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8 Essential Items You Need to be a Proper Dad

Wondering what you need to be a "Proper Dad"? Pat Fitzpatrick reveals the 8 things you need to get the job done, with this tongue-in-cheek list of essentials.

1. The Washing Machine

One thing is clear after child number two comes on board. Your house is essentially a few rooms attached to a medium sized launderette. Not just that. Research shows that 73% of parents split up because there is no clean onesie for little Jack.* This will only come as a surprise to people who don’t have a little Jack. So get the laundry right or you could be one of those guys in McDonald’s, trying to buy your estranged child’s love with an extra burger. Here is the thing. Science shows that most of Jack’s dirty onesies are invisible until you press start on the washing machine. Then they start appearing everywhere. You know what to do. Buy one of those new washing machines that allows you to add stuff after pressing start. It’s either that or McDonald’s. * I made this up. But it’s still true.

2. The Thermometer

You see, there’s your first mistake already. Any parent who thinks they can get by with only one thermometer is on a fast track to failure. You need at least three thermometers. The first one costs €9.99. This seems fine. And then your cousin says she thought she read on Facebook that it gave a faulty reading for a child in Holland, who went on to suffer from a cold for three days. You can’t sleep for a week with the worry. So you buy one for about €40, as recommended by your GP. This seems fine until your Aunt says that people who study medicine are mad for the booze. So you re-mortgage the house and buy a thermometer designed by two scientists, head-hunted from the CERN particle accelerator project in Switzerland. It never gives the same reading twice. You end up using the thermometer you bought for €9.99. So now you know.

3. The White Board

You’re nothing these days without a mini white-board in the kitchen. This is not so you can organise your crazy life. There isn’t any need, given that Google Calendar is on every device you own. (It will be available on your washing machine one of these days). The real purpose of the white-board is to show visitors that you are the best parents in the world. Who cares that Ruby isn’t really going to ballet three times a week? Or that Conor doesn’t actually have a season ticket for Old Trafford. The important thing is that other parents come in your house and think they are doing a bad job themselves. Well done you!

4. The Sand

Jean Paul Sartre famously said that Hell is other People. That’s because he never visited Portmarnock. Because then he would have said Hell is Other People on an Irish beach. It all feels very Costa Del Sophisticated until the guy next to you buries his kid’s nappies in the sand. You take a photo and send it into Joe Duffy, but this doesn’t make you feel any better. The trick is to bring the beach to your house. A paddling pool and sand table should do the trick for kids under 5. And you can knock back cheap Rosé without worrying about the drive home. There is so much to like here.

5. The Second Shed

You’re not seriously planning to go through all this with one shed. Rookie error. The reason is simple. If a child doesn’t own seven scooters by the age of four, you are officially the worst parent of all time. (This has been contrived by the scooter industry; there is nothing you can do to stop it.) Worse still, your memory goes blank every time you walk into Aldi. So you also own three sets of garden furniture and two unopened gazebos. Buy a second shed. If nothing else, it doubles the number of places you can go to escape the madness. Excellent.

6. The Roof Box

There is only one problem with a roof box on your car. You can’t have two of them. (We’re the species that put a man on the moon. Someone should look into that.) Some say a roof box causes an annoying, whistling sound in the car. I say that blocks out the sound of the kids. (No, we’re not there yet.) A decent roof box costs about 300 euro. A decent relationship counsellor costs ten times that. Bear that in mind. Because 56% of relationships fail soon after a man tells his partner there isn’t room for a third case of onesies on their weekend trip to Galway. * So buy the box and enjoy the whistling sound. * I made this up too. Still true.

7. The Back Aid

Here’s something to remember if you get roped into a litter sweep as part of a Tidy Towns campaign. Don’t hand back your picker-upper. You know, the long stick with a claw at the end for picking up rubbish. That can determine your quality of life for the next ten years. Carry one around the house and you can clean up after your kids. Try and live without one and you’ll end up putting your osteopath’s kids through college. Here’s the thing about kids. They always have something in their hand. Which they will drop on the spot when you cajole them to clean up a previous mess. It never ends.

8. Plastic

No, not the credit card. Although you will need that more than ever. Plastic here means plastic bag. Don’t leave home without at least three in your pocket. And we’re not talking nappy sacks here. They have a try-too-hard scent that is weirdly worse than baby shite. Bin liners are more like it. Just perfect in your local Shopping Centre when little Joe gives his onesie the old vomit-poo one-two. Throwing the onesie in the bin is just showing off. Walk around with it in your hand and someone will contact security. There is a lovely first memory for little Joe. I wasn’t shoplifting, you’ll be telling him to no avail ten years’ time. You know what to do. Buy a pack of plastic bags and never leave home without them.

What other essentials would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments!

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About the Author

Pat Fitzpatrick lives in Cork city with his wife and two small kids. He gave up a decent job in I.T. in 2008 to head for the lucrative world of writing. So don't hire him as a life coach, investment advisor or anything to do with your career. His Sunday Independent newspaper columns have been entertaining Irish people through some tough times. Pat is a regular on the on the RTE Today show with Maura Derrane and Daithí O’Sé and pops up frequently on radio shows such as the Right Hook. All of this is a bit too much like hard work, so he has started writing novels which will hopefully fund an early retirement to a hammock in the back garden. His first novel, Keep Away from those Ferraris, is available online and in shops outlined here http://www.patfitzpatrick.ie/novels/. Pat’s kids are both under two, so if you don’t mind, he is now going for a quick lie down.

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