I’ve had a recurring dream since high school, where it’s graduation day and I discover there’s a class I hadn’t been turning up to all year. It’s my own subconscious variation on the exam-you-haven’t-prepared-for riff, a classic stress dream.
It’s 120 days until my baby is due to be born, and I haven’t done any homework. My partner keeps mentioning things like ‘birth plan’ and ‘calmbirth courses’ and ‘you should really read this’.
I haven’t started the reading list, and I fear that if I began now and read 15 hours a day, I’d still struggle to get through it.
She keeps asking me to put my hand on her belly when bub is kicking, but I’m just not feeling it. This divide seems to drive my partner crazy, but I see it as a reinforcement of the natural order of things. Fathers can be as involved as they want to be, but they’re always one step removed until the birth. That’s when the emotional, political and faecal hand grenade that is a newborn gets lobbed into the home and both parents have to navigate the carnage that follows as the familial orbit is redefined forever.
Fathers can be as involved as they want to be, but they’re always one step removed until the birth.
In my mind, I see the hologram of the father I’d like to be – smiling and patient, fair but firm, strong and dependable, a wellspring of knowledge and emotional intelligence that my child will be willing, maybe even keen, to tap into.
Then I see Al Bundy in the opening credits of Married With Children.
I’ll have time to be a good father – I won’t always be rushing off to work, or getting home late when bub is asleep. I’ll be able to show them a little piano, a lot of guitar, some hellish recorder. We can go and see The Wiggles, or fairies.
I’ll try and limit screen time, play them jazz and classical music. Jim Hall, Tom Waits, Bach and Beck. Open their little consciousness to all the wonderful things life has to offer. Maybe buy him/her a miniature Led Zeppelin t-shirt.
But I also understand my nature enough to know the anxieties and fears that lurk within. How can I keep my child safe, encourage them to be the best they can be, earn a living and still remain a figure they love?
When I think of my child my thoughts fork into worries and wonders.
If wonder if my child will be a little genius, in the Doogie Howser MD mould. If so, I worry he won’t have a little Vinnie Delpino to climb in his window and keep him on the level.
Still in the genius sphere, I worry my child will be a chess prodigy – do the parents of chess prodigies have to sit through matches? I feel sorry enough for Oracene Price, mother of Venus and Serena Williams, who has spent a good deal of her adult life looking bored as her daughters wiped the floor with opponents. The parents of chess prodigies must do it tough. We might stick to draughts.
I wonder if my child will be interested in tennis. I worry I’ll inherit that Jim Pierce/Damir Dokic type of mania. Tennis seems to do something to fathers.
I worry if my child will fall prey to drugs – whatever heinous substance is doing the rounds in 15 years. Will I need to kick down bathroom doors? Pay off debts? Ship him/her off to rehab?
I worry my child will be a chess prodigy – do the parents of chess prodigies have to sit through matches?
I worry they’ll be interested in interpretive dance. Or any kind of dance.
But it’s all part of the trip, this great unknown that lies ahead.
We got a trippy photo at our 20-week scan, a little face with its hands up just under its chin. It looks a bit like Han Solo frozen in carbonite, but I’m pretty sure it’s got my nose.
Elvis recorded a Baker Knight tune called The Wonder of You. There’s a line that says: “You touch my hand and I’m a king.” That’s how I imagine it. That’s the wonder, the wonder of you.