This is all easy, though, when you know that Mummy is within hasty bundling distance should her delight at the world “bodacious” suddenly turn to howling despair. Even when Jill is out for a couple of hours I have enough confidence in my ability to deal with sullen grumpiness for a short while (trust me, I’ve managed before, I’ve interviewed Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) but this week saw the biggest test of all… A whole day of Daddy Day Care!
I’m a radio presenter by trade (trade! Ha!). I don’t do ‘responsibility’. I guess I have to be reasonably aware of not swearing or libelling anyone but, generally, if I misremember a fact, forget to play a certain song at a particular time or stumble over my words then no one dies (other than my dignity, of course, but that withered on the vine some years ago).
I suppose it’s my lack of dignity that helps with entertaining 7 month old Elsa; the list of things that make her laugh is an odd hotch potch and is always liable to change on her merest whim. I’ve found myself pretending to eat her feet in Tesco, singing the songs of Grease in the centre of Harrogate and, most recently, wandering around the streets close to home performing the voice of an 80s American movie cliché surfer dude. Don’t ask me how any of the previous came about; they just sort of happened. It’s a case of trying anything until that gummy grin cracks on her lips.
Whereas workwise it seems an eon since I was last employed full time on the wireless (not a result of the BRMC incident in case you were wondering), in my mind Elsa has only just been born but that was actually before I was binned by Viking FM and now Jill has already begun her “keeping in touch” days back at work.
Come 8 o’clock when she left the house, stretching before us was the longest expanse of time that we’d had alone in her little life. Nibbling her extremities might buy me a few minutes, pretending to be John Travolta could push it to half an hour and I’m fairly certain she’s already well over me drawling the word “radical” in her face (none of these worked with Black Rebel Motorcyle Club either). This was going to be a stern test.
Over the coming weeks in the World Cup you’ll hear coaches and managers espousing the virtues of grabbing that early goal, making sure their teams put themselves in the lead in order to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Well, I’m pretty sure I did just that. We had a couple of hours’ playtime and then I knew it was time to nap (for her primarily but I’m no spring chicken anymore and could also have done with some shut eye).
The easy route would be to push her round the village in the pram; perfect except that I would have to push her round the village in the pram and I just didn’t fancy it. I see that as the equivalent of sending my striker up front with the expressed intention of swan-diving the moment a defender comes within five yards of him. To me it would have been a dishonest nap.
Elsa will sleep in her cot in the day only if she’s been breastfed into slumber. Now I do not own the correct equipment for this method but I decided to improvise. Despite whinging on about her not being able to take a bottle previously she has now relented and will occasionally do so. I fed her in her darkened nursery, I swayed and soothed and, magically, she fell asleep on my shoulder. Rather than profit from a cheap and dirty penalty, I’d implored my team to string twenty passes together and, as I swooped her down into her cot it was as though that move had been finished with an expertly executed overhead scissor kick. Roy Hodgson, I’m available for tactical advice any time you like.
It only lasted thirty minutes but, as with the events unfolding in Brazil over the next month, we’ll take all the glory we can should it choose to grace us with its generally elusive presence.
Fancy goals will only get you so far, tactics are the key to winning the battle and once she awoke it was time for strategising. Bath time is 6pm and so I had to work backwards from that, knowing that she can only last for a maximum of two hours between sleeps. We had to head out in the car later on and, if timed right, that could double as snooze time (definitely only for her, I’m fully Highway Code compliant). I had to estimate sleep cycles, work out optimum meal times and always be planning for the next opportunity to allow her to siesta. I’m pretty certain that whoever plans the timetables for the East Coast mainline is a mum whose nous for logistics has been finely honed by years of plotting the activities of toddlers.
We made it through to tell the tale; we had laughs and giggles, she ate the correct amount of food in the right order and, despite me never managing to grab that kip for myself, it was generally hailed a success. Elsa even managed to sit up unaided for the first time that evening although I don’t dare try to take entire credit for that. Let’s call it a happy coincidence.
Maybe I’m more responsible than I thought even if all this ‘planning three moves ahead’ business reminds me why I no longer play chess. Maybe, if Roy can send a drowsy Wayne Rooney into a slumber at half time England could win the World Cup. And maybe all Black Rebel Motorcycle Club were missing was a gentle sway in a darkened room. Maybe.