The other day I was giving Little Proclaims a bath. I say ‘giving her a bath’, but these days my main function is to get the water to the right temperature and then hover in the background while she plays with her plastic ducks. It’s certainly not an unpleasant part of the evening but I often find myself drifting off into a reverie until the moment when my daughter decides she has had enough of bath time and wants to ‘see Mummy’. I then evacuate her from the tub, dry her off, and send her off to ‘see Mummy’ who is responsible for the next part of, what is quite an extended, bedtime routine.
Anyway I was particularly lost in one such reverie, and feeling slightly maudlin. This might be due to the never-ending pandemic, but it was also a little bit of me feeling sorry for myself about where I am in life. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty to be grateful for, not least my wife and child. I also have a stable and solid career, a roof over my head and a car which, though decidedly uncool and far too beige, is pretty reliable. But I don’t love my job, it’s purely a thing I do to pay the bills and while I have enough money to get by, the few days before pay day can be pretty nerve-wracking affairs each month. I like to believe I’m reasonably good at what I do but I probably have plateaued a bit career wise. It’s all fine and I know I’m lucky to have a job at all in these troubled times, let alone one that allows me to pay all my bills in a timely fashion but sometimes I wonder if perhaps there might just be a bit more to life.
Of course it’s all bit ‘first-world’ problemish and I shake it off pretty quickly and remember that I have beer in the fridge and batman slippers and a website that enjoys tens of visitors on a daily basis. So life could be much worse. But these moments of self-doubt do occur when I’m left with my own thoughts for too long. And as I was pondering life’s great injustices at bath time the other night, I caught my daughter’s eye. She looked at me and, with genuine sincerity, she said “I want to help you daddy.”
And I was moved. That my little girl, my baby daughter, could have so much insight at such a tender age. But there she was, looking into my very soul and telling me that she wanted to make things better. And I wanted to rush over and pick her up and hug her and tell her that no, she doesn’t need to help me, that her very existence is enough to make me forget the perfunctory problems of everyday life and remind me that I am, quite probably, the luckiest human alive. And that it’s my job to love and support her through life’s challenges and not the other way around.
But as I wiped the tears from my eyes and struggled to contain the wave of emotions engulfing me, I remembered something.
My daughter is two.
She can speak, of course, and indeed is quite precocious in many ways. But she does sometimes get her words jumbled up. And often she says the opposite of what she means. For example she regularly informs me that she is going to change my nappy. Which, I can assure you, has not been necessary for a number of years.
And so, as she sat there in the bath, holding a plastic duck that had spilt into two parts, she was not, in fact, telling me that she wanted to help me, but that she wanted me to help her. To fix her duck.
So I gave her a kiss and fixed her duck.