A dad’s survival guide: The toddler at the wedding


A dad’s survival guide: The toddler at the wedding

There are life lessons to be learned from taking your kid to a family marriage

Night news editor

It looked like I’d wet myself, and the navy pants I was wearing did nothing to hide the dark patch on my crotch. Those pants were also torn, with the damage done also in the Greater Crotchal Zone, as I believe scientists call it.But did I wet myself? No. And did I rip my own pants? No. They were just the casualties of war when you have a toddler at a wedding. Other casualties included an R850,000 on-loan SUV, rose petals in a chapel, and my sanity.
It all started on a warm Friday in early April at Rain Farm, a stunning venue inland of Ballito on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast. My sister was getting married. My wife, Megan, was a bridesmaid, so it meant that I was, mostly, on solo duty for the weekend.
[Sidebar: I was not “babysitting”. I was being my daughter’s parent. This “babysitting” phrase just irks me. Urgh. You’re a dad, not a babysitter. Sorry. I got sidetracked. Back to the whole crotch saga.]My 15-month-old, Alice, was a handful before we even got to the venue. Not only did she get super hangry – a disastrous combination of angry and hungry – on the way there, but she also decided to throw up in the top-of-the-range BMW X4 that I had loaned for the weekend. Luckily, given that the SUV is valued at more than my house, it was confined to her car seat … and my clothing. But I was more worried about the car, truth be told.The rest of that night – the pre-wedding night – went okay. Alice ate her food, went to sleep relatively easily and, apart from her waking up at 4am with the desire to do nothing else by say “dada, dada, dada” repeatedly and play, the night was smooth.
It was, as I and my crotch would find out, the calm before the mini-me storm.
Fast forward to 3.30pm on Saturday. Alice and I were dressed up and ready to go. I was taking my sister from her room to the chapel, and Alice had to sit on my lap because my sister was in the back. Before you fight with me, it was a 100m drive in a private game reserve; it was perfectly safe. It was at this moment, parked outside my sister’s room, that the all-too-identifiable rip of a crotch tearing echoed through the X4.
I looked down, and Alice was standing on my lap. I knew immediately that she had stretched the fabric to the point of destruction. Fortunately, the tear was small and unnoticeable … at least for now.It’s now 4pm, and the wedding is underway. Alice is meant to sit on my lap and be calm, but that was never going to happen, was it? She saw the rose petals at the front and went over to them. She ran up to her bridesmaid-ing mom, went to check out the bride and groom for a bit and then, as a final measure, wanted to switch off the plug that was powering the music, the speakers and the mic. I had to take her outside and almost – by a matter of seconds – missed the vows and the first kiss.
Less than an hour later, with the important matter of the ceremony over, you would think my tear-affected crotch would be safe to fight another day. But you’d be wrong. I have a toddler. Nothing is ever over.
As we made our way to the farm for the wedding photos, Alice again on my lap, I felt something cold run down my leg. Alice had turned her water bottle upside down and squeezed it onto me. My nephew was in hysterics. I couldn’t blame him. If it wasn’t on my crotch, I would’ve – ironically – wet myself laughing.
When we got to the photo location, I had to think fast to avoid detection. It worked. You can’t notice the tear or the wet patch in any of the photos, if only because I turned my body side-on to the camera. Actually, you can notice, if you look carefully.Eventually, with my superhero of a wife taking over the reins and saving me from a meltdown of epic proportions, Alice went to sleep, I was able to change into non-torn pants, and got to party the evening away into the early hours of the morning.
I survived. Just. Being a dad is hard work. Being the dad of a toddler at a wedding is insanity.Matthew was driven by BMW Supertech Durban.How to survive a toddler at a wedding
Helping hands
If you can, get someone to jump in and help. I’ve never appreciated my wife more than when she helped to get Alice to sleep after the wedding so I could have a break. Whew.
Spare clothes
Alice had two wedding outfits, because children are messy. I had no spare outfit. I was the one who needed the spare. Go figure.Distractions
Unless you don’t mind the toddler roaming around during the festivities (and, because they’re amazing, my family didn’t at all), you’re going to want to find a toy, book, whatever, to distract them.
Don’t let your child get hangry. It will ruin your day … and possibly the interior of a luxury car.
Boot space
The smaller the child, the more space they occupy. It’s counterintuitive, but it’s a parenting fact. When it’s taking them and their stuff for a weekend, you’ll need more space than you think you do.
Find peace
To save your sanity, find a way to make your child have a pre-wedding nap. If it means driving around until the kiddo falls asleep, so be it. If it means pushing through the morning nap, cool. Just make them nap.

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