Friday 14 April 2023

How Rupert the Bear changed my world and the art of being a lousy parent

I'm a lousy parent. It is a wonder that any of my kids still speak to me. When they were young, they found me to be the most embarrassing parent ever. Whilst their mates parents had nice comfy BMW 7 Series motors, which shined immaculately, we had a beaten up old Ford Mondeo, where the red had faded to a rather salmon coloured pink. Whilst their Dad's would have nice sensible jobs like accountancy and sensible hobbies like golf, I ran a music studio and played guitar in a band. Worse still, I didn't play in some nice respectable band, I played guitar in a punk rock band that wrote naughty lyrics and didn't sound anything like Steps or S-Club 7. When their friends came to the house, they might hear songs with naughty words in played at volumes they'd never experienced. When Manchester City were on TV, family life stopped. When they needed help with homework, I'd say "If I do it you won't learn anything and I don't care if you come bottom of your class, I always did" 

My wife has a burdensome life. I made it 100% clear that I abhor washing up, housework, hoovering and washing. I used to pay someone to do all of this. I made it 100% clear that I wouldn't change. This is not a sexist thing. It has nothing to do with misogyny. I'm just lazy and hate it and if I was single I would be the same. I made her a promise that I'd everything I could to make her happy, treat her to lovely dinners at the best restaurants and cook her the best dinners at home, take her on the finest holidays, throw myself in front of a bullet for her. Just don't ask me to wash dishes or hoover up. I'm happy to pay for someone to do it. My kids, very correctly soon ascertained I was a slob and they do not like that fact at all.

When my wife informed me that she wanted kids, my response was "Ok, but you have to do all the work in raising them". Now this may sound rather selfish and it was. As a concession, I agreed to stop playing football for Hendon old boys on a Saturday, for a year whilst our first baby was little. Even a lazy git like me realises that parents need some rest and respite. I'd encourage her to go out with her mates and enjoy herself. I'd sit in with the baby and spin punk rock records. I didn't mind changing nappies and plonking bottles in the baby's gob on occasion. I quite like babies, especially when they are asleep. They are perfect companions. I suspect my kids can sleep through anything. 

Unfortunately, all of my kids take after their mum and are exceptionally bright. Within six months, my eldest was talking and demanding conversations. By the time she was two, she was cleverer than me. My wife plays in the BBC Elstree concert band. On a Monday, I'd be left with the kids when she went to rehearsals. My second daughter is 18 months younger. So I had a super inquisitive two year old and a cute baby. The challenge was to entertain them between 6.30pm when my wife left for rehearsals and get them in bed for 8pm, when the Monday nigh football started. As my wife was always in a rush on a Monday, she said "You feed her".

I struggled to work out how best to address this. One thing I really hate is the sort of slop that are widely accepted as "kids meals". So we developed a ritual. We'd plonk the baby in the buggy, walk down to M&S and choose three things each that would make up our dinner. It would not be fish fingers and beans. It would be smoked salmon, prawns, avocado etc, sun dried tomatoes. There may be a cake or bun in there, but neither I nor my daughter have a sweet tooth so, it was rare (this sounds very middle class and I am sure it is, but I see nothing wrong with enjoying nice grub if you possibly can).

We'd then lay out a rug on the floor, put Happy Trails by The Quicksilver Messenger Service on the record player, light a candle and tuck in. This still left about 30 minutes to spare. So I came up with a brilliant ruse to keep her quiet. I bought her a scrap book and we'd cut the Rupert The Bear cartoons, which were printed in black and white in, then she would colour them in. I still have the scrapbook. The first attempts were just like a chimpanzee might do, but over the course of a year or two, they became better, until they were perfectly coloured. When her sister became big enough, she got a scrapbook and we'd do the same with Garfield cartoons. The ritual was we'd return from the shops. They'd do the colouring, I'd get dinner ready, we'd sit on the floor, listen to the record, then they'd go off to bed, as the football began. In truth, it was one of the best times of my life. It was not some cunning plan to educate them. However, when they went to school, they were brilliant artists. My eldest daughter has a degree in fine art and the other did the painting at the top of the page. 

One thing they both developed, was a love of drawing. When I look at them now, I am proud of them. Not of me, any good things they do in life will have little to do with me, beyond having been raised with a roof over their heads and food on their plates. Strangely, these days they enjoy the music I play and appreciate that the money I didn't spend on a BMW meant we had some amazing holidays. They like the fact that our studio is a key part of the London music scene. They still nag me and moan about being a lazy git. 

A few months ago, I mentioned the fact to my eldest daughter that I was a lousy parent. What she said surprised me. She said "You used to be so embarrassing, but I realised that all of my friends used to love coming around our house, because we always have fun. If we made a mess or were noisy it wasn't a problem". And it made me realise that in fact, I am not quite as bad a parent as I thought. To me, the primary job of a parent is to keep your kids, clothed, fed, housed and happy. To my surprise and largely thanks to my wonderful wife, we somehow managed to do that. It's a bleeding miracle in truth.

1 comment:

Fraser said...

Sorry to say it, but you do sound like you were a real arsehole, hopefully now reformed.