“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Ferris Bueller
It’s the odd thing about milestones, I just don’t see them.
What I mean is, I’ve never actually noticed a milestone at the time it happened. Rather I’ve only been able to see the moments that marked real, tangible, progression in my life retrospectively.
I think this may be a side effect of being busy. Actually ‘busy’, if I’m honest, doesn’t quite cover it. For the last 2 years I’ve been so manically active, so frantically ‘on task’, that ‘busy’ sounds like a rest.
And no, I’m not about to start moaning about how hard parenting is. We’ve all heard that a 1000 times before. Parenting is hard. But that isn’t newsworthy, there is no breaking story there. It’s always been hard. It will always be hard.
That’s just the way it is. Sorry folks.
I’m keen, however, as my son achieves his second birthday, to look back at my first 24 months of fatherhood.
What have I learned? If anything?
Am I still out of my depth? It’s likely.
Do I continue to make points in lists of 3? Definitely.
Here’s Fatherhood: The Story So Far...
1: Even after 2 years, I still forget that I’m a dad
The image of myself lingering in my head hasn’t caught up with what I see in the mirror. If I were to look into the glass (something I should probably do more often) I’d see a man pushing 40 with an often unkempt beard, greying hair and laughter lines that darken and mingle with the bags under his eyes.
If, however, I were to close those eyes and imagine myself: I’m (at least) 15 years younger, 4 stones lighter and totally carefree. I still have moments in life where I think the following: “This child is playing up, someone really should deal with it. Are there any grownups nearby?” It’s then that I realise that the ‘grownup’ in the frame is me.
My son is a physical sign of my ‘grownup’ status. And, on occasion, being a ‘grownup’ still takes me by surprise.
2: I still have the lingering suspicion that I’m ‘blagging it’
This brings me on to my second point. I often feel like I’m ‘blagging it’. There’s a popular saying: ‘Fake it until you make it’ - it certainly rings true to me. I don’t always know what to do for the best. I’m not always sure everything will ‘Be OK’. But, over the last 2 years, I’ve had the realisation that every parent (who’s not a total narcissist) has been where I am. We all have self doubts, we all struggle.
A huge part of the role of ‘Daddy’ is not letting the child see this.
3: Shaken, but trying to seem unstirred
Being ‘Daddy’ is a like playing James Bond. Many actors have taken on the role, each with their own interpretation of who ‘the man’ is. Yet, although the facades may differ, there are core elements that all Bonds must possess: the tuxedo, the swagger, the wit, the self-possession.
It’s the same with fatherhood. We all play the role differently, but we must keep to the core script. We provide calm, we nurture, we make things better, we provide a buffer from the realities of the outside world. As dads, we do what we can to make our children happy in a sometimes difficult environment - this may require the use of smoke and mirrors, but we must do it.
4: I have far more sympathy for my parents
I can now safely say that I’ve walked a mile in my own parents’ shoes. Mum and dad - who seemed to have it all worked out, who were so grown up, so defined by being parents - I can see that they had it hard.
I now understand my parents, who were (throughout the bulk of my childhood) much younger than I am now, were tired, stressed and driven by one desire: to do the best for their children. That I couldn’t see that at the time, that it was impossible to view them as human beings doing their best, is one of life’s saddest little ironies.
5: Every now and then, I see things through fresh eyes
Being in the near presence of a toddler, discovering the world for the first time, means every once in a while I’ll find myself surprised. Just when I’m not expecting it, I’ll look at a flower, a horse or a litter bin as if I’ve never seen one before. These fleeting moments are a gift. They remind me of the total sensory overload my son is constantly experiencing and they bring back a sense of wonder at the world that I’ve mostly lost.
Spending hours looking at twigs with my son taught me there’s no such thing as ‘a twig’. They’re all different, each special in their own way. It also reminded me of my age - all that bending over is a killer on my back.
6: I STILL miss sleep
People kept saying to me, “Oh, don’t worry, after a while you won’t miss the sleep you lose.” These people are liars.
Every day. Every. Single. Day. My body cries out for more sleep. I’m crying over the keyboard as I type. There are times when the loss of a decent night’s sleep feels like a bereavement. I’ve considered getting some friends over and holding a Wake for my sadly-departed healthy sleep pattern. I was only stopped in this plan by the following:
- If I had time to mourn my lack of sleep, I’d be using that time to nap.
- An event entitled a ‘Wake’ to mourn sleep would be far too ironic. Properly ironic - are you listening Alanis Morissette?
7: There aren’t enough riches in the world...
There is nothing, and I do mean nothing, that I would swap the last two years for (including sleep).
The Story Continues...