The Daddy of all care days

31st August 2007 at 01:00
The wisdom of Henry Walpole Now my wife is properly back at work (by properly, I mean with the dull eyes of a wage slave and regular dreams about killing her boss), I have the opportunity to be "Daddy day care". Long summer holidays may fill many parents with fear, but surely it should be no problem for an experienced teacher like me.

It's 8am on day one and breakfast has gone well (at least half of the food made it into my children's mouths). I line my offspring up for the bathroom and notice my daughter's trousers are on the wrong way round and she is wearing odd socks. "Who got you dressed this morning?" I bark. "You did, Dad," she replies.

I decide on an early playtime while I wash up. Then I read the paper until I hear the most terrifying sound known to parents the "whoosh" of a huge bucket of Lego being emptied on to the floor. Time to get out of the house for the first lesson of the day, PE.

As I'm short on bean bags and hoops, we adjourn to the local pool. I think it's going rather well until a lifeguard asks me to stop pushing my children away from the edge with a wooden pole and screaming "Useless!" at them. Well, that's how I learnt to swim and the old methods are best as far as I'm concerned.

Next on the timetable: shopping. Now, I know this is fraught with potential dangers. Our local Sainsbury's has a sign on the door reminding men that tops must be worn at all times, which may indicate a somewhat downmarket clientele. But I have done my risk assessments and prepared a route round the store that will avoid taking my all-too-good-at-reading 6-year-old down any aisles (such as "feminine hygiene") that might spark unnecessary conversations. I have sex education pencilled in for the summer holiday 2009.

I have devised a series of maths challenges to help focus my children's minds. "Now, this packet of biscuits is 49p. How many can I buy with pound;1?"

I look up to see that my children have grabbed two baguettes and are conducting a light sabre duel through the bakery department. My threats of lost "golden time" are met with laughter and a hail of shrink-wrapped pitta bread. As I wrestle them to the floor amid a pile of bread products, a pathetic squeak emerges from my lips: "I'll tell Mummy!"

A shell-suited woman passes me with two skin-headed, fully earringed boys behaving impeccably. "Amateur!" she sneers. I feel ashamed, but my middle class superiority resurfaces as I realise that my children were duelling with "Taste the Difference" French bread.

The day has not gone well. I feel like a first term NQT in the throes of a reception class riot. I keep expecting the head to come in and lead me away weeping.

Oh well, it's not long to go until the start of term. For the first time in my life, that sentence is a good thing.

More from Henry in a fortnight

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