BEING A FATHER Four well-known male authors step into the spotlight
To celebrate Father’s Day, we’ve given men the spotlight for once. Four writers share how fatherhood has changed and shaped them
‘There I was, slightly Neanderthal, living in an all-female house’
Comedian and children’s author Adrian Edmondson believes that bringing up three daughters with his wife, Jennifer Saunders, has made him a nicer, gentler person.
Iwent to an all-boys boarding school. I have two brothers and an older sister. I didn’t really meet any girls, other than the one I was related to. In my 20s, I stumbled through a few relationships, all of which crumbled, possibly because I didn’t really know how to talk to women. Then, at the age of 28, I finally persuaded my wife to marry me. I was definitely ‘punching above my weight’, as they say. When I dropped to one knee and proposed to her, I simultaneously asked if we could have children. It was the same sentence. There wasn’t even a comma.
I don’t know where the urge to have kids came from, but I’d never felt it in previous relationships. Maybe, like the black-necked swan or the
After 30-odd years of watching my three girls grow into women, I like to think that I am a gentler, more tolerant, and more amenable human being
macaroni penguin, we eventually find a mate with whom it just feels to be the single thing you most want to do.
Five years later, we had three daughters: Ella, Beattie and Freya. We also had two terriers, both female. And a rabbit – male, but castrated. Suddenly I was the only male in a fairly crowded house, and then even I shuffled off to Marie Stopes and got the snip.
I’ve seen houses with boys: grim wastelands with a tidemark on the walls (determined by the height of the tallest boy), below which anything is fair game for destruction. Boys shout and barge into things, and each other, for fun. Boys break things just to see how things break. Boys are casually violent – how long will it take this fly to die? Will this car bounce off my brother’s head? I’ve witnessed all this in other people’s houses and I lived through it. I was that boy.
So there I was, slightly Neanderthal by my own admission, living in an all-female house. There were ornaments. There was dancing (I had to learn the Macarena). There were public declarations of love. There were creative games with little Playmobil people that went on for days and days – and nobody died!
It wasn’t all sweetness and light, obviously. I also learnt that grudges can be kept for weeks; that ‘evil eyes’ can be delivered over breakfast. But it was a culture that welcomed inclusion, creativity and compassion.
When I started being a dad, I was a rather acerbic, occasionally insensitive – albeit moderately humorous – bloke, who was prone to fits of pointless rage. After 30-odd years of watching my three girls grow into women, I like to think that I am now a gentler, more tolerant, and more amenable human being.
Some of this might be down to age, some of it is definitely down to my wife, but a good chunk of it is down to my girls. I hope I have helped them become the lovely people they are, but I know they have helped to make me the person I am. And I thank them for it.