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Full Time Father

by Mark Smith


Just over three years ago myself and the missus took delivery of our first bundle of joy - Joseph Daniel Smith. I know it's a cliche but it really was the best thing I've ever seen. Unfortunately due to some complications with the birth he was a bit yellow when he came out. Not Bart Simpson yellow, just a bit 'Sunny Delight', and as a result he spent a few days under what can only be described as an infant sunbed. And so began the rollercoaster ride that I've now come to understand as parenthood.

At the time of his birth I was working for an IT company, being paid fuck all for doing, well...fuck all. They were so badly run it was no surprise when they went bust a few months later. Fortunately, by this time I'd taken the bold step into a new career - a full time Dad, professional parent, house-husband. It made financial sense, not only from a security point of view but also because the missus was offered a job which paid a fair bit more than me. With all those nappies and stuff to buy we made the sensible decision.

Three years on I've created what can only be described as a miniature version of myself. Where other kids sing about Humpty Dumpty falling off a wall (the clumsy get), my little lad has just perfected a little ditty to the tune of "tequila" - an homage to Stockport County's promising centre forward Adam Le Fondre. This is roughly the 18th Stockport song he knows. He's also very good at singing the theme tunes to Balamory, Come Outside and various other annoyingly fun songs from the CBeebies stable. All in all, it's great fun. I hadn't known job satisfaction until I saw my son kick a size five football really fucking hard, then pull his shirt over his head and run off celebrating.

Don't get me wrong though. It's not all a big party. The first eighteen months was made difficult by the other half being made redundant from that well paid job she'd taken, only to be made redundant twice more in the next year. There's bad luck and there's bad luck. Thankfully that instability is over now but for a few months we were living off beans on toast and even worse, I couldn't buy any new trainers. For a man with over 30 pairs of adidas, you'll understand this was pretty much unbearable. The shitty nappies and the sleepless nights I could deal with, but there were times I'd habitually check eBay, wistfully passing up bargains as I went.

We've gradually settled into a routine now. Its great not having to drag myself out of bed during GMTV but I do make the effort to have us both washed and dressed in time to see Jeremy Kyle shout at thick people. The television generally provides the soundtrack to the day. We start off with Jeremy, followed by a bit of This Morning. I even sometimes watch Loose Women and find myself nodding as they discuss relationships/handbags. In the afternoons I usually make the effort to do something a little more strenuous than watching telly and telling Joe how great his latest lego creation is (Him:"Look Dad!"...Me:"What is it? A house?"...Him(confused): "No! It's a pussy cat!".)

If the weather is ok I can somtimes be found at the local park of an afternoon, doing an unintentional impression of that competitive Dad character in the Fast Show ("No Joseph, kick with the side of your foot..WILL YOU NEVER LEARN!!"). There's a mini football pitch there and if we get there before the kids come out of school we get the whole thing to ourselves. This usually means I can do a bit of showing off in front of the Crown Green bowlers, congratulating myself inwardly as I brilliant curl the ball past the non-existant Peter Shilton. I bet they think I'm a right berk. While I perfect my ball juggling, Joe plays in the puddles. In fact, no he jumps in the puddles, making a right mess of his trainers but loving every bloody minute. Inbetween getting himself dirty he does a repeatedly follows his Dad's example by kicking a ball into an empty net and getting dead excited about it. Unlike me though, he tends to punch the air and run in circles.

Anyone who has visited the footballing mecca that is Edgeley Park might be familiar with the local shopping street ( Castle Street ), which is full of what I like to call 'Old mens pubs' as well as fast food outlets and pound shops. This is where I can sometimes be found, buying a white-hot pastie from Greggs, tutting at the scally mums. There's some grafitti just off Castle Street that proclaims a local girl to be a "bad fucked up gimp" as well as a "bucket biff". In truth, the latter could apply to a lot of the local mothers judging by the amount of offspring they seem to cart around. Over the last few years I've become familiar with the local faces. There's the woman in her late 20s who I always see walking really fast with her arms folded. One day she'll trip up and with her arms still folded she'll take the skin off her face. At least I hope so. Then there's the lady in Somerfield who has a face that looks like a toasted rodent. She desperately changes her hair colour every couple of weeks, each new colour more fucking disgusting than it's predecessor. Across from Somerfield there is the skinny fruit and veg man with snow white hair. He's like Peter Kay's 'Leonard De Tompkinson' character but thin. He always wears fingerless gloves which I'd normally find quite unhygeinic but his shop seems to be merely an extension of his allotment so as long as I wash the apples I sometimes buy from him I don't mind so much. Next door to him is my favourite shop. It's a pound shop just like every other pound shop. Asian owner, lots of cleaning products and cheap toys. The best thing about this shop though is the way he labels his items. For example if you need a new pillow, he offers "bouncy fillo 2 pound fifty". He also sells "blech" and "washing power".

Other than stocking up the freezer and perfecting my corner taking techniques I'll sometimes spend an afternoon at the local community centre where they have a kids nursery once a week. Whether I'm strictly allowed to attend is another matter, what with it being called "Mums n' Tots". They've never questioned me. Maybe my ever increasing development of man breasts has fooled them into thinking I actually am a woman? You'd think the stubble would make up for that though. Joe is generally pretty shy. That's another thing he's picked up from me. I was painfully shy as a child, though these days I prefer to disguise my shyness as ignorance. It makes me seem a bit cooler. Hopefully once he goes to school he won't be so bad. Recently a brash toddler half Joseph's size waltzed up to him and demanded he get off the truck he was riding. Joe looked scared shitless, as if he'd just been told the other kid had a gun and wasn't afraid to use it. In fairness, looking at the other kid he probably did have some form or weapon tucked in his pocket, the scruffy sod.

This brings me onto my next point though. Whilst I've really bonded with my son, I've come to despise other peoples children. They're rubbish. I find myself having to grit my teeth to stop myself from shouting at them, or worse. At Alphabet Zoo the other week one of them kept throwing plastic balls at my head. I laughed playfully at first but after about four of them had hit me I had to be dragged away by security. I didn't really. They've always got a runny nose aswell. Plus a forlorn-looking mother desperately clasping a cup of coffee nearby, occasionally telling their monster of a child to "stop stabbing that little girl in the eye". In summary, other people's kids are shit, and that's swearing.

This 3 year odyssey is soon to end though. As from the end of April or thereabouts, Joe will have a new playmate when the missus pops out our latest creation. As a result she's on maternity leave for a few months while I shall be taking my first steps into the big wide world once again. It's like I've just left sixth form, only I'm 2 stone heavier and have a better wardrobe. During the last three years I've learnt more about myself and the world in general than I think I could ever have picked up in the career I was persuing at the time. The plan at the moment is for me to do something temporary until the other half returns to work but if I enjoy whatever job I land I might just stick with it and put Joe and his new brother or sister into permanent childcare.

Whether I'll get used to spending my days without the playful chat and the out of tune bellowing of the Adam Le Fondre song is an entirely different matter. I expect time will tell.


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