At this stage, I think we qualify for the description, harried parents. Even haggard.

We have three children under six. Most days our three-year-old son looks like a nudist at a coal mine. Why’s he never got clothes on? And how do his feet get so black? Then there’s our eldest daughter, who’s showing signs of kleptomania. I drilled her the other day on the whereabouts of my missing credit cards and she looked at me and said, “I don’t know.” So I mollified my approach. “You won’t be in trouble or anything. Daddy just needs his credit cards.” Then she said, “Oh, I know.” And out it came, the story. Her brother took them and put them in her black wallet, which is in her purple handbag. Thank goodness, I thought. Then I thought, when did she ever get a wallet? And a handbag? She’s only five.

The youngest is involved in all of this as a five-month-old cooing bundle in our arms, getting heavier and heavier after two, three hours of holding her. Oh, the things I could do with two free hands.

Then my wife takes her. I have to take the dog out. A five minute breather for myself, I think. But my son is right behind, his shirt on but no trousers. He pulls on mismatching boots – each on the wrong foot. Off we go. Half a block along and he stops. He wants to go back. So we turn around. He follows and stops to draw in the sand. “Come on!” He walks. I walk. Then he’s dawdling again. Now squatting. Now poking his finger in something. “Come on!” But he’s not moving. I walk back and look down. He’s poking his finger in dog crap. Quick! Pick him up and race home. Wash his hands thoroughly. Where’s the nail brush?

My daughter is there. “You mean the elephant one?”

“Yeah, the new one, the one with the elephant on it. Have you seen it?”


And you know she’s got it. Your blood boils but you play it cool. “You won’t be in trouble or anything. Daddy just needs the nailbrush.”

She says, “Well, it was like this…”

The Return of Pumpkin Face

I ran into Pumpkin Face coming out of school. He’s the terror kid who hit me on the shin with the grim reaper’s scythe at the Halloween party for our children and went on to terrorize everybody for three hours.

Well, he stopped me and said, “Can I come over to play.”

“Well, not today,” I said.


“Well, maybe.”

My wife overheard the conversation and came up and pulled me away. She said, “I’d rather eat my own sick than let him come over.”

Me too.

Pumpkin Face

This was our first big party for our children – Halloween.

Twenty kids, most of them under six, came as grim reapers, High School Musical characters, Power Rangers, princesses and lots of witches. Three came as Spiderman. They were dropped off, came in the house and brushed past us, hurrying out to the garden-cum-forest and the bouncy castle, slide, swings and the Wendy house.

I got a handful of boys to play football. Dribble, kick, shoot. Fun and laughs for a couple of minutes.

Then a tussle, a shout and a punch out. I pulled a Power Ranger off a grim reaper and told him not to hit.

They listened, got up and started up the game again. Fun and laughs, a tussle and then punches again.

“Don’t do that,” I told the Power Ranger.

I looked at the clock. Two hours and 34 minutes left of the party. Uh ho.

Then a pudgy kid arrived with a pumpkin mask. He stormed through the house grabbed the grim reaper’s hard-plastic scythe and started slicing and dicing kids. In the spirit of Halloween. Slice and dice. Kids ran up to me and complained and showed me their owies.

I walked over to Pumpkin Face and said, “Don’t do that.”

He looked at me grimly and then went for me. Hit me on the shin. Man! That hurt. I looked at him and said, “Give that to me now.”

He said, “No. I’m playing with it.”

I said, “Now.”

He said, “No.”

Slice and dice. The kids watched as I wrestled the scythe out of his hands. He flung me a screw-you look and ran off to the bouncy castle, grabbing a witch’s broomstick on the way.

“Take that. And that. And that,” he cried as he flogged the broomstick around.

Kids rushed out of the castle, fleeing Pumpkin Face. Bang, bang, bang. I hurried over and stuck my head into the castle and said, “Don’t do that.”

He said, “I’m not listening to you.”

And I said, “Give that to me now or else.”

Then I thought, or else what? You can’t ground him or ban TV or send him to bed.

So I said, “If you don’t give me that then… then you’ll never play here again.”

He said, “So what. Who cares?”

That’s when my wife came to my aid. She handed me the baby, crawled into the castle and wrestled the broomstick off of Pumpkin Face.

He shouted and gave her a dirty look and then rushed out of the castle and took a hard-plastic wand off an unaware witch. Swish, swash. Swish, swash. Bang, bang, bang. Swish, swash. Kids jumped out of his way and I looked at the clock. Two hours and 14 minutes to go.