After 10 days alone with my wife and new-born son it is time to return to work. I was expecting to feel a pang of angst and sadness, but I did not expect jealousy. I felt it one afternoon on about day 5 when I had to be out of the house for a couple of hours and returned to find mother and son in a maternal embrace. Mrs H talked about feeling, at night, as though the umbilical cord was still attached between them, and had said before the birth that she loved her child even though she knew nothing of him.
All of which made me wonder how a father could possibly replicate the bond that a mother has with her baby. Although I have been drawn too quickly to sentimental language to describe my feelings for my son, his is still though a stranger to me, and so I wanted to know what Mrs H knows of him and feel what she feels.
And then, one night last week as we were trying to put him to sleep we turned on the TV and started watching Big River Man.
The idea of male bonding can take many forms. John Lennon took a year out from recording, when he moved to New York, to bake bread with his young son Julian. But this was something else. The Big River Man, Martin Strel, swam 4,000 miles of the Amazon river under the watchful eye of his son. To be clear, I have no intention of taking on piranhas and crocodiles, madness and sun-stroke with my son, but is it not in this kind of adventure that we would find out more about each other? In a few years’ time could we not take off, just the two of us, and spend some time finding out more about each other?
My running memoir, Why We Run, was inspired, in part, by Charles Sprawson’s Haunts of the Black Masseur, a history of the swimmer. For those who have already seen the Big River Man documentary, this is the perfect accompaniment. As for the adventure? Any suggestions gratefully received.