I’m a bad father. I know. It’s hard to believe. You look at me and see the ravishingly handsome, talented columnist with interesting eyebrows. Collectively you’re thinking, ‘I’d love it if de Búrca were my father…what with his liberalism, his love of lesbians and other endangered species and his witty, democratic repartee.’
If only. If only this were me. But it’s not. For among you walks a monster.
You think I’m exaggerating? Okay, how about this; when my PRACTICAL SILESIAN WIFE is on a 24h duty, I get my daughters to bed quickly so I can start drinking earlier. I love them. I do. And the shame I’m feeling as I’m drunkenly posting Bronski Beat videos on Facebook is immense.
I’m a bad father. After kindergarten, I tell them I’m going to make the dinner and rattle the pots and pans around, sending out the supposed aural signal; ‘daddy is cooking’. But I’m not. I’m listening to the Guardian Football Weekly podcast, convincing myself how it’s better for their development if I’m lying on the couch eating the left-over sticky-toffee pudding.
It gets worse. I regularly pilfer my daughters’ piggy banks. That last sentence was very difficult to write. Even harder is the actual stealing itself. Malina’s piggy bank has no opening at the bottom and I have to surreptitiously create one with a razor blade, pilfering the coins via this minuscule slit like some petty Warsaw street-urchin. And all for what? A train ticket? A jar of herring in tomato sauce? It’s only when I’m travelling to Katowice, my face smeared in fish oil, that I know it’s not worth it.
Okay sure, I buy them stuff – Lego for example, if they’ve done something good like not using their bow and arrow on the local kid who has a patch on his eye – but god have mercy on me, I only go and steal chunks of that too and sell it on the black market. Life is like a box of chocolates said the world famous retard Forest Gump, except if you’re my kids, then it’s just a catalogue of betrayal and deceit.
‘Why is my Lego collection getting smaller?’ asks Lilly, strong in her the Polish trait of sensing when someone in authority is taking her to the cleaners.
‘It’s your mother darling. She’s been eating the bricks again.’ So yes, not only am I a bad father, but also a bad husband. I blame their mother for each and every one of my dictatorial decisions; why can’t we go to the playground? Sorry darling, but your mother wants us home. Why can’t we have a cat? Oh, your mother hates them. Why was there an earthquake in Bolivia? Your mother again, she ate too much lasagne…
Sometimes I wake up in the middle of night, my heart beating like an overworked piston, my brain dancing like an homicidal monkey. I run to the bathroom. I splash my face with water and watch a drop cling to my earlobe. Poland. The only country where a man’s ears cry, and I wonder what have I become? But by morning, my guilt has evaporated like the water on my ear and I wait until my wife is gone to work before I steal her shampoo. On other occasions I hide her underwear, knowing it will give me leverage in future arguments – ‘But darling, you’re always losing things…’
She has married a viper. I sit alone for most of the morning then, full of self-loathing, yet simultaneously ignoring her request to hang out the washing. Yes, I leave the wet clothes in the washing machine. Not even Emperor Palpatine would perpetuate such malevolence. I am the Freewheeling Bad Husband. The Godfather of Bad Fathers. The Lance Armstrong of Lies. Most parents are forced at some stage to tell fibs to their children albeit for protective purposes. I do it whenever I get bored:
‘Hey Lilly, you know that kid we meet in the playground?’
‘Yes. I saw him kill a sheep with a flowerpot. Bit of red light on the dashboard there. You might want to give him a wide berth.’
Why do I do it? Why does a magpie steal? A rabbit run? A dog smoke? Poland, that’s why. Living here has this effect on foreign men. Something toxic seeps into our being and we ‘go bad’. Next time you see me on the street, don’t look. I can’t bear it.