Why I quickly regretted killing Daddy, says Matt Gaw
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
It’s the weekend and I’m trying to eat my breakfast while reading the Saturday newspaper. It’s a small pleasure.
The eldest comes in. “Dad, where are my football boots?”
I wave my spoon in the direction of the cupboard under the stairs and continue reading.
Seconds later the youngest pulls up a chair. “Daddy, I’m hungry.”
I ignore her.
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“Daaaaadddy, can I please have some more breakfast.” Then, apparently realising that a little more coercion is needed, adds a drawn out, pathetic “pleeeeeeeease”.
I amble off to the kitchen, slopping Rice Krispies and milk over the work surface in a rush to get back to the table.
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The eldest has returned. “Dad, I can only find one shin pad.”
“Oh for...” I mutter and stamp out of the kitchen to the boy’s bedroom, returning seconds later triumphantly waving the missing piece of kit.
The cat, who has spent most of the morning looking pointedly at me and then his empty bowl, has clearly chosen his moment. Sitting on my newspaper (and purring in celebration) he has lapped almost all the milk out of my bowl.
From the living room, where the kids are now flopped out in front of the TV, I hear them calling me. “Daddy, Daaaaaaadddy, DAAAAADDDDDY”
Something snaps. No more, I think. No more.
“I am not your slave”, I bellow, walking towards them. “From now on call me Matt. I will no longer recognise or respond to the name of daddy.”
It’s a stroke of genius, I think smugly.
By ditching ‘dad’ I have shed a tag that has turned me into a scurrying lackey – a dehumanised vessel for drink, snacks and TV remotes and all the other whinged requests.
The kids look at me quizzically. Perhaps, I think hopefully, they are seeing me as a living, breathing human being for once. I feel reborn.
They turn back to the TV and I return to the kitchen to wrestle the cat for the paper.
I feel like a parental pioneer, like Bertrand Russell. I am Zarathustra rampaging down the mountain: rejoice; because Dad is dead.
The morning and the afternoon are a rare wonder – gloriously chore and whinge free. I read a book, make coffee, have a really interesting conversation with the youngest about the Big Bang and watch the football scores coming in with the eldest.
My wife though isn’t having it so good. Halfway down the stairs after putting the youngest to bed, there comes a shout from the bedroom.
“Muuuuuummmmy”. She pauses. “Muuuuuummmy, can I have some water please”.
With a look of grim resignation she turns around and plods upstairs.
Twenty minutes later the eldest joins in. “Muuuuummmmy, I can’t find my torch!” She disappears again.
When she returns I patiently explain the errors of her way.
“You need to put mummy to the sword,” I reason. “Since I’ve stopped being just daddy, the kids seem not to rely on me so much. They treat me like I’m almost human.”
Warming to my theme I add theatrically, “Rise up! You have nothing to lose but your chains!”
She looks at me sceptically over a wine glass and flicks through a magazine.
Sunday starts well too. Even the cat seems to have some new found respect for me, choosing to stick his face in my wife’s glass of water rather than mine.
But by lunchtime the first reservations are starting to kick in. Going for a kickabout in the park, it feels weird when the eldest calls me by name in front of other ‘mummys’ and ‘daddys’.
Rather than pitying their shackles, their non-identity, I feel uncomfortable that they might think that my son is, well... not my son. With alarm I wonder if he also might feel that I’m somehow now not his dad?
Walking home I remember one of my old English teachers, whose son always addressed him by name. Then, as now, the sound of a four-year-old calling his tweed-jacketed father ‘Alan’, didn’t seem to be about mutual respect, it smelt more of authority and of distance.
“Oh no”, I think, “it’s just a small step away from ‘Sir’” – exactly the kind of institutional control that I have always railed against. It seems a world away from cuddly, safe old ‘dad’. The dad whose belly you can jump on, whose hair you can pull, who you can joke with, confide in, cry with.
That evening, my wife is again halfway down the stairs after reading a bedtime story, when the youngest shouts from her room. “Muuuummmmmy, muuuuummmmy, muuuuuummmmy.”
A flicker of frustration shoots over my wife’s face as she pauses, bracing herself for another tour of duty.
Before she can move I gallop past her, cup of water in hand.
“Don’t worry” I shout to whoever’s listening, “daddy’s coming!”