I’ve been a dad for eight years, here’s what I know
If you listen to/read enough celebrity interviews, you’ll know the trope where they’re asked about their proudest achievement and they say: “my children”. It’s a savvy move, a reply you can’t question, a concrete breeze block, a “thou shalt not pass” that tells you absolutely nothing, and there’s not an interviewer in the world who’d look at the kids, make a face and beg to differ. As an answer, it’s essentially a humble brag, a telegraphed deflection from their true egomania (because all famous people are egomaniacs).
It’s also bullshit and I’ll tell you why – because children aren’t your achievement.
You may have created them via the most basic biological experiment – putting x into y, then thrusting around a little – but really that’s where any sense of achievement ends. Managing to feed, clothe and shelter your kids isn’t an achievement, it’s an obligation. Educating them, reading to them at night, plonking them in front of a screen, chucking a ball about, brushing a doll’s hair, watching them unpack their nose throughout a school play. That’s your minimum spend, that’s you phoning it in.
I’m eight years deep now, and really I’ve done nothing that wasn’t entirely expected of me. In fact, if we’re being completely truthful (and don’t tell anyone this), I’ve often knowingly under-performed. I’ve not listened when they’ve been telling me something exciting (to them) from their day because I’ve been distracted by my own plight, or I’ve feigned injury/illness to get out of doing what they want, because I can’t be bothered. I’ve bribed them with junk food, I’ve slept in the cinema. I’ve been in the same room as them but a million miles away.
So, who they are and what they’re all about – that’s all them, they did that. I’m just an invested observer. If we’re being really analytical here, you could probably reverse the sentiment and suggest that I’m far more their achievement than they are mine (note that I left out ‘proudest’), they’ve left an indelible mark on me. I’m completely changed. I’ve got a “dadbod”, I do “dad dancing”, I make “dad jokes”, but I’m also filtering every aspect of my life through them. I’m scared of letting them down, I want them to look back and say I did a good job (even when I didn’t) because I need their validation, and more than anything I want them to be impressed by what I’ve done with my life.
That way, years from now, when a celebrity interviewer asks me about my proudest achievements, I can smile over at a picture of my children, and say: “my films”.