My daughter has learnt a new word. And it’s killing me.
Dads are punching bags. Pack animals. Climbing frames. Fight stoppers. Principally, though, we’re protectors. If there are bullets flying around, we’re expected to dive in front of them. We are the family meat wall. Not that my wife wouldn’t take a bullet for our children. It’s just that, if a bullet was coming, I’d get the look, the look telling me that I should be diving in front of it first.
I’m not normally a very heroic person, but even I’ve become a slave to the protective Dad hormones. Ever since I’ve had children, my willingness to risk my life has increased markedly, from nil, to above nil.
In the park playground, my son and daughter are bouncing on the bouncy thing. Three youths are loitering near by. I’m tense as a coiled Liam Neeson. In my mind they suddenly turn on my family. I fight them back but they attack me with knives. I hold them for the police, take my family home then take myself to the hospital to be sewn up.
My wife sees me breathing hard with self sacrifice fantasies. “You all right, dear?”. I eye gesture towards the youths. “Why are they here?” I hiss.
“Because they’re twelve and it’s a playground?” She chuckles. I insist that we move on.
Later, my protection circuit leaps into sudden, frantic overdrive when I hear my eighteen month old daughter shout “Help! Daddy, help! Heeeeelp!” from the living room. It’s the first time I’ve heard her cry “Help!”. Every muscle in my body goes into Dad spasm. I bull-charge into the living room, literally ready to lay down my life.
She has dropped her toast.
I pick up her toast for her, dizzy with adrenaline.
She yells for help twenty eight more times, her terrible jeopardy ranging from her brother sitting too close, to her favourite telly program ending.
May not be life threatening for her, but the repeated blood pressure spikes have already taken days off mine.
I really am laying down my life.