Before you have kids, you think of the impossible in terms of massively unachievable goals that affect the very nature of our existence. World peace, faster-than-light travel, a day without anybody mentioning Brexit. You know, big things.
After you’ve had kids, your understanding of impossibility comes much closer to home.
Like, have you ever tried explaining to a four-year-old that the man who lives with Granny isn’t Grandpa but is actually Granny’s boyfriend? What about the difference between a boyfriend and a husband, or why some people get married and some people don’t? It makes faster-than-light travel seem a cinch by comparison.
What about trying to follow the labyrinthine stories they tell through all the twists and turns of pointless details and extraneous information? You might as well try learning ancient Greek without a primer for all the sense it makes.
Have you ever tried fishing poo out of the bathtub without smearing it all over the sides? Or explaining to a toddler that she really shouldn’t poop in the bath.
Have you ever tried explaining to your kids that Justin Fletcher and Mr Tumble are the same person, or that the distinction between ‘not nearly there yet’ and ‘nearly there yet’ is longer than thirty seconds? I’ve given up trying to make them understand perspective – if they think the moon is chasing the car every time we drive, I’m just going to have to leave that delusion intact.
I’ve also decided not to bother asking what my eldest did at school anymore, because it’s a mystery I will never get to the bottom of. Other than learning that she once saw a pigeon in the playground, whatever happens inside those school gates stays inside those school gates.
And forget trying to get your kid to understand how to tell a joke.
Izzie. Ha ha!
Izzie. It’s me. Your daughter.
At least her chicken jokes are getting better, if only because their randomness makes them unintentionally amusing. Why did the cow cross the road? Because it was the dog’s day off at work, ha ha!
Of course, some people out there are going to argue that these things aren’t really impossible, and they’re hardly universal, applying only to me in my very limited family sphere. To those people, I will say that I’ve come to believe there are some impossible truths that cross all cultures and time periods and afflict every parent in human history: the word ‘no’ will never be the end of it; you cannot cut an onion small enough that your kids don’t pick every last bit out of their dinner; and even if you tie their shoes together and lock them in a safe, when you come to leave the house, one will always be missing.
I’ll leave you with this little nugget about the impossible in the life of a parent: it is easier to get an honest answer from a politician than to get your kids to change their bedtime story.