This is a full transcript of How my son jammed his leg in a wheelchair: The Dad's take-over podcast as first broadcast on 22 August 2018. It features comedians Chris McCausland, Steve Day and Laurence Clark. Produced by Emma Traccey.
[Jingle] - This is another BBC Ouch Takeover where we hand the microphone over to guests to see what they do with it. Like, share and subscribe.
EMMA - Hello and welcome to the BBC Ouch podcast. I'm Emma Tracey and for the month of August we are coming from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, a huge arts event which comes from the Scottish city every August.
Now, you know one of my favourite subjects to talk about, and I talk a lot about it, is parenting, and particularly disabled parenting. But I find that mums always get the limelight, and what about the dads, they never get a look in. I've got three old friends of Ouch, three disabled comedians, Steve Day, Laurence Clark and Chris McCausland, all of whom have kids, into the studio for a chat about being a disabled parent.
LAURENCE - I'm Laurence Clark. As you can probably hear I have cerebral palsy. I'm the dad of two boys, Jamie who's seven and Tom who's 13. And I'm a stand-up comedian.
STEVE - Hello, I'm Steve Day and I'm Britain's only deaf comedian. If there are any others I haven't heard. I have to say that; it's a contractual obligation. [Laughter]
I can't hear a word Laurence is saying, I haven't got a clue what you're saying so I'm just doing my own thing. I've got five kids. Two are step-kids, but the fact that they're step-kids makes no difference to the way I feel about them; they're just as annoying as the other three. Have to say that.
CHRIS - My name's Chris McCausland. I am a comedian as well. I'm from Liverpool, and I've got one daughter, she's four years old. And we've stuck on the one because it's almost killed me. [Laughter]
STEVE - The birth, was it difficult?
CHRIS - The whole experience mate. She's four and it's felt like eight years. We've got a bowl of questions which these two guys haven't seen any of the questions that they're going to be pulling out. I'm a little bit ahead of the game because I can't read them, I'm blind - did I say that? No, well I am. So, I've been sent a few in advance.
STEVE - He got made a coffee and all. There was a coffee for him. I had to make my own, instant as well, instant.
LAURENCE - I know. He probably got a [02:35?].
CHRIS - How many times do you burn yourself because you're deaf, though? [Laughter] First question: does being disabled give you the excuse to leave a lot of the parenting up to your partner?
STEVE - I tried that. Two of my kids were step-kids and then we had twins, they were the first kids that I'd had, so it was all hands on deck. But I had to keep being woken up because I can't hear them cry, you see, and I started to use that as an excuse. But my wife wasn't having it so she just jabbed me in the ribs with her elbow, she's got really sharp elbows. But then she had to wake up in order that I wake up, so I put it to her, 'well you're already awake anyway, what's the point of doing that?' but it didn't count.
LAURENCE - Yeah, so when we were having our second one, Jamie, the only bedroom left in our house was not accessible. I tried to use that as a way of saying, 'well I don't have to get up in the night because obviously it's not accessible' and she wasn't having any of it. We ended up having to get an extension, to build a new bedroom so that I could access it and get up in the night to do my bit as well.
STEVE - Oh wow.
LAURENCE - It doesn't work.
CHRIS - A lot of it does tend to fall at the end of the feet of a new mum anyway, and new dads tend to be a little bit of Debbie McGee to your Paul Daniels, if you know what I mean. That's the first time I've ever used that analogy.
STEVE - Have you put a nappy on and said, 'now that's magic'?
CHRIS - 'Did they do a pooh?' Not a lot. [Laughter] It's inevitable, but what you have to do I found - and it took me a little while to figure it out - you really do need to take control of the things that you are able to do. So, if there are things that you normally would share between you as a couple and you are able to do them, because it's one of the things that falls within your remit of abilities, then you need to take control of that.
For example I can do all the online shopping and the grocery shopping and all the Amazon orders. Like I've just organised all my daughter's after school classes and things like that, because it's all things that I can do.
STEVE - Basically going on the internet.
CHRIS - Anything on the internet. I'm good on the internet and the phone.
STEVE - Don't worry love, I'll do all that back-breaking internet stuff.
CHRIS - You do the easy stuff.
STEVE - My next question, this might be a tough one, but please grasp the mettle: for your children what do you think the negative impacts are to having a disabled dad? Laurence?
LAURENCE - I can answer that very well actually. It's a story that I do at the top of my show at the moment, and it's the only bit of the show that's deliberately not funny. Most of it if it's not funny it was intended to be funny. About a year ago my older son got beaten up at secondary school because the kids saw me and Adele. So, my wife has cerebral palsy and she uses crutches. And they started picking on him and name-calling, and then it just got worse and worse and worse, and the school didn't do anything about it. And then eventually he got cornered in the boys' toilets and they kicked and punched him. So, that's a very real example. Needless to say he's not at that school anymore. But yeah, it's a bit of a downer, isn't it? Sorry.
STEVE - No, it's true. It's amazing these things happen in 2018, but you can believe it, it's all believable.
LAURENCE - Yeah, kids will just, in sort of the early teens, any kind of difference they will pounce upon and use that.
STEVE - What you're saying about that, my kids have had similar but only because my wife's African, so they've had racial stuff that you think would have no place in today's society and all that.
CHRIS - It's more down to how I feel I'm able to be a dad rather than how my daughter sees, experiences me as a dad, because my daughter doesn't know any difference. It's just what she knows really. And I think it started off with her not really knowing that I was blind, but really just that she communicated with me differently. Like she'd have to put my hand on things. She learned to do that before she knew that I couldn't see, if you see what I mean.
STEVE - Yes, very.
CHRIS - It was just a difference in communication. But from my point of view I'm very aware that I can't take her out for a walk on my own or take her down the park to chase around on the grass on my own. At the minute when she's going to be starting school it's teaching her how to read and write and trace her letters and things like that. I've already flagged it up with the school if there's anything they can help me prepare how I'm going to be able to do that with her a little bit more.
STEVE - You know what it's like, it's like kids are brought up in a bilingual household and they learn French and English naturally and it's not like something different.
CHRIS - Yeah.
STEVE - I'm sure your daughter will fine and all those; she'll just have an extra skill, being able to help you out I reckon.
CHRIS - Yeah. She learned Portuguese off my wife, so she knows that she can say Portuguese words to my wife but she can't say them to me. And in exactly the same way I think she knows that she can wave things in front of my wife but she has to put my hand on them. It's more of a communication thing. But will it hinder her learning writing, writing sentences out if she hasn't got me on the ball teaching her, doing her homework with her or teaching her at home how to write and things like that? Who knows?
STEVE - I reckon not. Until you start running round a park with her and you fall in a pond or something.
CHRIS - As I say, it's me, mate, it's me. You worry more about your own shortcomings, don't you, than it probably matters in real life.
STEVE - Well, you know what with mine, how my kids are older, their friends have seen me on YouTube, 'your dad's really funny'. But kids can't accept that their own dads are funny.
LAURENCE - Yeah.
STEVE - It's just a rule of being a teenager, 'you're not funny, dad'. I mean, I think that's the thing my kids have said to me more often than any other sentence, 'you're not funny'. But their mates will say, 'your dad's really funny' and it does not compute; don't know how to cope with this.
CHRIS - Do you know what I do, because I can't do some of the more visual kind of cerebral activities with my daughter, I'm a little bit silly with her. And she was sat on the toilet about a few weeks ago, and she was sat on the toilet and she was going to her gym tots class, and I just started doing a silly face with a silly noise like bla, bla, bla, and she was sat and she just went, 'we haven't got time for this now daddy'. [Laughter] And that's at the age of four cutting through my skills as a comedian.
LAURENCE - Right, okay, the bowl.
STEVE - Sorry, forgot all about that, sorry. Forgot we were doing this radio.
LAURENCE - Yeah, so…
STEVE - Laurence is now taking the question from the bowl. There will now be a pause as he attempts to open the folded paper. He's there, he's got the paper, he's about to read it.
LAURENCE - It's upside down. How do other parents, kids or teachers react to having a disabled parent in their midst?
STEVE - Most of my interaction with other parents come through, because my three kids play football, and so I'm always on the touchline. But I hardly speak to anyone. People don't know that I'm deaf because it's something you can cover up quite easily, and I don't say, 'hello, I'm Steve Day, I'm deaf' except if I'm stage. So, people just think I'm a bit miserable, which I am anyway on a Sunday morning normally. But our football team have had a comedy night to raise funds, which I organised, and I got good people, like Sarah Millican came and did it, and their minds were blown. It was just that bloke who never says anything and he turns up, and we had a brilliant comedy night.
LAURENCE - I think with me yeah, I struggle a lot with teachers. Years and years and years ago before I was a comedian I worked at a university and I got a PhD.
STEVE - Oh god.
LAURENCE - And the only time…
STEVE - Have you got it with you?
LAURENCE - No. the only time I use my title of doctor is with some of my kids' teachers because otherwise they just treat me like I'm an idiot.
STEVE - Well, you are a bit of an idiot.
LAURENCE - We had one teacher one year, Jamie's teacher, and she kept making us go and get his eyes tested because in class he was saying he couldn't see the board and he couldn't see things. I swear in the space of a year we got his eyes tested three times. And the third time the optician was saying, 'well why have you brought him back?' I know what it was, Harry bloody Potter, he was into Harry Potter and he wanted glasses to be like Harry Potter. [Laughter]
STEVE - You know the worst thing for me at schools was parents' evening. You have to go and speak to loads of different people and you have to reset every time. I'm all right with someone when I get used to them, I can relax; but teachers I couldn't understand. Every parents' evening - you can't not go because it looks like you're not supporting your kids - there were three outcomes: he was doing well and they were smiling and maintaining eye contact; if they're doing badly they don't look at your face and they're looking down at their notes and all that; or if they're doing all right they're kind of in the middle of doing that. That's the only way you can work out whether your kids are doing well or not just by looking at the face of the teacher.
CHRIS - Yeah.
STEVE - Nightmare.
CHRIS - Well, my daughter's first parents' evening before she started was the other night, and they really tested our commitment because they put it on at the same time as the England v Belgium game. [Laughter]
Next question: what disabled dad life hacks can you give the listeners? Basically what tips have you got?
STEVE - Deaf it out wherever possible.
CHRIS - How does that relate to being a dad though? Come on, relate it to being a dad.
STEVE - You can get your kids to the front of any queue or get in for stuff. I just have to exaggerate deafness. Doors will open.
LAURENCE - Probably it's not what I'm meant to do, I've got one of those cinema cards, those CEA cards to get a support worker in with you. But particularly my younger son he just wants to go to the cinema all the time to see those really poor animated films that come out like once a week. And then when you go to see one before it they show you the trailer for the next one that he always wants to see, so you're caught in a never-ending cycle of going to see really bad kids' films.
STEVE - You don't have to go though.
LAURENCE - Yeah, but I use my card to get him in for free. He's not actually a support worker but they never say anything, so it saves me a fortune.
CHRIS - Well, I like the way that both of yours have been in order to take advantage of the kindness and generosity of the great British public in order to save a few quid. [Laughter]
I would say mine are purely from a blind point of view, keeping it on movies and a lot of the kids' films, on iTunes a lot of the Disney films have got audio description on them as well. The first couple of times you can watch the Pixar film with audio description and then you can turn that off when you know what's happening at the third, fourth, 28th time that you're watching Pinocchio. When you've got a little kid, especially if you're blind, one of them baby carriers that you wear on your chest are brilliant.
STEVE - Papoose.
CHRIS - If you're out with your partner it saves them having to push a pram all the time and you can kind of do the carrying of the baby and still have your hands free.
One thing that I kind of worried that I'd struggle with is reading bedtime stories when you're putting your kid to bed. I find it works - well I don't know if it works quite well - but we make stories up and my daughter directs where we're going with the story. Well, what she'll basically do is she'll tell me the story and she'll repeat this whole thing for about three minutes about what happens in this story, and then she'll stop and she'll go, 'say it daddy, say it!' [Laughter] And then I have to repeat the whole bloody thing that she's… And if I go wrong at any point, 'that's not what I said, daddy, that's not what I said'.
STEVE - Oh sorry, that's me. Where's the bowl? Hang on. The question is: are your kids ever embarrassed by your impairment and how do you manage that? Chris?
CHRIS - I wouldn't say that she's embarrassed but it has infuriated her at times. When my daughter from a young age, as a lot of kids, she was used to the iPad, touching and swiping, and then they try and do that on the TV and they realise that doesn't work. And so what she'd do is she'd point to the TV show that she wanted on the TV screen because she didn't have the words, up, down, left and right in her vocabulary. She'd be pointing and telling me she wants the bear and I'd be going left and right and down and up and the wrong way and she'd be losing her mind, 'no the bear, the bear, I want the bear!' and I'd be going the wrong way. So, I wouldn't say it's embarrassed her but she's certainly lost her patience with it a few times.
STEVE - She sounds like she's not far off saying, 'the bear, you idiot'.
CHRIS - Yeah. And in the end she went as well, we landed on it and she went, 'yes that one daddy' and we watched it and it had nothing to do with a bear. So, I don't know whether she was just misinterpreting whatever the picture was on it or whether she just gave up and just settled for whatever it was I was on. [Laughter]
STEVE - It sounds like a Satnav, doesn't she, bear left, bear left, bear right.
Laurence, sorry Dr Laurence Clark?
LAURENCE - I can't think of a time when they would be embarrassed. Jamie he does my voice, sometimes he does an impression, he thinks that's quite amusing. It's not that he's embarrassed; it's more that he copies me.
STEVE - Yeah, do they do an impression, Dr Laurence Clark impressions at home?
LAURENCE - Yeah, very deep.
STEVE - That's more of a sign of affection though, isn't it, a mickey take.
LAURENCE - Yeah.
CHRIS - Yeah, my daughter does the same thing, tries to put a deep slower voice on, if you know what I mean.
STEVE - How is her scouse, how's your daughter's scouse?
CHRIS - My wife said to me recently, 'have you noticed the way she says bath instead of bath [pronounced barth] like that?' And I said, 'I've been correcting her'. [Laughter]
STEVE - Oh, by your daughter?
CHRIS - No, my daughter, if she's been like, 'daddy, play with me in the bath [as barth]' I've been going, 'no it's bath, darling, it's bath. Can you say bath?' and she'll go, 'bath', I go, 'that's right, good girl'. And my wife picked up on it, 'she's been saying bath'. I said, 'yeah, I've been correcting her; it's taken me a year'. [Laughter]
STEVE - I don't think they've ever, ever been embarrassed by me. They stand up for me and they help me out and all that. They get annoyed with subtitles on the telly, they're really frustrated by those, which I don't understand. They're really supportive. I've always been deaf for them so it's nothing unusual.
LAURENCE - Are your children your carers? When I put this to my kids they were very definite and said, 'no mum and dad look after us; we don't look after mum and dad'. I just struggle a lot with the whole young carers thing, because it's almost like if it was any other type of parents I think people would be a lot less inhibited about engaging with parents because we're disabled; it's kind of easier to call them young carers and then you can talk directly to our kids about us, which I don't like at all. I'm always really careful with schools and with whatever to emphasise no, we look after them, not the other way round.
CHRIS - Yeah. When I was a kid as well part of being a kid is just getting told to do stuff by your parents, so it's, 'go and get my slippers from upstairs. Go and put my electric blanket on. Go and dry the dishes and put them away'. So, it's you've still got to allow for that level of taking advantage of your kids, haven't you? It doesn't mean that they're your carers, just that you're allowed to send them off to do things.
LAURENCE - Can you remember the first time your child realised you were different and what happened? One time this springs to mind both of them as toddlers saw my wheelchair as a climbing frame basically, lots of hand holds and places to put your feet. They would climb up the back of me, over my shoulder and then slide down me. But there was one time with Tom where he climbed up the side of my chair and he got his leg, I don't know how he did it, but he got his whole leg caught between the spokes in the wheels. And it was twisted so we couldn't get his leg out without him screaming in pain. So, I have the kind of wheelchair where you can take the wheel off and then we turned up at Alder Hey at the accident and emergency with a toddler with a wheel on his leg. [Laughter] And they had to get bolt cutters and cut the spokes.
STEVE - Not like a saucepan on his head but wheelchair stuck on his leg.
LAURENCE - I think he probably realised I was different that day. [Laughter]
STEVE - But isn't it great though that they don't see the wheelchair as a problem; they see the wheelchair as an opportunity?
LAURENCE - Yeah.
STEVE - It's normalised and it's a game. I think that's fantastic.
LAURENCE - It's an opportunity to play.
STEVE - Get your leg stuck. Apart from the health and safety aspect obviously.
LAURENCE - Yes.
CHRIS - Better to be a slide than a bouncy castle, mate. I think that's us done, isn't it, with the questions?
EMMA - Yes, you can plug your shows now if you want.
LAURENCE - Okay, so my show is called An Irresponsible Father's Guide to Parenting, and it's on every day here at the Edinburgh Fringe in Assembly George Square at 5:40. And then it's on at the South Bank Centre in London on 7th September.
STEVE - My show is called Adventures in Dementia. It's about my dad who's got Alzheimer's disease. It's on every day apart from Mondays at Espionage, which is on Victoria Street in Edinburgh at 1:45 in the afternoon.
CHRIS - You've all got quite cerebral sounding show titles. Mine's called Speaky Blinder.
STEVE - I like that!
CHRIS - It's basically Peaky Blinders but with the 's' taken off the end and stuck on the beginning. And it's on at Underbelly, Bristo Square, next to the Gilded Balloon, 6:35 every night for the next three weeks, all depending on when this goes out, till the end of the festival.
EMMA - Okay, Steve do your ending.
STEVE - What's my ending?
EMMA - It's on the script.
STEVE - Oh yeah. You have been listening to the BBC Ouch podcast. The team love to hear from you so get in touch on Twitter @bbcouch, search for BBC Ouch on Facebook or email email@example.com.
EMMA - Say bye and stuff.
STEVE - Goodbye.
CHRIS - Bye.
LAURENCE - Bye.