My wife’s away – but still our son refuses to make me number one | Séamas O’Reilly

‘Everything is fine here,’ I say on a videocall to my wife. I haven’t seen her for four days . I’m not even looking at her now, too distracted by that rectangle in the corner of the screen, which contains my own sleep-deprived face. I know images taken with a front-facing camera are never flattering, but this is ridiculous. There’s room to plant marrows in the bags under my eyes, and my jowels are so shapeless and blotchy, it’s as if I’ve sent away for a novelty bean bag in the image of my own face.

She’s in New York visiting Auntie Carmel and Uncle Todd while her dad and I mind the baby. She and her mum left carrying Irish biscuits, homemade jam and a generalised suspicion we’d have the house burned down by the time they returned. Sleep deprivation aside, I’ve actually enjoyed it. My son definitely favours his mum, and I’ve always been considered the Andrew Ridgeley of his parents. Nine months in, his face says: ‘Mum! I can’t believe you’re here!’ With me, it’s more like: ‘Ah, Mum’s friend, I hope you’re well.’ He smiles at her like his heart is on fire and at me the way you might while talking to someone whose name you can’t quite remember.

With his mum out of the way, I’d be the dominant force and he’d have five full days to see me as the fixed point in his sky, learning to treat me with the reverence and appreciation I deserve. I’d also get to show her dad what a capable and worthy adult I am. This is a subject on which I think the jury is still out. I’m sure my in-laws like me fine, but I’ve always suspected they think I’m a bit of an eejit. Not thick exactly, just one of those people you wouldn’t leave alone too long, in case they fell into the fireplace. I have a tendency to miss trains and lose phones, and this past Christmas I hopped into their car without realising I’d left my luggage at baggage reclaim.

In the event, the dad-grandad team was surprisingly efficient, and managed to avoid burning the house down, or singeing even one of my son’s thin, gingery eyebrows. I did nights and most of the day, with swaps to accommodate breaks for sleeping (me), Emmerdale (he) and watching Sky Sports News (both). But hopes that my son would come to regard me as the main event were tragically dashed. While always a fan of his grandfather, five days of close contact bred a powerful new zeal while his kindly ambivalence to me remained static, resulting in a sideways promotion from ‘Mummy’s friend’ to ‘that nice man who looks after me at night and then gives me to Grandad.’

My wife sees the funny side. In truth, she’s probably just happy the house is still intact. I rub the bags under my eyes, pass the phone to Grandad and pop upstairs to catch some beauty sleep. They’re still the George Michaels of the group, so I need all the help I can get.

Follow Séamas on Twitter @shockproofbeats


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