No dice required

September 2008

Dear Dave,

Occasionally, people ask me what being a housedad is like. I usually reply with my well-worn response:

'The hours are long, the holidays are rubbish, the pay's a joke and there's heavy exposure to toxic biological waste. On the plus side, there's plenty of fresh air and exercise, a steady supply of hugs, relatively little stress, strong job satisfaction and an army of amusing minions. You also get to play Hungry Hippos and call it work.'

I'm beginning to think that maybe this isn't in-depth enough, though. Everyone has a vague idea of what a career as a nurse or a police officer or an airport supervisor entails from watching reality TV programmes. As far as I'm aware, there hasn't been one for housedads. There have been a few shows where some clueless dad has been unexpectedly left to deal with his offspring for a few days despite no training or experience but that's not really the same. A typical housedad day doesn't normally have so much opportunity for disaster...

It's time to redress the balance but I don't have the resources for my own docu-drama, unfortunately. I've had to opt for something slightly lower budget. Welcome to

Choose your own housedad adventure!

Yes, you too can experience the highs and lows of looking after three small-ish children as you herd two boys (8 & 6) and a girl (3) around town and attempt to survive one day of the summer holidays! Gird your loins, eat some medicinal chocolate and prepare yourself for a quest to end all others...

You start at Paragraph 1 with a stamina of 10 and no gold stars. Your stamina has a maximum value of 14 and no gain can take it above this. Should your stamina ever fall to zero, then turn immediately to Paragraph 29.

1 - You open your eyes. It is dark. There are noises from elsewhere in the house. It sounds peculiarly like a squabble over a tub of LEGO is taking place on a trampoline. What do you do?

Check the time on your alarm clock (Go to Paragraph 2), get up (Paragraph 3) or roll over and go back to sleep (Paragraph 4).

2 - You blearily hammer at your alarm clock with your fist until the light comes on. Squinting, you discover it is time to get up. Do you get up (Paragraph 3) or roll over (Paragraph 4)?

3 - You tumble out of bed and sneak into the shower before any of your offspring spot you and demand food, a bottom wipe or a game of Scrabble. Standing in a stream of hot water wakes you up to a point where you remember who you are and where you keep the coffee. (Gain 2 stamina.) You get dressed and head downstairs. (Turn to Paragraph 5).

4 - You turn over and settle yourself back into a dreamworld of sunshine and flowers. The zombies will arrive soon but, as long as you can take your socks to the dry-cleaners before the last smurf dies, everything will be fine... Unfortunately, a giant safe falls from the sky and lands on your head. In your new two-dimensional state, breathing becomes difficult...

You wake to discover a toddler sitting on your head. She is demanding Corn Flakes. With limbs like lead, you drag her off, stumble out of bed and pull on some clothes. (Lose 2 stamina.) Unsure who you are, you stagger to the kitchen. (Turn to Paragraph 5).

5 - A strong cup of coffee helps you come round (Gain 2 stamina) and you make the children breakfast. You shout for them. Two arrive. You go in search of the other one. He made it as far as the landing before becoming distracted by his own toes. You encourage him into the kitchen and sit all three children down at the table, switching on the TV to keep them stationary. Do you give them cereal (Paragraph 6) or chocolate (Paragraph 7)?

6 - There is much deliberation from each child in turn as they decide what to have. You are forced to list the available cereal options three times. They all complain they have the wrong amount of milk. One has too much, one has too little and the third wanted ice-cream. Nonetheless, they empty their bowls (mostly into their mouths). Lose 2 stamina, gain 1 gold star and turn to Paragraph 8.

7 - The children are delighted. They gobble down the sugary goodness and then rush off, leaving you in peace (Gain 2 stamina) to eat your own breakfast...

...for a few minutes before the rush hits, they start enthusiastically re-enacting Indiana Jones and the whole house begins to shake as one of them tries to be a boulder. (Lose 2 stamina.)

You shout at them but it has little effect. (Turn to Paragraph 8).

8 - The sun is shining and it looks like it's going to be a lovely day. You finish a second cup of coffee and decide how to spend the morning. Do you

Go out (Paragraph 9),
Stay at home (Paragraph 10)
Or put off the decision while you eat some biscuits (Paragraph 11)?

9 - You pack a bag with emergency supplies, wipes and raincoats. Then you coax the children into getting their shoes on. They demand to know where they are being taken. Is is the swing park (Paragraph 12) or the soft-play (Paragraph 13)?

10 - The boys play computer games for a while and the girl insists on doing some painting. Just as she finishes, one of the boys wants to paint. She demands the toilet. As you're dealing with them, the other boy informs you that he has Mouse Trap set up ready to go and it's your turn. They all talk at once. (Lose 2 stamina.) Do you

Go out (Paragraph 9),
Stick to the plan and stay at home (Paragraph 15)
Or eat some biscuits (Paragraph 11)?

11 - Mmmmm.... Biscuits.... Your stamina is increased by 2 points but everything has gone oddly quiet elsewhere in the house. The children may be planning something.

Do you

Go out (Paragraph 9),
Stay at home (Paragraph 15)
Or eat some more biscuits (Paragraph 16)?

12 - It's a beautiful day and the swing park is very busy. The children get plenty of fresh air and exercise but so do you. Gain 1 gold star but lose 4 stamina.

You head home for lunch. (Turn to Paragraph 17).

13 - The soft-play is relatively quiet. You shove the kids inside and settle down to read a book. They emerge an hour later, covered in sweat and having had plenty of enjoyable exercise. Gain 2 stamina and 1 gold star.

Do you head back for lunch (Paragraph 17) or
Make sure to tire them out by taking them to the swing park on the way home (Paragraph 12)?

14 - You pull your sword from the dragon's heart and wipe the sweat from your brow. You are exhausted but victory is finally yours. All that remains is to untie the princess and fill your backpack full of gold. (Turn to Paragraph 27).

15 - You play three games of Mouse Trap, read The Gruffalo fifteen times and get Play-Doh stuck to the bottom of your socks. It is a long, long morning. Lose 6 stamina.

Time for lunch. Turn to Paragraph 17.

16 - You finish the entire packet of biscuits just as there is a loud crash from upstairs. Gain 2 stamina but the children can't be ignored any longer. (There are also no more biscuits in the house.)

Are you going to take them outside (Paragraph 9) or
Entertain them at home (Paragraph 15)?

17 - You feed the children a healthy meal including plenty of fruit and vegetables. You enjoy some peace (and coffee!) while they watch Bob the Builder. Gain 2 stamina.

Just as they finish, you notice that it has started to rain outside. There isn't much food left in the house, however. Do you

Stay home (Paragraph 18),
Go to the soft-play (Paragraph 19)
Or go to the supermarket (Paragraph 20)?

18 - Did you stay home all morning? If you did, then turn to Paragraph 21. If you made sure to tire them out, then turn to Paragraph 22. Otherwise turn to Paragraph 23.

19 - Have you been to the soft-play already today? If so, turn to Paragraph 24. Otherwise turn to Paragraph 25.

20 - Did you make sure to tire the children out in the morning? If so, turn to Paragraph 26. Otherwise turn to Paragraph 28.

21 - Are you sure staying in all afternoon as well is a good idea? If so, turn to Paragraph 30. Otherwise turn to Paragraph 31.

22 - The kids are tired and it's wet outside. You all settle down under blankets to watch a Pixar movie. The afternoon passes without incident. You doze happily, dreaming of Mrs Incredible. (Gain 4 stamina.) Turn to Paragraph 32.

23 - You begin the afternoon with a game of Cadoo and the kids are happy and well-behaved. Later, however, they dig out the marble run and persuade you to build a complex, multi-run construction of marble mayhem. While you are engrossed in the design process, they sneak off and mix all the jigsaws together in a big pile in the middle of the lounge.

By the time you've cleared up, they're jumping around and talking very loudly for no reason. (Lose 2 stamina.) Your spider-sense tells you things could quickly get out of hand. Do you

Brazen it out (Paragraph 30),
Buy their obedience with biscuits (Paragraph 33) or
Go to the supermarket (Paragraph 28)?

24 - Rebellion! "But we've been to the soft-play already!" they whine in unison and refuse to go. They grab hold of banisters, pipes and large electrical appliances in order to avoid being dragged from the house.

You are forced to stay in for the time being or to take the fridge with you on your travels.

You decide to stay in.

If you made sure to tire them out in the morning, then turn to Paragraph 22. Otherwise turn to Paragraph 23.

25 - You get pretty wet on the way to the soft-play and it's very busy when you get there. You shove the kids inside and try to find a quiet corner to dry off. The place is a surging maelstrom of damp parents and children, however. (Lose 2 stamina.) You feel grotty but the kids emerge an hour later, covered in sweat and having had plenty of enjoyable exercise. Gain 1 gold star.

You pop into the shops on the way home and buy some food (including biscuits). The children grumble but accept that it might be a good idea to have something more substantial than baked beans for tea. You make it round the supermarket (relatively) unscathed. Lose 2 stamina and turn to Paragraph 32.

26 - Uh-oh. The children drag their feet all the way to the shops. Getting soaked puts everyone in a foul mood. Then, just as you arrive, they gain a new lease of energy.

Evil energy.

They grab a shopping trolley and start their own version of Supermarket Sweep. It's carnage in the aisles. You manage to purchase some groceries in the midst of the mayhem but you forget to buy biscuits and you may have to shop elsewhere for a few weeks until everything blows over.

You head home. The children collapse in front of the TV. You keep out of their way until tea-time. Turn to Paragraph 32.

27 - Your entire day so far has been a dream. Return to Paragraph 1 with your current stamina level but reset your gold stars to zero. (That'll teach you for cheating!)

28 - You head for the shops, the children bouncing along beside you. All seems well. (Apart from the rain, obviously, but there's minimal arguing and everyone looks both ways before crossing the road.) No one steps in dog poo. You reach the supermarket.

It turns out the kids have been conserving their energy in order to demand sweets. They whine and plead and hug the display cabinet.

Do you give in to avoid a scene (Paragraph 36) or insist they find a snack with some semblance of nutrition (Paragraph 37)?

29 - You pass out from exhaustion. You awake to find yourself pinned to the ground by small children. One of them is attempting to insert LEGO up your nose. He is wearing your socks on his ears.

There is no escape. Game over.

30 - Determined not to go out in the rain, you keep the children inside. They insist on playing Mouse Trap but then wander off whenever it's their turn. You have to keep shouting at them for jumping on the sofa. They draw on themselves with indelible marker while you're not looking. Everyone starts going mad. (Lose 4 stamina.) Do you

Eat biscuits (Paragraph 38),
Go to the shops (Paragraph 28) or
Feed the children biscuits (Paragraph 33)?

31 - Smart move. Do you

Go to the soft-play (Paragraph 25)
Or go to the supermarket (Paragraph 28)?

32 - It's tea-time. The end of the day approaches! You rustle up a healthy, balanced meal which the kids eat happily while watching something vaguely educational on the telly. You take the chance to relax while they're occupied. Gain 4 stamina and 1 gold star...

...unless they've recently eaten all the biscuits, you've promised them biscuits and not delivered or you haven't been to the shops. These scenarios mean they can't eat the food, they won't eat the food or there is no food. Not good. Lose 2 stamina in the resulting riot.

Whatever happens, it's bath time. Turn to Paragraph 34.

33 - You promise the children some biscuits if they behave. They immediately fall into line. Ten minutes later they demand biscuits.

Did you eat them all earlier? If not, turn to Paragraph 35. If you did, you have to head to the shops (Paragraph 26).

34 - It's bath-time. Since the children bathe one at a time, this requires about an hour and a half of preparation, supervision, washing and drying. It may involve getting wet. Are you definitely going to bother bathing them all?

Yes (Paragraph 39).
No (Paragraph 40).
Only the ones you can catch (Paragraph 41).

35 - You just manage to get your fingers out of the way in time as the children devour all the biscuits in the house. This keeps them sweet until tea-time. (Gain 2 stamina.) Turn to Paragraph 32.

36 - You give in and buy the children chocolate-coated Sugar Bombs. You then threaten to return the packet to the shelf if any of them misbehave.

The children follow you round the shop on tip-toes and squabble only in hushed whispers. They offer to help carry the shopping. You buy food (including biscuits).

You go home and the children amuse themselves until tea. Turn to Paragraph 32 but remember that they'll have the Sugar Bombs for dessert.

37 - You persuade the children that they'd really prefer yogurts to marshmallows. (Lose 2 stamina. Gain a gold star.)

The children grumble but allow you to buy your groceries (including biscuits) without starting a riot. You make it round the supermarket (relatively) unscathed. Lose 2 stamina.

You go home and the children amuse themselves until tea. Turn to Paragraph 32.

38 - Did you eat all the biscuits earlier? If so, then tough. You find a Polo mint at the back of the cupboard and have to console yourself with that.

If you didn't finish off the biscuits earlier, you do so now. Gain 2 stamina.

Either way, you struggle manfully on through the rest of the afternoon, organising a game of Hide-and-seek. As often as possible, you choose hiding places that involve lying down. Lose 2 stamina anyway then turn to Paragraph 32.

39 - You give the children baths. (Lose 3 stamina.) While they are getting clean, one boy chats to you about Harry Potter and the other puts on a show involving a plastic crab, an empty shampoo bottle and an inflatable penguin. The girl unexpectedly asks you if Adam and Eve had belly buttons.

It's all actually quite fun. Gain back 2 stamina. If the kids got sweaty during the day, also gain a gold star. Turn to Paragraph 42.

40 - You let the children play amongst themselves while you clear up in the kitchen and check the news. (Gain 1 stamina.) Turn to Paragraph 42.

41 - If you fed the children Sugar Bombs, then you can't catch any of them (Paragraph 40). Otherwise, you grab the first one you can find and order them into the bath. They grumble and complain but obey. The other two immediately emerge from hiding, feeling left out. They complain that they wanted to have a bath first.

You tell them to form an orderly queue. Turn to Paragraph 39.

42 - The cavalry arrives! Your partner returns home from a hard day standing chatting at the water cooler. She helps get the children ready for bed.

If you have three or more gold stars, turn to Paragraph 43.
If you have less than three gold stars, turn to Paragraph 44.

43 - Your children grumble that they don't want to go to bed yet but each gives you a big hug anyway. Your partner gives you a big kiss and makes sure they settle down while you cook dinner. (Gain 2 stamina.)

Er... You did buy food, didn't you? If not, you'll need to nip to the shops. (Lose 2 stamina unless there are biscuits left to keep you going until you get back.)

You catch up with your partner's day while you're both eating your meal and you give her selected highlights of your own. Then you have some wine and watch CSI together. (Gain 2 stamina.)

She decides to read a book. Do you stay up and watch a film with explosions (Paragraph 45) or go to bed (Paragraph 46)?

44 - It turns out that no one is really keeping score. You survived another day. Job done. Turn to Paragraph 43.

45 - You become lost in a world of improbable car chases and implausible plot twists for a while. Gain 2 stamina. Then you go to bed far too late and fall asleep almost instantly. Turn to Paragraph 47.

46 - You go to bed but your mind is too full of the events of the day and tomorrow's chores for you to get to sleep straight away. You do still get some extra rest, though. (Gain 1 stamina.) Turn to Paragraph 47.

47 - Add the number of gold stars you have to your stamina level. If the total is an odd number, turn to Paragraph 48. If the total is an even number, turn to Paragraph 49.

48 - You are woken in the middle of the night by a small child making demands for no apparent reason. This makes you grumpy and tired. Lose 3 stamina if you stayed up late to watch a film. You quickly get them settled down again, however, and you are thankful you're past the days of nappy changes and milk. You sink happily back into your bed. Turn to Paragraph 50.

49 - You stir briefly in the night as a small child mutters in their sleep about Pokémon. They quickly quieten down, however, and you are thankful you're past the days of nappy changes and milk. You sink happily back into your slumber. Turn to Paragraph 50.

50 - You sleep the deep, reviving sleep of a tired housedad. (Gain 4 stamina.) You are victorious.

Your reward is to go back to Paragraph 1. Keep your current stamina level but reset your gold stars to zero. Enjoy. And don't eat so many biscuits this time...

Yours in a woman's world,


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