Grant Woodward: A year of lessons in how to play generation game

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THEY say that you should never stop learning. So I thought I would share with you some of the lessons I have picked up over the last 12 months, courtesy of my three-year-old twins.

Coin-tossing is an excellent way to defuse potential flashpoints. However, it works best when they haven’t yet been introduced to the concept of the “best of” coin toss. The “best of 17” coin toss to decide which one of them gets to accompany daddy in the men’s changing rooms rather than going in the ladies with mummy will invariably make you late for swimming.

Never book swimming lessons for 8.30am on a Saturday as you will almost certainly be late every week, even without excessive coin tossing.

Your wife will insist the early booking will mean you’re out of the house and can “make the most of the day”. It won’t, it will just leave you smelling of chlorine and feeling resentful. Not to mention a little disorientated when you find yourself wading around a cold council swimming pool to the strains of Wham’s Last Christmas a mere five hours after you returned home from the work Christmas party.

Pockets are no longer for useful things such as small change and house keys. Those items are still in there, but it’s hard to locate them amid the assorted detritus that you manage to gather throughout the day. At any one time this will include a small Peppa Pig figurine, a random piece of Lego, the lid off the Calpol bottle and one child’s sock.

Never issue a threat you have no intention of following through with. In no time at all your children will refuse to believe you have any intention of locking them in the garage for biting one another or throwing the other’s favourite soft toy out of the window and will simply laugh at you instead. Take particular care when you drive to the Dales for the day, having insisted that your son leave his favourite stick at home. Threats that you will “turn the car round and go straight back home” will succeed in silencing his hysterical crying, but only because he points out that this will mean he’s reunited with his stick.

Even if you deem something to be safe and out of reach, take nothing for granted. Otherwise you will come downstairs one morning to find that they have methodically dismantled the large picture frame you bought your wife for her birthday, one holding the wooden frame and the other trying to get upstairs with the glass panel. This, they will tell you, is because they “wanted to help”.

However much they insist that they “don’t like Mummy, only Daddy”, it only takes one of them to fall over or hurt themselves in some way to let you know exactly where you stand in the pecking order. Given that your first aid expertise extends little further than rubbing the area vigorously and threatening to fetch the bag of peas out of the freezer, this is probably for the best.

Never, ever try to coax your daughter through a lengthy confirmation service at church by promising that you will soon be treating her to Sunday lunch at the pub over the road.

She will choose the really quiet bit just before the prayers start to yell “Daddy! When are we going to the pub?” in a voice you didn’t even know she possessed.

If you are going to teach them the names of different makes of car as a way to pass the time during long journeys, be prepared for puzzled looks from friends who accompany you on said trips.

This is because a typical conversation will run as follows: “Daddy? Toyota. Are we Volkswagen going to granny’s Audi house?”

Never, ever, ever get into the habit of allowing your children to get in your bed during the night as they will take this to be a permanent arrangement and you will never be able to get them out again, leaving you in a perpetual state of extreme exhaust... Sorry, I nodded off for a second there.

Take care before voicing concerns to your son’s nursery teacher about the stories he tells you in relation to the antics of other children. You could, like me, be told that “it’s probably best to take what he says about nursery with a pinch of salt and we’ll do the same with what he says about you”. This will leave you with more questions than answers.

Children grow up too quickly. Enjoy every second of their childhood. It will be gone all too soon.

Happy new year. May your 2015 be as full of new experiences as mine is sure to be.