Simon is a regular ray of sunshine on our Instagram feed. If you haven’t come across him yet, his account Father of Daughters has delighted hundreds and thousands of followers with tales of modern dadhood. There’s usually some glitter. A few tantrums. Hilarious anecdotes. But mostly, buckets of love.
We spoke to him recently about the joys and challenges of bringing up four daughters. (And why he’s a better storyteller than them.) Enjoy!
How often do you read with your girls?
I try to read with them every night. Clemmie and I take turns to read to the twins every night and then we also listen to Marnie reading. The challenge is coming up with original comments in her reading diary. I mean how many different ways are there of saying ‘good reading?!’
What are the best books you’ve read together recently?
The Day The Crayons Left is excellent for the twins, but we’re also now into Paper Dolls. I must have read it 100 times and it still gets me in the feelings every time. Them: “Why are you crying daddy?!” Me: “I’m not. It’s just a cold breeze… probably.”
What’s your bedtime story routine?
Once the girls are settled in bed, they each select a book. Unfortunately this means storytime is doubled, but that’s life with twins! Then I sit on the floor between their beds and they fight over who’s going to sit on which of my legs. Once that’s sorted, we finally get down to reading, which usually involves lots of questions, flipping back and forth between pages to see favourite pictures, and ends with them kissing their favourite character. It takes a while but it’s worth it!
Can you remember a book from your childhood that inspired you, or changed how you see the world?
I always used to love Shirley Hughes books. Dogger was a particular favourite as I could identify with it, and now that I read it to my kids it brings back lots of memories. As does Five Minutes’ Peace. I now understand why my mother identified so much with Mrs. Large – parenting is tiring and never ending!
We find screen time is a constant battle with kids. How do you approach it in your household?
They have set times they are allowed screens, and I personally collect in all their screens at 7.30pm so they don’t have any in their rooms. After 7.30 is for reading, and for finishing that homework you said you didn’t have but have just remembered. It’s always a battle to get them to fork over their devices but I know I’m doing the right thing. Even though they hate me for it sometimes.
Who’s the better storyteller: you or your kids?
I’d have to say me. I do Voices and make it dramatic. The girls’ stories ramble on forever and by the time they get to the end, I have no idea what they’re talking about. Where’s the plot line, kids? Where’s the drama? Where’s the end?!
What’s the most recent thing they did that made you laugh?
Marnie did an impression of me. It was scarily accurate and although I laughed at the time, I now need to reassess how I carry myself!
What’s the best piece of parenting advice someone has given you?
Don’t compare yourself to anyone else and what works for others, may not work for you and your life. Just do what feels right and 99% of the time, it is.
Tell us a tradition that’s been passed down through your own family that you’ve kept up.
My parents took us camping every year and I loved it, so I’ve tried to make sure I take my older girls every year so we can get proper father-daughter time. No rules. Just fun.
Describe your perfect family weekend.
Am I allowed to say ‘In a spa with my wife while the kids are at their grandparents’? If not, I’d go with a sunny summer weekend spent at home, with occasional trips to the beach. Life is generally easier when the sun is shining.