My latest Daddy Homily gets shorter than short shrift
Maybe I was being a bit Daddy Cool. That might be it?
There I was, walking my 12-year old daughter and my 11-year-old son down to the bus stop to meet the school bus. We were in good time, the sun was shining bright on one of those pet winter days, and I just felt good. With my kids, a bounding Bella pulling on her lead all set for a good walk on the North Beach afterwards. Life is beautiful.
I’m looking at my gorgeous daughter so tall and blossoming, in her navy Superdry hoodie and skinny jeans, her tawny hair up in a ponytail to stop her fiddling with it in school. And driving her teacher nuts. Coming to the end of primary school and thoughts turning with trepidation and excitement to secondary and the changes ahead.
My son yet again in his soft cotton blue Nike pants with the orange pocket — which picks up the orange Nike hoodie. He swears he doesn’t give a damn about cool clothes and haircuts that have names, even if he can wax forever about the latest Messi boot slash or stripe. He had also dismissed the mint green twill chinos laid out for him this morning as “too girly”.
All is good and I am a bit animated, maybe that is it, just as this lad in his mid-teens is passing us on a fairly swish mountain bike. I’m not sure what I am even saying exactly, just bantering away, but it must have been something to do with the way I am saying it.
After he passes us, they both frown at me in unison.
“Dad,” said Keelin, “don’t do that!”
“Talk loud like that,” says Oran.
It has to be something to do with Teenage Cycle Boy, something to do with him just being there and hearing me going on.
I have embarrassed them somehow. I can’t see how from my perspective. But maybe from their’s … See? I’m on to this. I can feel a timely Daddy Talk coming on.
That’s me, you see. So tuned in, alert and attentive to my burgeoning offspring and their needs, unspoken and spoken. Always ready with guidance and advice at this sensitive time. At any sensitive time. A life-times’s hard-earned wisdom distilled into a few carefully chosen words. The Daddy Lecture.
“I embarrassed you did I, because I was talking just as that boy was passing by? But think about it, who is he, do you know him? Do you think he was listening to me, thinking about what I was saying, one way or the other? And thinking I am cool, or uncool? And if he was, why would that bother me? Or make any difference to you …”
“No, that’s not the point,” my daughter cuts in.
I already can’t remember what the boy on the bike looked like … short curly hair, black T-shirt, that’s all I can recall.
“Do you know that boy?
“I don’t,” she says, in an exasperated fashion, ”but that’s not it .”…
“Why would you be worried what a stranger thinks of you so,” I shoot back. “Now if you did know him , or he was friend, maybe …”
My daughter is lacerating me with a look that couldn’t have been more malevolent if it came from Cyclops of the X-Men on full beam.
“You just can’t go on like that IN PUBLIC!” she shouts.
The boy is silent all the while, but the way he looks at me, I know he agrees with her.
End of lecture. We continue walking.
At the bus stop, I barely get to rub the back of his head and say “Have a good day” before he is darting up the steps without a backwards glance.
She actually recoils slightly as I move to say goodbye and see her off. More embarrassment. This time for me as well. My smiling cherub of yore now can’t wait to get shot of Daddy Cool. Daddy Fool, more like.
The unchanging, unflinching admiration of my dog offers some consolation now — but not really — as we head for the beach.
On the strand I let Bella loose. She does her usual scuttling, shuffling and sniffing and then spots two boys, they look about 12, over sitting on the low rock wall near the harbour.
She belts straight over towards them and I know by her she is going to give them an earful. Now 20 yards from them, she stops and despite my shouts and calls to come back she is barking in that high-pitched way typical of her majority terrier breed.
I apologise to the boys, who look at me in that inscrutable way kids do sometimes, that can make you feel a bit naff. And that little exchange of knowing smiles between them and I know my obsolescence is total.
Maybe my minor embarrassment now in front of these boys with my barking nut of a dog was a bit like what the kids felt when Daddy Cool was doing his thing on the way to the bus stop. Boy, I can’t wait till their teen years really get going. Things could really get embarrassing.
— Enda Sheppard