herald

Sunday 19 August 2018

Nice try, but I'm watching the rugby

Being a stay-at-home father is against nature. We evolved to be hunters. That nameless dissatisfaction and/or rage I sometimes get is down to the fact that I haven't killed and eaten a wild boar in oh, ages.

You have to assert your manhood in other ways. So if there's a match on that I want to see, I watch the match. This doesn't sound like much but, believe me, it takes a bit of doing in our house. So on Saturday afternoon, I put the telly on, to shouts of approval from the children. When they realised I was actually putting on the match, they became quite irate. Conor, who's two, stood in front of the box, scowling and saying something in Swahili, which, loosely translated, meant "Cartoons, you old codger. Now".

"I'm watching the match." I said. That's it. No further explanation. No tenderness, no snacks, nothing. I want them to understand when Dad is watching the match, he is not their father anymore.

Ten minutes in, I hear Annie calling from the next room. "I want a cheesy toast." I ignore her, so after a few more shouts, she gets up and comes in to me. She has her hands on her hips and is frowning severely. "I want a cheesy toast," she says.

I don't take my eyes off the screen. "I'm watching the match," I say.

"But I'm hungry," she says.

"I'm watching the match," I repeat.

"I'm starving!"

"I am watching the match."

She storms off.

Mike is next. "You know the yellow guy with the things on his eyes?" He's talking about one of his action figures. I tell him that I'm watching the match. "I can't find him." He says. "Will you lift up the sofa?"

"I'm watching the match," I tell him.

Conor wanders in. He is the most intuitive of the children. He has sensed that there's no one in control anymore. He's stripped to his nappy, which I can tell from sniffing the air is full of something unpleasant. He's got a bag of caster sugar and a spoon. For the first time, I drag my eyes from the screen. He gives me a look which says "You didn't see me, right?"

"I'm watching the match," I tell him.

Then, would you believe it, the doorbell rings. Is there some kind of conspiracy going on? I wonder.

The children have trooped out and are opening the door, and I feel I better do something. So without getting up, I lean over and can see there are two honest-to-Jaysus canvassers at the door. And sweet mother of God, they're Fianna Failers. Have these guys got some kind of death wish? "I'm watching the match!" I shout.

They shuffle off. The children close the door. I settle back into the couch again. There are no dead boars but I'm starting to feel a little better about myself.

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