Dad’s world with Jonathan deBurca Butler

AN interesting report recently landed on my desk about how much time modern fathers spend with their children. Well OK, it was a piece that I saw online while having some Maccheroni fired at me by a one-foot human but you get the drift, and in the end research is research.

According to the report/study, commissioned by Cheestrings & Yollies, pater modernus spends an average of six-and-a-half hours a week playing with his children. That, they say, is far more than previous generations – although it should be noted that they don’t mention any studies relating to those previous generations.

Modern dad, that’s me, spends 338 hours a year or just over 14 days with the fruit of their loins, three whole days more fun time than their own fathers spent with them – again where that comes from isn’t mentioned. But, hang your heads in shame ‘80s daddies, we are told that you neglected us.

The report went on to say that modern fathers are “adventure dads” as many encourage their children to play outside. Really? One third of parents also prefer family trips which encourage youngsters to learn new skills and most say having fun together improves family ties.

The findings got me thinking about my own time with the boys and how I spend it with them. Now, bear in mind, that they are only three — Fionn’s birthday was last week — and one, so the idea of having a game of football with them, where we go from one end of the pitch to the other in some kind of organised manner with the objective of scoring a goal, is not yet attainable. If we get to throw a ball to each other maybe twice in a row then that’s a success.

Playtime for us at the moment is often a damage limitation operation. While Luke, the one-year-old, wanders around the place like Alex Higgins head butting things and putting things like sticks and stones into his mouth, Fionn is tearing around like Richard Harris telling whoever will listen to “turn into stone!”

Bouncers have easier jobs. So while technically speaking you might chalk it up on the daddy dashboard as ‘play’ more often than not, it really is just taking care of them. I have to say, though, it can be awfully funny at times. Two boys under three is chaos but chaos is often hilarious.

Anyway, I calculated the time I spend with the boys and as Dads go I’m probably not doing too badly. Most days I’m home at 4.30 and we always get a bit of play in before I get the dinner on.

At the moment it’s all about jigsaw puzzles with Fionn but maybe every second day we’re out the back kicking the ball or pushing Luke down the slide; Fionn is tickled by this. After dinner and when Ciara gets home from work, we end up splitting them up and taking one each for a while. Fionn does cooking and/or washing — his request not ours — and Luke goes upstairs and gets fired around or tickled on the bed upstairs. Then it’s baths, stories and bedtime. So between 4.30 and 8.30 I see a good bit of them.

At weekends, we tend to get out as much as possible. A favourite place of mine is Dollymount Strand and although it’s a bit of a trek from our home in Terenure, Fionn is a big fan too. It’s a good compromise.

While I get to have a stroll by the sea, Fionn gets to pick up sticks, poke jellyfish, jump over little streams of seawater and find the most wonderfully odd things. Most importantly, we get to hang out. Now that I think of it, I have yet to bring Luke but we’ll get there.


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