What is it with other people’s children? Why do they grow up so much faster than yours?
“What’s Maisie now?” you say to a friend you haven’t seen for a while – as you feel remarkably smug at remembering the child’s name. “She must be nearly ready to start school.”
It’s the same with pregnancies. Jane’s pregnancies lasted for about two years. Everyone else is pregnant for three months.
“How’s Claire doing? The baby must be due in a couple of months?”
“Leo’s six months. He’s just started crawling.”
So I wasn’t going to make that mistake when I ‘talked’ to my pal, Frankie – talked meaning Facebook’ed, obviously.
“What’s the baby now?” I typed, feeling remarkably un-smug as I’d forgotten his name. “Must be nearly 18 months?”
No, he was 14 months. Learning to have tantrums, exploring everything and “speaking about 20 different languages.” Frankie is English, her partner’s Australian and they live in Amsterdam. Cue a genuinely bi-lingual child with a genetic pre-disposition for the amber nectar…
The conversation ended and I spent five minutes feeling broody.
Fourteen months. I used to love that period between one and two. You’d come home from work and they’d be saying or doing something new every day. Or in Tom’s case, he’d found a new way to push a carrot into the video recorder. Should’ve realised then he was going to be an engineer…
And if you’re writing about your children, the age between one and two is an absolute goldmine. New content floods out of them. They’ve vomited on the cat. Said their first swear word. Which would be Daddy’s fault, of course…
But as your children get older the pace of change slows down. And then it stops. Jessica’s home at the moment: just a few days before she goes back to Sheffield for her final year. Is it really three years since she started? We’ve been busy, though: we’ve nearly replaced all the kitchen utensils she took with her…
So she’s on the sofa watching Cheers and Friends. Getting nostalgic over Gossip Girl. Wandering into the kitchen and finishing the bacon I was saving to make Carbonara. But she’s done all those things for years. Where’s my new content, darling?
Ah, my beloved daughter. What a source of inspiration she was. When she was five or six she was a blogger’s dream: something new, different, interesting, funny or er… ‘challenging’ every day. Then again when she was 15 or 16 she was doing something different or ‘challenging’ every day. I just couldn’t write about any of it…
Fortunately we still have Ben: so I’m alright for another 12 months. Although as he shapes up to tackle four A levels he could probably do without the pressure. “It’s not right, Dad. I have to do or say something funny every week just so you have something to write about.”
“One of the privileges of being the youngest…”
Meanwhile, we’re sorting out his university choices. “No,” he says, dismissing York. “Far too close to home.”
In the end the nearest one is 200 miles away. “Don’t you like us any more?”
“It’s not that. I’ve lived here for 17 years.”
“So you want to be as far away from us as possible?”
He’s too polite to reply. But I’ve got far greater problems than another three years of 400 mile round trips. “What will I write about when you’re gone? What will I do for inspiration?”
Ben has the answer. “If you’re short of inspiration, Dad, have another baby.”
At which point his Mother sends him to his bedroom…
I’m now working on a 30,000 word e-book about the 5 day, father/son walk Ben and I did on the Pennine Way: if you’d like to read a few sample chapters before publication, just use the contact form to let me know. In the meantime if you’d like a copy of the ‘laugh out loud’ Best Dad featuring 27 of my favourite columns from all the years I’ve been writing, it’s available here for 99p on your Kindle.