Sitting on the sofa.
On the wall opposite is a photograph.
A man in a Crombie coat, hitched up jeans and DM boots is standing on a wet beach underneath a slate grey Victorian sky. In front of him is a little person wearing a bear hat…complete with teeth and a red corduroy coat. The little person is pointing out to sea. You can tell that it’s a cold, miserable day.
It’s my favourite photograph.
The middle-aged skinhead is me and the little person is my daughter.
It wasn’t staged, my wife just caught the moment.
I tell that little person that I love her every single day.
Sometimes I find myself just watching her…tears filling my eyes because she is the best thing I’ve ever done. She is hope and she is joy. She is everything.
I’m just like all the other dads in the world…well, I’m probably not as good as some but you know what I mean. I want her to be happy. I want her to be safe. I want her to be whatever she wants to be.
In a few weeks she is going to be two years old. I can’t remember a time without her.
She still doesn’t sleep right through the night. She goes to bed at 7 and by 11 she’s normally appeared in the doorway of her bedroom looking like one of those creepy girls in J-Horror movies like Ringu or Audition…hair over the eyes, head thrust forwards, shoulders slouched and an air of menace hanging heavy around her! At that point I’m normally awake enough to get up and pop her back in bed. At around 2 she appears at the side of our bed…my side of the bed. Now I’m too tired to lift her back to bed so I drag her up, over and into the bed between the two of us. She then proceeds to lie diagonally across the bed to ensure that nobody apart from her is comfortable. Then just before six she wakes up…which means that just before 6, after a very uncomfortable half-sleep, we are awake.
That, I think, is the toughest thing about being a parent…the lack of sleep. There will be people reading this who are turning, smugly, to their partners and talking about how lucky they are that little Celery has always slept right through. To those people I say…you are hated. By me. By my wife. By all the other normal parents who, like us, just can’t remember what it feels like not to be tired.
If I was offered an evening of wanton, debauched pleasure with an army of beautiful and open minded women right now or a weeks worth of sleeping from 10-8…I would take the one evening of wanton, debauched pleasure with an army of beautiful and open minded women BUT that is only because I am a deeply shallow and impulsive man. If I were to think it through and really evaluate my choice then I would still choose…
That tiredness infects every moment of your day…it can make you grumpy, it can make you snappy, it can make you lazy, it can stop you from recovering from aches, pains, coughs and sneezes.
At certain points in the last two years I have found myself dreaming about going to sleep. Even my subconscious is tired of being tired.
I know that the really tough parts of parenting are still to come…I’m not a stupid person. I know that when she starts school one of us is going to be a wreck…probably me. I know that when she has her first falling out with a friend that it’s going to hurt her and I won’t be able to make that any better. Some horrible little boy with a wacky name like Denim is going to tell her she is ugly/stupid/smelly/fat/skinny/weird to compensate for the fact that his parents are the kind of people who think naming your child after a fabric is a good idea…when that happens she is going to come home in tears and because Denim is only going to be eight I can’t thump him for her. Her first boyfriend might dump her or cheat on her…what do I do about that? She is going to be sick, she is going to be unhappy, she is going to feel pain and loss. Right now when she falls over I can kiss her hand/foot/knee better…you can’t kiss a broken heart better.
Two years in…tired and grumpy and filled with worry and anxiety still.
But when I look at that picture of the two of us on the beach I know that things are going to be OK because we will always have each other. This is a relationship that is for keeps. You can’t fall out of love with the person you made. I’ve lost friends to silly arguments. I’ve been dumped. I’ve done some dumping (oh grow up!). I’ve even been divorced. All of those relationships were built on desire, football, music, lust, habit…temporary things.
This is permanent. I couldn’t go anywhere even if I wanted to…which I don’t. From the day she arrived I haven’t wanted to be anywhere else except with her. Now, don’t confuse that with not wanting a bit of space…I’m only human. When my wife tells me she is taking her out for the day my heart skips a beat and the prospect of a nap, a packet of crisps, a can of coke and a couple of episodes of Judge Judy fills my heart with a happiness I can’t describe. But I always want her to return…I can’t even imagine a life without her.
I may be a miserablist but I’m glad I’ve got her for company.