I’ve been a father-of-two for two months, here’s what I know

There they are…

I was watching The Sinner on Netflix recently (not great, only bother if life is literally giving you nothing) when I had this thought about prison: is it really that bad? Like, REALLY?

The Sinner’s prison-life looked pretty swell to me – she was left alone for the most part, no one tried to bum her in the showers (despite her being extra-terrestrially hot), she spent half her time gassing on the phone, and she even joined an uplifting prayer circle to profusely thank Jesus Christ for her blessings. No gruel, no psychological warfare with prison guards, just a bunch of inmates nourishing their spirits with community and fellowship. “Chokey ain’t so bad,” I thought…

…Then I remembered EVERYTHING ELSE I HAVE EVER HEARD ABOUT PRISON. And unfortunately, with my looks, in actual jail, in real life, I wouldn’t last a minute. You kidding me?? I’m just too damn sexy.

But here’s the profundity I’m heading for here: Aren’t we all in prison? Isn’t that what life is? How we shackle ourselves to our jobs, to our relationships, to the borders that surround us – that’s jail, that’s doing time. There are no Children of The Universe, tasting the spoils of real genuine freedom, because there’s no such thing. If there was we wouldn’t wear clothes, we wouldn’t feel ashamed of our bodies, we wouldn’t be concerned about going to the toilet or bonking each other or cleaning our bums in private. EXISTENCE is a prison, SOCIETY is a prison, FAMILY is a prison. Our only purpose on this hamster wheel of life, this endless chain gang into oblivion, is to make our conditions as bearable as possible, to cover our cells in cushions and pillows and Playstations and Le Creuset casserole dishes, and to hopefully grow to love our captors – in my case, a hot 36-year-old woman, a demanding 3-year-old boy, and now a two-month-old baby girl.

Since becoming a father-of-two I have no idea how to get out of my house, or my road, or my borough. The idea of being pretty much anywhere in the world without these two dependents hanging off my leg seems preposterous. I’m trapped, I feel like I’ve got one of those electronic ankle bracelets stopping me from straying too far, before the enraged, endangered braying yells of my two children (whether real yells, or conjured in my mind) pull me home like a tractor beam. Where once my evenings were for filling my bloodstream with alcohol and my lungs with smoke, now they’re spent cajoling a toddler to sleep using my best negotiation skills, such as “pleading” or “shouting” or “basically weeping”.

An hour, two hours might pass, perhaps more, then once his eventual concession to the demands of slumber have been achieved – less by me, more by nature and biology – I’m FREE. Free to tend to another child. Because that’s what I do now, that’s my life. Freedom in the olden days might’ve found me reading a book or sloppily French kissing my wife, but now I have a new baby that I’m contractually obliged to bond with – a small soul to offer some sense of patronage to – so I scoop her up like a lion does its cub, and I hold her gently in my arms while I ignore her and watch telly. I glaze over, my mind an eternal abyss, or a swollen abscess, as the clock ticks towards her inevitable outrage when she twigs that HANG ON I’m not her mum, I haven’t even got (fully functioning) tits. WHAT USE IS THIS GUY?? He’s pointless. A waste of space. He’s got NOTHING.

It’s true, and I accept it. My training in the art of being a dad has taught me that, most of the time, I will languish somewhere near the bottom of the food chain in my prison – I’ll be the “bitch”, the rodent, the “stoolie”, the Ian Beale – fourth in line to whatever trappings are on offer at the top of the tree. But, I also know to look out for the stolen rooftop moments, when you’re sipping beer with your buddies, listening to classical music through a tannoy, celebrating a small victory over a cruel warden. Like when I watch my boy stroking his baby sister’s face, repeating the words “you alwight darlin?” like he’s Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, or when my little girl smiles a dreamy milk-stoned smile and all seems well with the world. Or when my wife drops everything to give me a quick cuddle, or when I wake up with my babies snuggled in bed next to me, snoring contentedly and it’s way past 7am. Or when I watch the boy singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in a public performance like he’s in the Sex Pistols, or when my girl sneezes like a cute baby animal, or when she burps and farts at precisely the same time…

Is prison really that bad? I wonder. Because from where I’m sat, prison can be pretty fucking lovely.

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