A strange trip to the hospital with my wife this week. The receptionist assumed that I was the one there for the appointment. Not only that, but he also thought my wife was answering all of his questions on my behalf, and actually stopped to ask her to let me answer myself. Now, my wife does have a first name which can be either male or female, but given that the appointment was for an ultrasound, my wife is clearly pregnant, and she had handed him a folder of maternity notes, this seemed a strange assumption to make. He was at least suitably embarrassed when he realised. Anyway, this is all a roundabout way of saying we have another baby on the way.
Lots of people keep telling us that “the second one is easier”, but, being honest, I’m finding it hard to see how dealing with a tiny baby can be easier when you also have an energetic/attention seeking/grumpy (delete as applicable) toddler on your hands. A few weeks back I happened to bump into an old school friend who had just had his second child. He was in that manically tired state of mind that comes with a tiny baby at home, and his advice was “don’t do it”. I think he was joking, but it’s hard to be entirely sure.
I worry sometimes, about my daughter’s confidence. Like most worries about our children, this is rooted in my own experiences. I was always a pretty shy kid, as far back as I can remember. I was apparently terribly upset when my mum used to drop me off at nursery, and I seem to remember being happier playing by myself than joining in with the other kids. At primary school, this didn’t affect me much. It was a small school and everyone pretty much muddled along together without forming groups or cliques.
Middle school was a different matter, massive and overwhelming, and I retreated into my shell even more. Still, I had my little group of friends to play football and computer games with, which helped me worry less about the shyness I felt in larger groups. It was as a teenager though that my confidence really disappeared. I drifted away from one group of friends, and never really felt like I found another. At this crucial stage of life I felt alone, unimportant, insignificant.
When we moved into our new house earlier this year, we also bought a good-quality record player for the first time. You’d think a decent stereo set up would be fairly essential for a music blogger, but unlike some of my friends with strong opinions on speaker cables and stands, I’m hardly an audiophile. Still, I have to admit I love the sound, especially compared to the tinny faux-vintage all-in-one piece of crap we used to have. Surprisingly though, I’ve not been the member of the household getting the most pleasure out of the record player, as my 2 year old daughter is absolutely fascinated with it.
She has had her own Fisher Price record player since her first birthday (thanks Auntie Jen!) so she kind of understood the concept of these pieces of plastic spinning round and producing music, but now she’s starting to take an interest in our records. To her, music is for dancing to more than listening to, and when a song comes on which isn’t suitably danceable, she’ll demand “I want big music”, although what she considers to be big music can be quite hard to predict. If a ballad or a slow song comes she’ll ask “Is this a sad song?” and put on a pretend sad-face.
For pretty much every song she’ll ask “What’s this song about, what’s this song about?” So we have to be pretty careful what we choose to play to her. Either that or just lie, which is always a handy parenting option. I’ve not yet tried to explain the argument that a song can be said to be about whatever the listener perceives it to be about, so her interpretation that the song is about a jumping dog is equally valid as my interpretation that it’s about a psychedelic drug trip. That may have to wait until she’s 3 or 4.
I was away from home this weekend, catching up with some old friends (and seeing a live show by a rap legend). Before the trip I realised it would be the first night I had spent away from my daughter in her two and a half years on the planet. Actually, that’s not strictly true. The first night after she was born I spent at home alone, as partners were not allowed to stay overnight in the ward in the hospital, which made for one of the lonelier nights of my life. Every night since though, we’ve been either at home together or away together.
I didn’t make a conscious decision not to go away alone for so long, it just never happened until now. Time and money have been scarce these last few years, so there haven’t been many opportunities for weekends away for any of us (not that I would expect my daughter to be gallivanting off by herself quite yet). I felt weirdly guilty in advance of the trip. Not sure why, as logically I knew it wasn’t a big deal for me to take a rare trip away. I also know logically my wife is perfectly able to cope for a couple of days without me, and that my daughter might miss me, but would hardly be distraught. Since I became a father though, logic and feelings rarely align.
There’s an online dads group I’m part of. The guys in the group are, in the main, a pretty good bunch. Politically speaking they lean liberal, and regarding parenthood they tend towards the belief that dads should be just as involved as mums (and there are quite a few stay-at-home dads in the group). There’s the odd bit of grumbling about wives and partners, but rarely do I come across the kind of misogyny and misanthropy that is so rampant in other corners of the internet.
So it was a bit of a shock to read a post from another dad, whose 8 year old daughter had been bullied at a sleepover, describing the bullies as “slack c*nted mongoloids”. Now, I don’t think of myself as particularly prudish (although I do swear less than I used to since becoming a dad), but this took me aback. Quite apart from the fact that I would expect anybody over school age (or Ricky Gervais) to have grown out of the use of the word mongoloid as an insult, the use of slack c*nted to describe a group of 8 year old girls, regardless of what they’d done, is pretty breathtaking. I’m no longer a fan of the c-word, given its’ often misogynistic overtone, but i don’t inherently object to its’ use. To aim such a hateful, sexual phrase as ‘slack-c*nted’ at children though seems to me pretty vile.