We've just completed our second ever half term. For those not familiar with half term, it's a week where the whole school free childcare thing stops. Out of nowhere, it just stops. Like when ITV chuck some news in the middle of a film. Free childcare will be right back, after this headline news: IT'S HALF TERM, DICKHEAD.
One Monday at 11am you're sitting there with a cup of tea laughing - actually cackling out loud at the peace - and then the next you're staring at what used to be your lounge doing an impression of the store room of a charity shop. Toys everywhere, books used to create trenches, cushions weaponised.
Children have no respect for cushions. What used to be soft, clean and plump are now shiny, sticky magnets of dust. Balls of filth that now spend less that 10% of their lives on the sofa. Much like me, to be honest.
Anyway now I'm a parent, my ability to control my temper has become pretty much the most important personality trait I have. Forget being erudite and somehow also handsome - that now comes second to keeping a lid on my fury. It's my finest trait. Patience is literally the only one of my muscles that gets a workout. And half term is its Olympics.
And so now, exclusively, here are my main Dad-Anger management techniques. Feel free to write this gold down.
Half Term Day One. 0745. Eldest child is eating Coco Pops (free with our online shop, don't judge). He has been meticulous in snaffling the rice bits first, preparing for himself a sugar soup breakfast crescendo. Sadly, as he turns to tell me he's about to drink this toxic poison, his elbow knocks the chocolatey milk onto the floor, onto his school uniform, onto my iPad, and all over his baby brother who starts to lap at it like a dog in a pub beer garden. I employ tactic number 1:
1: LEAVE THE ROOM ASAFP
I go and stand in the hallway right by the front door. I approach the 6 billion coats we seem to have collected and I slowly lean in and scream and scream and scream until I see stars and notice my spittle dripping off gore-tex. The thought that this North Face coat was never designed to resist fury-gob distracts me for just long enough to take the edge off the rage, and before I know it I'm back in the kitchen, on my hands and knees, smiling away as I wipe everything in sight. My sons glumly stare at me as they both eat new bowls of diabetes milk.
By mid-morning, the baby has been dropped at nursery (not even a backward glance, he's about as attached to me as a feral cat) and because it's impossible to just do nothing with a child (who knew??) we've come on an outing. We're heading for the Tate Gallery. Except we can't get past the wobbly bridge. My son is throwing a tantrum because it's not wobbling. I tell him there's no need to throw a wobbly, but he doesn't laugh. Tough crowd.
I start to lose patience. He's whining and wailing at a pitch which sends my blood pressure so high I briefly contemplate if I might spring a leak would I get the bends? I look deep into my anger management arsenal. Tactic number 2:
2: CHECK FACEBOOK AND TWITTER FOR A BIT
Passersby judge this style of parenting, sure, but I'm frankly a genius because suddenly (well - after 6 or 7 minutes of screaming) my child spots a stone on the floor that he thinks is a gem. I tell him we should take it to the gallery. We're back on. And I've written a great tweet about Brexit, so at least I'm getting some work done.
We go and have a great time looking at the art. Huge cavernous spaces lit up by expressions of the human spirit. My son's response? He decided to show me things the Incredible Hulk could destroy. He runs off, demonstrating as he goes:
THIS! (A wall)
THIS! (A pole)
THIS! (I don't know, he was in the next room)
THIS! (A bin)
THIS! (No idea, next room again)
THIS! (A door)
THIS! (A bench)
THIS! (Someone from France's bag)
I've told him to stop six times now. He's ignoring me. My hackles are up. I grab his arm and prepare to deliver both barrels of an AK-forty-bollocking. But then I remember - I am a cool, calm, zen-Dad. I grab an old favourite technique to dissipate the rage. Tactic 3 (of 3):
3: GIVE UP AND GO TO A SHOP
It works. £40 later we head off home, happy as a pair of Larrys, back over the wobbly bridge. The boy's on my shoulders and I weave from side to side, trying to be as wobbly as I dare. He laughs and laughs and laughs. I jump up and down. He screams with joy. I don't think I've ever felt love like this. Not even with my dog. I jump and he hiccups with delight. God I love these children. I think I might be actually happy. Even though it's raining.
Raining? On this perfect, cloudless day?
How is it raining? Why are my shoulders wet?
And that's when I realise. I've made him laugh so much that bladder control has briefly been suspended. As hot piss pours down my neck onto my upper back, I calmly head to Twitter and note that I've had three likes for my tweet. I must be the only person on the planet having a great day at the office AND wearing a urine scarf. What could I possibly be angry about?