• Come on - give a fragile stay-home dad a break... (Moment RF/Getty Images)Source: Moment RF/Getty Images
Exhausted stay-home dad Ian Rose screws up big-time while trying to squeeze some errands into school-break mayhem - judge for yourself if he’s evil, lazy or just human.
By
Ian Rose

13 Jul 2017 - 12:09 PM  UPDATED 13 Jul 2017 - 12:10 PM

Like so many bad decisions, this was a snap one.

Made in a moment that is the culmination of many moments, each one bringing me closer to the snap.

It is about two in the afternoon of a Wednesday that has already been a long day, in the middle of an already long week, of an apparently endless winter school holiday, that I make it.

Parked next to the little strip of local businesses, I have just three simple chores to execute. Buy bacon from the butcher. Celery and mushrooms from the greengrocer. And drop my tax return with the accountant (2016’s, way past due). Easy-peasy, right?

But the children are whining that they don’t want to come. Whining really loudly.

And I know. I just know that if I attempt to perform these tasks with them in tow, these pint-sized agents of anarchy, this pre-tweenie duo of merciless incubi will conspire to humiliate and thwart me, to push me over the edge, and trigger the kind of breakdown I have no wish to experience before a local businessperson.

So I decide to leave them in the car.

What are three minutes - five, tops? I’m never going to be more than 20 metres from the car, I’ll check in between chores, lock the doors, leave the stereo on. Come on - give a fragile stay-home dad a break...

I just know that if I attempt to perform these tasks with them in tow, these pint-sized agents of anarchy, this pre-tweenie duo of merciless incubi will conspire to humiliate and thwart me.

They’re six and eight, these children of ours. Adorable. The apples of our eyes, etcetera. And I know these are precisely the days I should savour, me with my enviable work-life balance and the chance to see them blooming before my eyes, they grow so fast, blah blah.

But right now, whatever infernal chemistry is bubbling between these siblings sets them either

a)  at each other’s throats, snarling like ferrets on meth, wailing like extra-distraught banshees, or

b)  playing together “happily”, which involves them turning the house inside out and making so much noise it’s frankly disturbing that none of our neighbours has yet seen fit to call  emergency services to our door.

God knows I try to parent them, by which I mean beg, cajole and bribe them. I’ve even threatened to leave and start a new life in Honduras. They riot on regardless.

That our son, the junior partner, Sundance to his sister’s Butch, was diagnosed with high-functioning autism a year ago has thrown us a curve-ball in terms of setting boundaries, but I’ve never been much good at that stuff, anyway.

God knows I try to parent them, by which I mean beg, cajole and bribe them. I’ve even threatened to leave and start a new life in Honduras.

On the Wednesday in question, there has already been a violent battle over a pencil-eraser, frenzied enough to send the usually lethargic cat up the curtains in search of safe haven, a game of “mums and dads” apparently based on the Borgias, and some kitchen mayhem involving strawberry yoghurt and a tub of Milo for which I am certain to be blamed once their mother gets home from “work”.

My tether’s end is pulled taut, frayed and all a-quiver. So I leave them in the car.

The accountant’s closest to where I’m parked, so that’s where I head first. Don’t even close the door behind me, just lean in, chuck the signed documents towards the receptionist, wave an apology and back out. I’m on fire at the butcher’s - select my cuts with unswerving resolve, pay in cash and out the door.

In defence of the stay-at-home-dad
In light of the new findings by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, Ian Rose reveals what stay-at-home dads really get up to each day.

It’s the queue in the veggie shop that foils me. The hipster check-out guy is all languor and laid-back vibes as he weighs this woman’s cauliflowers, and of course she’s got a loyalty card but can’t recall in which of the myriad nooks and niches of her infuriatingly ill-designed rucksack she’s left it, so that by the time I bolt out of the place with my booty, the kids have been unguarded for a full six minutes.

I open the car-door to pandemonium. The pair of them, shrieking, cackling, trying to tell me what’s happened to render them hysterical.

“There was a man!”

“Wearing sunglasses!”

“Taking photographs!”

“He was on his phone!”

“No he wasn’t wearing sunglasses!”

“Yes, he was!”

“No he wasn’t!”

“He was taking our photograph!”

“He was taking photographs of the car!”

“Yes, on his phone!”

“Ha ha haaa!”

“In sunglasses!”

“Ha ha HAAA!”

I feel like I’ve been kicked in the stomach. I am a terrible person.

Once I’ve caught my breath, I crouch down next to the car and through gentle, if strained, interrogation, manage to piece together the story.

It seems that, while I was doing my chores, a bearded man of uncertain age, who may or may not have been wearing sunglasses (it’s a sunny day, this isn’t necessarily sinister), used his phone to take photographs of our car, perhaps of the children themselves.

This doesn’t sound like a good thing.

Worst case scenario: shots of my deranged children are currently being uploaded to the dark web.

Or: I’m being shopped to the feds as a negligent parent and destined for the nonce-wing.

I feel like I’ve been kicked in the stomach. I am a terrible person.

Confirming that the windows of our clapped-out Subaru are indeed tinted, and in direct sunlight, I realise there is another possibility, almost as chilling as these.

Namely, that the children, young as they are, have worked out exactly what buttons to push to get this vein throbbing in my temple, and made the whole thing up.

Honduras is nice this time of year, I note.

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