Ross Noble never sticks to a script. The comedian’s stand-up shows are renowned for their freewheeling flights of fancy, happily lurching from horny owls to snooker-playing pirates.
This wild imagination, one suspects, is acutely suited to hanging out with young kids. Ross, it turns out, has two daughters aged six and 10, and admits that the secret to parenthood basically amounts to a single reassuring message: “just relax and play”.
Speaking in the lead-up to the new Australian kids’ animated film The Wishmas Tree, the 43-year-old explains why you should stop worrying about what your kids will be discussing with their therapists in 20 years time.
The Father Hood: What advice would you give to someone who’s becoming a father for the first time?
Ross Noble: My advice to anyone that was going to become a dad is that you will figure it all out. It doesn’t really matter what the experts or so-called authorities think.
A baby to me is like a buying a new gadget that doesn’t come with an instruction book. And then, even if you went online and found the instruction book, those instructions will change every single day. So just approach fatherhood like an amateur and be aware that the answer will be different every time.
Kids are like water. Sometimes they’re pure, sometimes they’re filthy, sometimes they’re salty, and sometimes they’re like ice. They just change all the time, so instructions don’t apply. Try swimming in ice – it’s not going to work.
The other thing I always say to someone having kids for the first time is “Nobody knows anything.” Your parents may turn around and say, “You should be doing this.” But when our parents were bringing up us it was a different time. The world was a different place.”
TFH: What do you think is the main difference about being a dad now compared to back when your parents were bringing you up in the north of England?
RN: I think the main thing now is the pressure. Back then there was no pressure on fathers. You put the food on the table and that was it really. There’s such a pressure now on parents to bring up their kids as these perfect little creatures. There’s a perfect way to do everything that you have to try and follow, they have to eat certain things… There’s just a greater amount of pressure that’s put on parents in terms of what’s expected of them and what children are expected to achieve.
People will say: “When we were kids we used to be allowed to set fires and run around with sharp knives and stuff.” And that is true. But back then there wasn’t any pressure to protect your kids in the same way that there is now.
TFH: What would you say to a dad who is feeling a bit overwhelmed by all that pressure?
RN: I think the first thing is that to feel overwhelmed as a dad is just normal. Because literally, nobody knows what they’re doing. Everyone’s just guessing.
People who have older kids forget just how horrendous the pressures are when you’ve got a tiny, tiny kid.
For example, right now my kids are six and 10. It’s really easy to forget how much of a nightmare it was when they were babies. Life has become almost exponentially easier. Even the fact that I don’t have to wipe their asses anymore. There was a time when my little one could use the toilet, but she didn’t have the strength to flush it… I don’t have to do any of that anymore. It all just becomes easier.
And whatever you think is going to be the one thing that’s going to make them end up in therapy when they’re older – it won’t be that thing. It’ll be something that you won’t even realise. There’s nothing you can do about it, so just get on with on it.
TFH: What part of your dad game are you working on at the moment?
RN: The hardest thing for me is the organising. I’m terrible at the organising. Once I took the kids bowling – my youngest daughter, she was probably only three at the time. She took her jacket off and my eldest started pissing herself laughing.
I said, “Why are you laughing?” And she said, “Willow’s wearing a nightie.”
And this is how bad I am, I’d gone, “Is that your nightie?” And Willow had gone, “Nope. It’s a dress.” So, she ended up wearing gold boots and a nightie and we’re in a bowling alley.
Ross Noble starts in The Wishmas Tree