Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah and me…we are so THE SAME.
Last night I watched a documentary about his preparations for Rio and kept thinking how, just like me, every day he deals with the pressure of trying to be the best at what he does, to meet absurdly high expectations, to cope with how other people’s lives depend on him, all without taking ANY illegal drugs.
The only difference between us is that he has a huge support team behind him and a film crew documenting his heroic efforts.
Parents, imagine if we had a crack-team and the BBC following us for a day in the summer hols…
7am – Wake up. Crack-team of experts arrive armed with coffee and fags. Lots of high-fiving and back-slapping and “you can do this”.
8am – After a gruelling work-out of coffee-drinking, fag-smoking and a motivational speech, it’s time to start parenting.
8.30am – Your first wobble, youngest says he HATES your FACE and will NEVER love you again because you’ve run out of Nutella. Your coach reminds you this is a normal set-back and you can recover if you just stay focused on your goal: for him to not end up in juvenile detention by 13yrs old.
8.45am – You feel defeated. Even the promise of painting a shit supermarket-bought piggy bank doesn’t get your kid back on track.
9am – Your personal physio delivers an aggressive, but perfectly focused massage of your shoulders while you support youngest in the painting of a shit supermarket-bought piggy bank alongside french-plaiting eldest’s hair and discussing safe sex.
9.30 – Your coach is interviewed by the BBC and says that you have prepared as much as any parent can for Summer 2016 and are in much better shape than last year’s ‘games’ when you just sat youngest in front of youtube all day and gave eldest cider to shut her up while you piled on three stone.
10.00 – You must go to the park. The sun is out and there is no tangible excuse not to. Your team psychologist reminds you that you are strong enough, that you have overcome so much park-anxiety and this year can be the year you nail it, maybe you can even face taking youngest’s bike with you?
11.30 – You smashed the park. A personal best. Your whole team are high-fiving you as your kid leaves the park without crying, bleeding or kicking another kid in the arse. You even took an actual ball for him to kick around. Your head coach is interviewed saying they knew you could do it, you just had to believe in yourself.
12pm – Your hangover is kicking in. Your urge to create a ‘lying-down game’ is strong but your nutritionist urges you to push through it and create a healthy lunch for your offspring to moan about and/or ignore. Eldest says bread bloats her. Youngest says WHY DO YOU KEEP GIVING ME CHEESE WHEN IT MAKES ME FEEL SO SAD? Nutritionist reminds you that ‘you got this’ and that eating crisps yourself will not sustain you for this afternoon’s most challenging event which is: an empty five hours with NOTHING PLANNED.
1pm – You are in McDonald’s ordering happy meals and quarter pounders. You feel elated and relieved and also appalled and full of self-loathing. Outside your team are each interviewed, saying they’d hoped you’d learned from the disappointing failures of Summer ’15 and come through it. You are interviewed and say that you have no fucks left to give about the future of your kids but not having to wash-up for ten minutes is awesome. Your PR sidles up to you, wipes sesame seeds from your top and ketchup from your chin and asks you if this is how you want to be seen. You tell her to try being you for a day. She says fair play and sends you home for a fag and a training nap.
2.30 – Your team meditation-guru relaxes you while your kids raise themselves. He reminds you that you cannot be all things to all people and that your kids need to learn to be independent. As you slide into slumber, perched on top of ten thousand lego pieces on a chair while Stampy plays loudly, you think how the summer holidays can easily be won if parents are afforded a regular nap while the kids watch youtube…
4pm – You wake energised and ready to work HARD for two hours until you can pour wine. After having a fag and reapplying make-up you announce ‘I got this’ at the mirror. You chop vegetables to puree into pasta sauce under the guidance of your nutritionist. You feign interest in Minecraft for youngest and book a couple of University open days for eldest. Your team are interviewed about how important it is for you to have regular training naps in order to achieve maximum performance levels.
6pm – The kids EAT. Only youngest cries. Wine is poured. Your team are tearful. You can DO this. You can PARENT.
7pm – Your partner arrives home. They have no understanding of what you’ve been through. They are interviewed about how hard it is to be married to such a committed parent/alcoholic. They say they know you can do it, but sometimes they just can’t bear to watch…
9pm – The crack-team are dismissed. The children are alive and in bed-ish. You are drunk. Tomorrow you must do it all again, in the knowledge that your gold medal will never appear and that you have imagined your Olympic crack-team and that you are, in fact, doing the most mundane shit-arse job in the world but also apparently the most important one and all you need, all you really, really need is for one person to say WELL FUCKING DONE and make a small documentary about you.
One day, I will make that film. One day, parenting for six-weeks straight will be an Olympic sport. Until then, let us all behave as the parenting athletes we know ourselves to be…
Gold, my friends. We can achieve GOLD…well, Marlboro Gold’s at least…