I have some terrible, distressing news – I have succumbed to Cool Dad Syndrome. It hit me out of the blue, as I had only gotten over a severe bout of Smug Dad Syndrome, which I caught after I brought my kids to both an art gallery and a bookshop within the same 24-hour period. However, Cool Dad Syndrome, or CDS, to make it sounds official, is a much, much sadder affair. I suspected I was predisposed towards it as I liked to think of myself as being liberal and open minded in my approach to parenting, allowing my kids to play video games online, or my daughter to go to teen club nights (even the fact I don’t call them discos shows how cool I thought I was), but I’m afraid that I have recently gone full blown by allowing my daughter to go to Longitude, or, if I am to give it its correct title, ‘Longi’.
She began her campaign of lobbying around the upcoming festival season last summer, telling me all the amazing acts that were playing everywhere and how her growth as a person and her standing socially were both being negatively affected by my refusal to allow her to go on her own to Glastonbury for a week. If I loved her I would let her head off to the UK like Dick Whittington with a bindle full of cans and head full of idiotic teenage dreams about how great life probably is beyond the cocoon of your family home.
Eventually she wore me down, and I agreed to let her go to a festival. But I wore her down too, from her demands of a one-way ticket to Burning Man, to a one-day ticket for Longitude. I even tried to buy the tickets for her, but as an old man who has never bought a ticket anywhere other than the murky depths of Sound Cellar on Nassau Street, I couldn’t figure out how the online ticket selection process worked and gave up just before all-caps message came through that ‘someone had secured tickets’. Luckily there was another parent on the case, or, to be more specific, every other parent in the east Cork region, because it would appear that this year’s Longitude is going to be an unofficial school trip. So while I briefly basked in the warm glow of CDS because I was allowing my daughter to go to a festival for one day, it would appear there are other parents who are afflicted with a far worse strain of the same problem. According to my beloved first-born, there are swathes of girls in her school who are decamping to Dublin on their own for three days. Apart from the fact that for us delicate country folk, our nation’s capital appears to be twinned with both Gotham and the Interzone from Naked Lunch, the classmates aren’t even staying in a nice house as they would in Irish college, with a bean an tí to clip them round the ear if they show any signs of independent thought. No, they are all staying in apartments, the least moral of all human dwellings. I was horrified – what a dereliction of parental duty, letting their kids head off to a festival on the tear, sher it’ll be like Lord Of The Flies but with glitter and Orchard Thieves.
However, my daughter was quick to point out that while she is just turning 16, most of her class will be 17 by the time Longi swings round, and are therefore adults, or at least beta versions of adults. So this is how it starts – festival season is now where they spread their wings, leap from the nest and smash headlong into mud. And so it was that my sudden outbreak of CDS slowly morphed into Despondent Dad Syndrome, when you realise that the day they leave you is fast approaching, and you wonder if you have prepared them for life, if they have learned from your mistakes, if they are the better versions of you that you always tried to mold them into, or, at the very least, if they have the good sense to bring earplugs and toilet paper to a festival.