She landed with a heavy thud on the floor, as I leapt to my right to catch the mug as it hurtled towards the ground. It was only as I stood up, triumphantly, mug in hand and pretty chuffed – like a cricketer who has taken a superb catch – that it dawned on me my baby daughter was crying uncontrollably on the kitchen lino with a large bruise on her forehead
On reflection the welfare and safety of my child is, I concede, probably more important than a drinking vessel, but in my defence it was my favourite mug – it has a very thin rim, which I’m fond of, and mugs with a thin rim are hard to come by.
In general, I just seem to struggle at being a parent.
Because I’m at work, Mrs Canavan often has both kids – Mary, 3, and Wilf, 18 months – on her own and makes looking after them seem simple.
If they’re going out, for instance, she will have them ready in five minutes and they’ll be out the door and off, no dramas.
When it comes to me taking them out, it takes the best part of an hour and by the time I’ve buckled them in the car and sat down, I’m heavily sweating and on the verge of a panic attack.
Here’s a little snapshot of me getting them ready.
‘Mary can you put your shoes on while I get Wilf ready?’
No response, usually because she’s watching Paw Patrol, a quite frankly ridiculous cartoon about a group of small dogs with special powers who every week save the town’s mayor and her pet chicken from catastrophe.
‘Mary darling, can you get your shoes on please?’ I repeat, while attempting to yank the arm of a clearly unhappy Wilf into a slightly too-tight fitting coat.
‘Not yet daddy,’ she’ll say.
I’m a bit flummoxed by this as when you tell your three-year-old daughter to do something you kind of expect her to do it.
‘Erm, it wasn’t really a question Mary. I’m telling you to get your shoes on.’
‘Mary,’ I say, slightly more tersely because Wilf has now started screaming and is trying to hit me in the face with a soggy bit of Farley’s Rusk. ‘Will you please get your shoes on for daddy?’
‘No,’ she replies, as if oblivious to the fact my blood pressure is beginning to rise at an alarming rate. ‘I’ll put them on in five minutes.’
I look at her with sheer loathing, pull Farley’s Rusk from my eyebrow, and, after several more moments of struggling, finally get Wilf ready. I put him on the floor and turned my attention to Mary.
‘Right,’ I say, whisking her off the settee and onto my knee, ‘I’m putting your shoes and coat on because it’s obviously too much trouble for you.’
‘I don’t like that coat,’ she says.
‘It’s the one you wear every day,’ I say.
‘But I don’t want it today,’ she replies. ‘I want the yellow one with the giraffe on.’
‘Well I’m afraid we’re wearing this one today,’ I say, starting to put it on her. She begins wailing and going hysterical to such an extent that a neighbour from five doors down runs down the street to check everything’s okay. I’m now involved in a wrestling match with my daughter, who, despite being three, is surprisingly adept at making it as difficult as possible to get an item of clothing on her when she really doesn’t want it on her.
I finally get her left arm in, but before I can get her right arm in, she’s freed the left and we’re back to square one.
‘Right,’ I bellow, half chucking her back on the settee, ‘I’ll get the yellow coat with the giraffes on.’
I stand up to go and fetch it and look across to see Wilf has not only managed to take off the coat, shoes and socks I’d spent the previous 10 minutes putting on him, but has also grabbed a cup or orange juice Mary had left on the coffee table and poured it all down himself, meaning I’ll need to get him totally changed.
It’s at this point I quietly sink to my knees and start sobbing.
Anyway, what finally confirmed to me I’m not up to this parenting lark occurred the other day at the dentist’s. I was coming straight from work and got there first, so went straight in.
When I returned to the waiting room, Mrs Canavan was sitting with Wilf on her knee and Mary sitting quietly next to her, a scene of peace and harmony.
It was Mrs C’s turn next, so she left the children with me.
As soon as she’d gone – and this is perhaps where the slightly laid-back approach I’ve taken to discipline over the past few years comes back to haunt me – Mary leapt from her seat and began running wildly around the waiting room, much to the consternation, quite understandably, of another man in there.
I got up to grab Mary, but on turning back around saw Wilf had climbed onto a chair and was tugging at a big window blind. I put Mary down and sprinted over but seconds before I got there, Wilf gave the blind one last tug and the whole thing came crashing down.
I barely had time to utter the words ‘oh my god’ when Wilf promptly toppled head-first off the chair he was standing on and landed face-first on the floor.
I picked him up to discover blood squirting out of his mouth. Mary screamed and began crying… and at that very moment Mrs Canavan, check-up complete, walked back into this scene of carnage.
‘What the hell?’ she said, before grabbing her bloodied son off me, taking Mary by the hand, and – pausing only to shoot a furious glance at me and tut loudly – marching out of the waiting room. I suddenly realised the other bloke in there was looking straight at me, horrified.
‘Kids, eh?’ I said weakly, looking for some moral support and understanding. He slowly shook his head and looked away.
Maybe parenting isn’t for me.