Parenting can be hard. We all know that. But parenting with a blazing hangover, well that can feel impossible. I’ve never coped well with hangovers. Obviously, I realise that nobody enjoys them, but I feel like I’m particularly pathetic and always have been. If my head isn’t over a toilet and producing a technicolour yawn, I’m completely exhausted for the following day or two, full of self-loathing and a memory like fog.
Before children, hangovers were just about bearable. Get on the settee, eat even more crap than usual, stick some DVDs on, and get through it. Ah, those heady university days, laid in abject filth, eating Wotsits and watching Home and Away and Neighbours, putting off essays seemingly indefinitely. But that was 20 years ago and you can’t hide two kids away for the weekend.
It’s bad enough waking up to a disapproving wife stood over you, letting you know your drunken snoring was so bad the night before (I sound like a suffering goat – I’ve heard proof), she had to physically assault you. But then you see your two daughters grinning at you, full of energy and mischief. They don’t care that you’ve been stupid enough to make yourself feel so crap. Why would they? ‘Daddy had too many silly drinks last night and feels a bit poorly’ just doesn’t cut it if you’re six or three years old. So, you smile through the pain, try and act as normal as possible, and prepare yourself for the pain ahead.
I realise I’m painting a picture of an alcoholic, shambolic parent here, but that’s not the case (well, not the alcoholic bit). Since becoming a father, I rarely go out anymore, but when I do, I try and make the most of it. Unfortunately, you can’t ever truly let go, because all night you have that niggling feeling that one more drink could be the one that makes the morning after such a nightmare experience.
I’ve made a rod for my own back, as I’m often the ‘fun’ parent (fun/idiotic, it’s a fine line). I’m the one who gets roped into all my daughters’ ‘let’s pretend’ games, the one who entertains them with stupid dancing, the one who has to pick them up and spin them around at the drop of a hat. The games involving pretending can be bearable if you insist on playing ‘hospitals’ – you can act out being a sick patient and for a minute or two get curled up on your ‘sick bed’. But the spinning around is the worst. Whirling 360 degrees in the back garden with a forced smile, wondering at one point you’ll have to stop in case you cover your beaming child with sick, is not a good feeling. Try and avoid parks until you feel better, because you can bet you’ll be made to push a roundabout, or even worse, you’ll be told to sit on it yourself while your children push you. I did that the day after a work Christmas Party once, and just the thought of it four years later is making me nauseous.
I can’t help wondering if my kids do turn up the noise levels a notch when I’m hungover, or is my tolerance that much lower? It’s best not to think about it too much though. It’s bad enough having the paranoia of wondering what you said and to who the night before, without wondering if your wife is secretly discussing how best to make you feel like crap with your offspring while you’re still bleating away in bed.
All you can really do is make a promise to yourself not to have that one or five extra drinks next time you go out. Oh, and take comfort in the fact that maybe one day, your children will be hungover young adults, and you’ll be opening their bedroom door and turning their light on, and it’ll be your turn to make them feel like death.