Honestly, explaining where babies come from is the easy bit..!

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I think I have most of the attributes that go towards good parenting. I make up fun bedtime stories, know where we keep the plasters, let them win at board games, fake interest in their PokemonGo progress, drive them to school in the mornings, help with the homework and bounce with them on the trampoline. I am hard when I need to, soft when I should be and always, without fail, up for a cuddle. What I am no good at, and have been dreading since their birth, is explaining where babies come from.

I had hoped the subject would come up when their mother was about and I was in the garage, or away, or out of the house. I had managed to avoid the initial preamble quite well, the standard ‘you came from you mummies belly’ had worked for a number of years. But then forces beyond my control started to up the pace of my son’s questioning. It began when he came to me with ‘Lizzie’, his pet lizard, cupped in his hands, a look of worry on his face. ‘Dad’, he said ‘I am worried about her, she’s all squishy and spongy.’ I felt her abdomen and he was right, something wasn’t right at all. We put her onto the table so we could inspect her some more and she immediately flattened her body, arched her head upwards and started lifting her feet one after the other. We both just stared as one by one, little white eggs started popping out. ‘That isn’t poop for sure’ commented my son before charging off to alert the rest of the family that they should all come quickly to see. The eggs survived a night before Lizzy ate them but this had opened up a whole new world of questioning. How had she gotten pregnant? How long had she been pregnant? And where do babies come from exactly? I was lucky in a way as the sexual antics of a reptile are a fair way off from humans, so explaining things felt easy at this point and thanks to Google we all learned things without me having to draw a willy. But I was to be tested just a few weeks later when the rabbit decided to give birth as well. An egg is one thing but a baby rabbit is an altogether tougher subject. Our rabbits spend most days humping each other and how we laugh at their antics, I’d never considered trying to explain why our furry pets jumped on each other’s backs to the children, the pet shop had told us they’d been sterilised so I never gave much concern that their constant attempts would lead anywhere so we always said they were just playing about having some fun. Now we had a problem. Now it looked like I was going to have to draw a willy after all. I hoped the burden of explaining sex would fall to the school and checked the class syllabus in the hope that it was coming up soon. No luck, it wasn’t due until next term and the lady of the house was firm in her belief that on most jobs, most, if not all things and subjects family related, she has the final say. Vagina’s, semen, where things get stuck, who does the sticking and why, would most definitely be my job and mine alone. Reluctantly I got my pencils out, opened my sketch pad and began my introduction.

I will skip the detail, it’s enough to say I felt my class was a success and not as embarrassing as I had thought, although as an illustrator my willy drawings were pretty rubbish. Job done now let’s go hit the trampoline.

So a month or so passes and my son comes rushing into the lounge urging me to come quickly to see what Snouty, our pet rat, was up to. We have two rats, both male and both incredible pets. Friendly, playful and always doing things that make me realise how clever they are. I can spend ages watching them play, watching them eat and enjoy their fearless curiosity as they explore their world in my office. So I was interested to see what was happening to excite my son so much. I wish now I had been somewhere else, anywhere, but not in the house!

We found Snouty sat like a human, his back legs in front, his bottom on the floor, like he was sat in a chair. Very funny position indeed. But shockingly, looking closer it was clear he had his willy in his hand and was giving it right good tugging. I thought explaining the act of sex was hard work and my basic sex education class had wrapped up any further explanations but I was wrong, my mind was now racing about how to explain masturbation. And what is a rat doing bloody well masturbating anyway! Snouty made the whole thing doubly complicated when his dexterity enabled him to reach down and pop his willy into his mouth. Things went further pear shaped as by now my daughter had joined us and, on witnessing this act of self-fellatio, decided mummy should come and see, we should take a photo and tell everyone else we ever meet what we had witnessed because it was for them, the funniest thing they had ever seen. I failed as a parent at that point, I was overcome by inaction, and from nowhere, out popped their devices to video and photograph our rat having a bit of a self indulgence. The rat was totally unconcerned at all the attention and carried on enjoying himself, only stopping when he reached climax. That gave us all pause for thought and for a moment there was complete silence and we all stared, mouths open at what was going on before the children burst into giggles and began asking me what had just happened.

I had managed to dodge questions about a lizard laying eggs, joke away humping rabbits and stumbled a little when the baby rabbit appeared, but now I feared I had a difficult task ahead of me to explain not only a masturbating, willy sucking rat but one that quite happily ejaculates onto his own stomach! Before they had time to bring up the questions I knew were coming, I declared it was time we hit the trampoline and ran off like a madman!

I need to find myself a time-machine.

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It was my son’s 10th birthday, him reaching double digits, him really coming of age, him just being him and us loving him more and more for it. Don’t you just love those times that you know are memories being made that you’ll cherish and hold forever. We had a great party. Go-karting with some of his mates followed by a massive water-pistol fight by the pool followed by two hours non-stop mayhem in the water. It was a great afternoon and a great evening with the other mums and dads who’ve grown close over the years. It was as near perfect as perfect could get. If the day were a pole dancer, after her first shift wiggling and wobbling, her thong would be full of crisp fifties. If it were a golfer it would be his second hole and the second hole-in-one of the day. Then the ducks died.

I’ve lost pets in my childhood and I can say that I don’t really handle death very well. The fact it was so sudden, the fact it was both of them and the fact that it was during a party all just made it the more unbearably sad for me and totally heartbreaking for the children. Tears flowed, questions with no possible answers were raised and in the first real moment of utter sadness my son experiences, all I can do is hug him and try to stop him seeing I too am crying, crying not only because our little ducks touched us in a special way, but because his sadness is just too much for me. I tried to think how my parents coped with my tears when we lost the dog or the guinea pig climbed those steps up to the pearly gates. But I just couldn’t remember. Just 10 years into parenthood and I am feeling out of my depth and unable to support him like a father should. I know we are only talking about a couple of ducks, but they weren’t just ducks, they were our couple of ducks, they were family. This then makes me worried for when the rabbit meets her maker or dare I think, when we end up with the dog they all so constantly hassle me for… How will I ever deal with that popping its clogs? He slept with us that night. I slept little, still trying to come up with answers that may help what was going to be a difficult Sunday. I failed in that as well and all day it was tears, hugs, more tears and more hugs. I felt crap, helpless and so completely useless.

Later that day we began digging the grave at the bottom of the garden and to help distract from the gloom of our task, we began discussing what tree or shrub we should buy to mark and remember them. As it happens, the spot where we were digging was near the road and passing cars can be seen and heard a ways off, so having decided we would look for a yellow flowering bush, we began seeing if we could guess what car was coming by just listening to the exhaust notes. I reckoned I could spot any BMW 3 series manufactured between 2002 and 2010, he boasted of a pitch perfect ear for Volvo 4×4’s and any Ferrari. The next car he correctly guessed was a Volvo, my guess proved wrong, the Ford Focus most obviously had a blown exhaust as on any other day, I would not have made such a mistake. The hole was a good size when a throaty roar filled the still afternoon, it grew louder and went higher up the scale as the driver began accelerating. “That’s a Ferrari” he shouted as he ran to the fence. And sure enough, around the bend came a lovely Ferrari, trademark red, it passed us, crested the hill and turned into our road. “It’s coming here!” he screamed with excitement. And indeed it was. Earlier, a friend who owns a Ferrari had suggested that taking our son out for a spin in the car would be a super thrill and a treat to really finish off the celebrations. We also knew it would help lift his spirit. Boy did it work. The tears dried up, the smile came back and his face lit up in anticipation of a chance to go for a ride in such a stunning looking and sounding car. Roof down, engine singing, off he went with me capturing the moment on film.

I decided to wander up the road, I wanted to get some footage of the car coming back. So, with a cup of coffee I settled myself down on the verge and waited. And waited. I’ll add at this point that the car had only just come into the country, it wasn’t registered, was uninsured and had no tax, so it could only be driven around the estate. It’s certainly not a small estate but after twenty minutes, I was getting a little concerned. Twenty five minutes later a car pulls up, the window rolls down and out pops my sons head with a big grin on his face. “We crashed!” he shouts out the window. In disbelief I hear how the rear wheel spun up on a corner causing it to oversteer, which was overcorrected causing the whole car to spin into the golf club fence, knocking that all over and coming to a halt in the ditch. I went to their house later to look at the damage. Every panel was scratched, dented and needing some kind of repair, the wing mirrors were damaged, light clusters broken, runners buckled and I’d have guessed you’d be looking at a complete respray. An expensive car to buy, but a real expensive car to fix. I felt the pain. My son though, with a grasp of economics based on the market price of fizzy sweets, saw not a financial nightmare but a wild adventure park ride where they didn’t check your height and you got the front seat. The accident had made the ride quite simply the best thing ever and if he could do it again, he would.

It didn’t end there. Stupidity and his mates clouded my mind that day for sure as I had the most daft idea that it would be a good idea to nip over to the security office at the estate entrance and ask them if we could have a copy of the CCTV footage. Both my son and I thought that having the crash on film would give everyone hours of laughter, not right now maybe, but certainly in a few years. After all, how often can you say you’ve been in a prang in a Ferrari and have a copy on film to show everyone. See where my mind was going on this..? Well security said they couldn’t give us the footage, they said the cameras weren’t on. Yet as we drove off we could see the security guards hunching over the computers searching and scanning the footage to see for themselves a Ferrari being binned.

A short time later we get a call from the Ferrari owner. He was concerned and worried, he’d just driven past the scene of the crash and security were there snapping pictures of the damage. He wanted to know if he should just pretend it hadn’t happened or face up to things, go speak to security and admit fault. Obviously I said ignore it. Which, it turns out, was not only morally wrong but stupidly wrong as entry into the estate is through numberplate recognition cameras, meaning all residents have their cars registered at security. Finding the offending Ferrari would be a piece of ‘birthday’ cake if you’ll excuse the pun. If I had not gone to the security office, they may not have noticed the damaged fence until Monday or maybe later and by then they may have overwritten the CCTV tapes. But like I said, stupidity and his mates seem to visit my head far to often. There is no escape, the cameras I hope make for a more secure life, have him bang to rights, on top of having to fork out the full cost of the repair and respray of the car due to no insurance, he’s certainly going to be landed with a bill to fix all the fence he ripped apart. I can’t let a mate carry the full burden of the fence. Being fairly close to, but not completely devoid of morals, I will have to help in some way.

So happy 10th birthday my most amazing little boy. It’s one we’ll all certainly remember with a mixed bag of feelings and many conflicting emotions. Watching you put the little cardboard coffin in the hole with such care, listening to you say a tearful, final, ‘good-bye’ was both lovely and so incredibly painful. If I could ever have just one wish in life, It wouldn’t be to win the lottery or have a fancy yacht, it would be to go back in time so the ducks wouldn’t have died. But you know, I wouldn’t stop the car accident. Nope, armed with some wire cutters, I’d ‘take out’ the CCTV cameras at the scene, hide myself in the bushes and capture that one particular moment on video.

How to get rid of a pet before it becomes a cherished member of the family.

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I am an animal lover at heart, my whole childhood had me surrounded by all manner of pets. Cute little guinea pigs, chickens, dogs, a ferret, a frog once, goldfish obviously and even a stick insect found its way to my adolescent heart for a couple of months. However, as an adult I tend to enjoy other peoples pets. It makes for an easier life. No having to walk the dog, no animal smell in the house or clothes with hairs dotted all over them, no vet bills, no mess and no tears when it pops its clogs.

But, being an animal lover, my guard went down one day when an abandoned rabbit found its way to our house and the begging, trouser tugging and promises to look after it properly from the children made it through my normally steel exterior and I agreed we would take it in. That day, the family gained a new pet and my life took a change for the worse.

I was never really any good working with wood. My childhood go-karts tended to fall apart, often at speed and my attempts at skateboard ramps never quite had the curve that allowed for a smooth ride. So tasked with making a hutch for our latest family member was fraught with bruised thumbs, splinters and frequent cursing. The result was a slightly wonky but not too bad wooden cage that in fairness, may look a bit odd, but serves its purpose.

It’s gone downhill since then though. The promises given by the children have not been honoured. The messy business of cleaning up has become mine. Feeding and changing its water, that’s my job as well. Putting it out into its run each morning and bringing it back inside each evening. Me. Paying for the vet bills. Me as well.

And I’ve also discovered that rabbits are not the eating machines I guessed they were. Oh no, we got a stern talking to from the vet about our poor dietary regime. How was I to know what food is and is not okay to feed them. Bugs Bunny eats carrots. But real rabbits shouldn’t. Lettuce, sometimes, biscuits, chocolate, flowers past their glossy shine, no, no and nope. A cup of tea in a saucer. Idiot! Holdy on. That means we have to buy rabbit food from a shop. Madness.

Well, I have a lot going on in my life, work being the main proportion of my day and I am finding the rabbit takes up too much of my time. Like I said, I am an animal lover through and through, so in bad weather I let her hang out with me in the office, if she is outside, I pop out every now and again to make sure she is okay, setting up her run each morning is 20 minutes, getting her bedded down for the night is another 20, checking her water supply, food bowl, cleaning the hutch… Honestly, these things are not fire and forget.

So what are the benefits..? As far I can see, none really. The children get to kiss, cuddle and manhandle her each evening so they love this fluffy ball. I get to take care of everything else. Well I have been thinking how best to get shot of her. I need to do this pretty sharpish because I am becoming fond of the thing and if I don’t sort it out soon, I will be unavoidably attached and will be unable to inflict anything other than kisses and cuddles myself, Which brings me to the point. How to get rid of a pet before it becomes a cherished member of the family.

My line of thought could work for you as well, you’d have to adjust things accordingly depending on the size of your pet but I think you will find they are workable. Remember though that all attempts will need to be done whilst the children are at school. That gives you the time to do things properly and saves you from having to explain the blood stained axe, hammer, tiny noose, rifle or concrete block with little feet sticking out of it, or whatever, that you may be seen walking around with. So avoid the weekend, call in sick one day instead.

Contracting a hit man is a bit excessive unless you are filthy rich or have the right ‘connections’ as finding a hit man is pretty tricky, Google doesn’t help nor does Yellow Pages.  Plus, entering the underworld could prove dangerous to you personally. My advice here is to bite the bullet so to speak and prepare to do the dirty work yourself.

I’ve spent a number of hours sitting on the toilet pondering workable methods. I wont go into details here but between you and me, I am rather proud of what I have come up with. On reflection, I couldn’t read all my hand-written notes that well but the gist is that some are messier than others, as you’d expect, but importantly, none of them cost anything apart from my initial idea of attaching a hosepipe from the exhaust into a slightly open window of the car. Fuel is a costly pollutant and nowadays we should be considerate of the environment. A greener, more sustainable alternative is to rig up your bicycle so that the rear wheel is off the ground and it can be pedalled in the garage, fast pedalling for 15 or so minutes with the wheel connected to some form of static generating device could create enough electrical energy to knock out an elephant. And don’t forget, it’s not only reusable, cycling is a good way of keeping fit.

I’ll leave this particular subject at this point and move onto the next thing you will need to consider very carefully. Hiding the evidence.

Obviously throwing it into your neighbours garden won’t work, especially if it is a pet elephant, I’d imagine even a baby one weighs a fair bit and you’d do your back in something rotten. You could however sneak into their garden and bury it under the cover of darkness, although you’d need one of those torches that has a strap so you can put it on your head, it makes digging the hole quicker and easier (elephant owners may find a trolley stolen from the local supermarket helps with transportation, unless it’s wet and muddy, then I would suggest a sledge or something similar). But do remember to check the site during daylight hours, you’d be silly to find out the next morning you’d buried it in the middle of their garden leaving a somewhat conspicuous mound. Do your homework first!

My office shredder isn’t up to the job either and I don’t think it’s worth buying one of those top of the line shredders that can chop up a whole phone book in one go, they are too expensive, even secondhand on e-bay, and should it malfunction, my guess is you wouldn’t be covered under the warranty.

My recommendation, visit your local party shop and buy some balloons filled with helium. I have calculated, based on weight, that 22 party balloons filled with gas should provide enough lift to give a flight time of about 30 minutes, on a windy day that should travel a fair old distance. Buy a few extra balloons for the kids while you’re at it, they love things like that!

Having made good the disposal, the next area that needs to be considered is the touchy subject of explaining things to the children. Now obviously you don’t let them know the truth, come on, that’s heartless! No, you have to let everyone think it was beyond even your super powers to prevent things happening. A suicide note or letter from heaven could work, depending on the age of your children this could be a drawing, a text message or a video posted on their Facebook page. It doesn’t have to be that highly polished, just a letter saying bye bye, I love you, I am much happier here with my friends, blah de blah.

One common ploy is to tell the children it must have escaped. Then you can describe how it has probably befriended others and is, as we speak, probably enjoying the open fields and bountiful food natures larder provides, free of any cage, free of any worry. They like that sort of thing.

Getting Mum to do it is often a better solution. I should mention here that letting ‘mum’ in on your plan may not be such a good idea though, the chances of failure increase proportionately as the number of people involved in the misdemeanour increase. Loose lips and all that. No, ‘mum’ explains the loss of loved ones much better when she herself thinks the loss is genuine. Which is why hiding the evidence is the most critical aspect of the plan. Invest time into this and you’ll never have to worry about being rumbled.

At this point though there is a caveat I should add in. There is a real risk that because the children react so staggeringly bad to the news of their loss that the only consolation, the only way to mend their broken hearts, take their mind off things and bring some sunshine back into the home, will be that mum, without consent or discussion with you beforehand,  will purchase a replacement pet. Which puts you right back to square one and makes a repeat of things highly dubious.

I’m stuffed. From having the perfect plan I have found the flaw is Mummy. Taking her out of the equation is tricky. And it’s only a pet after all. Hold on though, I think I have something…