I learned a secret this week. About the man who is my husband and my son’s dad.
Just about every woman I know gushes over babies and toddlers; ooh-ing and aaah-ing as much as they would if they were in a shoe store. Well, almost.
I am very guilty for saying :’Oh, they’re so cute at that age. Look at their little feet. Look at their lovely little ears. They’re drooling. They’ve just pooped – brilliant.’
Mums talk all the time about the various stages their children move in and out of, bemoaning the fact they no longer play with dolls or watch the Nickelodeon channel. We research what to expect from one stage to the next and as a result, often seem more immune to the rigours of the passage of time.
I always thought that Dads paid little attention to the movement through the stages, merely looking forward to the first game of football, the first bike, or the first car. But I was wrong.
My son is turning thirteen next week. A bona fide teenager. While I am spending my time devising strategies for dealing with teenage angst my husband is well, feeling it. The sound of time a-passing.
I caught him with a tear in his eye the other morning after talking to Nick before leaving for work.
‘He’s still a boy for now,’ he said, ‘But it won’t be long till it hits.’
For those of us who have experienced some trying times as an adult it can be hard to think of our own child plunging into what we sometimes view as the darkness. My husband’s teenage years were harder than most. He had an abusive, alcoholic father who often went on drunken binges for weeks at a time. He beat up his wife in front of their eight children then left them to call the ambulance. At 15, my husband had to drop out of school to help his mother support the family because his father wouldn’t.
Job losses, failed businesses, unaffordable housing, a highly competitive de-personalised workplace – these things can scar a person for life. Knowing your child is growing up and will soon have to face some of those challenges makes you feel like you are sending them into battle.
‘I don’t want that for my son,’ said his Dad. ‘I don’t want him to feel overwhelmed, like he has no one to turn to.’
Well, he never will because he has his Dad. To pick him up when he falls, to encourage him, to tell him he is good enough, that he can do it. To love him.
Our boy will never feel he has no one to talk to, will never be told to stop acting like a girl over a broken heart. We will always be there through good times and bad, no matter what.
I learned a secret this week. And it made me see fatherhood in a different light.