As a parent, I'd worked my way through all the stages that are supposed to be hell on earth: sleepless nights, teething, separation anxiety, having your shoes filled with sick... the whole gamut. And the thing was, that despite all the hype, none of these events was quite as bad as I'd expected. Like the worst type of film - all the best bits were in the trailer, leaving my partner and I feeling slightly underwhelmed to experience the supposed horror of the real thing. It was with this (understandable) sense of over confidence that I greeted the my son's (inevitable) turning from 1 to 2. It was simply a number, I told myself. A personality doesn't change THAT much as the result of just getting a little bit older. What was the worst that could happen? After all, we're just talking about a tiny tot. HOW WRONG WAS I?
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.
It’s the odd thing about milestones, I just don’t see them. What I mean is, I’ve never actually noticed a milestone at the time it happened. Rather I’ve only been able to see the moments that marked real, tangible, progression in my life retrospectively. I think this may be a side effect of being busy. Actually ‘busy’, if I’m honest, doesn’t quite cover it. For the last 2 years I’ve been so manically active, so frantically ‘on task’, that ‘busy’ sounds like a rest. And no, I’m not about to start moaning about how hard parenting is. We’ve all heard that a 1000 times before. Parenting is hard. But that isn’t newsworthy, there is no breaking story there. It’s always been hard. It will always be hard. That’s just the way it is. Sorry folks. I’m keen, however, as my son achieves his second birthday, to look back at my first 24 months of fatherhood. What have I learned? If anything? Am I still out of my depth? It’s likely. Do I continue to make points in lists of 3? Definitely. Here’s Fatherhood: The Story So Far...
This I just don't get. If I present an item to my son, on his favourite plate, there's a 50/50 chance of his eating it. If, however, I get the same item and throw it on the floor... 100% certain he'll pick it up and munch away happily. For some reason, toddlers want to put everything in their mouths. So any walk in the park, trip across town or visit to the supermarket is perpetually punctuated with me saying: "Take that out of your mouth! We don't eat off the floor". Leaves, rocks, bits of twig, squashed chips & a whole assortment of litter have all been whisked from his grubby little mitts just before he attempted to eat them. If I'm honest, there have been several times when I didn't get there quickly enough - so these items have had to be wrestled from between stubbornly closed lips. He, of course, thinks this is hilarious - while all I can think of is a potential night of projectile vomiting should he catch some lurgy or other.
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!
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.
As a SAHD, I'm beginning to feel like a Betamax owner in a VHS world - ask your mum. To be fair, I do try to be quite 'zen' about the stupidity I encounter daily from members of the public. But there's only so much idiocy one man can take...
"I look forward to bin day, I find it strangely cathartic." That bin day or 'Big Bin Day' as we call it our house - in order to distinguish it from the lesser recycling box collection day - is a highlight of my month, surprises me.