The wife and I were invited to a friend’s 50th birthday party at the weekend. I know, 50. One of our peers is 50. How did that happen, eh?
Anyway we decided to enlist the help of my parents to babysit, assuming that our other friends would have offloaded their children in a similar way.
But then on the morning of the party we heard some of them were actually bringing their kids along. It was an Irish dancing party. I can’t even spell it, let alone do it, but it is the sort of thing that kids would enjoy just as much as the adults, if not more so.
A dilemma ensued. Did we cancel the parental babysitters and bank their generosity for another occasion? Or did we still go along ourselves on the basis that we could actually dare to relax a little on a rare night out and, besides not everyone, surely to goodness, would bring their kids along to such an event.
Well, after much deliberating, we chose the latter. And when we got there, surprise surprise, EVERYONE had brought their children. Even the 18 year old girl tending the bar.
Oh well, we thought, it was a chance to be smug. A chance to guffaw quietly whenever someone’s child came up to them in tears while we were talking to them and while they reluctantly left the conversation to tend to their offspring’s needs, we could just carry on chatting to someone else and get the full benefit of a pint.
Except there was no-one to share in our smugness. Everyone was being harassed by their children at some stage or, at the very least, having to keep one eye out to make sure they were alright.
But it was the ones who’d brought their tiny babies along who I fixated on. And it wasn’t smugness I felt, I have to say. It was a mild feeling of envy.
Now most dads tend to hold their newborns in a manly way. They hold them one-handed almost so the child fits snugly, yet securely in the nest of one arm, proudly on display for all the other dads to see.
Only rarely do you get a dad who actually properly cuddles their newborn in their arms really close for an extended period of time. A dad who genuinely looks perfectly content and like he never wants to let go. And who emphasises this feeling by regularly kissing the crown or even the cheek of their baby.
That was exactly how I was with mine for many months after they were born. I’m still like that with my young boy, but he’s almost four now and I am increasingly aware that he is getting a bit too old for such long drawn out affection. He’s already started brushing off his mother’s kisses and he soon wriggles away from mine. It is really quite sad when you think about it, but also natural.
So when I saw one of the dads at this party being exactly that way with his new baby boy, I really couldn’t help wishing it was me. Never mind the sleepless nights and the other strains a newborn brings, there is always the look of real contentment in that cuddle, in that feeling. It is one that is very hard to replicate once your kids have zoomed past toddlerhood. But there was a dad with a good few years of it to come. As the wife and I sat down and took a few moments to just chat to one another, it was very difficult not to keep on watching him wander about the room, always with his baby close to him.
I don’t know if I was being broody, nostalgic or just plain mad; maybe it was a combination of all three. But upon reflection, it has solved one dilemma.
Next time there’s a party where the children are invited and the majority of guests are sure to bring theirs, then I’m going to insist we bring ours too. That way I’ll focus more on the wonderful kids we do have, however much they interrupt grown-up conversation, and not waste time imagining the ones we don’t. Apart from anything else, talk about a waste of a babysitting card!