The urchin has collapsed, slow and howling, to plant her face on the pavement while her legs pound up and down on the gum-strewn concrete.
With the ululating squawks and the rhythmic thumps, she sounds like a pterodactyl in a tumble dryer.
The reason? I unscrewed the lid on her yoghurt pouch, the malevolent bastard that I am.
Fortunately, she’s saved the show for the moment we walk past a rush-hour bus stop. This way, my parenting ‘skills’ get to be judged by a panel of strangers, through the medium of rolled eyes, blank scowls and, occasionally, an indulgent smile from a watching granny that says, silently, ‘this is what happens when men parent’.
Usually, this kind of meltdown leaves me with four trusted techniques:
Appeasement: the kind of pre-emptive surrender that would even have made Neville Chamberlain blush, this involves proffering juice, treats, toys and my dignity in return for peace.
The scoop and stride: where I tuck her under my arm and carry on about my business while she flails about.
The lock-down: in this non-violent policing technique, I strap the resistant perp into her buggy, while she goes as limp as overdone spaghetti, like those Vietnam War protestors from the olden days.
The proper parent: a calm and patient explanation of the situation, and why her behaviour is unhelpful for either of us. Rarely used.
But in a moment of desperate inspiration, I fall back on the go-to of loving parents everywhere: I tell a massive lie.
‘Look, squirrel!’ I say, pointing at a nearby tree.
The noise stops. Her head rises. No squirrel here. As she drifts back to the pavement, I go again.
‘Look! There he is.’
Some bus-stop people also look now. The ‘squirrel technique’ is mesmeric.
‘Squiwul?’ the urchin asks.
‘He must have gone for his dinner,’ I say. ‘Shall we have some too?’
There’s a pause, then a nod.
‘Would you like to push the buggy?’
A pause and another nod. A sniffle. I turn to the bus-stop people and smile. It is a look that says, ‘I win at dadding’.
And then I have to wipe her nose with my hand, because I’ve forgotten the wet wipes.
Written by: Matt Farquharson.