Dad’s World with Jonathan deBurca Butler

THERE’S a fox roaming our Dublin 6 estate at the moment and last Sunday night he decided half past four in the morning was an ideal time to let everyone know whose turf it was.

If you’ve ever heard it, you’ll know that a fox’s territorial bawl is a spine-chilling cross between a heavy-smoking dog and a very sick cat.

Sunday morning’s rendition was no different only this time as well as waking both myself and the Mrs, it also managed to wake Fionn who was frightened and just a tad annoyed. Fionn eventually went back to sleep but neither myself nor Ciara managed the same and the two of us got out of bed like zombies.

I had a tough workday ahead of me but thankfully, with the aid of some strong coffee, I managed to get through it. By the time I got home, I was in a heap but I wasn’t the only one. The boys were cream-crackered. Fionn looked particularly tired and floppy and he was acting like a drunken drag queen who had just come off stage from the worst cabaret performance of his life.

When I told him that he’d have to wait to get into his new Batman outfit he flung himself to the floor. When he couldn’t find his toy car, he wept like Paul Gascoigne. And every time his little brother ran into him it was as if he had been the victim of the worst human rights abuse known to civilisation. To be fair, Luke was goading him and Fionn actually did quite well not to knock his block off.

Within the first 15 minutes of my getting home, I had to break up more fights than a policeman from a Laurel and Hardy movie.

The breaking point eventually arrived. Fionn walked into the kitchen where I was busy making dinner.

“Daaaaaaddy, aha, uhu, aha,” he sobbed through a bottom lip that was fit for hanging a ladle off.

“Luke hit me again.”

“Guys,” I replied. “I’ve told you already, no more fighting. Now if you do...” I stopped momentarily. This had to end or it would end with me losing the rag.

“In fact, no,” I said. “You’re gone. Let’s go. You’re both going upstairs. If you can’t behave then I can’t have you around me.”

As they did the walk of shame up the stairs, Fionn upped the tears and the protestations. Luke just gave me the occasional look.

When we arrived at their “prison”, I picked Luke up and put him in his cot. I sent Fionn to his room and told him to sit on his chair.

“Now,” I said. “No crying and you’re to stay five minutes in there until I come back.” I closed their cell doors shut, went back down stairs and listened quietly. About two minutes passed. There was nothing but the lazy bubbling of bolognese sauce. I had a choice. Let them stew a little longer and really punish them or go now.

I chose the latter. Up I climbed with the pronounced weight of a benevolent dictator in both feet. I opened the door to Fionn’s room and then pushed open Luke’s. I stood in the landing, hands on hips, a patriarch. If this was going to work I had to see it through.

“Now fellas,” I said looking at both them in their separate rooms. “Do you want to come back downstairs?”

“Yes,” they said with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

“OK,” I said. “In that case no more fighting. That clear?”

The rest of the evening went by like a Gondola on a Venetian waterway.

As I served Fionn and Luke their second helping of spaghetti Bolognese, Fionn turned to me in his matter of fact way and said: “Sorry about earlier Daddy”.

I gave him a great big hug. Luke nuzzled in between us. As we embraced, I thought about the real culprit in his den. I looked at the boys’ play area and saw some party balloons.

“Eureka, Mr Foxy,” I said to myself. Time to make fox-seeking, water balloon missiles.


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