The Casual Father: Tears without mummy

Michael Steward

Michael Steward - Credit: Archant

“I’m meeting the girls tomorrow night for a few cocktails.” I received my wife’s words with a certain trepidation.

It wasn’t anything to do with where her evening may take her after a couple of mojitos, it was everything to do with the length of time I would be spending with Elizabeth... alone.

I have taken my daughter out in the pram to get her off to sleep a few times and I’ve held the fort while the wife does the food shop, but this was different. This was a full evening of being in charge of a three-and-a-half-month-old baby, with no outside assistance.

As I have enjoyed more than one night out during Elizabeth’s short life so far, I welcome the wife’s first outing to the local cocktail bar. I also try to act as cool as I possibly can so that she doesn’t worry about all the things that could possibly go wrong on my watch.

“No problem, you enjoy yourself. Say hello to the girls for me,” is what I say, as the wife examines my face for an insight into my thoughts.

What I’m thinking is along the lines of lots of swear words one after each other.

But she obviously buys it as she says very little about the situation before closing the door on Elizabeth and I the following night.

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Either she trusted my parenting completely, or she was just desperate for a few drinks. Might have been a bit of both, but either way, Elizabeth and I face a Friday night in with no mummy.

Buoyed by Elizabeth’s recent 7pm to 10pm sleep pattern, I’m hopeful that run of form will continue, and things do start well.

She takes the bottle and is sound asleep in the Moses basket close after 7pm. Patting myself firmly on the back, I even consider sending the wife a text to brag about how well the evening is going.

But Elizabeth manages to bring me down a peg or two when she starts to stir after about 20 minutes. Half an hour later and my cocky smile has been replaced with the kind of uneasy expression worn by that Mexican drug lord being interviewed by Sean Penn.

Another half hour of relentless screaming after that, and I’m reaching for my mobile phone to prematurely call an end to the wife’s evening. Pride kicks in, and I continue to try all the same things that haven’t worked so far.

Rocking, feeding, walking, playing, the hairdryer app, nothing is doing it for the little girl. And with her squeals now reaching the level the wife and I refer to as DEFCON 1, my only choice is to pick up the mobile.

Just as I’m about to hit send on the “I need help” text, I spy the trusty old guitar sitting in the corner of the room. It’s a long shot, but surely it’s worth a punt. A few chords in and, remarkably, it works, she stops crying!

For three whole glorious minutes.

After that, she decides she doesn’t like the next tune and we’re back at DEFCON 1.

Begrudgingly, this time the text does out, and the wife says she is on the way back anyway.

“How was it?” asks the wife, with a devious smile on her face as she rocks baby to sleep within about 30 seconds of getting home.

I offer no answer, but the way in which I was sprawled out on the couch with my hands clasped over my face sort of gave it away.

My advice on this one – lock your wife or partner in the house.