Suburban Man: The Hauraki gulf
Contemplating a child’s future confronts us with the rapid unspooling of time.
This article was first published in the November 2015 issue of Metro. Illustration by Angela Keoghan.
“Long days, short years,” an old friend emailed the other day, and it’s true. Suddenly, Ira is four months old and he’s not really a baby any more, even though he’s still a baby and sleeps for much of the day, which is a particularly convivial sort of arrangement when you work at home: Hannah and I make a coffee when he goes down for his first nap and have a chat, and then I get to work at my new office tucked away next to the kitchen. I finish about five, take the dog for a walk, bath my son and go back to work about nine, heading to bed somewhere between 11 and midnight.
I guess I mean he’s not a newborn. He has a personality and emotions and — since he’s also Hannah’s son — a distinct sense of humour. He has likes and dislikes, and in this way he’s a little boy. Likes: fart noises, tummy tickles, baths, jumping. Dislikes: loud noises and strangers. Interests: art, as long as he can see his reflection.
I went to a PR dinner the other night and sat up the end with the old people and talked about real estate and babies while the young kids took photos at the other end.
But as he grows, he’s suddenly even more of a little boy, at least to us, and so we’re starting to think about what comes next — daycare, kindy — and when you do this, you start to think about the future, too. There’s something about children that makes you confront the reality of your own age.
I’m 35, which isn’t particularly old but not particularly young either, and suddenly I’m not one of the kids. I went to a PR dinner the other night and sat up the end with the old people and talked about real estate and babies while the young kids took photos at the other end. I’m sure they went for cocktails afterwards. When Ira goes to school, I’ll be 40. When he’s a teenager, I’ll be in my 50s. I don’t think much further ahead than this. “It all went too quick,” my grandfather said on his deathbed, and at the time I didn’t understand. Now, I do.
Is this how it begins? Hauraki — fucking Hauraki — is suddenly programmed into my car stereo. Late at night, when I’m working, Massive Attack’s 1998 album Mezzanine is perfect listening: beautifully produced, moody and yet not depressing, it’s an album I listened to obsessively when I was first at university but have barely touched since.
It’s been rereleased, and when I saw this, I found it on Spotify — I have this at least — and “Teardrop” still made me cry, “Exchange” still cheered me and “Mezzanine” seemed like the most perfectly produced song ever. Then I realised it was nearly two decades old and that all those experiences that it was so deeply connected to — getting stoned and going to the observatory, hanging around in shitty cold flats, walking home along Shore Rd in the middle of the night when there were no cars to be seen — were suddenly closer to my four-month-old son’s existence than my own.
Which is horrifying, and as this happens, I start to understand my mum. We weren’t particularly difficult — my brother and I did some mildly stupid things and usually evaded being caught — but I know she worried, and I marvel at her ability to let her children grow up and make mistakes and generally explore the world and be a bit silly and pig-headed. She just seemed to believe we’d make it work in the end, and if we didn’t, well there was boarding school for Will and a nasty flat in Grey Lynn for me, and these worked well enough while she returned to late-stage hipsterism.
I look at my son and even though it’s ages away, the thought of him doing any of these things is horrifying. Right now, I can’t imagine him being anything other than gummy and cuddly. Long may it last.