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The Sound of Fatherhood

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

I popped to a friend’s house recently for a pre - Christmas catch up. I hadn’t seen him for a while and I wanted to make sure, despite the busy nature of Christmas with 2 little ones, that I made time to go and exchange gifts. Sure enough, I made it there and it was a good catch up over coffee, with Sky Sports News rolling in the background. I’d been there for about an hour when he popped upstairs to the bathroom. Silence. I sank back into the sofa, eyes fixed on the ceiling. I closed them for a little bit. Inhaled. Exhaled. Again.

As I sat there on his sofa, I reflected. The sofa. Not a stain. No ‘juicy’ spilled. No strawberry jam fingerprints on the arm. No contraband wax crayon tractor badly sketched on the cushion. Cushions clean on both sides. No muddy paw prints. I tried to think of the last time I had experienced silence like this. I genuinely could not. I still can’t now, a few weeks later.

Our house is busy now, the busiest it’s ever been. My working days at a school also mean I am surrounded by colleagues and students every day. Over 1500 voices. Dog walks don’t count. There’s still thinking involved. Talking, even. I feel bad if I don’t speak to the boys while we are out. Besides, there’s poo to pick up. It definitely doesn’t count as relaxation time when there's poo involved.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my world right now and know just how lucky I am. This isn’t a moan, just an acknowledgement. As I sat there, staring bleary eyed into the silence, I contemplated the sounds of my world right now. Here they are.

1. White noise

Noah is nearly 3. That means that we have had white noise playing in our house for nearly 1095 days. 1095. If not at home, then in the car. The cafe. The plane. The hotel. UK. Spain. I don’t think I even hear it anymore. It could be playing right now and I would be blissfully unaware. Unless it was the jungle sounds setting. Noah’s never slept to that one. He thinks the bird sounds are too funny. How crazy to reflect that something I had never even heard of before he was born is now a regular feature in our household.

He has just transitioned into his own bed and the white noise going on is his cue to hop in and get snuggly. I experimented once to see what would would happen if I gradually turned it down and faded it to nothingness. He woke up. I tried a quick switch off too. He woke up. I am not actually sure when we will stop using it with him. We have a 4 month old now. Through habit, we use white noise for her too…

2. ‘Daddy, let’s build something’

I’m always building things nowadays. Thinking back, it’s probably not too far off the number above when I think of the days spent doing so. Towers. Cup towers. Duplo towers. Lego towers. Sticklebrick towers. Lanka Kada jungle animal towers. All so Noah can steam in and smash them down. It’s not funny. Sometimes I’ve tried really hard and built them really high. He thinks it’s hilarious. ‘Smash!’ he cries, his eyes full of pride and laughter. I’ll start again when he goes to bed. I’ll show him who’s boss. It’s not only towers I enjoy erecting with him though.

I have learned more about vehicles over the past 3 years than in 38 years of actual life. He’s taught me how to build a combine harvester out of Lego, a garbage truck out of playdough, an excavator out of magnet tiles. Yes, I mean excavator. Not digger. Or front loader. Or backhoe. I know this because he has taught me. He is so impressive when it comes to his knowledge of the world of vehicles, especially those from the world of agriculture. He is unforgiving too though. Brutal. ‘That’s not right Daddy. Show you.’ And so he does. And he’s right. The cab wasn’t quite in the right place to fit the chassis on properly.

3. 'Beep, beep, beep’

A quick addition that links to the vehicular world above. The sound of a reversing vehicle. I hear that most days too. Turns out all kinds of transport make that noise. Not only when reversing either. When picking up timber, when being helped by the tow truck. It’s the universal sound for vehicle based action.

4. Coughs

I never got ill before Noah came along. I mean never. I had never, in my adult life, taken a day off work due to illness. Covid blotted my perfect record, but that doesn't count. Fast forward to the germ riddled adventures of a Nursery attending toddler and all of a sudden I’m under siege. Vulnerable. He’s only there twice a week. As soon as I pick him up though, I can sense it. His hand is a bit hot when I hold it…the back of his neck suspiciously warm as I pop him into his car seat. It’s happening again.

Before long, the Calpol will be out, staining my lovely white bathroom metro tiles with its purple ring of stickiness. The ear thermometer will be beep, beep beeping, flashing red with germs and danger. I’ll end up in his bed, hand over my face to protect from the inevitable splutter that flies my way as he falls asleep. It’ll all last too. For a good long while. It’ll be weeks before that cough passes. It’ll wake me at 02:45, cutting through the white noise (in two rooms) and I’ll sit, statue still, waiting…was it enough to wake him? Will he drift back off? It’s a lottery. A lottery of phlegm. As I fumble for the Calpol in the darkness of the bathroom, I think ahead to the Summer and a break from Nursery and snot for a bit.

I left my friend’s sofa and made my way home. I had lined up my Spotify playlist before setting off and focused on enjoying it. As I pulled up on the drive, I switched off the engine, happy that I had taken the time to appreciate the silence of my day. I took a breath, unfastened my seat belt and got myself mentally prepared for the afternoon of play to come. Let’s build some towers.

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