Dad’s World with Jonathan deBurca Butler

THE summer is over. Schools are back.

THE summer is over. Schools are back.

The status quo returns and every star in heaven is in its proper place. I am delighted the summer (if you can call it that) is now behind us. I am probably no different from any other parent who wheeled or walked their little ones back to their various educational institutions last week and skipped off to their favourite cafe just to drink a coffee in silence.

Now it’s more than likely many parents felt a little guilty for feeling so relieved. As you watched your cane sugar sink slowly into the fern or heart shaped cocoa and leafed through your favourite paper you probably admonished yourself for feeling so free. Parents should always want to be with their children, shouldn’t they? Well this short tale might make you feel a little better.

Fionn (3) started in a new play school this week. His mother brought him there at 9am on Monday; held his little hand, told him not to worry and asked him was he OK. The truth of the matter is she was probably more nervous than he was. I phoned her later that morning to find out how he got on.

“Flew into the place,” she said. “Needed a wee the minute we got there and then got straight into the toys. He pointed at a poor little boy who was upset and said to the teacher, ‘Why is he crying? does he miss his mummy?’ — and off he went. Delighted to be there.”

We had been saying it all summer. The guy was bored. Like any child, Fionn needs stimulation and structure to his day. But more than anything, he needs something that belongs to him. Something that exists outside his family.

Throughout the summer Fionn’s mantra was ‘I can do this by myself’. By any standard he has been through a lot of change. He has gone from nappies to pants, from the potty to the toilet and from a cot to a bed. He is rapidly becoming more independent and not only is it happening but he wants it to happen.

When we tell him that he can’t do something he asks if he will be able to ‘when I’m four’. In fact, he is so busy next year with everything he has lined up for himself that he might just miss his fifth birthday and go straight to his sixth.

Since returning to playschool his mood and, more than anything, his attitude to his little brother, Luke, one, has changed considerably. Now that he has been reinstated as the big boy who has to go out the door to school every morning, he seems more responsible towards his younger sibling.

In all likelihood, the months they spent in each other’s faces had some benefits but I’m fairly sure that there were aspects to seeing the same person all day every day that weren’t so good. Frustration would quickly turn to fighting and surprisingly enough, even though they were together all the time, Fionn didn’t really give Luke that much space to play on his own and as a result Luke stopped doing it.

Since Fionn’s return to school the sound of Luke mumbling ‘choo, choo’ as he pushes his cars (yes, cars) around the floor has made a welcome return to the house. I’m no child psychologist, but perhaps the fact that Fionn now knows he has a place where he goes and plays makes him less likely to put pressure on Luke to play with him. which in turn leads to less frustration when Luke just ignores him and does his own thing. But what do I know?

A few days after his return to academia, I sat down with Fionn and asked him about his new schoolmates.

“So who are your new friends?” I queried.

“I can’t tell you daddy,” he said, “it’s a secret.”

Part of me suspected that he may not have remembered but then I thought that maybe, just maybe it really was a secret. His secret. His world. His life.

“Okay,” I said. “It’s a secret. You tell me when you’re ready. That OK?”

He smiled. Everyone needs space.


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