FATHERHOOD can seem like one theatre after the next, writes Greig Johnston.
Pretending to be interested in their drawings, their schooling, making friends with other parents – it’s exhausting.
Here’s the difference between me and my partner: when the kids came, her interests evolved.
She became interested in parenting.
My interests remained footy, boxing, sex, reading, writing and the telly – the order changing seasonally – with less and less time to indulge each.
Things happened to her at a biological, physiological and psychological level that just didn’t happen for me.
So here I am.
When we discovered we were expecting, I asked a good mate of ours with two beautiful boys what parenthood was like.
She smiled that small, knowing smile unique to mothers, paramedics and war veterans.
“When it’s good, it’s really good…” she said, the silence hanging in the air like a doomed zeppelin.
Now I’m a few years into being a parent, I think her silence said: “I just wish it was good more often.”
There’s a line I like to drop into conversation early on when I meet people, just to see if they’re on my wavelength or not: “Parenthood is overrated.”
Like our old mate said, when it’s good, it’s sublime.
As well as our daughter, we’ve got a one-year-old son.
Last night when I got home he was all gummy grins and high fives.
After his shower, he laughed as I led him on a jaunty rendition of our new change-table favourite, Don’t Scratch Up Your Nutsack, hastily composed when he was handling the goods a little too vigorously with untrimmed nails.
My daughter likes to pretend me and her are foremen on a road-working crew, and I leave her little notes when I go to work with instructions on keeping her fluids up on hot days.
It’s a different story when I come home from work though: catatonic wife, daughter screaming because her pants ‘itch’, and the little fella teething so hard he’s using his head as a bowling ball.
One immediately enters triage: how best can I help.
I say to my partner often, “I couldn’t do what you do.”
Staying at home with them, all day every day, it’s superhuman. (Almost went with ‘Herculean’, but there’s no way he could handle it…)
So if fatherhood feels like one theatre after the next, what do we do?
I think the best choice is to play my part.
Keep showing up every day, delivering my lines with love.
It could be my defining role.
And sometimes there will come a moment of transcendence.
On Sunday my dad came to visit and after a cuppa we took the kids out for a walk.
My dad pushed my son in the stroller and I walked beside them, keeping an eye on my daughter riding her bike up ahead.
There was the usual chat between me and the old boy: the Rangers, the work, Willie Rioli.
But half way round all that fell away, and there we were – three generations of Johnston men following one headstrong little girl.
It was something.
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