In boxing, the fight is grueling, no doubt about it. But even in this most demanding of pursuits, there are little breaks, where the pugilists sit at the side of the ring, have a drink and try to regain their senses. It's only as a result of these intermissions that the fight will ever have the chance of going the distance. For me, it was the same with parenting a little one. For hour upon hour your senses are pummeled as tears, food, poo and puke fly. The parent becomes totally punch drunk, but clings onto their sanity in the knowledge that there's a nap around the corner, the child will be sleeping any time now. This sleep is, I feel, far more restorative to the parent than it's ever been for the child. It's a chance to catch your breath, wipe down the walls and consider a few winks of sleep for yourself.
It had been a few minutes, three maybe. I looked at him, as encouragingly as I could, and spoke. “OK, that’s good. It’s easy, just one, two, three and push.” I’d tried to hide any stress (rapidly growing within me) from my voice. My son looked back at me, seemingly unconvinced. “Cuddle?” “We can have a cuddle when you come down the slide.” “Cuddle now?” “Just go down!” chimed in a boy, about twice the age of my son - part of the growing queue for the slide forming behind my little one. “He’ll go when he’s ready,” I said, once again trying to appear calm - reminding myself that empathy isn’t a skill kids are born with. “Just one, two, three and push!” Still nothing. It was going to be a long day.
I remember his mother and I would discuss, in those oft-remembered (much missed) quiet relaxed evenings before our son was born, television's role in our household. We'd pretty much decided that our offspring would never be sullied by exposure to the telly. Equally he'd never touch sugar, only eat organic and spend his life with well-thought through educationally relevant play. What mugs we were!
Dads do AMAZING things WITHOUT superpowers It's (relatively) easy to save the day if you can fly or walk up the side of buildings. Superheroes (on the whole) are blessed with some pretty nifty abilities that the average person in the street could only dream of. They've got a bit (read 'a lot') of a head start. The thing is, I've seen dads do amazing things with no superpowers whatsoever. OK, OK, what they do might not be as 'showy' as the antics of Messrs Wayne, Kent and Stark - but they're more impressive.
Suddenly a cry rings out, causing a shudder of tiredness to run up my spine and take root in the bags under my eyes. Next, probably by magic, your feet find the floor and you question y our existence. The door opens and a night light illuminates the face of a crying toddler, you smile broadly - pushing back your own desire to cry. Then, tot in arms, you collapse into the chair and break into a droning "Incy Wincy Spider..." as you look at the clock. It's 3 am. But the tot doesn't care about the time. Why? You get your answer as the full flavour of the nappy he's just filled wafts towards you. Happy Birthday.
For our kids, when they are young, we are the entire world. A mindbogglingly important role. It worries me if I think about it too much. In their eyes we, as parents, have almost superhuman abilities. The power to make everything 'OK' is our most potent gift.
Nobody, and I really mean NOBODY is interested in other people's holiday snaps. They are the photographic equivalent of watching Songs Of Praise at your nan's house or uncomfortable chats with taxi drivers - something to be endured and got over with, as quickly as is humanly possible. I'm sorry to say it, but it's the same with other people's kids. We all love our own offspring, we find what they do absolutely fascinating. We talk about them endlessly. We rearrange our entire lives for them. Yet, despite all this, our kids are ONLY of interest to US. For everyone else they are (at best) dull and (at worst) actively irritating.
I firmly believe that we, as a society, need to find new role models for our boys and young men. We need to do this quickly. Traditionally, we've expected boys to look up to movie stars, sportsmen, musicians, politicians and the business elite. Yet, the starry ensemble has repeatedly shown itself unworthy of this honour.
In the meantime we parents, who have enough on their plate, are beaten with (metaphorical) sticks. Trending hashtags, focusing on parenting perfection, tell us we’re doing it all wrong. Instagram images of perfectly dressed, puke free, angelic children make the rest of us sick to the stomach as we battle to dress our toddlers without WW3 breaking out. Linked-in profiles that show parents simultaneously looking after kids, pursuing an amazing career, charity work, an interesting hobby and maintaining great hair – make the rest of us feel like crap.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Charlie King of Heroic Fatherhood. It was great to have an in depth chat about what it means to be a SAHD.