Tom was two days old. Lying in an incubator. He was jaundiced: the result of a Ventouse delivery.
“He’ll be fine,” the doctor said. Which was no use at all to his anxious parents. We sat by the side of his cot – quite painfully in my wife’s case, thanks to the stitches – watching, waiting and powerless. And now on first name terms with every parent’s daemon; worry.
But the doctor was right. He was fine. We took him home – and three days later we were pacing the bedroom floor at four in the morning, worrying that we couldn’t get him to sleep. “What the hell have we done?” I said to Jane.
But gradually we learned how to be parents. ‘That’s it,’ I remember thinking. ‘I can change a nappy. Cracked it.’
Tom grew up; a bright, intelligent, curly haired little boy. Then suddenly, he was ill. Really ill.
Pneumonia. And we were back in hospital, watching a painfully inept junior doctor digging a trench in our son’s hand as he failed to inset a drip.
A week of sitting by his bedside: sleeping by his bedside in Jane’s case. And both of us worried sick.
We worried our way through school. Through GCSEs and A-levels. And then off he went to university.
Now there were grown-up worries. How will he react when his first serious romance breaks up? Not well, was the answer, but ‘not well’ is the answer for everyone.
I didn’t say ‘plenty of fish’ to my son. I didn’t tell him that for most people there’s far worse pain waiting down the line. Because when your first love breaks up… well, no-one’s ever felt pain like it in the history of the world. And no-one – especially your Dad – can possibly understand.
Then there’s money. As your children get older the worries just have more noughts on them. Bluntly, I have not the slightest idea how Tom’s going to get on the housing ladder. Our son has a first in Engineering from Cambridge: but without a large injection from the Bank of Mum and Dad he won’t be able to buy a house. Maybe someone could forward this blog post to David Cameron. Somehow, Prime Minister, that doesn’t sound like a successful housing policy to me…
Anyway, time enough to sell a kidney. Right now, we have more pressing worries.
You may have noticed there’s a football tournament taking place. England are involved. A few chairs are being thrown: tear gas is being deployed. And on July 2nd Tom plans to walk into the middle of it.
He’s just an ordinary football fan. Having a holiday, soaking up the atmosphere, watching the games in the fan park.
While his parents are having kittens.
I spoke to him last night. “So you’re coming home on the 25th and going to France on the second?”
Was there part of me that wanted to hear, ‘Well, we’ve thought about it, Dad, and on reflection it’s clearly a lot safer to stay at home?’
I’m tempted to say ‘yes.’ But the real answer is no. Because if Tom had said ‘no’ then you could safely put a line through ‘likely to achieve something in life.’
Risk is part of life – and worry is part of being a parent. It’s what you sign up for the minute you see those two blue lines on the testing kit. Yes, I’ll be beside myself with worry; yes, of course I’ll wake up to see if he’s texted.
But at least I won’t be alone in the middle of the night. His Mum will be wide awake, keeping me company…
Thanks for reading this post. If you enjoyed it – and you’d like something light and “very, very funny” to read – you can buy the ‘Best Dad I Can Be’ sample book with 27 of my favourite posts covering all the years I’ve been writing: it’s all of 99p on your Kindle. Alternatively the first chronological book, ‘Half Dad Half Fish’ which covers the time when the children were 9, 7 and 4 is available here.