November 11, 2015 by Dadinator
It’s always been awkward with new people. I’d told a few close colleagues, and I’m sure a few others had worked it out for themselves, but it wasn’t common knowledge. Not yet. But that was about to change, it was probably unavoidable. I was backed into a corner.
What to do? Come out and show everyone? Fake it and hide it? Or just sit patiently and wait, revealing the truth only if the opportunity presented itself. I mean it wasn’t as if I was going to deny anything, I wasn’t lying to myself. It was just that I’d only reveal it if asked.
Oh who was I kidding. They could see the look in my eyes, I was sure of it. I sat there, gazing on the womenfolk in the staff room. Sighing to myself, envious of the ease with which they foisted it on one another. Listening to the banter, feeling strangely on the outside of it all, but yearning to belong. The jokes they cracked with each other, the looks in their eyes and the smiles on their faces as I watched on, resigned and afraid.
Maybe I should just tell them. Maybe I should just ask the question I was yearning to ask, reveal myself and be done with it. But maybe it was too soon. Maybe they’d think I was a weirdo. Maybe they’d say no. Of course that’s silly, it’d never happened before, and these were a good lot of people. But the uncertainty remained.
As I hesitated, waxing and waning, time passed. One by one my colleagues had to go. Towards the end it was just me and one other lady. She looked at me with kindly eyes.
“Do you want a hold?” she asked. Before she’d closed her mouth at the end of that sentence I’m pretty sure I’d whisked that baby into my arms. Beaming like an idiot and staring into the astoundingly light little ball of serenity in my arms. It was just me and the parents now.
“Thanks, I really love holding babies” I confessed, as I started the instinctive sway from foot to foot while I cooed at the little smoodge-ball in my arms. And suddenly it didn’t matter any more. All that shyness, all that angst and all that.
A head poked its way around the door. “Jesus, you look comfortable there!” said another teacher at the school with a grin.
“Yeah. I love babies.” I said. Not a confession now, but a proud assertion of the truth.
You see. I’m a clucky man. There. I’ve said it. I love kids. And not just kids, I love babies. Holding them, staring at them, rocking them and playing with them. I know. I know I’m not supposed to be interested. I’m supposed to be snowed under, incompetent and clueless. I know I’m supposed to be panicking like the guys in Three Men and a Baby, I know I’m supposed to be flummoxed by nappy changes, grossed out by child-birth and constantly outwitted by a child.
But I’m not.
And I don’t think I ever have been.
There had been another staff room, much like this one, in my recent personal history where I was given first hold of a child, the crew knew me and knew where I was coming from. I felt like I was at the top of the pecking order somehow. It was a watershed moment for me. I had the same idiotic grin, my eyes glazed over as I blew raspberries at another tiny face. I was in a safe space with people I knew, and I was not only okay with being clucky, I was proud of it.
I wonder if I’m part of an underground movement of men who enjoy babies. Maybe we were rare? Maybe there’s a secret society of clucky men, men who hide their competency at parenting and with babies away so Hollywood producers and marketing firms can keep on showing us bumbling fathers? Maybe the manly men of TV were coming to get us? Led by the hosts of the Footy Show….
But, on a more serious note, are us manly cluckers (my new term for it) that rare? I’ve seen it in my own family. I had to pry my own children away from my uncle when he got his paws on them. My grandfather-in-law had a reputation for enjoying and being extremely competent in looking after babies. And that was back in the 60s when he was genuinely viewed as “a little bit funny” by his peers because he wanted to get home each night to bathe his daughters.
Do men deserve random praise and admiration that dads sometimes get when we’re out alone with 2 children under 5 and neither of them is on fire (actually that’s no mean feat some days….)? Should photos of men holding babies really make us all go “wow, what a great dad!”? Or would it be healthier for us all if such images were normal? If images of men being paternal, caring, nurturing and protective made us all go “yep, that’s right” instead of being extraordinary somehow.
Because it isn’t. It isn’t extraordinary for a man to like holding babies. It isn’t extraordinary for men to collapse in a heap trying to read stories to put their little ones to bed. It isn’t extraordinary for a man to be able to keep his kids clean, fed and clothed on his own. And the less extraordinary it is, the more it becomes expected of dads the better we will all get.
And for those of you wondering, I did give the baby back.
Anyone else a clucky man or know one? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.