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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The Reluctant Father and the Drudgery of Parenthood

Keeping on the father theme, here is The Reluctant Father by Philip Toledano.

The Reluctant Father is a book about reluctant fatherhood. It starts out with Toledano's baby daughter being born. Toledano is both bewildered and resentful. It's not so much that he's gained a child as lost a wife.

The baby, LouLou, screams. That's her emotion of choice, so Toledano gets a picture of the screaming Loulou printed on a plate. When people ask to see a picture of the baby, that's what he shows. Fantastic.

Toledano calls LouLou a 'sea-sponge' and resents the cultural expectation of being constantly delighted by being a father. He doesn't connect.

Except that in the end he does, when she begins to smile (so when she's four weeks old or thereabouts) and do things other than scream. So they all live happily ever after!

I know you're supposed to go warm and soggy when you get the emotional payoff, but I was kind of disappointed when this happened. I wanted the confusion to continue, if not to its natural conclusion, then to something a bit more familiar. It's almost too polarised, the idea that the connection ends the drudgery of being a parent. That's when the drudgery begins.

I have always been a very present father but hold little nostalgia for the relentlessness of having a 3-year-old or six-year-old or 9-year-old in the house. The early mornings, the constant 'playing' and the bedtime reading had their moments but reading and reading again and again and again books such as The Flower Fairy series is a fate that I would happily wish on my worst enemies. Or the playing that is more like performing, or the half mile walk that takes two hours because you have to stop (my mistake, there was no had to about it) to look at every dog, horse, duck and train along the way. Yes, lovely but its time is past thank goodness. For Toledano, that time is just beginning.

Buy the book here.

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