“Where’s Bella?” asked a sleepy O, pushing his blonde mop back from still-closed eyes, when Mom came in to call him again for school.
Mom didn’t know.
“Get Dad, he knows …”
So, where was I just then … which of my many morning jobs was I engaged in … maybe I was putting on Mom’s egg, and the kettle was nearly boiled for her coffee.
Hah, you see, they don’t know all the stuff work-from-home Dad is doing, especially when they are just getting themselves sorted for school and my wife for her work, until things go wrong, or something ruffles the surface of the morning school day routine in our house.
Yes, like a good Maitre D’, or football referee, they just don’t notice the subtleties of my performance until there is a system malfunction — and not always of my doing.
The work/school morning chez nous goes something like this: our heating system is dodgy, but not dodgy enough to call in a plumber for €80, so I get up around 6.30 to switch on the immersion. I may check emails and the headlines on my phone, or sneak back into duvet heaven for half-an-hour.
The alarms goes around 7.10, and it’s downstairs to sort out Bella the dog.
I have to bring Bella upstairs for a five-minute under the duvet snuggle with K, first, and then O. A second longer with either and there is trouble.
But before this, Bella has to be taken outside to clear her system
Bella, our terrier in excelsis, has her own way of doing things: not for her the obvious immediate pee and return to the house … she has to sniff and scratch in the grass patch beside our house for a while, making scents of it all, before she has her first pee — the long one. Then she has to sniff around a little more before a second, shorter pee.
Now when I say sniff, we are talking some serious, serious nose action. No connoisseur of the finest wines known to man would put more nasal know-how into their work. Given the time, Bella would go through every individual blade of grass.
I try to hurry her along, but just like with the kids, she will push my patience just to breaking point before obeying my instructions. Or even acknowledging my presence. Selective deafness, you see, again just like the kids.
I eventually get her to quit the green area, but now she may decide she needs a poo. The funny thing is she always pees in the grass but poos on solid ground, either the path or the laneway nearby
If she does need a poo, she walks faster and faster, her busy little legs a blur now, sniffing for the perfect spot, stops, completes a mimimum of three full circles before releasing her precious load.
After I bag the poo we’re ready for home, but if Bella hasn’t had a big enough walk the previous day, she will try to run across the main road to do some further exploring. She expects to be stopped, and without breaking stride will turn for home when I raise my voice.
Any sign of weakness though, or a lack of concentration, and she gets across the road, she is gone. Around the corner, and a serious chase is on.
So, we’re in, ablutions complete, wipe Bella’s paws with kitchen towel if the grass was wet, and it’s up to K’s room … “Five minutes, and up you get K …”
Then it’s normally downstairs to set the egg and coffee part in motion, while Mom showers. Then I grab Bella again and bring her in to O.
Down I go again, to sort out K’s cereal and prepare O’s Readybrek for the microwave.
So how did I miss my Bella cue with O this morning? … ah yes, I was doing the Christmas lights thing … Christmas tree, various illuminated Santas, elves, snowmen, candles, houses, and grottos, all battery operated, and plug in the large nodding reindeer in the hall. It’s still dark so they will go on for a half-an-four, until just after the gang have left for school and work.
O has woken up okay, so he is only slagging Mom; if the head is down and speech is at a minimum she might not get away so lightly.
Breakfast is set and the egg is done — runny, but not too runny and the coffee is poured. Mom has finished off O’s Readybrek, but it’s not right.
“Mom, it’s not the way Dad does it … it should be more powdery …”
Christmas is coming and we’re on the wind-down, so we’re laughing at the whole scenario, Mom and I. What sort of idiots are we, that we do all this, just so the lads can get themselves ready for school without much hassle … well, with as little hassle as one can expect with a young teenage girl who must get her hair just right before she will even come down the stairs, and a boy whose favourite place in the world is school … not.
“Feckin’ Goldilocks, we have here …” I say to our boy now. “Who’s been making my Readybrek, it’s not powdery enough … there’s not enough milk, there’s too much milk….”
He looks at me, as if he is about to let loose, but a beautiful smile cracks open, and he takes the ball and runs with it..
“Yeah, Dad … you just can’t get good service in this house, we’ll have to sack Mom ..”
Soon they’re all in the car, Bella has picked a lovely comfy spot on the back of the sitting room couch, and I put the kettle on for my coffee, and maybe a sneaky Wispa from the Selection Box we’re not supposed to open yet, and up to my home office. Gosh, I so love Christmas.
A beautiful poem by American poet Robert Hayden caught my eye on Twitter the other day and it made me think of all this largely unseen Dad action, the stuff our kids take for granted … and sure why wouldn’t they, really? I did when I was a boy.
Sundays too my father got up early and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold, then with cracked hands that ached from labor in the weekday weather made banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking. When the rooms were warm, he’d call, and slowly I would rise and dress, fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him, who had driven out the cold and polished my good shoes as well. What did I know, what did I know of love’s austere and lonely offices?