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I was sitting out in the garden this afternoon, enjoying what was essentially an international Ploughman's Lunch of French bread, Canadian extra sharp cheddar, and a fine German dark beer, when the wails of a neighbor's baby reached my ears.

As is often the case, I also heard the baby's parents trying to quiet the child. In doing so, I was thrown back into the memory of when my son was a baby and what a strange time that was.

It's often said that you are never the same once you have had a child; I think that statement holds true. A baby throws everything out of whack; your sleep patterns, your work and social life, your relationship with your spouse. That third person (and it's only been one extra person in my case) ensures that you are living in a different world.

The strange thing is that, because raising a baby is essentially a take-every-day-as-it-comes series of tasks, that you don't have either the time or the energy to reflect on these changes as they happen. Only looking back through the filter of time can you do so, yet that filter plays tricks on you that it takes an effort to defeat. The temptation is always to look back with a warm glow, the reality is that it was often difficult, emotionally turbulent, physically demanding and socially disrupting to have a baby. In other words, sometimes not much fun at all.

All your relationships change – with your wife, yours and her parents, your friends. Some of these changes are not what you might wish, but they happen anyway. And then there is this new growing person, slowly developing an increasingly willful and independent personality.

The pluses outweigh the negatives. But it is wrong to assume that there are no negatives. Parenting is an astonishingly complex task, a task that most of us receive no training for beyond the example set by our own parents. Mistakes can be made that have far-reaching consequences; so can correct actions. Blundering along, trusting to a mixture of instinct and experience, it's amazing to me that as many parents as do manage to raise healthy, well-adjusted kids.

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