Dad’s World with Jonathan deBurca Butler

“THERE’S another one down here that we could go to,” said Fionn’s uncle. “This one will be too crowded.”

It had started out full of hope. A little pre-dinner trip to the playground with granny-in-law, Uncle Austin, my two boys, and their little cousin Layla.

We were in a leafy Dublin suburb, the sun shining through the trees, and before we sat down to our feast, we would clear out the cobwebs and arouse our appetites with a bit of a run around and a half-hour on whatever climbing frames and tunnels were on offer. 

We had two playgrounds to choose from and, as you’ve probably guessed, Fionn’s uncle had suggested the one a little further away.

Fionn wasn’t happy. As we edged our way forward with the other two toddlers, he stood forlornly, his bottom lip like a gravy-boat, and pointed at the playground that was closer.

“Leave him,” I said to Austin as we walked away. “He’ll follow us.”

“Ah we can’t just leave him there,” said his concerned granny.

“Yes we can,” I said. “Best thing is to just ignore him and he’ll run after us eventually.”

There was a compromise. There had to be. “Will we just go to this one?” suggested Austin, nodding at the one that Fionn wanted to go to. We veered to go towards the closer one.

Fionn still wouldn’t budge but he watched our every step and as we got closer to our new destination he started to point again.

Austin looked around. “He’s pointing at the other one now,” he said.

He and Granny burst out laughing. I, on the other hand, was not impressed.

We had had a great day. Fionn and I had spent the afternoon together in another playground that we had had to ourselves. 

I went on climbing frames, down slides, pushed him on a swing and did all the things that daddies do and, quite rightly, are supposed to do. 

We had really got on well. I was excited and we were both happy.

And now this. A return to his if-you-say-black-I’ll-ask-for-white way. 

I don’t know, maybe I was wrong. Maybe I was tired; maybe I was running out of patience, but I was annoyed at a lack of loyalty from him. 

Perhaps loyalty is the wrong word. Maybe respect is what I mean. Or a little bit of give.

There I was, asking myself: Why is he doing this now? We have been having a great day but now this performance — this I-want-my-way-or-else attitude. Why now? Why in front of other people?

Granny eventually went to get him and brought him into the playground. 

We stayed there for about 15 minutes as he flopped around the place, complaining about the standard of slides and climbing frames available.

“Ahhhhh what is this?” he asked rhetorically throwing his shoulders down into a slouch to express his displeasure. I had to have a word. But he continued to moan and be defiant.

On our way back from the park, he ventured into the wrong house. He pretended not to hear me telling him to get out. I shouted and he moved. 

But I had shouted and I had done it in front of his uncle and his granny. Did that make me one of those ‘angry parents’?

I thought about it for a minute and dismissed myself for being an eejit. Parents get angry.

We were sitting at the table eating our lunch 30 minutes later. Austin and myself put Fionn between us. I wasn’t sure it would work but again, as is so often the case, he surprised me. 

He was happy to be between the men and he was as good as gold. OK, so the second time he dropped his fork I knew he did it on purpose but I let it slide... kind of.

“I won’t pick it up a third time,” I whispered as I placed it in his hand.

Knowing full well what I was talking about, he smiled at me. “OK,” he said.

“You’re a cheeky monkey,” I said.

“And you’re a cheeky rascal,” he said. Myself and Ciara are already saving for King’s Inns.


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