Sunday 25 August 2019

This Man's Life


'At around midnight at 35,000ft last week, I felt like saying to the eldest child, “Any chance of a quick word? Can we be reasonable here? Mummy and daddy are dying on our feet with exhaustion!' Stock photo: Getty
'At around midnight at 35,000ft last week, I felt like saying to the eldest child, “Any chance of a quick word? Can we be reasonable here? Mummy and daddy are dying on our feet with exhaustion!' Stock photo: Getty
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Travelling in the company of those we love, goes the phrase, is home in motion. With young kids - even young kids we love - it is more like hell in motion. They say madness is to keep doing the same things and expecting different results. Still, my wife and I hoped against hope when we flew back from Gran Canaria. Our flight home to Dublin with the kids proved to be even worse - if such a time can be possible - than the one going out two weeks ago.

This time we were travelling at night and the children, the poor dears, were frazzled and didn't sleep at all. They were beyond tired. Which made for an interesting four hours. One child, the older one, was running up and down the plane with some friends she had met at Gran Canaria airport before we took off. I was in hot pursuit. (I was running along the aisle of a plane at 35,000ft which was travelling at 500 miles an hour.) The youngest child, the baby, was equally refusing to sit in his seat and insisted on being carried up and down the plane. It is one of the great ironies of parenting that when you are absolutely enfeebled with tiredness from dealing with your children they will find new ways to torture your knackered body with even more fatiguing tasks.

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At around midnight at 35,000ft last week, I felt like saying to the eldest child, "Any chance of a quick word? Can we be reasonable here? Mummy and daddy are dying on our feet with exhaustion! Will you please sit down, stay still for the next 90 minutes, and read your book in silence?" Then, I imagined the look on her face if I had posed that slightly ridic question. I realised that this would be a bit like asking Donald Trump why can't he talk like a normal president and stop embarrassing the English language, and America?

Landing at 1.30am with two extremely and understandably crabby kids, my wife and I were shattered, and possibly in need of another holiday immediately, not least because my wife and I had to carry the kids plus the carry-on bags from where the plane landed to the baggage carousel on the other side of the airport to pick up our luggage. I had four carry-on bags wrapped around my neck and a young child in my arms. I wish I was exaggerating. My back felt like it was going to snap. My wife had two bags and a baby in her arms.

We lost each other at the bus that took us from the plane to the gate. So, she went ahead with the baby wondering where I was, while I waited with the older child, wondering where my wife and baby were. We found each other eventually. We got home at 3.30am, in our holiday gear, freezing.

The kids woke up at 7am, possibly wondering why they weren't having their brekkie at a hotel with dozens of their new pals from across Europe and could they please go back to Gran Canaria.

I got into work at 9am in Talbot Street wondering why I wasn't at the beach in Gran Canaria having a swim after breakfast and going over the options in my head as to what to have for lunch with the family by the hotel pool, with possibly a beer in my right hand and a piece of chocolate cake in the other. Even allowing for exaggeration, we had the best family holiday ever. I learned that the greatest legacy we can leave our children is happy memories; which we left Gran Canaria with more than our share of. It also made me realise that I need more things that make me forget to check my phone - and swimming in the sea in the sun all day with my kids is just such a thing to render my phone and all it has to offer, entirely irrelevant.

This sense of paradise lost was brought home a few nights later when our beloved daughter slipped in the kitchen and banged her little head on the tiles with a thud, a sound I will never forget. It was a terrifying moment to see the person you love the most in the world - along with her little bro' - in such pain. The child had a massive bump on the back of her head. I drove her, like the clappers, straight into Temple Street Children's Hospital at 9pm.

I couldn't give the nurses, these ministering angels of Temple Street, high enough praise for all the hard work they do under very difficult circumstances. They were literally ran off their feet. The nurses did checks on my daughter every hour until the doctor saw her at 2am and passed her well enough to go home. At one point, my daughter and I walked outside the hospital to get some air. She spotted a cat and said hello to him. Twenty minutes later, when we went back out (please note: we had five hours to kill) the cat was nowhere to be seen. My daughter said she was sad because the cat "would be lonely on his own. Or maybe he has gone home to his mummy cat?"

We got home at 3am. Tucking the little angel into her bed, I realised just how important life is. There is nothing in the world I would not do for either of my children. Indeed, at around 2.45am on that fateful night, I promised my daughter that this week - because she was "so brave" in the hospital - that she could pick something she wanted to do and I would try to make it happen. Being a little girl who knows how to twist her daddy around her little finger, she chose lunch in McDonald's, a visit to the cinema to see the movie of her choice (Dumbo - she loves elephants) and to go to the Spice Girls in concert. It was her week and who was I to say no? And yes - we really really really zig-a-zig-ah loved the Spicies.

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