Dad’s World with Jonathan deBurca Butler

THERE I was in the middle of getting a stubborn grease stain off the bottom of the casserole dish when a scream rushed its way into my ear canal and shook me from my day dream.

“Daddy!” came a second thundering roar from the top of the stairs. “Daddy, come up here!”

Prior to this arresting screech I had heard howls of laughter along with music and plodding dancing and I knew that their mother was up there with them. So I wasn’t too worried but boy what a racket.

“Yeah?” I shouted up, “What’s up?”

“Just come up, come up.”

I was a little annoyed to tell the truth. The washing-up needed to be done and that feckin’ stain was proving a worthy adversary. 

Nontheless, I removed my rubber gloves and slumped out the kitchen door to the bottom of the stairs.

“What is ….?”

I couldn’t finish the question. Above me was a vision. There before my eyes was my three-year-old boy, the apple of my eye and the fortuitous inheritor of my footballing gene, dressed in drag. OK, so I’m exaggerating but it was a vision that, for a moment at least, jolted me just a little.

The get up was actually simple enough. He had two earrings dangling from his ears and each arm was jangle-full of bracelets. 

Around his neck were a dizzying array of necklaces which I really didn’t match his outfit. 

As I looked on with with mock disbelief, my one-year-old came running round the corner like some delirious jewellery thief who had just escaped from an asylum in very bad Batman movie. 

The two of them stood there laughing their heads off while their mother looked on with a strange look of pride. It was all a bit chaotic but really rather funny.

I shouldn’t have been surprised really. All little boys dress up in their mummy’s clothes. 

Indeed, and I might add unfortunately, there’s a photo of me in my aunt’s house which takes pride of place on their wall.

While the rest of my cousins are pictured diving over rugby try lines or getting diplomas in various ‘cys’, ‘phys’ and ‘tions’, there’s one of me dressed in a blonde Oktoberfest type wig from the time I was about seven (eh... or was I maybe even a bit older?). 

I have a cushion under my top and I’m holding up the pigtails of the wig in what I would later discover is described as an alluring or suggestive manner. It’s all rather camp but according to studies all very normal.

In the view of cyh.com, a health website supported by the government of South Australia, “Children know by the time they are about three whether they are boys or girls”. 

But they say: “a child does not understand until about the age of six that he or she will always be a boy or a girl.”

They go on to suggest that until then most boys or girls think they can change gender and they say “it is usual for preschool boys and girls to dress up in clothes of the other sex as a way of trying out what it is like to be a man or a woman or a father or a mother.”

The other day our sometime minder suggested that we get Luke a doll because “he always picks them out when he goes to PandaPlay” and though you might smirk at this and I know what my father’s generation would think, the times are definitely a changin’ when it comes to gender specific roles and associated accoutrements.

I opened the gate at the top of the stairs and walked in to join the fun. Eventually, the jewellery and associated items were put back in their rightful place and after a bit of jumping on the bed we all went back downstairs.

As I put my bright yellow rubber gloves back on and Ciara went into the sitting-room to play with the boys I thought about what had just happened.

“A dolly,” I said to myself as I got stuck into the stain at the bottom of the casserole dish. “I wonder would he prefer Barbie or your one from Frozen.”


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