Lately I have been metamorphosising into a strange, inhuman creature known as a ‘dad’.
Now, of course, I’ve been a dad for eleven months, but it’s only now that it’s sinking inside and reorganising my DNA. Becoming a father doesn’t change you very much, but living as a father clearly does something to your body chemistry.
I went to a wedding on Friday. Normally I don’t dance, but as the music started I was suddenly driven by this urge to take Lizzie’s hands and lead her to the dance floor, where I jiggled about arrhythmically, rocked from foot to foot, did a few spins, and then caught sight of someone else doing exactly the same thing and realised: oh my gosh, I’m dad-dancing!
I was never a good dancer, but at the very least I could bop to the beat and unleash a bit of inner funk – now it’s just plain embarrassing!
I guess like most dads, I have to prove that I’m still young and try to impress my child by throwing myself into apparently ‘fun’ activities. When Lizzie was jumping up and down on a trampoline, of course I had to do it too to show I’m still with-it…and threw out my back, and hurt my neck, and hobbled around for the following week like an octogenarian. Before the baby came along, I’d never have got on a trampoline, so why do my dad genes make me do that?
And speaking of dad jeans, I went shopping the other day and spent the whole time going, ‘Why can’t I find any normal jeans? Why are they all skinny-fit, or slimline, or tapered? I don’t want trendy, I want comfort, with a high waistline and a zip fly for easy access and…whoops, when did I turn into a fifty year old?’
In fact, I’ve developed some rather strong opinions about youth fashion of late. Girls’ skirts are too short and their T-shirts don’t cover enough of their midriff. If I ever catch Izzie showing off that much skin, I’ll…damn, talking like a dad again.
Along the way I’ve grown fond of a hideously repetitive style of unfunny dad-ish one-liners. Every time Izzie poops herself, I say, ‘Shall we change you? We could change you for a nice Italian baby. That’d be good.’
I say that at least three times a day. It wasn’t particularly witty the first time I said it, and it doesn’t get any funnier as time goes by, but for some reason, that doesn’t stop me from saying it.
The same with opening the blinds in the morning: the moment they’re open and the light streams in onto my tired frame, I cry out, ‘Ah, I’m melting, oh, what a world, what a world,’ as I pretend to liquify down into the floor. Izzie has never once even smiled, but I still do it. Every day. Not funny, dad. Stop it.
Bathtimes have developed their own cheesy humour: we have a little blue shark bath toy, and no matter how many times I’ve done it, I whoosh it around the tub with just the dorsal fin poking above the water humming the Jaws theme and saying things like, ‘You’re gonna need a bigger bath,’ and, ‘Smile you son of a duck,’ and I listen to myself doing it and think, ‘Just shut up you sad old man!’
But at least I’ve not turned into a mum that talks through her child, the way Lizzie does.
‘Is daddy going to get mummy a drink?’ she says to the baby, or, ‘Mummy’s going to look after you while daddy mows the lawn,’ or even, ‘Daddy’s made a great big mess of the house and if he doesn’t tidy it up mummy will kick him out and cancel the wedding’ (see: passive-aggression for a full explanation of this behaviour!). T’would be nice if she’d ask me to my face instead of through a proxy!
Perhaps it’s inevitable that having a child turns you into a dad. In fact, most people would argue that having a child is pretty much the key factor in becoming a dad. But there’s a big difference between being a dad and being a ‘dad’. And while I’ve been the former for a while, the latter has crept up on me and cold-cocked me on the jaw.
What a strange state of affairs!