A Dad's View: Where's the romance gone?
Tom Dunmore wonders if it's possible to keep the romance alive once you have kids
I've always considered myself to be a romantic, albeit a cut-price one. I'm more a prosecco-in-the-park than a helicopter-trip-to-Paris kind of guy.
Because I believe that the romance lies in intimate moments rather than grand gestures. And that's exactly why it's so difficult to stay romantic once you have kids.
When you have your first baby, your life revolves around it. Even if you get away for an evening, chances are that you won't be able to talk about anything else. And with two kids, there are simply no gaps left, no snug moments of calm while baby sleeps. The demands are non-stop. On the rare occasion we do find someone willing to look after our young family for a night, we struggle to talk about anything at all - preferring the bliss of silence, revelling in a couple of hours without a scream, a whine, a 'Daddy, can I watch TV?' or 'Can I play on the iPad?'.
Since Erik's arrival a year ago, we've even been taking our breakfast in shifts, one of us catching up on the sleepless night. Then there's the nursery run, the cooking, the shopping, the epic, never-ending cleanathon. Parenting can feel like a feat of endurance. And, as a more intrepid friend of mine told me, there's no time for romance when climbing Everest. Except, perhaps, if you reach the top (which, to extend the analogy to breaking point, is presumably when the kids leave home. It's all down hill from there, in more ways than one).
In the interests of balance, I survey my daddy friends to find out whether the flame of romance can still burn brightly after the arrival of baby. disdainfully. 'It's over. That's what got us into this mess!' My young colleague Rich, however, is keen to point out that not all romance ends with a baby, and we should consider ourselves the lucky ones.
But when, a few days, later his love affair with a university student reaches a sudden, painful conclusion (you can actually see his heart breaking) he too is sworn off romance.
Fortunately, my four-year-old, Ava, is keeping the romantic spirit alive, immersing herself in fairy tales, obsessing about princesses and – despite our best efforts – dressing only in pink. As the only men in her life, my one-year-old son and I are on the receiving end of a tornado of affection – she's already committed to marrying both of us just as soon as she has her bridal gown (which will be pink, naturally).
Then one afternoon, as the family huddles around the TV watching Shrek, Ava asks: 'Daddy, what's a troll?'
A troll? It's a mystical creature. It lives under bridges and eats... uh...' 'Goats?' she prompts.
'Right, goats. But trolls aren't real,' I add, attempting to pre-empt the nightmares. 'They're only in fairy tales.' Ava's eyes narrow, she brandishes the TV remote and says, 'Then why is this called a remote con-troll?'.
My heart swells so much it aches, and I realise that romance is just the dream, the expectation of love – whereas kids are the tangible product of love. They are love made real. And all the helicopter rides in the world couldn't beat this single
moment: a family rolling around in front of the TV, laughing until we cry.