ON January 12, I became a father for the first time to Decster. More importantly, I became a member of the Dads’ Club.
An underground, hush-hush society, the first rule of Dads’ Club is not to talk about Dads’ Club. But without it, I’d be lost, so I’m going to blow the whistle on the whole affair.
It’s an allegiance of fathers which technically does not exist – but it’s easy to spot a member, especially when you’re a dad-to-be.
For a week short of nine months, I was courted by men who would shuffle up beside me in the pub after learning my long-term partner was expecting, only to whisper advice into one’s ear.
The language of Dads’ Club isn’t understandable to an untrained ear – you must first learn the secret code.
To an average person listening in, a man might appear to say: “Kids? They’re a pain in the proverbial,” but what they really mean is: “I’d die for mine.”
Or the words “Say goodbye to your freedom,” which actually mean: “You’ll realise life is about them and not your whimsical needs and desires.”
A relatively new club of new-age dads, epitomised in the TV advert where the besotted father makes the light of his life breakfast, before heading down for a walk on a windy, rainy beach, Dads’ Club didn’t exist many years ago.
The fact is, it isn’t the woman’s job to raise their children any more, just the same as it isn’t necessarily the man’s to bring home the bacon. Us blokes don’t always want to be the disciplinarian; the man behind the scenes; the Wizard of Oz who magically makes food appear on the table – we want to bring up our children.
There is an anonymous uprising of enthusiastic dads ready to breach into the open, holding nappies and bottled milk, screaming about our aspirations and yearnings for the little ones.
And while I was always welcomed to midwife meetings and, ultimately, into the delivery suite where I watched the apple of my eye make his big appearance, I was still the spare part.
An outgoing, confident man, I was reduced to an awkward figure crouching in the corner waiting for my son like Gollum waiting for a chance to steal the ring.
An unnecessary cog in the motion of childbirth, I simply offered my hand and then whimpered, screwing up my face in agony as my laboured girlfriend crushed it.
I’m not too proud to say I was immediately out of my depth. Nothing had prepared me for this. Men get no support, advice or help from the NHS – who do a sterling job by the way – and there’s a gap in the market for a Dads’ Magazine.
Men are thrown into the deep end. I mean, nobody has ever told me why having a clean elbow is essential to bathing your child!
The moment when you realise the parent is a myth; a mystical creature often spoken about but never seen, is terrifying.
My moment came two days after bringing Decs home.
I had somehow survived bouts of feeding and nappy changing, and had even come to terms with the lack of sleep.
You know how some people visit a place so amazing they never want to forget it, so they keep a picture of it on their fridge? I think I’m going to stick a snap of me snoozing on there, just for the nostalgic effect, when I fondly remember lie-ins and 10 hours’ sleep!
“How did my mum and dad do this?” I thought to myself.
“This is impossible. I’m not a parent, I’m an imposter – a 24-year-old child dressed like an adult giving the illusion he can actually look after a tiny human being.
“I have to have a TV licence to look after a telly, so how have I managed to look after this precious life without any knowledge whatsoever?”
Clunk. The penny finally dropped. Every parent is a phony, at least at the beginning. They may blag and masquerade, but they’re taking the same steep learning curve you’re taking.
Your mum and dad were not parents – they were imposters just like you.
So while there is little help from a massively under-funded NHS, or from magazines, books or even websites to a large extent, the help is there in the Dads’ Club.
Together we can rally, hollering our war cry to collect the troops.
We’ll make mistakes and we’ll fall down, but we’ll get up even stronger, instilling the fight required for life into our children. We’ll share maths problems and pointless trivia like “coughs travel at 60mph”, and we’ll debate which football teams our little ‘uns should support.
So if you’re a dad-to-be looking for help, then come join me under the wings of the fellow fathers. We are the Dads’ Club, the one per cent, and we’re here to stay.