UNLESS he has young children, the 90 minutes between half-past five and seven o’clock of an evening are probably regarded by the average man as a period of relaxation and pleasure without equal.
But now that the winter holidays are in full swing, it is of the man with young children that I write today.
Home and family life is at its happiest when daddy is home after a hard day’s work, say the more sentimental of family magazine writers.
They picture him opening the garden gate grinning inanely as he hears the pitter-patter of tiny feet running down the garden path.
They see him heaving the youngest of his progeny to his shoulders and tousling the curly locks of his eldest. Inevitably the dear little wife is pictured standing by the front door from where she regards the enchanting scene and in turn awaits the home-comer’s embrace.
The sentimental author then takes us to the nursery where he (but usually she) shows us daddy sitting on the bed between his off- spring reading fairytales.
How different from fact is father’s homecoming!
It has been a bad day at the office and the puny intellects of his children seem incapable of realising it. How can the little brats be made to see the connection between daddy’s ill-temper and the bread and butter and noodles which they consume with such extraordinary bad grace at supper?
Who is to explain to them his neurotic aversion to all forms of noise, his complete lack of interest in the latest computer game thrust under his nose and the fact that little Mary down the road is giving a birthday party on Saturday next.
While pleading for a little peace, there is an appalling noise coming from the bathroom. The dear little wife has just ticked him off soundly for failing to bring home the bread and milk – which she phoned him about when he was still at the office.
As soon as he complains about the children, his wife reminds him that she has had them all day. As soon as he picks up his paper, there are demands from Junior or his sister to read them a story.
As soon as he goes to the cocktail cabinet to revive his spirits, he is ordered to drive back to town for the bread and milk.
Those 90 minutes from homecoming to children’s bedtime are surely one of the reasons why bachelors stay bachelors.
At breakfast, children can be amusing. At lunchtime, they can be tolerated and when they are asleep, they can be angels.
But if there is a father of young children who may have discovered how to enjoy those 90 minutes, then I suggest he has a duty to the world to disclose the secret without delay.