Thursday, March 9, 2017

"My pint-sized protector" - A ReadItTorial

This is going to be one of those parenting rambles, so if you've come in for today's ReadItTorial for anything book-related, you might want to skip to the end.

Still here? OK, you're special so today's topic takes in something I hadn't really expected to happen as a parent. Well, as a Dad really.

The main reason I never had kids until late on in life was because I hadn't met the right person (but thankfully now I have, I can't imagine life without her).

Soppy, I know - but the second reason I never had kids was because - quite frankly - the thought used to scare the living pee out of me.

Being someone's dad puts a huge weight of responsibility on your shoulders (shared, of course - if there's one thing I'm eternally thankful for it's the fact that both my wife and I put in an equal amount of effort to bringing up Charlotte) and it's blatantly obvious that some folk (like, for example, my Dad) just can't cope with that burden.

I never thought I was strong enough to, but it's amazing what you pull out of the bag when you've got a really utterly poor example to use as your lowest measure. I'll stop harping on about my dad, he's the bit player in this readitorial so I'll just stop griping.

I have always been determined to be the best dad I possibly can and form as close a bond to Charlotte as possible. Obviously most parents will feel exactly the same way, their kid(s) are their world, and the apples of their eye, and all the other dewy sentimental things you often hear new parents gooing and gushing about.

What I wasn't prepared for though was the amount of love - and lately protectiveness - I get back from Charlotte. I know that sounds weird but when you've had a bit of a strange upbringing, you enter most things with the lowest of expectations automatically, as a self-protection exercise.

I'm difficult to get on with, I know that and I know that my wife does an amazing job of putting up with my grumps and groans and over-sensitivity.

When you spend a lot of time railing at the world and wishing people were a bit less selfish, you find an awful lot to moan about if you're like me (hyper-aware to the world's failings, if I'm honest. I never developed a tough outer shell like most people seem to have).

Charlotte told me something that made me think a lot. She'd shown off some photos of us running our book stall at the recent Christmas charity fayre at a local Baptist church. Now there's a couple of things to note here. 1) I'm not religious in any way, never really have been and 2) I'd NEVER have considered doing anything like that before we had Charlotte - so it's yet another example of something that's been a positive outcome of being a dad and pushing against that horrid example we briefly brushed over earlier.

Back on point, the photo Charlotte showed off was part of her classroom activity around talking about what she does in her spare time. She did a great little presentation, but one of the boys (it's always a boy isn't it) in her class had loudly scoffed at the picture.

"Who's that stupid looking man with you?" he said.

Charlotte - with all the wrath that it's possible for an 8 year old to summon (a considerable amount actually, I think she gets it from her mum!) verbally destroyed the kid who'd chirped up.

"That's my Dad!" she cried. "Don't ever say anything horrible about my dad!" Thankfully she's passive otherwise I could imagine us being hauled before her form teacher for socking the kid on the nose.

By the sound of it, the boy quite meekly wound his neck in. But this isn't the first (and I'm hoping it won't be the last) time it's happened.

She can be a harsh critic, which I also need at times (most of the time she looks at things I'm doing or doodling and rolls her eyes in an eerie impersonation of her mum). But the staunch defender of dad wasn't something I was prepared for at all. I mean most kids love their parents, right? But it's all new to me, that feeling that someone demonstratively will stick up for you and fight your corner even though they're pint-sized. Who the hell wouldn't want to go to the ends of the earth for their kid if they were willing to behave like that?

It's also quite funny if mummy decides to tickle my feet and make me hiccup (her favourite trick). Here, Charlotte's usually passive side and protective nature meet in the middle and she'll actually fight mummy off (physically sometimes if need be) to protect me. Heart meltingly beautiful to see happen.

I've heard it many times that "it won't last" and I've also heard "you wait till she's a teenager" quite a few times too, but for the time being I'm happy having a pint-sized protector around - someone who's willing to love me unconditionally despite all my faults and failings.

Oh the book thing? You'd sell a million if you could stop writing books about kids and friendships (in that irritating 'stating the obvious' way that so many children's picture books do at the moment) and could somehow distil what parents get back from their kids, and pass that on to folk who still think that the answer to nirvana lies in the screen of their smartphone or tablet, or a worthless footie match.

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