So, tonight I sat down with my son and we watched the first of the new series of Doctor Who. We got back from our holidays today, so tonight was our first chance.
Well, I say our first chance, but implies that we had a mutual desperation to see it, but just couldn’t make our diaries line up, which isn’t true. He’s six and a half. When he was three and a half, I took him to the press opening of ‘The Doctor Who Experience‘. We made it as far as the lobby before he totally freaked out. There was a looping video of the David Tennant ->Matt Smith regeneration and he just kept screaming “Why is that man on fire?!” We went home.
I decided that day not to rush it. It was a classic ‘dad move’ I think, especially with a son – maybe even double-especially with a first born son. When you hold your little bundle of mewling pink possibility for the first time, the sudden understanding that you are now Yoda to their Luke is visceral. It rests upon you (You!) to guide this little soul toward greatness, to fill their lives with great stuff. A mental list immediately begins. If the chief task of parenthood is to raise your kid not to be an utter arsehole (the world’s got enough of those) then what is the stuff that you have to expose them to? What can you let them see that helps them figure out the world and their place in it?
My boy’s been to Glastonbury, graveyards, Atheist churches and pubs. He’s hung out with Tim Minchin, Marcus Chown and my best mate Steve.
Is he ready for any of those things? No, not really.
Maybe there’s some deep, amygdala-rooted, fear of death bullshit going on. Maybe the apes that came before me were hardwired to teach their kids where the food and clean water was as soon as possible, just in case they themselves didn’t make it through the night. Maybe it’s some Freudian Oedipal aversion tactic – “If I show them all the good stuff, maybe they won’t grow up and kill me”. Maybe it’s simply impatience in using them as an excuse to relive our childhoods/escape adulthood. Maybe it’s all of these things, maybe it’s none of them. Google ‘maybe’.
Dads whose kids have grown up are forever telling new dads not to wish that time away, to enjoy their children’s childhood. “You’ll never get that time back!”, they warn warmly. But babies are fucking rubbish. Feel free to disagree, but they are. There’s no reasoning with them and they’re just so fucking needy. It’s like living with a Kardashian, but with the added evolutionary imperative not to chainsaw them into tiny pieces. If I could have fast forwarded my son to his third birthday an hour after having him, I would have done. Even now, there’s times when I look at him and just think “Until you can put in a competitive time on Rainbow Road, just what use are you?”
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m trying not to rush the boy through his childhood, but I’m also desperate for him to catch me up. A completely, idiotically unrealistic goal, but one I seem incapable of shaking.
The magic happens when you time it right.
A couple of weeks ago I took him to Secret Cinema’s ‘Back to the Future’ screening. I know he’s still too young for that flick, but he totally dug it. We got home, I downloaded the sequels and he’s watched the entire trilogy half a dozen times since. It probably shouldn’t, but it makes me love him more. Seeing him get it. Seeing him rooting for Marty. Seeing him cry when Doc still gets shot by the Libyans; his pure joy at the sellotaped letter.
I love the kid plenty enough already, but watching him enjoy that stuff for the first time, his reminding me of my first time, that punch of understanding that we’re emotionally close in feeling what we feel when told excellent stories – I love him all the more.
So, tonight I sat down with my son and we watched the first of the new series of Doctor Who. We got back from our holidays today, so tonight was our first chance to share another thing I love.
He loved it. He was scared and hid behind a cushion, but was then totally turned on by the way the Doctor figured out how to win – and by the way he figured out how the Doctor was going to win. We’ve saved episode two to watch together and if I’m being completely honest with you, I’m crying as I write that. Being a dad is about so much more than just what you watch, but sometimes it is about that. As someone who has grown up loving stories, loving movies and TV sharing that part of my life with my boy matters to me. That it matters to him too is just… well, y’know.
Oh, the wonderful things I can share with my little companion on our adventure through space and time.