Dad's World with Jonathan deBurca Butler

OH it does drag on, doesn’t it? I don’t mean to be a grouch — sorry let me re–phrase that — I don’t care if I’m being a grouch – but the whole Christmas malarkey really does get a little boring after a while.

Even before I had children I found the period after St Stephen’s Day dragged like an overloaded sled. Businesses, banks, butchers and bakers pick and choose their holidays at random and open up for a half day here and half day there.

Christmas itself and the lead up to it is wonderful, but please come on, two or three weeks of waiting for everyone else to get back to work so the wheels of society can function again is just too long.

With the kids there’s an added dimension — routine. From Christmas Day right through to the day he went back to school, Fionn was verging on the tyrannical. Luke, though better, was no koala bear either, I can tell you.

Perhaps it’s the weather. Though the east coast wasn’t as badly affected as other parts of the country, getting out of the festive season proved difficult at times. But while there might be an element of the elements about the constant fighting, pushing, arguing and overall antagonism between the boys, for me it’s that their aforementioned routine was completely and utterly out of whack.

On a normal day, Luke gets up before Fionn and has his breakfast — two bowls of ‘podge’, known to yourself and myself dear reader as porridge. When Fionn has arisen from his slumbers, had his toast and got dressed, our au pair takes him to creche, drops him off, and walks back with Luke.

Luke goes for a snooze, gets up, has a snack then goes to get Fionn. When they come back, they have lunch, and then both have a snooze. At around three, they get up, have a snack, and go out and play. By the time I’m home at 4.30pm, they’re ready to hang out with me for a while before having their dinner, getting their baths, watching a bit of television, and then going to bed.

It’s a pretty nice life. Eating, sleeping with just a little bit of education. People who retire go to places like Umbria and Provence to lead a life like that. There’s been books and films made out of that kind of lifestyle. Who wouldn’t want it?

Now, that routine didn’t come about by chance. It took a long time of shaping and tweaking, balancing, and cajoling before everybody involved got on the same page and by no means is it a perfect system but it is the system that we, the five people involved, understand and for the kids, that routine is very important. It instills, I think, a sense and a pattern of reliability and even responsibility in them.

Christmas, with its inherent indulgence and spoiling, blows that sense and pattern out of the water. We as parents, look forward to the time off so we can spend time with the kids but I wonder if being around them so much has actually done them any favours?

We are two working parents who they normally see in the mornings and from the late afternoon to the evening. During the day they have their au pair and Fionn has Treacy to look after him in his creche.

That they have to take instruction from us and only us for this two-week period in the middle of winter probably feels like a strange invasion of their routine.

And it’s not just me who has seen this. I got a text from a mate of mine the other day who is spending his Christmas with the outlaws in the North.

“Kids are driving each other up the walls,” he wrote. “Their routine is totally out.”

“I know what you mean,” I was about to write back before being interrupted by yet another wrestling match.

Happy Christmas? In parts, yes.


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