I'm in a bit of a mood with kidneys at the moment. That's right, kidneys. Allow me to explain.
Over the past fortnight or so my wife has been suffering with a kidney infection, one which is serious enough to require a stay in hospital for about a week. This is bad enough in itself, but the worst bit is that it leaves me in charge of the general welfare of the children. Don't get me wrong, I love spending time with them; but I'm not sure they feel the same.
I am a very hands-on parent, or at least I like to think so. However, with working a 9-to-5 job every weekday I don't get particularly involved with much of the day-to-day stuff. I will get them dressed in the mornings, and wash them at night, but usually my wife is there to provide assistance and/or re-dress the kids when I choose in my ignorance to put them in clothes which don't match.
Lately, though, with my wife in hospital, I've come to realise just how much she (and all stay-at-home parents, for that matter) does during the day just to keep everything running smoothly.
In my head, the mornings whilst my wife was in hospital would be conducted with military precision: I would dress the kids, they would all line up to have their teeth brushed, they would eat their cereal with no mess, and we'd all be out of the house in good time with our hair combed and big grins, looking like something out of a 70s advert for toothpaste.
In reality, I was rushing around with a toothbrush sticking out of my mouth whilst the kids ran amok around the house, half dressed and working each other up into a screaming, gleeful frenzy. At one point I pulled my toothbrush out of my mouth to shout an order and my brain, in some kind of reflex action, impulsively told me to spit. That's why the top two stairs are covered in Colgate foam.
Their cereal was spilt all down them and the floor, and we left the house looking unkempt and frenzied, my shirt unbuttoned to my navel, the children looking like something out of Oliver Twist.
Mealtimes were often an issue. I would put as much fruit as I could in their school and nursery lunchboxes, knowing that dinner in the evenings would be composed of whatever I could thrash together (and it wouldn't be particularly healthy). After several evenings of chicken nuggets and chips even the kids were begging for some vegetables, standing unsteadily on legs which were succumbing to rickets as the first symptoms of scurvy also started to set in.
I'm exaggerating, of course, but not as much as you'd think. By the time I'd waded through the ankle-high sea of rubbish and toys to welcome my wife home (what's the point of tidying when they just instantly make everything messy again anyway?) I was happier than ever to see her. My face said 'I'm so glad you're home', and my eyes screamed 'Please help me'.
So, all parents who are stay-at-home and more involved than I am, I tip my hat to you. If I could even find my hat under all these toys, of course.