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Dear Zoey: Welcome to the world. It's kind of crazy right now...

The Irish Independent's Kevin Doyle has just welcomed his first baby. In a heartwarming open letter, the doting dad shares his life lessons for a little girl born in the midst of a global pandemic


Daddy’s girl: Kevin Doyle with his baby Zoey. Photo: Mark Condren

Daddy’s girl: Kevin Doyle with his baby Zoey. Photo: Mark Condren

Daddy’s girl: Kevin Doyle with his baby Zoey. Photo: Mark Condren

Dear Zoey, welcome to a mad and messed up world.

This is a moment in history. Every generation faces challenges created by the previous one - but right now feels particularly scary. Even the world you were conceived in was a very different place from the one you have been born into.

In recent years Ireland put itself on a pedestal by voting for marriage equality and a Taoiseach who is the son of an immigrant. A once starved island that was making peace with the past and always looking outwards, we boasted about our open-mindedness and once again booming economy.

But 2020 has provided plenty of time and reason for reflection. For some, the measure of success seems to be to compare ourselves with our neighbours to the east and west. They forget that if the house next door is on fire, you're likely to inhale the smoke.

When I studied history in school, it always puzzled me how Hitler came to be all-powerful. How could people acquiesce to that sort of irrational and totalitarian leadership? In recent years we have seen the answer in real time.

The United States is turning on itself. I covered the election of Donald Trump four years ago and reported back that there was no middle ground in the land of the free anymore. "Words such as 'unity' and 'together', which we usually associate with election season, have been replaced by a narrative of hate and intolerance in this bizarre US presidential election," the story went. That was the day before the billionaire won and every day since has seen his new world disorder pollute politics.

At some stage, I'll bore you with stories of buying our first home while standing on the White House lawn or shouting questions at Trump about Brexit in Shannon Airport - but that's another day. He claimed the UK exit from the European Union will be "very, very good" for Ireland. In reality we are all passengers on Boris Johnson's 'do or die' clifftop tour of populism.

Our neighbours are having a moment. Measuring our own moral and social standing against them, not to mention the Covid-19 death toll, would be a sign that we are losing.

Even now the lockdown introduced to frustrate the coronavirus seems imagined. When your world is limited to 5km you have a much better chance of noticing the life inside it. People talked about coming closer together by staying apart, although that wasn't always true.

Joggers became more hated cyclists. Children were vectors. Older people scolded for not 'cocooning'. China lit a spark. Italian rugby fans and Cheltenham racegoers fanned the flames. Bulgarian fruit pickers and holiday home owners poured petrol on it. We were all in it together so long as there was somebody else to blame.

Eventually a moment came where the days where nobody died justified bigger headlines than three dozen deaths. Day after day families told of the cruel and lonely endings until many just became numb to it. Not out of lack of empathy but because there is a limit to how much national grief can be processed. It was easier to focus on first world problems like getting a haircut or a sneaky pint.

The sudden shutdown derailed all sorts of plans. Your nursery is now a home office and I'm claiming squatters' rights. We had hoped to 'dicky' up the house in time for your arrival. The deposit was even paid. Now you're going to have to move out so that at some stage the painters can move in.

But the battle against the virus came with intervals. We stopped for rare moments of unexpected everyday wonderfulness. Without lockdown we would never have followed the daily running battle between the blackbirds and the magpies. We took bets on which would pop first - your mother or the allium (you lost). Experts are back in fashion. Social media influencers have been replaced by celebrity scientists. Journalists were even considered 'essential workers' in a bid to combat fake news. And there is still a sense that it was the ordinary man/woman who stepped up when the country could have been brought to its knees. Some people used the time to learn a new language over the internet or bake bread. I watched videos of how to change nappies.

Inevitably we will fall back into old habits but the aftershock of Covid-19 will last. We are set to experience a second savage recession in a decade and that won't be easy. Very few things in life are easy. The good times always end, yet so too do the bad.

You'll get to see lots of moments in history. Don't let them pass you by. There was a world before wifi. I got 9/11, the Good Friday Agreement, a pope resigning, the queen's visit to Ireland. Weirdly there are many things we consider 'normal' that you might never experience, like high-fives or a buffet breakfast. I guess I should put the daily newspaper on that list too.

Hopefully in your lifetime you'll bear witness to a united Ireland, a female president of the United States and a genuine version of equality. As a woman you'll learn that life isn't fair no matter what the 'manual' says. But don't let that stop you. Education is the key to so many doors. The best power you can have is brain power. And when you achieve your goals, help others follow you. Only those who fear being found out pull up the ladder after them.

Things are changing so fast that life advice from the summer 2020 will probably be irrelevant by Christmas. But here are a few observations before I get older, crankier and more conservative.

1 Try to see the world because you never know when it might be shut off from you. From inside Gaza to outer Mongolia, travel has filled my senses with sounds and sights and flavours that the Google never could. I'll get you to 32 counties as a starting point.

2 Make time for friends. They will get you into trouble but the best ones will dig you out when you get yourself into a hole.

3 Know your limits. One of man/woman's greatest strengths is to know their own limitations. That doesn't mean you shouldn't push them.

4 Treat 'change' with cynicism. The word is easily misrepresented as the obvious answer. As we know from the climate, change can just as easily bring danger as it can hope.

5 Be generous. Everybody is carrying a weight even if their smile hides it.

You're lucky. Lucky to be born in a country where while we might not have the answer to all of society's failings, we at least acknowledge the faults. Lucky to live in a world where opportunities exist. Lucky to have a family that wants you to succeed.

You'll make mistakes. The big ones bite. But the stings from the smaller ones linger. Own them. Be humbled by them.

Live in the moment but always keep one eye on the future. The moment always passes whereas the future is there for the taking.

And remember, the underdog is everybody's favourite in the truest meaning of the word.

With that in mind, you can make almost all of your life choices when you're older except one: You'll support Offaly. We had our moments when I was kid but now we're close to rock bottom. You are young though and whenever they get to an All Ireland again, the bad times will fade into an epic story about keeping the faith. In most aspects of life, the stories of triumph are built on the defeats of the past.


PS: This wasn't originally written for publication but apparently my job now is to embarrass you. This is a first attempt.

Irish Independent