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Down to the river to play


The Dad Diary
Edwin McGreal

I was told when Frankie was born about new dads putting on a stone in the first year. Sure enough, on it went. You have little time for even thinking about eating properly, never mind preparing decent food. You eat what you can get your hands on and know the takeaway menu off by heart.
But with the child not at all active, the only exercise might be pacing up and down the hall trying to rock them to sleep or, weather permitting, bringing them for a walk to get a nap during the day.
The dynamic changes, though, once babies become toddlers. They want to go everywhere, and you’ve no choice but to follow.
One of Frankie’s favourite activities at the minute is dragging you down to a small river 200 metres away from the house, where she will throw stones in to her heart’s content.
Any body of water she sees cannot be passed without throwing stones into it. It could be as small as puddles on the road or as big as the sea down the road from us.
Frankie is unaware of her limitations, though, and will try to throw stones into the sea from the road overlooking the bay even if there’s a 50 metre gap from her to the water. She wears an amazed look when she doesn’t see a splash.
The river is, normally, more in keeping with her novice throwing ability, it being a straight drop down to the water below.
Last week we were down by the river – Frankie, Éamon in his pram, myself, my sister and my mother – when, in the process of throwing a stone into the river, Frankie managed to hit herself on the head and send her favourite beanie hat into the water below.
It wasn’t the most fluid throwing action. We will work with her on that.
But she was distraught. ‘My hat, my haaattt!’ she wailed.
Said item was 12 feet below the bridge, caught on a rock in the middle of the river. I’d have been as well pleased if it just washed downstream because then you could distract her. If the worst came to the worst, you could just evacuate her from the bridge to the house, and she would forget about it once she found something exciting to do.
But that wasn’t an option with the hat on view in plain sight and likely to remain there every time Frankie went down to the river to play.
Nothing for it but climbing down and getting the feet wet.
The water was very rocky with plenty of slippy algae. For someone not too graceful on their feet at the best of times, it was a perilous trip. Thankfully the dry weather ensured it wasn’t too deep.
Somehow, I managed to retrieve the hat without breaking my neck.
Frankie wasn’t too concerned for me when I came out though. “Oh the poor hat, it’s very wet,” was all she would say. Never mind my wet feet and the soles of the feet reddened with all the jagged stones and rocks!
She better be careful, or next time the hat will be left there…

In his fortnightly column, Edwin McGreal charts the ups and downs of the biggest wake-up call of his life: parenthood.