Thursday 26 April 2018

Brian, you'll have a ball living in a pink wonderland

As a father to two adorable little girls, Graham Clifford knows exactly the culture shock that awaits new dad Brian O'Driscoll

Brian O’Driscoll arrives at Holles Street maternity hospital, Dublin, last night
Brian O’Driscoll arrives at Holles Street maternity hospital, Dublin, last night

Standing at a car-hire desk in Dublin Airport last year, I noticed the young lady behind the desk blushing and tittering as she unfolded the written part of my driving licence.

Taken aback I asked sternly "Is there a problem?" She paused and held my licence up in front of me. The entire piece of paper was covered in pink glitter making the print barely legible.

It was a clear case of 'glitter bombing' courtesy of my two young daughters!

As Brian O'Driscoll will discover in the days, weeks and years ahead, little girls can be as mischievous as they are adorable.

When the eldest of my two girls was born in 2006 I have to admit to being a little shocked. Why, I don't know: the odds on it being a girl were obviously 50/50. But coming from a family of five boys, I realised quite quickly after Molly's birth that I was not accustomed with all things pink and fluffy.

In my youth the only thing I'd notice that was pink were the neighbour's pigs. Mud seemed to cover every item of clothing I and my brothers possessed so obsessed were we with football – and if I had to stay indoors, then toy soldiers, racing cars and the Subbuteo football games would be called for.

How times have changed. Today my house is brimming with pink prams, pink guitars, pink dresses, pink bears, pink cushions, a pink keyboard, pink buckets and even a pink toy cash register.

Indeed, over the last six years I've become something of an expert on princess apparel and now fully understand the need for 10 changes of clothes a day.

While our second daughter, Aoife (4), is less of a 'girly' girl, she can still be found wearing a tiara and fairy wings most days and somehow she's convinced our youngest, Aodhan (1), that he too needs to be equipped with a hand bag and wand.

On Sunday I persuaded both of our girls to sit down and watch Ireland's clash with England in the Six Nations with me . . . though within minutes of the kick-off they had decided they would be best employed making Irish flags and dancing around the sitting room singing 'Ireland's Call'!

I think perhaps they humour me at times pretending to be interested in their dad's obsessions but often using the semi-feigned interest to get an extra marshmallow or the latest Dora the Explorer magazine.

As Brian will also discover, little girls can bamboozle their 'auld lads' to such an extent that we become so wrapped around their little fingers it would take the fire brigade to unravel us.

They're bright as buttons, you see – not that boys aren't, but the latter are less adept at pushing the right buttons to achieve the desired result.

Aodhan will try to batter his way through a blocked passage to get to the other side – at his age Molly and Aoife would have thrown me an adorable smile and I'd have removed said blockage (usually a small community of dolls and their buggies) and thrown a cuddle and kiss in for good measure.

Another inevitability which may well befall the O'Driscoll household is the insatiable desire to dance. Brian will have even more reason to avoid injury on the field such will be the amount of pirouetting and jiving he'll be expected to do around the kitchen.

In the last few years, my girls have become slightly obsessed with the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing programme and I can hardly pass them without being forced to do a 'lift' or some other back-aching dance move of some sort.

I have tried to make tomboys out of them but so far I think I'm losing that particular battle.

In fact, I think the more I make them kick and catch, the greater the possibility of them wanting to plat each other's hair or apply some of their mother's make-up.

It's that difference between the genders which helps cement the bond between father and daughter I feel.

Even though he's the most versatile player ever to have donned a green jersey, Brian will still struggle when it comes to matching all of Sadie's clothes before she leaves the house, getting her hair exactly how she wants it, and in years to come he'll find it impossible not to embarrass her in public through no fault of his own.

Then, of course, there will be the issue of those dreaded boys.

Young Paddy O'Connell, son of Irish and Munster rugby legend Paul, has already been lined up by his father as Sadie's chaperone to her debs in 18 years' time.

If that comes to pass, it could end in tears if provincial rugby is mentioned on their big night out!

I have to admit I haven't given the whole 'boy thing' too much thought, though last year when Molly told me a boy in her class was chasing all the girls to try to kiss them, I felt a primeval urge to have a word with the young Casanova!

When the time comes, I may pass the birds-and-the- bees chat over to my wonderful wife . . . sure, I'd only confuse them.

The modern Irish father may be more hands-on and adept at changing a nappy but there are still limits to our abilities. For now, like Brian, I intend to focus on the cuddling and the caring of these little princesses.

The truth is that's all our girls want from us and no Grand Slam or Six Nations win will ever top that.

Irish Independent

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