…Until I Became A Father

There’s a particular phrase I hear from some dads, spread thinly throughout the year, but clustered around Father’s Day:

“I didn’t know what it was to be a man until the day I became a father”.

It’s a lovely sentiment at first glance, and I’m pleased that this realisation of how to be, finally came.

But it does make me admire the mother of your child or children: Apparently she had the foresight and trust that you’d finally learn to become a real, fully rounded person. Who can say how much of a gamble that might have been for her? To trust that, once the baby was here, you learn the required skills of empathy and responsibility.

Personally if I hadn’t, eventually, learnt how to become an actual human being instead of a travesty in shoes there’s not a chance Elodie’s mum would have wanted to procreate with me. I needed to show empathy, responsibility for my actions, demonstrate a willingness and ability to be the father of our child. But before that child was conceived, not afterwards. And it’s still a work in progress.

This, after all, instead really a dig at men who become better people due to a baby-shaped epiphany. Because we can always be better. We must always be better. Stasis is death and decay and our children deserve better than that.

Baby’s First Christmas

Let’s be honest, a tiny of baby four months has no idea Christmas is happening. At best, they might see that their routine is disrupted as all the other home occupants get caught up in a fury of excitement and indulgence. There might even be guests, or travelling, resulting in the inevitable infant pass-the-parcel as one relative, friend or random passer-by after another demands ‘cuddles’, which seems to be code for ‘being vomited on’. All those visitors, as well as any children they’ve brought with them, have a chance of spreading their snots and lurgies to your little family unit, shattering what semblance of bliss you’ve managed to claw from in amongst the tiredness.

And yet…

Christmas is just better with a little one in your family, a little creature who wasn’t there before, that looks to you for everything; a little being that has no idea what’s going on, but having them there just makes Christmas more… Christmas.

There’s something quite joyous about opening up all these baby gifts, thoughtfully chosen by the diaspora of your extended family. Christmas becomes even more about the family, and less (if it ever was) about the individual. It’s even more about the joys you share; it’s about the little memento mori, like the special tree ornaments marking the occasion; it’s about the ridiculous outfit you put the baby in, whether Christmas pudding, reindeer or elf. It’s a totally new experience, and one that I’ll look back on with delight.

But, because of all those visits I’ve alluded to in the first paragraph, I’d suggest you follow a few guidelines for your guests.

Four Things for Four Months

Originally posted on The FMLY Man blog.

“Four months” doesn’t sound like a lot of time. And yet somehow it feels like our little one has been here forever, retconned into all past memories. I can no longer imagine or remember a time without her, just like I can’t remember a time I wasn’t tired.

In these four months I’ve learnt that every day is precious. So much about the little person in your life can, and will, change on a daily basis. No one day is like another, and every day is a gift. Especially the day she first woke up, saw me, and gave me the biggest grin in the world. If I wasn’t hopelessly enraptured before, I was then.

I’ve learnt that family is what you make it. Outside of your little family unit, there are a number of people related to you by blood or other means, friends, acquaintances and random passersby. From within this social circle will come the champions, the supporters, the genuinely interested parties. It may surprise you who those people are. It may surprise you who those people aren’t.

Planning is super-important and nigh-impossible. There are so many things in daily baby daycare that need to happen. And without a bit of forethought to meals, activities and schedules, they’re just not going to happen, something always slips through the cracks. The laissez-faire, ad hoc life is not for you any more! Saying that though, try not to plan too much, because that deftly crafted battleplan isn’t going to survive contact with the enemy. Running a little behind for an appointment? Surprise outfit-ruining aPoo-calypse! Need to make a quick phonecall? Screaming fit!

Time runs differently now that you have a little one in your life. I don’t just mean the inability to fully appreciate how old she is, how long she’s been with you. Things just take longer now. That might be because just going to the shops to get milk is now an epic undertaking involving multiple layers of clothes, possibly vehicles, baby bag etc. It might be because when you’re tired, time stretches and distends in ways you’d never imagined. Or it might just be that suddenly there’s nothing more important in your life than this small being, and everything else, including time, just pales into insignificance.