“The Hard Way”

As a child, I was fascinated with my great-aunt’s gas heater. At home, we had boring central heating. But this gas heater had fluttering little flames licking away at the multi-coloured safety glass. I could watch them for hours. Sometimes, I would get a little too close for my mum’s comfort and she would loudly tell me to get back a little. One day, when I wouldn’t listen to her again, she did something I’ll never forget. She took my hand and for the briefest moment, she pushed it against the heater. Yes it was hot and I let out a scream. My mother a sadist? Perhaps. But I never came too close to the heater again.

But why this horror story? Well, you see, I’ve been worrying and fretting. About whether I’m ready to be a good daddy. It all started when a friend of mine exclaimed: ‘You? A daddy? You’re kidding me! Why, you’re only a kid yourself!’

Was he right? Am I really too immature to be a father? I admit there are some points of improvement. I have to polish up my speech, for example. Last week, I used a four-letter word in front of my brother’s children. I felt their piercing eyes stinging the back of my neck and I turned around to see the two of them laughing at me. They told me off for using the term, while repeating the word loud and clear, screeching with delight.

When I am with children, I become like a flying tornado. I know how to drive them absolutely mad. Together, we raise hell for leather. Sometimes they are after me, sometimes I’m chasing them. As Superman. Or as a ferocious monster. Or as someone who is going to bite their bare buttocks. It has provided me with the nickname Buttock Face. Great. Great fun, too. But with countless bumps and bruises as a result. These do not help my score as a potential parent. On a scale of one to ten? A four, maybe? A five, if I’m lucky.

I have so much to learn when it comes to facing danger. The playground, for example. I should take a detour, because what the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over. After all, the smallest children always want to climb the highest jungle gym. And before I can say no, the child in me is on its way up. Step by step. Tottering and swaying. I am holding my breath. But all is well in the end, and I’m treated to triumphant smiles by both the children and their parents. I mustn’t see the dangers. But how can I avoid that?

All around me, I see potential perils threatening my baby, who is expected in just a few weeks’ time. Take the pond. I want to fill it in. But if I am to believe my friends, I shouldn’t. The stairs? With its infamous corner? Don’t think about it, is what I’m told. Bringing up a child is a matter of ups and downs. Of falling down and picking yourself up again. Children have to learn from their mistakes. But I’d rather protect them and prevent them from making these. My conclusion is that I am not ready to be a daddy. Not ready by a long shot. I’m too much of a lark. And too much of a coward, as well.

But since last week, my self-confidence has been growing. It all started with my friend’s kid. He kept throwing the ball against my head, while I was reading the newspaper. I gave him a warning. And another one. I tried to explain to him that he was hurting me. But he wouldn’t listen. Then, finally, I said: enough is enough. I snatched the ball and hurled it against his head. Rather too hard. It gave me quite a fright. Scared the kid, too. Crying, he ran into the house. After a half an hour or so, he came out again and told me: ‘I don’t like you anymore!’ I was beaming with pride. Never before had I been so happy to hear such awful words. Because these were the exact words I used to my mother, after the gas-heater incident. And I realised that I must have inherited my mother’s parenting skills as well as her sadistic streak. The lad never threw another ball at me. And I’m sleeping a whole lot better now.

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