I am congratulating myself this week after winning a small but crucial battle. Mary’s second birthday is approaching which surprised me because I cannot believe it is two years since my daughter arrived on the planet; it feels much longer.
The last 24 months have been a blur of sleep-deprivation, misery and depression, and a general gloomy feeling that life is over.
Anyway Mrs C decided it was important to buy Mary a present.
I argued against this as I don’t understand why we need to even celebrate her birthday, after all our daughter has no concept of what one is. She told me to shut up and leave the room.
Later the same evening she suggested we throw a party to celebrate Mary’s birthday. ‘We could invite some of her friends from nursery and the toddler groups she goes to,’ she said.
‘Erm, how many children would that be?’ I ventured, suddenly apprehensive. ‘Not many, about 25 or 30,’ replied Mrs C.
I told her there was absolutely no chance and began a long and impassioned speech, the gist of which was if my wife invited 30 children to spend the afternoon at my house I was leaving forever to begin a new life on a commune in the Shetlands. ‘I’ll pack your case for you,’ she said.
As it turned out I won the argument about the party – we agreed to have a few family members around instead – but Mrs C was insistent about the present.
She said Mary wanted a balance bike – which is a ridiculous claim because Mary didn’t have a clue what one is.
In fact nor did I, so my wife had to explain that it was a bike without pedals, ‘to encourage children,’ she said, as if she were some kind of toddler lifestyle guru when in reality she’d just read some rubbish on a website, ‘to learn balance and steering’.
Which, to me, is another daft modern money-making thing. I mean why not wait a year or two and buy them an actual proper bike? Chris Froome didn’t have a balance bike and he’s turned out okay.
Anyway, off we trekked to Halfords to buy one.
Mrs C spent the journey whipping Mary into a frenzy by telling her we were going to buy a bike, so that by the time we reached the store our daughter – who when we left the house didn’t have a clue what a bike was – began screaming ‘bike, bike, BIKE!’ at the top of her voice like someone on a protest march about the banning of cycles.
There was a rack of children’s bikes and as we got within eyesight, Mary rather unfortunately spotted a bright pink Peppa Pig balance bike and began screaming ‘my bike, my bike’.
The Peppa Pig bike, I noted with considerable alarm, was £65. Next to it was a plain white bike priced £20. The only difference between the bikes was that one had a picture of a pig on it.
‘Aw, look at her,’ said Mrs C with a dopey smile on her face, ‘we’ve got to get to the Peppa Pig bike for her’.
‘Over my dead body,’ I replied dramatically, and slightly too loudly for a young bloke with a huge beard and a tattoo of a bee on his neck looked up from the till he was stationed and shouted back, ‘The Peppa Pig one is very popular with kids.’
‘Aw, look at her,’ said Mrs C, motioning towards Mary, who had now clambered aboard the Peppa bike and was yelping with excitement.
It was at this point that I did what any decent parent would do and picked up the plain white bike and marched to the till to buy it. I had to drag a screaming, distressed and tearful Mary out of the shop, while telling her to ‘look at your pretty white bike’.
She wasn’t impressed and repeatedly yelled, in between sobs, ‘want Peppa bike’. Mrs C marched ahead, angrily saying ‘I can’t believe how cruel you are’.
It led to a long, tense and fraught day, but on the upside I’ve got an extra £45 in my bank account. Swings and roundabouts.