COLUMN: 'Without third lockdown and Level 5 restrictions my son might not recognise me'

Darren Hassett writing in this week's Nationalist

Darren Hassett


Darren Hassett


PARENTING: That time when he kept escaping from his car seat

File photo

With everyone going back to work on January 4 of this year, the National Public Health Emergency Team made it clear that where possible; people were to work remotely.

The Christmas surge was only just beginning and with people having largely mixed with other households over the holidays, the health professionals were concerned with the probability cases could spread in the workplace.

On Sunday evening, January 3, I had my shirt, pants, jacket, shoes, socks and belt all picked out for work the following morning.

I had worked remotely over Christmas, along with the rest of the team, to get the holiday editions out, so it wasn’t quite as severe a “back to work” as other professions.

When I heard the warnings from Nphet and their advice on the workplace, I packed my clothes away, and pulled out the sweatpants and set up the computer in the utility for the next morning.

It wasn’t worth the risk going into the office for two days as I was on two weeks’ paternity leave from January 6 anyway.

We could all work remotely, so some of us did.

Others still went into the office but were physically distanced as they had been before Christmas.

Between the two weeks’ paternity leave and the Level 5 restrictions, I have now been at home since the first week of January.

But there is an upside to working from home.

My son was born in August and I had largely only been with him and my wife in the evenings and at weekends all the way up to Christmas.

I’d take over when I’d get home to give her a break and spend as much time with him on Saturdays and Sundays as I could.

I didn’t do many nights with Jack to be rested for work and to help keep errors or typos to a minimum in this paper.

Something which I fall short on, every week.

I read recently that RTÉ newsreader Ray Kennedy stopped travelling between Ireland and London during his time with Sky News because he realised how much his commute was affecting his family.

The moment Ray decided to stop spending so much time away from home came after his daughter, Aoife, barely recognised him one morning.

The Six One news weekend anchor can still remember that moment very clearly. Ray currently lives in Dublin suburb Clontarf with his wife Sandra and their two kids, Ciarán and Aoife.

Ray said: “I was with Sky and travelling a lot. My daughter was born around that time, it was 2004/2005 and I spent a lot of time going back and forth to London.

“I remember one morning she came into the kitchen, she was only about two at this stage, and she came in looking for her brother but the way she said, it was like she was asking a stranger.”

Although Jack was at a very different age, I could relate to Ray’s comments when reflecting on those early months. But Jack was a newborn, now he is seven-months-old and more aware of who’s around him, so the third lockdown came at the right time for us.

The extent of parenthood for me up to January was only part-time and that wasn’t sitting well with me. But that changed very early on in 2021 and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

I’m working full-time in the utility now and along with no commute, it means I’m around all the time for the little man and my wife.

I’m present.

It is truly one of the better things to come out of lockdown that I’m around the little fella all the time and it is something to be thankful for.

It must be the case for many other families around the country.

It is challenging too but you’d have to imagine that we’ll look back on this in years to come and have fond memories as well.

I get up early to work, very early, sometimes 5am.

So when the little man wakes at 9am for his porridge, I’m there to feed him or mash his banana as my wife feeds him his gruel.

It is magic.

My wife and I are meal prepping for Jack now and I get to see him enjoy the creations we make for him. Although, the 20 salmon pots in the freezer will have to be turned into a chowder for the grown-ups as salmon is a non-runner.

That time with him, those opportunities, have only come about because of the pandemic.

I feel like I’ve been there for moments and for incidents that I would have missed had there been no coronavirus.
Without fail, every time he sees either myself or my wife, he smiles. He always has a smile.

It is a familiar smile, but at the same time, it feels like he is seeing you again for the first time in fifty years, it goes through you and tickles your soul.

I’ve seen him grow, change, learn new things and eat new things over the last three months that I wouldn’t have seen had I been in the office on Queen Street.

I’m thankful for that, that’s time he and I will have forever.

Without the third Level 5 lockdown, my son might not recognise me.

But instead, when I walk into the kitchen each morning, he knows Daddy’s just walked in and he smiles that beautiful smile of his.

And I’m there to see it.