One thing the advice books don’t tell you is that little kids can be really boring. I mean, they’re not boring themselves, they’re generally quite cute and entertaining, but looking after them can be a major drag.
This is going to sound bad, I know, but I’m going to say it anyway. Little kids – babies, toddlers, the lot of them – can be really boring. I mean, they’re not boring themselves, they’re generally quite cute and entertaining, but looking after them can be a major drag.
The baby advice books warn you about a lot of things, but they don’t warn you about the mind-numbing dullness you are regularly exposed to as a parent.
I hear your howls of derision and I note your tut-tutting and your pearl-clutching. What kind of bastard thinks hanging out with his own kids is sometimes dreary? But I also see the dads at the back quietly nodding in agreement.
Now, before I start backpedalling from my polemical hot take, let me first double down.
There’s boredom in routine. Where once you were young and free and do whatever you damn liked, now you get home from work and get hurled into the mundane tumult of the nightly procedures. Entertain the kid, feed the kid, bathe the kid, put the kid to bed. All while getting your other chores done.
Now repeat that approximately 2,600 times until they’re old enough to do some of that stuff themselves.
Don’t tell me you enjoy singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star seven times, before rolling out Row, Row, Row Your Boat five times as your kiddo very slowly drifts off to sleep (or more accurately, resists going to sleep because they’re having so much fun making you sing).
I’ve tried introducing some of the dreamier Kinks songs or a few Pearl Jam ballads to make bedtime less tedious (for me), but my two-year-old always requests the classics.
“I met her in a club down in old Soho, where you drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry cola…”
“No daddy, rauw, rauw, rauw!
“Are you sure? We’ve sung that a lot already.”
“Rauw, rauw, rauw yer boaaaat!”
And so it goes.
There’s boredom in repetition.
I reckon I’ve read Hairy Maclary more than 200 times. And heard certain wiggles songs 500 times. I wake up and the first thing that pops into my head is “Say the dance, do the dance”. It’s truly the stuff of nightmares.
I’ve spent so much time watching the Peter Rabbit series I’ve begun to philosophise about the characters in the expanded Peter Rabbit universe. Would the fox ACTUALLY eat the rabbits if he caught them? I mean, I know he’s a fox but they’re kind of frenemies. He talks to them. He knows their names. He wears a waistcoat. It smacks of cannibalism! Anyway, I digress.
There’s also boredom in monotony.
I love a nice tea party as much as the next red-blooded male, but man, those things can be eternal. An hour sitting there on a small chair eating fake cupcakes and pretending to drink tea can feel like a lifetime.
Same goes with building stuff with Duplo (my daughter isn’t shaping to be an engineer – her houses are illogical and, quite frankly, poorly planned) or any number of activities.
So, enough complaining – I hope I’ve provided enough evidence to show how I could be a big enough arsehole to say that having kids can be boring. Here’s where I start backpedalling – or at least offering solutions rather than problems.
How do you deal with the tedium?
One important dad skill to learn is the ability to go into a semi-comatose state. Basically, just be Zen. Put some music on in the background or listen to a podcast and just give your child the company he or she craves.
An even better skill is figuring out how to enjoy these moments. It’s something that doesn’t come easy at first – you’re still learning to be a dad too, remember – but once you get the knack it makes your life better.
Enjoy the fact that your child is having fun and that you’re participating in it. You spend most of your teens and 20s becoming less and less enthusiastic about life, but fatherhood reminds you what it was like to be a child yourself, discovering all the crazy shit in the world for the first time.
Kids are ridiculous and funny, especially when you learn to switch your sense of humour permanently to “low brow” – I’ve laughed more in the last couple of years than I ever did before.
Some of the best advice I’ve received is to always remind yourself that your children are only this age once.
So, go with the flow and don’t think about it too much – if your kid wants to put the Duplo bed OUTSIDE the house, so be it. The Duplo people will get rained on as they sleep and possibly eaten by wolves, but that’s their problem.
And if you’re lucky you might even get permission to bring a beer to the tea party.