At current standing I’ve been a father-of-one for nearly five years, and a father-of-two for two – so using a rudimentary calculator you’d correctly conclude that I have two children in the house. Only that’s not entirely true, because – if you’d let me explode a little truth bomb for you – at some level having children turns you back into a child yourself. So, really, it’s more like four children under one roof (my wife included – it’s called feminism guys, apparently it’s not going anywhere).
How, you ask? (quite correctly) It boils down to what I like to call the twin planets of “newness” and “uncertainty” re-entering your orbit. Crashing back into your solar system. Becoming part, once again, of your Milky Way (by far the best of the Ways). Here’s my two-penny, sleep deprived theory on the matter: much of childhood is spent not knowing how to behave, then eventually learning how to behave, then applying that and that’s basically adulthood sorted. Life, it turns out, is just about figuring out how to function under the guise of being “a person” in a small variety of situations, aping the methods of your forefathers and mothers (feminism again), then hopping on a conveyor belt from one predictable place or incident to the next. But parenthood takes you back to square one (by far the worst of the squares). The places you go are the same, but you’re not, the situations are the same, but you’re not, the people are often the same, but you’re not. You’ve got a brand new societal status and it completely changes how you’re reflected back at everything around you. In a gigantic squeeze of a vagina (apologies), you’ve been rebirthed as a massive confused toddler, but the world doesn’t acknowledge it – in fact, you’re a parent now, you’re presumed to be even more grown up than ever before.
But you’re not, far from it, you’ve regressed. Same face, same socks, but totally rearranged and there’s one glaring element missing – you no longer know what you’re doing nor how to do it. You need a new set of guidelines for practically everything. For example, you can’t just take an impromptu solo trip to the cinema anymore – if you did it’d look like you’re having a nervous breakdown. You can’t drink five pints on a Saturday afternoon because a drunk dad isn’t as cool as you’d have hoped. By a certain point your woman has seen you weep incoherently because you’re tired, or afraid, or because someone got a standing ovation on Britain’s Got Talent. And she likes it. She likes that you’re connecting with your emotions. You’ve turned yourself inside out, your voice is softer, you’ve got a child’s snot stain smeared on the shoulder of every jumper you own. You’ve mastered wiping small bottoms but completely forgotten how to wipe your own. Every instinct is telling you to swaddle and protect your young, but society looks you straight in the eye and tells you to go back to work, to maintain some kind of social life and keep getting haircuts and cool trainers as if nothing has happened. But it has. Everything has happened, and it’s all gone wonky, new, and uncertain.
I look at other new(ish) dads and I can see that they’re confused and fraying at the edges too. They’re like me, wrestling the same beast – having to recalibrate to a world where your true needs hide in line behind a queue of things you don’t really care about. I know that if I asked them enough pertinent questions I could probably get them to unravel, to drop the façade, put on a knitted beanie and march on Trafalgar Square. To see the reality of their own lost childhood being played out in their children, leaving them in mourning for the child they once were, infuriated by the cruel, twatty world we’ve created.
On the face of it, you might argue that being a dad-of-two for two years has taught me nothing, but actually (if you peer between the gigantic gaps between the lines) it’s the opposite, it’s taught me everything. You learn how to be an approximation of a normal person, you adapt to your situation, your situation changes and on and on into the abyss. The only difference now is that I’ve got my gang with me and I can’t wait to see what happens next.