Can you keep your cool once you’ve had kids? I’m throwing my toys. I want to be a – electric guitar riff – COOL DAD!
Consider this: if biting your nails is an extreme form of narcissism – you love yourself so much that you actually ingest yourself – then where does creating an extension of yourself stand on the vanity podium? Breeding is selfish, no doubt, and not just in the greater scheme of things, (what with the world’s depleting resources and everything), but when you choose to create a life in order to complete something that’s missing in your own, only to treat it like a living breathing accessory – that’s just wrong. Sure, you care for the little guy, but even though you’re not getting him to stitch sneakers, he’s paying his dues. He’s earning his keep. If you want attention, get a dog. If you want adoration, breed a baby. And if both of these are at the top of your personal Maslow’s pyramid, then you, sir, are a hipster. And now a parent. Great.
In case you’re reading this in a doctor’s waiting room 10 years from now and we’ve all devolved into douchebags, a hipster was somebody with an enthusiasm for alternative pop culture defined not so much by what they liked, but what they didn’t. Which is everything everyone else likes. With us? No? Okay then, if we’re going to be lazy about it they’re the ones in the thick frames with no lenses, tight pants, ironic T-shirt and dirty All Stars. But they could also just as easily be in the tech sneakers, selvedge denim and checked shirt. Or sporting a moustache, veldskoene, no socks and short shorts. Although that could also describe a sheep farmer from the Karoo, so go with your gut on this one.
You know someone is a hipster if they make you feel instantly inferior. Now it’s hard enough sitting next to a guy like this at a bar, but can you imagine how tough it is for a dorkus malorkus parent wearing Crocs and socks, a tinned spaghetti-stained T-shirt from their last corporate teambuilding function and the macaroni necklace their kid made them? I should know, I’ve sat next to these wretches and watched them quiver in their fucking ugly boots. You see, instead of hanging up my cred after we’d had a baby, I clung firmly to my too-cool for-art-school status. In fact, it elevated me to the next level of hipsterdom.
My wife’s a bit deluded and would never actually self-identify as a hipster. (“No, I just like vinyl, plimsoles, anchors, putting moustaches on everything, Wayfarers and David Lynch films.”) Not me. I realised that I had changed when our little bundle of joy came into our lives and I didn’t post pics of him on Facebook until his skin tone had turned a lesser shade of ruddy and his face wasn’t so squished. What, just because I had a kid I had to start dressing in tweed and listening to Creed? No way, Jose. If anything, having a baby enabled me to show the world how hip I really was.
Before I’d be carrying around a Clash record from Mabu Vinyl to the Vida in Kloof Street where I’d then bore the poor dude working at aStore about only being able to properly appreciate a pivotal band like this on wax. Now I can fashion my son’s hair into a Mohawk, slip him into an AB/CD onesie and then brag how he lights up whenever I put on The Cramps. (He doesn’t. He prefers his Baby Einstein CDs). But who cares what he likes? He is but a host for me to pin my tastes upon. For a hipster, the decision to have a child is huge. It means that you’ve decided to have your ego walk around outside your body.
Finding the right name is what we spent most of the incubation period on. While other expecting parents in our Lamaze classes were brushing up on their What To Expect When You’re Expecting, my wife and I scrolled our iTunes accounts to find a suitable name: Morrissey, Sufjan, Zappa, Skynrd, Axl… which, in retrospect, are all pretty out there. But when you consider that Die Antwoord’s Ninja – the OG Cool Dad – named his now eight-year-old daughter, 16, well, you can bet your kid won’t be the only kid in class with no vowels in their name. These days you can name your child anything you want, which doesn’t mean you should, but you’ll probably do it anyway. The God-fearing amongst you will be glad to know that Biblical names are still popular. However, the Apostles have been replaced by everyone just naming their kid Noah.
Along with a suitable moniker it was also important to entrust our child to suitably hip guardians, lest my wife and I leave this mortal coil and have to look down from the heavens and see him in his baby Levi’s without a proper turn-up at the ankle. Or the top button unfastened on his checked shirt. Imagine? The horror. Our kid’s godparents are a model who spends half her year in Paris, and her effeminate boutique store owner boyfriend who once reversed over her toy poodle while perfecting his coif in the rearview mirror. Now these people are amazing when it comes to gifting and bestowing upon my spawn their bounteous beauteousness, but perhaps it’s best if we avoid driving fast and taking chances…
Our grandparents wanted our parents to follow the same religion as them. Our parents wanted us to align ourselves with their racial prejudices. We just want our kids to listen to good music, man. But what do you expect when the kid was conceived in the bogs at a Sweat.X concert, or who during the third trimester attended a pre-fame Rodriguez show? It’s one thing replacing all of those mind-numbing, spirit-crushing Baby Einstein CDs (gifted to the young’un by well-meaning aunts and uncles) with a collection of Baby Rocks (Björk, Pink Floyd, Metallica, Zeppelin, – yes, Zeppelin! – mashed up into baby tunes and lullabies). It’s an entirely different thing berating your child – “You know nothing!” – for insisting on listening to Miley Cyrus on the school run. That’s when you realise what you’ve become. That your kid isn’t demanding a specific style. That you’re not doing all this for them. That, just like everything else, you’re doing it for you.
The first aid box doesn’t need to be a Keep Calm and Carry On tin from Urban Outfitters and the nursery doesn’t have to be mid-century modern. American Apparel isn’t the only store that sells onesies, you know. And your kid is bored stiff when dragged along to pretentious coffee shops, even if you did order them a babyccino (that’s an Espresso cup filled with foam). Pushing them around in their stroller at the Biscuit Mill? Stop it. It’s already too full without you showing off your kid-Labrador combo. And it’s about as endearing as you tweeting the twee things that they say or documenting their outfits on Instagram or getting comped weekends away for yourself based on the characters you’ve turned them into on your mommy blog…
Maybe it’s because we are a generation who were so easily embarrassed by our own parents that we insist on putting cool before anything else. That we need to be a cool parent who isn’t a – inverted commas – Cool Dad. But I’m bored now.
When I had my first kid eight years ago I put the bassinet under the bar and made her wear a helmet whenever she rode in my car with me because it didn’t have seat-belts. Disney? Reggies? Ben 10 branded duvet sets? Gross! I eschew anything that has even the slightest whiff of mass appeal or corporate commercialism. But now I see so many other parents falling into the cool trap and the only thing I want to cool are my jets.
Being a dad isn’t just about giving up creative control of your life and succumbing to dad jeans, suburban digs and driving a roadworthy vehicle. It’s about coming to terms with the realisation that there’s something more important in your life than you. And if that makes me just another dorky dad, who cares?
Nobody reads my blog anyway.