Once you’ve had a sprog you may as well go ahead and make it two or three, right? Doting dad Andy Hill begs to differ…
My beautiful boy turns two years old next week, so his mummy and I are taking him to a local preserved railway to ride the choo-choos. It’s a special occasion, and we expect the grandparents to swing by as well.
As both sets of frail oldsters had more than one kid, it’s kind of inevitable the subject of ANOTHER GRANDCHILD will come up during little Toby’s birthday lunch.
My shoulders will sink. Because I do not want another child.
I love my lad. For one thing he’s bloody hilarious, tottering around the place, babbling away and falling on his arse. Now the weather’s perked up I find myself daily in conversation with hot mums at the park, sharing their shattered yet joyful camaraderie among the roundabouts and slides. Lately, he jumps on my belly and asks for story time. He zooms around on a funky green scooter, and seems to like The Beatles. Can’t grumble about that.
There are minor annoyances, as every parent will understand. My nice trendy flat is covered in coloured plastic tat. The theme tune to Postman Pat is permanently lodged in my brain. I haven’t enjoyed a lie-in for ages, and, bless him, he occasionally (but often enough) shits himself in the bathtub.
All those things are natural, fine, and par for the course. But does that mean I should breezily add another to my brood?
The 21st century is manifestly different to the era when my parents had two kids, and their parents had five kids
Parenting is stressful. It takes a lot out of you. And your relationship; I bloody love my wife. She’s great. Smart, hilarious and a dab hand with a wok. But the less time and freedom we have, the more we argue, and the less fun we have. I’m not saying it’s an existential thing – I don’t want a divorce. But… I get why people do.
To be clear I certainly don’t think much of the childfree movement: those who loudly advocate a lifestyle sans the patter of tiny feet. No disrespect, we all have to choose our path. I bet their path involves a lot more wine, Sunday papers and (let’s face it) fucking.
But, deep in my heart, I think of zealously child-free folk in the same way I feel about those who don’t read books, or don’t see the point of travel. A life is only half lived if you haven’t known what it is to look after a needy little urchin like my boy, if God or nature has blessed you with the opportunity.
The best argument for having another is that it will help my lad learn key life skills such as empathy, respect and teamwork. And while it’s fair to say that my adult friends who grew up as only children are quite a bit more selfish and tyrannical than those forced to compromise when they were tykes, they’re also more self-reliant and effective at getting their way. Plus, their parents are markedly more chilled, having got through the rearing process with decades of vigorous, healthy life to spare.
Although I grew up with a (much loved) sister, she was always far cooler than me and out all the time with her friends. I was a solitary boy, but managed to use my time well. I read mountains of books and taught myself the piano, both skills that have served me very well in adulthood.
Plus there’s the eco argument, made forcefully elsewhere on these pages. The 21st century really is manifestly different to the era when my parents had two kids, and their parents had five kids.
Finally, a roll call of well-known only children I’ve been memorising to recite over the birthday lunch table next week:
Natalie Portman, Burt Bacharach, Elvis Presley, Daniel Radcliffe, John Lennon, Isaac Newton, Samuel L. Jackson, Leonardo Da Vinci, Matthew Perry, Charlize Theron, Condoleezza Rice, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lenny Kravitz, Mahatma Gandhi, Robert DeNiro…
All total fuckups, obviously.