Georgina Guedes

Things you didn’t know were things

2013-11-29 11:36

Georgina Guedes

There is a video that has recently gone viral of Michael McIntyre doing a stand-up comedy routine about what people who don't have children have no idea about.

One of his most telling lines is, "Things that you don't even consider to be things will become nearly impossible."

He then illustrates his point with a skit about him and his wife trying to leave the house.

Every parent at my children's school has watched this video. We quote bits of it at each other as we pass in the school driveway, trying to persuade a recalcitrant child to walk into the classroom rather than out the gate, or to stop losing their cool because some other child opened the door before them.

But Michael McIntyre could only cover so much ground. So I thought I'd add a few of my own points to the list of things that you don't even consider to be things, that become nearly impossible.

1. Going to the loo

When your children are babies, you'll just never find the time. I once knuiped for four hours. Today, I can't remember what was happening that prevented me from getting to the bathroom, but I did make a mental note of the event.

These days - my children are 2 and 4 - it's more about getting to go to the loo on my own. I close the door, but they hurl themselves against it so violently that I worry that they'll open their skulls, so I let them in. Sometimes, my son even tries to dress himself in the pants that are lying, crumpled around my ankles.

2. Getting to a mid-level restaurant

My husband and I either go to kid-friendly places to eat, or arrange a babysitter and run gleefully out into the night to enjoy an hour and a half (and one glass of wine) at the best restaurant we can get ourselves in to.

Sometime in the last year, I started to miss less-great restaurants. I'm not talking about Wimpy here, but rather the little neighbourhood cafes that we used to settle on when we were driving aimlessly from here to there with nothing much to do. They're often on the side of the road, so unless I chain my kids to a lamppost and gave them an iPad, there's no real way that we're going to make that work.

3. Shopping

My kids only need a couple of things to be happy: constant motion and constant stimulation. Shopping provides neither of these, unless you learn to whip things off the shelves at a jog, while belting out Old McDonald at the top of your lungs. Or you give them a jar of Nutella and a spoon.

You can end up with a rather odd assortment of things in your shopping bags as a result of your own distracted trolley-loading, and also because your kids are quite adept at slipping in things that you - and they - don't really want.

4. A conversation

Kids have mastered the art of interruption. Reprimands and ignoring don't work. They just get louder and more insistent and more draggy, until you dedicate far more time to threats and punishment than you would have to just listening to what they wanted and giving it to them.

Which brings me to my next point.

5. Discipline

You think you know what kind of a disciplinarian you're going to be, don't you? You look at all your friends with kids and you believe that your life won't be like that. Because you know the secret to discipline. You probably know better than to reveal it to your overwrought friends with kids, but you're nursing it until you produce your own, well-turned-out, polite, biddable offspring.

Just wait...

6. Finding the time for reading, eating, exercise or grooming

Your entire adult life - the time you spend on you - is now condensed into the hour and a half you get after your kids are asleep and before you fall into bed. Remember, though, this isn't an hour and a half of clear-headed, spring-in-your step time. It's time when, if you collapse on the sofa and realise that you have to get up again to fetch the remote control, you may weep because you're that exhausted.

7. The tallying of tiny tasks

My husband and I were exceptionally generous with each other when we had our first child. We had infinite patience for each other and for the tiny human being we'd created together, in love. Two and a half years later, with the arrival of our second child, we were done. We could recite the columns of chore debits and credits stretching back for months to justify it being the other partner’s turn.

8. Children's parties become your favourite opportunity to socialise

I used to fear children's birthday parties. The noise, the sticky sweets, the chaos. Now, I look forward to them. The kids are entertained, they're fed, and I get to sit down with other mums and chat about parenting - because parenting is the great equaliser. No matter what your interests, your profession, and no matter who you used to be before you had children, the people with whom you now have the most in common are those with children the same age as yours.

9. The awareness of every possible cause of death in every space in the world

I was at a friend's child's birthday party a couple of weeks ago, and I was keeping a careful eye on my son from a distance. He started heading towards the open pool and immediately, four other parents also leapt to their feet and ran towards him. Parenting is like living in a world of heightened terror. Every sharp edge, small height, shallow depth, teetering object resonates with the potential for blood, drowning and death.

And it's not just the immediate threat that all of these pose to your own kids. You are filled with a sense of ownership and fear for the happiness and health of every child on the planet.

10. The love

I knew I'd love my kids. I like kids. These would be mine. So I'd love them. Of course. That would be that.
Until you've taken ownership of your own little human being, until you've been made aware that you are responsible for every aspect of its health, happiness, development and advancement through life, until you've rejoiced in every little milestone, ached with every little setback, and had your heart melted by soft, little hands touching your face, lips kissing yours, heads nestled in your shoulder, voices saying, "I love you," you have No Idea.


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