Dad’s World with Jonathan deBurca Butler

MIMICRY, some say, is the greatest form of flattery.

I was compelled to ponder this little nugget of sage last Tuesday evening as we readied the boys for their evening soak. 

In the process of disrobing them, I suddenly noticed Luke standing in front of the toilet bowl, sticking his belly out.

“Are you going for a wee wee Lukey?” asked his mother.

“Yep,” came the proud response.

When Luke had finished his wee, a phantom wee, he reached across to the wall and plucked a sheet of toilet paper from the roll. 

He then proceeded to dab his Gregory Peck with it sending us into convulsions of laughter.

“Have you never seen that before?” asked Ciara.

“I have,” I replied, “but not the dabbing bit. That’s just like Fionn.”

Luke, now two, is growing up fast and his hero is undoubtedly his big brother. 

Everything that Fionn does, Luke watches like a hawk and within minutes tries to imitate. 

If Fionn pirouettes off a couch, Luke will do the same a minute later; that can often end quite badly for the little man but hey, he has to learn. 

If Fionn becomes Batman, Robin is never too far behind. And if Fionn is being just a little bit cheeky, it’s inevitable, Luke will be a little cheeky too.

Children are amazing observers and mimics. You find out a lot about yourself from the way they mirror you. 

A friend of mine recently told me that when she was suffering from morning sickness with her last child, her then youngest would imitate her mother by going into the bathroom and pretending to get sick.

Of course, not all reflections are so benign. 

A couple of weeks ago, after we had finished his bath in fact, myself and Luke were downstairs getting ready for windy-down time. 

We had most of the creature comforts he uses to help him relax; his sleeping bag, his bottle of water, and his blanket but we were missing his dodi. 

We began to search for it high and low, under couches, between books, in behind chairs and televisions and as we looked for it I noticed that Luke was muttering to himself. I stopped and listened.

“Where’s the fuckin’ dodi?” he said. 

“Fuckin’ thing.”

My heart sank. He had clearly learnt this from...his grandfather...OK, from me, I admit it. 

I could feel myself go red and when we eventually found it, I sat him down on my knee and explained that this particular adjective was a bold one. I felt awful and I knew that everyone would point the finger at me.

Since then I have tried to rein it in, with, it should be said a little help from Fionn who now says: “Dad, that’s a bold word!”, on the now rare occasion an expletive leaves my mouth.

There are of course the moments when mimicry shows you the whole thing is so worthwhile. 

A few mornings ago as we made our way out for a dawn stroll, I noticed Luke looking at me quietly. At first, I didn’t really understand what was going on. Was he sick? Had he forgotten something?

It was neither. He was simply watching me and the way I was walking with my hands in my coat pockets. 

I looked on with a mixture of amazement and amusement as he slowly sank his hands into his pockets and continued to walk beside me, giving me the odd glance to make sure he was still doing it the right way. 

From a distance we must have made a funny site. 

Two James Deans strolling through a leafy Dublin suburb early on a Saturday morning.

On this occasion, I found that being mimicked was quite the compliment. 

I wonder will I feel the same way when it turns into mockery. 

These two are going to give me quite the ribbing. I look forward to the banter.


The Menu was delighted to make recent mention of a new UCC postgraduate diploma in Irish food culture and is equally pleased to announce availability of two new bursaries for same.The Menu: Food news with Joe McNamee

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