As a writer who often focuses on parenting issues, I sometimes get asked to sum up what being a father means to me.
I could use a recent memory as an example. Last week I picked my son James up from school, as I do every day. He’s in P1 and I have my working arrangements set up so I can spend the afternoons with him.
On this day I had to travel into Belfast for an appointment, and I had no option but to bring James with me. The problem was it was a swelteringly hot afternoon and not one that either of us really wanted to spend cooped up in the car.
I sold the venture by telling him I would buy an ice lolly and he could listen to whatever CD he wanted as we drove.
He looked at me, and without missing a beat, replied: ‘The Santa CD.’
I hesitated and shaded my eyes from the high and bright sun.
‘Are you sure buddy? It’s not very…..seasonal.’
But he would not budge. It had to be the Santa CD or the whole operation was off. I glanced nervously at my watch.
‘Let’s go then.’
Fifteen minutes later we were in gridlocked traffic on the Lisburn Road. As the sun baked the footpaths Belfast looked as close as it ever would to a proper cosmopolitan city. Shoppers browsed in the expensive little boutiques and workers in sunglasses sipped milky coffees as they lounged at outside tables.
And in the middle of it all a battered, old Seat inched along the road, windows down, with ‘Santa Claus is Coming To Town’ blaring at full volume.
Yes, we got some peculiar looks, but my wee man was happy as he listened and licked, his ice lolly melting and sending lines of sticky fruit juice up his forearms.
Then another song came on the CD. It was The Twelve Days of Christmas.
James immediately sat up.
‘Daddy, this is the one you like to sing along to.’
‘Yes buddy, but I’m not sure this is really the moment.’
I looked at him. He put on that face, the one that he knows will make me do whatever he wants. I nodded.
And so it was. On the hottest day of the year, in the middle of Belfast’s busiest street, hundreds of unfortunate pedestrians and passing motorists were treated to a hideously out of tune bellowing of ‘FIVE GOLD RINGS!!!!’
And I didn’t mind one bit because my wee man laughed and laughed.
I know it is Father’s Day this weekend. I’m sure James will have made something at school to give to me. I’ve no doubt my wife Debs will have arranged a surprise for him to present. And it will be lovely.
But, the truth is, everyday is Father’s Day for me. I’m the luckiest man in the world.