Dad’s World with Jonathan deBurca Butler

THERE was little point talking to them anymore. They’d been sparring intermittently for the guts of 45 minutes now and it was verging on the ridiculous. 

Such was the dramatic exaggeration of the exchanges that it was like watching a parody of an ill-tempered village derby in the lower divisions of the Italian football league.

The simmering tension was punctuated only by the increasingly inevitable petty shove or punch, the victim would scream operatically, make sure the parental referee saw it, before hitting the deck like a sack of wet flour and rolling around screaming for their lives. 

Several parental yellow cards were issued and then routinely ignored. 

The red was inevitable.

Fionn shoved a car in Luke’s face, Luke wrestled him to the floor and then sank his considerable gnashers into his big brother’s left shoulder. 

Fionn howled with pain.

Ciara scooped Luke up, walked him upstairs and put him in his bed. 

Fionn followed soon after. 

It takes two to tango and we had had enough of their dancing for this evening.

It was clear they had had enough of each other. 

To be fair to them, they spend a lot of time in each other’s company and most of the time they’re great. 

Like most households, things go a little pear-shaped when bedtime approaches. 

Everyone is getting tired and with that comes utter confusion.

As a child, I often disliked the early evening. 

There’s always a lot of ordering and asking and looking for things and asking about things. 

It’s a big familial melting pot and sometimes it’s going to boil over.

Everyone is at home and everyone wants something whereas you the young child just wants to be either left alone to play or to be played with. 

Instead, you see these two adults mooching around the place, getting in your way but not really giving you the attention that you want. 

You want people to be nice to you but you don’t necessarily want to be nice to them — after all you’ve been here all day, this is your house. 

Where have these big people been all day that they think they can come in here and start ordering you around and telling you what to do?

Children’s frustrations are undoubtedly understandable but that doesn’t always make them any more tolerable. 

In this instance, there was only one way to deal with it. 

We would have to split them up. 

Tonight’s baths would be done separately, television would be watched with one or other parent and stories would be quiet and calm. 

In short, the boys needed a break from each other and one of us to focus on them for a while.

Family harmony is lovely, a nice idea but it is not always achievable and trying to force it is a waste of time or worse counter-productive. 

While it’s most certainly worth aiming for, recognising when it’s just not happening is important.

For the next hour, I dealt with Fionn and Ciara dealt with Luke. 

Peace, tranquillity, and the occasional giggle could be heard from different parts of the house. 

As Luke got changed with his mother, Fionn splashed about in the bath. 

When Luke and his mother went downstairs, myself and Fionn decided to jump on his parents’ bed and read a book. 

He seemed to enjoy the time alone with me and I enjoyed hanging out with him, just the two of us.

For the first time in a long time, he hung on every word I read and I wondered was it because we were in a different room. 

Did he feel that I was making a special effort for him by taking him into Mummy and Daddy’s room? I didn’t know and, crucially perhaps,I didn’t ask.

When Luke had gone to bed, the two of us crept downstairs and waited for Ciara to come back down. 

We watched an episode of Paw Patrol and off he went to bed. Peace reigned over the house... for now.

Familiarity breeds contempt we’re told but absence also makes the heart grow fonder. 

The next morning the two of them were as thick as thieves again.


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