It was our seventh wedding anniversary on Sunday and, as ever, a time to reflect. This time seven years ago we were on our way to the Seychelles for a sun-drenched honeymoon. Six years ago we went to a country retreat for a romantic weekend. Even five years ago, we managed to take our then six month old daughter to a nice hotel. I think we did the same the following year.
Sunday was an altogether different affair. In the morning in an untidy living room, Handy Manny blaring in the background, we opened our small bags of gifts (having spent a set maximum of five pounds on one another) and promptly had two sets of little hands nab anything made of chocolate. Then in the afternoon we went to the cinema to see Shrek 4.
How times have changed!
To add to the fun, the basic premise to the Shrek film (in fact the only premise) is a grumpy man who has three kids and gets his wish to go back and have just one day of his single, pre-kids life again.
My wife turned to me and said: ‘That’s like you.’
And she was right. I’m now in my fifth week in the city and still very much enjoying the work side of things and hoping I’m not imposing too much on my sister-in-law and her other half. That said, the other day I did have to temporarily banish Slipping Through My Fingers from my iPod the other day – the original Abba version, a total heartbreaker – for fear of making a fool of myself by sobbing on the tube.
The song, for the one of you out there who hasn’t seen Meryl Streep have a fairly decent stab at it in the film Mamma Mia, is sung by a woman sitting at the breakfast table watching her young daughter go off to school and thinking how quickly time has gone, regretful of all the things she hasn’t done with her.
I am welling up just thinking about it. But the feeling is intensified when you realise that, though sung by a woman, the song, being an Abba song, was written by a man.
So when I reflect on things like our wedding anniversary and remember how things used to be when we had the time and money to take such wonderful holidays, I am always mindful of how Bjorn was feeling when he wrote those lyrics and the message he was trying to convey to parents, and especially dads, everywhere.
Because one day you too will have to sit down and face that feeling of losing your child forever without ever entering her world.
So forget how your life used to be. Share their laughter, do some of those wonderful adventures and go to (at least the cheaper) of those places to where you have sometimes thought about taking them.
Because as Bjorn notes you can’t freeze the pictures or moments with your children or save them from the funny tricks of time.
After the cinema, we took the kids for a ride on their bikes. They are the sort of bikes that have characters on them and you have to put together yourself, only to find they don’t actually fit together very well. But the kids didn’t care. Their faces lit up as we pushed them along.
Simple memories but happy ones that I made sure I appreciated while I was living them. Don’t get me wrong – I feel just as happy thinking about many of the pre-kids times with my wife, whether we were on some exotic holiday or just going for a walk on Hampstead Heath. But the difference is there will be many opportunities to have times like that together alone in the future, once the kids are older (and when we can get babysitters. With your children, time is so precious and if you are not careful it really will slip through your fingers.
Like Shrek, I know how lucky I am to be a dad. Except I don’t need a ridiculously contrived plot and a bunch of sub-standard gags to help me realise it. Just four minutes of an Abba song will do it.