COLM O'REGAN: There is a new threat from social media. It’s videos of super hero parents

Our daughter has finally been ensnared by The Force. The ad was for something plastic and awful like most toys are. We’re hoping to get away with it for as long as possible. Like an uncontacted Amazonian tribe trying to avoid civilisation. The first helicopter of advertising has spotted us gazing curiously from underneath a mahogany tree. Soon the rubber tappers and gold prospectors of Christmas ad-saturation will flood our eco-system.

It’s interesting watching the world through an awakening child’s eyes. The first time our eldest daughter was with us in McDonalds, we’d never seen her eyes open so wide. The colours and smells were so vibrant, seemed to be mainlined into her brain. It was as if her pristine little gut with its perfect balance of bacteria was SCREAMING FOR A BIG DIRTY SALTY CHIP. Like Eve in the garden realising how nice apples are. We harrumphed of course and ate our Big Macs while gentling insisting she finish her Zero-Craic food.

And so she caught a glimpse of an ad. Only a few seconds. But it was enough to hook her. As we ran to the computer to click Skip-Ad on YouTube. (No telly, I know, we’re one of those people. But you brought it up. Ok sorry yeah I brought it up. People with no telly always bring it up.) She wanted to know what was the plastic imitation of real life that the older girls were playing with in the ad. For a three-year-old girl, older girls (anything from 3.5 upwards) are the coolest people they will ever meet.

We mollified her with a distraction. I broke a window and set off the smoke alarm just to take her mind off the ads and it looks like she has forgotten whatever the cool older girls were playing with. But our lesson is learned. Ads need to clamped down on.

There is however a new threat from social media and it isn’t advertising. It’s videos of super hero parents. Later that day my daughter looked over my shoulder as I glumly watched a child go virally around a American Ninja course a super-hero dad had built for her in a American backyard the size of a townland. American Ninja is a TV show where very fit people take the hard way to go around something. It’s an obstacle course. It’s like International Youth Knockout except there is no one throwing sponges at you. Imagine Ireland’s Fittest Families but they’d imprisoned the three weakest members of the family, or just the father. (It’s always the father lets them down on IFF)

Speaking of fathers letting their children down, as the little American cherub ran around her home made TV set, my daughter looked at me and asked for one of those. As her life continues she will come across video after video of superhero parents making amazing things for their children: Photographing them asleep and then knitting landscapes around them, painting miniature scenes from Dora on their nails, creating full-length feature films out of the contents of the press under the stairs. She will see them and she will realise she has had a raw deal. NO matter how much Make and Do With Mary Fitzgerald I watched, it hasn’t sunk in properly.

I look at the home-made American Ninja course and then I look at my own DIY around the place. A medicine cabinet that looks as if it’s been attacked, the strip-mined wall near the final resting place of the curtain rail. I sigh.

To cheer myself up I start googling ‘Fatherhood Memes’ to see if I can identify with anyone. There seems to be quite a preponderance of ripped photogenic dads cradling babies. On one in particular, the motto written in calligraphic script is about how fatherhood is the most important job you’ll ever have. The fella is pictured smouldering at the camera while balancing a sleeping baby on his fore-arm. His jaw is lantern, his abs look like a series of Wild Atlantic Way logos. Finally, my way of life is represented.

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