It’s taken me so many goes to write this. I just couldn’t get the sentiment across. I wanted to talk about my amazing Dad who looked after me and my brother and sister after my Mum died when I was six years old. I wanted to say something about my wife Lizzy’s Dad who as a young man was scouted to play for Liverpool but packed it in for a job paying steady money when his wife was pregnant with their first child. I wanted to talk about going through IVF to have our own child and how amazingly brave Lizzy was, even she was a walking pin cushion. All the drugs, all the doctors appointments, all the injections. A constant string of tests where the results might mean the doctor tells you it just won’t work for you. We were very lucky. Very very lucky. Those tests came back positive for us and we had our beautiful boy at the first time of trying. These are the headlines – how I came to be a Dad and how I’ve decided what kind of Dad I want to be. But plans and kids, right? Are they ever straight-forward?
I’ve wanted to be a Father as long as I can remember. As a 19 year-old with a checkerboard shaved into my head (I know) – even then, I knew I wanted to be a Dad. I thought it was going to be easy. I love kids and they love me. I play with all my mates’ kids and everyone says ‘Oh, you’re a natural – you’ll be a great Dad’, but now I am one, there’s that nagging voice – will I?
I’ve wanted kids so much that I always thought it would be this Hollywood moment when I saw mine for the first time. Cut to a soft-focus montage of him growing up and me always being there for him: the first steps (I catch him when he falls), stabilisers off his bike (me standing just a little smug as he wobbles through the park), my arm around him in consolation after losing a big match, us celebrating winning the big match; fixing his collar for his first date.
But life’s not Hollywood. It’s Leytonstone. And in Leytonstone the nappies stink and the nights are sleepless, you never really know what you’re doing and your social life has died a death. But you kind of expect all that; you can get your head around it. Then, parenthood throws you a curveball. For example, this week, my son hates me. Now, I’m sure he loves me somewhere in there, but at the moment he hates me. I rush home from work to get my precious time with him before bed and Lizzy hands him over to me all calm and sweet, then within five minutes he’s losing his shit. Google ‘best cry ever’ and you’ll get an idea. Then Lizzy takes him back and in 30 seconds he’s sweetness and light again. I know it’s stupid and I know it’s my ego and so on, but my God it makes you feel so small.
Poof – there goes my Hollywood montage. Poof – there goes ‘You Got a Friend in Me’ playing while we enjoy a spot of catch in the garden. Oof – there goes my strong sense of self-worth and hopes to match my own Father’s Dadding abilities.
My Dad never missed one of my sports matches. I’ve no idea how that’s even possible, but I know he was there. He was there for every single moment – the big ones and small – and I’m learning a lot from that. It’s one thing to play with a toddler until they cry and you hand them back, but it’s a totally different thing to rock a bawling baby to sleep night after night. And therein, I guess, lies the reality of parenthood. It’s hard. It’s messy. It doesn’t always go to plan. And the beauty of it is finding things to cherish within all that. So you must find magnificence in the mundane. It’s about being there, being consistent, being patient and if you do all those little things all the time, maybe at the end of it in years to come someone will think you did a good job. So, when you’re putting him to bed and he starts going mental you stay calm and you stay with him because somewhere deep down he’ll remember that. They say a fight is never won in the ring – it’s won in the gym, and I think the same is true of being a Dad. So I’m saying thanks to my own Dad for the many, many hours he spent in the Eddie gym, and hoping against hope that I can do the same for my own boy, whether he cries through it all or not.