About two years ago now, along with a couple of friends, I helped to start a dads and kids playgroup. It was inspired by a trip the three of us made one Saturday morning to a little place in Wimbledon, which consisted of not much more than toys, snacks, and about eight fathers playing happily with their offspring. Our three boys had a great time – but interestingly, we dads also got the chance to have a good old catch-up (don’t believe the myth that it’s only mums who like to chat). It was a fun, encouraging morning, which we thought we could replicate a little closer to home without too much bother.
So, inspired by what was happening in Wimbledon, our idea quickly blossomed into a dads and kids get-together in a church in Balham. One Saturday morning a month, the rows of chairs were replaced with sofas and newspapers for the dads, and toys and games for the kids. Overall, it was great fun: within a few months, we had around 15 regulars and we all started to get to know each other pretty well. There was, however, one exception: the man who shall forever be remembered as Nightmare Dad.
Now, me and my two mates in question are fairly relaxed people (at least, that’s what I like to think). But Nightmare Dad brought our stress levels up to never-before-experienced heights. For starters, he didn’t just bring his one young child along; he turned up with all three of them. Most of the kids there were aged three and under; this bloke’s brood were four, six and seven. So, already, there was something of an expectation-versus-reality issue for the older ones. They spent most of the time zooming around on bikes that were too small for them, terrifying any toddler that happened to be in their path. The middle child kept his coat and cycle helmet on throughout – which, ironically, seemed to make him MORE reckless when in control of a vehicle.
All the while, Nightmare Dad remained blissfully unaware. While his trio of terrors was causing havoc, he’d stand at the side offering such observations as “any chance of another bacon roll?” or “looks like we need another pot of coffee…” And then, at the end, he’d seemingly NEVER LEAVE. We’d be attempting to clear everything up and get home; Nightmare Dad, meanwhile, would be wandering around with a sort of benign smile on his face, while his three kids continued to run amok. I’m absolutely against the idea of using any kind of violence against children – but, believe me, when Nightmare Dad’s two oldest kids unplugged the vacuum cleaner I was using for the third time, I was seriously tempted…
Anyway, now we’ve been in our new neck of the woods for nearly a year, I’ve started to wonder whether now would be a good time to find a couple of other dads who might fancy doing a similar Saturday playgroup down this way. Before I do, though, I need to be absolutely sure that Nightmare Dad is still firmly ensconced in SW12. If he’s anywhere near here, this idea’s going firmly on the back-burner.