Uhm, so where was I? Oh yes, harping on about all the changes that we didn’t think would happen to us, because we’re so different to our parents and then we had you and suddenly we are EXACTLY like our parents and this in itself is enough to ignite spontaneous internal combustion or at least the powerful urge to get on a plane and fly to an island where the money’s for nothing and the chicks for free. Well, I’m married to your mother so perhaps just the beer.
The change that comes with a child is prolific and extreme. And no matter how much you prepare yourself, the metamorphosis from selfish caterpillar to parental butterfly is the equivalent of sipping Mojito’s made by a bartender called Alejándro, basking beneath an ochre sunset and nodding off in a gently swaying hammock. And then waking up in the arctic tundra with nought but your boxers and a can of frozen sweetcorn. Without a can opener.
Once, I considered myself to be a well-balanced, rational, patient person, but hell bells boy, after your were born I’ve thrown dummies against the wall and broken breast milk containers, (okay, only one, but in my defense you were crying for so long and I was so desperate to get the bloody milk out that I slammed it against the tabletop causing the bottle to explode in spectacular fashion).
Your mother did not think it was spectacular. She by the way, has experienced a completely different metamorphosis. Her impatience and imperial task mode manner died the minute you were born and now the daisies of love, care and serenity blossom in abundance over that grave. I know, I just made a little vomit in my throat too. Bluuuggh.
I, on the other hand, found that Patience is the first virtue to pack its holiday bags and have a merry time with Alejándro, leaving Tolerance and Kindness desperately scrambling for their passports. So, because having a baby is an experience which is shaken, not stirred, I thought I would make a small list of things you should expect to happen. Because when everyone is congratulating you on the imminent birth of your bundle of joy, what they really should be telling you is this:
1. The wet wipes. So, so, many wet wipes. More often than not the house looks like a North Korean plane swept through the house dispersing propaganda leaflets everywhere. The plane, I imagine sometimes, is piloted by some communist wet wipe goblin, whose sole purpose is to ensure that used wet wipes are falling out of the diaper bag, my pocket or the car in equal measure.
The problem is exponentially exasperated now that you’ve discovered the wipes are not just great for cleaning your face and ass, but make for endless entertainment as you pull them out one by one, giving each wipe a little nibble before proceeding on to the next. At least your mouth is really clean, but changing your diaper has now become a wrestling match between me, you and the packet of wet wipes. It’s amazing how quickly a small poo can disperse and cover a large area when encouraged by a little movement. Requiring even more wet wipes to clean it up with.
2. Luckily people don’t notice the wet wipes creeping out of your pocket or stuck to your shoe. They’re more focused on the explosion of talcum powder in your hair and shirt which looks like you had multiple brawls with an angry kilogram of Columbian marching powder.
3. Conversations change. People don’t ask us how we are anymore. As long as you’re fine, the general assumption is that we’re fantastic. All your friends and family want to know is what new and miraculous little thing you are doing now. The word “cute” gets flailed around like an adjectival bludgeon.
I’ve tried steering some of those “adorable”-filled tête-à-têtes into more non-infantile waters by invoking topics dripping with testosterone like rugby or cars. This works for all of five minutes until someone asks: So are you going to let your boy play? Or: Have you started saving up for his first car yet? And so that boat barely makes it out of the harbour before sinking unceremoniously into the maelstrom of everyone’s thoughts on how to raise children. Perhaps I should just start grunting and point at rocks.
4. Point 3 is perhaps somewhat unfair. The truth is that once you have a child you actually can’t stop talking about him either. Everything literally does revolve around you. It’s a bit like when everyone had to reluctantly concede that the earth is in fact, not flat or that mullets were never, ever cool. Not even if you’re MacGyver.
5. Some of your more honest, tactless, childless friends will look at you and grasping for some conversational straw will say: “Geez, you look old.” Sometimes honesty and its policy should really learn how to make a cup of shut-the-duck-up.
6. Yes, you also suddenly realise how much you swear and start replacing those choice expletives you’ve been using for so long as grammatical crutch with words that don’t make any sense. God knows you don’t want to be the parent being called into kindergarten and reprimanded because your child is running around laughing calling everyone a doos. One day you will understand how, when you were younger, there were so many people called Koos.
7. The good news is, there’s a certain sense of self-preservation that kicks in. Your mind builds a happy soundproof palace. It’s like the Batcave for your thoughts, A Fortress of Solitude impervious to the noise your child makes as he’s banging blocks together, shaking his rattle or testing out the range of his vocal cords.
The bad news is that the ability to isolate yourself from the noise and finish that important e-mail, is paradoxically only matched by the inability to get anything done. Babies, especially you my son, are constantly bored, always on the look out for new little dangerous nooks and crannies to stick your fingers into or wires to chew on. You require, nay, demand constant attention, leaving the cursor flickering despondently at the end of some half finished sentence.
8. The human body is very clever though and has a contingency plan. It is called the one handed shuffle and as it suggests, the one hand becomes redundant for any other purpose than to hold you. Cooking, cleaning, typing, well basically your whole life, is attended to by the free hand. Which is why after your were born, the food is sometimes burned and i often send messsigis wifout capitols an spelling mistakes what would make alot of gramma nazis loose they’re shit. I mean sherbet.
9. Have I mentioned your toys? You have a play area. You play there. Then how the hell do all your toys find their way into my bed, the bathroom, the kitchen and the far corners of the garden? You can’t even crawl properly yet. Are they becoming alive in a strange episode of The Twilight Zone? Does a silent hurricane come in the middle of the night to scatter your playthings? The mystery, I suspect, will only resolve itself once you move out of the house. Until then, I have several years of finding cheap plastic poking my ass in bed to look forward to.
10. You will see every single sunrise the year your child is born. Which is pleasant because sunrises are magic and beautiful. When enjoyed with cup of coffee wrapped in silence. When the coffee is already cold because you’ve been dancing your son to sleep, or your changing a diaper as the golden rays of a new day gently settle on the pungent aroma of last night’s broccoli, the magic is a little less…magic.
So there, one day your wife will be pregnant and people will congratulate you so hard the exclamation marks will hurt your head. Oh, they might hint at the “pajama drill” with a little chuckle and a knowing glint in their eye. But they will never tell you the truth. None of us would have children if they did.
But here’s another truth. I haven’t thrown a dummy against the wall in months. I don’t really care about the wet wipes or the talcum powder or the fact that everyone is constantly saying you are the cutest thing since people discovered puppy videos on YouTube.
The truth is you are cute and adorable and every other clichéd adjective in the dictionary. I love the fact that you make me want to stop swearing like a sailor. It means I want to be a better person and sure, we look like we’ve suddenly aged overnight, but one day your mother and I will be able to catch up on sleep and our friends who’ve just had children will look even older.
Every time I find a toy in bed, I can’t help but smile. It reminds me of you laughing and finding pleasure in the smallest of things, like a shiny doorknob. And yes, sometimes the sun is slowly wrapping its fingers around a new day whilst I’m changing a diaper that smells like it needs to be quarantined. But there are also times when I’m rocking you back to sleep in front of the window and everything is covered in golden light including your face and you look up at me with such contentment and that my son, is real magic.
I still listen to The Beatles’ Across The Universe. I just don’t agree with them anymore. You’ve changed my world and exposed me to a love so fierce I feel sorry for those who choose not to or can’t experience it. I hope one day you do. A few moments of anger and frustration are a fair trade for watching the sun rise with your son in your arms.