Responsible Adult

“Hi yo I got plenty of time,
Hi yo you got light in your eyes,
And you’re standing here beside me,
I love the passing of time,
Never for money,
Always for love.

Cover up + say goodnight… say goodnight”

  • Frantz / Weymouth / Byrne / Harrison

Apropos of nothing our son Jake sent me a wee video yesterday of Phil Dunphy from Modern Family arriving home to be greeted at the front door by his horrified wife , Claire, demanding :

“What the hell is that  ?”

“It’s an Alpaca. I got the last one.”

Jake sent the video without comment.

“I’d buy that Alpaca.” I replied.

“I know you would.” He answered sagely.

Jake had been home at the weekend, bringing his friend Anna from Austria for a visit. Our daughter Robyn was also home , and the weather was great , so we had our dinner outside and regaled Anna with stories of times past and how it was really a miracle that the kids survived their upbringing.

Robyn told Anna how when she was only 9 that my Soulmate would send her with me to do the grocery shopping in Flemings …so that I’d stick to the list and not buy random shiny things. Someone had to be the responsible adult, and invariably , it was never me. After three weeks of Robyn taking items out of the trolley that I’d put in and replacing them with “ the ones that Mum buys”, I asked her if she would like a fresh donut from the bakery.

“They’re not on the list.”

“I know” I said, but I could see that she was wavering. “But they’re not really grocery items, we’d just get one each and eat them now. We need to keep our strength up when we’re doing the hunting and gathering for the rest of the family.”

Nothing tastes sweeter than forbidden donuts.

Robyn had joined me on the dark side.

The following week I  asked if there was anything in the shop that she’d always wanted to try , but that we’d never bought. She thought for a moment and then answered “Pop Tarts”. We immediately went to the Pop Tart aisle where the next scale was about to fall from Robyn’s eyes.

“What flavour should I get ?” Robyn asked , staring wide eyed at the Frosted Strawberry , Cookies & Crème, Blueberry, and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavours.

“Why don’t we get one of each ?”

“Can we ???”

“Of course !”

“What’ll Mam say ?”

“Well, if you get one of each, that’ll be one for you , Jake, and Elliott, but as soon as we get home , you go straight up to Mum and give her the Frosted Strawberry one, saying that you got her a present, and she’ll be so happy that she won’t even question the others…or the fact that they weren’t on the list.”

“Really ?”

“Yeah !”

And that was the last time that Robyn and I were sent , unaccompanied, to do the grocery shopping.

Jake told Anna about the Saturday and Sunday dinners we’d have with wide ranging and long lasting conversations that covered just about everything. These started at an early age. Around the time that Elliott, aged 7 , was making his First Holy Communion, Jake, then 11,  and I were discussing the Old Testament…as you do at Sunday dinner, in connection with Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

This prompted Elliott to ask about Noah’s Ark, which his teacher had been discussing at school on Friday, but hadn’t answered to his satisfaction his query as to how two of every animal could possibly have fitted , and how did Noah manage to catch two kangaroos , without discovering  Australia first.

Rather brilliantly, I thought, I explained that the Book Of Genesis was really like Aesop’s Fables, or fairy tales, in that they were stories that had been told for hundreds of years before they were written down, and that they were a way of passing on knowledge, or holding a truth, in an easily memorable way. They were very clever , but shouldn’t be taken literally.

Elliott nodded wisely.

The next day Elliott went to school and when it came time for Holy Communion preparation, and the teacher started talking about Moses being found in a basket along the Nile, he shot up his hand, and his teacher said “Yes Elliott ?” he proudly announced :

“My Dad says they’re all fairy tales !”

When my Soulmate went to collect Elliott that afternoon she was met at the school gate by his teacher asking if things were OK at home.

In 2011 the International Blacksmiths Festival took place in Monaghan. The town centre was closed off and 10 temporary forges were installed where artisan blacksmiths made pieces for a competition, and also each made a piece of the wonderful sculpture, ‘The Beehive Of Knowledge’ , which they left as a thank you for the town and you can see in Church Square, in front of the courthouse. They also showed the kids how to make horseshoes and nails.

In the Markethouse there was an exhibition of amazingly ornate iron sculptures that had been previous winners of the festival.

Jake , Elliott and I , wandered around looking at each of them, slightly ahead of Robyn and my Soulmate , who’d stopped to say hello to someone.

The boys and I stood looking at a wonderful piece hanging on the wall downstairs.

“What is it ?” Jake asked.

“It’s a very elaborate and decorative chastity belt.” I answered.

“ What’s a chastity belt ?” he asked.

“Well…in medieval times when knights were going on the Crusades, they would get one of these for their wife in order to protect her.”

“ It doesn’t look like it would offer much protection in a fight, there’s nothing to cover the arms or chest.”

“Well…it was to ‘protect’ a very specific part.”

“What ?” He looked at me quizzically.

“It was to stop her having sex when he was away murdering people.”

Jake went neon pink and hurried away.

Elliott pulled at my hand. “What is it ?”

“ Sssh , don’t say, but it’s a surprise birthday present for your Mum”.

Elliott turned and ran over to Robyn , and pointing back across the crowded Markethouse, announced “ Robyn,Robyn ! Dad’s getting that for Mum for her birthday !”

Birthday parties, Communion, and Confirmation gatherings at our house always ended up in a waterfight.

We camped out in the warehouse, and had midnight Nerf Wars.

It was, and is, wonderful chaos.

When the Liddy’s , the kids cousins, came home for their holidays, the chaos level raised exponentially. The holidays usually ended with a tournament featuring 10 events, a weird decathlon, that featured Nerf target shooting, who can throw a water balloon the highest and catch it, Chubby Bunny, where you put marshmallow after marshmallow in your mouth, without chewing or swallowing, saying Chubby Bunny, after each one , until you can’t say it clearly. And ending with the Nudie Run.

The Nudie run involved running the length of our garden and back to the house, wearing only undercrackers and a tee. Parents and kids all took part. One year we were all running , and screaming our heads off, when , in the twilight, a car arrived at our neighbour , Granny Rosaleen’s house. The cars headlights swept our garden and we all dived to the ground, until it passed.

Then telling the kids to wait until I said it was safe to continue, I gave myself a head start and won…as usual !

Glorys days !

My Soulmate and I divided out our parental responsibilities evenly. I gave them an appreciation for good music, with particular emphasis on Radiohead, Nick Cave , and David Bowie. I taught them a healthy disregard for authority, and a disdain for money…or at least for saving any of it. And have provided them with an extensive wardrobe of really cool vintage tees.

My Soulmate taught them everything else.

Probably for the best.



P.S. My operation is on Tuesday.

Author: paul

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