The Dad Diary
Back in a more carefree time, in the summer of 2016, I was en route to a stag in Kilkenny when one of our travelling crew had to do a bit of long-distance parenting.
His wife was at home minding their baby, but one of their cars wouldn’t start and so the baby seat needed to be switched.
Switching the baby seat from one car to the other was not, it turned out, a simple matter. A few phones call later and our man had another friend on the scene, who he guided step by step through the intricacies of installing the apparatus.
It’s just as well we were going on a stag, because I needed a drink after listening to the instructions. Aisling was pregnant with Frankie at the time, so my fears were real.
I am not practically minded at the best of times – in First Year in Davitt College I lasted one week in Woodwork before the patient teacher kindly suggested that the subject might not be for me, and guided me out the door.
How on earth would I ever cope with baby seats, which sounded like they were designed to make a mockery of people like me?
One evening after leaving the childminder’s I had to switch car seats myself, and my worst fears were realised. The one going in was more secure, I was told. However, in order to be secure, you have to be able to buckle the bloody belt.
It was a contraption sent from hell. I must have been ten minutes foostering around with it, trying to buckle Frankie in. My daughter looked at me bemused and kept saying ‘stuck, stuck’.
Yes, Frankie, you’ll be stuck here all night if Daddy doesn’t solve this riddle.
Eventually I got it closed. Panic over, I could relax. How wrong I was.
The other difference with this car seat, aside from being designed by engineers with a twisted sense of humour, is that it is front facing.
Frankie has always been rear facing so suddenly she could see me, which was good.
But, also, she could now reach the door handle, not so good.
I didn’t panic. After all, don’t all car doors lock once you start the engine? As we drive, I tell her to stay away from the handle but there’s no real urgency in my voice. But, of course, I’m mistaken.
In the process of making sure, I reach back to check the other back door. Lo and behold it opens and I start to panic.
I roar at Frankie not to open the door. Frankie can’t help herself and keeps reaching for the forbidden fruit. There’s nowhere for me to pull in safely. The only comfort I have is that if she does open the door, there’s no way she’s going anywhere in her Fort Knox of a baby seat.
Eventually I find a safe place to pull in after what seems like an eternity of a journey – in reality no more than a minute.
I Google immediately how to put on the car doors’ child lock and on we go. Frankie oblivious to the panic, and me wishing I was en route to another stag.
In his fortnightly column, Edwin McGreal charts the ups and downs of the biggest wake-up call of his life: parenthood.