FOR three years, our children have been looked after by a combination of my wife, their grandparents and – when we’re really desperate – me.
It was only when they were born that we started doing the sums on childcare, having previously based all our financial planning on the assumption that we would have just the one child at a time rather than two.
Having worked out that everything was pretty much going to cost us double, the decision was taken that we would try to muddle through without bankrupting ourselves with nursery fees.
Once children reach the age of three, however, they qualify for 15 hours of free childcare. Taxpayers without children will be thoroughly miffed about this. I would be. But trust me, it’s a Godsend.
There are only a few difficulties (and please don’t think I’m being ungrateful here), the most obvious one being that only now are we introducing the children to the world outside their mum, grannies and grandads and, occasionally, me.
It hasn’t taken long for the implications of this to manifest themselves.
“Our son told me he’s going to put Weetabix on my head, bury me in the earth, dig me up, put a carrot in my eye and poo in my ear,” I tell the Missus after breakfast.
“I’m not joking, that’s exactly what he said. Look, I wrote it down.”
“Hmmm,” she says. “Let me guess where he got that from...”
“Tommy,” I say.
We have never met Tommy, but we know that he goes to the same nursery as our son and daughter and is partial to the words “boobies” and “bum”.
We think he has something to do with the fact that our son now refers to me and my wife as “You silly old bum”, while he and his sister delight in regaling us with long accounts of what Tommy has been up to. This tends to involve throwing heavy objects around the playground and regular uses of his aforementioned favourite words, in various permutations.
“I’m a bit concerned about this Tommy character,” says the Missus after one such account, which ends with Tommy throwing my daughter’s soft toy over a fence.
“If it’s any consolation,” I say, “your son managed to make him cry yesterday.”
“How did he manage that?”
“Poured a bowl of water over his head, apparently. But he insists he said sorry afterwards.”
In bed, my wife announces that she has come up with a solution.
“We’ll invite Tommy for tea. Then we can see if he’s really as naughty as they say.”
“Good idea,” I say. “Of course, there is a more troubling explanation.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, it could be a Tyler Durden scenario and Tommy doesn’t actually exist at all.” I give a slight chuckle, but it rings hollow.
We lie there in silence. It’s a long time before either of us manages to go to sleep.