From knowing what a playdate is to caring about work/life balance, being a dad changes it all. Olivia Kelleher talks fatherhood with three well-known broadcasters .
ANY parent with a small child has at least one brush with death. Or at least that moment where you think that your kid’s temperature is so high and they are so agitated that they must have a life threatening disease.
Newstalk Presenter Jonathan Healy had just such a heart stopping moment when his son Matthew was twelve months. The infant got a viral infection and was rushed to hospital where doctors promptly informed himself and his wife Colette that their darling child would have to be transferred to Crumlin.
Cue sweaty hands and an anxious drive to Dublin. Luckily Jonathan says the whole episode was the traditional false alarm that children are so adept at in their early years.
“He went in to the ambulance like a dying swan. We were terrified. Of course we got to Crumlin and he practically danced out of the ambulance. We went in to the surgeon and he said he was grand. Children can scare the living daylights out of you. I will shame him about that story at his wedding.”
Jonathan is father to Jack (8), Matthew (5) and two-year-old Aoife. So as he says he is firmly in “the zone” of hands-on full-on parenting. Sleep deprivation is part of the whole experience. At one stage when Aoife was teething he and Colette were up more times a night than when she was a newborn. However, he is doing everything he can to enjoy the transient moments of childhood.
He is conscious stages pass quickly and the clock is ticking as to when his kids decide dad isn’t cool anymore.
“Jack bought a teddy bear in Fota and he loved it and I thought there will come a time when he won’t want a teddy bear or to go to Fota. I won’t be cool. When Aoife wants a tea party she will just come and grab you by the hand. You are doing it and that is it. I know we probably give them too much. We have invested in the future of Thomas the Tank Engine. At last count there were 112 trains in the house. We have put Thomas the Tank through college.”
The Healy kids aren’t a bit impressed that dad is on the radio. They are under the impression that everyone’s dad is a broadcaster. Matthew has even latched on to the idea that his dad works in the Burlington Hotel as the family had an overnight stay there. Initially, Jonathan said he and his wife tried to have a policy of no children in the bed but when Aoife came along that went out the window.
“They know when to catch you. When you are at your weakest. The two-year-old is the best at it. They know how to wrap you around their finger.”
FOUR IN A BED
Meanwhile, TV3 journalist Paul Byrne is father to Callum (6) and Charlie Mai who will celebrate her second birthday this month. Paul jokes that whoever invented Calpol should be given the Nobel Peace prize. However, he is relishing his new role with all the rough and tumble that comes with it.
“Sure there are four of us in the bed most nights as the kids come in with myself and Deirdre. We got bunk beds but more often than not I end up in the bottom bunk.. You would be in bed at night with the kids legs in your face. But that’s all part of it.”
Paul said he and his dad were inseparable growing up and he has the same bond with his kids.
“He is dead 30 years and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of him. He was an auctioneer and with the showbands. Callum plays the drums and I would love my dad to see that. I come from a close-knit family and I took that with me in to the big bad world of parenting. I say to Callum ‘if you have any problems just talk to me.’ And then he will say something and it will be so so innocent. One day I talked to him about something my dad did and he asked ‘where is your dad?’ and I just said ‘up in heaven.’ He is great.”
Paul celebrated his 50th birthday recently and says parenting is a young man’s game. But he would still love another addition to his cherished family. When he was younger he was out working seven nights a week so he is in a better place for parenting and knows that there has to be a work/life balance.
That said the inquisitive reporter is always lurking. Paul admits he is a devil for checking rolling news updates on his phone to the point where he gets told off by the kids for his bad habit.. Paul and Deirdre have an au pair to help them with the kids and he says she is a lovely girl who has become part of the family. The worst feeling he stresses is when you see your children sick.
“They can be full of joy on a Monday and dying on a Tuesday and you feel so helpless looking at them. It is terrible to see your kids sick.”
A hands on dad he changes nappies but admits it is something he could only do for his own kids. He is keenly anticipating his beloved Charlie Mai’s second birthday on June 28 and is loving every minute of his new life.
RTÉ’s Daithí O’Shea is dad to two-year-old Micheal Óg. He says he and wife Rita are blessed with a toddler who sleeps from 7pm to 7am.
“You are afraid to tell people that in case they will hate you. He is a very easygoing child. He is fierce entertaining. And so good. You would tell him to pick up toys at bedtime and he will do it.”
Daithí, who presents the Today show with Maura Derrane, says once he leaves work he puts it out of his head to concentrate on parenting.
“Once I am home I am home. I have a two hour drive home so I have it well left behind me when I go in the door. I can wind down on the way home. When I am with Rita or the small boy I don’t care who said what during the day.”
Daithí said he would like baby number two but has the attitude of “if it comes it comes.”
He acknowledges life is hectic and that like any toddler Micheal Óg can have flu every week and you are “up and down” to the doctor. He stresses that there is great solace in knowing that every parent experiences these hiccups.
Like Paul, Daithi says having Micheal Óg makes him nostalgic for his late father and the idyllic days of his childhood. He puts on Irish music in the house to replicate the happy times of his youth so he is unconsciously passing on his father’s legacy.
Daithí adds that parenting is all about give or take and that ultimately everything is about the child as it should be.
“You might be sitting down expecting to watch the match but by God you are watching Tractor Ted and that is that. But he is great craic. I am loving it.”
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