Dad’s World with Jonathan deBurca Butler

AS THE seasons pass I seem to be getting grumpier. As to whether it’s early onset midlife crisis or, to put a positive slant on it, that I’m now realising I’m always right. I can’t say for sure but I feel this grumpiness particularly keenly around this time of the year.

I have ranted before in these pages that the cacophonous confluence of barbecues, car beeps and people doing stuff in their gardens drives me mad.

While they’re all out there enjoying the grand stretch in the evenings I’m stuck inside trying to get the kids to sleep and praying that they don’t wake up with all the activity outside.

Ciara tells me to relax and she’s probably right — in fact, I know she is. Those sounds of the summer have had minimal effect on the boys’ sleep but still that doesn’t stop me from stewing over it and wishing that everyone would just shut up.

As if all that weren’t enough to be giving out about, I have recently picked up another gripe — schools and their time off.

Up until the end of June, Fionn was in a playgroup around the corner. It ran roughly in line with school holidays.

We had Fionn in there three hours a day, three days a week. It was something we did to keep him social but also to stimulate him.

Now, nine hours in a week may not seem like much, but try telling that to a slightly more anaemic-looking child minder who has had her work cut for her since El Niño (Fionn’s nickname) came home from school and plonked his Spider-Man school bag on the couch for the last time this season.

Though Laura may look a little more fatigued than normal, I’m not too worried about her.

My main concern is the biggest loser in this great school’s out for summer — Fionn himself. The poor child who, as I’ve alluded to before, has endless curiousity about the world, is bored.

The regular contact that he had with people of his age is gone. His grandparents come over and try their best but you can’t replace time spent with mates. For the first few weeks of his holidays, Fionn would come down from his bed saying, “Am I going to school today?”. We try our best but in terms of craic us adults just don’t compare to his own peers.

Our one-year-old, Luke, who absolutely adores his big brother, isn’t doing too well out of it either. Fionn has him driven up the walls with all the poking and bossing around. Those three hours that Luke had to himself in the mornings were more than precious to him. He got one-to-one attention from our nanny without having to compete for it.

It was also a chance for him to actually miss his brother and get excited about him coming home. Now that they are always together there is less of a novelty to it.

On top of that, Luke is learning things off his older sibling that he probably shouldn’t be. In his boredom, Fionn is acting a bit more aggressively around Luke. The energy that he used up with children the same age and more importantly size as him is being used on someone much smaller and it just makes play look rough to Luke.

It looks pretty rough to his parents, too, who seem to spend more and more time telling Fionn to leave his little brother alone. Sometimes Fionn is unaware he’s doing anything wrong but sometimes he’s only too well aware.

At it stands there’s a month to go until he’s back to school. For everyone, including Fionn, it can’t come quickly enough.

Roll on the winter — darkness, silence and, above all, school for little El Nino.


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