I’ve been a dad for five years, here’s what I know
Three quarters of my gang
Five years ago, somewhere around 1am my wife started groaning in a way I’d never heard before. A deep, distant foghorn of a groan that wasn’t exactly a call to arms, but something pretty primal, a signal that big things were afoot. That a ship was setting sail and we were both on it. In some (very few) ways, we were like Cap’n Willard going down the Nung river unsure of what to expect.
Anyway, back to the groaning. I knew something huge was happening because nine months previously I’d unleashed some of my most potent semen into my wife’s pregnancy tract and since then she’d been harbouring a small molecular version of me in her stomach. The plan now was to push the thing through numerous miles of upper and lower intestine and then poo the miniature human being out of her frontal vaginal thingy. But you didn’t need me to tell you that, we all know basic A Level biology.
Point is, it was exactly at this moment that I decided to put a Madonna record on – figuring she could do with a little singalong while I had a quick pre-parenthood shower – an act of utter lunacy that has been echoed in numerous interesting decisions since. Like another decision (ON MEDICAL ADVICE!) to delicately tickle our child’s anus with a cotton wool bud to make him shit (didn’t work), or the decision to not exactly cut up his Christmas roast potato into toddler-size chunks when he hadn’t yet learned how to chew properly (it’s fine, he cough-vommed it up eventually), or even the sporadic decisions to take our children on aeroplanes without handing out noise-cancelling headphones to the other passengers. Yes, in the years since that misguided musical offering, followed a few hours later by the crowning of a head, and then the anointment of my heir by the hand of Zeus, there have been decisions happening every single day. Where once they were entirely selfish ones, naive, or driven by panic (see: bum tickling debacle), now they arrive in ever-increasing circles of frequency, yet are tackled, somehow, in ever-decreasing circles of ridiculousness.
When to get up, what to eat, what to do. Where to be. Every day is like mundane ballet choreographed by the bigger people in my house, and we’ve pretty much got it down pat. I know how to get my son to eat his meals (for the most part), I know the best way to get my daughter to put her clothes on without going ballistic (her or me). The decisions ultimately become more communal and less outwardly self-serving, less “you listen to Madonna, I’m having a shower”, more “let’s turn something boring like getting ready for bed into a FUN GAME”, but here’s the twist – even within the seemingly endless litany of selflessness that parenthood disguises itself as, there’s a fundamental, deep-rooted selfishness to it. I want to look at my children and see my own success, I want to bask in my wife’s happiness and attribute some of that to me, because fucking hell, getting a marriage to thrive when you’ve had kids is the eleventh (and in our case, twelfth) task of Hercules.
Before fatherhood, I was just another moderately unsuccessful freelance writer – mostly a tracing paper version of far more acerbic social commentators than me – but now, having been summoned to my station by the sound of a deep, primal foghorn five years ago, I’m also a DAD. I spend every waking moment of every waking day being jumped on, cuddled, harangued either directly or indirectly for money, occasionally even pissed on (accidentally, or so they say) by the physical embodiment of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I love it, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be (ie. lost somewhere upriver).