What you give up when you become a parent at 26

The writer with his 18-month-old son Henry. PHOTO COURTESY OF SHEA DRISCOLL
The writer with his 18-month-old son Henry. PHOTO COURTESY OF SHEA DRISCOLL

You don’t go to cinemas anymore, because who brings a baby to cinemas? You’re civilised. So you watch movies on a six-month delay, at home on iTunes. Hey, that Doctor Strange is pretty good, huh?

You’re also thinking: “Now you have nobody to help you jaga baby?” But you are stubborn and you argue with your mother-in-law. So you forget about going on dates completely. Here’s your reality: a romantic evening with the wife involves McDelivery after your son goes to sleep.

Your list of the video games that you’ve foolishly bought and haven’t played grows longer and longer.

Your son has his mother’s eyes. Your son has your attitude problem. He wants what he wants, when he wants it. His temper turns in a second. You want to get frustrated, then you realise you want what you want, when you want it, and your temper turns in a second (your poor wife).

One time, your son kicked you hard in a sensitive area, and grinned. He doesn't seem to want another addition to the family. That makes two of you.

You forfeit your right to be interesting. When you were in NS, all you could talk about was NS. Now, all you can talk about is your baby. Every single one of your recent Facebook posts has your son in it. You’ve become one of those people.

You don’t feel like someone in their mid-20s anymore. Your son must be feasting on your energy because he’s a perpetual motion machine while you are a husk of a person.

You sometimes wonder if you were selfish in having a kid this early. His life would probably be better if you had him in 10 years, when you would be earning more. You apologise to your clueless son, when your budgetary constraints prevail over his welfare. 

Soon you realise that life as you knew it is entirely over, and it is now your job to live in servitude to another. And that’s tough. You marvel at how your wife effortlessly evolves from wife to mother - she’s amazing - but your own transformation seems lost in the post.

But for everything you lose, you gain so much.

You secretly like that he inherited your temper because you can see a tangible part of you in him. You begin to wonder what the lottery of genetics blessed - or cursed - him with and you can’t wait to see what he’ll be like.

You finally have someone to play co-op games with! You begin to plan his introduction to a passion that has consumed your life. The possibilities are endless. Should you make his first game the notoriously difficult Dark Souls, forcing him to complete it before he can move on to more age-appropriate games? Yes, yes you should.

He laughs all the time. More accurately, he all-out guffaws, throwing his little head back as his eyes disappear and his patchy teeth are all you can see. You’ve never seen a sweeter sight. Just forget that he’s laughing because he farted.

You feel lucky that you’re there first-hand, watching his journey from a noisy houseplant - just taking in nutrients and growing - to a little human, with a mind of his own and capable of rapid locomotion. When he tentatively takes his first steps, arms flailing, mouth wide open with excitement, your heart fills with pride.

You begin appreciating simple joys, like your son eating well, and sleeping soundly. You remember how you used to squint in the dark to make sure his chest was rising and falling when he was a newborn, just to make sure he was alive, and you rejoice in the fact that he’s now robust enough that those base concerns are consigned to the past.

You realise, finally, that you were always destined to be a father. You searched for decades after your parents split up when you were six and you moved with your mother and brothers back to Singapore for a father figure to replace the one who chose not to be. You never found one. You realise one day, suddenly, that it was you. It was always meant to be you. You were just never meant to be the son.

And as you hold your boy and promise him that you will always be there, you realise that despite all you’ve given up, you’ve never been happier.