And the Academy Award for Best Animated Babysitter goes to…

First, a history lesson for any teen parents out there who are reading this in between classes. In the days before file-sharing, there was a device called a VCR. Using a complex system of levers and pulleys, the VCR allowed its owner to record television broadcasts onto a removable storage device called a video cassette tape. This process was colloquially referred to as “taping”, and was highly illegal.

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One of these mothers is not like the others

You haven’t lived until you’ve carried a kicking and screaming two year old girl through a shopping centre while trying as hard as you can not to look like a kidnapper. It stirs up an interesting mixture of thoughts and emotions. When it happened to me recently, I felt a number of things: disappointment and frustration at my daughter’s misbehaviour, a touch of embarrassment and more than a little indignation at the thought of all the judgmental onlookers shaking their heads and muttering to one another about how the parents are usually to blame, fear that somebody might ask me why I was forcing a child into my car against her will, relief that nobody did, and concern about how easily a person with more sinister motives than mine could do exactly what I was doing and get away with it.

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Shuffling through the soundtrack of my life

I was walking to the train station one day, listening through my headphones to “Space Oddity” by David Bowie, when I passed a confused looking pigeon standing in the exact centre of a very small whirlwind of leaves and debris. The pigeon looked around like it didn’t quite know what to do with itself then, all of a sudden, it seemed to remember that it was a bird and promptly flew away. With the pigeon gone, the whirlwind dissipated, as if it somehow knew that its work was done. The complete sequence, which lasted all of four seconds, felt like the universe had staged it exclusively for my benefit, and the element that helped it across the line from amusing into memorable was the accompanying musical score.

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If you lie to your children, Jack Nicholson wins

Explaining how the universe works to your children can be like explaining how the United States Marine Corps works to Tom Cruise. They want the truth but you’re pretty sure they can’t handle it. So you tell them what you think they need to know, and you tell yourself that you’re doing it for their own good, but really you just don’t want them to find out that you killed a guy.

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Children: Compare and contrast

My son started walking and talking when he was seven months old. I leant him up against the couch and he shuffled one foot forward before he fell on his face. Then he said “ga ga na”, which kind of sounded like “coconut”. That’s walking and talking, right? Well what would you call it then?

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And some of them lived happily ever after

Were the wicked stepsisters in “Cinderella” really so wicked that they deserved to have their eyeballs pecked out by pigeons? Because that’s exactly what happens to them in the original version of the classic Grimm Brothers fairy tale. I grew up with the sanitised modern version, where the defeated stepsisters simply skulk away to nurse their damaged egos. In the book of original fairy tales that I picked up for my kids, however, the ending is very different. I won’t quote it directly, because I’m not really confident that I understand how copyright works, but to paraphrase – “And then Cinderella married the prince and they all lived happily ever after, except for the wicked stepsisters, who had their eyeballs pecked out by pigeons. The End.”

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Playing favourites is a dangerous game

I sometimes enjoy playing games with my two year old daughter a teeny tiny little bit more than I enjoy playing games with my eight month old son. Does that mean I have a favourite child? I hope not. Because everybody knows that having a favourite child is bad parenting. It puts you in the same category as that guy who pretended to send his son up in a helium balloon as a publicity stunt, and never let any of his other children participate in his publicity stunts at all.

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A new moon: How parenthood redefined my idea of a holiday

You know you’re tired when you put on your headphones, press play, hear the music start, notice that you forgot to plug your headphones into your iPhone, get confused about how you could possibly be hearing music if your headphones aren’t plugged into your iPhone, gaze in awe at the bare headphone plug in your hand, start to think that you must be witnessing some kind of miracle, notice that everybody else on the train is staring at you, wonder if they can somehow sense the miracle too, feel bonded to your fellow commuters through the shared experience of a supernatural event, imagine yourself traveling the world and recounting the story of this day to adoring crowds of wide-eyed believers, remember that your iPhone has an external speaker, and realise that you’re blasting Dancing Queen through it.

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Why did the cat in the hat come back?

Why does my daughter love “The Cat In The Hat Comes Back” so much? It should be obvious to the discerning reader that the original “The Cat In The Hat” is better in every possible way. The concept is fresher, the writing is tighter, the characters are more fully developed and the plot is certainly more believable, as far as talking cat stories go. But every night, there’s only one book that my daughter will insist upon reading before bed. And I’ll give you a hint – it ain’t the Bible.

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You children make me sick

I used to be healthy. Healthy Phil they used to call me. I worked my fingers to the bone for more than a decade without taking a single day of sick leave (except for all those finger reconstructions). Illness sailed past me, like an attorney on an autobahn. It didn’t even glance at me in its rear view mirror. I went for so long without getting sick that I was seriously starting to consider the possibility that I might have super powers.

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