One Foot in the Cradle: an ode to the Older Dad
When I was born in 1971, the average age of a British father was 26. In 2016, it was 33. Almost a decade older. And many of us are older still.
This blog is for the more mature dad, the growing breed of first time fathers in their early 40s. The ones who’ve lived a long life of leisure and are now paying for it. Whose minds remain willing but whose bodies frequently refuse to follow. Whose grumpiness knows no bounds. Who’ve just suddenly started to fall asleep during the day for the first time in their lives. Those old dogs who are having to learn new tricks.
Because whilst a 30 year old might be able to deal reasonably well with the frequent night-time intrusions (no, not THAT kind, if only…), the absurdly early starts, the relentless requests for ‘football, Daddy, can we play footballfootballfootballFOOTBALL’, the vicious work-family guilt lottery and the endless questions (“Daddy, why is cereal crunchy and then soggy?”), this is not the case for us, older dads. For we have the staying power of a year-old iPhone, the sleep-invading bladder of a geriatric and the grumpiness of a bear who no longer has a wood to shit in.
I love my kids dearly (especially now they’ve developed beyond gibbering fools) but three things struck me about parenthood back in the early days.
- Everyone talks about how everything is magical and how the first few months are precious. I would say that roughly 20% of years 0-2 is magical and around 80% is sleep-deprived, urine-soaked, poo-stained misery.
- There are people who talk about how well their child is sleeping: a) there is a special place in hell for people who say this; and b) there is a special place in hell for people who say this.
- Finally, Dads are expected to take everything in our zombie stride, get through work on 3 hours sleep a night (FYI 2 weeks paternity leave is a bit like trying to boil the ocean with a single match), and still present a Beckhamesque (everything is AWESOME when you have half a dozen nannies) picture of fatherhood to the world.
Against this backdrop, there is little support. As I said back in the day (to applause from my wife and the Mum Mafia): NO ONE THINKS OF THE DADS. Whilst my wife, who is 6 years younger (…pause for cheers…), has an array of mothering support to lean on (from MumsNet to Hurrah for Gin to said local Mum Mafia), I’ve had to rely on emails from her (which I flag “read” and never actually read, my bad), infrequent ‘Dad Nights Out’ where we spend 5m talking about our kids and 3h talking about the best Star Wars scenes and child-interrupted conversations that can take weeks (even months) to complete.
So I’ve taken my wife’s advice to “Stop moaning about it and write about it, dickhead” and this blog is my gift to any Dad of a certain age who feels they are struggling to cope. I hope it gives solace to those Old Dads in the early days of Fatherhood who try (in vain) to find sleep in the car or garden, who use their Travelcard to open the front door when they get home from work, who find their wallet in the fridge or who inexplicably well up when the microwave door is left open (again).