Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Dear Daddy

Dear Daddy,

The other day I was scrolling through Facebook (as you know I like to do quite a bit) and I saw a video that a few people had shared. This One. You don't have to watch it but here's the premise. It's an advert for Ariel (the brand not the Little Mermaid) based around a father writing a letter to his daughter. In this letter, he apologises to her for giving her the wrong ideas about how life should be. The video starts with her coming into the room, home from doing the food shop, her phone rings and she answers while juggling cooking dinner, tidying the room and making a cup of tea for her husband, who sits, not even caring, in front of the telly. She unpacks the shopping, does the laundry while juggling emails and laying the table. Her father aplogises for all this, for allowing his little girl to grow up playing house and doing all the work. He says 'It's never too late to change'. He heads home to his wife, the mother of his daughter, who he allowed to do exactly what his daughter does now, and starts to unpack his bag. When his wife comes in to sort out his laundry, he stops her, he shows her he can help. They do it together. The advert ends with the simple line:

'Why is laundry only a mother's job?'

When I saw this advert, dotted around Facebook, I watched it and I couldn't help but share it too. For all my friends and the people who know me. Why?

Not because the message is relevant to me but because it isn't. I shared it because watching it makes me proud to have a dad like you and I wanted people to realise that you do exist and that what you do shouldn't be deemed as unusual or odd.

For as long as I can remember, you have been man of the house. Not in the sense that you take control and watch over the goings on while everyone around you does what needs to be done (although you do that too in your own way, when needed) but because you do everything. Ever since I was little, you have been both home and away. I would often wake up at the crack of dawn to hear you getting up, putting on your suit and heading off to London. Into the city for your day at the office. Lawyering...whatever that means. When it wasn't mum's turn to head up to town, it was yours and off you'd go. That evening, you'd come home and the cycle would continue. Yet, that wasn't your only role. Yes, you always have and still do, work incredibly hard doing whatever it is you do...20 years later and I still couldn't tell anyone. Let's just stick to Lawyering because I like that word. Even now, 10 years after you supposedly 'retired' you're still going. Up and down to the city, London, Brighton, suited and booted, on the phone and checking emails. But that's not all.

Because at home, you're the man of the kitchen. Every day after school, home for the weekends once I started boarding or even when we went away, there you'd be, cooking up a delicious storm, making sure some was left for when mum eventually dragged herself away from her desk. Jealousy inducing meals that would turn friends and family green with envy. Every Sunday, no exception, a full roast dinner, be it Pork, Lamb, Chicken, Beef, Veal, Goose....the list is endless, not forgetting the roast potatoes...or is it mash this week or new ones...and a vast range of greens...and oranges...carrots, I mean. Every supper, something to look forward to, my first question on getting in the car: 'What are we having tonight?'. When it comes to pudding, you and mum share the talent. Be it, ginger puddings, crumbles or (if I'm really lucky and cross my fingers super tight) something chocolatey. You're one of two bread-winners in the family but you're head bread-maker...except the bread is never really bread, it's yummy chicken dishes or...basically anything that I can put in my tummy.

I mean...come on!
That's not all though because this advert was making even more points. It was linking women to the cleaning and the washing. The tea-,making. In our house, whenever I come home, when I wake up in the morning or when I'm just having a lazy day and on the sofa a lot, I am confronted with the simple word: tea? It's not really a question, more of a 'tea.' Full stop. The kettle is already on. You send me off to wherever I plan to go, the sofa or to my room and a few minutes later there you appear, a cuppa in hand. You're the first face I see in the morning with a steaming mug of caffeine to greet me and I shall always be eternally grateful for that. Especially these days when I'm spending many mornings having to rouse myself out of bed without one. Once I'm awake, I then wait the many hours before mum decides to greet the world at which point, she too, is provided with her morning beverage. I think both of us have said before that one day we'll do it for you...but until you start waking up at a more human hour, I think we'll have to leave that job to you.

No ponytail fortunately...just a ridiculous mustache...
Then there's the laundry. One of the first things you say before I unpack my bags is 'put any washing in the basket' and I do. That washing is then collected by you. Yes, you heard me right stereotype makers, my father collects the laundry, and you sort it, colours, darks, whites, and put them in the machine. Once they're done, you hang them up to dry, outside or over the aga and when that's complete, you set up your ironing board, and you're away. Some of my favourite evenings are those when you ask me to pick a film, something easygoing and preferably that you've seen before, so you can do the ironing while we relax in front of the fire. There you stand, one sheet, two sheet, t-shirt, knickers. Yes, that's also right, my father irons our knickers. We don't ask him to, he just does. Beat that. Into the airing cupboard they go and then it's someone's job, mine when I can, to sort them. Job done. Next basket of laundry...and so the cycle continues.

You run the house but you also run the garden. You have help but you're the one who gives the instructions. What needs to be planted where, what needs to be tidied where and what needs to be picked where and when. A daily vase of flowers appearing both on mum's bedside table and my own. I know you say that I probably couldn't navigate myself around the garden and I do know where you're coming from but I do see what you do. I do come and get you when the phone rings and I have to find you on the ground somewhere in the Kitchen Garden doing...something...and I do love the flowers in the spring and the summer. The garden is a triumph and everyone who comes over, agrees. Once again, the green tinge of envy appearing over the green of your leaves.

You see, we live in a world where even now, in 2016, it's still more 'normal' (whatever that means) for these things, these 'domestic' things, to be carried out by the women. They're at home, cooking, cleaning, looking after the kids while daddy is out at work. I grew up in a house where both my parents had full on jobs in the city but they shared the burdens of home life. Dad taking the lead, mum following close behind with her similarly yummmy concoctions and occasional use of the ironing board (if she really has to). Yet I see it everywhere. Living in Notting Hill at the moment but with many work experience weeks spent in schools both here and at home in Berkshire, it was a shock when I saw a child being dropped off or picked up by a man. If it wasn't mummy kissing their little one goodbye it was another female figure. A grandparent or a nanny, an Au Pair or a big sister. Women. The same women who would be back later to do the pick up and take them home for tea.

In my world. it's my dad who's standing at the gate at school, or waiting in the car park and it's my dad who takes me home for tea. He may have been a huge source of embarrassment when I was little when there he'd stand in his bright patterned embarrassing jumpers or, in the early days, with his hair in a ponytail with one of my hairbands. He may have led to a few questions about why my dad was collecting me...or on occasion my grandpa but...

I wouldn't have it, or him, any other way.

I love you lots Daddy, even if sometimes I'm not very good at showing it.

See you soon,

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