Happy Father’s Day to all you Dads out there. I wonder how the kids (little and large) are treating you. I hope you are all being royally spoiled and (for the reflective among you) wondering exactly what it is that
makes a “good” father and how you measure up.
Way back when Our Foursome were littl’uns, Mr B was very much the Hunter Gatherer - it was
what was expected of a father in those days. In one respect, however, he did foretell the evolution of the modern dad by being present for the births of all four of our children. Not for Mr B any pacing of hospital corridors, he wanted to be there every step
of the way. Okay, there was the memorable time at the birth of Youngest of the Darling Daughters when he and the midwife were engaged in a conversation about a popular TV serial of the day called The Onedin Line. Our midwife had been watching the latest episode
when we summoned her and asked if we thought it would be okay for her to watch to the end before she grabbed her midwife’s bag and hastened to my side. I was an old hand by then, onto my third birth, so I was pretty sure I could wait on her attendance.
“The saddest episode,” she confided to Mr B over my prone body, “was when Anne Onedin died...” A sudden, fearful hush fell over the bedroom as midwife
and Mr B, at one and the same moment, remembered that the fictional Anne Onedin died in childbirth. The silence was only broken by my giggles, high as I was on gas and air....
When the Eldest of the Darling Daughters was born, it was almost unheard of for fathers to be present at the birth but there was no keeping Mr B away from the action. Having been adopted as a baby, this first-born child was the first person of his own
blood that he had ever known. To father someone who inherited his DNA, who might very likely resemble him in looks and / or personality - well, that was the most special of special moments.
All the time Our Foursome were growing up, Mr B worked long and hard to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table, clothes on our backs. As well as working nights, he would earn extra money by gardening for neighbours (he really,
really hated gardening) and selling fresh farm eggs from door to door. My job was to keep the home fires burning. It was how things were - we were a team and he was the leader of his little tribe.
Despite the draining tiredness of working nights, there were some paternal duties he would never shirk. A lover of All Things Sporting, he took enormous pleasure in our sporty children, ferrying them to endless netball, football
and hockey matches, athletics meetings and the like, however tired he might be. Every Saturday, dragging himself from bed on just a couple of hours sleep after the Friday night shift, he would take all four to Film Club in the village hall - a weekly highlight
for all the village children and one he was determined his own off-spring would not miss. Many was the session he fell asleep on one of the hard chairs while the youngsters all around him whooped and cheered the action on the big screen.
It was a source of pride to both of us that our children should always, but always, be smartly turned out for school. I sewed their summer dresses, knitted their winter cardigans
- Mr B cleaned their shoes. Each and every night, without fail. The Foursome’s shoes demonstrated their personalities - those belonging to the Eldest of the Darling Daughters needed least elbow grease while those belonging to the Youngest of the Darling
Daughters were almost as well kept. The shoes of the Middle of the Darling Daughters required serious attention to bring them back to a state acceptable to her fastidious father while the least said about the scuffed and scarred shoes belonging to Our Boy
the better. Our children had the best, the shiniest, shoes of any child at Staplehurst Primary School, thanks to their Dad.
Fatherhood is four pairs of shiny shoes...