I have every respect in the world for parents. They do a very difficult job, 24 hours a day, without complaint (mostly). In fact, I’m about to join their ranks – with a baby due in the summer. It’s a very exciting time, and more than a little bit daunting. People hear of our good news then knowingly shake their heads saying: “You’re in for some fun” or “Get sleep while you still can” or, occasionally, “Run for the hills”. I’ve learned to nod, smile and not panic (too much). Perhaps the baby will be one of those rare children that don’t cry, likes a lie-in in the morning and is eager to change its own nappies? Perhaps.
As a writer, I often do my work in cafes and public places. It beats the four walls of my home office and I like being around people. I am, let’s face it, fundamentally nosey. I get the feeling that, when the baby arrives, I’ll be escaping to these cafes on a regular basis, taking the little one with me. Our plan is that I’m to be the child’s main daytime carer when my partner returns to work. The idea of being a ‘stay-at-home daddy’ fascinates and terrifies me in equal measures. So, I’ve been eager to observe other dads interacting with their kids – to see how it’s done.
Recently, I was typing in a café when I couldn’t help overhearing a conversation between a dad of about my age and his 6-year-old son. It made me smile:
The dad took a swig from his latte, while his son drank from a carton of orange juice.
Dad: This is nice.
Son: I’m bored.
The dad sighed. He looked around for inspiration.
Dad: OK. Let’s try and read something. You like reading don’t you?
He picked up his son’s, now empty, juice carton and read the writing on it aloud.
Dad: “Our juice is real. Never from concentrate.”
Son: What does that mean daddy?
Dad: It means, you know, that your juice… well it’s… ‘juice’.
Son: My juice is juice?
It was clear from the dad’s face that he wished he’d never started this.
Son: But isn’t all juice juice?
Dad: Yeah. No. Maybe. Some of it is made from ‘concentrate’ and some people don’t like that. Your mum isn’t a fan of concentrate.
They sat in silence for a few seconds.
Son: If she doesn’t like it, why does Mum say I need to concentrate more?
The dad had a look on his face that I can only describe as ‘defeat’.
Dad: Your mum says a lot of things son.
Chris McGuire is a Devon-based writer. He likes his juice without bits in it.
Find him on twitter: @McGuireski