When I was younger, people marvelled at my patience; my perseverance; my ability to face down the impossible and keep going until I’d redefined the limits of what could be achieved.
I taught myself to play the guitar, painstaking hour after painstaking hour; I spent three years in a band with a girl so abusive she sent seventeen other band members running into the wilderness with their tails between their legs; and I tolerated decades of bullying without ever lifting a finger to defend myself.
Maybe that’s the problem, and the reason I no longer have any patience or perseverance or endurance. Maybe that’s why my fuse has become so short you might as well cut out the middle man and light the dynamite directly.
Or maybe it’s what happens to you when you have kids?
Throughout my life, people have often suggested I become a teacher, but trying to help my four-year-old daughter read her school books has well and truly made a mockery of that idea. This afternoon was a prime example.
‘Sound out the letters, come on, you can do it.’
Tuh – O – Mmm.
‘Yes, well done! And what does that spell?’
‘No, don’t just guess – try again.’
Tuh – O – Mmm. Mike.
‘No, it’s not Mike. Say the letters quickly. Tuh – O – Mmm, T – OMmm, Tom.’
Tuh – O – Mmm, T-OMmm, Mike.
‘How can it be Mike? It starts with Tuh, not Mmm. You can say the sounds, just put the sounds together to make the word.’
‘I’ve already told you it’s not Mike! How can it be Mike when the M is at the end of the word, not the beginning. It’s Tom. Tuh – O – Mmm. Tom.’
‘Yes, Tom. Now the next word. You don’t need to sound it out because you’ve already said it twenty times.’
A – Nnn – Duh.
‘Okay, spell it out, then. What does it say?’
I don’t know.
‘But you just spelled it out and it’s one of the words you already know.’
‘What do you mean, cat? No, it’s not cat! A – Nnn – Duh. Just put the sounds together and you get…?’
‘And. You get and. Tom and. Now, what’s this word? Sound it out.’
L – I – Nnn.
‘Very good. And that word is…?’
‘Phil?! It starts with L. You said yourself it starts with L, so how could it be Phil?’
‘Why do you think there’s a Fuh in it? You sounded out the letters, L – I – Nnn. L – INnn. Lin. Say it, L – INnn. L – INnn. Tom and…?’
‘Go to your room!’
I’m sure she does it on purpose. That’s got to be on purpose, right?
But then, my wife does the same, like this afternoon.
Wow, I only need to roast this beef for fifty minutes.
‘I don’t think that’s right.’
Yeah, it says 25 minutes for every 500 grams.
‘How much does it weigh?’
‘Then that’s not 50 minutes, is it?’
It’s 25 minutes per 500 grams.
‘So that’s about 65 minutes, then.’
‘Because the kilogram takes 50 minutes, and the remaining 300 grams take another 15. Plus you need to put it in for 20 minutes first.’
Now you’re just making it complicated.
‘You have an NVQ in catering, how is this difficult? 20 minutes, plus 25 for every 500 grams. Put it in at 230 for 20 minutes, then turn it down and time 65 minutes. Total time, 85 minutes. Got it?’
‘Well, do you want it cooked properly or do you want it raw in the middle like it usually is?’
‘Then put it in for 20 minutes followed by 65. Simple.’
Half an hour later and she says to me, It’s had 20 minutes, so I’ve set the timer for 50 minutes, okay?
‘Because you’re not cooking a kilogram of beef! You’re cooking 1.3 kilograms. You have to cook the extra 300 grams! What about this are you not getting?’
I’m going to cook it the way I always do, and if it’s not right, it’s not right.
‘Honey, it’s not right, and the vegetables are going to be cold by the time the meat’s done. Are you leaving any time for resting?’
Fine, you cook it if you think you’re so perfect.
How can I not have a short fuse when this is my daily life?
Not to mention that my four-year-old keeps writing on her bedframe, but she makes sure to sign it with her sister’s name.
I didn’t do it, it was Rosie. See? It says Rosie.
‘Don’t lie to me.’
It was Rosie. Look!
‘Tell me the truth.’
I am telling the truth! Rosie did it! See, she wrote her name.
It’s a diabolical scheme with just a couple of flaws: Rosie is two. Rosie can’t write.
Not that Rosie is any more compliant. I gave her a bath this evening.
‘Put your head back or the shampoo will go in your eyes. Put your head back. Your head back. Do you want shampoo in your eyes? Put. Your. Head. Back.
Oohh, daddy! Uh-huh, uh-huh. I got shampoo in my eyes! Wahh! Mummy! Daddy got shampoo in my eyes!
I want get out. I want get out.
So I got her out.
Wahh! I not want get out!
So I dried her off and took her downstairs.
I not want nappy.
‘I really think you should have a nappy.’
I big girl.
‘You’ll use your potty if you want a wee-wee?’
I use potty.
‘You’ll tell me if you need to go?’
‘Do you need a wee-wee now?’
‘Are you sure you don’t need a wee-wee?’
I not need wee-wee.
‘Okay. Whuh – why are you weeing on the floor? Quick, get on the potty! Get on the potty! Oh God, it’s everywhere!’
Why I wee-wee?
‘That’s a bloody good question, a bloody good question!’
I not want go on potty.
I’m surprised I’m not shooting blood out of my eye-sockets by now!
Tell me they get less annoying as they grow older. Please, tell me that! (Except my wife – I guess I’m stuck with her the way she is…!)