Monthly Archives: November 2014

Snatched seconds of happiness…


“You’ll never guess what, Daddy: I’m going to be in a play at school. AND…it’s all about Bethany Hen.”

So began a rushed conversation with my 4-year-old earlier this week, amidst the 6.45am madness of simultaneously ironing a shirt, boiling an egg for the eldest, and explaining to the youngest why it really, honestly wasn’t unreasonable of me to have put her Peppa Pig dress in the washing machine.

“Bethany Hen?”

“YES, Daddy,” came the world-weary reply, eyebrows raised in exasperation at my failure to understand what this was all about.

“Oh, that’s nice. Anyway…HAS ANYONE SEEN MY SHOES?”

And after that, I didn’t give Bethany Hen any further thought. Amidst the early morning madness, this all seemed fairly inconsequential in the grand scheme of things and, although I wondered why my daughter’s class was doing some kind of farmyard play at this time of year, I never bothered to enquire further. I was already running late, I had a train to catch, and I presumed that a quick pat on my daughter’s head – accompanied by a smile that was vaguely directed at her – would suffice.

Fast forward on to this morning. Our house once again resembled some kind of modern art installation (think an even more messy but slightly less disturbing version of Tracey Emin’s bed, mixed with a Banksy-esque mural being drawn on the wall by a toddler). My daughter was now attempting to discuss Bethany Hen in further detail, this time skillfully choosing a time when I wasn’t attempting to do 14 things at once.

“You know I told you about my school play, Daddy?”

“Yes, I remember,” came my reply, as I deliberately made eye contact – this time hopefully giving the impression that I was actually listening.

“Well,” she said, with a suitably dramatic pause. “I’ve got some exciting news about Bethany Hen…”

By this point, I was genuinely intrigued.

“I’m going to be Mary, Daddy!”

At that moment, as she beamed with pride and looked to me for a mixture of surprise, approval and encouragement, I finally realised what this was all about. Far from being a play about chickens, my little girl had simply become slightly confused about the word Bethlehem.

Thankfully, I had a couple of minutes to spare before needing to leave the house. As I brushed my teeth, this 4-year-old Virgin Mary-to-be sat at my feet telling me all about why her news was so special. She had evidently remembered the entire casting process, and happily reeled off the various roles her friends will be playing (apparently, Dylan is genuinely over the moon to have been chosen as the camel). It was still a whirlwind of activity – but for an all-too-brief period, I was able to share my daughter’s excitement about what is, in her world, something momentous.

Although it’s only November, I’ve already decided on one of my new year’s resolutions: find a time, each morning, to give my children my full attention, as I listen to one thing they want to share. When the demands of the workplace are never more than an iPhone-tap away, and we feel exhausted before the day has even begun, it can be so easy to forget to enjoy and appreciate those snatched seconds of happiness.

And my priority for before this year is out? To make sure I book a morning off work and witness my little Mary in action, on the road to Bethany Hen.

When three becomes four…

March 30th

Earlier this year, I wrote a book about being a dad.  At the time, I was very conscious that I’d be committing various revelations to print, and that I should do so with caution.  Some of the chapters of Diary of a Desperate Dad – No Sex, Please, We’re Parents, for example – were therefore read and re-read a multitude of times (after all, once you’ve shared the story of ‘the trim’ with thousands of other people, there’s no turning back. For the full account of that sorry tale, you’ll have to buy the book).

Anyway, one of the things I was absolutely certain I wouldn’t regret was my comment about never having any more children.  I felt sure that, with three children under six at the time, our family was complete and that we would remain the Jackson Five forevermore.  As it is, I genuinely struggle to remember my children’s dates of birth (bear in mind: when our GP once asked me for my son’s, I panicked and gave him the date of my wedding – which led to considerable confusion all round) so the thought of having a fourth was never one I entertained.  Which only goes to show how futile it is to make assumptions about how life is going to turn out.

It always amazes me how frequently people will ask those of my generation about when they’re planning to start a family, as if it’s a done deal that everyone wants children, or that they’re able to have them.  I’m acutely aware that so many people would love to have kids but are unable to – and in that context, the concept of having a fourth child is something you can almost feel guilty about.

Why is all this relevant?  Well, yesterday I sat in a small room at our local hospital, looking up at an amazing image of a new life on the screen in front of me.  All being well, this little boy will make his entrance into the world at some point towards the end of March.  I felt an overwhelming range of emotions – awe, excitement and, yes, that strange sense of guilt – but overall, I couldn’t be happier.  Life can throw so many challenges our way, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have three happy, healthy children, with another on the way.  I’ve no idea what twists and turns our lives will take over the years ahead; all I do know is that I’m very thankful for what I have, and for the way in which my little family has grown.

When we had our scan, we bumped into a lady my wife knew from the school gate.  She was expecting her seventh child.  Even though it was perhaps unwise to rule out a fourth child in my book, I’d like to make it abundantly clear right now that we’re certainly not going to be following in her footsteps.  I’d also like to rule out having five children – but I’m not going to do that, just in case I find myself writing a very similar blog post to this one, in a few years’ time…