Believe it or not, it was always my intention to have three children. I know! I wished this chaos upon myself! But honestly, there was a method in my madness, as follows:
1. If the children are tragically orphaned, they can look after each other, and make a TV programme out of it. This was a big deal for me as an only child. I’d watched Annie too many times; I knew how these things could pan out.
2. If you have three children, you can afford for one – or even two – of them to be gay. To clarify: I would wholeheartedly welcome a homosexual child, but it’s nice to have a mix, yeah?
3. If you have three children, you can afford for one of them to opt out of society, and the other to be an accountant. So long as one of my kids earns enough to finance my retirement, the others can do whatever the fuck they want.
4. Of the three kids, surely ONE of them will look after me in my deranged old age, won’t they?
5. Here’s the big one: if you have three children, you’ve got room to make a few mistakes. Treat your first child as your draft copy, your guinea pig, your test run. Iron out the wrinkles with the second child, and by number three you’ll basically have this parenting gig nailed. That’s the theory, anyway; I’m yet to put it into fucking practice.
Because, yeah, in my decade as a parent I’ve made a fair few mistakes, at Ben’s expense. Poor Ben. I didn’t have a fucking clue what to do with him when he was born, and didn’t even have the benefit of YouTube to guide me through the complicated bits (nappy changing, breastfeeding, removing a Babygro that’s covered from collar to cuff in explosive yellow shit). I made it all up, and I fucked it up quite spectacularly along the way. That Ben survived with teeth and hair and limbs in tact says far more about his resilience than it does about my mothering.
As he’s got older, I’ve continued to make mistakes – repeatedly and without reprieve. But you know what? I never make the same mistake twice! Well, apart from that one where I forget to give them dinner, but hey, I’m only human. For the most part, I LEARN from my mistakes. The stuff-ups I’ve subjected Ben to will not be repeated on Frankie and Alice. By the time Alice reaches 10 years old, she’ll be a well-balanced, well-rounded, well-mannered, well-fed individual benefitting from the most proficient parenting on offer. She might even be able to eat with a knife and fork. Again, that’s the theory. Right now she’s naked, and angrily telling her daddy that she’s going to wee on him, so we’ve got a way to go.
In a rare and spirited act of public service, I’m going to tell you the mistakes I’ve made over the past decade, so that you may spare your own first-born children the misery and injustice. I know. I’m good like that.
1. PlayStations are the devil’s work. Xboxes probably are too, but we never went there. PlayStations might work for your kid, but they didn’t work for mine. The PlayStation sent my kid bat-shit fucking mental. We tried setting limits – an hour on the weekend, nothing on weekdays – but that hour became the only thing Ben could think about for the week beforehand. “Can I have my hour” became his catchphrase, and a fucking annoying one at that. Then we tried offering him unlimited access, believing him to be old enough to set his own limits. WRONG! He simply wouldn’t get off. Ever. When I asked him if he wanted to end up like those lonely fat dudes who sit in dirty Y-fronts making YouTube videos of themselves playing Minecraft, his eyes lit up, like I’d offered him a day-trip to Sizzler. Aim high, kid, aim high. In the end, we realised that the PlayStation was Ben’s crack. It’d been the main cause of arguments for THREE YEARS. It was time to go cold turkey. The PlayStation has now left the building. Frankie and Alice will hear talk of this mystical piece of addictive technology, but they’ll own one over my dead body. You dig?
2. Just say no. Say no! I never said no to Ben. I had too much mother guilt. The poor child’s from a broken home! The poor child has constricted nasal passages! The poor child is pigeon-toed! WE MUST GIVE HIM WHATEVER HE DEMANDS, WHENEVER HE DEMANDS IT. Big fucking mistake. Last weekend I tried this “no” thing out for the first time in ten years. I’d told him if he didn’t behave he couldn’t go to the disco. He didn’t behave. He didn’t go to the disco. Taking a wild guess, how do you think that went down? Yeah. Not very fucking well. For reference, I will be saying no to my younger two children. Regularly and without restraint. Tough love kids, tough love.
3. Don’t give your kids free reign on their wardrobe. Last weekend Ben came out of his bedroom dressed as – how can I put this nicely? – an enthusiastic, drunken vagrant with an affiliation to Perth Glory FC. I shall be dressing Alice and Frankie until their life partners take over.
4. Extracurricular activities are for suckers. Ben did everything. EVERYTHING. Because I thought if I didn’t do EVERYTHING then I was depriving him off his opportunity to be, I dunno, a gymnast, or a tap-dancer, or something. Frankie and Alice don’t do shit. Oh, tell a lie. They do kindy gym on a Wednesday morning, because it’s fun, and I like the parachute bit at the end.
5. That rash? That rash probably isn’t meningitis. That rash is probably just the seatbelt rubbing your kid’s belly, ‘cos you forgot to dress them again.
6. Milestones are for motherfuckers. Your kid will walk, talk and wipe their own arse when they’re ready, and not a moment before. If Ben can do it, anyone can.
7. Homeopathic remedies are for fuckwits. See also: teething necklaces.
8. Finally. These kids? These kids grow up really fucking fast. Before you know it they’ll smell weird, and not want you to hold their hand, and blush when you cuddle them in public. Make the most of every precious fucking second with your little people. That's what I've learned.