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27th Feb 2015

Cúpla feckers: One second-time dad on surviving the first 8 weeks

Second-time dad and journalist Patrick McCarry on coping with two (under 2)

Patrick McCarry

“This Bloody Kid!!!!!!!!!!” 

February 19th and my wife, Cat, was in Dublin for a friend’s birthday. It was her first solo night out since becoming a mum for the second time.

I, on the other hand, through sheer logistical skill, had enjoyed plenty of nights out following the arrival of my son, Patrick, last December.

Eight weeks on and I would look after both children for the first time. Caitlin, as a dutiful 16-month-old, was off to bed by 7:30pm.

That left me with the little guy.

Whatever plans I had sketched out for the evening – Quantum Leap re-runs, pointless tweeting, last year’s tax returns, reading the Andre Agassi autobiography again – were heaved out the window. Patrick was not settling.

I must have skimmed through 28 different mood swings as I toured the young chap around the house and pleaded for a ceasefire.

In my lightest mood, I told myself, “He’s just a tiny kid. He has no clue what’s going on but if he’s crying, it must be for a reason.”

In my darkest mood, I called him a couple of names that began with ‘little’ and did not end well.

By bed time, we were both spent. Bed time lasted about six minutes. Our next round of negotiations took place in the dark. It was around this stage that I sent off the multi-exclamation mark message and an unflattering picture of a crying baby.

“Must be missing his mum,” arrived the cheerful reply.

By the time Cat returned home, we were both asleep but I, assuming, as always, that parenthood is a contest, roused myself and told my wife I had just closed my eyes.

“Welcome to my world,” she lilted as she located, in no particular order, her toothbrush and the bathroom.

Caitlin has taken well to being usurped as youngest child after only 14 months in the role. Like a pet she occasionally forgets about, she is prone to entering a room and proclaiming ‘Baby’ before patting her little brother on the head, then getting about her business.

She has picked up on the fact that a cry or yelp from her brother often produces special attention or food so she tried that out for a few weeks.

She has also developed a new interest in the two baby dolls that had previously been neglected. Her first instinct, upon getting back from a walk or a day at the childminder, is to load the dolls into her pink pram and take them for an amble around the house.

On occasion, she tries to snatch Patrick and toss him into the pram too. All attempts have been foiled thus far but tomorrow is a new day with new opportunities.

Patrick has proven to be a really responsive child and has been cracking out smiles and ‘goos’ for the past month. We are told that boys discover the charm offensive at an earlier age.

Breastfeeding is working well but it took a trip to the doctors – to resolve tongue-tie – and a support group for Cat to eventually make a wish a reality.

We find ourselves infinitely more laid-back with caring for Patrick than we were when Caitlin arrived in October 2013. A nappy change has gone from a 36-minute to 36-second production while the kitchen no longer carries the constant, rolling hum of sterilisation.

The one aspect of my life that has changed, although I hope not irreversibly, has been the Oscars.

In the past, I have prided myself on watching every Best Film nominee, and plenty of others in between. This year, I caught a grand total of zero. I did catch Interstellar in the cinema, last November, but Matthew McConaughey can’t win ‘em all.

We set the target of surviving the first six weeks any which way we could. Folks that mentioned ten or 12 weeks as being realistic goals for settling in were dismissed as thoroughly unhelpful loons.

We are now past the nine week mark and the night-time goings on are around midnight, 4am and 7am. An optimist would call that being up once a night.

One of our stand-out moments, as a family of four, so far was one of those 4am feeds. It happened in the back bedroom of my parents’ apartment in Ballycastle, Antrim. Feeling brave, last Saturday, we had headed north for a four-day holiday. Caitlin had been sick on the final evening so we had moved her travel cot into the bedroom. When Patrick woke, we all woke.

I lifted Caitlin up onto the bed and delivered a commentary on her brother’s late-night snack. We all caught up on our day and made plans for the next. At 5am we all went our separate, sleep-filled ways.

We like to think we are there, in their dreams, all night but we totally understand if they need a break, too, when they close their eyes.

Patrick is a Dubliner, now residing in the shiny buckle of the commuter belt (Sallins, Co Kildare). He is gainfully employed to watch matches and file copy for He has written and produced three plays and is working on a book about the first generation of Irish rugby players. Both he and his wife are happy with two children until, at least, the 2018 World Cup comes around. 

Rock of Dunmanse

Patrick and Caitlin having the chats