Ten things I did not anticipate on having children:
1. Attendance at places as not-at-all varied as: Manga Zone, Tokyo Gym, that Japanese shop in town that sells infantile plush animals, fetish maid outfits and samurai swords in one small, and mystifyingly popular space.
2. A wearying over-familiarity with mince. And ketchup. And the Quick menu of cheap, unhappy livestock, deep fried.
3. Viewing Richard Hammond as a largely benign force in my life (due to his ability to distract my children for hours at a time with the seemingly irresistible sight of people being felled with giant foam poles).
4. Being proved to be an irrational, arbitrary, angry dickhead almost daily in one way or another to the point where I often have to retreat to the loo to have a long hard word with myself about my dickishness.
5. Saying "YOU NEED TO FINISH YOUR NUGGETS FIRST", ever, in any context.
6. Genuinely considering sleeping on a campsite (a campsite! Toe fungus and barbecues and dehydrated noodles and plastic thong sandals and freezing concrete shower blocks!) to ensure my children can spend their Easter holidays washing giant tortoises and clipping lemurs' toenails (here. It is a long way from Brussels).
7. Enjoying sniffing another person's head even when it smells at various times of hamster bedding, tramps and antiquarian manuscripts.
8. Becoming that person that shouts impotently at the television. "I LOATHE THIS, I SIMPLY CANNOT BEAR IT", then huffing away to listen to Bach and read poetry (Inazuma Eleven, I am looking at you here, you piece of shit).
9. Bidding for Pokemon cards on Ebay, lost minutes after their much fêted arrival.
10. Realising I can no longer divide 17,500 by 25 without electronic assistance.
Actually, there's one more.
There's the feeling you get when you're waiting for the children outside school (just once a week, in my case) and they come out, wrapped up and staggering under heavy school bags and you can see them searching for you, looking around all the waiting adults with that slight lost look, that vague anxiety, until they spot you, see you waving (discreetly, so as not to be an embarassment) and smile, properly smile, their studied casualness falling away despite themselves. And all the guilt and inadequacy and fretting about trying to do a decent job and trying to know what's right, and sensible, what's not enough, or too much, falls away temporarily, because in that moment, you've done absolutely the right, the only thing for them just by showing up. Because sometimes showing up is actually enough.
(Five seconds later they might very well be telling me not to wear that coat again, please, maman, you look like a witch. But I try to cling onto those five seconds of feeling I've done ok a week.)