Don’t grow up like me

Apr 19th, 2009 | By | Category: Ministry

“Ian, don’t forget Miriam is in the house”.

“No, Best Beloved, I won’t”.

Would I forget?


Once when we lived in the bungalow that preceded our present house, our son, who would have been around fourteen at the time,  was lying on his bed reading. The front door was no more than 15-20 feet from his bedroom door and he heard me key in the intruder alarm code and slam the front door behind me.  Only then did he realize that if he left his room he would break the beam in the hallway and trigger the alarm.

There was a rebuke that evening – this was not the first time I had forgotten him!

Once, when he was three years old, he attended a play group for three mornings each week from 9.30 until 12.30.  One Wednesday came and I was preparing to drive to Downpatrick just after midday; the telephone rang.  I took the call, chatting amiably with the caller who was phoning from Co Wexford.  It was not often to get a long distance call in the days before competition in the telephone market.

After around ten minutes, the call ended, and I returned to what I was doing.  At 1.30 pm, an hour after poor Michael should have been collected, I suddenly sensed that something vital had been forgotten.

Flying down the road, the four miles to the town were covered in record time.  He had been taken into the day nursery adjoining the play group and was sat on the knee of one of the staff.  His duffel coat was buttoned, his hood up, his eyes were red and tears poured down his cheeks.

It was pointless to tell lies.  I apologised that I had forgotten and was handed a sobbing bundle with stern words from the carer.

A friend talked to me last week about children sometimes taking second place in some occupations.  “My children would agree”, I admitted.  It’s not just the days when I have actually forgotten them; it’s all the days when other things have taken priority.  When things have been planned, or things have been accepted without thought of what other hopes there might have been for the day.

Bizarrely, the one thing that saved me over the years was Harry Chapin’s song Cat’s in the Cradle. When the preoccupation with my own concerns was such that the most important people were forgotten, Chapin’s lyrics cut through.  Christmas and Easter might be lost, but no-one would ever be allowed to take away our month together in the summer.

“A month is a long time off”, said a person last weekend.  “Aye”, I said, “it is.  I’ll trade you two weeks of it for 104 days of weekends.”

Chapin’s powers of persuasion have worked in unlikely ways.

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  1. Nowadays it is not just the Dads who are kept away by long hours at work.

    I actually feel very sorry for children nowadays. But then I had a choice.

  2. Grannymar, The Irish Constitution says that economic conditions should not be such that both parents are compelled to work. Nor need they have been if the Government had not colluded with developers in creating a huge property price bubble. In a country of just four million there was ample space for affordable housing for everyone. Now that the bubble has burst, there is a danger of parents being at home far more than they expected or can afford.

  3. Lovely post, Ian

    I trust Miriam didn’t get forgotten! 🙂

  4. My life would not have been worth living!

  5. I forgot my son on his first day of school! For the first week, kindys finished at 12noon . .I found him in an empty classroom with his new teacher eating a pie that she’d bought for him. And I never thought about the trading weekends thing. . very salient.

  6. I was told it was only a bloke who could forget a child.

    Weekends would be a delight. This time of year loads of people head off to their caravans and cottages in Wicklow and Wexford on a Friday afternoon and return on a Sunday evening. We can go nowhere.

  7. (Off the point, but in reply to your twitter, which I can’t work out how to use). Never mind the meetings, Jesus would have loved Twitter. I love the idea that you have ‘followers’. I am in Chelsea, so am a proper Chelsea mum for the next 2 weeks.

  8. No, it’s not only blokes who forget the children, we are all guilty of that. The worse thing though is when you forget someone else’s child, I was almost home once from the school and had to race back to the kid who I had promised to collect!

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