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I like my children

  Mon 23rd July 2012

It might sound an obvious thing for a man to say, but in my case it took several years to like being part of a family. It took leaving Kirsty--who is an attractive, witty, clever, well-dressed, pisstaking woman--and a long period of misdirected resentment at my daughters, to come round to my present attitude. I know that saying this is partly a function of Kirsty doing most of the childcare, but I do like being with my girls; and I include Kirsty in that denominator.

On nights like last night, and tonight, when me and Kirsty are getting amiably pissed, when Fiona is taking the mick out of my burbling commentary on the Test Match highlights, Melanie is asking unanswerable questions about quarks, and Jenny is garroulous about her day's rehearsal for Preston Guild, and there's one of her friends in the house, who borrows my phone to ring her mum (fuck, she's pretty, no, don't look at her arse, she's only thirteen)--I like being part of a family. My family, our family. When Kirsty and I were together and I was working full-time I avoided my house and my children, going down the pub with the Guardian after work, sometimes lying about being late. Now I see far more of them, by choice.

I never wanted children. I remember with daylight clarity, sitting on a Modernist concrete slab with Kirsty in the terraced, watered, lush gardens of the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon, the only place in the city with decent vegetarian food, wondering why she wanted to spoil our lives, this vista, with children. We both got jobs on Madeira and moved to Funchal and over the next two years the topic occasionally came up, with the forceful delicacy which I still like in Kirsty. Kirsty is a picture of the woman I should have fallen in love with, but didn't, which makes me think it's an experience I'll never have.

I reluctantly agreed to have one--only one. A couple of years later, returning to London, three girls turned up. They were almost Portuguese, and Melanie, especially, wishes she were. She wants to be bilingual, but with no effort.

We got the girls to bed and I made to go. We made our arrangements about the next few days, seeing as it's school holidays and Kirsty's working Monday to Wednesday and I'm on Trina's boat overnight on Tuesday. I bent down to kiss her goodnight and accidentally touched her tits. I drew my hand away without apologising. We smiled, an understanding half-second which almost made me want to kiss her again. All our history.

11 comments

Comment from: [Member]

all those years together. the experiences. so very civilized (oops - ‘civilised’) that the two of you are so comfortable together still. I genuinely like my ex-husband. but once we were done? he was done. most of the co-parenting of our adult children is done via text/e-mail…

Mon 23rd July 2012 @ 02:44

Be careful.

History is dangerous.

As would be number four.

Mon 23rd July 2012 @ 09:16
Comment from: [Member]

DF: It’s very important to try to keep friendly relations with their Mum, but it’s not difficult–Kirsty’s a person very easy to like.

TSB: Well, for obvious reasons, there won’t be any surprises with Trina.

Mon 23rd July 2012 @ 09:29

I think a lot of men have trouble with very young children. Is that fair to say? I’ll gladly admit that those first five or six years were absolutely hellish for me. I often asked myself what the hell I was in the middle of. Now that they’re growing older, it’s getting more enjoyable. Easier.

Mon 23rd July 2012 @ 12:09
Comment from: furtheron [Visitor]

I was 27 and suddenly there was this thing there - this other life, all bundled up in a blanket and all that… How did that happen? Yes I’d agreed to it, but I’d no idea about it. Some of my worst drinking ever was done in the first year of my sons life I’m sad to say. I didn’t realise it but just the concept of that responsibility freaked me. My daughter arrived 5 or so years later after we’d lost one (another story there of me in a pub moaning how awful it was and a guy telling me to be there for my wife, I got angry esp when he pointed out I wasn’t I was in a pub getting pissed). I honestly have large gaps of my daughters early life missing. At 8 she looked in my eyes with tears as I explained that Daddy was going away for a while to sort the drinking out - my 13 year old boy just smiled in a sarcastic manner he’d already got the measure of me.

Somehow we have a great relationship today. Last Thurs I gave them a tour around where I now work and I think that frankly is a bloody miracle. Honestly my kids inspire me more than any other 2 people in the world on a daily basis.

Mon 23rd July 2012 @ 13:22
Comment from: [Member]

Yes I don’t miss those early years to be honest. I felt as though my identity had been erased. For years I was identified only as a father. I felt like my life was being lived for me. Everyone always just said “How are the children?” What about me?

I recognise the syndrome of avoiding one’s domestic situation through drink, once children turn up. Well done F for getting through it. It can’t have been easy, not for anyone but it’s to your immense credit that you managed it.

Tue 24th July 2012 @ 02:36
Comment from: young at heart [Visitor]

child rearing is hard work …for anyone who does it…. there are obviously going to be sacrifices but then hopefully rewards too it’s called unconditional love…..it’s just that unfortunately it’s women who do most of the sacrificing while the absent dads then reap the rewards….now it probably feels pretty good to have your loving children as you stagger to your old age rather than being a lonely old……

Tue 24th July 2012 @ 10:00
Comment from: [Member]

“Old age” Joanna? I’m only 48! :)

And you do have a good point, but I worked very hard when they were little–doing shiftwork on the railway and then coming home and helping as best I could.

Tue 24th July 2012 @ 10:44
Comment from: Homer [Visitor]

Not a universal male experience - my cousin, the 32 year old dad of a toddler, spends every minute he can with her and gets really excited at the thought of having her on his own when his wife is at work. I was going to suggest it was a generational thing, but my dad was the same with me and my sister in the 70s and 80s. Anyway, glad you enjoy the girls now.

Tue 24th July 2012 @ 18:59
Comment from: smallbeds [Visitor]

Liking your family isn’t necessarily as natural as experiencing feelings of duty towards them. But if you don’t at least share some sort of social bond, the familial bonds can be self-weakening, as duties beget resentment. Over time, if you don’t like them, and they’re not actually adorable, you could start to actively dislike them.

So I’m so glad you’ve found a way to actually like the people you’re related to, however late in your relationship with them: which is actually a ridiculous thing to say when you look at it; you’ve still got decades left in which to enjoy their society.

It’s been a long, difficult journey to end up liking my parents. My mother, not so difficult: as I’ve just posted on my own blog, I prefer the company of women anyway, and my mother is a sociable, genial, accommodating person. But these days my Dad has gone from being awkward to being occasionally truculent and gruff; so I’ve had a narrow window of time in which to get to grudgingly like his company before he started to become a grumpy, often snapping old man.

I was lucky in a sense that I made that window, because even now I can see through his gruffness to the merits of his company; and sometimes, to actively enjoy it. Life’s too short, and I wouldn’t want to look back on mine and see that I’d not spent enough of it with my Dad.

Fri 27th July 2012 @ 07:00
Comment from: [Member]

H: Yes it comes naturally to some but not to many. Your cousin’s wife’s a lucky woman.

SB: I have to make more of an effort with my Dad too. My mum’s very easy-going and entirely lacking in self-pity. Keeping a relationship going with my Dad is more difficult and draws on greater resources of filial duty. His health is going downhill fast now so I’m aware every day that that effort must be sustained.

Fri 27th July 2012 @ 08:58


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