When I was told that the second child would be easier I thought that this meant that everything would be easier. I’m not sure what I thought was going to happen. Perhaps that the Major would start looking after Minor, preparing him meals in his tiny Ikea kitchen and clambering up inside his cot in the middle of the night to stop him crying. In reality their relationship mainly involves them gently head-butting each other like a couple of very adorable rutting stags.
The Minor wakes up around six o’clock with a plump nappy the weight of a house brick. Once changed he sets about his daily business, which is normally compiling a kind of stuntman’s show-reel that includes exploring the inside of dishwashers and standing up precariously on the seat of his high-chair. He also likes to put various bits of household debris in his mouth like a particularly gnarly Jackass-style jape.
The Major gets up a few minutes after his brother. He is naturally more considered but is prone to occasional meltdowns. Each day he requires to be provided with a roster of about 400 activities which occupy him for about ten minutes at a time. Most of these will inevitably at some point compel the Major to drop the same bits of household debris that the Minor puts in his mouth. Both my sons regard the floors of their house as an extended network of toy storage, rubbish dumps and in the case of the Minor, dinner plates.
At night the Minor wakes periodically. For some reason we have been unable to fathom, he’s normally in a rage. Fortunately his tears don’t rouse his brother, who is busy coughing into the back of the head of whichever parent hasn’t left the bed to pacify the Minor. Both boys are rich in snot deposits.
It has occurred to me that we might be approaching a tipping point beyond which parenting will become easier. In a year or two there will be no nappies or bottles. The boys will be able to entertain each other, engaging in wholesome games of Ludo or Monopoly or all-in wrestling. They might decide to sit down and watch sport with me. The Minor won’t require a security detail stationed permanently a yard away. And fundamentally we will get our sleep back. Perhaps they’d even grasp the concept of a lie-in or at least learn to make their own porridge.
But I’ve asked around older parents and a consensus has formed that children might start becoming reluctant to get out of bed in the morning at around ten or eleven years old. This is a phenomenally tiring thought. I have now written off the next ten years as a long bleary-eyed descent into chaos, a continuous massive bundle, a decade-long Royal Rumble in which I am spectator, referee and participant.
After this I’ve envisaged a period of relative calm during the boys’ adolescence. Based on my experience as a teenager, we will probably be marginalised as parents only being communicated with through a sequence of grunts and farts. Peace may break out in the house.
When I asked my mother-in-law the question about when life got easier as a parent she blew her cheeks out as if to say that even after thirty years the experience was increasingly challenging. In fairness it probably will do when your grandchildren are plopped on your doorstep three times a week. Her point was that looking after your children is harder when you can’t look after them; when they’ve escaped your fretful grasp and headed to the park, the bowling alley, the pub, the nightclub. When they’ve gone to Magaluf.
By this stage we’ll obviously be dabbing nostalgic tears from our eyes, longing for the times that our sons slept with their heads jammed into our necks or lovingly gripped our calves. Or spoke to us.
Of course the moral of all this is that there is no sense in trying to guess when it all becomes easier or tougher. Just get the fuck on with it. Adopt the brace position for the bombardment of shits (or when they’re being shits) and enjoy the ongoing assortment of deep diverse giggles.