Blog: Sam Avery

The comedian and author who is taking his show The Learner Parent out on a UK tour, says bringing up children can be harder than doing Chinese algebra

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Parenthood is like a novelty rollercoaster through a farm – plenty of ups and downs with tonnes of smells and screaming.

But before I divide the readership, let’s all agree that being a parent is the most rewarding, amazing and unique experience we are lucky enough to have.

All on board? Good.

Next, let’s agree that at certain times it is hard. More difficult than Chinese algebra. Tougher than a Wetherspoon’s steak. In short, difficult.

Is it realistic to enjoy every single moment when you feel like a malnourished zombie who’d do time for a lie-in?

The magical times make everything else worthwhile but it’s hard to remember your baby’s first laugh when you’re scraping dried porridge off the kitchen wall with a razor blade. Of course, wiping faeces off your hands with a fresh bout of child-induced tinnitus could be your idea of heaven, in which case you would’ve really enjoyed last Wednesday.

Maybe I read the wrong books pre-fatherhood. All full of practical advice and no mention of the living hell that certain moments would cause. Moments that make you want to jam a rusty spoon down your ear to check your brain is still there.

Take nap time, for instance. The romantic notion is that your baby drifts off to sleep while you hold them in your arms, stroking their hair. The reality is more like trying to smother an emotionally unstable overgrown salmon that’s learned how to scream.

And as beautiful as our twins are, I found out the hard way that washing their necks feels like running your hand under an old settee that’s been left out in the rain.

I was once so burnt out I spent five minutes queuing up behind a row of parked cars

A little bit of honesty is all I’m asking for. If driving manuals adopted the same blinkered approach as some of these parenting books they’d be talking about how “your bond will now be beginning to develop with the road” as you mount the pavement and plough into a group of pedestrians.

Sleep deprivation makes everything difficult. An all-consuming soup of confusion that descends and takes charge like a dozy supply teacher. I was once so burnt out I spent five minutes queuing up behind a row of parked cars.

If your only reference point is the utopian claptrap painted in these books, the hard-faced reality of parenthood can make you feel useless. A fraud. Worse still, a failure. When my boys start crying I’m often tempted to just join in.

As a comedian I’ve worked on mental health projects that use comedy to help aid an honest discussion. We encourage people to communicate their emotions, not bottle them up. If we create an impossible vision of parenthood that none of us can compare to, everyone falls short.

And that’s as unhealthy as the packet of biscuits I had for breakfast.

To admit you’re struggling takes courage.

Of course, some people disagree. Those holier-than-thou super-parents, smugness oozing from their mouth like puss from a sore.

“You’re lucky to have kids in the first place!”

When did discussing the challenges of a situation mean you weren’t grateful? I’m grateful for being born into a country that isn’t war-torn or disease-ridden but I still get annoyed when the wifi doesn’t work.

Every time I look at my boys I feel like the luckiest man on the planet. And every time they won’t nap I know the rest of the day will be more challenging than flying a kite on the moon.

“You should be enjoying time with your kids!”

I love my sons more than I thought it was possible to love anything. The word “love” seems like a pathetic piss-take when describing how I feel – I “love” chips too, for instance. The concept of love is as insignificant as MySpace compared to the all-consuming devotion to my sons I’m filled with every waking second.

Clearly, I do enjoy time with my babies.

But I would argue it’s impossible to enjoy time with anyone when you’ve had two hours broken sleep and they’ve morphed into an uncontrollable slurry truck who can scream louder than The Who.

So, I’m not enjoying every single moment of parenthood. But I still love being a dad.

The Learner Parent tour includes Southport Little Theatre, 16 Oct,  Liverpool Epstein Theatre, 8 Nov, Selby Town Hall, 8 Nov, the Lowry, Salford, 24 Jan 2019, Leeds City Variety, 25 Jan

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