Will she get over being forgotten?
I forgot to pick Annie up. She was left standing outside the school in the rain last Monday. She held it together until I got there, then she broke down. Between sobs, she told me she had waited and waited and waited while all the other parents came and picked their children up. Then when I didn't come, she went back inside and one of the teachers set her up beside the window to look out for me. I gave her hugs and bundled her into the car beside her brothers.
Oh boy. What do you do when you let your kid down? Do you blame someone else? Your wife? God? Her brothers? Do you pour ice cream down her throat and swear it'll never happen again? Do you tell her to get a grip? I mean, after all, I was five minutes late.
We're not back in the routine yet. It was only the third day back to school. I'd picked Conor up from the childminder at 1.45pm, then went to get Mike from Infants at 2pm. So there's this really tight turnaround time to get some food into them before it's time to collect Annie. I was making pancakes which Conor was refusing to eat when Mike goes: "Where's Annie?"
Aaaargh! I picked them both up, fired them into the car and tore off to the school, and there stood Annie in the rain.
Only that morning, I'd been congratulating myself on what a wonderful father I was. The night before, they'd asked me to tell them a story, so I told them a long story which was essentially about Willy Wonka. I'm always doing that. Anytime they want a story, I just rip off others and pass them off as my own. When they grow up, every film they ever see, from ET to Reservoir Dogs, is going to seem vaguely familiar. Anyway, they were going on about what a wonderful story it was next morning. I got lots of hugs and told I was the best daddy in the world. Then I leave my kid standing crying in the rain.
So I apologised, said it was all my fault, and explained about the routine. I thought about promising her that it would never happen again, but decided against it. People, even parents, are sometimes five minutes late, right?
So I told her that sometimes -- hardly ever, but sometimes -- I'd be a bit late because that's the way it is. There's traffic and punctures and kids who won't eat their pancakes. And it might happen that you'll have to wait a little, but someone will ALWAYS show up.
She was fine after about half an hour, but what bothers me is how this little experience is going to get processed. The kid has a brilliant memory and like all Irish women, a great affinity for bad news. Are we going to have the time daddy forgot me blurted out on a psychiatrist's couch in 10 or 15 years' time?
I picture the therapist, pad on her lap, making a little note. Dad = useless. And then circling it with her black biro. 'Cos it's all about me, you know.