I’ve heard some people almost boast, ‘oh I’m a hands-on parent’. I am barely impressed by that. That doesn’t cover it, does it? What an inadequate term. I’m hands, feet, boomps-a-daisy… a Game-On parent.
Life is not a highway, life is not a box of chocolates… If you think you have a life like that then really, no, get here, I’m going to have to check your pulse and give you a slap.
Life is a championship series or a string of pentathalons… Throw a few children into yours and it turns into one of those extreme endurance races in the Kalahari designed to test the limits of mind-vs-matter, where you have to bandage your feet at night and take pain killers and you lose 25% of your body weight. So yeah, it’s like that, but you also get fat. Which is worse.
For many women, life is a relay that surprises them; when they come back, breathless and dehydrated, to hand the baton to their team member and realize, oops, he’s working late / he’s a chauvinistic lazy-ass… okay… huff-puff, back to the race.
Some of us are luckier. Before the ground hits us back, running, we’re provided a cup of tea in bed by the baby-daddy. If you’re lucky, at least one of the children will not wake up whining. You may get a smile. A cuddle. There may even be laughter at breakfast. Then it’s time to…
In the hour’s run up to school, it’s hard not to imagine the theme tune of some war game playing.
In my head it’s Halo.
Buhbuhbuh-baah… Bahbahbah-baaah… ‘Masterchief, I detect a distinct lack of tomatoes. What are you going to make the sauce with for the pasta for lunch?’ I change tactics, switch lunch plans, prepare to re-arm the fridge later, check on the troops to see that they’re brushing and washing… buhbuhbuh-baah… uniforms … bahbahbah-baah… shoes… homework… BUS ID! YOU FORGOT YOUR BUS ID! A dash down the stairs. The bus comes. They’re on it. Victory choir goes ‘aaah aaah aah aahah…
There’s a momentary breather as the next level loads. You have time to pause, throw back your lukewarm tea, program the washing machine, tie your hair, put on a bra and then… buhbuhbuhbaah… You run, until it’s time to stand and wait for the bus and the Pac-baby-monsters come charging out at a 100 mamamamamamas a minute, eating up your sense of self-preservation and esteem, one tic-tac bite at a time… numnum.
Could you make a list of all the things it takes to be a Game-On parent? Of course not. And more importantly, what would it prove? There are days when I want to start to complain and I think, ‘One minute, you wanted this. You signed up for it.” In the words of SuperChicken to Fred, you knew the job was dangerous when you took it.
I’m surprised evolution has not considered handing superpowers to mothers as they give birth. Birth itself requires at the very least, the superpower of Mrs Incredible (aka Elastigirl who I thought of constantly as ‘that bitch’ as the universe heaved and wrangled a 9-pound Mr Baby out into the eager planet.) But if there’s a God who will heed my need for at least one more arm, eyes in the back of my head, a tail (and if you want to throw in wings and a set of evil looking gills that fan out every time I’m enraged) – baby, I will evangelise for you. Still nothing? No? Okay. Bashing on.
Thing is, you get sucked into the game. You loaded it up because you thought it would be fun. You win, you lose, you struggle, you get better… It makes you feel sick with fear one moment, crazy fulfilled the next. One of the Pac-baby-monsters puts a You-Tic-Tac down for a minute and say, ‘Mama, haha, you’re just the funniest person I’ve ever met’ and you will respond with tears. Just as your heart is about to burst, the baby will poop himself, one of the others will break a mug… And you realize, as you start to really rock it, all you have done is just earned your way to the next level.
Shields on, start your engines, Mamas (and Dadas) – it’s Game On. Again. Buhbuhbuh-baaah, bahbahbahbaaah…