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  • "I never noticed the glory!" the workaholic father in the movie The Tree of Life says when he is made redundant and he finally realises that he has missed out on his children's lives.
    Well, I have (noticed the glory).
    I have been there all along the way with my children.
    There, when the three of them were born - so anxious about my first daughter's heart pressure, which rose like the Himalayas and fell like the deepest ocean in her mother's womb, and mine with it, that I never thought to ask the sex of the child until five minutes after she was born.
    There when each of the children took their first roll on the floor, and I danced with joy, even though my second daughter knocked her head off the settee in the process.
    There when I set my eldest daughter on the seat opposite me on her first train journey and she promptly rolled over onto the ground.
    (Yes, I have kissed more bumps better than I wish to remember, and called out "Bold table! Bold table!" more times than I wish to think.)
    There, when my eldest daughter, having just learned to crawl, disappeared out the front door on a dark November's evening, only to be found ten minutes later on the main road. My fault.
    There when they cut their fingers, and I screamed "Mummy! Mummy!", primordially, my mother being a hundred miles away in my hometown.
    There when they had dinner in front of the television for the first time, only to discover two weeks later that the unidentifiable smell in the room was maggoty broccoli that they had buried behind the bookshelf along with a host of stolen sweetie papers.
    There when my eldest daughter danced for the first time, in the heart of a major Dublin shopping centre, with hundreds of shoppers passing by, wriggling her hips in her nappy to the sound of George Michael blasting out from HMV, and there when she got The Most Promising Dancer prize for Irish dancing four years later and my heart flooded, and I went to throw my arms around her, and she threw me a punch, embarrassed by her effusive father.
    There as they fought with me day after day, defying me, like now, as I write this story, one of them begging me to leave the computer to check her home-work, another arguing with me about not getting into the bath.
    There when they drove each other spare with "Tell her to stop looking at me!", and drove me spare into the bargain.
    "No one gets training for the job of parenting," a friend said to me recently.
    "Well, I don't know about that," I said. "I got a PhD in Japanese and a PhD in Politics, and I also trained to be a Catholic priest, so, if you ask me, I think I am pretty well qualified for the job of child-rearing, involving as it does an awful lot of politics, a wing and prayer, and what seems to me like a lot of Japanese, for all the listening my kids ever do to me.”
    Oh, the glory of it all!
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