Dad’s world with Jonathan deBurca Butler

“DID you hear that?” asked Ciara as she ended a phone call with her mother. “Mum’s going to come over on Saturday night so we can go out.”

As usual, it had been a while, a whole two months, since we’d been out together. A good 60 days of shouting up and down the stairs at each other, trying to communicate between flailing legs, dirty bums and flying food.

The only time we get to chat is when we eventually sit down at 8.30pm most nights and shovel our dinner into us. These nights out are few and far between, so when an offer comes along we usually jump at it.

We were going to keep it simple. The two of us, dinner and a drink afterwards... maybe.

Ciara’s mum arrived bang on the 8.30pm mark and off we went in a pre-ordered taxi. We weren’t going far but a little further than last time. A relatively new gastro pub (that’s what they call ’em) had started up in the Headline Bar in Harold’s Cross and we had heard good reports.

As we turned out onto the main Terenure Road, Ciara threw her hands in the air.

“Feck, I forgot my phone,” she said. “Will you text Mum and tell her. She’ll have to text you if there’s any problems.”

“Ciara forgot her phone,” I wrote. “So if there’s any probs call me Ruth.”

I followed it up with, “I’ll just pretend not to hear.”

“OK Johnny,” came the reply. “Hopefully won’t need to!”

We went straight to our table, ordered a nice bottle of wine and browsed through the menu. After 15 minutes, the starter came and everything was more than fine.

One course down. Before the next, we got into a bit of a chat about the kids, and how they were doing, and all the usual stuff about work, and what not. The main course, I think I had guinea fowl, was really delicious and the creme brulee was divinity in a (very large) bowl. We polished off the wine had a coffee and asked for the bill.

It was 10.30pm. I know that because it was at precisely that time we heard the dreaded ‘beep, beep’.

The text message was simple: “Both awake and a bit upset.”

When we got home ten minutes later, things had calmed down considerably, though Fionn looked as if he had been crying hard. Luke just looked bewildered. When Granny left I was able to bring him upstairs and put him straight back to bed. Fionn was a different matter. He was tired and he also complained of a sore foot. But there was something else.

At one point, he turned to his mother and said, “you said we’d always be together”. That was a little heartbreaking for us. Okay it was a bit dramatic but the poor little fella was obviously hurting on another emotional level.

Ciara brought him upstairs and tried to put him to bed but on the third attempt she brought him back down to the sitting-room. I suggested she go to bed and Fionn stay with me for a few minutes. We watched Match of the Day. He seemed to enjoy that, there was even an occasional giggle, and eventually he calmed down. “Why did you not take me with you?” he asked.

“Well,” I said, “you know the way Daddy and Fionn have Daddy and Fionn time, and Mummy and Fionn sometimes have Mummy and Fionn time and Daddy and Luke have Daddy and Luke time and Mummy sometimes goes off with Luke. Sometimes Mummy and Daddy need to have Mummy and Daddy time.”

“Together?” he said, processing the idea of us outside his world.

“Yes,” I said. “Together.”

There was silence.

“Will we tell you the next time we go out?” I asked.

“OK,” came the response.

They both slept ’til eight the next morning... thankfully.



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