I’m hardly the kind of dad to be handing out advice, but if a prospective father did approach me for some I’d probably give them this nugget: never let your child see your weakness.
My own failing was a childish need for acceptance from my children, borne of an actual concern that my progeny wouldn’t like me that much. I mean they’d love me obviously, they’d just think I was, well just a bit of a dick really.
It seemed to me when the Major arrived that my fears had been realised as a large discrepancy opened up in his affections between his mother and me. He very obviously preferred his mum to me, which I took very personally. Of course I’ve realised since that this is entirely natural.
After all his Mum gave him lodgings in her own stomach for nine months, hooking him up to a nutrient-rich drip connected to her own flesh. In that time, all I did was offer his home the odd ineffectual neck rub. And after the Major popped out above ground, she provided all his sustenance for nearly a year, letting him chow down on her bosom. I mainly just gurned at him and made awful twee clucking noises that even a kitten would find off-putting.
And after only two weeks of his life I left him. I went back to work, abandoning him most days and returning to cut short his day of fun with mum by dunking him under duress in a tub of hot water and putting him in his cot so he could go to sleep and wake up and be abandoned by me all over again.
It seems obvious to me now that the Major should have developed a distaste for me in his first three years, but back when he was looking at me with cold disdain and telling me ‘to go back to work’ I found it difficult. I was lovelorn and reacted in the most pathetic way by getting on my metaphorical knees and beseeching him for cuddles, clinging onto his ankles as he tried to toddle away.
The more horrid wheedling pleas I threw at him ‘to come to Dadu’ the more he withdrew. At one point I genuinely ranked at about sixth or seventh in his affections behind various grannies, uncles and the man who came to read the electricity meter. If I ever retrieved Major from his grandparents’ house he would react like I’d come to kidnap him and sell him into child slavery.
Since those dark times Major and I have come to an acceptable working relationship. I’m not exactly aloof, but definitely less smothering and we can go about our business in an agreeable fashion. I’ve probably been promoted to about joint third and not just because the electricity man hasn’t come back. He now regularly tells me he loves me and recently described me as ‘a very good man’. I’m thinking about having this printed on a business card.
And I have been more prepared the second time with the Minor, which is a good thing because I am beginning to recognise the familiar patterns in his behaviour, leaning out of my embrace as he enters the gravitational pull of his mother. And stabbing me in the face with a fork.