I came across a photo yesterday of my eldest as a baby. Scrunched up in a baby grow, little fists clenched, face scrunched in delight – or possibly wind – like an inordinately pleased-looking frog. I was transported back to those days of milk, crying and utter bewilderment. My son did his fair share of crying and bewilderment, too, I seem to recall.
Babyville is not a place I inhabited with joy, on the most part. Being a parent seemed to be just one long ‘I don’t know what the fuck I am doing’ moment, briefly interspersed with ‘oh well, I am officially too tired to care’ thoughts. I did read my fair share of parenting books. I even may have highlighted a few choice phrases, because in those pre-kid days, not only did I have time to highlight words in books, I could actually find my highlighter because it wasn’t lying behind the sofa with the lid off, having been used to colour in a whole sheet of A4 just for the sodding hell of it.
I may have digressed slightly.
Seeing as most books are wholly inadequate at preparing people for parenthood, given their predisposition to gloss over anything that seems a little bit too much like a challenge, I was wondering if there was a better way. Which is when I realised that, like children, the best way to learn is surely through play. I don’t wish to reinvent the wheel here. Just take some of the games that we know and love, and give them a little… tweak. So, in the future, when a first-time pregnant mum wanders down the aisles of Mothercare, wrestling duvet-sized sanitary pads into her basket and feeling a little queasy, she may stumble across these:
Top Trumps Parents: Want to know the sort of conversations you will be embroiled in the moment your baby pops out? Then play a few rounds of Top Trumps parents. The starter edition contains such gems as birth weight, how many hours sleep a night you get and age when they first crawled. Thrill to being trumped every time you mention your baby’s achievements! Be amazed when a mum claims their daughter walked at 8 months! The Junior edition has great stats to compare, such as what phase reading book your child is on and how tall they are. Because with Top Trump parents, if you are not wanting to punch a fellow parent in the face, you’re just not playing hard enough!
Parenting Twister: The perennial family favourite has been updated for today’s busy parents. Spin the dial… and it’s one hand to hold the baby. Spin again… one hand on the milk bottle. Spin again… oh, it’s another hand on the soft toy… and again… this time it’s another hand to answer the phone… and again… a hand to eat that digestive… and again… a hand to wipe biscuit crumbs from the top of your baby’s head… it’s Parenting Twister, the game that ties you up in knots!
Parents’ Scrabble: acclimatise yourself to the incomprehensible rubbish that your young toddler will spout by playing a few games of Parents’ scrabble. Take as many tiles as you like, it won’t make the slightest difference! Randomly lay down a string of letters, preferably without vowels, and read them out. Hey presto! Toddler talk!
Cluedo for Parents: Was it the five year old in the lounge with the felt tip? Or the teenager in the kitchen with the dirty plate? Pit your sleuthing wits in this high-octane game of mystery as you try to solve your offspring’s crimes. Deluxe 2014 edition comes with Interrogation Button – press to hear the suspect’s response, including ‘It wasn’t me’, ‘I always get the blame’ and ‘it was my brother’.
Trivial Pursuit (Overly-Curious Junior edition): Think you are ready to answer your offspring’s questions? This new edition of Trivial Pursuit will test your knowledge of the most random facts, from ‘Why do bagels have holes?’ to ‘why can’t I see electiricty?’ these questions will have you scraping the barrel for answers before you can say ‘ask your daddy’. Each question is repeated thirty times throughout the game – because we don’t only test your know-how, we test your patience too!
So there you go, Mattel, Hasbro and Winning Moves. You can have those ideas on me. For free. Don’t mention it.