In a good way.
I always imagined that being a dad for the first time I would be sitting at a table with my friends smoking a fat cigar whilst the wife was back at home telling all of her friends. It was a very 60’s version of coming into rights but that was what I had experienced before. I remember one of my dad’s friends had just been given the news that he was going to be a father again, and my dad bought us all a round of the most expensive cigars in the bar that we sat at. We sat like kings for a while, drinking neat whisky and smoking expensive cigars. The experience was very manly.
For me it was quite different. My wife had just came down with a temperature, and we were due to fly out to Kefalonia in a few weeks for our honeymoon. It was a Saturday and we called the out-of-hours doctors because we were worried that we couldn’t fly. I remember the excitement that befell me as the lady on the line asked Natalie if she was pregnant. No? We hadn’t even considered that possibility so I took off to the shop to get a pregnancy test. We were overjoyed of course when we found out that Natalie was in fact pregnant and that her fever was a result of having a baby growing inside her.
There were no cigars, no neat whisky, and I hadn’t talked to my dad in a few months by now. It didn’t stop me feeling less of a man though. I remember for a long time wanting to thrust my pelvis into the air and shout like a rooster at 5am in the morning from the hilltops. I think at no point in my life have I felt more manly than at the time when my wife was told that she was with child. I had completed my life’s purpose; I had succeeded at what a man was supposed to achieve out of life.
It dawned on me just as Alex was about to be born that I had zero influence in my own life about how being a positive role model was meant to be. My dad had deserted me, and when he came back into my life it was full of abuse and neglect. The men that my mum had partnered with weren’t winning any father of the year awards anytime soon that’s for sure. Those guys were only interested in a relationship with my mother and not me. I had not much experience of having positive role models in my life at all, apart from one or two that came and went. It was a frightening stand-point in my life. Here I was, sitting here, hoping to be an amazing dad yet having no idea of what an amazing dad would be like. I remember the cold fear that seeped into my ball sack, “what if I’m not a good dad? What if I screw this kid’s life up. What if I’m exactly like my own dad” The thought of responsibility that was now going to be bestowed on me was immense. I’m now entirely responsible for someone else, and not just me.
It changes you, you know? Being responsible for another. I remember how strange it was at first to think about other people first than my own self. I had only needed to be responsible for my own actions and now I have to be responsible for both. My son and my own. The way I think of it now is that my sons actions are a reflection on my parenting and not the other way around. I know through my own parents failures that their inability to guide me through life in a positive and healthy way isn’t my own fault, it’s theirs. My own self reflection has led me to a great many realisations, and it’s been aided by the birth of Alex. The way he is and the way I interact with him has allowed me to reflect and progress in life in a way that I had never imagined. I now recognise fully where my own parents went wrong and have a plan to rectify that. Their biggest flaw being that I was blamed for their own fuckups, and in turn I took this blame internally and screwed my life up.
I’ve been able to iron out a lot of my flaws through this eternally in depth reflection session I have going on. I was blamed for never going to college; for allowing my mother to think I was attending but in reality I was just sneaking home and drinking alcohol and watching crap on telly. I was getting depressed. I was a boy that needed constant stimulation, I was a boy that needed to do things that he enjoyed rather than do things he thought society and his parents wanted from him. I ended up flunking college and blaming my failures on myself, when if only someone had taken me aside and asked what “I” wanted to do, and that I could do it, then perhaps life would have been slightly different.
Alex has the choice. We’ve tried to engage him in many after school activities but none have taken hold. It’s important not to brainwash him into thinking this is what he needs — in our home he will be able to be whatever he wants. There’s nothing he can’t do, and nothing he can’t achieve if he puts his mind to it. He’s already joined the School Choir. He thought it was an amazing idea, and as a result we encourage him to sing at home. If this is what he wants to do then so be it. I’m lucky I’m able to give him the opportunity to start young in a way that I was never given. I was always destined for more but didn’t know how to grasp it. This was because I had so many people in my life telling me I couldn’t do things rather than telling me that I can. When I swapped those people in my life to doers, my life changed immensely. I’m now given practical solutions to my problems rather than incessant complaining and moaning.
If it weren’t for Alex being born then I doubt I’d be this far ahead in life. Having the responsibility of another changes your perspective entirely. Through him I’ve been able to understand there’s a wide world out there outwith my needs and wants. That the world doesn’t revolve around me, and that my life is important, yet at the same time somewhat totally unimportant. It’s a weird mesh together but one I plan to keep building on and growing from.