Three years ago – a period of time I spend every waking hour yearning to return to – my Sunday mornings comprised of lying in bed until 11am, ambling downstairs to make a brew before retiring to the living room to watch a re-run of Match of the Day. Ah, happy times.
Now my Sunday involves waking any time between 6.45-7.15am (although the word ‘waking’ is technically incorrect as we’ve already been awake most of the night due to having a sobbing, puking, new-born baby), when I hear the words ‘daddy, open my door’ being screamed by my petulant two-year-old Mary.
My wife can’t go because she has to breastfeed the baby – an arduous task which involves Mrs Canavan lying on a selection of pillows while watching a television. It must be exhausting.
So it is my job to collect Mary from her cot, change her nappy (now a 10-minute battle), and then head downstairs to make her breakfast, which invariably ends up on the floor. It is, at times, very hard to love, or even like, your children.
By 9am on a Sunday we have to be at something called Rugby Tots, which is meant to, according to the website, ‘promote core rugby principles while meeting important pre-school learning objectives’.
Ahead of our first session I had high hopes Mary might be selected as second row prop forward for England under threes. However, she isn’t quite making the progressed I’d hoped.
When the teacher says, ‘can you throw the ball through the hoop?’, all the other youngsters obediently do as they’re told while Mary sits on my knee sobbing ‘I want a banana’.
At the end, she says: ‘Mary plays rugby’.
‘Erm, not really,’ I respond, ‘You just sit screaming on daddy’s knee and demand food’ – but she doesn’t seem to take this in and instead waddles off proudly stuffing a banana down her throat.
As if Sunday mornings weren’t horrific enough, this week Mrs Canavan – possibly as an act of revenge because I’d gone out both Friday and Saturday nights – booked tickets to see Peppa Pig at the cinema.
‘You’re taking Mary, right?’ I responded when she told me.
‘No, you are,’ she said, and then stood there, eyes bulging, fists clenched, wearing boxing shorts and a gumshield, as if daring me to protest.
‘Are you serious?’ I stammered.
‘You’ll like it,’ she lied. ‘It’ll be really lovely for you to see how excited Mary is.’
It’s at times like this when I wonder if Mrs Canavan really knows me at all.
And so it was that Mary and I – along with my mother (who had volunteered to come which raises serious questions about her social life) – found ourselves at the cinema along with a dozen children, all accompanied by incredibly cheesed-off parents. For the next hour I was forced to watch a selection of new Peppa Pig episodes.
Embarrassingly my mother seemed to find the programme hilariously amusing and snorted with laughter when Peppa mispronounced the phrase ‘historical re-enactment’ as ‘hysterical re-detachment’.
‘Oh that is funny,’ she giggled. I looked at her to see if she was being sarcastic. She wasn’t.
It wouldn’t have been such a harrowing experience had they simply shown us six new episodes. But instead, to justify the ticket price – or perhaps to deliberately make life hell – in between each episode there was a segment featuring a group of precocious young children imploring the cinema audience to join in a number of songs. I found myself being urged to join a rendition of ‘heads, shoulders, knees and toe’ by a grinning on-screen five-year-old boy. I declined his offer.
I cannot help but feel that life can only get better, though I fear it will be a good 18 years or so before that actually happens.