On reflection, it's about ambition


A DAD'S LIFE:And we’re still all here.

“Daddy, when you were young, did you know then that it was the olden days?” Mmm, yeah, well the olden days have just got another year further away. Years further still when you consider that the schools don’t reopen for another week and we’re ageing at an advanced rate in the interim.

So, to take us through until then, we need a healthy dose of positivity, reflection on the year that’s passed and the expression of ambitions for the one that’s just begun. Not easy given the circumstances, both local and national.

I ask the girls, “What are your best memories of last year?” Both of them: “Going on holidays to Italy.” Fair enough, leaving the country for sunnier climes is something most of us like to do and, right now, a little bit of heat in the bones could distract from the budget fallout with Christmas meat sweats still fresh in the memory.

Stretch your dole

Anything else? “I liked every Friday when school was over and I hated every Monday when it started again,” says the younger. “This year I don’t want to go to school at all.”

But you need to go to school, I tell her. Why? You need to learn stuff to help you get by in the world. But you do that for me, Dad. No, when you’re older. You need to be able to read and do your sums so you’ll be able to get a job, and even if you never get one of those, you’ll need to be able do sums to stretch your dole as far as you can.

What’s the dole, Dad? It’s money you get from the Government if you can’t find work. When you’re working, you pay taxes and some of that money goes to the less fortunate, who are on the dole.

So, why don’t you stop working and hang out with us all the time, Dad, and we can get the dole? Ah, see there’s the nub of it. I’m self-employed, which means I pay taxes but don’t get anything in return. No dole for me.

Dad, that doesn’t sound fair, I don’t want a job like yours when I’m grown up.

Then you need to go to school, and concentrate on maths instead of English. Y’hear me?

The elder gets in on the act. “I get so much homework this year I only have time to brush my teeth and go to bed when I’m finished. It’s rubbish. I’m not going back unless they fix that.” It’s true, I acknowledge, her homework does take up most of the evening, mainly because she has to get up from the table every 10 minutes, to play with the dogs, fix her hair, bounce on the trampoline, lose her shoes, fix her hair, start a new book, change her clothes, beg me for a pony and fix her hair.

“You’re so unsupportive, Dad, and you know you’re not supposed to be sarcastic to kids, it undermines our self-esteem.”

I don’t know where she’s finding those parenting books, but I have to lock them away.

More efficient

For now, I sincerely acknowledge that she has a heavy workload, being in fifth class and all, but that maybe she could make a resolution for 2013 to be more efficient when she gets home every day and concentrate on one thing at a time. She starts to reply that she is incredibly efficient but the response trails off because the new ad for Cillit Bang has come on and she likes pink.

“Right then,” an interjection from the missus. “What about you? Where do you think she gets the distraction thing from? You go upstairs to your office to work, but I don’t see us earning any extra cash from the used car pages on DoneDeal.”

Harsh, I think, every creative genius needs quiet time to allow the flow of ideas. My way of facilitating the flow is through the medium of Mercedes-Benz. I don’t say that. I tell her she’s blown her own new year surprise by spying on my internet history. The roadster I had earmarked for her will have to wait. Besides, I bet Roddy Doyle doesn’t get grief for checking out a three-year-old Alfa Romeo.

“You write The Commitments and we’ll see about that Alfa,” she says.

My positivity might begin to ebb away. I look at my family, two of them punching the head off each other over a Wii remote control, bless, they’ve gotten so strong, and the other hanging clothes up to dry. Shooting me daggers for some reason, just because I’m enjoying a cuppa. My family. I love their work.