Three words you should never say to parents

I was woken last Sunday by three little boys who jumped onto my bed, with an assortment of inconveniently placed knees and elbows, to wish me happy Father’s Day. It was all very hilarious and cuddly for a while and then I decided I’d had enough.

“Right, that’s it, I’m getting up now,” I announced. But apparently there are rules for Father’s Day. I was told to stay in bed.

“But I don’t want to stay in bed.”

No choice. It’s Father’s Day and there’s nothing better than a lazy morning in bed.

“But … I kind of want to get up.”

Nope. It’s Father’s Day. You are to stay in bed and relax with your three boys who are wrestling each other on top of the duvet and your face.

“Can I at least go the bathroom?” I asked. But that proved difficult, trapped as I was beneath a tumble of orangutans.

A while later I tried another tack. “I’d quite like to get up and have a shower,” I said to no one in particular. I needn’t have bothered. It appeared that I was damn well going to have a lazy morning in bed on Father’s Day and I was damn well going to enjoy it.

Where Mother’s Day is all about giving mum some time off, Father’s Day seems designed primarily for the children’s benefit.

Earlier in the week, my 8 year old had asked what I would like for Father’s Day. I looked over his shoulder at the sea of Lego pieces, the marbles, the army men and the minefield of wooden blocks on the floor.

“What I would really like,” I said, after some thought, “is a tidy lounge.” The dinner table fell into silence. My son said, somewhat meekly, “Or … we could go for a bike ride?”

In the end we did go for a bike ride. And, I’ll be honest, the whole day was great, even the part where I was squashed awake. I’m hardly about to complain that I was force-pampered on Father’s Day.

At least they still want to hang out with me. “Just you wait until they’re teenagers,” I often hear. Apparently my affectionate children will soon transmogrify into surly recluses and they won’t want to spend any time with me at all.

“Just you wait.” Three words you should never say to parents. “Just you wait” is the smug cousin of “I told you so,” only delivered in advance.

My wife and I were sleep-deprived in the weeks after our first baby was born. “Just you wait until he’s on solids,” people said.

We were dealing with a toddler’s first temper tantrums. Inevitably: “Just you wait until he’s a teenager.”

Statements like that are pointless and don’t help anyone. It’s like saying, “I’m older than you, ha ha,” as though that has some sort of currency.

Whatever you are going through right now, at this particular time and place, that’s the thing that matters. Your current situation is real and it is unique to you. No one else has been in your shoes. People who say “just you wait” don’t have a clue what hidden pressures you’re juggling.

My kids are at a fun age. But every season has its challenges and they’re all equally valid.

Just you wait until you figure that out for yourself.

First published in Bay of Plenty Times 12 September 2014. Reproduced with permission.