Because my wife is off in Austria having her colon cleansed, I have been Mr Mum for the week. To my amazement, I realised that this is the first time I have looked after both my kids without Stacey for more than a day. This was quite shocking to me, but it was my kids who pointed it out. They were clearly concerned about the week ahead and how I would fare as sole carer. How hard could it be, I wondered? Wake up, make breakfast, drop them off at school, mess about all day, pick them up from school, make supper, and send them to bed. If only I'd known.
In normal life, I am fun dad, the guy who turns up at weird times, throws Stacey's schedule off-kilter, and says, in the words of David Bowie: "Let's throw the homework on the fire and take the car downtown." I liked to think that I was the zing to her yang. Stacey is very down to earth, sensible, considerate, kind … I am an arse. Somewhere in between our two characters, I thought, lay the perfect child. It's only now that I know what she actually does. I could never have coped. I have clearly not just been an arse but also a huge pain in the arse for the past 13 years, and would like to apologise to my wife. As it happens, she is in isolation somewhere in the Austrian Alps being administered to by rather scary clinicians so she will never read this. This is probably a good thing, as I'd never hear the end of it.
Whenever Stacey would ask me to chip in with parenting I would always riposte that I had "work" to do. This normally involves me noodling away on a computer, being driven somewhere to have fun filming, or travelling around the world on someone else's coin. I actually believed that this constituted my share of parenting. Last week has been an eye-opener, from vomiting kids to wardrobe malfunctions. How on earth can a boy get to school with no shoes? I swear he had shoes on when I drove him there, but then I get texts from his teacher telling me that he has no shoes and could I provide him with some? Then there is sport. They need extra kit for every sport. Every sport has a different bag. Do they have non-marking soles? Where is the mouth guard? What time does your game start? What do you mean I have to drive two hours to watch you be thrashed at rugby? I have work to do … important stuff … please stop crying, of course I'll be there.
Then there's homework. I really don't get homework. Surely school is school. Home is home? I don't send my kids into school with a bunch of stuff I need them to do for me while they are there, so don't send them home with things to do. It means that at the end of the day, when I just want to chill and open a bottle of wine I have to become a kind of exam invigilator as well as finding out that my kids are smarter than me.
Come home Frau Joly, your family needs you.