“You say ‘basically’ a lot,” announced my dad the other day. My reaction? Basically, I was lost for words. But after I’d made a mental note to try and avoid saying basically for the duration of the conversation (this is really hard, by the way. Seriously. Try to stop yourself saying a word and it pretty much becomes the only thing you want to say), I managed to stutter a semi-coherent reply about how it was interesting that he picked up on that particular word, because I felt like parenting had led me to use certain other words and expressions a lot more often.
Got any idea where I’m going with this? Of course you do. You’re thinking: ‘I bet he’s going to attempt to use this small conversational snippet as the basis for this week’s midweek list.’ And you are absolutely right. Basically, here is a rundown of 11 things parents say an awful lot.
1. “How old is he/she?”
This is partly because I am now all about inane and inoffensive baby class small talk. And partly because I want to confirm that, despite overbalancing and falling on his head every time he attempts to touch his toes, my son is precocious genius who is more mentally and physically advanced than any other child of a similar age in this universe.
2. “The wheels on the bus”
This expression always leaves me conflicted. Part of me cannot believe that there has ever been anything cuter than my son moving his teeny fists around each other as if they were the wheels on the bus. And part of me cannot believe that I am going to have to spend the next 15 minutes relentlessly repeating this lyric. Why? Simple. If the wheels come off the bus, then the wheels come off dinner.
3. “Have you done the sideways check?”
Is there anything more annoying than dragging your child kicking and screaming to the baby change, taking off all their layers and then discovering that it was just a fart? Of course there is. But the aforementioned scenario still blows. Which is why my wife and I have developed the sideways check. A thinking about it quite humiliating ritual that involves us pulling down our son’s trousers and taking a peek inside the back of his nappy before we even contemplate reaching for the wet wipes.
4. “Really sorry, but we completely forgot”
We used to be reliable and organised. Then the bubster came along, our calendar got ripped up or eaten, and the “Hi, are you still coming to the night out/the doctor’s appointment/the party/the dinner/work?” phone calls started. Initially, we’d attempt to style out our absence with weird and wonderful excuses, but now we don’t have the energy. Thus we simply mute the call, discuss whether there is any chance of using the “just running a little late” excuse, realise that we’re both covered in baby vomit, swear, unmute the call and say, “Really sorry, but we completely forgot.”
5. “A League of Their Own?”
It is 8.30pm, you’ve just finished a lukewarm dinner and you’ve not got the energy to surf the TV listings for the length of time it’s going to take you and your partner to agree on a programme that works for both of you. Do you: A) pour another glass of wine and fall asleep on the sofa; B) agree to watch the first programme your partner selects and then annoy them by spending the next 30 minutes checking social media on your phone; or C) suggest the smash glass telly option that always gets you out of this hole? To be honest, I do all three over the course of a week, but C is always the least painful. At various times over the past 13 months, our go-to compromise shows have been Modern Family, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Veep, but right now it’s quiz show A League of Their Own. If you’ve watched it, you’ll know why. If you haven’t, give its madcap mix of sport, ridiculous challenges, pop star penalties and James Corden a try.
6. “Not on the bed”
Due to our son’s penchant for peeing the second his frank and beans feel the cool, fresh air of freedom, we do everything we can to avoid letting him roam around without a nappy on. For the most part we achieve this goal, but every now and again the smart little so-and-so slips through our fingers when we’re moisturising his skin. If this happens, and he manages to get his feet on the ground, then there’s only one thing for it. “Not on the bed. Please, not on the bed!”
7. “Have we tried…?”
This question usually emerges from my mouth when my child isn’t sleeping in the early hours of the morning, it is usually delivered in an exasperated and exhausted whine and it usually receives the response it deserves. Namely: “Yes, Einstein of course I’ve tried giving him Calpol. Now how about you get out of bed and actually try to help.”
I cannot explain why I have decided to teach my son a word that doesn’t actually exist. I cannot explain why I insist on annunciating all three syllables of this fake word in great detail. And I cannot explain why I always scream it while performing a high kick from a kind of half-assed yoga position. All I know is that my buffoonery makes him smile. And sometimes this is all that matters.
9. “Can you give me some hot water?”
I ask this question so often, I feel like an addict. But far from downing, injecting or sniffing this scalding liquid, I’m actually just trying to get a restaurant employee to pour a decent amount in a receptacle that’s big enough to heat my son’s milk or lunch. Wine coolers and big ice cream cartons work really well. Pudding bowls and takeaway coffee mugs don’t.
10. “Has it leaked?”
If the answer is positive, then cancel the next half hour, because we have a scream-packed, complete outfit and nappy switcheroo on our hands. If it’s negative, then crack a smile, do a little dad dance and add beetroot to the list of ‘safe’ foods, because we have dodged another bullet, my friend.
In our heads, saying this word, rubbing our hands together and jumping up and down every time we touched the cooker, kettle, hot water tap or radiator was a master plan that would teach our son to respect and stay away from this quartet of potentially dangerous household items. In reality, it taught him that there is nothing funnier than mummy and daddy touching these items, saying “hot” and jumping up and down. Subsequently, he now demands that we perform this routine, 20 or 30 times, every single day. On the plus side, he’s yet to burn himself. On the minus side, FML.