Long ago and far away, a housedad named Ed took his three children on an outing. It was a holiday, the weather was nice and there was a story-teller in town - it seemed like the perfect excuse to get out of the house before everyone killed each other. They had a packed lunch with them and sat on a travel rug on a grassy hillside waiting for the show to begin. For the sake of argument, let's call the children Fraser, Lewis and Marie.
And, to be quite honest, there was a fair amount of argument to be had.
"I want a cheese sandwich," said Marie.
"You don't like bread," said Ed.
The little girl was not put off by this. "The boys have cheese sandwiches."
"Yes, but I didn't make you one because you don't like bread. I brought you crackers."
"I don't want crackers."
"Then what are you going to eat?" asked Ed as calmly as he could manage, showing her what was in the bag of food. "Grapes, apple, a banana?"
"We're on a hill," sighed Ed. "I didn't bring any pasta with me. Or a stove, for that matter. You'll have to eat something else."
Marie thought about this for a moment. "Can I have a cheese sandwich?"
"But you don't like bread," said Ed, beginning to lose it.
"Yes, I do."
"Two days ago you told me you hate bread and it's yucky."
"No, I didn't."
"Yes, you... Oh, never mind, have my sandwich."
"Yeuch!" said Marie, taking one look at the sandwich Ed was offering her and then burying her head in her hands. "It's got salad in!"
"I can take the salad out."
One eye peeked from between Marie's fingers. "No. It's touched the cheese. I don't want it."
"Well..." began Ed but Fraser interrupted.
"Where are the crisps?" he said, hunting through the bag of food.
"I didn't bring crisps," said Ed.
"Aw... Why not?"
"Because I already had the fruit, sandwiches, water, juice, wipes, raincoats and goodness knows what else to carry, not to mention the large, cuddly dolphin Marie insisted we bring. Besides, we'll be home in a couple of hours. You can have crisps then."
Fraser looked ready to argue some more but Lewis dived in first. "I've finished my food. Can I have dessert?"
"You've already had dessert," said Ed.
Lewis seemed genuinely confused. "No, I haven't."
"You all had your desserts on the way because you complained you were hungry, despite only just having had breakfast."
"But those were snacks."
Ed shook his head. "They were the chocolate bars I packed for dessert."
"They were snacks - we had them at snack time. We normally have a snack at school. Why didn't you pack dessert?"
"I did," said Ed, taking a deep breath. "I didn't pack snacks."
"But we had snacks..."
Flinging up his hands to ward off what was liable to be an extended display of twisted logic, Ed admitted defeat. "OK, OK, stop! You can have a mint. That's all I've got."
Lewis nodded eagerly and Ed fished around in his back pocket for the battered packet. Scraping the fluff off, he handed Lewis a mint.
As the kids turned to squabbling amongst themselves over the colour of grass, Ed ate his own sandwiches and looked round the hillside. Several mums had brought their kids along and were feeding them spaghetti in vegetable sauce from Tupperware containers. The mums themselves were eating carrot sticks. One or two smiled; the rest ignored him.
Ed was glad that at least it wasn't raining.
Then the story-teller arrived at the bottom of the hill, surrounded by security, and there was a sudden rush to get down there for the show. By the time Ed had convinced his children to get off the travel rug so he could pack it up, they were last. A crush of adults had already formed round the story-teller and none of the children present could get close. The mums were complaining loudly to two of the security men.
"Get back! No shoving!" said one of the bouncers.
"We just want the little ones to be able to hear," said a mum. "They won't be any trouble."
Ed found this last statement somewhat unlikely given that her toddlers were both gnawing on his legs. Nonetheless, it was possible the mum was in denial rather than blatantly lying.
The bouncer waved her away. "You can't come through."
"Don't be ridiculous. Let the children get to the front."
"They'll get in the way and make too much noise," said the bouncer, standing firm. "This is for grown ups."
At that, Ed felt the need to chip in. "That's not what it said on the advertising."
"Quite right." The story-teller parted the crowd with a stern look and a wave of his hand. As he walked forward, he almost glowed with life and power. "The kingdom of God belongs to people like them. Let them through." Then he motioned the bouncers aside, smiled and beckoned the children forward. Half of them didn't notice and needed a parental shove to get moving because they were too busy hitting each other over the head with sticks.
Fraser brought up the rear and one of the bouncers moved to block his path. Ed raised an eyebrow.
"He's a bit on the large side," said the bouncer.
"Look," said Ed. "It's been a long day and it's only lunch-time. Start quibbling and I'm going to try passing you through the eye of a needle, and see how far you get, OK?"
The bouncer stepped aside.
The children seated themselves at the front and Ed went a short distance up the hill so he could see what was going on. Once the hubbub had died down, the story-teller began. "Anyone who doesn't accept the kingdom of God like a little child won't get in..."
The story-teller stopped as Marie raised her hand.
"Does it have cheese sandwiches?" she asked excitedly.
The story-teller winked. "Yes," he said. "Yes, it does."
"Yeh!" she said and settled down happily, ready to listen to everything the story-teller had to say...
Yours in a woman's world,