Jimmy Barnes: My great regret

In this exclusive extract, Jimmy Barnes reveals how he failed his son.

Kim was a good girl and I got the feeling that we weren't that much different from each other.

Just like me she drank hoping it would make her feel better about herself. But in the end it didn't. Like me she drank until she felt nothing at all. We both stayed out as late as we could because we didn't have anything to go home for. And like me she thought that if someone liked you for a little while it was better than nothing at all.

'Goodnight Kim. That was fun. Maybe I'll see you later.'

'Yeah it was fun. Goodnight.'

Next time I saw Kim she told me she had missed her period. I was shocked.

READ MORE: Jimmy Barnes announces special NZ tour

'What's a period?' I asked. Only joking. Even back then I made jokes when I was panicking.

It was more like, 'Oh my god. What are we going to do now?'

It wasn't like I shouldn't have expected this to happen at some point. I had been sleeping with different girls every night, sometimes two or three girls in the same night, and using no protection. But I was shocked anyway.

I had heard stories about girls trying to trap boys by getting pregnant. A few of my mates who hung around the centre shops had married girls because they thought it was the right thing to do. It never worked out.

Kim wasn't like that. This was no trap. She was as shocked as me. We didn't want to get married, we didn't even want to go steady. I'm not that sure we even wanted to fool around that much to start with. It just happened. We were both totally unprepared
to deal with something as important as a baby. We were only about sixteen.

My first thought was to run away. If I ran away, maybe I wouldn't have to deal with it. But I couldn't run away. I had nowhere to go. I had tried to run away from home and it didn't help that much. But running is something that I became good at. I have been running all my life. The thing I've learned about running is that as soon as you stumble or stop, whatever is behind you will catch up to you or at least get close enough to grab onto
you.

Then the trouble starts.

Jimmy Barnes has opened up about his harrowing childhood in the memoir, Working Class Boy. Photo / Stephanie Barnes.
Jimmy Barnes has opened up about his harrowing childhood in the memoir, Working Class Boy. Photo / Stephanie Barnes.

We didn't speak for a while. I think we were both hoping it would go away. But nothing goes away until you deal with it.

I would see Kim out with the gang and she would look pale and her stomach was starting to show. We didn't talk to each other while there was anyone else around.

'What are we going to do?' she would whisper to me when no one was listening. But I had no answers. I started to avoid her. I couldn't look at her.

We were still running around the shops, hanging out with the gang. I was still drinking. Still fighting. Still playing music.

And behind all of this was the looming worry of the responsibility for another human being. We weren't ready. I didn't grow up at all when I got the news. I just got more scared.

I was scared of facing up to life, as I guess any young man would be. But more than this, I was scared of being responsible for bringing a baby into this world. The same world that had been a painful place for me. No one deserved to go through the kind of life that Kim and I had but here we were bringing an innocent child into a world we didn't really understand.

What were we thinking? We weren't thinking at all it seemed.

We knew we would have to tell our parents but we put it off as long as we could. I thought this was going to be the hardest day of my life but it wasn't really. My parents and Kim's had both come from poor backgrounds. Wild kids regularly got themselves into trouble where we came from. They weren't as shocked as we were. But I could see that same look on Reg's face that I'd seen a lot of times before. I had let him down again.

Working Class Boy published by HarperCollins Publishers. Out now.
Working Class Boy published by HarperCollins Publishers. Out now.

Instead we listened to what everybody was telling us:

'You're too young to have a baby. You'll never be able to look after a child.' 'You're still kids yourselves. The baby will suffer.'

My mum immediately wanted to adopt the baby. 'Let me look after the wean. I'll give it a good home and you can still see it whenever you like,' she said in her warmest Glaswegian mum voice. I hadn't heard this voice since I was two.

But Kim's mum thought that would be wrong. I agree with her now but probably not for the same reasons as she had. Mum had had enough trouble trying to bring us up. It wouldn't have been fair to do that to any poor unsuspecting baby.

Kim's mum was the next to come up with a plan. 'The way I see fings, this baby, God bless its little heart, should be adopted out. Give the little fing a chance in life. What have you got to offer it? Nuffin'. And it would be too hard on you two young ones if the baby is around.'

Something about the English accent makes me suspicious. It's genetic I think. But it all sounded reasonable at the time.

Without telling any of my family, Kim's mum adopted the baby. This was completely the opposite to what she had said was the best thing to do. She decided the child was never to know who his real parents were. Just for his own good.

I should have been ready to change and become a man and start to deal with the consequences of my actions but instead I returned to life as if it had never happened.

Learning nothing and not growing at all.

Jimmy Barnes performs at the Mangawhai Tavern. Photo / Tania Webb
Jimmy Barnes performs at the Mangawhai Tavern. Photo / Tania Webb

This was one more thing that I would try to shove to the back of my head, knowing full well that I knew better. The guilt brought another layer of darkness into my life. I had done the wrong thing again.

I don't know if Kim's mum did the right thing at the time or not, but one thing I do know.

The world seems to have a way of making things work out. As frightening as it was at the time, it was one of the most important moments in my life.

My son David came into the world on 6 August 1973. It was a time of confusion and fear for me, but from the moment he arrived, he was a beautiful human being and he brought nothing but joy to everyone around him.

I watched his progress from a distance. He wasn't allowed to know who I was. And I tried to pretend not to care. I didn't have a lot to offer him at that time when I look back on things.

Apart from Reg - who maybe came along a bit late - my parental role models hadn't really been the best so I have no idea what I would have done had things ended up differently.

David spent his childhood without a father. I can never change that or make it up
to him. I was allowed to pop in occasionally to see him playing.

Working Class Boy published by HarperCollins Publishers. Out now.
Working Class Boy published by HarperCollins Publishers. Out now.

But I could never get too close. The situation, Kim's mum, and my own fear stopped me getting close to my son. I know now how great that loss was. He needed a dad. If I could go back in time I would spend every minute I could with him.

But you can't go back. You can't live life regretting what was or wasn't. All I can do is go forward and make things right now.

It was only once I became famous that suddenly it appeared to others and myself that I had something to offer him.

I would go over to Kim's mum's house and be introduced:

'David, this is Jim. He's a good friend of the family. Why don't you go and spend the day with him and get to know him a bit.'

It must have been very strange for the young lad. One minute he's playing around the house, next he's going off for the day with his bleary-eyed, leather jacket-wearing uncle.

He probably couldn't work out what side of the family I was connected to.

Must be the distant Scottish relatives that no one ever spoke about.

As he got older we even started to spend weekends together.

This was hard for us. We didn't really know what to say to each other. I tried to make things as easy for him as I could. David was always a gentle boy. He was soft and caring.

He made it easy for both of us.

Working Class Boy published by HarperCollins Publishers. Out now.
Working Class Boy published by HarperCollins Publishers. Out now.

© Working Class Boy
By Jimmy Barnes
Published by HarperCollins Publishers

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 09 Dec 2016 01:51:29 Processing Time: 684ms