THE BLOG

Bringing Up Kids In An Unstable World

15/11/2016 11:36

I reckon, if I really think about it, I was ill maybe three times in ten years before Archie was born. Since then, it is as if we have opened our doors to some contagious pathogen, part of a government experiment gone wrong. For the past two months it genuinely feels as though every possible strain of illness has made its way into our house.

There is only one explanation. It's that vault of doom. That shining beacon of innocence that wraps its bacteria-laden arms around you with a big happy smile. Otherwise known as a nursery.

It is a building that holds more potential for biological warfare than the average Iraqi bunker. I find myself walking away from it and thinking: if terrorists really did want to trigger the downfall of western society, all they'd have to do is just push a load of scarf-clad adults into Baby Snapdragon room; they'd soon start to drop like diseased flies.

Archie started at nursery a couple of months ago and already we've seen the changes start to filter through him like some great awakening. He's sniffled his way though most of it and come away some days as if he's been stranded in an abandoned warehouse. But his personality, already sociable and confident, seems to have added an extra dimension. He's learning so fast that the changes are remarkable. He can't yet say full words but he's learning to communicate and gauge reaction; everyday he comes home and he's learnt something new. I don't think I'll ever get over the speed of change.

It's a magical time, next week he will be a year old. 365 days in which our our whole outlook on life has changed. A year in which the stability at home has been upstaged by the instability in the world around us; Brexit, Trump, an aggressive Russia, an imploding Middle East, an unceasing migrant crises. They are all exterior factors - things you can't individually affect - but you can't help but look inwards, at the life you are building, the beautiful boy you are trying so hard to raise and think when, not if, it will all be for nothing. A country at war with itself, a society divided.

Or at least that's what they want you to think. Media outlets owned by billionaires with tentacles into Government; covert Government operations to engineer debate on social media feeds. We have become willing participants in a machine which uses fear and division to control us - to keep us confused - with no idea of what is real and what is fake. We are all so much easier to control if we live in perpetual worry.

But we carry on, its all we can do, isn't it? I look at my little boy and see the wonder in his eyes, the cheekiness in his smile that tells me in about 6 months time he is going to be hiding my shoes on purpose and watching me run around the house in my pants in panic - and laugh with a glint in his eye. I see the questions already starting to form in his brain and the answers I'm preparing to give him. The innocence is beautiful, the inquisitiveness beguiling. I want to prepare him for the future, a future that even myself, as his father, have no idea what will bring.

It is an indescribable feeling seeing someone you embrace with love so deep it makes you nauseous, developing and changing with the passing weeks. That you've somehow managed to create this gentle creature that is untouched by the bitterness and cynicism of modern life. Whose beauty and view of the world is untainted, who knows nothing but love from the people around him. He is lucky. When he is old enough he will understand how privileged he is to be brought up in such security and warmth. How at the time he passed his first birthday thousands of Aleppo children will be spending their nights without food or shelter - scarred by a life where all they've known is war. How when he opens his presents on his birthday, villagers in northern Iraq will be brutally massacred by fanatics breeding nothing but hate in the name of a bastardised version of religion. How a week before he turned one, the leaders of the free world elected a President who has promised to build a wall to keep out other human beings.

It's a lot to think about. So maybe we shouldn't. Maybe it's easier to live in ignorance, to raise a child without even thinking about the complexities that surround our lives. It is hard enough anyway, the juggling of work and childcare, the constant negotiating of obstacles: illness, money, time, commitments. Having a child is no easy business when we seem to live in a society that punishes those who dare to have children and work.

I look at myself in the mirror and I see where the past year has gone. It has formed in the bags under my eyes, the deeply borrowed lines in my forehead and the twitch in my eye. For the two of us, my wife and I, it has brought us closer together despite keeping us further apart: focus is needed, structure and routine vital. The days of spontaneity long since passed.

Still, one year in we are unbelievably lucky. Our boy is beautiful, healthy and above all, happy. It goes without saying that we love him dearly but with him here life's complexities seem, well, less complex. He is the reason we exist, the reason we battle through the delays, the worries, the lack of time or energy for anything other than working and caring.

He is Archie, and we love him.

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