I remember my eldest, Edie, being born like it was yesterday. It was a traumatic birth but upon holding her in my arms for the first time, I felt complete – a sensation hit me physically and emotionally, like a thunderbolt of love (and there we have the name of my debut album should I ever get a record deal). Weirdly, I felt it was just something I was meant to do. Everything I’d done in my previous 32 years had led to that moment. I’ve always enjoyed caring for others and have relished responsibility (I got a dog at 19). My own childhood was good, but I think my parents would be the first to admit, we didn’t have much of a physical relationship. Perhaps that’s why holding Edie in my arms for the first time had such an impact on me, the physicality of our immediate father-daughter bond. But I do recall feeling a little uncomfortable in the weeks after, not with what I was doing, but how I was possibly being judged. There was that inevitable judgement from family – we’re always going to get older generations telling us ‘well I brought up three kids you know’, but said uncomfortable judgement was actually coming from a different source – the internet. Social media was exploding, with millions of photos of babies, cute kittens and roast dinners (hopefully not all in the same shot) crippling the internet, and subconsciously we all joined in, putting our lives on display and up for opinion. Did Edie look healthy to others? Was she reaching key milestones like all the other babies online? Did I appear to be a good dad?
Six years on, my actual parenting hasn’t differed much from day one – I’m aware that might sound a little bizarre, of course we change as parents over the years, but my beliefs and parenting approach have remained pretty constant. Sure, I’ve got more wrinkles, less hair and haven’t had a decent night’s sleep since 2012, but as time has passed, I believe there’s only been a subtle evolution to my parenting and not any kind of revolution – I’ve evolved and not revolved (now all I want to do is watch Alan Partridge). I still base my relationship with my children around being as involved as I possibly can be, I’m incredibly hands-on and physical, and shower them with affection. But the biggest change since those early days might not be to my parenting style, but towards my mindset around judgement from others.
When you have a child, you’re aware of how you hold it, what it eats, how it sleeps and much more. There’s an unnerving belief that you’re doing everything wrong and the whole world knows it.
During my discreet evolution as a parent, whilst I might have not varied my parenting style all too much, what I have changed is unnecessarily worrying about what others think. Edie’s now 6 and Arlo’s 3, so hopefully I have some understanding about how to keep a small human being alive.
My confidence as a father has grown every day, putting faith in my abilities and my instinct, and knowing that however outside influences might try and dictate my parenting, I’ve always given my best to enable my children to thrive, even if it hasn’t aligned with what others do.
Now, where are those kids? Time for a cuddle and a thunderbolt of love!