People always told me that having kids changes you, that it turns you into a completely different person. I always reacted in the same way I did when they told me that having kids was hard: with a disbelieving look, perhaps a 'pfff' of incredulity, and a certain smugness that I wouldn't be fazed by becoming a parent whatsoever.
Well, they were right about the kids being hard bit, and they're right about kids changing you.
Now, I've never been a particularly masculine person; I'm certainly no alpha male; I regularly lose to my three year-old son in arm wrestling competitions, and people snigger at me when I struggle to lift weights at the gym. But I was never a particularly emotional person; I always took things in my stride, and never cried. That rhymed. Unintentional.
Now I'm a seasoned pro at being a father, I can see a distinct difference in myself now to the carefree singleton I once was. The weediness remains, unfortunately, but there are five main things that have changed since I've become a dad:
I'm super sensitive. Whereas before you could have showed me the most heart-breaking and tear-jerking films known to man and I would remain stony-faced, now even the slightest thing brings a tear to my eye. I get all quivery-lipped when antelopes get eaten by cheetahs on wildlife programmes. I blink back stinging tears when I read heart-warming news stories about long-lost friends who have been reunited after decades apart. The other day I watched 'One Born Every Minute' and almost had to leave the room. What's happened to me? I never used to cry, and now I don't dare watch 'Love Actually' in case I spend the entire time blubbing into the bosom of my confused (and very embarrassed) wife.
I'm immune to poo. I remember once, when I was childless and fresh-faced, walking my in-laws' dog, and as dogs are wont to do, it left a nice little deposit for me on a grass verge. Being a considerate kind of fellow, and armed with a handy little black bag, I reluctantly set about picking up the aforementioned turd using the bag as a glove and throwing it into the nearest bin. It literally took me 10 minutes and endless bouts of dry retching before I could even bring myself to touch the poo. For hours afterwards I felt dirty. Now, my eight month-old son could projectile poo all over me, and I wouldn't bat an eyelid. I wouldn't be happy about it, sure, but I certainly wouldn't freak out like I used to.
I eat food incredibly fast. Gone are the days when I could savour every mouthful of my medium rare steak, washing it down with a sip of red wine. Now, when time is of the essence and as rare as gold dust, with over-tired children shrieking in my ears, I gobble down my food with all the grace and dignity of a pack of wolves during feeding time at the zoo. Sometimes, I don't even have time to use my hands. I've been banned from almost every restaurant in my home town for this very behaviour.
I'm super-protective. I'm not going to be vying for the title of World's Strongest Man any time soon, but you even suggest that you're going to upset either one of my children and I'll start bursting out of my shirt like the Incredible Hulk and develop some kind of super-strength. I know for a fact every parent can relate to this point; the mere thought of your child being saddened by something makes your blood boil and your eyes pop. So be warned: I may look stringy and feeble, but I'm not afraid to scratch if it means defending my family.
I'm clued up on pregnancy terms. I've completely embraced my feminine side. I could sit and talk to an expectant mother for hours about her softened cervix, mucous levels and tender breasts, whether she was happy to do so or not. I can tell you all about the fonatelle, Couvade Syndrome and your perineum. What do you mean, do I want to talk about the football? Forget that! How's your colostrum production lately?
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