I can’t believe it has been a year since I took the momentous decision to leave my nine to five (more often six and quite often seven) to focus on the kids. Now that the September (or rather late August) return to school has been successfully negotiated, I have had some time to ponder what effect this change in tack has had on myself and those around me.
The first thing I have noticed about myself is that my tendency to turn towards, let’s call it indulgent (others may call it slob-like) behaviour is strong. I mean how could I have forgotten that tracksuit bottoms were so pleasant on the skin and that elasticated waistbands are so forgiving. These last 12 months have brought me back to a phase in my early teens when I totally rebelled against denim for some reason which seems hard to place now. My early morning decisions have gone from blue or white shirt to black or navy tracksuit and I don’t mean any of those lycra based efforts either, it has to be some form of natural fabric and preferably with a hood, yes I know that “convention” has it that I’m too old for a hoodie but begrudgers be damned, if I want to look like a hooligan out for a morning stroll, well that’s my prerogative. Although in my defense I haven’t gone full northsider and started doing the school run in my pyjamas or even gone full Homer and tried a mumu (not yet anyway). Shaving has become optional and at 7am in the morning with four kids running around me, the option is pretty much always no. Although in an effort to demonstrate to everyone that I haven’t gotten any hipster notions, I do tend to set aside five minutes of mid-morning shaving two or three times a week.
The ease of access to media is a constant temptation. I mean if I’m doing the ironing or folding clothes or preparing food, I might as well do it in front of the television, sure what harm am I doing (as he nearly chops off his finger while watching the second Ashes test match and dicing some carrots). I have also over indulged myself and probably traumatised my children in the process, with my dictator like control of music during the past year. The advent of wifi and the emergence of music streaming has given me so much greater access to so many more banging tunes than I could have dreamt of in my formative music loving years (teens and 20s). And in all honesty, who does not love 90’s dance classics being played 24/7 at high volume. When Ella (2) can pretty much recite the chorus of Mr Vain verbatim I know that I may have overdone it “I know what I want and I want it now!”.
I have definitely become more shouty than when I was in Bank of Ireland (open plan and loud voices were never a good match). For some reason, it seems that unless the decibel level has been increased to above 100 the boys will simply ignore what I am saying, they also seem to have developed a system where my first two requests are deemed irrelevant (like that character in the Austin Powers movie). I find that this means I have become completely immune to the effect that high volumes have on third parties around me. Quite frequently I will find myself shouting at the top of my voice “Oscar (6) be careful on that climbing frame” from 20 yards away while the whole playground turns to stare it me. Oscar will of course ignore me as he knows my powers of parenting are severely weakened when I am out in the open, but other kids generally seem to act with less abandon around me! At least I think that’s why the other parents tolerate me.
Being in control of my own food intake means that I have been able to further explore my affinity for savoury pancakes. I’m not sure exactly where this fondness began but I think it can probably be traced back to a Bank of Ireland “Enterprise week” which saw an actual farmer’s market set up outside the old head office on Baggot Street. One of the many stalls on offer was an artisan creperie which provided pancakes with ham, cheese, rocket and red pesto. Well I was hooked and now I am a regular at Drumcondra’s finest creperie, Le Petit Breton (the owner hails from Brest). Myself and Ella are always welcomed with a broad smile and while I have yet to convert her to the savoury pancake (she prefers a croissant with jam), I know that the seeds have been sown.
Not that I have constrained myself to pancake-only based fodder, I have learnt that Glasnevin, Drumcondra, Finglas, Santry and Phibsboro have many delightful places to spend time with my little lady. And that brings me to my favourite indulgence, spending time with Ella. Maybe it’s her age, maybe it’s because she is a girl or maybe it’s because I was working while the other three were in their pre-school phase, but I have to say that any moment spent with her has been the most rewarding part of the last year. So perhaps I’ll walk a bit slower on the way home so that we can chat about the ducks in the park or I’ll take a bit longer in the treat aisle of the shop so that she can tell me which are her favourites or perhaps I’ll read her another story when I know that the hoovering needs to be done (sorry Niki). The terrible twos are supposed to be hitting about now but so far we seem to have avoided it. The highlight of the week is invariably water babies class on a Friday where I get to splash / swim / play with Ella for half an hour in a lovely heated pool. This week after another excellent session I told her “Ella I love swimming with you” to which she responded “I love swimming with you Daddy”, I will forever be wrapped around her little finger!