Alan Perrott: It's all about us

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Growing up and growing older has had more than a few surprises for Canvas writer Alan Perrott — particularly when it came to offspring
'Canvas' writer Alan Perrott with his two children Theo (3) and Aubrey 14 months. Photo / Chris Gorman
'Canvas' writer Alan Perrott with his two children Theo (3) and Aubrey 14 months. Photo / Chris Gorman

Did you know there's no "I" in parent?

Yeah, surprised me, too. It wasn't too long ago that every word in my life dictionary had an "I" somewhere.

Thiat's hiow I riolled.

This wonderful vowel is long gone and my good-time narcissism has fallen into a baby-driven recession that, by all accounts, has decades yet to run.

But it's not a fight I'm ready to give up on. Not while I still have my own teeth.

Then again, I'm off to the doctor's to be desexed soonish and, if the old family dog is any example, I may lose my will to bark once my nether-plumbing's disconnected. Oh, I say it'll be done soonish, I've had the pre-snip chat and collected a pamphlet. Once my toes uncurl I'll get the frozen peas ready and sort myself a day or two in bed with a stack of books and DVDs.

It might even be uncomfortable fun.

Luckily, her indoors has been distracted by our wedding prep. Does it make me a bad man that she gave up waiting and popped the question herself on Leap Day?

And that I laughed?

Actually this drift to marriage has been a lot like the kids thing, in that the subtle differences are only just dawning on me. No matter, it'll be a great do.

So, learning how to merge "I" with "Mum, Dad and the boys" has been slower than I'd have liked, although I have worked out that "pairent" sounds like I'm dealing with a stutter while "iParent" is far too expensive and I'd have to spend bloody hours queuing for it.

Still, that missing letter, "I", has come to symbolise the long haul of the family vibe.

Which has me fretting about this nagging sense that I'm evolving and, along with seafood, blue jeans and Dire Straits, I've always hated change.

Some of it is unavoidable. There's my diminishing mental capacity - we only have the two kids, so why, when I can identify every All Black for yonks, do I always get their names wrong? - and my failing eyes, which I'm simply not having. I'm no hipster, glasses mean surrender, not ironic chic, so while my body becomes alarmingly noisy, my eyes are as nude as the day they were born.

I'd get a stick if I didn't already have a perfectly good pair of baby goggles. Well I assume I do, they're the glasses that make the boys appear all lovable when I haven't seen them for a while and turn everything slightly misty when they're playing together and I reflect on how, like some benevolent Dr Frankenstein, I helped bring them to life.

And all this can be traced back to that moment three years ago when the water in the paddling pool ran red and "Abbie and Alan" became "Abbie, Alan and a wee bundle" whose name we were still scrapping over.

Because of him and his sequel, wee bundle 2.0, I now drink more often, sleep too little and know way too much about Kipper the Dog (he's the one with the slipper).
They're also why I hang on to old joys with bleeding fingernails. I DJ in pubs, party prodigiously when the opportunity arises and try to maintain a vague degree of fitness. I figure such activities are not so much good for my mental health as temporary delusions, even as the after-effects become increasingly hard to cope with. Damn entropy all to hell.

But I don't recall this stuff being discussed at pre-natal class. No, we spent weeks focused on an event that could be squeezed into a Black Cap batting collapse.

So, let this be a parental advisory from an at times reluctant, if white flag-waving, dad.
Nappies you get used to. There was a time when I needed tongs to pick up a banana skin.

Now, getting a smudge of poo on my hand then forgetting and rubbing it on my nose means nothing more than it's daytime. It only takes that to happen a few hundred, thousand times before you shrug and lick it off. It's not like you can smell it anymore, anyway.

No, it's the shrinking horizons.

I used to live from weekend to weekend with the gaps in between dedicated to recovery, research, anticipation and funding.

They were simple times involving shenanigans you might condemn as a self-indulgent state of stalled adolescence. Which, of course, was the whole point.

Now life is either micro or macro, there is no week to week.

At one end is the time spent with the kids. It starts okay. Who can resist that genuinely happy "good morning Daddy, you have a nice sleep?" first thing every day? One smile and the baby goggles instantly snap into place.

But it only takes a few minutes of attention-craving - me wanting it and them getting it - for the fog to clear. Then, instead of catching up with the news, I'm agreeing that yes, the car is green.

Instead of enjoying my tea and toast, I'm explaining yet again why I'm having tea and toast and, yes, the car is still green.

And instead of thinking about the weekend, I'm counting down to their bedtimes.
This is the micro time, when my day is measured in bottles, sleeps, and getting Aubrey, the youngest, just happy enough that I might be able to put him down for 10 minutes.

Then I might get to stare into space for a bit. Not for too long though, he's taken to pulling his long-suffering older brother's hair.

I've pointed out the freshly dug soil at the bottom of the garden but, instead of heeding the warning, he eats it.

Then there is the macro end, which is time spent thinking about children. Sort of.

Look, we're not the youngest of parents, it's why we banged 'em out so fast. And I must admit to some guilt over that. They'll be parentless far too early, and I say that as someone who remembers having a great-grandmother. They lost their's before she could become a memory.

From that cheery thought I started working out how old I'll be when we're childfree again - which, in turn, became a calculation of how decrepit I'll be at their significant dates.

Is there anything more pointless? It's why, without realising it, I started telling people I'd turned 47 before my birthday had even arrived. I may as well hook myself up to dialysis and order a Matlock boxset.

This will not do.

Anyway, you may be pleased to know that I settled on a solution favoured by so many other parents I know: binge drinking.

When your future is being repeatedly flashed before your eyes, you have to get sozzled enough to forget it again.

I want the ending to be a surprise.

And that's a word that will always have an "I" in it.

- NZ Herald

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