Friday, 5 April 2013


In the eyes of his mother, there are times when the boy is "my child" (most recently when he defecated with such force that it exuded from the sides and back of his nappy, and then tried to eat the new paste-like substance he found in his inflatable toy-pit), and there are other times when my wife insists that he's "her son", normally when he's doing something nondescript like sleeping peacefully. The baby can also have his descriptor altered in a subversive and manipulative manner.

Sometimes it's "my baby needs me" when avoiding a tricky conversation (yes, he might want a little attention, but as we're not American and our kids don't have guns, a yes/no question could be answered before dashing to rescue him from his own imagination. I've also heard "your son has given me a headache", which sounds good in principle, but if my contribution to his DNA really did causing headaches of that magnitude, he'd never have been conceived. Women do this on autopilot, and some get very aggressive with their willingness to use the possessive to apportion blame(ask any witness (divorce lawyer), or perpetrator (a single mother who's discovered feminism thanks to the aforementioned donation of DNA).

Men aren't hard-wired for this form of psychological warfare, and are rarely comfortable with alternately describing a child (or pregnancy) as something that's been imposed on a woman against her will, or that she's uniquely qualified to deal with by dint of her anatomy (interestingly, once the child's born, they can only claim to be uniquely qualified if they're breast feeding, but I wouldn't suggest pointing that out to anyone face to face). I am genuinely in love with my wife, and think the kid's amazing, and that actually makes it more difficult to play the game of prerogative that women want to play. After much more than a year (counting pregnancy and the life of the child) here's the tricks I've learnt that might help redress the balance.

When you feel you're about to be blamed for a particularly horrendous infantile act, pre-empt and take credit with a hearty "that's my boy/girl". The mother will then be left with only a rueful smile as she can't blame you when you're "acknowledging and accounting" for your fault. Similarly, when the baby is doing something nice, pre-empt with something along the lines of "I knew your child would be peaceful/cute/happy" or (and we're moving onto underwater-ninja-pistol level skills here lads) "they look just like you when they're peaceful... it reminds me of when we first started spending time together and I'd watch you sleep." This will earn you mega-points as you are paying an indirect compliment, it also saves you having to listen to a similar comment being made in that whiny tone that flays your masculinity from your bones!

Verbally I've always struggled to find the right balance in situations. Whilst my wife was pregnant she had her toe-nails painted and claimed that it was "the only thing she'd done for herself in ages".

My repost was perfectly logical and funny to everyone in the room except for my wife (I'm sure that "my baby" was sniggering away in utero and I found it hilarious); I said "Well, that was a waste of time, you can't see your toes any more!"

She burst into tears, and in that moment I had an instant of pure zen... it was like being in The Matrix: I'd known for a while that she wanted a girl (I'd also seen the ultrasound images and my family history, and knew that it wasn't likely) so I said "don't be upset, you'll worry our daughter". I'd never referred to him as a girl before or since, so the response was instant smiles, happiness and hugs all round (the end justifies the means). Rather than pour more oil on the fire, I wont tell you how much more post-baby sex you'll get if you start hinting that "next time we'll have a boy/girl [delete as applicable)" {oops}.

So there we have it men, your briefing on how to turn prerogative and gender in your favour. I'm feminist authors everywhere will be outraged that I'd encourage you to be so calculating, but the alternative really is pretty grim, and as an aside to all the women out there who are about to get enraged, read it through again, slowly, and ask yourself "would it help and make me feel better?" before starting to harangue.


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