Chill out, baby

When Ray Mears was asked if he’d rather be too hot or too cold he took another bite of his Cornish pasty and stared into space. ‘Too cold,’ he said with a mouth full of macerated beef and potato, ‘…because if you’re too cold you can always get warm (swallow) but if you’re too hot you can’t always cool down.’

With the weather approaching temperatures that require dedicated air conditioning units, I pondered Ray’s opinion as I picked up my one-year-old son -one again suffering from both a cold and a temperature wrapped in some sort of ironic paradox- and found myself in the familiar position of sort-of knowing what to do, thinking it through and then realising that I don’t actually know what to do at all. Again.

In this instance, the issue revolved around keeping him cool on the hottest day of the year. I figured he needed cooling down with water, but then should I close the window in case the breeze blasting the moisture on his skin turn him into some sort of pneumonia-contracting fridge? Of course, I could be being completely paranoid so I fluctuated uncomfortably between two schools of ignorance as the all the temperatures rose exponentially. Then he threw up.

We’re sort of getting used to him doing this now but he doesn’t usually do so much, and in front of horrified friends that we’d had over for a spot of tea and a chinwag on a Saturday afternoon. Actually, when I say we’re getting used to it I mean we’re not getting used to it at all, it still retains the power to shock, what I mean is that we’ve seen him throw up before and we have knowledge of how awful it is, just like when you or I throw up. Similarly, one mentally thinks back over the past few days, or hours, and tries and work out the source of emesis.

In this case, the suspects, in order of notion, were initially related to temperature/teething but this was partially countered by his planting a small hand into a large pile of green birdshit earlier that day in the park. I didn’t see this particular event but my wife and our friends/witnesses saw the excrement on his hand and no one could guarantee he’d not checked out this new phenomenon orally. And there was always the ongoing possibility he’d ‘picked up something’ at the nursery the previous day, either way, whatever it was, had disagreed with him all over the floor.

That night, as per usual when he’s not feeling well, he slept with us. I like it when he sleeps with us, even if he somehow seems to occupy all of the bed and the likelihood of my being booted in the face and, as he gets bigger, nuts, increases sevenfold. When we woke on Sunday it was apparent that whatever had upset him was long gone. I, on the other hand, woke with my back in knots. When I was a kid I sustained a motorcycle injury that perforated a disc in my spine. I manage the injury by short visits to the gym and ensuring I sleep on my side with a pillow between my knees. That week, on account of a bunch of deadlines, the gym doors stayed sealed shut and it would seem that my young charge had forced me out of my preferred sleeping position the previous evening.

As I lay about groaning in front of Sunday Brunch I barely noticed the missus complaints that, ‘she didn’t feel so good.’

‘Try a bloody slipped disc!’ I countered, inwardly.

By lunchtime, the back nor the missus felt any better. By teatime, the better-half was better but my spine was still wrecked and, worryingly, I’d begun to feel a little nauseous.

By early evening my guts were groaning, I’d begun to pay regular visits to the bathroom in order to empty my knackered back then, at about 9 pm, it began.

I was already lying down in denial of what was coming, that awful place when you know you’re going to be physically sick at some point, it’s just a question of when… Though you assure yourself the nausea will pass and you’ll return to the bosom of normality unscathed. I’m sure that happened once. Maybe when I was a child? Not today, Buster.

I hobbled into the bathroom, I knew I had to perform on all fours as it was essential I kept my spine straight or it might actually break in half. I spent a while with my head lowered into the bowl gulping in fetid odours with a view to getting things going -the use of fingers was out of the question as they needed to be firmly planted on the floor to keep my back straight. The first wave erupted into my chest almost breaking my sternum, then another muscle that only exists for the purposes of puking forced a lump of matter out of my wide-open gaping mouth and down the length of my now inordinately long tongue. I’d eaten very little since breakfast aside from some twig ‘n’ gravel granary bread from Tesco which had been drier than Moses’ swimming trunks, still, I was genuinely surprised at the effort involved in pushing the stuff out. My other end, on the other hand, seemed only too willing to relieve itself of its contents.

The nausea subsided, then those ten precious seconds of euphoric wonder when you feel sensational and you’re thinking, ‘can it be true? Will this be the time I just do one and that’s it? Could it be…?!’

No.

Each time I paused between these horrific sessions, during that lovely feeling of exultation (Hosanna in the Highest! Etc.) I could hear the little fella chuckling next door playing his plastic keyboard safe in the knowledge his mum was there to take care of him. I thought of single parents. How do they cope when this sort of thing strikes their household?

I tried to lie down, I was coated in a cooling haze of sweat which suddenly became clammy. Another hot wave rose up, bloody Ray Mears, I wobbled back to the land of the tiles and resumed barking obscenities at Armitage Shanks. I guessed that they’d just have to bring their little ones in to witness this disturbing spectacle, reassuring them all was well as they continued to be the opposite of anything that indicated it.

After half an hour I was done, five kilos lighter with my disc hanging out like a flashers dick, yet feeling oddly grateful I could simply shirk all parental responsibility and just go to bed to recuperate… I lay in bed, drained, imagining if I had no-one. I wouldn’t be able to loll about, I’d have to be up to change his nappy, make him tea or breakfast, clean up all of those pasty crumbs that Ray Mears’ left all over my bloody rug.

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Highway

I still recall that day, about an hour after we brought him home for the first time, when we were staring into his crib wondering what the hell to do next. The hackneyed phrase ‘there isn’t an instruction manual!’ rings far away in the background as reality dawns. Seriously, what the fucking hell do we actually do?

We’re only a year and a bit into this gig so it’d be ludicrous to proffer a definitive answer but taking into consideration he was born fit and healthy, and that the missus and I are functioning (for now at least) with all our faculties, I’d like to tentatively suggest a solution to the immediate question of what one actually does when finding oneself in a room with one’s brand-new charge. The answer? Nothing. You do nothing at all.

That doesn’t mean you just stand there literally doing nothing, of course. That’d be horrific. What I mean is that neither you or the baby have begun the process of communication, so until that code starts writing itself you’ll just have to wait. Chances are it’ll begin with the baby crying and your responding with food (tits, not mine) cuddles, nappies etc., and this crude vocabulary will gradually develop and drive things forward until one day, out of the blue, you’ll suddenly be aware you know stuff you didn’t know you knew. This has begun already, like hassle-free bottle-feeding, wriggle-controlled bath-times, best practice nappy-changing (I could write a chapter on this aspect alone) plus a myriad of other baby-related minutiae that you know you’ve nailed, for now at least.

Of course, these are shifting sands. Take the nappy changing aspect, and I think I will, when he was very small his discharge was liquid, relatively odourless and easy to deal with. Now he’s on solid foods we’re having to deal with a range of squashed adult-style turds that require a combination of skills: dexterity, precision, circular breathing etc. The point here is that it’s nature way for you and the baby to learn and grow together, and I don’t mean that to come out as some sort vacuous ‘hippy’ platitude. When they’re tiny they move less, eat less and shit less, and as these elements develop you can be as sure as eggs is eggs you will too; unless you’re a moron.

I’d even argue that reading too much on ‘parenting’ before your baby is born is detrimental to parenting because you’ll have completely random and irrelevant expectations of things that don’t yet exist. This is my opinion to date, I could be wrong, it could be that by taking an intuitive rather than an academic approach to parenting my son will wind up enjoying Electronic Dance Music -I’d hate that so much, only acting out my hatred in mime would get close to conveying how much I’d hate that.

For all intents and purposes parenting is a natural talent, books and advice have their uses but they’re of no use at all if, for example, you read about the ‘cry it out’ method a week before birth and now you’re getting less than three hours sleep a night because you’re adamant mumsnet is right over and above your instincts to find out why it’s crying: a bad dream, a weird noise, a stranger in the room without any trousers on.

Besides, it’s much more fun to explore all this stuff together. I’d heartily argue that common-sense trial and error brings everyone closer together, and when you get those ‘man, I’ve so got this’ moments the world is a much happier place, so much more than the boring, contrived lands of ‘do it this way.’

I have spoken.

Hair

Having long hair isn’t a decision I made, it just is. It’s as much a part of me as clouds in the sky or leaves on a tree. I know I’m fortunate that the gods of bald haven’t waged war on my follicles, so as long as they stay well away from my bonce and focus their attentions elsewhere I shall remain cranially hirsute. But last week I began to question the very essence of my self after concluding that short hair would make my life considerably easier.

It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been at these unfortunate crossroads. After some twenty years of long hair (from teens to thirties) I found myself in a barber’s chair after accidentally setting fire to one side of it trying to light a chillum with a Zippo. I could’ve easily just had it trimmed back, it would’ve been back down to my intergluteal cleft in less than a year, but the temptation to see what it looked like a bit shorter (then unintentionally shorter still after barber number one made me look like Charlie Chuck) was too much for my then fried brain to dismiss without enquiry. I regretted my decision instantly.

With a large aspect of my alternative self literally cut-off I was reliant on my strength of character to maintain its identity, possible yes, but a large part of me felt as if its cover had been blown, and in more ways than one. In a public space, for example, long hair allowed me to cut the world out by simply nodding forward, now I felt horribly visible and exposed, like in one of those dreams when you go to school without your trousers

With the little fella at almost 14 months old my long hair has taken on a new role. It exists as a toy, an alarm clock, a place to deposit crushed foodstuffs and, on one occasion, some shit (his not mine). Quite obviously none of these things are positive, even if one can’t help smiling at his shrieks of delight as he pulls out another handful of my hair. Until recently these negatives haven’t sufficiently aligned to form a cohesive pathway to a hairdresser, but I have found myself wondering what sort of haircut would still allow me some essence of my metal incarnation without having the actual hair to back it up, as it were. Quite obviously a grown man -a grown, married, middle-aged dad- shouldn’t be having these sort of dilemmas and I’ve little doubt the less imaginative would simple cast it all off as some sort of midlife crisis but that’s absurd, I had that when I was in my twenties, it started suddenly at 21 when I learnt that Arthur Rimbaud never wrote a word after the age of 21 and ended abruptly when Kurt Cobain committed suicide. I stand by my opening sentence, it just is.

That said, it’s one thing for me to have this hair-thing going on and another entirely to impose it on to the boy. Last week I was required to cut a little hair from his fringe because it was rapidly approaching his eyes; the better half said that he should have it all cut back because it makes the hair stronger in later life. I was horrified, he’s got actual golden little curls that fall over his collar and tumble around his ears, his hair is soft and beautiful and, well, only a monster would dream of cutting it. Then I noticed it was full of yoghurt, little bits of apple and biscuit and that his hair was actually glued together in places from food.

I guess this is the parental paradox, changes happen at two completely contradictory speeds, slow enough for you not to notice, for example changes in weight, height or, in this instance, hair, or lightning fast when you suddenly realise that something is extraordinarily different, and probably has been for a while. ‘His longer-than-I-anticipated hair is matted with foodstuffs! Again?’ That sort of thing.

Anyway, enough is enough. I need to man-up and straighten all this out. It’s with a heavy yet practical heart I’ve come to a decision, we’re both going to visit the barbers. I mean, it’s not as if he can go on his own and I’m guessing the barber is the best place to take him for a haircut.

Horse

I’m not at my best when it comes to dealing with sick children. Let me put that into some sort of perspective because it gives the impression that I’m handing the responsibility to the missus and carrying on as if all is tickety-boo. Actually it’s the reverse, I can’t focus on anything else to the point that things fall out of context and my bloody mind wanders into worse-case-scenario-world before being casually barraged from all sides by any manner of horror. At some point rationale will jump in to defend the poor psyche from itself, only for paranoia to remind the consciousness that, yes, it could really actually happen thus kick-starting another cycle of woe, and all of this while I try to make parmigiana.

This latest round of panic has been slowly accumulating as the boy’s barking cough entered into a fourth week. On the very day I thought that it was getting a bit better we went to a party, during which one of our friends noticed that he’d got rather hot. A thermometer revealed that he was one degree away from a trip to A&E so we gathered him up and brought him home. We monitored his fever throughout the night, he responded by coughing up his toenails and crying himself hoarse, to the point that the following morning he’d totally lost his voice.

It’s stating the bloody obvious that a child’s cry is indicative of how, even what, they’re feeling but I couldn’t have imagined how hard it is to, like, ‘parent’ without this crucial aspect of communication. You’ve no option but to just watch them, quite literally, all the time. The baby, in turn, is now reliant on being watched; all the usual distractions of toys, food and randomly-placed dangers are exchanged for monitoring the parental gaze, ensuring that they are visually accessible now that the audio has shut-down. This means that if you turn your back for a second, to prepare their food or have a little cry, you can guarantee you’ll look around to find a wide-open mouth occupying a little face that epitomises the agony of our modern world, accompanied by a tiny, whispering yell that seems louder than any of the (deafening) bands I’ve seen this year.

Mercifully all this snot and nonsense had cleared before we set off for Italy to see family and friends. Once we’re there we can relax and, ostensibly, eat and drink out until the wee hours with the little fella in tow. One evening, for example, we were sat in a restaurant until 4 am with half a dozen friends, one of them happened to be the owner of the joint and another was his wine merchant, both were keen for us to sample their fare. When the boy woke up he’d be fed, passed around, spoilt, and when he got tired we’d pop him in the pram and he’d sleep as we carried on pushing stuff into our faces.

This makes for a refreshing change, in London -or anywhere in the UK for that matter- most kids aren’t allowed in pubs/bars after, on average, 8 pm. I don’t take issue with this, for fairly obvious reasons booze/parents/babies don’t still well together and even if some parents can maintain a certain level of responsibility after a pint or two it doesn’t necessarily follow that all of them can. And that’s not factoring in the dangers presented by shitfaced revellers who shouldn’t have to be expected to play tippy-toe with a bunch of yelling kids. However, when there are children around in the evening the whole dynamic changes. People, knowingly or not, act differently and the atmosphere is much more congenial, calmer, friendlier and older generations are far more likely to be drawn into the mix adding to the convivial spirit of things.

Why this works in Italy and not the UK is because in Italy drinking isn’t confined to the singular act of ‘drinking’. For the most part it’s something to accompany lunch or dinner with colleagues, friends and family. In fact, it’s actually quite hard to just drink for the sake of itself, nine times out of ten it’ll be accompanied with some sort of complimentary foodstuff whether you asked for it or not, the most obvious example being that of Aperitivo. There are plenty of places in Italy where the accompanying hors d’oeuvres are so abundant you can skip both lunch and dinner in one fell swoop, and some of these little bites are properly delicious. Mind you, if you’re unlucky it’ll just be a dish of ready salted crisps, but even that helps deal with the nascent effects of the booze. Factor in a lack of specific licensing hours which single-handed kills the get-‘em-in-before-closing mentality and you’re far less likely to see inebriated people on the streets of Italy than in the UK. This may explain why liver disease in Italy is down by a third when compared to the UK. Having said all that British pub culture is unique and I wouldn’t have it any other way -not that I’ve a choice in the matter.

For all the joys of being able to holiday hard with a little boy there is the payoff when it comes to the travel. For the most part this particular journey was relatively straightforward; having done this a few times we’re getting the hang of best practice when it comes to travelling with a him. There is no particular formula outside of sating any concerns the boy has at any given moment, with hunger, thirst and/or fatigue being the primary suspects -all relatively easy to deal with. The bastard aspect is sleep-interruption because it’s in control of everything. Allow me to put this into some sort of context by using the return journey as an example.

Up at 7am Sunday, quick feed but no problem, the fifteen-minute walk to the bus station sends him off to sleep again -at this point I should explain that we usually get a pain-relieving lift to the airport but everyone was bollocked from the previous night, and unless you’re a banker taxis are out of the question. We wake him as we try not to wake him getting from the pram (which has to be collapsed and stowed away with all the luggage) to the bus. This goes down like a cup of cold sick, but after 30 minutes of feed/play on the bus journey he’s asleep, only to be woken at the airport as we attempt to lower him into his freshly assembled pram. The throngs of passengers and activity amuse him so we’re spared yells. Once we’ve dropped of the behemoth wheelie/suitcase thing -after having removed half of the contents because its overweight, again- we waddle to security with two seam-creaking rucksacks and a pram containing a freshly sleeping baby. This isn’t an issue because at Stanstead earlier, when he was asleep, they said it was fine to pass through, ‘no need to wake a sleeping baby’ said one officer with unaccustomed cheer… What? Oh shit, at Bergamo-Milan the pram has to be scanned separately so we have to wake him again, waahhhh etc.

By now it’s 10.30, the flight’s at 1-ish. We take a table near an eatery that serves prosecco and deliberate the latter. A couple of hours later after having eaten a sandwich and taken on the odd glass, we’re on our way to the gate. The little fella has been great, entertaining fellow passengers and generally being all smiles and squeaks, now he’s asleep we have to wake him to board the bloody plane, of course. And he doesn’t want to be on a plane at all. Nor do I for that matter.

Despite this (and a panic attack by the author) the flight back is relatively painless because we have three seats to ourselves. He wakes of his own accord just as we land, we disembark, load him into the pram that’s patiently waiting for him on the runway and take the 60’s vision-of-the-future that is the driverless rail link to the main terminal. He’s awake through customs and right onto the National Express coach because the Stanstead Express to Liverpool street isn’t working.

On the coach, its 1 pm, we’ve gained an hour in theory, he’s not just awake but really on it having taken a psychotic liking to the tray on the back of the adjacent seat. It makes a really loud ‘snap’ sound just as it opens and closes which the little fella thinks is better than anything else in the world. Of course, he’s not best pleased when we attempt to keep him clear from his new toy, ape and shit have seen each other and they’re up for it. We chuck snacks at him until he’s placated but it’s a hard hour-long journey. When we finally arrive at Stratford he is, of course, asleep and, of course, wakes when he’s re-placed in the pram after I’ve re-assembled it for the umpteenth, sodding time. We grab the rest of the luggage, nearly there, just the Overland to go and we’ll be home in less-than twenty minutes… But it’s Sunday, there is no fucking Overland.

The teeth-rattling Central Line train from Stratford requires no less than four lifts to get us onto the platform. Ten minutes later we’re in Liverpool Street with all our luggage and pram. And no step-free access. The better half takes care of the Wheelie Behemoth as I jam the two front wheels of the pram into the escalator stairs, lift up the back so its level, and up we go -it’s fine. At the top there is load of unplanned manual stairs, Jesus. As soon as I stop to contemplate our next move at least five people off their assistance, quite a shock when these things happen to a cynic. My wife takes the boy and I take the pram and we go back down for the WB which is inspiring suspicious glances.

2.30 pm, on the platform and straight on the train for the last leg home. Only ten minutes and the flight of stairs, WB, pram, and [arseholes] a sleeping baby at the other end to contend with. If we can just get him down the stairs without him waking up, we can get him right into our flat without a single step and, by our reckoning, should get at least an hour’s peace and calm… No chance.

We’re home.

Transmogrification

In the past fortnight the resident boy has been experimenting with standing. Watching him exchange the lows of the horizontal to the lofty highs of the vertical signifies a marked change in all of our lives, and already I’ve got reservations about this new direction. In fact, I’m thinking I preferred it when he just lay there being all small and chubby.

Every waking hour, when he’s not eating or being changed (we’ll touch on that shortly) he’s either attempting self-elevation, in the process of it or stood up, wobbling. The upshot of this is that he requires constant supervision, very much to the detriment of work, writing and Unchartered 4, and its sort-of getting on my tits. It’s not as if he’s the wherewithal to stand in places where he’s not going to hurt himself either. I’ve done a bloody good job at sorting out this flat, to make it safe for the little bloke to move about as he pleases in certain places, but this standing lark has undone most of that. Now a whole new world of potentially lethal disasters has dawned and quite frankly he’s not helping by choosing to practice his standing next to objects that were once safe, and now aren’t… Yes, I’d already secured bookshelves, bought those squishy things for the corner of tables, but there are no such things for the edges of said table, its actual legs, nor are there any protective devices for the lip of a bookshelf or the rim of a chair, all the objects he uses to hoist himself upright. And once he’s there, precariously positioned with beaming grin on his yoghurt smeared face, there is always the wooden floor (laminate, quite cheap) ready to deliver the final blow.

To make matters worse, he’s now access to those precious, fetishised objects that were, until recently, literally out of reach. Remote controls, i-phones, spectacles and, in one heart-stopping incident, the handle of boiling hot mug of tea that he was slowing pulling towards himself after managing to circumnavigate a not-so strategically placed chair. Take the mornings, they used to be a time of relative peace and calm, in the past his mother or I would gather him from his cot and feed him in bed until he’d fall asleep. Now he’s up and about, stamping all over the bed, hanging off curtains and lampstands and egging himself on with screeches of delight. Er, hello, I’m trying to listen to Today.

This increased activity has also had an effect on his appetite. He’s now wolfing down grub like Man V’s Food, and when he’s not doing that -or snacking between meals- he’s evacuating his premises. I’m not going into details, not because I don’t want to upset anyone with descriptions of what I, we, have to deal with on a regular basis, I’m just sparing myself from resurrecting memories best left dead and buried, well sort of. It’d be remiss of me if I didn’t at least hint at the horrific consequences of one distinguished occurrence when, during the circumspect removal of his overflowing nappy, he decided to suddenly roll over and attempt to stand via the wall and my hair.

The incident doesn’t bode well for when he’s walking, which seems like it’ll be no more than additional potential for serious injury coupled with an improved way of distributing shit. I for one can wait.

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.

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.