Saturday, 11 July 2015

Why My Brothers-In-Law Are The Real Heroes

Yesterday, I read a news story that made me angry. It was about a local man that was being hailed as a hero for turning a relationship breakdown into something positive, moving to Rio de Janeiro and helping the underprivileged children of Brazil. Very noble of him certainly, except I happen to know that there's one detail the newspapers weren't aware of. In the midst of the catastrophic break up that he did mention, there was a fling that he didn't. From that fling came a child. A child that he actively rejected and then essentially ran away from. A real hero, I'm sure you'll agree.

I have personal experience of growing up with the knowledge that I'd been rejected by a man that had never even met me, so stories like that tug at my anger strings. However, something then happened that stopped my anger in its tracks; I was reminded of the power of stepfathers. Naturally, I have an automatic soft spot for any man that does a wonderful job of raising children that he has no genetic obligation to, and I was reminded of this by a post my older sister put on Facebook. Her husband is father to only one of her children and incredible stepfather to the other four. Her post was about the amount of money she had spent on school uniforms so far, and she mentioned how hard her husband has to work in order to be able to afford such requirements for all five children. It occurred to me then that, rather than getting angry about the men who were walking out of children's lives, my energy would be better spent recognising the ones who made a conscious decision to walk in.

I have two sisters and both of their spouses are heroes. They fell in love with these beautiful women and, almost without thinking, took on the children of lesser men as their own. The husband of my older sister went from a pretty responsibility free lifestyle to father to four children in just a few short months and, as far as I'm aware, it's never even occurred to him how amazing that was. My younger sister attracted the attentions of a man who already had a child, but who was living quite a bachelor existence; one which he immediately dropped, fitting naturally and comfortably into his role of dedicated family man. They are real men because they choose to be and I love them both for it.

My Dad - my wonderful, caring, occasionally terrifying Dad - he's a hero too. He moved in with a woman he had met and her two neurotic daughters. I was only three, but my sister was eight and was fast becoming the teenager that he would have to learn to deal with. I was young enough to be pretty open to the new man our lives, but I'd soon grow out of that. A few years back, I began to serialise my teenage diaries (you can find them here), but stopped that little project in its tracks when I discovered that my teenage self was horrible. I was horrible to and about my friends, but I was absolutely demonic when it came to talking about my stepfather. I was pretty awful to his face too; in fact, I once threw a drink into it while he sat in his armchair. My Dad didn't leave. He didn't get up and say "fuck this shit; these aren't even my kids". He waited for me to calm down and then dealt with me like any father would - with a bollocking and a grounding that he would inevitably let me talk him out of.

So sod the bloke in Brazil, who had the chance to know someone incredible and turned it down. Sod the men all around the World who are failing to be a part of the lives they helped to create. Sod them all, because there are plenty of incredible men who are willing to fill the gaps that they're leaving, and those men are the real heroes.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

If Adults Acted Like Toddlers

This evening, Blake and I were walking from my friend's house to my car. He was looking after my keys and I was holding his hand and chatting merrily about seeing Daddy soon, when suddenly Blake stopped. He put my keyring into his mouth, making him look like an elaborate door knocker, and refused to take another step. Blake is eighteen months old; this behaviour did not surprise me in the slightest. However, it did get me to thinking how weird it would look if I had done the same thing. If, at the age of thirty, I had stuffed my keys into my mouth and stood stock still on the pavement, completely refusing to move.

Toddlers do some strange things. After all, they're still discovering the world and everything is new and exciting. Plus, and this bit is crucial, they get away with it. Somehow I don't think it would be quite as cute if I were to stroll down the road, trying to open every gate that I came across. I think it would be less cute still if I were to tackle Morrisons by shouting at the top of my voice the entire way round. 

Dinner time would also be interesting. If I were to suddenly start copying the way that my son ate, I would fill a spoon with peas, lift them carefully to my face, only to the tip them directly into my lap the millisecond before they reached my lips. I would fill my fork with food, then pick it off and shove it into my mouth along with my entire fist and, once I had had my fill, I would inexplicably pick up my plate and tip whatever was left onto the floor.

I would gurn for no apparent reason and stare at strangers until they acknowledged my existence. I would then smile coyly and look away. When my son does it, it's adorable; if I were to do it, my husband might see it as me flirting ineffectively with others. 

Sleeping would be altogether less restful. I'm of the opinion that Blake might never be ready to come out of his cot and go into a bed; he would fall out within minutes. I have never met a more active sleeper. If I suddenly began to imitate his sleeping pattern, I would cover every inch of the bed within the first hour of being in it. I would repeatedly try and crawl in my sleep until my head hit the headboard, only to turn around and try to go the other way. I would never keep a blanket on me and I would intermittently cry out for no reason at all, soundly asleep again within seconds. I would need bed guards and there almost certainly wouldn't be any room for Mr Meaney.

I would walk around the house, bumping into furniture, forehead first and I would fall onto my bottom without warning, apparently thwarted by my own centre of gravity. I occasionally do these things now admittedly, but there has generally been wine involved. To my knowledge, Blake has never once had drunkenness to blame for his incessant falling. 

I would laugh loudly any time I witnessed someone hurt themselves. Then I would attempt to climb the bookcase, hurt myself and shout incoherent obscenities at anyone that tried to point out the rough justice of the situation.

I would hide under the kitchen table if anyone mentioned the words 'get' and 'dressed' together in a sentence.

Toddlers are strange creatures indeed; part small, angry goblin - part hilarious, drunken hobo. They are that brilliant mix of snuggly baby smells and genuine comedy genius that mean they can get away with almost anything. As their personalities grow and blossom, their behaviour is puzzling and utterly fascinating. It's just a shame that we can't get away with replicating it, because toddlers really do look like they're having the most fun of all.