By Alasdair Cunningham
For as long as I remember my Dad worked shifts. The morning shifts were best as we had the afternoons to spend time together but when he worked the other two we’d just pass each other in the hallway. But that’s what you did back then, you worked whatever you were given to be able to provide for your family.
I had it easier than most, some fathers worked in entirely different cities, coming home for a few weeks once every 6 months or so. This didn’t mean that I didn’t miss him, it just made the limited time we got to spend together much more precious. It also taught me some very valuable lessons, such as being an adult sometimes sucked as you had to work both nights and weekends and that time is the most precious commodity we have.
“It’s more like the season finale of Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, it’s extremely messy with lots of tears and danger lurking around every corner”
With the advent of the internet and e-mails, we can be more flexible with how we work and where we work than
say twenty, thirty years ago. That’s why as soon as my first-born arrived, I decided to become a house husband, telling my then boss and his associates to stick it where the….. I’m joking, you never burn bridges, no matter how tempting it may be.
My resignation wasn’t a splitsecond decision, we did the calculations to see if it could be possible. We realised that it would be tight and if we kept our cool and didn’t go crazy, we might just make it.
However, I wasn’t giving up bringing home some bacon entirely, it’s just that I would be doing it from home for myself while raising our kids and swopping the obligatory khaki pants and blue shirts for jeans and vintage rock t-shirts. (Living the dream dudes, … living the dream).
It’s been said that no man is an island and that it takes a village to raise a child (or an idiot). That is most definitely true because I don’t do this in isolation as my wife is very much part of the picture, as are the boys’ grandparents and even some extended family.
Being able to spend valuable time with our two boys is priceless. So what if I do the shopping, or the laundry, or even the dishes, it doesn’t make me less of a man and no, I don’t keep my testicles in a jar by the door either. I have them mounted on top of the fireplace for all to see, along with my signing carp (I love that guy! Take me to the river … what a hoot!) and the head of some random numbskull who condescendingly called me “Daddy Day Care”.
Besides, it’s nothing like that movie, not in my house. It’s tough and scary and this is coming from someone who has been in the military and seen Slayer – twice! It’s more like the season finale of Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, it’s extremely messy with lots of tears and danger lurking around every corner, like fields of unexploded Lego just waiting to pounce and bring a slew of muffled screams to the unlucky individual. Most days though, it’s like I’ve wandered into the middle of a Monty Python skit. The one with the parrot that is no more.
Me: Right, so you want clouds (cauliflower) and trees (broccoli) with your dinner?
Them: Yes please, Dad!
Me: Ok, here you go.
Them: What’s this?
Me: It’s clouds and trees… just like you asked for.
Them: No, we didn’t.
Me: Yes, you did!
Them: No, we didn’t.
Me: Yes, you did!
Believe me, this can go on for hours… the parrot is well and truly dead.
One thing I never appreciated before is the amount of time Mums (and now a growing pool of Dads) spend behind the wheel. There’s the initial school run, followed by a shopping run, then home to do some work. Then there’s the afternoon pick-up followed by not one, but two extra-curricular runs as they both have different interests, then home to cook dinner before my wife comes home. I feel like one of those Ice Road Truckers, resplendent in a John Deere baseball cap and flannel.
I wouldn’t give it up, not one single aspect of it. I learn far more from them than I think they ever will from me. Just their sheer exuberance and unbridled optimism is a tonic to my most cynical of hearts, and I love how completely binary they are, right or wrong, good or bad with absolutely zero shades of grey.
I try and teach them what I think will be useful for them based on my years of knocking around this planet, which is not a lot to be honest, because as I’ve said before, it takes a village to raise an idiot, and that idiot is always me.