As any parent of young children knows, it is entirely normal to spend your days in a permanently sleep-deprived haze. Lie-ins can quickly become the stuff of legend; either that, or their definition changes so dramatically that uninterrupted sleep until 7am is the post-kids equivalent of waking at midday and watching ITV3 crime drama repeats in your pants for the rest of the afternoon. So, one of the things I love the most about staying with my parents – something we’ve just done as we saw in 2013 with them both – is their willingness to get up with the children at the crack of dawn.
On New Year’s Day, there is really nothing sweeter than being able to say to two under-fives when they appear at your bedside, “Go and see Grandad. Goodbye.” What’s more, the fact that my dad doesn’t appear at 8am and consider that to be enough of a lie-in, purely because he’s been up with the kids for a couple of hours by this point, is something for which I’ll be eternally grateful. If and when I have grandchildren (a ridiculous thought, I know, given that I sometimes wonder whether it’s even legal for me to have kids of my own yet), I hope I’ll show the same consideration to my brood and happily rise in the middle of the night to watch the 2050 equivalent of Abney and Teal.
All this has made me wonder: is it really true that eventually, we basically become our parents? If so, I don’t know whether to feel delighted or terrified. After spending the new year with my folks, the idea that I’ll one day be exactly the same as my dad fills me with a bizarre mixture of serene contentment and what can only be described as paralysing fear. Because although I love my dad’s considerate nature and his eagerness to ensure that my wife and I relax whenever we stay there, there remain some things that deeply panic me about the prospect of becoming more and more like him. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have him any other way and he is, of course, the best father anyone could ever have, but it’s surely okay to have at least a few quibbles, isn’t it?
His ability to get his words confused, for example, isn’t something I want to emulate in a hurry. When planning the New Year’s Eve festivities, he heartily announced to the assembled throng that we’d be having “a lesbian meal – all together.” Just your average December evening in the Home Counties, then. (Upon further enquiry, he begrudgingly admitted that he had, in fact, meant ‘Lebanese’ – but it’s an easy mistake to make. We’ve all been there.) Similarly, his choice of attire is never less than interesting. My dad remains the only man in the world who believes it to be entirely normal to wear a large green bumbag when shopping in Sainsbury’s (“why would anyone want to have to reach into their pocket for a wallet when you can access all your money via one zip?”) and he resolutely refuses to remove his jumper when eating, even if he’s practically dying from the heat (“I just don’t believe in taking my pullover off at the table – and anyway, it wouldn’t make me any cooler; it simply doesn’t work like that”).
Before we left to head home, I mentioned to my dad that I was writing a blog about parenting. “You? Parenting? What on EARTH do YOU know about parenting?” It’s a fair response – but then, I guess the beauty of muddling on through as a dad is that none of us has a clue how to do it. If we’re honest, we’re all attempting to find our way and do our best, whether that be as a dad to a toddler or a dad to a father of two kids himself. Which is a relief, really, because if it required anything more than that, I don’t think any of us would qualify for the task.
Now then, where on earth did I put the lesbian peppercorns?