I have been reading the book "Chronicles of a Desperate Dad" by Mark Richards, a book about fatherhood in the form of a series of short articles most of which originally appeared in the "Hartlepool Mail".
And falling about laughing as I recognise again and again the travails of modern parenthood. Or indeed, parenthood in general.
It's not difficult to identify some aspects of our lives in which my generation has it much easier than our own parents, and other aspects, such as the fact that it's much harder to impose any form of discipline in a society which can't tell the difference between discipline and child cruelty, in which we have a much more challenging task. But in many ways the joys and pains of being a parent are pretty much the same.
The biggest single regret of my life is that both my parents died before I became a father. Partly I regret it for them: my mum and dad both very much wanted to be grandparents. As my mum said, "you can spoil your grandchildren in a way you can't spoil your children". Partly I regret it for my children, who missed out on having two more grandparents to spoil them. And partly it's for myself: there are days when I so much wish I could go to my Mum and Dad, give them a hug, and say something like "I understand what I put you through now: thank you for not killing me."
Mark Richards also lost his dad before his children came along: I particularly empathise with the section of the book where he says that his dad
"would have loved the children. What he would have loved even more was hearing me confess, 'Well Dad, you were right on that one as well ...' "
I have got into the habit of both buying and selling books through the Amazon marketplace, and ordered a secondhand copy of this book from that source. Obviously the previous owner of the book was also a proud parent: it has stains on the side which I suspect come from a small person spilling chocolate milkshake on it, or something of the sort. I should add however that I knew perfectly well that I was buying a used book, paid an appropriate price, and was quite happy to get something readable. And it seems somehow appropriate that a book on this subject should bear the ravages which come from co-existing in a hosuehold with small children.
If you are an exhausted dad (or mum) and want to see the funny side of dealing with children, I can recommend this book. If you are thinking of becoming a parent, I can recommend it as an indication of what you will be letting yourself in for - if many people read it for that purpose Mark Richards may be awarded a "saving the planet" prize by the greens for singlehandedly bringing about a drop in the birth rate.
But if you are currently expecting your first child, do not under any circumstances read this book. Instead, try to get as much sleep as possible before the baby arrives. You will need it.