Last night I dreamt I went to work again.
It felt surreal, as if I’d returned somewhere I’d once visited a long, long time ago, in a reverie perhaps or a past life.
But as it turns out it wasn’t merely a dream; I genuinely was back at work yesterday. Today too. And I’ll be there tomorrow. Only I’m having a little trouble coming to terms with this after spending a thoroughly life-affirming five months at home with my two girls, a period during which I categorically shelved the day job.
This week though I’ve been thrust back to reality with an eye-watering bang. Admittedly the impact was cushioned since my first day back took the rather gentle form of an offsite-cum-team-building day, however the shock was still akin to a Glasgow kiss.
My response to returning to the office begs the question: has being at home made me work shy? Is it right that the very thought of work causes me such anguish? Should the word really strike me like a four-letter Anglo Saxon curse?
It’s not that I take particular issue with work; I’m not yet a candidate for Benefits Britain. It’s simply that I now realise what I’m missing when I’m there.
Yet I should try to be positive. I should follow the example set by Lola, my eldest, who’s been singing Whistle While You Work on a constant loop since the start of the month, accompanying the jaunty ditty with some remarkably adept whistling.
The whistling is a new thing and we’d been wondering where she’d learned it. Turns out she was taught it at school. Things have changed since my day. It must have only recently made it onto the curriculum. One of Gove’s innovations no doubt.
She’s already better at it than I am. Whistling was never my forte. I sound like a chaffinch in a stranglehold. I’m such a thoroughly incapable whistler that Lola has taken it upon herself to train me in the art (“Put your mouth in an ‘o’ and blow, Daddy. No not like that, like this.’)
So, through a combination of ineptitude and disinclination, you won’t be surprised to hear that over the past couple of days I haven’t been whistling while I’ve worked.
I feel another Disney reference is called for here, after all there’s little that can’t be explained by means of a Disney reference (you can tell I’ve spent the last five months with two young children). Specifically Lola’s favourite live action Disney film Mary Poppins.
She had it on a couple of weeks ago (allowing Wreck-It Ralph the very briefest of reprieves) and I drifted in towards the end to witness Dick Van Dyke (aka Bert the Chimney Sweep) imparting the following sage words to Mr Banks in his best cockerney accent:
When your little tykes are crying, you haven’t time to dry their tears
And see their thankful little faces smiling up at you
‘Cause their dad, he always knows just what to do
You’ve got to grind, grind, grind at that grindstone
Though childhood slips like sand through a sieve
And all too soon they’ve up and grown, and then they’ve flown
And it’s too late for you to give – just that spoonful of sugar to ‘elp the medicine go down.
Ne’er truer words spoken. If you don’t know the scene, I can confirm that it’s particularly heartrending for someone who’s on the verge of leaving their kids at home to return to work (and, like Mr Banks, at a bank no less). I came close to welling up which isn’t a response I’d ever have expected Dick Van Dyke to elicit from me.
On a different but not unconnected note, several people have enquired whether my return to work will sound the death knell for Dad vs Daughters. Whether they asked this because they think I’ll no longer have the time or because I’ll find it difficult to write about the girls when I’m not with them all day or simply because they sense that I’ve used up all of my best jokes I don’t know.
Well to these people: never fear. I may be back at work but we haven’t put the girls out for adoption meaning my source material hasn’t gone anywhere.
It’s been upsetting enough to return to work without also constructing a pyre on a longship, sticking the blog atop it and casting the whole lot out to sea on a final flaming voyage to Valhalla.
In short, my time off may sadly be over but Dads vs Daughters isn’t yet.
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