Dad’s World with Jonathan deBurca Butler

‘AHHHHH, ahhhh, laid-burd, laid-burd!” It was Luke. Last time I had looked he was sitting happily at the kitchen table, eating blackberries. Now he was freaking out and clamouring to get off his chair.

“What’s wrong with him?” asked Ciara.

“I haven’t a clue,” I said, peering over at him from the kitchen. 

It wasn’t immediately apparent that there was in fact anything wrong. Sure we could hear him screaming, but we really couldn’t see anything obvious.

Eventually, Luke managed to make his way down from his perch to the sanctuary of the kitchen floor, but he was still inexplicably stressed out and as he continued to look back at the table, he pointed.

“Laid-burd! Lay-hey-di-he-burd!”

It finally clicked. He had seen a ladybird. The problem was, as far as I could see, there wasn’t a ladybird in sight. 

I did, however, see something else and I went to take a closer look.

“What is it?” asked Ciara.

A tiny bit of shiny drupelet of blackberry was clinging to the side of the table and, looked at quickly, it did resemble a ladybird, sort of purply one.

I scooped the offending drupelet off the table and showed it to Luke. 

“It’s only a little bit of blackberry,” I said.

He came a little closer and laughed through his little tears; one of those nervous, relieved laughs that toddlers do when they realise they are safe.

I offered it to him but he pulled away again. Yes, he was safe, he was happy enough, but he wasn’t convinced.

I figured it was best to eat it myself and the ‘ladybird’ disappeared down Daddy’s gullet.

Luke’s fear of little jumpy creatures started with flies. I can’t remember the day exactly, but I remember the fly being so small that we all had difficulty seeing it. 

From flies, it moved on to spiders — again the smaller, the more scared he gets — and now it has moved on to ladybirds.

This developing ‘phobia’ of all creatures small does offer up some comic gold for those of us looking at it from the outside. But it is obviously something poor Lukey is very concerned about. 

I have to admit that although it can be quite funny, my heart melts for the poor little divil when I see his face scrunched up anxiously in what for him must be real terror. You can just tell he’s not acting and the fear is very real.

Of course, this little idiosyncrasy has not gone unnoticed by his older brother, who has used it to his advantage on at least two occasions, but in two very different ways.

Last week, while the boys were in the car on the way home from a park, Fionn got it into his head that he would play a little game. 

“Luke,” he cried out of nowhere, “a fly, a fly”.

Luke, who had been sitting there enjoying the drive, suddenly started to look around like a deer who has just heard the snap of a twig.

“Look,” continued Fionn as his mother tried to stop him. 

“There it is, there it is!”

The blood now drained from Luke’s face and even though he couldn’t see it, he could imagine it. He began to cry and he didn’t stop until he got out of the car some 10 minutes later.

A few days later, when the two boys were playing in the kitchen, Luke stopped dead in his tracks.

“Fwy! Fwy!” he said, pointing at the back door.

Both myself and Fionn stopped to look. There was silence. 

Neither of us could see a thing but Fionn being the (frighteningly) clever three-and-a-half-year-old that he is, grabbed an imaginary fly in his hand, opened the door and threw it out the back.

That was enough to satisfy Luke and was certainly a big help to me. 

After a quick high five to my firstborn (credit where it’s due) the two of them went back to playing. 

They’re funny little creatures are children.


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