Dad’s world with Jonathan deBurca Butler

THERE I was about to sit down to write this column when a message popped up on my Gmail account. ‘Larry’, it said.

I had called Larry on a whim a couple of nights previously. I had to go to a function in town but with an hour to kill beforehand, I wanted to see if he was free for a pint. 

He couldn’t make it that night but he said he’d get in touch. So in a way I was expecting some sort of contact but this flashing screen came up just a little too early in the overall scheme of how these things usually work.

I was right to wonder. As it turned out he was informing me that a mutual friend of ours had been killed in a car crash in a land far away from his home. 

I should explain that I spent most of my 20s in Rome. Much of the time there was spent in bars and our mutual friend, who I hadn’t seen in over 10 years, was one of the many people who I spent some time with talking rubbish and having a bit of a laugh.

Although it had been ages since I’d seen him, news about the death of a friend from my hedonistic 20s rocked me a little.

Thinking back to the times we spent living la bella vita around Piazza di Spagna and Campo di Fiori got me thinking about the friends that I have gradually let drift away since having children.

I remember Ryan Tubridy talking on the radio one day about having children and saying that in the first few years of raising them, contact with friends ebbs away unless you are very careful. 

I can’t remember his exact words but he mentioned something about a period of what I think he called maintenance. It sounded kind of cold but what he meant was keeping in touch with friends was so important.

It is also rather tough at times however. With most couples working two jobs, it is rare that they have the time, or indeed the inclination, to get up off the couch and go out; especially when you’ve been chasing two children around the house, never mind one. 

Even if you do get the wind up to go out, the cost of baby-sitters and taxis sets you back a fair old whack of cash before you’ve even put a morsel of food in your mouth... and there’s always food. For some reason, parents don’t meet for pints anymore.

It always has to be a five-course meal in a swanky restaurant.So getting out is a challenge sometimes. 

But in truth, as a parent, you have a responsibility to yourself, and to your children, to get up off your backside and go to meet your friends —simply to remind yourself that you exist outside of work and changing nappies.

I love my children, make no mistake, but before they came along I had a life. It involved other people with whom I went to school or college or in this case with whom I watched the 2002 World Cup on a big screen in the Italian capital at a ridiculously early hour of the morning.

Myself and Larry have arranged to meet next Thursday. I haven’t seen him for over two years. 

I’m looking forward to recalling Robbie Keane’s last- minute goal in Ibaraki and the can-can we did down Via Cavour to celebrate it In all likelihood, we will raise a glass to our mutual friend and catch up on news of others who were in the Eternal City.

We will go home to our kids that evening and hug them tightly, knowing that we give them as much of ourselves as we can, while keeping just a little bit for ourselves. Even if it’s only occasionally.


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