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.

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For God’s sake don’t look round

From the second the boy arrived on the planet in full human form he had nails like razors. Deceptively small, these little digit enhancers had the propensity to draw blood at the merest of gestures. In the early days this was the zone on, or around, the missus’ pardons when his little hand would occasionally open to grab at local unmentionables when feeding. Sometimes he’d cut his face, my hand, an arm (and tits) so regular trimming of the offending horns was essential, but this was much easier said than done.

Ideally this task has to be undertaken when he’s asleep, but in reality it’s more of a case of ‘ouch, I need to cut his bloody nails again’ when he is very much awake. In either case you have to prise his little fists open before peeling each finger apart, attaching the blades of the clippers either side of the tiny, minuscule nail, before gingerly snipping… Usually this operation is complicated by his violent resistance to having his hand pinned down, once successfully secured you then have to contend with him wriggling his fingers away from the clippers, though nine times out of ten he’ll throw a fit and you simply have to give up and lock him back up in his cage under the stairs.

More recently, what with his hands a tad bigger and more of his palms on permanent display, it’s less like keyhole surgery, but he’s also much stronger so unless he’s docile you’re not going to be cutting his nails anytime soon. I have to say practice has helped too, in the early days nail-cutting was so traumatic I needed a stiff drink and rub-down afterwards. I wouldn’t say I was laissez-faire about it now but perhaps a little more care would’ve prevented me from snipping off the end of his finger last week.

I’d just cut his thumbnail when, turning my attention to the forefinger, he jerked his finger just as I squeezed down on the clipper. I knew instantly what I’d done, the little ‘snip’ sound was replaced by silence as the clippers cheerfully freed their grip. I watched in horror as the tip of his finger began to fill with blood and waited for torrent of relentless screaming… But nothing happened, indeed, the only person that was yelling was me -I was going apeshit- he was just carrying on as if nothing was doing as bright red drops of unadulterated baby blood appeared on his hands, clothes and face. I freaked out some more until the better half told me to fuck-off and calm down. We dressed his little finger in a plaster, and then had to ensure he didn’t put his hand in mouth for the rest of the day in case the plaster turned out to be a choking hazard.

I like to remind myself he’s not even crawling yet, let alone walking, so we’re not even open on page one in terms of the potential for serious injury. I’d been busy securing shelves, bookcases, doors etc., some weeks before he was born… That was after I’d decided that it was okay to tempt fate -I was worried he wouldn’t actually be born if I did stuff for him in advance. In the cold light of day, however, I can see that I’ve not even scratched the surface. Virtually everything in sight has the potential to maim/kill so now I’m prowling about the flat day and night with a hammer and a screwdriver, seeking out danger like a thoughtful Peter Sutcliffe. Consider those hinges, they could actually become unhinged if I don’t pop a grub screw over that plate… That cupboard door under the sink, he could lift that off easily, the whole lot would’ve come crashing down on that little duck-egg skull of his… Before all that bleach and Flash poured down his throat. OH JESUS CHRIST HE’S EATEN FOUR BOLD 2 IN 1 LAVENDER AND CAMOMILE LIQUITABS etc.

It’s not just imminent danger, I’ve already envisaged a whole variety of mishaps, misfortunes and disasters for just about every month of every year of his life up until, at least, his mid-seventies. The worst are the ones that are as a direct result of myself, most obviously things relating to motorcycles -though I suppose he could get a brain aneurism head banging to thrash -I’d never even thought of that one until now. That’d be horrific… But motorcycles do bother me, if I’m ironically honest, because I know that they can be a tad on the dangerous side. Now, it’s one thing to deny this to myself and another entirely to do it behalf of someone else, what’s more is that I can’t help myself but to line his bedroom wall with motorbikes, point at them loudly on the street and insist he watch the MotoGP which is achievable by locking him into my lap and gripping his little head -actually I do nothing of the sort, he’s mesmerised by it already. What have I done?

But all of that is for the future, for now the fact he simply wakes up is enough.