Daddy Issues: What Your Children Think of You
David Whitehouse's truly exceptional fatherhood column continues with funny and profound words on leaving your past behind, and why having kids is quite like dying.
My children will never know me at my best. I was 34 when the first of them was born, a full seven years after my physical, sexual and creative peak, and three whole years before I met their mother. To them, I’m just a cross between a kind of grumpy ATM that gives out sausages instead of cash and a piece of animatronic sporting apparatus they can both climb on, and have clean up their shit. To them, I’m like the band Kasabian. I have no meaningful history. I simply exist, and no explanation as to why makes sense.
Well, that ain’t the case kids. I had a whole life before you. And oh boy did I live. In my 27th year on earth alone I:
*Kissed two women, with their own individual value systems and fundamentally sound decision-making processes, in a single night!
*Experimented with ingesting medicine that only qualified veterinary practitioners are legally allowed to give to cats!
*Got stopped and searched by the police while so high I thought I was Lorraine Kelly’s unpaid gas bill!
And they’re just the highlights!
It is, of course, just a sad symptom of parenthood that our children shall never comprehend the magnificence of our histories and achievements before them, one that loops through the generations like a gypsy curse. Take my father for instance. I half know, and have only ever vaguely cared, what he got up to before he and my mother conspired to test the potential of their genitals when thrust together. He was in the Navy for eleven years. But have I ever really stopped to consider what that involved? What kind of man he was? What he did? No, not really. I just kind of picture him as I do now. Staring at something. Except younger. And on a boat. In a hat.
It’s a psychological impossibility for me to imagine him as a fully wrought three-dimensional human being before I was born. Someone with interests and talents and kinks and flaws. Someone who laughed, cried, wanted and lost. Hell, for all I know he was a sea-faring sexual tyrannosaur, party monster of the waves, an aquatic dick machine gun firing orgasms into whoever was lucky enough to be on whatever continent he docked at on any given night. For all I know he was a hero. An idol. Best guy in the world. For all I know he was Mick fucking Jagger.
But I’ll never know who he was. I’ll only ever know the man having me made him. I’ll only ever know him in the second of his two lives.
Which means there is a different version of me – one my children shall never know – who is, well… gone, and that the birth of your kids is, on a deeper metatextual level, also YOUR OWN DEATH.
Or maybe I just miss getting drunk all day with my friends whenever I liked. Yeah, maybe that’s why I feel so sad.
Anyway, that’s enough story time for tonight. Come on kids. Get to bed.
Things I Now Own: Baby Monitors
My house is rigged with more surveillance cameras than Sharon Stone’s apartment in Sliver, relaying powerfully tedious live footage of my sleeping children to a bank of monitors arranged around my head, wherever I am in the house, between the hours of 7pm and 6am. If they so much as beep, I have to stand up and do something I resent for an indeterminate length of time. It’s like constantly being on a cruel Japanese gameshow.
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