Saturday 3 December 2016

'I'm not sure where anyone could get the idea I'd make a good father'

Some people think Donal Lynch might make a good father, but they have never seen him flee from a nappy

Donal Lynch

Published 20/06/2016 | 02:30

David Bowie in Labyrinth
David Bowie in Labyrinth
Donal Lynch

It started immediately after the referendum. Right-on friends and family, casting around for another liberal cause to support, settled upon my poor, blameless 'brovaries'. "You would make an excellent father, I'm sure of it," my mother might say. Perkily followed up with, "And it's all legal!" I'd nod vaguely, while repeating Lena Dunham's line in my head, "Clearly, we have made some terrible liberal mistake."

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I'm not sure where anyone could get the idea I'd make a good father. I think my style of parenting would probably fall somewhere between Miss Hannigan from Annie, and Jack from Will & Grace, who said, "If watching Gypsy 50 times has taught me anything, it's that the way to deal with kids is push them until they hate you".

The main thing is that I would be as chilled as I wished my own parents were. "Of course I would let her wear make-up," I would tell the horrified adoption committee. "As long as she didn't share it with the other six-year-olds."

A huge impediment to fatherhood would be that I am allergic to modern children's programming. The briefest of stints babysitting have left me with wild fantasies of hunting down Peppa Pig creators, Mark Baker, Neville Astley and Phil Davies, and gouging their eyes out, while that nasty atonal theme tune drowns out their screams.

I would obviously instead try to force my old childhood diet of television onto any child in my care: He-Man; Dungeons & Dragons; Ulysses 31. And, in a sense, this would just be perpetuating the cycle of abuse that runs through so many Irish families.

When my friends and I were children, our fathers used to look with bafflement at the cartoons we watched, and instead try to show us wholesome 1950s boyhood fare, such as The Guns of Navarone.

None of the guns had a Mattel product tie-in, and Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn and David Niven didn't have a long-lost warrior-princess sister between them.

To witness a new generation gap yawning open is to feel your own creeping mortality.

Forget Oasis being 'dad music' - the real way 1980s kids such as myself feel old is when they try to show, say, Labyrinth with David Bowie, to a child born in 2005, and see that same Guns of Navarone-level boredom shining up out of their chubby faces.

I'm not even measuring myself against the high parenting standards of real-life fathers my age. Even people I myself once thought of as 'unfit parents' are better parents than I. Growing up, my dad's parenting philosophy was summed up in one oft-repeated line, "Kids are like farts; you can just about stand your own".

And yet, when I was left minding my little nephew recently and a familiar smell filled the air, it took the surprise arrival of my dad to save the day. He dived in with the selfless gusto of Groundskeeper Willie, unclogging a toilet while I shouted instructions from a safe distance (down at the end of the garden).

My boyfriend, I think, could handle a kid. Unlike me, he doesn't see a killer nanny on CNN and think, "There but for the grace of God . . . " And he has practice in dealing with a huge overgrown child.

I was thinking recently about how to help him check this box, when I remembered another oft-repeated parental expression we heard growing up, this time from my mother.

She taught at an inner-city school for 40 years, and when one or other of her former pupils, or the children of former pupils, would graduate to the courts section of the Herald, she would look down at the page and mutter, "You need a licence to have a dog, but anyone can have a child".

Mammy always knows best. We've made an appointment with the cats' and dogs' home. I want a wily mongrel that has the ill-deserved superiority complex of a pedigree. I'm calling him Donal Jr.

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