It started out I think as a game, but through it’s gradual insistence I then started to wonder and finally, like water torture, it started to hurt. It wasn’t a “funny thing children say” anymore; it had become unfunny and in my worst moments, cruel. I had been lucky I think to have been the favoured one once upon a time, but as our daughter cemented a lovely bond with my wife and as I became more distant through not being around during the day, there were little signs appearing, warning me to be careful with her affection, be careful with my presence, or lack thereof. She used to go bananas when I came home, after careering with joy at the sight of me, loving being lifted into my arms for a cuddle. But someone, and I think it should be me to blame, took a step back from this. I became perhaps too careful with her affection, looking for signs that might not have been there that my cuddles were not quite as welcome as before and holding back for fear of being too intrusive. I was left with tickling as the means of getting some physical contact and hearing her laugh. But eventually “Stop it, Daddy” was the cry. When she first told me she didn’t love me, I said it was ok, I loved her and always would. But it became a more frequent song, culminating in a frighteningly earnest, “Is it ok if I don’t love you, Daddy?” I said it was; that she must always tell me how she feels, what she’s thinking, feeling myself like the grown-up, not wanting to show her I was upset. But of course I was. What else was I to say? No, it’s not ok actually?
This worried me and left me feeling outside her circle of love. I brought this up at the WAF get-together and, lovely supportive people that were there that night, felt comforted after sharing my concerns.
And they were right. One night after reading the made-up hand book stories a mish mash of Frozen and Brave – odd worlds that Walt et al would not recognise – as she lay there eyes closed, apparently asleep, she reached her hand over, placed it on my arm, stroked me for a while and said, “I do love you really, Daddy.”