Allow me to explain: there’s a myriad of issues to contend with where a newborn is concerned, all involving your offspring screaming at you. Where Laura sometimes finds Finn’s high pitched yodelling utterly oppressive, I find myself feeling quietly proud that our boy can sing a bit. The problem, of course, is figuring out why he’s crying, and how to remedy it. That’s the upsetting part: knowing he’s not happy about something. But, fuck, it isn’t difficult. Apart from a problem that may require medical attention, there’s basically a standard list of reasons why your offspring is whinging. Is he windy? Burp him. Does he need his nappy changed? Clean that shit up. Is he hungry? Get your tits out. Once you’ve figured out what it is, more often than not the little sod will shut his gob. Unless he has reflux or can’t have a shit for some reason. Both of these things our son has. At the minute he chokes himself out when he’s trying to back one out. It’s a harrowing scene. I know how I get when I can’t shit so Christ knows how this little blighter is feeling given that he doesn’t have a sodding clue what’s going on. I just let him squeeze my finger and pull that face the Incredible Hulk pulls when he turns into the Incredible Hulk.
Of course, this parenting lark can be frustrating and utterly bewildering. But so is going for a shit and realising there’s no bog roll left. Ultimately you just get on with it and fashion some shit wipes out of a flannel, the cardboard inner from the toilet roll, or your hand. You muddle through and deal with it. You can call parenting a great many things: loud, tiring, smelly, annoying, completely shit. But it isn’t difficult. What’s difficult is waking up in the morning and realising you’ve woken up. What’s difficult is learning to drive when you’re thick as pig shit. What’s difficult is going into work every day doing your utmost to not end up as one of those, ‘and then he turned the gun on himself’ kind of people. What’s not difficult is feeding, changing and entertaining your new born son or daughter. Granted, it kind of exhausts you which makes you moan a bit. But so does skulling nine pints while watching your beloved football team ship four goals every week. It tires you the fuck out but you do it anyway because you have to.
Which brings me on to the first of the two truths to this article –
Truth #1: parenting is easy. That’s been established. What isn’t easy – what’s excruciatingly difficult – is other. fucking. people. Don’t get me wrong, people mean well: they want to help, they want to visit, they want to buy your offspring clothes, they want to hold him for half an hour so you can go for a shit. Which is all great. The difficulty is trying to appease everyone’s sense of entitlement. While it’s wonderful having visitors in the hugely exhausting aftermath of the birth of your child, sometimes people forget that all you want after a night swimming in human faeces with a soundtrack that resembles a human torture chamber is not have another human being knock at your door with a pitying smile on their face and gifts that aren’t for you. Sure, you can ask them to come another time owing to the fact you can’t be fucking bothered with the small talk after a night on the shit but be prepared for a fully grown adult to spit their dummy when it should really be your kid doing all the dummy hoying.
It’s very apparent to me that the main problem is the actions or reactions of other people when you have offspring, not the baby itself. As I’ve mentioned, a baby does stuff it’s meant to do and you deal with it. Easy. What’s difficult and wildly disconcerting is adult human beings doing stuff that would be extremely uncomfortable or offensive if it was in a normal social context. I’ve had random strangers approach me on the street, perversely touching my arm and stroking my son’s head as if he was a dog while making cooing noises and saying how much he looks like me. I’m 6’4”. My son’s mere inches in length. I don’t wear babygros. My son doesn’t have size 12 feet. I have green eyes. My son has blue eyes. We look nowt like each other. Basically the only thing we have in common is that we both can’t grow a beard. I don’t need human beings – whom I dislike at the best of times – greeting me in the street as if we’re long lost pals, having completely forgotten what a social boundary is.
If my son completes any sort of normal human function such as crying, smiling, farting, shitting, grumbling, making a cup of tea, having a pint or doing the dishes, the knock-on effect and consequent overreaction of other adults is astounding. The level of unfettered fawning is just cloying. My son – as handsome as he is – looks like pulped mincemeat when he’s trying to push out a shit and no amount of sickly sweet-nothings will convince me otherwise. Trying to keep a fixed grin on your face while human beings spout shite about your offspring is utterly debilitating.
All this while trying to ensure everyone’s had enough cuddles with him, everyone’s chipped in their two cents with the parental advice, and they all know when they’re next going to see him. Christ on a crystal meth binge. At least with a baby there’s only one human to look after.
So let me be clear: looking after a baby – easy. Looking after grown ups – not easy.Truth #2: all of the above (with the exception of other people ruining things – this rings true for both parents) only applies to the father. For the father, parenting is a fucking doddle. This is because the father barely has to lift a frigging finger. Of course, there are standard parenting duties that all parents must adhere to: changing nappies, feeding, hearing it scream in the night, telling it to shut the fuck up etc etc. But mainly, the dad pretty much gets off Scott free.
If the bairn is crying to be fed countless times during the night it sure as fuck isn’t going to be the father who gets his flabby tits out to feed it. He’s going to slumber like the saggy ape he is and leave all the difficult work to the mother. If the baby is crying its arse off, there’s only so much a dad can do to placate the thing before he hands it over to the mother to sort out with her boobs or the TLC that the father hasn’t evolved enough to acquire. Basically, any excessive drama with their offspring and all dads know that the baby is going to end up in the mam’s arms until it’s fed or calmed. Spoiler alert: this is an intrinsic knowledge that all fathers have and know about. They’ll ultimately know that there’s going to be no final burden on them because it’ll always fall to the mother to sort things out. And they can go off for a shit, a beer, a sneaky tug in the bathroom, whatever.
With Laura breastfeeding, we’ve fallen into a routine where I get to do all the sleeping during the night while Laura has to stay up feeding, burping, changing and rocking Finn to sleep. Of course, I hear him shouting and squirming but I have the luxury of turning over and snoozing while she puts the graft in. So I get at least five hours sleep a night while she gets barely any. I suspect this is the case for most fathers with a breastfeeding partner. And if you’re a dad reading these past couple of paragraphs and deny these facts then you’re a liar and your penis is going to come loose.
If the stress of the 9 month pregnancy, the mood swings, the hormonal changes, the actual birth itself and the emotional days post-pregnancy weren’t enough for the mother, then the following months of unadulterated horror are truly excruciating while the main problems for the dads are moaning about only having six hours sleep, and missing the football on a Sunday afternoon because they have to spend it pulling faces at their offspring while covered in shit.
So there you have it, dads. Be thankful you have a (small) penis, and a deep voice. You’ve drawn the long straw. Now stop being a whinging piss-pot and rub her back more.
About four months ago I got my girlfriend up the duff.
Apparently this is life-altering news which will completely change my outlook on everything that’s ever existed in the history of this 4,500 year old earth. When my outlook will change, however, is anyone’s guess because I’m still stuck in what I’m reliably informed to be the ‘Wow, pregnant? Big day. What’s for tea?’ phase.
I can almost hear the swell of disapproving voices, or stifled laughter accompanied by the ‘he has absolutely no idea what’s coming…’ lecture from the po-faced matter-of-facters. While I appreciate and sense that all the giddiness and otherworldly excitement is in the post and will at some point be heading my way, at this precise moment in time it seems I’m caught in the limbo between the initial feelings of shock, awe, glee and wonder, and the finger-tapping humdrum feelings of ‘now what?’ Apparently this feeling of abject uselessness is completely normal for the father-to-be because, as a father-to-be, the only thing I can really do is sit and feel utterly useless watching my poor girlfriend implode from the effects of her pregnancy. This is because my poor embattled partner, Laura, is suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum which was unfortunately popularised as THE pregnancy illness to wish for after ghekko-faced, shape-shifting lizard-woman Kate Middleton was lumbered with it when she was knocked up with her evil offspring, Prince Georgie Porgie Pudding and Pie. And it’s utterly grim stuff.
For the first few weeks of this intense illness, Laura was violently sick multiple times – not just multiple times a day, but multiple times an hour – consumed nothing but jelly, a bowlful of which would last her up to a week, as well as having such violent feelings of intense nausea that I wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d asked me to euthanise her in order to put her out of her misery. This was all day and all night, and culminated in several trips to hospital via several trips to the doctor’s. And while the effects of this misery are currently not as monumental as those first couple of months – or Laura’s putting a stupendously brave face on if they are – she’s still in a constant state of exhaustion, sickness, lethargy and constant unease. Being the utter marvel that she is, however, she’s still managing to work full time, run a household, and look after her 4 year old son, Max – the ‘metre-high whirlwind’ as she delightfully refers to him – as well as put up with my constant whinging about everything and everyone like the absolute male that I am. How she manages to do it completely boggles the mind especially with me not having a sodding clue how to help her feel better thus feeling completely irritable and tetchy.
And let me be clear: this isn’t just morning sickness. All wazzed up women get that. This is unrelenting, unremitting, merciless, all-singing, all-dancing hell. on. earth. But Laura just gets on with it. I should probably start helping out a bit more instead of shouting at her to keep the noise down in the kitchen when I’m watching the football.
Anyway, to get back on point, I’m still waiting for that giddy moment of glee that awakens in me the realisation that I’m going to be a dad. Because it still hasn’t struck home yet. Friends and family have informed me that the moment I hold my future offspring in my arms when it’s a newborn will be the moment that life as I know it will never be the same again; I’ll fall instantly in love with a squidgy ball of flesh and not feel at all disgusted that it’s screaming at me, vomming on me, or shitting on me. Or a sprightly combination of all three. As a gambling man, I would proffer decent odds against immediately experiencing pangs of adoration for something that was doing all of that at me.
Furthermore, I’m still harbouring feelings of intense suspicion towards my nearest and dearest after they all confidently assured me that when I was learning to drive everything would just ‘click’ and I’d be an annoying boy racer in no time. Spoiler alert: it didn’t, and I’ve abandoned all thoughts of driving after my confidence and finances were utterly crushed with nothing to show for it. So you’ll forgive me if I don’t take their word as gospel when it comes to me experiencing appropriate emotion towards my future son or daughter.
Thankfully, however, all is not lost, and there is hope for me growing a soul and developing into a proper human father as I’ve recently been in intense training on how to be a new dad with Laura’s delightful little boy, Max. For the most part, Max and I are best buds. We laugh, joke and wind each other up, have spectacular lightsaber battles, create entire universes with his vast array of Lego blocks, and can wax lyrical for ages about the finer points of Star Wars, Peter Rabbit and what he’s going to get for Christmas off me for the next decade or so. Admittedly, there are moments when things aren’t all as rosy as can be: a constant war of attrition when Max clambers into our bed in the middle of the night, asserting his territorial dominance and booting me in the back 400 times over the course of the night resulting in me relocating to the floor in the spare room is just one of the more stickier moments in our relationship. As all parents can appreciate, when things go well, things are wonderful. But when they don’t, it’s unadulterated terror. I’m slowly but surely learning this but I’m still some way off appreciating just what the fuck is going on.
One of the more disarming things I’ve found about training to be a dad with a 4 year old child is the newly-discovered brevity and concise nature of my everyday vernacular. Where once I’d offer emphatic declarations of awe and affectations of amazement at a messily coloured picture, or a box of Lego successfully constructed, the consequences of hearing my name repeated 400 times an hour, being yelled at to ‘look at MEEEE NOWWWW!’ every 12 seconds, and being attacked with improvised weaponry made out of cardboard has understandably dulled my enthusiasm to respond with apparent fervour. The result of this is my responses to whatever activity Max is immersed in now simply consist of raised eyebrows, a nod of the head and elongated, one word responses – ‘Wowwwww!’ ‘Woooaahhhh!’ ‘Cooool!’ – while hoping I won’t get screamed at if I don’t stand instantly to attention.
Furthermore, I’ve often found myself, with much amazement and wonder, caught in deep conversation with Max before the discourse has really even begun. I regularly have little chats with him, the dialogue of which unfolds something like this:
Me: ‘Yes, Max?’
Max: ‘Chris… Um…?’
Me: ‘Yes, Max?’
Max: ‘Chris! Chris!’
Max: ‘Um…Chris, Chris…?’
Me: ‘Max, Max… yes?’
Max: ‘Um… Um… Um… Chris?’
And so on and so forth. Chats like these happen over the course of about 12 seconds. Obviously this is just his little brain working overtime and getting overexcited, trying to get everything out at once before he can launch himself into another mini-adventure involving attacking my lower body with his lightsaber and repeatedly informing me that I’ll soon be experiencing a bloody and gruesome death involving the removal of several limbs and my head. For a 4 year old, getting overexcited is something that comes as naturally to him as hiding in the bathroom with the door locked does to Laura and me. What I find
terrifying fascinating is the process in which the over-excitement presents itself when Max wants to play a game. Especially if he’s very tired and knows that time is at a premium. Below is a conversation I typed out when I happened to be working at my laptop right at the time Max was asking me to play with him as bedtime was approaching:
Max: ‘Chris! Chris! Chris!’
Me: ‘Yes, Max?
Max: ‘Chris! Chris! Will you… Chris! CHRIS! Will you..?’
Me: ‘What, Max? Will I… what?’
Max: ‘CHRIS! Chris! CHRIS! CHRIIIIIIIS! Will you…? Will you…? CHRIIIIIIIS!’ CHRIS! LOOK AT ME! CHRIS! LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!’
Me: ‘Yes, Max, I’m looking!’
Max: ‘Will you… Will you play a game with me? Chris, will you play a game with me? Will you play Lego with me?’
Me: ‘I’ll be twooooo seconds, duuuude…’
Max: ‘Ah-ahhhh! Play Lego with me now, Chris! Chris! Chrisss!’
Me: ‘Okay, Max, what shall we build?’
Max: ‘We have to play Lego. Chris, will you play Lego with me?’
Me: ‘Yes, Max. We’re playing. What shall we build?’
Max: ‘Okay, okay, okay. Chris, Chris, Chris… We have to build Lego men. Chris, Chris, Chris, you need to make a Lego man with a gun and I need to make a Lego man with a sword. Chris, Chris, CHRIS! CHRIIIIIIIIIS! CHRRRRRIIIIIIIIISSSS! Noooooooo! You’re doing it wrong!!! CHRISSSSSSSS! NOOOOO! CHRISSSS!’
Me: ‘Well, show me how to do it, Max.’
Max: ‘That Lego man CAN’T have A SWOOOOOORD! He has to have a gun!!! Aaaarrrrrrrgh! CHRRRRIIIIISSSSSSSSSS!’
On occasion there would follow an explosive scream of frustration, tears and a mini-tantrum which sometimes incorporates an off-the-scale screech that causes the neighbour’s cat to go and drown itself in the nearest garden pond.
Another arresting situation that I’ve found myself being privy to is as a central part of a deep and meaningful conversation while Max is ‘having a poo-poo’. Nowadays he seems incapable of doing his business without me being there to accompany him as he goes through the motions, all the while discussing the salient concerns of which is the most powerful Ninjago character, and how cool it would be to be able ‘spinjitzu’ up and down the stairs. Call me naive, but this was a scenario I never, ever thought I’d be involved in when Laura and I first got together. More recently it’s become an inescapable necessity that I be the one to undertake this eye-opening task, and the times when I’m unable to, or suggest that he’s more than capable of doing it all by himself, can occasionally result in an ‘incident’. A shouty one. So this is something I’m just going to have to come to terms with. Deep discussion and putting the world to rights in the bathroom amid the aromas and symphony of a small boy having a shit.
And I don’t think there’s anything that can prepare you for the shock of watching a child sitting on the toilet doing Chewbacca impressions before standing, baring his wee backside and shouting, ‘FINIIIIIISHED!’ while demanding you wipe his bum without gagging.
But this is all excellent training I suppose. I should expect I’ll be changing nappies and cleaning up throughout the wee small hours when the new offspring arrives in July. You can’t even imagine how much I’m looking forward to doing that especially if there’s live boxing or UFC being broadcast from America at stupid o’clock in the morning. Obviously. And then there’s all the vomit and stuff but, again, I’m getting completely used to all that what with poor Laura hugging the porcelain every day.
No doubt I’ll be posting regular updates about all this and I’ll be sure to let you know if I grow a soul…