In my ideal universe, Kanye West named his child Go, and in twenty years time she starts a musical career of her own, releasing nothing but endless covers of “We Close Our Eyes” and “The King of Wishful Thinking”. A man can dream…
Anyway: kids. A post on fatherhood seems like easy pickings; I’m not even going to be deterred by the fact that everything meaningful I could say on the subject has already been summed up in a single tweet from Ed Byrne:
I’ll stick to a simple State of the Nation, but first, an anecdote:
When I was eight, I threw a decent-sized rock onto the head of my then six-year-old brother. The entirety of my thought processes leading up to that act was:
“Huh. I reckon I could hit Ben’s head with this rock from here.”
That’s the mind of an eight-year-old boy: no thought of consequences and no empathy. No malice either, I should be clear – I didn’t want to hurt my brother, it just didn’t occur to me that he would be hurt if I threw a rock on his head. Keeping that in mind, you can understand that my three-year-old son, with less than half the maturity of my rock-throwing self, is a Primal Force of Destruction. A typical near-bedtime scenario in our household:
“OK, time to brush your teeth – here’s your brush.”
“I want to do it!”
“Sure, you can do it by yourself.”
“Close the door.”
“Good! OK, come out of the bathroom and let’s go to bed.”
*Puts child to bed. Goes back into the bathroom. Notices toothpaste smeared all over the bathroom mirror; toothbrush put back in its cup, which could only have been done by climbing up onto and across the sink.*
“…Yep.” *Knows has only self to blame.*
He also recently carved a bunch of gouges into the plaster on his bedroom walls, on the grounds that he was holding a stick at the time.
In comparison, his six-month-old brother is nostalgia personified. He’s just starting to move around*, but up until now he’s been a stationary reminder of how easy to manage the oldest used to be. One time child number one got sick not long after he’d begun walking, and was feeling poorly enough that all he wanted to do was lie on a blanket in the lounge. Even though we were concerned for his health and wanted him to get better, there was an element of “oh, right – this. I remember this. This is actually quite nice.”
I’ve heard people talk about the loss of novelty when you have a second child – all the usual baby milestones are now something that you’ve already seen before – but I’m not finding that. They’ve developed in different ways and at different speeds, so the process of watching him coming to grips with an entirely novel Everything is just as fascinating. Apart from the crying.
Babies have no artifice – when they’re happy, they smile in a way that no adult can achieve without serious pharmaceuticals, and when they cry, they put every atom of themselves into letting you know that something is genuinely wrong. So of course, a crying baby is something any parent feels an immediate need to do something about. Unless they’ve been conditioned to find crying annoying by a three-year-old who now only does it when he’s throwing a tantrum or when he’s hurt himself by doing something stupid. I know my first response to hearing the little one cry shouldn’t be “fucksake, what now?” but habits are hard to break.
It goes without saying that I enjoy having the two of them around immensely, but I’d be lying if I said I’m not looking forward to the day when they’re both surly teenagers, malingering in their beds all morning and shuffling around the house communicating in grunts.
We’ve got to get through the rock-throwing maniac stage first, though.
(You’ve still got “The King of Wishful Thinking” stuck in your heads, haven’t you? YOU’RE WELCOME.)
*By which I mean he can laboriously commando crawl across the floor when we’re watching him, then teleport instantaneously to within grabbing distance of the most dangerous object in the room as soon as we turn our backs.