The day my lovely daughter brought me to tears | Steve Canavan
I cried in bed the other day and am now worried I might be having a nervous breakdown. It would be a terrible time for it to happen, what with Christmas coming.I mean, if I’m going to have a breakdown, at least let it happen in January when there’s not much on.
What happened – although given I consider myself an incredibly butch man I’m slightly embarrassed to admit it – is this.
Mary turns three in a couple of months and has recently moved from toddler prison (aka her cot) into a bed of her own.
This is because, after at least a full year of promising, I finally got around to decorating the back bedroom. Actually that’s not entirely true. What happened is I continued to ignore Mrs C’s nagging for so long that my father-in-law eventually lost patience and came round to do it.
With the back bedroom finally decorated, Mary has made the move into what she calls her big girl room.
Because it is very different and much bigger than her previous room, after reading her a couple of stories around 7pm I get into bed with her until she settles.
Mrs C doesn’t do this. She reads two books, then flicks the light off and walks out. Mary inevitably stops crying five minutes later and falls asleep, allowing Mrs C to enjoy a relaxing night on the couch watching Coronation Street and exchanging messages on her ‘baby mum friends’ WhatsApp group. But I can’t leave my daughter when she’s crying, mainly because I am soft.
Of course, my daughter is manipulating me and, like a spider who’s snared a massive fly, has me exactly where she wants me.
First we play dentists, which involves me sticking my head under the duvet while she’s at work. After around 15 minutes of this, and as I’m rapidly losing the will to live, I tell her Wee Willie Winkie is outside. She’s genuinely scared of him and quivers under the covers at his very mention.
For a couple of minutes she goes very quiet and still – at which point I always, without fail, naively think ‘has she actually dropped off? – until she suddenly says, ‘tell me a story daddy’.
I ask what story she wants and every night – and I mean every night – she replies, ‘daddy bird and the chicks get stuck up a tree in the park’,
I have no idea where she has got this from but even the most inventive of minds would struggle to, for 43 nights in a row, make up a different story with exactly the same plot line.
This whole routine goes on for about an hour and 20 minutes before eventually Mary drops off.
Often I nod off as well and have, many times now, been woken by Mrs C hitting me on the arm at about 10pm, and hissing ‘you put her to bed three hours ago, where the hell have you been?’
Anyway, back to the very first line of this column and my sobbing fit. The other night, I’d invented three stories about daddy bird and the chicks getting stuck up a tree when Mary drowsily looked at me and said, ‘Daddy, will you still sleep with me when I’m grown up?’
To which the obvious answer would be, ‘well, no, because that’d weird Mary and the police would probably get involved’ – but which actually suddenly made me realise that one day we won’t have this beautiful bond, that I won’t always be the centre of her universe, that she won’t shout for me the minute I walk through the door and she won’t beg me to put her to bed … and I began crying.
I was in my daughter’s bed, a grown man, actually sobbing at the thought of her growing up.
I told Mrs C this quite beautiful and poignant story when I went downstairs. ‘Have you been drinking?’ she asked.
I’m not sure whether it’s embarrassing I cried or a good thing I love my child so much, or somewhere in between.
What is certain is that next time I put her to bed I’m taking a packet of Kleenex.