The following is written in a kind of novel form, based around a recent conversation I had. Names have been changed because otherwise I’d get trout-slapped round the face.
“Dude” said Colin, because that’s how all conversations start. “Dude I’m in trouble, you gotta help me!” He grabbed one of the stained canteen chairs and sat opposite me. By the tone this sounded serious. Was he being chased by debt collectors, hounded by a secret military operation that he stumbled upon during his “innocent” internet searches? “I’m gonna be a dad, I need your advice”.
This is Colin. We work in the same building, and seemed to have hit it off over a mutual love of certain films. This is Colin, who has spent most of the time I’ve known him swearing blind that he would never be a father because, and this is his own words, he’s “too selfish”. This is Colin. who in the time of knowing him has mocked me for coming in to work with baby vomit on my shirt, my hair getting progressively more grey through the joys of having two kids, walking in to inanimate objects like chairs, desks and walls through sleep depravity, and being caught inexplicably humming such “classics” as “Let It Go” from the Frozen soundtrack without any self awareness whatsoever. Now it was my turn to laugh!
“Dude” he said pleadingly “this isn’t funny. I really need your help!”
“I’m really sorry” I said, drying the tears. “But lets be honest I think you’ve come to the wrong person.”
“How’s that? You got two kids right, you know the score? You seem to know what you’re doing.”
“Look at me” I say, bursting with more laughter while . “I barely know where I even am half the time!”
We chat a little about his recent “good news”. If I’m honest I’ve seen people more bothered by this. I mean sure, all parts of his inner conscious being are running around like a pen full of headless chickens, but in a small way he seems to have got some kind of a grasp on it.
“I mean the way I look at it” Colin said “is that kids are like films right? You put a decent amount of effort in to it, and you’ll get something good at the end”.
I raised my eyebrows in a typical quizzical fashion. “Yeah, dude when kids are born you’re pretty much on a constant loop of food, vomit, poop and sleep for the first few months.”
“Okay, so a Police Academy film directed by Brett Ratner then?”
We laughed. We’re big film geeks. We dislike Brett Ratner.
He said he was worried about having more than one. “What if it’s twins?” he screamed.
“What if it’s triplets?” I retorted, still taking small opportunities to wind him up.
“What, like a trilogy?”
We looked at each other, both panicked. Film trilogies are rarely consistent, there’s (mostly) always a at least one bad film in there.
“I can’t have a third kid” I said. “I’ve currently got Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.”
“Yeah, now you mention it my youngest brother is bloated, overly large and makes no sense either”. Both Colin and I have a mutual dislike of Christopher Nolan’s last Bat-film The Dark Knight Rises. “You’ve got the first Terminator and Judgement Day, you don’t want Rise of the Machines!”
“Or Spiderman 3!”
“Or the third Godfather!”
“Or Return of the Jedi!”
“Yeah he’d be a right wuss!” Colin hates Ewoks. “You might strike lucky with a Bourne Ultimatum. Or a Last Crusade”
“But then if I had a fourth I’d get a Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and no one wants that!”
We continued to reference various other films (Colin pointed out that I should count myself lucky I didn’t “get a Green Lantern”) before he clarified his position. He was talking about the upbringing of kids. Putting in the effort to nurture them, teach them boundaries and manners. “Have you seen some of the kids these days?” he screamed. “They’re a bunch of little *****!” He went on to talk about his own mother; a retired secondary school head teacher. He retold her speech at her retirement party, which highlighted the different between parents attitude to education in the last century and this one. “When I was at school” he said “if my folks had been at a parent day and told by my teachers I was crap they’d have been asking what they could do to change things, before they came home to [properly tell me off]. These days, if parents hear the teachers say that their kids crap they immediately demand to know what the teachers are going to do about it!”
“this is why she retired” he said. “I mean, sure, people are hectic, holding down loads of jobs. Both parents working and all that, but surely it’s still the parents responsibility to make the the kids at least pay attention at school”.
I thought back to one of my recent articles discussing the I-Life – how things have changed so much between the two generations, and that our current breed of youngsters seem to demand instant gratification. Colin’s argument seemed to be an extension of that. My little girl starts her first year of school (well, pre-school) this September, and I’m petrified. Well, I was petrified when she was a baby, knowing that she would eventually go to school and become one of “them”. I don’t want my little girl to become one of “them”. We’ve tried to give her the best start we can – she can already write her own name, count to 50 in English and 10 in Spanish, and say words like “marvellous”, “precocious”, and even “Englebert Humpadink” (guess which one I taught her!). We both agreed that all parents would try to do the best by their own kids; there’s always different circumstances but at the end of the day, kids really are like films. You need a good budget, a strong direction, and a certain amount of luck that it will all turn out well in the end.
Colin left the table no more calmer than before. At the time of talking he and his partner were going through some really bad stuff, but walking out the work canteen he looked like he would at least be happy to have a kid. If things go okay for them I’ll have to remind him of that in a year or so. I should probably tell work to put some kind of padding on those inanimate objects though.