5 unconventional reasons to start a family

Starting a family means that you continue the genetic line, silence the biological clock, satisfy the nurture instinct and create something that is utterly magical; but there also some less explored and rather more unconventional benefits to starting a family. In this light hearted blog I explore the top five unconventional reasons I have observed; from being excellent burglar deterrents to improving upper body strength, children really are the gift that keep on giving.

1/. Children, and their accompanying paraphernalia, make great burglar deterrents

Many burglars case houses out before they break in, looking for signs to suggest the residence is uninhabited. For the past three years our house has looked anything but uninhabited. Blood curdling screaming through the night? Check. Lights going on and off at all times of the day and night? Check. Visitors, guests (and sometimes ambulances) arriving at all times of the day and night? Check. For anyone watching, our house is alive, it is living, breathing, almost pulsing with the thrusting signs of life; The message is clear, our house shouts “I am occupied. I am full of life! And there are likely to be hormonal, sleep deprived, caffeine and adrenaline fuelled adults inside me who will do crazy stuff to protect their children. For the love of God, stay away. STAY AWAY!”

Our house is also full of tat. The gloriously garish, flashy lights, zippety-ping-noise kind of plastic tat. In a desperate attempt to appear civilised, we tidy it away every night, into the fireplace alcove. We have so much it has started to go up the chimney stack. But every morning, within five minutes of releasing the children, it is everywhere again. And I mean everywhere. In cupboards, in draws, in DVD players, in coat pockets, and from time to time, actually in the children. I went to work the other day with a flashing wand sticking out of my coat pocket. I can only assume my youngest stuck it there, thinking it might be helpful for me at some point in the day. Which it wasn’t, but I appreciate the thought.

Some of this tat is on a hair trigger. One slight touch and off it goes, whirring, singing, flashing. Sometimes you don’t even need to touch it to set it off. I have also seen amazing chain reactions. Early one morning, at stupid o’clock when I was on the red eye shift with the youngest, I accidently set off one of the travelling toys, by nudging it out of my way with my foot. Before I could stop it, the damn thing went wobbling, flashing and singing straight into the pile of other toys, sending them all crashing down, and in turn setting them all off. It was a glorious cacophony of noise, a symphony for the young, an LSD inspired mash – up of nursery rhymes, lights and movement. These days we don’t bother tidying up at night time. We just leave it all on the floor as a burglar alarm, a feel-good minefield of colour and noise.

And even if a burglar made it through that lot, they would still have to contend with our two stair gates. And these are not just any stair gates. Firstly they are not even a pair, so they rely on quite different logic to unlock them. And it is the kind of high level logic that you would need to be successful on the Crystal Maze.

Secondly, when you do eventually break their code, they are incredibly noisy and screech and squeak open, as if offended that someone should be smart enough to have worked out how to get them open. And lastly, the bottom stair gate is heavily, almost dangerously, spring loaded. I can only assume that there has been some sort of a dreadful mix up somewhere along the line and that we actually have been sent a bear trap, and that somewhere out there, there is someone trying to trap bears with a baby stair gate.

All of this, plus baby monitors that can be excellent surveillance systems, combine into the ultimate home defence system. If the burglars are not put off by the tremendous din coming from the house at all times of the day and night, and can make it through the plastic tat minefield and then negotiate the noisy bear trap stair gates, then quite frankly I will welcome them, shake their hands, and give them the run of the house.

2/.  Children help you to appreciate much more; “the magic of 8pm”

Before children, all day, every day was happy hour. Well not quite, but you know what I mean. I had the freedom to come and go as I pleased, I had the nimbleness and flexibility to decide my actions on the hour, by the minute, the world was my oyster. Now with a baby and a toddler my personal freedom is generally subject to the needs of both. And boy do they have needs.

However my wife and I have pretty much got a routine sorted (at the moment) which sees them both into bed (and generally asleep) by 8pm. This is the magic hour. And although normally it has to be said that once everything has been tidied, plastic tat burglar alarm set (see above), laundry done, personal admin sorted and food for the next day cooked, it is closer to 9pm, but the point is this – at 8pm, with both of the crazies in bed, there is a CHOICE – I can actually choose a course of action rather than it being dictated to me by a mini-me holding a sharp stick.

And children remind you that choice is a beautiful thing. Before children, 8pm was just another number on the clock, another hour in that beautiful tapestry of life, perhaps even taken for granted sometimes. Now it is the beginning of adult time, the gradual return of a little bit of choice, of freedom (however small) – maybe open a bottle of wine, read a good book, watch a movie, recharge the batteries, go into the garden, plant some seeds, listen to the radio, heck even TALK TO THE WIFE!

8pm! 8pm! You are beautiful! I could never understand your value before, 8pm, but now I love thee, and what you represent.

3/. Children give you a second education

Even when my babies were very small there was something inherently valuable for me in seeing the world through the eyes of another. This lesson in empathy was an education in itself. I learnt to read the body language of my baby – Was I being too loud? Was my tone too harsh? Was I holding the baby too tightly / not tightly enough? Was he hungry? Was he tired? Was there a draught coming through the window and making him cold?

And now the eldest is starting to talk and has entered the “why?” phase, I am having to think on my feet and provide reasonable answers to difficult questions. And learning to be dead honest when I cannot answer the question. And some of the programmes we watch now are teaching me things I had forgotten, or were hiding in the deep recesses of my consciousness – lessons about our planet, about the flora and fauna that inhabit it, and about why things are the way they are.

You also get some great questions that are challenging both in a straightforward way, but also in a complex existential way – for example why do rabbits live underground, but squirrels live in trees? Why do people play tennis? Why does Grandma always look happy, while Granddad always looks sad? What did you do at work today? And it is was this last question that has affected me the most. My eldest asked me this in the car on the way home from work. I explained that I had some meetings, answered some emails and took some calls. She thought about this a while and then, deep frown on forehead, asked again “But Daddy, what did you do today?” To this day it has been the question that has come closest to sending me plummeting into a mid life crisis.

Every day, all of life’s great mysteries come out in a stream of words and childish naivety and enthusiasm. And it is magic, and life affirming and infectious and it pushes me to dust off the cobwebs and crank my poor, tired old brain into gear once more and start to learn and understand and gather knowledge so I can also pass this on. Having children has also helped me have a second childhood, which in a way is an education. I never watched anything like the Jungle Book or Lion King growing up, and was perplexed by people with children who made reference to strange and exotic sounding creatures and titles on television. Now I consider myself to be something of an expert on children’s television and can proudly tell the difference between a Teletubbie and a Tombliboo. Heck I can even do the voices, sounds and words of both creatures. And if learning this strange new language, which makes my children laugh every time, is not an education, I would love to know what is.

4/. Children help you to improve your upper body strength

Before children I was pretty fit. I cycled to work every day, played football three times a week, went running and played a lot of racquet sports, as well as eating reasonably well. As someone with an athletic shape however, I never had a strong torso or core strength. I could run for hours, and was competitive in triathlons, but couldn’t manage more than three or four pull ups or push ups.

Since having children my upper body strength has improved no end. Most days I find myself lifting each child on average about 10 – 20 times. At weekends this can be more, anything up to 30 times. With one child weighing about 13kg and the other close to 10kg this can be up to 60 reps each day. As a result somebody recently pointed out that I had developed triceps. I was so proud. I have never had triceps, and had assumed these were only the property of gym junkies and cover models.

All that awkward turning and lifting you do as well – putting babies in car seats (great for core strength), picking things off the floor whilst holding a baby (squats), carrying car seats (bicep curls) – really builds strength, without having to go to the gym. The other day I found myself walking back from town, up a pretty steep hill, pushing the double pram and baby with one hand while carrying the other (plus a full backpack) on my shoulders. When I got home I calculated I was carrying 18kg on my shoulders and pushing an additional 24kg on a 5k walk which culminated with a long push up a steep hill. It was a fantastic, free, low impact work out, in the fresh air, with my family. And the best thing about it? Apart from there not being a gym in sight, it gave me time to chat to my kids, pointing things out and taking flights of fancy with their imaginations. Children do make you stronger – emotionally, mentally and spiritually. But they can also make you stronger physically.

5/.  Children give you an extra pair of eyes, ears and hands.

Since my eldest has been able to communicate, I have benefitted tremendously. She can point out friends in a crowd, alerts me when something is not quite right (i.e. a light left on in an empty room, or a tap left running) and rectify things when they go wrong. For example the other day my front door slammed shut leaving me stranded outside, with no key, and no way of getting in, and the kids inside. I was able to call to my daughter through the letter box, and she was able to listen to the instruction and open the door from the inside and let me back in. This was an amazing piece of comprehension / action for a two and a half year old and she literally saved me from having to kick the door down.

She is also now at a point where I can give her things and give her a simple instruction, and she will, nine times out of ten, happily carry out the instruction (albeit with a slight detour to go and inspect an interesting insect or to poke her brother in the ear). The best moment came the other day, however when she pointed out a new and growing hidden damp patch in our living room. Children find their ways into all manner of places, and the smallest nooks and crannies in the house, places that haven’t felt the imprint of human for decades (which is presumably why they were the perfect design to be sent up chimneys). My wife and I would never have found the damp patch until it had announced itself on a grander, more costly scale, but thanks to my daughters inbuilt desire to explore and fit into the smallest spaces, and increasing desire to report on EVERYTHING she sees or does, we were alerted to the problem before it could become a bigger and more costly problem.

And while I wouldn’t yet trust my eldest to look after my wallet or smart phone for the day, its brilliant just watching her get more and more helpful every day – bringing toys to soothe the youngest when he is having a meltdown, fetching knives and forks to set the table and using the dustpan and brush to sweep up after dinner time (entirely voluntarily I may add). And the day that she fetches me my slippers and a bottle of beer from the fridge will be a day to truly celebrate. Until that time I am enjoying watching them both grow into their lovely little personalities and reaping all of the benefits- both conventional and unconventional.

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The Grind – bringing up a baby AND a toddler; 8 key factors that contribute towards parental stress levels

Bringing up a toddler and a baby is extremely hard work. Identifying those daily stress points can help to lessen frustration and bring about a level of much needed emotional predictability to your day.
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Let’s face it, it is MEANT to be difficult bringing up babies and toddlers. If it weren’t, we would forget about them, misplace them, and maybe perhaps even lose them. There would probably be little piles of forgotten (but happily content) babies in shopping malls, in restaurants and in cupboards-under-the-stairs all around the country. They are on your case 24/7 precisely so that this DOESN’T happen.

Recently, at the end of one particularly difficult day, I decided to  go through a process of catharsis and list out exactly what the factors were that were contributing to my emotional frazzle. I figured that by identifying them, I might be able to rationalise them, deal with them and better prepare for them. Here’s my top eight, in no particular order. Let me know yours.

1/. Bed time
Or “The Last Push” as I call it. By bed time, everyone is cranky. There is often safety in the routine – warm milk, ten minutes of The Lion King DVD, read books, brush teeth, read more books, bed time, recap of the day, lights out – and then you close the door carefully and quietly and then make a break for downstairs and hold your breath and keep your fingers crossed and listen out, and the only thing you can hear is your beating heart and you breathe a sigh of relief and start to relax, even think about pouring a beer. But then IT happens. THE WHINGEING starts – anything from two minutes to two hours – “I need a wee” or “I feel sick” or “it’s too bright/dark” or the more simple, but effective “Dad! Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! DADDY! DAAADDDYY!….” on repeat to fade, ad nauseaum.

And there are only so many times I can tell my eldest to stop sticking her toothbrush in her ear; there are only so many times I can stop my youngest from emptying the laundry basket; there are only so many times I can read Mr Messy without going insane; and there are only so many times I can watch Kung Fu Panda without wanting to shout at the dumb panda “It’s YOU Panda! Yes YOU! You are the bloody Dragon Warrior! Now go and fight the Tiger and get it OVER with!”

Bed times are tough, and my wife and I have a pact that we are ALWAYS around to support each other at bed time. To do otherwise is considered BETRAYAL.

2/. Cries per hour
I have a happiness index and one of the indicators is Cries Per Hour (CPH). Ideally for a high happiness index on any given day, I would want the children’s CPH to be around one or less (i.e. one cry per hour). Some days this is possible, and those days are bliss. Everyone gets to the end of the day, exhausted as usual, but glowing with a kind of pride and happiness that can only come from imagining that this is the way of things to come; you and your perfectly content family, riding off into the sunset of a new era, leaving all the tantrums, tears and tyranny behind.

But at the moment, those days are incredibly rare. More usual is a CPH of around 3 – 5. On bad days, or days of illness, CPH can be up around the 6 mark which means that one of the children is crying at least once every ten minutes in the hour. Double illness, double teething or JUST REALLY BAD DAYS can push CPH way up into double figures. And for those of you who don’t know what this feels like, try setting a really loud alarm clock, that’s really hard to turn off, to go off every three minutes. Now tape it securely to your ear, go about your business, and see how you feel at the end of the day.

3/. Car seat belts and nappy changing time
These are both part of the same issue which is effectively the moment when your baby realises that it is no longer just a blob, but in fact an all-singing, all-dancing, action machine! When babies are younger nappy change time is a breeze and the only inconvenience is the risk of being covered in some form of bodily fluid (which admittedly is not much fun).

Once they get to around 12 months old however, the fighting begins. I have never tried putting a nappy on a live, giant octopus, but I would imagine it is very similar to trying to put one on a 12 month old baby. Suddenly they appear to grow more limbs. Churning, writhing, wriggling limbs. Everything on the change table is grabbed and thrown around. Hands and fingers go everywhere (not good if you are cleaning up poo) and everything crashes onto the floor, including sometimes, the baby itself.

And trying to insert a toddler into a car seat is equally stressful. They generally have two strategies to avoid this activity – one is to plank as rigidly as possible. The other is to adopt the writhing octopus approach, as mentioned above. Both strategies also generally involve screaming blue murder. Sometimes the situation cannot be resolved through negotiation, bribery or flattery, and it’s at these moments that you notice the car park has long since emptied and you see the moon coming up, and the glitter of frost appear on the car roof, and you are hungry and tired, but still the child protests, and you realise that you have been there for hours, and in a moment of panic, you realise that you might end up DYING in the car park, a tragic monument to the incredible will-power of a two year old child.

Be prepared for car seat belt and nappy change time. Have snacks, toys and water available. As much for you, as for them.

4/. No hiding place
This is a feeling, rather than a specific event or issue. With one child you can take a break, entrust the care onto your other half, while you go and recharge your batteries, take a shower, eat some food, talk to your buddies, whatever it takes for you to come back and feel refreshed ready to relinquish your partner to allow her to go off and do her thing. With one toddler and one baby however, there really is no hiding place.

My wife recently went away for the weekend, and left the kids with me. I survived it. But only just. At one point I felt like I was in a scene in “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest”. I was trying to cook dinner but my son was standing next to the laundry basket, cackling and manically emptying it of its contents, whilst repeatedly head butting the wall (presumably to relieve teething pain), and at the same time my daughter was running around the house banging a pan with a large stick, shrieking like a harridan and swan diving into the piles of clothes.

Thankfully I was able to get the children and house into some form of order before my wife returned, as if she had walked in on us during that moment, she would have probably never let me near them again. But the point is this, with two children I now have to significantly downsize my own expectations about what I can achieve for myself on a daily basis, and accept that 99.99% of MY day is going to be about THEM. This transition to ultimate selflessness has been a particularly hard journey for me. Giving, giving, giving again and then giving until there is nothing left for myself is a particularly new and challenging state of being for me. Things are improving now though. I am at the point now where I feel I can take one hour a week away from the home (when I am not otherwise at work). One hour of total “me time”. I use it to play football with my friends. My wife does yoga. And it is only 60 minutes, but we both agree it is a beautiful, precious, fleeting moment, the benefits of which last for hours, even days, after.

5/. Social alienation
Given “Bed Time” above, attendance of adult social events can now only happen after both children are in bed and unconscious. This means anytime between 8pm and never. And normally by this point in the day, my brain is melting out of my ears and my soul is usually whimpering uncontrollably in a corner somewhere in The Ether. The idea of leaving my home to go and converse sensibly with adults (particularly ones who don’t have children) fills me with The Fear. The problem with this is that it usually rules out that hugely important social event – the post work drink. I have got to the point now where people have stopped asking me to come for a pint after work. It’s not that I don’t want to anymore – quite the contrary I would LOVE to – but the thought of leaving my wife at home on her own to deal with EMT (Evening Meal Time) on her own with the crazies is just not worth thinking about. Now I am at a point in my life where going down the pub and getting flabbergasted no longer holds the same attraction as it did in my twenties and early thirties, but I do find that by missing out on a few post work pints, I am always the last to find out about the big issues, the scandal and the gossip that are so rife in office environments. This does lead to a sense of alienation. And while I am not yet eating lunch on my own, I find that I no longer have such a large circle of friends as I used to.

6/. Illness
Babies and children are little mobile contamination points. I hadn’t been sick in years until I had children. Now I can watch the epidemiology of a virus real time; from the moment it first gets reported at nursery, to the moment it crashes into the family and lays waste to each member in turn. Having a sick child is hard work. Having two sick children is really hard work. Having two sick children, when you are also sick is enough to make you sicker. And having two sick children, when you are sick and your wife is sick is….well you get the picture. The other thing about illness is that it always puts an added tension on the relationship with my wife. If both children are sick and have to be off nursery, one of us has to take time off to care for them. This negotiation can often be really tense and difficult, and, if negotiation is not successful, can sometimes result in those incredibly destructive “my job is more important than yours” kind of conversations which go nowhere and are not helpful. As a result I am certainly more regimented about hand washing, and if I spot anyone with anything that resembles anything like a virus, I make a very wide and very immediate berth.

7/. Loss of perspective
Theirs, and therefore mine. For example recently we spent the whole day spoiling my daughter. A trip to the swimming pool (which she loves) followed by a friend’s birthday party, followed by a trip to soft play (which she loves), followed by her favourite dinner, her favourite books, films, bed time story….you get the picture. After this almost perfect day (for my child at least), my daughter then proceeded to have an almighty meltdown just before bed, because I gave her a PINK toothbrush instead of her usual GREEN one. It ended up with her screaming and rolling around, punching and kicking on the floor, eyes literally bulging out of their sockets and face turning, according to the Dulux paint chart, Beyond-Rage Red. To put this into perspective it would be the equivalent of me winning the lottery, and at the presentation party screaming at everyone at Camelot because they gave me my millions in cheque form instead of £20 notes.

For me at least, my tolerance levels relate directly to the empathy I have for the situation. If my child is crying because he is cold or hungry, I cannot feel frustrated at that because I empathise with his situation. I too have felt cold and hungry and it is not very nice. However the subtleties of the importance of the difference between a green and pink toothbrush, in the privacy of my own bathroom, after what has generally been the best day ever, are generally lost on me. This kind of meltdown is apparently common amongst babies and young children, as they begin to state opinions, preferences and their own little wills. And of course I should be encouraging the development of their little voices, but in this kind of scenario it is hard to, particularly when as an adult, at the end of a hard day, all you can see is a total loss of perspective.

8/. The in-built altimeter
All babies are born with an altimeter. I can prove this. When both of my children were young, I could be walking around, or standing still, holding them and they would be happy as anything. The moment I sat down, to take the weight off my feet, or put the baby on the floor / in the cot / somewhere else, they would start crying. Stand up and the crying stops. Sit down and it starts again. Initially this was a source of amusement, but some days, standing and holding the baby would inexplicably be the ONLY way to stop him crying. And believe me, holding a 7kg baby all day, while the other does their best to hang off your trousers and pull them down round your ankles, is a) not good for the back and b) stops you doing anything at all c) really bad for the soul and d) just not a very good look. On days like this it is good to be around other adults who can share the load when your back / patience gives up.

Five things you should avoid saying to a New Parent

Five things you should avoid saying to a New Parent

There is something about big life moments that renders some people incapable of connecting their brains with their mouths. Generally, in these situations people fall into three categories; those who say the right thing, those who say little at all, and those who get it spectacularly wrong. I have heard some hilarious comments directed to my heirs in my close to three years as a father. Most of the time I can laugh them off, and assume that the statement, words or questions come from a well meaning place, however misguided they are. But sometimes there are times when only a double take and jaw on the floor will do. These are five such examples of some of these gems I have heard over the months

1. “Oh wow look at the size of his head! It’s massive.”
Now some babies do look like a beach ball balanced on a cylindrical croissant, but to their parents they are perfect, and any sleight against the physical appearance of their perfect baby will not go down well. Resist the temptation to search behind the ears of the baby for the valve to release the pressure on the giant head, and say something nice about his eyes or personality instead

2. “If you fancy a change of scenery, just pop over for a cup of tea.”
For New Parents in those first few days after birth, leaving the house is the equivalent of trekking through the jungles of Congo. With a giant octopus. In a shopping trolley. This is why New Parents don’t “pop” anywhere. Any exit from the home requires at least an hours preparation, military precision logistics and enough supplies to keep a small army marching for days. Why not instead offer to come over to the new parents house. And offer to bring food with you. It is likely the New Parents will not have had a chance to do much cooking and will appreciate this gesture of thoughtful kindness

3. “Do you fancy coming out for a drink tonight, we can celebrate?”
Although a perfectly harmless and well meaning question, this can be devastating. Not only will it be a painful reminder of the carefree days of socialising that the New Parents have given up on, now their little basket of noise has arrived on the scene, but it will also be utterly incomprehensible to people who will by now be probably hallucinating with tiredness and unable to sit upright or string a sentence together in the company of normal people.

4. “Well, if you want my opinion….
If there is one thing that New Parents are not short of, it is opinions. From the moment the new parents reveal their good news they are subject to a bombardment of strong and frequently contradictory opinions. Most of these opinions are offered from a place of well meaning, and some can even be helpful. Some are not and can be really damaging and undermining to New Parents trying to find their feet in this weird and confusing new post-partum reality. If you do feel compelled to offer a New Parent an opinion, preface it with “in my experience” and finish it with “but of course all babies are different, I am sure you will find what is right for yours”

5. “You look tired
An unhelpful thing to say to anyone, let alone a New Parent living in the present on a lethal and toxic tide of hormones, adrenalin and caffeine. There are some things that are just a given. Bears do defecate in the woods. The Pope is Catholic. And if you touch the sun you will get burnt because it is hot. New Parents know they look tired. They don’t live in caves (despite what you might think the lank hair and messy clothes indicates), and they do have mirrors; but frankly, looking tired is the least of a New Parent’s worries. Resist the urge to utter these dreadfully unhelpful words and instead try saying something vaguely positive like “You are walking, talking and still alive. Wow! You are doing REALLY well!”

These are just five, there are many more. Let me know what you have heard as a New Parent that has made your jaw drop, or your blood boil!

The familiar stranger

It’s late on a cold, dark and windy April evening and there is a noise at the door.

I investigate.

A complete stranger is lying there.

Immediately I become nervous.

The Stranger is unusual looking, but vaguely familiar.

I can’t quite determine its gender, but The Stranger looks vulnerable and I feel a strange, novel instinct to help.

However, before I can ask any questions The Stranger holds me with a hypnotic gaze that goes right into my soul.

The gaze seems to say.

Hello. You don’t know me. But I know you are about to let me into your house. And I know that you will continue to host me for the next 18 years at least.

The big brown eyes don’t waver. The Stranger’s head tilts to one side and the voice, which seems to be in my mind, continues

I also know that over this time you will also feed me, provide me with clean clothes, and service my every need”.

Now at this point I’m standing in the doorway, unsure whether to close the door. I nervously glance up and down the road. Nope, no clues here. 

But I have worked out that it’s a girl though. It’s definitely a girl.

However, without missing a beat, The Stranger continues

While I am living with you I will deprive you of sleep, to the point where you may find yourself crying in desperation. I will regularly vomit, urinate and defecate in your house, and also on you”.

The Stranger writhes on the floor and settles as if to emphasise the point, and then carries on.

You will show me your most valuable possessions and I will ruin them. I will question and challenge everything you know, or think you know.

I blink, uncomprehending. The voice goes on.

I will frequently let you down in public, but it will be you that the public will blame. I will cause you to have arguments (some of them irreconcilable) with your wife, friends and family

My mouth is hanging open. I realise I have been holding my breathe. Still The Stranger continues

I will wipe my nose on you. You will go to work with my body fluids on your clothes. I will scream in your ear until you get tinnitus”

Recovering from the initial shock, I start to become emboldened. “Now just a minute….”

But still The Stranger doesnt miss a beat. There is something hypnotic about this person, strangely alluring. I’m hearing the words but they are not registering. She is actually quite beautiful. I am mesmerised.

“I will also sleep with your wife and command her body for the next 12 months at least. I will suck every last penny out of your wallet. I will force you to accept a status where your needs will be secondary to mine for the rest of your life. You will recognise my failures as yours”

I find myself smiling. Her words are like wind chimes, entrancing, soothing.

“And just so that we are REALLY clear, you will no longer have spare time. Because when you are not doing everything I have spoken of, I will occupy every waking thought that you have for the rest of your life. And if you are lucky to ever get any sleep again, probably your unconscious thoughts and dreams too”

But I am no longer hearing this voice, I hear the words, but the beauty of this girl has latched onto something deep and primal in my soul. I can feel a deep love radiating from within. Still the voice continues, its soothing tones washing over me like great chrome waves.

“And if you ever think to complain about me, my very being will frequently remind you that it was your decision to accept me into your life in the first place”

Now I’m looking directly into The Stranger’s eyes. I am feeling a profound connection, something I have never felt before. It is a feeling more ancient and more powerful than I can describe.

I have forgotten every word The Stranger has said. I am just looking into her gorgeous brown eyes.

Before I know it I have lifted her up and I am cradling her in my arms. I am running my finger down the bridge of her nose and smiling uncontrollably at her.

It is a smile I haven’t felt for many years. It breaks across my face, awakening old muscles, long abandoned and for a second I worry that it might break into my ears.

I carry her into the light and warmth of the house and close the door on the darkness with my leg, unable to break for a second from her gaze.

I find myself whispering something in her ear. I am whispering “Come in, come in. This is your home beautiful girl. We are home.”