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  • "Are we going to Dollymount Park today?" my eldest daughter asks.
    My wife and I are taking some English friends on a tour of Dublin.
    "No, we're going to Dollymount Strand," I say.
    "Is that near where you and mummy went to marriage counselling?" she asks.
    "No," I say. "That wasn't Dublin. That was Kildare."
    Our friends are in shock. They find it hard to believe that our children know that we went to marriage counselling.

    Dollymount Strand is beautiful even on a stormy day, like today. The second the sand dunes come into view, my eldest daughter asks me to play 'chasies' with them, as of old. I reluctantly say "Yes", for my back isn't what it was when we last played here five or six years ago, when only two of the children were mobile, and the baby was in nappies.

    The three of them scatter like rabbits. I give chase, pursuing my middle daughter first. Before long, however, I am puffed and opt to hide among the reeds. When she comes close, I leap up. She bolts at the sound of my laughter which I find impossible to repress. I am a child again.

    Next, I chase my youngest daughter. Am I really this old, I am thinking, as she gallops away from me? Yes, I am. Parenting has taken its toll on me - carrying a child on each hip in the early days. I decide to hide in a crevasse and lie in wait. She strays close. I pounce. "Pause!" she shouts, crossing her fingers at me. "I need a drink." I hand her her bottle of water, then lunge at her. She recoils. "Only joking," I say. She smiles, drops the bottle and is gone again within seconds. "Time for a break," I say, knackered. I buy them off with the promise of hot chocolates in a nearby café.

    "Do your kids know everything about you?" my friend asks as soon as we take our seats in the café.
    "Well, not everything, but most things," I say.
    He looks surprised. He and his wife tend not to tell their children much.
    "Look!" I begin, pointing at my youngest child, who now has her nose stuck in a hot chocolate crowned with marshmallows. "If it wasn't for marriage counselling, she wouldn't be here. It's a beautiful part of her story. I couldn't imagine life without her. We were one of the lucky couples who worked things out," I say.
    "So, basically, there is no need for people to hide from their kids, is that what you are saying?" he asks.
    "Well, you could say that. Of course, if you're fifty-three, you're in the sand dunes, you're puffed and your legs won't carry you - well, that's a different story," I say.
    He laughs loudly.
    My youngest looks over at us. "Daddy," she says, "Don't write anything about me in your Irish Examiner newspaper column this week. It's my sisters' turn."
    Well, I don't quite tell her - the little girl dressed in black in the above photo - everything, for this story appeared first in the Examiner.
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