The life I had to let go of when I became a dad

I had to become a different person when my sons arrived. I hated it when it happened, but I love it now that I know why.

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I was warned, by every single person on the planet who knew my missus was pregnant, that my life was about to change forever.

It’s one of those trite ‘no shit, Sherlock’ things that well-meaning people say to pass the time while they struggle to wipe the involuntary mental image of the dad-to-be they’re talking to having sex.

But it’s also a truism. From the moment that little life springs forth from your lady friend’s loins, your life will never be the same.

You’ll have new responsibilities. You’ll need to get your shit together. And your childless mates will disappear faster than a cold beer on a hot day.

But the most alarming thing you’ll find over the next few years, months, or even days, is you’re going to start losing little bits of who you think you are.

The first thing to go

The first part of me that went when my son arrived was my motorcycle — my beloved GSX-R 750.

I’d made a deal with my wife well before we had kids that as soon as the ankle biters started showing up, I’d be condemned to getting from place to place in a much safer fashion.

When I realised I’d be stuck in traffic, inside a rolling metal cage being aurally assaulted by far-too-cheery early morning radio hosts, like all the other schmucks I used to breeze past during my morning commute, part of me died.

So I sold the bike to a middle-aged accountant named Kenneth. Or possibly Keith. I can’t remember, but what I do recall is the sense of loss that I felt watching another man ride away on a thing I truly loved.

Bye, bye gaming

The next thing I noticed fading from my life faster than Conor McGregor in round six against Floyd Mayweather was my time spent playing video games.

I have always been a gamer. My dad and I got into computers early on and I helped him build our first computer in 1982.

The first games we had were text-based. No graphics, just words on the screen that you read, and then typed in what you wanted to do next. Most of the game was happening inside your head.

Games with actual graphics hit the market a year or so later, and suddenly we had our very own Space Invaders console.

The year after that, I became a paid journalist with a regular column in a national magazine. I was one of Australia’s first gaming journalists, at the age of 12.

Best. Job. Ever.

I would routinely spend upwards of 10 hours a day playing games before I met my wife, while holding down a full-time job.

That dipped drastically to one or two hours a day when I met my wife (because oh my god, there was sex to be had), but I still played every day.

Fast forward to when Blake arrived, and my PlayStation 3 had pride of place in the living room. I’d spend an hour or so on it a few nights a week, and I loved it.

Six months after Blake arrived, and that PlayStation was covered in dust. I hadn’t switched it on for ages, and when I did manage to sneak in a cheeky hour or so on the weekend I felt guilty.

I had better things that I could be spending my time on. There was shit to fix around the house. Laundry to do. A beautiful little life to be part of.

And so … I stopped being a gamer, and started playing games with my baby boy.

Speaking of dust

A band called the Murmurs released a cute little song called “You Suck” in 1994. The chorus was unforgettable, featuring the classic lines: “Right now there’s dust on my guitar you f*ck … and it’s alllll yourrrrr fault”.

That song came screaming back into my head around the time Blake was 12 months old, because there was a lot of dust on my guitars.

I’d been playing guitar since I was a teenager and I’d always been around music.

I’d been in bands with guys who’ve gone on to win ARIA Awards and I’d lived the rock’n’roll lifestyle (complete with the heroin problem that was required to prove yourself worthy in the early ’90s Sydney scene).

I once even got into a fist fight with a well-known muso in the toilets of a Sydney pub over a bag of drugs on the bathroom floor.

But by the time Blake turned up, my bass hadn’t seen any action in more than two years.

And my beloved Fender acoustic, which got a daily workout (even if it was only for a 30-minute sprint), was lying dormant. The strings had rusted.

I had given up music. “Gregor” was becoming “Dad”.

Untethered from my identity, I unravelled. Because, to be completely honest, I didn’t listen — like really listen — when people warned me that my life was going to change.

The next big thing … drugs and booze

For those who’ve been reading this site for a while, you’ll know that there are a few other things that I’ve had to give up since my boys were born.

I struggled to give up drugs (before my kids were born) and drinking (after my kids were born, but failing miserably until I nearly died).

That story also covers me cocking up my marriage, and finding myself 41 and trying to Dad my way through a red-hot mess of a situation.

I struggled really, really badly. I was losing my identity. But the thing that halted that slide was the realisation that the things I’d had to give up were meant to go.

By all means, I could have maintained them as hobbies, but those three things were the mainstays of who I really felt I was.

But above and beyond all of them — and as sad as I was to see them go — I have two beautiful sons.

Two amazing, adorable little guys who fill my life with an almost indescribable mix of joy, aggravation, fear and love.

I don’t want to brag, but I 100 per cent know that I made the right decision to give up my motorcycle, my video games and my guitars to be a dad.

And I know that for the following reasons.

There’s no time machine

The first thing I bought when I split up with my wife was my dream motorcycle — a 1995 Ducati 900 Supersport. It’s redder than a dog’s dick, faster than a cop car and louder than Motorhead.

It’s the same motorcycle Hunter S Thompson wrote about when he penned the greatest piece of motorcycling journalism the world has seen: The Song of the Sausage Creature.

I f*cking love that bike.

It wasn’t long after that when I bought myself a new guitar amp, had all my guitars serviced and started playing again.

Loud enough for the deaf lady next door to start leaving me terse notes in my letterbox complaining that the vibrations through the walls were making all the photos of her grandkids shake like they have Parkinson’s.

And it was only last Christmas when I bought my boys an Xbox, with a few games for myself.

But here’s the thing.

As of this moment, my beautiful Ducati’s in the shed with a nylon cover over it. It’s been out of rego for a couple of years now and I’ll only start it up from time to time so the engine doesn’t seize.

By the time my boys start university, it’ll be worth enough to cover the cost of their tuition. So I’m keeping it for that.

My lovely new guitar amp has dust on it. Along with my guitars — rusty strings and all.

And the only time the Xbox gets turned on is when my boys get to have their one hour of screen time a day, after their homework is done and they’re in their pyjamas, teeth brushed and hair combed.

It turned out that while I mourned the things I felt I was losing at the time, going back to them wasn’t the catharsis I was looking for.

Becoming a dad had changed my life, forever — just like they said it would.

Losing parts of your life sucks balls. Big time. But what you’re gaining in return is better than anything in the world.

Embrace it. Weep for your losses as they come and go, but embrace being a dad.

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