Learner Dad: 'I like to see myself as relaxed but I’m obviously bottling up a fair few anxieties'

Learner Dad: 'I like to see myself as relaxed but I’m obviously bottling up a fair few anxieties'
'Learner Dad' Pat Fitzpatrick

I had to turn off Dublin Murders with 15 minutes to go. We were watching the first episode because I had to review it the following day for the Today Show on RTÉ.

It’s not a spoiler to say it’s about a young girl who is murdered in some woods outside Dublin, mirroring the disappearance of two kids in the same spot 20 years earlier. Just in case you think it’s a real story, a friend who was with the two kids in the woods that day is now a garda investigating the murder of the girl a couple of decades later.

I’m trying to stay objective writing this, but to be honest I’m furious. They kept showing the face of the dead girl, they kept showing the kids laughing and cycling into the woods 20 years earlier just so you got the message — these kids could be yours.

My instinct was to wake up my own kids so I could give them a hug.

I managed to fight that off because no one wakes their own kids unless there’s a fire, and even then you’d throw a few buckets of water at itbefore doing anything rash.

I thought I’d be over it this morning, but seeing my two off to school just cemented what I’ve suspected for a while — I can’t admire anything that uses dead children as a selling point.

I wasn’t always like this. I was glued to the first series of The Killing, I’d look forward to it every week, and that was about a girl found dead in the woods.

In fairness, that was before we had kids, but that doesn’t fully explain it either. I remember watching The Missing, starring James Nesbitt, when our eldest was only a few months old, and that was about a young boy who disappeared. I found it harder going as a parent, but still watched the series all the way to the heartbreaking end.

This isn’t a criticism of Dublin Murders as a piece of drama — the acting and the mood mark it out as something that can stand alongside The Killing and The Missing.

The problem might be me. I’m at a different stage of parenting now. Babies are a miracle, but it takes a while for their personalities to emerge and they’re with you all the time anyway. My kids are aged seven and five, their own forces of nature, like every other child in the world. It’s now, as you start letting out the rope out so they can find their way in the world, when the real worries start to kick in.

I like to see myself as Relaxed Dad, chilled out about our kids growing up and getting lives of their own. But scratch the surface with a TV show and I’m obviously bottling up a fair few anxieties.

And no, I don’t plan to suffer through the rest of Dublin Murders as some form of catharsis. I no longer watch stuff to feel uncomfortable — I’m the guy behind the sofa when a horror movie comes on TV.

I think what made me so angry in the opening episode was the way they kept focusing on little details of the kids — their shoes, a bright yellow T-shirt, their bikes. It’s like the makers know this is a short cut to our anxieties. Sometimes I spot one of my kid’s runners on the kitchen floor and I’m nearly knocked out for a second at the wonder of these two little people who seem to have come from nowhere.

I know loads of people will love Dublin Murders, we all have our own thing. But I’m out.

Just as a lot of people have had enough of stylised violence against women in whodunnit murder dramas, I’m done with people stoking my anxieties with gruesome scenes involving dead children. Sorry, but I just don’t get a buzz from imagining bad things happening to my kids. Not even when they leave their runners lying around the kitchen floor.

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