One

The boy is one already. I say ‘already’ because even though it feels like a year has passed since he was born, I’ve yet to recover from the shock of his actually being born a year ago.

In the days leading up to his birthday the missus and I did the ‘this time last year’ thing as we followed the varying stations to his arrival; the contractions, the taxi, labour, the wait, the epidural, the panic and finally his being born. So on his actual birthday I found myself staring at him as if he’d just arrived again, but obviously not in the same way. This weirdness (which is obscure enough to demand a page of its own, but I can’t be arsed) is compounded by his suddenly not looking like a ‘a baby’ anymore. He’s got teeth, loads of hair and he’s aware of things that, until very recently, were just undiscovered lexicons, and to a certain extent that includes me.

It’s well known that the role of ‘dad’ (or ‘papa’ as I’m referred to by my wife, which makes me sound like a feeble old pizza chef with a massive white ‘tash) is pretty much a supportive one in the early stages of [his] life, and even then you’ll always play second fiddle to her. To be honest I got used to this very early on, so when I do get a grin or even something resembling a freely-given cuddle it means loads. Recently these have increased in frequency as it become more apparent that his little neurons and synapses are beginning to form cohesive structures. I’m no longer some tit-less entity who is just there on a daily basis, I now have a function of sorts, though he’s no idea what that is. And I’m not so sure either, though there are a few that definitively come with the job, mainly revolving around his mouth and bottom…

…And there we were three years ago in Amsterdam at Easter, after having biked there in black leather from London, sat in a coffee-bar smoking a joint. That day I’d had to buy a pair of 15 quid jeans from some Dutch equivalent of Primark after having left mine at home. These jeans weren’t quite the stop gap I’d anticipated, I’d bought them in less than five minutes, but they fitted so well I just wore them all the time. Two years later, almost to the day, I wore them when my son was born. That may not seem particularly profound or weird but those 15 quid trousers are witness to a change in both life and lifestyle. Last week, with my trousers covered in animal-shaped pasta and ricotta vomit, I took a moment to ruminate. And as I threw my beloved jeans into the bath to soak, once again, I considered the choices we make in life and the effect it has on the future, not just mine or his, but everyone’s, even yours. What if in twenty-year’s time he comes around to your house when you’re on holiday, nicks all your electrical goods and takes a dump on your Axminster on the way out? You can’t say I didn’t warn you.

Happy birthday, son.

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Vio-lence

A few months back he discovered that it amused him to slap people’s faces. This may or may not have had something to do with my theatrical overreaction to being slapped, specifically, pretending to have received a severe blow to the face in slow motion whilst going ‘noooooooo’. Either way, the expression on his face as he whacks one/anyone around is well worth the pain, to the point that the better half says I actively encourage him, which is ridiculous (I do).

What isn’t so adorable (if being repeatedly slapped about by a chortling infant constitutes ‘adorable’) is that now the slapping is part of a four-pronged attack -I’d just like to quickly add that I don’t ‘get off’ on being slapped, and especially not by a very-soon-to-be one year-old.

For the four-way assault to occur one needs to be lying down, so bed then. He sleeps in his own bed these days and we only bring him into the bed in the mornings when he wakes (around 7.00) for a feed (tits) so we can sleep a little longer.

After his breakfast he’ll crawl over to my side of the bed and after pulling hard on my hair -which is a coded warning that an attack is imminent rather than a first-stage assault- repeatedly slap my face. Until recently this was quite gentle and enough to sate his aggression, but now he’ll slap the face with force then grab it (lips, nose and eyelids are particularly vulnerable, and if his nails haven’t been cut for a week he’ll go through skin) head-butt it with a dead-eyed clunk and, worse of all, go for a bite. When he was small this would be no more than gummy pressure lubricated with dribble but since he’s acquired a top and bottom set of teeth it’s bloody, yell-out-loud, painful. Of course, for him my shouting-out in pain is entertainment par-excellence so the attacks intensify as new areas of vulnerability are sought out. Now the neck and arms are also fair game for biting, scratching, slapping and so on. At times it’s agony and if you’re not careful he’d genuinely have your eye out, but it’s also ludicrous, if not dangerous, fun.

No one tells you this stuff before they’re born. This time last year I couldn’t even imagine his existence, despite my better half bearing a space-hopper lump and clambering over all that baby stuff silently lying around waiting for god-knows-what in his purpose-built room.

To say life has irrevocably changed is stating the bloody obvious and I don’t just mean the sleepless nights or the bite marks. I’m looking at him now with yoghurt all over his face as he drops the water bottle on the floor for the 10th time because I’m typing and he thinks I’m not paying him any attention. There is no point describing how all this parent stuff feels because (most) parents will know already and those without kids couldn’t care less, which I get. It’s not like I’ve been a dad for decades, even applying the word ‘dad’ to me still feels a bit weird.

Outside the death of a loved-one, there are two invisible lines of knowledge. One occurs before and after virginity and the other before and after the birth of a child. All three lines are connected, notwithstanding that two lead to a third, but because once the line in question has been crossed the change is an irreversible and an ever present fact of life. In this instance that means being perpetually tired, having to constantly clean stuff and dealing with remarkably creative paranoia.

And that’s just fine by me, being a dad is fucking ace of spades.

Milk

The horrors of dentition have borne milk teeth. In the space of a fortnight he now has a top and bottom set of ivories and seems a lot cheerier in his general demeanour.

Of course he’s plenty more teeth to go, but I’ve been informed the first four are the ones that really piss them off, not that I buy that for a second. I’ve listened to too many absolutes, my mantra is to expect the worse, then you won’t be disappointed.

And for the record, nothing helps with teething, those amber beads, cold carrot sticks, beef rib bones -actually I didn’t try those (that was a suggestion from a lady at the gym) and I don’t really do beef ribs outside of the odd visit to Duke’s Brew and Que and that’s not been for well over a year. As for over-the-counter remedies, they can all do-one. I mean it’s not as if the baby can complain how about how shit they are, ring up Watchdog and have a chat with a researcher with a view to getting their moaning, miserly faces on the telly to blah, blah at length about some trivial and wholly resolvable inconsequence, and possibly a chance to sneak into Sophie Raworth’s dressing room and have a quick poke around her drawers.

I’m pretty sure ‘baby Bonjela’ is just pork gelatin and cough syrup…Speaking of which, Tixylix, boar bile would be more effective. It doesn’t even work as a placebo-by-proxy because the second you pour the cack down his neck absolutely nothing happens. At least the physical act of applying Bonjela gives the merest impression of its effectiveness as you’ve momentarily confused them into silence. One minute they’re thinking ‘ouch my bloody gums hurt, wah, wah etc.’ and the next they’re ‘hang on, one of these arseholes is waggling their wine-stained finger in my mouth… Oh they’ve gone. Ouch my bloody gums hurt, wah, wah etc.’

It’s utter bullshit.