Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Top tips for distressed dads: part one

There was a time when a father’s role was simpler.

Our own dads would saunter home, sporting an impressive moustache and smelling suspiciously of McEwan’s beer, then settle down in front of Gambit pretty much right away. Aside from the occasional need to tinker with a Raleigh Grifter or clip some snottery offspring round the ear, a father’s childcare duties were pretty limited.

Or so it seems, now that I’m a dad myself. No longer can we rely on a female relative taking over whenever it looks like a nose will go unwiped. In these modern times, dads are expected to look after the children alone for entire days. The problem is, we’re no cleverer than our own dads were and we don’t even have Gambit as an escape route any more.

Amid the fear of getting it wrong comes the realisation that you really are getting it wrong—but at least you’re learning from the experience. I have two young children and I hope to have some idea of what I’m doing by the time we get to baby number nine.

But I like to think that, amid the tears, tantrums and milky vomit, I’ve picked up one or two things worth knowing. Here are a few of them.

There’s no need to panic, unless you think it will help 

The utter terror you are feeling is normal. Everybody gets that moment when they realise they are in sole charge of a fragile young life and, when they inevitably screw up, lives will be ruined. Five minutes ago you couldn’t look after a hamster properly but suddenly you’re cradling a tiny, perfect human being and you can’t quite believe it.

Relax. It’s a natural feeling. Statistically, it’s unlikely that you’re going to drop the baby. You’re thinking about dropping the baby now, aren’t you? Sorry about that.

Women think men are useless 

The great contradiction in being a dad nowadays is women expect you to take on certain domestic tasks, but they’re convinced you’re completely rubbish at them. There’s no point in trying to change that opinion. It’s ingrained in them, deep down. It may even be true, as any man who’s gone to work in yesterday’s stained shirt will tell you.

You have two options. You can embrace your lack of ability and pretend to be even worse at your designated task, like a balding Roger the Dodger. Sadly, this is only ever going to have limited success as — however many times you present her with an iron-shaped scorch mark — sooner or later she will leave the house and you will have to cope alone. No, you can’t tie her up. That’s frowned upon in the courts.

Your other option is to try to improve. This is also a waste of time, but at least it will give you ammunition when the arguments start. Also, don’t expect her to provide help or advice — this is training by ambush and you must get it wrong to find out just how wrong you can be.

You really are the village idiot but perhaps you can learn to live with it.

Yes, you will be emasculated

As your paternal role continues, you will probably feel like a big jessie quite a lot. There may have been a time when you showed emotion only when screaming at a referee, but that’s all changed now you have to admit to loving a small person. Yes, you do have to admit it. If you don’t, you’re not wired up right.

But that sort of sensitivity is okay. Think of the man from those Athena prints back in the 80s, and the way he made women melt. You can give the baby a kiss and still understand the offside rule. There will even come a time when the dollies’ tea party is a welcome respite from the thousandth screening of the bizarre antics of Iggle Piggle.

You may be emasculated but you’re still a man. Now go and have a good cry.

More unsolicited and half-baked advice is coming soon. If you're one of the two people who's actually read all this waffle, please say hello. I'm hoping to do something other than simple text soon.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The baby is biting me again

Sit down and I'll tell you a story to chill your blood and warm your heart.

Once upon a time, there was a grumpy reporter who spent his days being nasty to everyone. He had a wonderful time running around a small Scottish town, sticking his nose where it wasn't wanted, and stirring up trouble. Lots of people hated him - and rightly so. He was a bit of a git.

Then, due to the unlikely circumstance that an attractive woman was willing to be alone with him for a little while, a baby was born. The reporter felt a strange sensation, like one of those puzzled aliens Captain Kirk was always introducing to human feelings. Suddenly, he felt love.

Nearly five years later, there is jam on the ceiling. A baby boy followed the baby girl and, to have as much time with them as possible, the reporter is now a sub-editor, writing headlines and designing pages at night. There is no time for sleep, but the hack, exhausted as he is, knows he will never be this lucky again.

If only they would stop the biting...