Having worked in the children’s department of a US chain bookstore (much like Eason’s here) I have had the displeasure of watching men and mothers alike ignore, neglect, talk-down-to, and disrespect the humanity of their own children in public more than I ever would have expected or cared to in a lifetime.
Being an employee, there was little I could do to intervene and it always filled me with contempt and bitterness for these precious little ones. Fathers would often leave their children alone in the children’s department to be “babysat” while they went and looked at the “grown-up books”, which often turned out to be VERY grown-up. Fathers on duty for the day would ignore the speech of their children and become exasperated when expected to play their part as a nurturer in the family unit.
Here in Ireland, I have had the profound pleasure of seeing fathers not only spend time with their children, but actually be mentally present and investing energy and care into that time. Hand in hand or on Daddy’s shoulders I have seen these pairs of child and father moving through markets, in parks, and walking on the streets.
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One particular father and daughter I have seen on several occasions. The first time at a museum discussing and carrying conversation together, another time exploring Cork City Culture Night hand-in-hand, dancing a waltz at the Ceili Mor together on another occasion, and once I saw the daughter ‘busking’ on Grand Parade with a penny whistle and daddy standing nearby.
I saw another charming father and his angel of a daughter walking near Paul Street shopping center singing songs together. It is a pleasure and a joy to see fathers engaging with their children as intelligent, growing, and valued human beings. These fathers aren’t just there as part of their duty, they are enjoying the company of their children and creating the ever important bond between father and child.
This is not to say I haven’t seen amazing displays of love and affection in the states or that I am ignorant to the fact that not all fathers in Ireland are responsible and kind. But, it has been a pleasant observation to see men at the height of their masculinity, acting as responsible and caring fathers. It is far more charming than any savvy pick-up line.
The commitment of a faithful, engaging, and actively present father is of much greater value to a society and the world as a whole than any amount of flashy cars, posh bachelor flats, and suave duds. And, so far, that has been my happy experience in Ireland. It gives me hope for the future of this crazy world, that these men are raising their children with love and confidence, who will in turn do so for their children.