So Kitty is now six months old, which has prompted me to muse on our experiences with her so far. Much of it has been as we thought it would be: nappies, a bit of sleeplessness, crying, tears, moments of wonder, moments of browsing Siberian boarding school brochures to see how soon she can start; that sort of thing.
However, there have been lots of things that I really didn’t expect, so for those of you embarking on the whole ‘parenting’ thing, or for anyone interested in what happens beyond the headline stuff I mentioned above, here are six examples in honour of Kitty’s first six months…
Oh god the laundry
Seriously, no-one told us about the fact that 97.6% of parenthood in the first six months is doing the goddamn bastard laundry. We are overwhelmed by dunes of sleepsuits, blankets and vests. I’m sure I saw a camel train pass by a few nights ago as I picked mournfully at the ragged edges of the infinite desert of dirty clothes. But! The flipside to this is that I unexpectedly became interested in actually, you know, doing the laundry properly for the first time since my mum stopped doing it. So now we have fabric conditioner and colour separation and tumble drying and our own clothes smell and feel like the fields of all Elysium. When we find them amidst the dunes, that is.
Faulty treat triggers
Kitty’s arrival has apparently damaged my treat trigger, meaning that I mistakenly keep telling myself I ‘deserve’ things simply because coyotes have as yet to kidnap the baby and raise it as their own. Mostly these things are cakes or one extra coffee, but then out of nowhere I’ll go and buy a guitar, to my slight surprise. Dr T is affected too, judging by the subscription boxes full of treats, makeup and random candles that keep arriving. The fact that we are a household supported financially by a freelance writer is singularly failing to register. At least we can sing around the guitar by candlelight when the power goes off.
Back in the day, the Green Cross man came to my school (played, incidentally, by David Prowse – that’s right, I learned about road safety from DARTH FRICKIN’ VADER). We did the whole ‘Stop, Look, Listen and Think’ thing. I barely thought about it again until Kitty arrived, at which point I began crossing roads like a hyper-caffeinated gazelle crossing cheetah central, twitching left and right, stopping, starting, baulking in fear… I’ve even started reciting ‘Stop, Look, Listen…’ to myself, such is my terror that I’ll simply forget how to cross safely and leave Kitty fatherless.
I expected babies to make sounds. I really didn’t expect a) the huge range of them; or b) their sheer ear-squishing volume. Kitty’s latest efforts include a bizarre hyperventilating ‘heckheckheck’ and a low, stuttering rumble that makes her sound like the Balrog from Lord of the Rings. Weirder still is the blood curdling squeal that she deploys randomly throughout the day and night, unconnected to any mood she might be in. “What the fucking fucking fuck was fucking that?!” I cry, running into the room with blood trickling from my shattered ears, only to find her chuckling away in Dr T’s lap.
A curious one, this. Some of the people we thought would be the most interested in our life with Kitty have withdrawn slightly, seemingly unsure how to be around us. (Or we may now be dickheads, of course.) Others that we thought might flee at once have been the most involved and supportive. (Or we may now be their kind of dickheads.) Friends and family have revealed hitherto unseen behaviour, and shared previously untold tales. Having a baby doesn’t entitle you to any special treatment, naturally – nonetheless, it’s interesting to see that Kitty’s arrival has produced side effects not just on us, but on our wider circle.
Becoming a dad has given me no profound insight into the world, nor any additional moral authority on anything. At all. What it has done, though, is offer an additional perspective on things: I can’t hear about anything happening on the news now without musing on the fact that everyone involved was as helpless as Kitty once, for example; or thinking how I might feel in the place of a family struck by tragedy.
It’s prompted some inner-reflection, too: having a daughter makes me feel mortified about all the times I treated people with less respect than I would want her to receive. This mainly means I now want to apologise to every single girl I was ever a rascal to. I’m really sorry. You deserved better. Please don’t set your dad on me.
Thanks for reading, as always, and do share your own unexpected side-effects in the comments!