The Art of Being a Crap Dad
I have this recurring nightmare that I'm on the shortlist for the Crap Dad of the Year award.
Imagine the Oscars and then whip away the red carpet and set it in a dingy, smoke-filled bingo hall in New Jersey and you've got the idea.
The bingo hall is full of dads who have left their offspring somewhere en route but can't remember exactly where.
In the dream a couple of dads come up and make speeches about how being a Crap Dad is an art form, thank the director and the sound man and recall a tale about how they sent their kids to school wearing their pants inside out.
Crap dads aren't like some of the fathers I report on. Dads who smoke crack around their kids are Bad Dads - Crap Dads are something else entirely.
You know you have been rumbled as a Crap Dad when you drop your daughter off so late at daycare that all of the other kids are midway through their midday nap. The teachers can expose a Crap Dad at 20 paces with their piercing stares.
You make the situation worse by apologizing too loudly and dropping your keys, causing about seven babies to jump up in their cribs and start wailing as you head for the parking lot.
I wasn't that late today. But I was late enough that the rest of my daughter's class was already outside involved in a rather frightening pursuit called Water Play.
(let's face it. If most of us were lined up against the wall and blasted with a hose in all weathers we'd probably describe it as water torture).
But Zara seems to like it. Unfortunately.
She methodically put her clothes in her bag and put on her water shoes, ready to go to water play. She hung up her bag.
Then the worst thing imaginable happened. All the other kids came back into the building, wet with shining morning faces. Water play was over and it wasn't even 9.30 a.m.
"You missed water play, ha ha." they screamed. It struck me as a conspiratorial cacophany.
Zara crumpled into a heap. I muttered a few meaningless words of consolation and put an arm round her, all to no avail.
So I beat an embarrassed retreat thinking if I'd been an assertive parent (ie. a mother) I would have confronted the teacher, asked if they could do water play for five minutes longer and threatened to withdraw her from the daycare if she refused.
More than 12 hours later Zara's still talking about it, but she doesn't seem too upset.
Still I worry. What if in 20 years time she looks back on the water play incident as the point when childhood ended and early angst set in? Did Jeffrey Dahmer have a 'water play moment' as a child that changed his life for ever and turned him into the sort of guy who cut up people and kept their skulls in his fridge?
I hope not but I'm scared to sleep because the Crap Dad dream may return. What if I end up as one of those shuffling out of the bingo hall clutching a gold over plastic Crap Dad Oscar?