I love children. They love me. Seriously. Put me in a room full of toddlers and they flock around me with sticky fingers and wide eyed chuckles.
Little colourful zombies showing me how far they can throw a plastic teapot. It’s nice. I think it’s because I’ve never really grown up. For my fortieth birthday I asked my partner for skateboard wheels and a lap dance. Which I got. Both excellent rides.
My Mum wanted me to have a baby instead. She want’s to be a cool Grandmother. One that can still throw some shapes on the bouncy castle with my genetic gift to the family tree, but as I’m now single and creeping towards the wrong side of middle age, I worry that my kids will never do flips with Granny.
My friends’ FaceBook posts of baby scans swap to first day at school. My gallery is still skateboards and lap dancers. It makes me broody. I want to post photos of my stupid little bundle. I want to post my beautiful little daughter’s first BMX jump, but unless something miraculous happens soon, I just don’t know if it’s going to happen.
‘You’d be a great Dad!’ I get told this often. Yes, I can mess around and play the fool. I’m down with video games and I know what pop star is popping another. I’m guessing that there’s a little bit more to actually being a great Dad. The relationship with my own father was strained. A gambling triad who ran to England in the seventies and knocked up a girl from London. Most of my childhood I moved from place to place. Don’t get me wrong. It was exciting. Because of his addiction to horse racing and brandy I moved schools ten times. I got used to making friends quick, which is good. I moved so many times in the night I became an insomniac, which isn’t. I saw him lose money. Thousands thrown at three legged horses. I saw the strain on my young pretty Mum’s face making ends meet, hiding the bruises. The only advice my Dad gave me was this, ‘Always park your car facing forward, in case you have to fuck off fast.’ Something I won’t be engraving on a silver plate.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom. He disappeared after I knocked him out and tried to drown him in the bath. For a few months life was easier. Until I got kicked out for being a crazy teenage idiot who tried to drown my Dad. It was okay. My Mum had suffered a lot over the years and I guess I reminded her of him.
The armchair shrinks may be thinking, ‘This guy has Daddy issues, no wonder he’s never had kids’. Yup. It’s only taken me twenty five years to realise.
I’ve had relationships where I understood. I got it. Having a child is more than, ‘Just what people do.’ I had a revelation while in a three year relationship with a beautiful green eyed stripper, doing a Masters in nutritional science. There’s something alluring about a woman who can make a grand a night in six inch heels and write essays for professors with six syllable words. We talked weddings and dresses and invitations. I’d speak to her parents about taking her hand in marriage. I loved her so much the only way I could express it was by creating a whole new life together. A perfect union of us together. A legacy. An echo that would sing our story until the end of time. A tiny human we could mould in our own images (aside from the stripper part). I wanted a little girl. I’d give her a Chinese flowery name and I’d teach her to make bows and arrows and dress up like a princess, or a pumpkin, anything she wanted.
We split up when she graduated. My failing career as the oldest boyband member in London’s gay pop scene threw her some wobbles. I spent months drinking coconut rum and crying in a loft listening to hardcore rave. Fantasies of love creating pure and angelic life began to warp. I chased the ideal that when I was a super rich pop star / film director / movie actor / astronaut / president with millions of pounds in my offshore bank account it would be easy. Waiting for the ‘right time’ to pop the beans. Waiting for my life to be settled and secure. This magical place, I’ve discovered, doesn’t exist. What I was being, apart from a deluded dreamer was selfish. I wanted everything in my life to be perfect. No point having a child when you’re struggling. No point having a child when you’re renting. No point having a child with a woman who isn’t the hottest girl you’ve ever seen. All about me.
Having a child is the opposite. It’s devoting your life to something else. All of a sudden the most important things in the world aren’t retro skateboards and lap dancers. Babies are cute, but they can’t do shit for at least a decade, you have to do everything, and that means sacrifice.
I watch with guilty glee the afternoon talk shows that glorify the dregs. The underachievers, the toothless fat morons who air their dirty laundry on low budget television boggle my mind, yet they seem to have been stupid or brave enough to reproduce. They bit the bullet and made a person. A person, that no matter how dumb their parents, will be inextricably linked. The responsibility of feeding and clothing and moulding. Taken in their stride. It’s the one thing we’re born to do. Simple. If they can do it, why can’t I? Oh yeah, because I’m shit scared.
I’ll have better luck creating a daughter if I find someone to have a daughter with. Having babies is a two player event. A game that should only be played on ‘extreme hard mode’. There’s no ‘easy’ mode. You can’t start again if you mess it up on level one.
There’s still time for me yet. Unlike women with biological time bombs that start ticking at birth, I can still shuffle a wiggly womb invader even into my seventies, but, if I leave it much longer the only thing shuffling will be me with a walking stick at little Poppy’s graduation.
(Find out why I’m still single and childless in my debut novel, Love and a Dozen Roast Potatoes)
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