The Force Awakens

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Oh God, how I loved the new Star Wars movie. Not in a restrained way where I cooly appraised it as an artistic endeavour – in a goofy, gleeful way that had me clapping, whimpering with happiness and leaving the cinema with tears streaming down my face. Twice. I am 38 years old.

Anyway, this unmitigated joyfest had one sudden, brief, very unexpected side effect. I should point out that there are plot spoilers ahead, but then if you haven’t seen this movie yet … I mean, what the hell, dude? Have you got young children or something?

First, some background: in the runup to Kitty’s birth (in March) one of my very best friends told me about the moment he realised he was going to be a dad. It was when, in the labour ward, the midwife told him to “go and get a nappy and some baby clothes.” He assured me this moment would arrive for me, and once Kitty was here, asked me when it had been. I said it was when they asked me to go and cut the cord.

But this wasn’t true. The first moment happened much earlier, in December, watching The Force Awakens. As Han Solo confronted Kylo Ren – his son – resigned to the fact that this was probably the final act of his life, a little internal voice muttered to me that I was going to be a father, with all the responsibility that entails. My chest tightened and for a few moments I genuinely teetered on the precipice of a panic attack. After all, if Han Solo himself couldn’t stop his progeny becoming a psychotic Sith loon with grandaddy issues, what hope did I have? Hey, I didn’t say this was rational, it’s just what happened. Then, of course, the loon murdered his father, Chewie howled and I was back in a galaxy far, far away.

I forgot all about it until quite recently, but I’m now certain that moment of flickering terror, daunting though it was, was my first true realisation that I was going to be a dad. So I’m especially fond of that movie these days, and not just because it utterly transported me from the opening frames; but because it provided me with a little awakening of my own. Nice one, JJ.

(BTW, I couldn’t find a credit for the lovely pic above. If it’s yours, let me know and I’ll amend things!)

What does a dad look like?

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Here’s hoping the hillbilly hipster parent look is in this year.

Something has happened to my reflection. I’m generally a scruffy fellow – there are tattoos and beards and all kinds of hair and crumpled clothes going on – and this hasn’t really altered in the few weeks since Kitty was born. But as I shambled into the room the other day, Dr T took one look and sent me back into the hall.

“Look in the mirror,” she said, and I did. I looked at the familiar chap standing there.

“You’re a dad,” Dr T said.

Oof. Instantly, the reflection altered to become a source of amused bafflement: that guy is a father. I mean, look at the state of him in the pic above. You spend so long preparing for the birth, hearing what a life-changing event it is…I think I’d expected the mirror guy to somehow vanish in a puff of Adult the moment Kitty arrived. I don’t know what I’d expected in his place – maybe sensible shoes, or at least a haircut – but the fact that he was still there, just the same, with his ink, bangles, skull scarves and superhero paraphernalia, was a surprise. It seemed absurd that he could have survived the birth.

It’s one of the many strange things about my experience of new fatherhood so far, reconciling the fact that I don’t look any different (the odd bit of baby drool aside) with the equally sturdy fact that I manifestly am different: a whole other being, the precise result of my genes colliding with someone else’s, now exists, and I am her dad. So now my reflection poses more questions than “can we get away with these antique Cons?” He wonders whether we ought to feel differently, he and I; whether or not we should somehow change the way we present ourselves to the world; when, basically, we’ll start looking like a dad. I’m not sure strapping a baby to you necessarily does the job, it just makes you look, as Dr T opined, like a hipsterish version of that Athena poster from back in the day.

But maybe we do look a bit like a dad. Maybe the cultural notion of a Dad Look, to accompany Dad Jokes and Dad Dancing, is nonsense. Maybe it doesn’t matter, or maybe I’ll wake up one day, get a short back and sides and shop exclusively at M&S (their baby stuff is awesome, after all). But the mirror guy and I will keep putting the Cons on for now and see how we go.

Kitty Boing

Kitty cropped

Why the name? Well, when Dr T (my wife) was pregnant with our daughter, we needed something to call the bump. I suspect most expectant parents come up with some way of referring to the tiny human in there, if only to make what otherwise seems like a pretty abstract idea more concrete. After all, the notion that an actual fresh bit of life was growing inside my best friend, the person whose hair I used to dye black in the toilet before going out to the indie club, seemed unlikely.

So we called the bump Kitty. We didn’t know the sex until birth and Kitty was a nicely non-specific label for something we only half believed was real anyway. As the pregnancy progressed, Dr T would say “Kitty Boing” whenever the baby stirred. They became the most comforting words I would hear throughout the pregnancy (other than “here, drink this beer”): to me, they signalled that all was well; that Kitty was moving around regularly and was content.

Now, of course, she’s out in the world. When Kitty goes Boing I’m expected to do more about it than goggle at Dr T’s stomach or mutter into her abdomen. So this is a blog about that. Thanks for taking the time to read it!