Rant Of The Day THIS RANT 14/07/97

Rant Of The Day is where I get to mouth off about whatever I feel like for however long I like. Theoretically, I'll update my whinge/opinion piece every weekday; in practice, maybe not so often.

The parent trap

There are some situations in life to which it is very difficult to know how to react appropriately. If someone threatens you with a knife, it may be appropriate not to stand stock still and wait for the blade to sink in. If someone puts a Celine Dion CD on, group violence or mass vomiting are equally appropriate. If Friends is on TV, you should take the phone off the hook. But what should you do if you have a brand-new baby brother that nobody in the world wants you to know about?

I'm not posing this as a hypothetical question. Last Friday, while I was going about my standard daily tasks, my stepmother was struggling through a 33-hour labour to eventually deliver a 9 pound, 2 ounce baby boy. Now I find it weird enough that my 53-year old father is having a baby nearly a quarter of a century after he appeared to have given the idea up for good, and with a woman who is only three or four years older than I am. But what really puts the icing on the cake in the latest twsited development in my reliably psychotic family is that nobody has ever bothered to officially tell me that it was ever going to happen.

My family has always made a good fist of not talking to each other. In 1985, I didn't speak to my father or then-stepmother for six months, including a period in which they decided to permanently migrate to the UK. In 1991, I moved out of home and didn't bother to tell anyone where I was going for a month. And my sister is currently incommunicado with practically all her blood relatives on this side of the world, for reasons I'm not even going to pretend to vaguely comprehend.

But even given that, it seems to me somewhat remarkable that a child could be conceived by my father and not a single word of it spoken or mentioned to me (or my other brother, up until a fortnight ago, when the bare fact of an impending birth was mentioned in his birthday card). I can safely say that if my grandfather hadn't died earlier this year, the whole pregnancy would have passed without my knowing. It must have been a fun moment for my grandmother, when she said "Do you want to see an ultrasound picture of the baby?" and I said "What baby?"

I guess there's something of the same stubbornness that has resulted in my father's not telling me of this birth behind my equally strong refusal to be the one who makes the first contact, who rings up and says "I hear you had a baby". Because, try as I might, I can't see how that's the right thing to do. I mean, it's not like I'm the one who chose to get pregnant. Or more childishly: if I'm not important enough to be notified of this event, why should I be the one who makes the effort? And another question: if that's his attitude to parenthood, how is this new child going to emerge?

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