It’s going to be really difficult isn’t it? I’m going to get really upset'. ‘Mmm,’ I replied. I felt a sharp kick to my ankle and glanced up to see Mrs Canavan staring angrily at me.
'Are you listening?' she said.
‘Not totally,’ I confessed, lowering The Guardian. ‘I’m reading an article about a lost tribe in Peru who survive by eating only leaves, nettles, and lightly-buttered jacket potatoes.’ She snatched the paper and threw it on the couch.
'I was saying,' she said, 'how difficult it’s going to be tomorrow to leave Mary at nursery.'
‘Why, is the parking bad?’ I asked, confused.
She glared at me in a way I’d not seen since 2011 when I bought her an ironing board for Christmas. 'I’m worried what to do if she won’t stop crying. How am I going to leave her?' whimpered Mrs C. I told her not to be so ridiculous and that putting a youngster in nursery was normal, a basic part of a child’s development.
'Well in that case, you can do it,' she said.
‘Fine, I will,’ I said and she left the room while I picked up the paper and began reading about a former female high jumper who’s opened a vegan restaurant in East Bridlington.
So that is how I ended up being in charge of taking Mary – my 13-month-old – to her first day at nursery.
The night before, Mrs C laid out the outfit I was to dress our daughter in and packed a bag containing a spare set of clothes and Mary’s favourite cuddly toy – a deformed-looking duck that makes a sound resembling quacking, but could just as easily be mooing, when its stomach is pressed. 'All you have to do is dress her and take her and the bag to nursery,' Mrs C said. 'Will you remember all that?'
‘Of course,’ I replied. ‘Why do you insist on talking to me like I’m a useless imbecile?’ My wife switched off her bedside light muttering something that sounded suspiciously like ‘because you are one’.
The next day Mrs C rose early, gave me my instructions again, tearfully waved goodbye to Mary and went to work – her first day back in a year. I wasn’t in a great mood. Being in charge of getting our daughter to nursery meant I’d got up at 7.30am, an hour earlier than usual, and suddenly there seemed a lot to do.
I was in the middle of changing Mary into the horrific dungarees/jumper combination Mrs C had laid out when my mobile phone sounded. It was my beloved telling me not to collect Mary later because I wasn’t on the safe list. I asked what this meant. 'There is a list of certified people who can pick her up. I’m on it, so are our mums, oh and so is Bill the postman, but I’ve not got round to sticking you on it yet,' she said.
It means at the moment I can drop my child off at nursery but can’t pick her up. Odd, but comforting to know the correct security measures are in place.
'Now do you know what you have to do this morning?' Mrs C said, breaking my thoughts about child abduction.'Good. I’ll leave you to it. But you might find this hard. You might get upset if she cries when you leave her.’ I laughed hollowly at the ludicrous nature of this statement.
Finally I headed to the nursery where staff greeted me like an old friend. I gave my daughter a kiss, handed her over, and turned to go. Mary’s face crumpled and she began screaming. I stoppedand went back to her. She reached out for me with both arms. I took her and cuddled her and she smiled. Then I handed her back, and she immediately dissolved into tears again. I stumbled from the nursery to my car, sobbing, and rang Mrs C.
‘I can’t ever do that again,’ I wailed. ‘She just wouldn’t stop crying.’
I have now made Mrs C drop Mary off and am currently getting counselling for separation anxiety. It’s not easy being a hands-on dad.