It's hard to explain to the uninitiated the changes that a child will bring to your life - nothing is quite the same again. If you are an expectant father (or even mother) or just considering the prospect of parenthood, do the following 10-step program so you can learn what you're in for.
1. Go to the nearest doctor's surgery, pharmacy, clothes store, shoe store or sports store and empty your wallet onto the counter. This will be a regular occurrence well into the next millennium. The method of transaction may change but the continuous action of handing over your money will not.
2. Set your alarm for midnight, then every hour after that. Get up and walk to the furthest bedroom because that is what you will do at some stage, either to feed a baby or return a night-stalker to his room. Let your workmates see you with sleep deprivation - they will get used to it.
3. Put on your best clothes, mash a banana with custard and pour the contents over yourself. Smear it in. This will help your prepare for feeding time with a toddler. Don't bother smearing food over your old or worn-out clothes because kids won't spill anything on them. They know when you're wearing your best oufit before they strike.
4. Arrange a simple outing. Perhaps to have a quick drink with a friend. Give yourself two hours to prepare. Make sure you dress yourself in five minutes so you can spend the rest of the time packing the car. Make sure you pack food. Go out to the car and come back. Repeat this process again and again. Then drive round the block and return. You need to get used to forgetting some object such a child's favourite blanket or teddy.
5. Grab a book, sit down and open it. Make sure you get to an absorbing or exciting part, then get up to do part of a jigsaw puzzle, or turn on the tap for a child who wants a drink, or put together a 1000-piece Lego pirate ship. Return to your book but don't read any further. Go into the kitchen and chop up an orange or an apple for snack food. Go back to your book but don't read any further. Get up and yell something about not fighting because you're trying to relax.
6. Stand in front of the mirror and verbally abuse yourself. Tell yourself that you are silly, that you are unfair and that you really hate yourself. Your kids will tell you if you won't.
7. Cover your hands with jam and wander through the house, touching as many items of furniture as possible. Rub your hands along the walls. Turn on the TV and push the channel buttons a few times. Step in puddles then come inside and walk over your best chairs.
8. Bring in a load of tools and tip them over the middle of the living room floor. Leave them there all day.
9. Take three untrained puppies shopping with you - but not on a lead. Buy what you need without letting them out of your sight.
10. Put a snake on your lap next time you phone a friend. This is what your child as a two year-old will feel like whenever you make a call. Next time you want to make a call, wait two hours before picking up the phone. This is the average length of a teenager's phone conversation. Get used to it because that is how long you will have to wait to make your own call.
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