prezzo, so here are our all important score cards.