06 2 / 2012
This Old Man
Bloody hell, do you know how old Albert is? Probably not, no. Why would you? He’s not your child, after all. And other people’s children are pretty much the dictionary definition of ‘not that interesting.’ I realise that kind of undermines the whole point of this blog, which is why I try to write about slightly broader themes than just “Albert rolled over!” or “Albert just burped!” or “Albert did the cutest poo in the bath today!” Anyway, for those of you who are interested, Albert is six months old. (If you knew that, congratulations, you are my mother.) Is six months a landmark age? It feels pretty significant and yet meaningless at the same time. Should we bake him half a cake? Give him half a puppy? (Wow, that got dark in a hurry.)
Instead, to celebrate Albert turning the big 0.5, my wife and I took him to one of those ‘Mums & Bubs’ cinema screenings on the weekend (just so we could listen to some other babies crying for a change, y’know, mix it up a little). You would think gathering lots of screaming infants together in one room and then trying to watch a film sounds like a terrible concept, but given the number of families there it is a remarkably popular one.
Once we’d arrived and navigated our way through the crowd I was struck by how much older Albert looked compared to all the other squinty, pink faces peeking out from the cavalcade of pushchairs. In fact, as I exchanged the obligatory nods and smiles with the other dishevelled dads milling around the foyer I began to sense my status was more elevated than usual. Thanks to Albert’s relative old age, I was afforded the respect of an elder statesman. “Look at that man,” I could hear them thinking. “He must know what he’s doing. He’s not killed his child for at least half a year.”
I wanted to sit each of them down, look them in their bleary, bloodshot eyes and let them know that everything would be ok. I wanted to tell them that I too had experienced moments of doubt and fear. I wanted to say “Hey man, it doesn’t matter that you don’t know the words to any nursery rhymes – neither does your child. Just make it up.” Actually, what I really wanted to do was to buy some popcorn and fall asleep in a darkened room. Which is what I did. I’m pretty sure that just by being in the room I gave them all a glimmer of hope though.
To be honest I’m finding my new status as ‘experienced dad’ a bit of shock. I’ve only just gotten used to having a newborn and now, all of a sudden, he’s not so new anymore. He certainly doesn’t smell new anymore. I once likened his newborn scent to freshly mashed potatoes – now it’s more of a combination of vomit and rash cream.
Not everything about him has aged depreciably though. His face, which was one so saggy, has now filled out into cute, puffy cheeks. His ‘cradle cap’ has cleared up. And his hair, which was showing worrying signs of my family’s dreaded ginger gene, is looking blonder by the day. Best of all, he’s developed a rather endearing habit of chuckling like a dirty old man.
I can’t overstate how much of a difference it makes now he’s interacting with us. Everybody kept telling me that after three months he would “start to give back more.” Exactly what he was going to give back, however, was never stipulated. What on earth could he possibly do to repay us for all those sleepless nights, screaming fits and projectile vomits? Was he going to start washing dishes? Take the bins out? Re-grout the bathroom? As it turns out, all it meant was he was going to start chuckling. And it turns out that that’s enough.
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