Rebecca said something unexpected to me the other night as we settled down at our somewhat geriatric bedtime of 8pm. She said that she feared I was not or would not bond with our April arrival.
Neither is true, I hope, but detachment is something a lot of to-be fathers feel, as I’ve found out in my extensive Internet studies into the matter (done in between researching ailments, conspiracies and news about cats).
Despite appearances, I’m not detached, though. What Rebecca sees in me is, to some extent, the classic English reserve. To another extent it’s that I somehow don’t believe it and/or my mind is mashed from all those stellar days at the office from Mondays to Fridays.
Actually, I’m over the moon; I just don’t shout it from the rooftops. But it has brought on a number of odd realizations and feelings, and it’s these I’d like to share. Well, if they weren’t odd, you wouldn’t want to read them, would you? Hmmm. As I thought.
1. Mirrors reflecting mirrors
Ever stood in a mirrored lift and seen your reflection going backwards right on to infinity? You can achieve the same effect with a handheld mirror and a wall-mounted mirror, but it’s awkward and somewhat rubbish.
So I see my future now, in a forward arc of smaller “me’s”, but getting less like me as time goes on and my genetic information is diluted. Behind me, my father, my grandfathers, and so on and so forth ad infinitum, only getting less like me. The result is a feeling of humility but also one of dwindling importance overall.
To illustrate some of the above, Rebecca will take a snapshot of her with our unborn child in the same pose / dress as one of my mum, with me inside, from 1969 before I even tasted the April 1970 daylight.
2. The biological imperative
So, for better or worse, I’ve now done what drives us humans to have sex (if it wasn’t fun, we wouldn’t do it, and no children would be born). I’ve passed on my genetic material to a new generation. This has essentially made me a useful human being when it comes to population growth, and it means—at least to me—that I’ve done the thing I was meant to do. Which begs the question: what next? Fatherhood, I suppose.
3. Memories of my parents: am I too old / young?
My dad was 30 when I was born. My mum was 26. I am now 42 and remember being 12 (and 11, 10, 9, 8 … 4). This means I was 12 when my dad was as old as I am now. Back then, he was juggling a job he hated, as well as the family. Mum worked, too, and I clearly remember them being stressed out. Sometimes I was the cause. Still am, from time to time.
Now without getting all psychoanalytic on this point, I don’t feel 42. I don’t even feel grown up sometimes (Rebecca would concur that I am not, I’m sure). It’s not that I feel young, young at heart or any other clichés. I just don’t feel that I’ve reached the point where I can say, while beating my chest: I am man.
At the other end of this is the feeling that I’m somewhat late in this particular game. When our child is 42, I will be 84. And that really is old.
4. Repeating past mistakes
Are we doomed to repeat the same mistakes our parents made? Philip Larkin certainly thought so in this rather rude poem (not for kids). Kate Bush also had some thoughts:
Just look at your father
And you’ll see how you took after him.
Me, I’m just another
Like my brothers
Of my mother’s genes.
The whims that we’re weeping for
Our parents would be beaten for
Leave the breast
And then the nest
And then regret you ever left.
All we’re ever looking for
Is another open door.
All we ever look for–another womb.
All we ever look for–our own tomb.
All we ever look for–ooh, la lune.
All we ever look for–a little bit of you, too.
All we ever look for,
But we never do score.
Kate’s rather perceptive in a screwy sort of way. But we love her for it.
I do remember my dad telling me more than once that he hoped I wouldn’t end up like him, working in the media (he was in advertising). And here I am, helping to run a publishing company and it causes me a little bit of anguish from time to time (though it is successful and so on). I’ve also made some quite misjudged life choices in the past, oooh, 30 years. And while I may not be the man I am today had I not made those choices, I’d have done one or two (or 10) things differently.
There again, we’re the product of our histories, striding blindly into the future. There is no past: only an ever-folding succession of presents.
Anyhoo. Just some musings while waiting for Rebecca to come back and talk at me. I hope you’ve found them interesting. At least worth reading anyway.