t minus. . .unknown: sneaky earplugs

I’m sitting in a room surrounded by nothing. The erstwhile terribly comforting clutter which used to fill my office has now been tidied, thrown out, “re-distributed” or otherwise hidden. I’m a man in the middle of a mass-migration: me into the shed, my son into the (biggest, but I’m not bitter, really) room in the house, new squirt to be isolated into the sound-proofed box-room, only to come out when he/she is sensible, interesting and can fend for him/herself.

Being aware of the space around me – that feeling of change you get when you move house and go around it one last time to check you haven’t left any socks, suits or pianos in the empty rooms – is really starting to make the whole new baby thing feel very real. With that reality, I’m suddenly finding lots of memories are returning. I’m not big on memory – that’s what computers and lists are for – but it’s just come back to me, for example, that there was a period of time during the dark days of the first 6 months when I used to have earplugs hidden under my side of the bed.

Now, before you go thinking that I’m one of those “works all day, therefore I’m entitled to a good nights’ sleep, woman, and while you’re at it where’s my damn supper, stop moaning, nothing wrong with the missionary position?” type husbands – I’m not. I’m big on getting up, helping with feeds, sharing the tiredness, sympathising about sore nipples, breast pumping and all that stuff.

The fact that I had earplugs, however – not just any earplugs, but sneaky ones that I used to pop in when Rach wasn’t looking – says a few things to me in the cold light of day which I’d only admit to my nearest and dearest:

1. I was obviously stupid, because everyone knows earplugs don’t work,

2. I’m actually a bastard – the worst kind, because I masquerade as a caring kind of guy,

3. I should watch out because I have also been known to wear an eyemask, and not many marriages are built on the sexiness of sensory deprivation

In my defence: at the time, these factors disappeared into the blur. In fact anything sensible disappeared into the blur. There was a night, for instance, when I set up my laptop screen saver just in front of the Moses basket because I thought Dan would like it. Another night when I spent hours downloading and editing a heartbeat sound so I could leave it playing next to his cot. And don’t mention the projecting mobile Disney light thingy which I bought from Mothercare. Then too I was convinced that it would be the answer to all our problems. Only later did it become clear that Dan couldn’t see nearly far enough away for him to give a shit about the picture of Tigger dancing on the ceiling, and that actually he found the whole projection thing more unsettling than calming.

So the question is: have I learnt any kind of a lesson?

Maybe ask me at 3am in a couple of weeks as I strap my eye/ear combo on, plug in the lappie and power up the projector…

t minus…unknown : stupid cruelty

You know, this was never meant to be a space where I banged on about how best to bring up kids. Yet here I am, post #2, and I’m about to rant.

I was sitting upstairs in my office just now when my ears started pulsating with the sound of what sounded like a murder outside the house. Where we live is a long way from being unpleasant but I have discovered a mild addiction by passers-by to SHOUT a lot. Usually it’s at around 2am, when I really need to be on the ball the following day…

Nunzilla!Anyway. The shouting continued, so being a top curtain-twitching kind of person, I snuck through to our bedroom so I could see what was going on. Across the road was a small boy, probably 6 or 7 years old, not being murdered, but screaming – and being screamed at – by his heavily-tattooed mother. I only caught the end of the argument and it had all got a bit heated by then but what happened next shocked me.

She didn’t hit him, or box his ears or anything physical.

Instead, she opened her bag, pulled out one of his toys, put it calmly on the floor…and stamped on it.

How appallingly cruel, and shit, and gutless is that? How much of a pit have you got to have crawled into in order to lose your rag that much at your child? What a completely stupid, fuckwit arsehole of a parent are you to be that far out of control?

Now, I haven’t got a 6/7 year old (yet). But I’ve got a 2.5 year old, and yes, he can test the patience of a saint at the worst of times. But always – always – there’s a sense of keeping control, having to rise above it, remembering that kids are still people, and little ones at that. Sometimes it’s hard – really hard. I’m not as good as I could be, and sometimes I lose it and shout when I really don’t mean to. But I have also learned that kids always test the boundaries, and a losing-the-plot type moment does absolutely nothing for anybody – in fact if anything it gives them more attention and makes it more likely that they’ll do it again next time.

Take what happens when you stamp on your childs toy, for example: Small boy goes apoplectic. Screams get louder and more obscene (he starts calling his mum a “willy”), mum stomps off down the street. Neighbourhood is treated to 5 minutes of boy lying on the floor crying before he heads off to do some more shouting. Street covered in broken-toy litter. No one wins. And that’s all the practical stuff, without even mentioning the damage done to the poor kids’ psyche.

Enough ranting. I hope it works out. But I’m betting after another 10 years of that, he’ll end up being the one kicking the shit out of someone else smaller than him.

t minus…unknown : Cricket, war and babies

I’ve always been of the opinion that cricket is very similar to war.

Having not done a huge amount of either one, I’m probably not best placed to comment but it always seemed to me that with both you’re either incredibly, terribly bored or absolutely shitting yourself because something fast and heavy is likely to hit your head any second.

Sitting and eating lunch with my wife just now, I realised that expecting your second baby is very similar. Not the heavy thing hitting your head – that would indeed be a remarkable labour – but the boredom. I’m actually pretty bored with the whole thinking and talking about pregnancy thing now (says the half of the relationship who doesn’t actually have to do anything – but she says so too…) but also terrified that it’s going to be a huge amount of worry all over again. Frankly, I’m scared of Going Over The Top. Or Batting. Or something.

Don’t get me wrong. Hidden behind both fear and boredom is a huge dollop of excitement. So fear ye not, #2 child, when you dig out this “blog” thing from the “internet” (whatever that was) and find that your father once wrote about your imminent arrival – I’m already in love with you, and looking forward very much to meeting you. It’s just that, well, doing it for the second time you have the HUGE advantage of knowing what’s coming up. But also the HUGE disadvantage of knowing what’s coming up. If you see what I mean.

With my lovely boy, Dan, who is now 2.5 (“nearly 3, daddy”, or so he keeps telling me), things seemed hard. Exzma (ezxma/exma/ecszma/whatever – still after 3 years I can’t bloody spell it), a long labour, depression, all compacted by not having a fookin clue about anything – all made for an interesting ride. I mean, the fear you feel not knowing when the end of the tunnel is coming – in fact, the complete lack of any understanding at all about the tunnel, the train, the journey or even what day you set off – is insanely intense. It’s no wonder you get to about month 3 – I did, anyway – and think “Fuck. This is it. The end of my life. No more going out, ever. No more friends. No more holidays. Just shit, puke, crying, broken nights. From here on up, until the end of eternity.”

Thinking about it, I had a moment much earlier on, minutes after Dan was born. I’d just wandered over to have a look at my beautiful new baby, a minute staring lovingly into his face. And what did he do? Stopped breathing and turned blue. Probably the shock of seeing me. But at that moment, I had a flash of “I will never, ever be able to stop worrying, ever again”. And then, a few days later at 4 in the morning with him in his Moses basket snoring/rumbling/spluttering like a sailor after a 60 Senior Service evening, I imagined the bad comedy camera shot starting on my face and then zooming out to show both me and Rach staring upwards, fear in our eyes, each pretending to the other that it was all ok.

In the end, of course, it is so much more than ok. Mine is a world surrounded and immersed in my first child, and shortly to be surrounded and immersed in my second. We have a lovely life – and a beautiful, funny, clever little boy. Now, of course, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

The secret is that babies, to be honest, aren’t actually terribly interesting, are they? They are, however, the means to about the best end you could hope for.