One day each week I have the kids all to myself – one five-year-old and one 18-month-old. You’d think after five years of this dadding business I’d have nailed the formula for a day of fun, educational, and well-organised parenting. But last week, “Daddy Day” was an absolute disaster – a badly prepared late-starter that ended in lots of tears (mostly mine) and an afternoon plonked in front the TV, trying desperately to justify it to myself because the kids had a really active day about a week ago.
I was, by my own admission that day, a terrible father. And I’m not the only dad who doesn’t rate their own parenting skills. Last year, father-of-five Jamie Oliver scored himself a measly 6/10 for raising his teenage daughters.
But never mind us dads’ highly self-indulgent insecurities. The real question is: how would our kids rate us as parents?
I decided to put it to the test by making this week’s Daddy Day the most wholesome, arse-kicking time of father-son fun ever – then get my five-year-old to score my abilities as a dad based on the day’s success, or abject failure.
First off, there’s the matter of teaching my son the concept of scoring things out of ten, which is harder than it sounds. I get him to rate some arbitrary things – food, friends, movies – and he gets the hang of it in the end (though I do start to lose my temper when scores cheesy pasta 10/10, which I know full well he doesn’t like – it’s a tense moment but we get over it).
With that piece of admin done, the plan is set: we’ll get out of the house as early as possible, visit the robot exhibition at the London Science Museum, come back and play football in the park, go to the pool for swimming lessons, and end the day by baking some fairy cakes. Which sounds like an epic day of dadding by anyone’s standards.
Here’s how it actually went (and more importantly, how I scored):
It starts badly. Despite everything I said, I’ve done no prep whatsoever. Clothes for both kids are not laid out. Sandwiches have not been made. Bags have not been packed. And while I try to sort all that out, the toddler does this for 30 minutes.
Still, the five-year-old hasn’t noticed the shambolic mess I make of the morning, so I score big in the early going.
Score for getting both kids ready in the morning – 10/10
When I ask why he’s scored me full marks, he says, “Because you take me loads of places”, which is bullshit because we haven’t been anywhere yet. I know that really he’s scored me big because in order to get organised and out of the house by 9am, I’ve let him watch Netflix for an hour. I’ll take the points though – I’m no fool.
Two minutes out of the door and we have to stop for a mini reprimanding about poo talk. I’ve(rather appropriately) had a gutsful of poo, which he talks about non- stop, along with arses, farts, and wees. He immediately scores me for this mini telling off.
Score for firm but fair discipline – 6/10
But he soon forgets and invents aSuper Mario game, which involves one side of the pavement being safe and the other side of the pavement being lava. Unsure of the rules, and at an unfair advantage for not having an imagination that only imagines utter gibberish, I immediately push the pram into the lava. Me and toddler are pronounced dead at the scene and told to we can’t play anymore.
Score for playing a made-up game that is literally impossible to understand – 6/10
Another disappointing score for dad, but it’s early (9.07am, in fact – Jesus wept). I’m confident I can make up the numbers before we get on the tube.
We pass a toy stall on the way, where he stops for a rummage. He wants a toy guy that lights up, but I say no. He’s calm about the situation but rates me understandably low for being such an awful tight-arsed git.
Score for not buying him a bit of plastic that costs about 50p – 0/10
Next up, I have to demonstrate one of the greatest of all dad-skills – carrying a pram avec sleeping toddler up a load of stairs. I carry out the Herculean feat single-handedly and look back proudly at the five-year-old, expecting him to stare at me with that kind of awe and hero worship that little boys reserve especially for the fathers. But no.
Score for carrying a pram up four bastard flights of stairs – 2/10
It’s harsh, but I must be doing something wrong. The man who helped me on the last flight was awarded “twenty-two hundred and ten”, so clearly there are big points to play for.
The robot exhibition at the Science Museum goes down well. Five-year-old gets to look at some robots, and toddler gets to run around, much to everyone else’s annoyance.
As ever, I wish I’d come without the kids because there’s loads of interesting stuff to read, but I’m too busy chasing children around to geek out (honestly, this is the Star Wars Identities exhibition all over again).
I get some snaps to remember the occasion. Another unmitigated disaster.
Score for taking the family photos – 0/10
“Because that picture is ruined and that robot is ruined,” says five-year-old. It’s hard to disagree with that.
Here’s a better photo of them with a robot. Except they’re both looking the wrong way.
Now I face one of the most serious of all parenting challenges: lunchtime. We sit in the café and let I my eldest choose his own meal (a croissant), while the toddler throws couscous around the place and screams – a perfectly reasonable response to being presented with the shittest lunch imaginable. I do a poor job of managing the situation and the racket drives away the family on the next table.
Still, the five-year-old is happy with having free reign of the menu.
Score for getting lunch – 10/10
He explains the scoring: ““Because you let me have a croissant, which is not actually a food for lunch.” I ask what he thinks his baby brother would score me.
“Five,” he says.
“Because I’m five.”
That’s the kind of mentality I’m dealing with.
We leave the museum and make our way back. I should really get top marks for entertaining the toddler with a newspaper on the tube for 20 minutes, therefore saving myself a lot of running up and down or trying to hold a child on a moving train without falling arse-over-tit. But his older brother doesn’t appreciate quite how groundbreaking a feat this newspaper trick is, so I go unrewarded.
When we get off the tube, I sack off the game of football, mostly because I forgot to bring the ball, but he’s forgotten I even mentioned it, so I get away with it.
Instead we kill the time at home in front of the TV, which goes down an absolute treat.
Score for currying favour by putting on Power Rangers – 7/10
I fail to score a perfect 10 because I didn’t also make him a smoothie, apparently.
The swimming lesson goes, well, swimmingly, and for once I manage to get him dressed afterwards without a meltdown (that’s me having the meltdown, not him – it’s bloody stressful and hot in those changing rooms).
Things come unstuck afterwards though, when we nip into Sainsbury’s to get ingredients for the fairy cakes.
Score for doing the shopping – 0/10
The low score isn’t for forgetting items or losing my cool in the frozen meat aisle, but for not letting him commit grievous bodily harm to his brother in the pram while I try to pack the shopping bags.
I lose even more points for another telling off, after his repertoire of fart jokes gets a second, erm, wind (let that be a lesson to you, son – toilet humour done with a bit of class).
Score for more poo/fart-based discipline – 0/10
Leaving the shop, I get a chance to redeem myself when a woman on a moped crashes into a parked car. I rush over and lift the moped off her leg – she’s fine and speeds off, more embarrassed than hurt – and I return to the kids flexing my muscles. I point out to the five-year-old that I pretty much saved the woman’s life (he doesn’t know any better) but I still don’t get full marks.
Score for lifting a moped up a bit – 9/10
The day ends well. Honing my dad skills over the course of the day, I finish up with a killer baking sesh. The five-year-old is happy because he gets to break some eggs and do a bit of stirring, while the toddler’s bribed with a whisk covered in sugary cake mix.
Score for making fairy cakes – 10/10
Of course, anyone with a reasonable level of intelligence wouldn’t score me 1/10 for the abomination pictured below, but I’m not going to argue.
Before we can have the cakes though, he needs to have a nutritional meal – pizza and Turtles pasta shapes. It’s one of his two favourite meals – the other being chicken goujons and Turtles pasta shapes – so it should be an easy win. But he’s still not entirely satisfied.
Score for cooking the exact dinner he wants pretty much every day of his life – 7/10
When I ask what I’ve been marked down on, he says, “Nothing, I just wanted to give you seven”, which suggests that the system’s been rigged from the get-go.
Still, I gave it my all – a day of the absolute best dadding I could muster. But it’s a disappointing result.
Overall average score for dad abilities – 5.1
It’s a fix. A swindle. An absolute stitch-up. Despite my best efforts, I’ve scored even lower than Jamie Oliver (he’s obviously massaged the figures).
Will I ever score a perfect 10 for being a dad? Is that even possible? And – most importantly – am I too knackered to care?