Venturing out in public with a young child isn't for the faint of heart. Your cherub may display an irresistible compulsion to handle dog poo (requiring you to calmly explain it is not play-doh as you dash for the nearest wash basin).
There is a better than 50pc probability a shoe will be kicked into the bushes while you are responding to an urgent text about that night's Champions League match. You will inevitably become involved in a stand-off with another buggy pusher - with room on the footpath for only one of you, who should give way? (hint: it's the other guy).
Such is the small-print of parenthood: those easily glossed-over annoyances nobody tells you about. For sure, we are all appraised of the biggies: the stinky nappies, the all-night crying (the child, not you), the surrender of freedom, financial security and the ability to think of yourself as a self-contained human being rather than an indentured one-person creche (did we just say that out loud?).
No, it's the tiny niggles - the idiots with their Bugaboo Donkeys trying to push you into the ditch and so forth - that can truly wind you up. Fret not, beleaguered child-herder: here is the definitive guide to stepping outside with your kid while holding onto (the vestiges) of your sanity.
And remember: if all else fails, burying your rage and frustration deep, deep inside is a can't-fail strategy.
Never, ever, interact with a stranger's child
The unspoken rule of parenting-on-the-hoof is that, though your little tyke/princess is permitted to strike up a transitory friendship with another toddler, you must remain aloof. No putting talk on the other kid, certainly no active encouragement to play with your bundle of preciousness. The same is obviously true in the case of child-on-child friction. Short of the two rolling around thumping one another, leave the little ones to sort their difficulties. You don't want to raise your child believing people will always step in to fix their problems. Also, there is a decent chance the other kid's parent is bigger than you: seeing daddy in a headlock is good for nobody's emotional development.
No weeing in public (that goes for your kid too)
Sometimes your child really, really has to go and a loo isn't to hand. Typically parents will opt to insert their son or daughter behind a discreetly positioned bush and let nature take its course. This should be your very final option: children are not quite as adept at public urination as the average Irish adult (practice makes perfect). If a pub/hotel/restaurant is nearby, take full advantage: staff are unlikely to argue with anyone bursting through the door, a red-faced three-year-old under his or her arm. Use their fear against them.
You won't make any parent-friends. Be at peace with this
When at a playground or soft-play area it is vital you perfect the art of the vacant stare. This will allow you stand in close proximity to other parents, watching your children frolic together with no possibility of accidental eye-contact. Because eye-contact leads to conversation and life with a toddler is stressful enough without the additional pressure of small talk. As with so many other facets of modern life, veiled hostility is your friend.
Nappies, wet-wipes, a change of vest - you, of course, never leave the house without all of the above (we understood you are not an amateur). But we also urge you to bring a cornucopia of distracting snacks, something bright and dangly for your child to play with in the car, a charger for your phone (it will die at exactly the wrong moment) and industrial-strength hand-wash, should you be required to take your child to a public toilet that hasn't seen the business end of a mop in decades. In appropriate weather we further recommend sunglasses (to avoid eye-contact - see tip number three) and many, many bars of 'emergency' chocolate (comfort-eating is the nonjudgemental pal that keeps on giving).
Be prepared to confront child-hostile non-parents
Some people really, really don't like kids. Or rather, they resent the idea of people with kids receiving what they myopically regard as undue deference. Don't worry - five years from now, they'll have joined the club and will inevitably be the smuggest parents in their postal area. For now, however, they are busily ditching their two-seater sports cars in the parent-and-baby parking bay at Tesco and will make a point of grunting as you try to manoeuvre your enormo-buggy past in the street. We recommend not holding back. Selfish, short-sighted people deserve your righteous fury - from personal experience, their bravado turns to smoke with one fist-wag from a fire-belching mother or father.
Keep an eye on your toys
Children are not noted adherents of private property rights - especially those pertaining to a stranger's shiny toy. Be under no illusions: should the opportunity arise, casual playground acquaintances WILL will try to make off with your cherub's Octonauts submarine. Here, you must walk a difficult path, retrieving the object without transgressing the rule, outlined above, against interacting with other children or parents.
It's okay to tune out every once and a while
At a certain age, children start to talk a lot. And while their company is of course a heartwarming delight, there will be moments you wish they'd clamp up so you can listen to the radio. You can't say this of course - you may feel guilty even thinking it. Instead, we recommend the next best option of calmly tuning out and thinking about something nice. Such as that bottle of wine you're going to polish off as soon as you're home and the little ones packed off to bed.
A parent of twins? Prepare to field A LOT of questions
Everyone loves twins, as you will discover the first time you take yours out in public. You might consider having some cards printed up, stating 'yes they are twins - and, correct, I do have my hands full'. You can distribute these at the mall or playground, sparing you regurgitating the same spiel to every second stranger.
The family may have a special place in our Constitution but, in reality, we've been slow to actively facilitate Irish people in this most important of tasks. While maternity leave is reasonably good, and comparable with most similar nations, statutory paid leave for fathers is poor.