“I bet you’re good at changing nappies these days!”
If I had a penny for everyone who’s said that to me, since my son was born…
Why is everyone so obsessed with nappies? There are numerous tangible, albeit useless, skills I’ve picked up since becoming a dad – and but none of them involve the humble diaper. Oh no, if I were going to update my CV with the negligible abilities I’ve garnered in the last two years, the following is what I’d write:
1. Manic multi-tasking
Yes, I know multi-tasking doesn’t sound useless at all. In fact, multi-tasking sounds like the very peak of usefulness, exactly the type of skill anyone would want to have. I’m constantly doing (at least) 12 things at once, badly. Each of the activities I’m occupied with could be done in far less time (to a higher standard) if I just focused on one thing and threw out the multi-tasking idea.
At any one time I’ll be putting shoes on my toddler, picking up Lego, texting my partner about dinner, trying to put my own socks on, brushing my teeth, waiting on hold to speak to the gas board, wiping dripped toothpaste off my T-shirt, sniffing my toddler to see if a nappy change is necessary, half watching Homes Under The Hammer and trying to eat some cold toast. Whatever this chaotic process of attempting to do everything at once is called, one thing is certain – I didn’t act like this before the baby.
This is a truly useless skill, one I’m sure many parents will be familiar with. What is it? I am able to fall asleep anywhere, at any time. Here comes the ‘BUT’ – a big one. This semi-sleeping looks like traditional repose, but with none of the benefits. It’s not refreshing, energising or any of the other words they use to describe shower gel. All the semi-sleeper gets is the appearance of sleep, while being constantly alert for the sound of a crying baby, a toddler climbing out of their cot and attempting Evel Kneivel-style stunts or the drumming thud of the dripping tap in the bathroom. I certainly didn’t sleep like this before my son arrived – so it’s going on my list of (useless) achievements.
3. Pitch control
I’ve developed a manner of talking to my son that sees me getting quieter and calmer in pitch at an inverse proportion to my own (real) stress levels. So, if my son decides to cover the walls in soup, rather than reflecting what I actually feel (and screaming with annoyance), my voice becomes softer and calmer.
Why is this useless? It sounds like a perfectly sensible thing to do. That’s the issue, it sounds like one of those things that would really work with a toddler – doesn’t it? The problem is, it doesn’t. The calmer I become, the more my little monkey thinks the whole thing is a joke – and ratchets up his naughtiness. What actually does work with him is the opposite, a bit of good old-fashioned shouting.
4. Pram Tetris
This is a (useless) skill that few will ever better me at. Essentially, I’m a king at shoving (yes, that’s the right word) stuff into the cavity beneath the seat in my son’s pram. I’m all about finding the right-sized gap in this under-pram game and plugging it with tins of beans, baguettes and shampoo.
Once again, this sounds as though it might be a useful skill to have mastered. Wrong. It’s totally useless. Yes, I manage to fit an ungodly amount of stuff under the buggy due to my mastery of pram Tetris, but whatever I put under the pram never survives the game intact. Bread is bent and broken, cakes are crushed and shampoo is shot from the bottle.
5. Avoiding mirrors
My final useless skill is simple. I’ve become hugely adept at dodging any form of reflective surface. From a shiny car bonnet to the back of a spoon, I avoid them all in an effort to stay in denial about how terrible I look since becoming a dad.
Bags under the eyes, bad hair, a dad bod and puke-stained clothes are all treated like they never happened by totally avoiding mirrors. A constant desire to fool myself about my appearance, is undoubtedly a useless skill – but, that said, it makes me feel a lot better.