The lament of the lonely father

Posted: September 12, 2011 in Features and opinion, Fiction, Journalism, Random wifflings
Tags: , , , , ,

I wrote the piece below about six months before my son Benny was born. It’s mostly about Star Wars, but also life.

Benny is three now, and today is his very first day at nursery (I just left him in the arms of a teacher, me with a lump in my throat) so I thought I’d put this up.

It’s doubly pertinent, as the very recent release of the Star Wars saga on BluRay has the SW fanbase enraged all over again (see? I’m being topical!). Why? Yet more tinkering, that’s why. Personally, I’d rather Lucas just left the things alone and made something new, but they’re his films. I find the geek rallying cry/ self-indulgent, spoilt-brat whine of ‘George Lucas raped my childhood’ to be utterly odious on several levels, its lazy, knee-jerk use of such an emotive term top of the list. And why hate the guy for providing you with years of entertainment? If he wants to overpaint his own work obsessively like some latterday Richard Dadd, let him. (At least he didn’t knife his father). Surely the impact of Star Wars on you as a child is more important than what it looks like now. I mean, I loved Krull, but I wouldn’t peg it as essential viewing, and I certainly wouldn’t call Peter Yates a retroactive pederast if he’d decided to add a CGI glaive to the proceedings (too late, he’s dead now).  Or aren’t we moving on? We’re not, are we?

Perhaps this is yet another indication of our culture’s intense juvenilisation effect, a step on the evolutionary road to idiot-Eloihood, and a time when our giggling, endlessly masturbating, Hello Kitty-dependent descendants will be feasted upon by giant intelligent rats who keep them high on food made entirely of corn syrup and the essence of superhero movie remakes.

Or maybe I’m being harsh, because I’m just a little sad that my little boy is growing up so fast.


No, not the story of Gor the Gorilla-boy, but the impending arrival of Guy’s new kid. A few days ago, crucial question of fatherhood reared its ugly head to vex our already troubled cheeky tyke…

The recent news that my wife is expecting our first child heralded a whole new wave of worries in the Haleyhold. Not only do you find yourself fretting over a lot of unpleasant potential pregnancy problems and imminent financial meltdown, but you find your mind racing ahead, past the gestation, vaulting over the birth and scampering far into the future, like some kind of terrified chrono-hare. What if baby inherits the coarser looks of dad, rather than the finer features of mother? Is it going to be stupid? The fretting ranges on  – Which university should I start looking at? What job will young Haley do? Then it gets silly. It’s a conscious effort to wrench your mind back to the present, and that’s weird enough as it is. It’s almost like science fiction. Like, there’s a tiny person growing inside my wife! Help! I feel like Kevin McCarthy at the climax of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, shouting an unbelievable truth at an indifferent world.

At least I don’t need to dwell too much on how the newborn is going to get out, unlike my wife.

A few days ago, a far more pertinent problem popped into my head: What SF am I going to show it first? This really is crucial. (Don’t think for a moment that, boy or girl, it’s not going to get an SF upbringing. There’s an awesome two foot high rocket, complete with moon rover and chewable space people, in the Early Learning Centre that has got my name, erm, I mean my child’s name, whatever that is going to be, on it). Like most kids, my very first exposure to the fantastical was through stories read to me by my parents, space toys and TV. As a preschool kid there was Thunderbirds, Space 1999, Star Trek, Bagpuss, The Clangers, Doctor Who, Chorlton and the Wheelies, Jamie and the Magic Torch, classic black and white RKO serials – a galaxy of SF and fantasy gems, opening the already wide eyes of 1970s tots to the pleasures and disappointments of the fundamentally unreal. But now, what awaits my offspring? A lot of badly drawn, shouty anime, by the looks of it, cut into meaningless, garish scraps by even shoutier adverts. And that purple frigging dinosaur.

If that were not a troublesome enough worry, I have had also to ask myself: which  Star Wars first? Tricky. Now it’s obvious Haley 1.1 will have to see these films, at least twelve times. It’s the law. But in what order? According to the narrative’s internal chronology, or classic trilogy first? Is it fair to make someone who doesn’t know who Darth Vader is miss out on learning the shocking truth of Luke Skywalker’s true parentage? Actually, is it fair to make someone new to the world sit through an animated tax dispute with some disinterested actors standing around in the foreground? Hmm. I think I have just made my mind up.

With kids too, there’s always the issue of the bizarre things that scare them. My brother Garth and I, for example, both loved the Muppets, but Sweetums and the other monsters freaked us out so much we used to hallucinate that they were standing outside our bedroom window. Screaming followed. You can’t legislate for these things, but Mrs. Haley’s collection of disturbing Scandinavian fairy tales is going on the top shelf, just in case.

Crumbs, I just thought, what if the kid likes Jar Jar? I think I’ll go back to worrying about the cost of childcare. It’s less upsetting.

Back to 2011.

FYI, Benny was born on July 12th, 2008, and I have been tired since July 12th, 2008. He was two weeks late due to some low level of incompetence on the part of the local maternity services (i.e. they forgot about us). His birth was terrifying. After an attempt at induction he was delivered by caesarean section. He’s a lovely lad, very cheeky, and clever. I laugh now at my brother for the impending arrival of his own offspring; real, wineglass-in-hand schadenfreude guffawing, because he has NO IDEA how much his life will change.

Fortunately, it is worth it. Which I tell him after I stop giggling.

As for watching space stuff,  we’ve tried both the original Star Wars (“Daddy! Want to watch spaceships!”) and the Phantom Menace. Star Wars holds his attention until we meet Kenobi. The Phantom Menace loses its lustre as soon as the younger Kenobi and his boss sit down for tea. Exploratory watches, but it says it all really. We also tried The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, but it was  a bit too scary.

And yes, childcare has nearly bankrupted me. But we did get that rocket. And it is cool.

  1. Mim says:

    You need to try him on Classic Who. Rhian’s little boy is three this year and he loves it (as long as it’s got daleks or cybermen in).

  2. Rhian says:

    Ooh you should! Harry (three in October) has been obsessed with a few Tennant episodes for months now (mostly the ones with Daleks or Cybermen in. The one with both Daleks and Cybermen is a particular favourite). Recently we’ve managed to get him watching some Classic Who as well, which is a welcome change for us. Though we did end up having to watch Invasion of the Dinosaurs about four times in one day.

    For the most part, he doesn’t find it scary as he doesn’t really understand the scariness of it – the only thing that’s ever really upset him was the Adipose being beamed up to their spaceship, I have no idea what that was about but he was sobbing “aaaaddiiipooooose!” for ages. But there is very little so wonderful as seeing your kid running round the room with a toy Tardis, spinning it round in time with the opening credits.

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