Romesh Ranganathan’s Guardian column today made me smile. Not so much the smile of humour, although there was some of that, but the wry smile of recognition. I recognised what he was saying. Secret Daddy’s I learned are the made up parents of children who don’t see enough of their real Dad. I had approximated to this very well.
Several years ago my then 8 year old son stuck a note to the shower door for me to find at 5am when I got in it bleary eyed. His note had hearts and kisses around it and it simply said "Dadi please take more brakes". I forgave him the spelling mistake as the message hit me like a train, right in the chest. Six months later I had left my four hour a day commute job and started my own business close to home. That was back in 2010. It was a turning point. While I still work very hard and quite long hours I can at least make sure I don’t miss important events and can help with my own children during the working week.
So to martyr points. The points you think you get for doing something you should or have to do anyway from your nearest and dearest. I’m ashamed to say I exhibited the worst form of this phenomena this very morning.
My wife had got up early to take our middle daughter to the meeting point for her Duke of Edinburgh trip this weekend. While she was out I washed up, tidied the kitchen up and hoovered downstairs - a daily ritual for her as the Lab is moulting like billy-o.
I was very pleased with myself. So when my wife returned and on my way out I said "you wouldn’t know I’d hoovered downstairs with how much the dog moults." Friends, it gets worse. I went on to say "I didn’t quite finish downstairs as the battery on the cordless Dyson ran out on me". The implication? I’d hoovered for a whole 20 minutes. Martyr!
Having read Romesh’s article the penny dropped as to why my announcement wasn’t greeted with a protestation of love or gratitude or even so much as a thank you.
Turns out that after 21 years of marriage I still have much to learn! The best I can claim is a win over secret dad but a loss over martyr points. Must try harder...
“He might want a secret daddy because you’re away so much,” she said. This, I felt, was an incredible move. Until then, I had been very much on the front foot during this exchange, but in the space of one comment I became the guilty party.