So…you’re about to become a dad?
You’re wondering what parenting style is best, you have questions about child development, and you’re thinking about how parenting affects your child’s personality?
And you’ve come here for help?
I can’t answer any of that stuff. If I could, I’d have written a book.
Instead, I can offer four pearls of wisdom which will be of little help, but may at least leave you stroking your chin and thinking:
“Hmmm…that dad|THEORY certainly knows his way around a keenly observed parenting situation…”
1| The concept of risk gets confusing
As I eased into my forties I thought I’d pretty much got the hang of risk.
Can I make this overtake? Can I get away with this shirt? Can I jump this ravine?
If I got it wrong, the only person I was going to kill, or embarrass, or offend, was myself.
Or my wife, at a push.
But she’s a grown woman, and if she chooses to get into a car with me…
Then you have kids, and it gets confusing.
Can I make this overtake, and how traumatic would it be for the kids if I got it wrong? Can I get away with this shirt, and how traumatic would it be for the kids if I got it wrong?
Can I jump this ravine, and would the fleeting stardom on “The World’s Biggest Fail Vids” outweigh how traumatic it would be for the kids if I got it wrong?
It’s a minefield.
To make matters worse, as a dad you also have to assess risk for them, on their behalf.
And they tragically, beautifully, trust you, because you’re daddy.
“That’s it son, just take your hands of the brakes and roll down the hill. If you feel like you’re getting too fast just…WOOOAAHHHH…OK, now just feather the brakes…FEATHER THE BRAKES…shit. Right, I’m sure he’s fine, but go and get mummy. GO AND GET MUMMY!”
“Honestly…if he’d just feathered the brakes.”
And he looks up at you from down there in the undergrowth, with big brown eyes that seem to say: “but daddy…I trusted you to carry out a dynamic risk assessment!”
2| You will magically become invisible
If you’re a dad, at some point you probably had a chat with a lady that you love very much, and agreed that having children would be a good idea.
And then, nine months after you gave her one of your special cuddles, you found yourself in possession of said offspring.
You may have been caught on the hop by also finding yourself in possession of some grandparents.
Your child will happily milk this situation for money, ice-cream, and a cynical share of any future inheritance. You will be left to manage the logistics.
You will have to do this whilst being invisible.
This is because you are neither as cute, nor as pleased to see the grandparents as little Trevor, or Barbara, or whatever kids are getting called these days.
And you never will be.
3| You will acquire hundreds of new friends
When you have a child, you suddenly have something in common with literally dozens of other people across the world who also have a child.
Studies have shown that parents can form friendly relationships that can last for many years based on nothing more than parent-y chit-chat, shared sleep deprivation, and mutual pity.
So flimsy are these friendships that surnames can remain undiscovered, and questionable moral views can go unnoticed, for many years.
As the children become older, and spend much of their time online being stalked by god-knows-who, you will find that you have nothing more to talk about and you’ll go your separate ways.
You might see your old friends from time to time, in the supermarket, and think wistfully: “oh look…that’s so-and-so’s mum…I wonder if she’s still a massive racist?”
4| Photographs are lies
They say a picture tells a thousand words.
Problem is, they’re the wrong words.
My brain has become so reliant on having an iPhone image to accompany every moment that it no longer bothers storing it’s own backup version. The line between a digital photo and a memory has become blurred.
And without no backup memory to add context, the iPhone images are up for interpretation.
If I scrolled through pictures of my kids for a complete stranger, their coo-ing commentary would sound something like:
“Oh…look at the little darling…butter wouldn’t melt…oh he’s so mischievous…haha, look at him there making you laugh, and you’re trying to keep a straight face…oh this one is great, he’s got chocolate all down him…”
While my honest commentary would go:
“Oh that was awful, he was up at 3.30 am that day…yeah, I’m pretty sure he’d just drawn on the kitchen walls there…oh god, straight after that picture he took his trousers off and waved his willy at the milkman…no, that’s not chocolate.”
There’s only one solution.
Stick with the truth of the iPhone camera and, to all intents and purposes, you’ve raised a little angel.
Just commit to the narrative. No-one needs to know.