Why won't my children take me seriously?
You have to wonder. Who ever let me be a father? I was never really cut out for it. I always assumed I wouldn't be a father. But you assume a lot of things when you're young and stupid and you're never going to get old, and you'll either never die or you'll die young.
When you're young and arrogant you think you'll never do anything as obvious as become a father. It's for squares. It's for other people. It's a really unoriginal thing to do. Everyone does it, so why should I?
And then of course you end up doing all these obvious kinds of thing. You get a job, you get married, you have kids.
I wasn't ready to be a father when I became one. I still remember the terror of sitting there looking down at her. There's a huge temptation to run away. You can see at times like this where the deadbeat dads are coming from. You look at it, and you think it's all too much, that you cannot be responsible for this. And I'll be honest with you, I wasn't feeling very bonded at that point. It took an hour or two for the initial bond. And then a year or two for the real bond. But of course by now, I am totally bound.
And in a funny way it's all come full circle now. I've spent years learning to take myself seriously, to take on this faintly ludicrous role of being a father. I've earned my stripes. I've wiped their little arses when I had to; I've been there for them through thick and thin; I've worked hard; given them food and shelter; I've been reliable, most of the time; I generally manage not to shout at them, unless they're shouting at me; I never hit them; I hardly ever let them down; I've made an appearance at the creche plays and the school sports when I can; I give them my time (because that's what people say they want now isn't it, your time); I adore them; I bring them with me on holidays; I try and dispense wise advice; I encourage them to try their best and reward effort rather than innate talent as you're supposed to; I try and push them a little to try new things; I try to teach them wrong from right; I try and give them skills to negotiate a world I barely understand any more.
So I feel I am entitled now to call myself Dad, and to not laugh. But it turns out that all along, as I was learning to take myself seriously as a father, they were going the opposite direction. They approach the whole idea of me being their parent with total irony. They actually sometimes do air quotes when they call me Dad. They are on the verge of calling me 'Dad, so-called', or 'Dad, if that is indeed your real name'.
The elder and I actually have a joke with the younger, who has great devotion to her mother. It's a catchphrase we say to her: 'Dad's your parent too!' I say a joke. But it's not really.
It's not even that they don't take me seriously as a Dad. I think they just don't take me seriously as an adult. There was me thinking I had actually started doing a convincing impersonation of an adult in the last decade. But it turns out, that with their kiddie X-ray, they can see right through me, and they know I don't have the authority of a real parent, like my Dad. Of course, a lot of this is to do with the fact that they are women. They are all women in my house, if you include my wife as well. So of course they won't take me seriously. This is just how it is, isn't it?
And you know what, I love it. I wouldn't have it any other way. I adore them, and I love to be wrapped round everyone's little fingers. I even enjoy it when I get stern sometimes and they pretend to take me seriously, standing to attention, and saying "Yes Daddy, no Daddy."
So last week they condescended to be nice to me on Father's Day and gave me treats, and then doubtless reconvened somewhere else in the house, and hopefully all agreed, he's not the worst really, and shure isn't he easily pleased, the poor fool.
Did you see his little face when he got his treats?
Sunday Independent Supplement