"But why do I have to go to Cork with you for the weekend, daddy?" my 8 year-old daughter pleads through a river of tears. "I never have time with my friends!"
"What do you mean you never have time with your friends?" I say. "There are three of them in the playroom right now and one of those slept over last night."
But she isn't open to reason. She is already out through my bedroom door, screeching. My head is sore, listening to her. Five minutes later, she returns.
"I have something to say," she announces.
"What? That you have a gangrenous foot - for your screeching has been unmerciful?" I snap.
"I'm sorry," she says.
"Not half as sorry as I am! And to think I gave up work for you!"
"That's amazing, daddy," she says, switching off the waterworks.
"Some things are more important than work," I say.
"Like what?" she says.
She is shocked. And so, too, suddenly, am I. How did I walk out of my job as lecturer in Japanese to bring up one, then two, then three children, I think? How did I put up with the dirty nappies, the night feeds, the parking two children in the play-pen so as to get to the toilet - the blizzard years?
"If you chose to give it up ..." my eldest daughter says, entering the bedroom, and smiling wryly, "... then why do you moan so much about it?"
"Mmmmh," she says.
The jury is out on my humanity.
"Anyway, I don't moan that much these days, do I?" I continue.
"Mmmmh ..." she says again.
"It was tougher when you were young," I explain. "I felt isolated and I felt like I was wasting my life."
"Oh, really?! Wasting your life, daddy, were you?" she says, fluttering her eyelids and shimmying her hands at her face as if to say how could anyone say that they were wasting their time on me.
"No, you know what I mean, like," I say, defensively. "I had all these brains, and I wasn't using them."
"What brains, daddy?"
"The ones I did in, rearing you."
My youngest disappears out of the room.
"Anyway," I say to my eldest, "I eventually came to see the value in what I was doing."
"How come?" she asks.
"Well, you have to be a really creative person to work with the terrible twos ... and the terrible teens ..."
She arches an eyebrow, but smiles nonetheless.
"And, of course, you got out of nappies ... eventually ... which also helped."
"... and then you all morphed into these beautiful people."
My youngest reappears.
She hands me a makeshift card. Daddy, she has written, thank you for staying at home with us all your life. You're the best daddy ever. But PLEASE can we not go to Cork this weekend? I won't even cry once.
"No," I say.
She bursts into tears and yells the house down.
You especially have to be creative with the terrible eights.