STEVE CANAVAN: Fatherhood has turned me into anÂ imbecile'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹
On becoming a father on that horrific day 16 months ago (horrific because Mrs CÂ was in labour for 22 hours and I was totally shattered and cheesed off that I'd missed my weekly five-a-side session '“ Mrs C quite rightly later apologised), I swore it wouldn't change me.
But I was wrong. I have, for reasons I can't quite fathom, turned into an imbecile.
It didn't happen immediately, mainly because initially I wasn't that keen on the thing my wife had given birth to.
All our new-born did was cry, defecate and eat, often all at the same time, and spent so much time attached to Mrs Canavan's bosoms I swear she had a better relationship with my wife's nipples than she did with me.
But then, about four months in, Mary '“ that's our child, not a pet name for my wife's nipples; they're called Dougie and MalcolmÂ '“ Â seemed to cotton on that I was related to her and began smiling at me and wanting to be held. Despite my best efforts, I began to quite like her too and ever since that day I've lost my marbles in an horrific and embarrassing way.
I used to walk to the local shop, for example, in five minutes. Now it takes at leastÂ half an hour because as I stroll along the street with Mary strapped to my front, I stop at every tree to tap the trunk, point to it, and say '“ like some kind of deranged nutter - '˜there's a tree Mary'.
Similarly, whenÂ we see a dog, I stop in my tracks and shout excitedly, '˜look Mary, a doggy' adding '˜woof-woof' for good measure.
I even walk the long way to the shop, just to pass through the local park so we can look at the ducks on the pond. Worse still I even boughtÂ a loaf of Warburton's last week to feed them; previously I'd thought the only kind of people who fed ducks lived on their own in bedsits and probably had a conviction for public flashing.
It is all quite pathetic, yet I can't stop myself.
And amazingly all this talking and pointing at things works too. For instance, now when I say tree, Mary will look up at the branches. When I say flower she'll glance at them and point. When I say, look there's a special offer on Red Leicester cheese in Sainsbury's, she'll whip out her bank card and buy some. It's amazing how quickly they come on.
I find myself speaking to total strangers, just because they too have a child.
The place this happens most is the park. I was pushing Mary on the swings the other day when another man '“ youngish, shaved head, tattoo of Mussolini on his right forearm '“ strolled over with his daughter. Had neither of us had children with us, he's the kind of individual I am unlikely to have engaged in conversation. Actually, that's putting it mildly '“ he is the kind of man I'd not just cross the road to avoid but cross four roads and a busy motorway too.
Yet within a minute or two we were chatting away like we'd just discovered we sat next to each other at primary school. '˜How old's your girl?' he asked. I told him.
'˜My little one is 18 months,' he said, scratching his arm just where Mussolini's left ear was. '˜She's called Sally. Right tiny one when she was born'.
Five minutes later I knew how his wife had given birth '“ breech and forceps, blood everywhere '“ that she'd taken a good six months to heal downstairs ('˜put it this way, she couldn't go rock climbing for a while'), what school they were planning to send Sally too, and that they'd just started trying for a second. He had to leave at that point but another five minutes and we'd have booked a holiday together.
I was with four of my male friends in the pub the other week. All of us have had babies in the past few years and we found ourselves, midway through our first pint, discussing in detail the pros and cons of different baby monitors.
'˜Well, with the Angel Care DX41,' said Gareth, '˜you can actually see the baby and a sensor goes off if she stops moving so you get real peace of mind.'
'˜Yeah, the DX41's not bad,'Â chirped Paul. '˜But if you pay a few quid more you can get the Volume Boost 3, it automatically checks the breathing every four minutes.'
We used to talk about grouting and the offside rule. What'sÂ gone wrong?
In an effort to try toÂ rediscover my former babyless self, I have decided to quit my job and spend six-months living with a hippie commune in the rainforests of South America. I'm yet to tell Mrs CÂ but I'm sure she'll be fine with it.