Take Your Daughter To Work Day (the office is closed)

Saturday was Divali, or Deepavali, the Festival of Lights. (The difference in names was explained to me but I failed to pay attention and now can’t remember which is the version used by the groovy kids and which is for old people.) That was a national holiday, and my enlightened employers gave everyone Monday off. Not everyone in Singapore was so lucky; apparently the trains were still packed with commuters, and because of pressing deadlines I couldn’t avoid going in to work on Monday anyway.

Fortunately, that meant I could run downstairs every half hour when somebody else rang the doorbell; there was a man from FedEx with a document to be signed for, then there was somebody from DHL with a bulky envelope to deliver, then a parcel from Hong Kong consisting of a copy of the South China Morning Post and a magazine, and then two salespeople touting for business. All while I was trying to concentrate on getting some work done in the calm silence of an empty office. Several of my coworkers had also decided to go in today to get things done, free of distraction, so it wasn’t quite the utter vacuum I’d been hoping for.

Then again, my wife and child turned up in the afternoon too and my beloved daughter spent some time caterwauling inconsolably, so I suppose I was doing my bit for nonproductivity too.

In the olden days, when I was not blessed with a child, I would get quite vexed when somebody would bring their progeny into the office, as it always provoked half an hour of distraction as people downed tools to look at a baby, each one indistinguishable from the last. Now that I am a father, and my special and unique snowflake is clearly so very, very different from all other children, my view has obviously changed, and I can’t believe anyone would ever for a minute not want to gaze upon my daughter. Ah, the sweet, sweet taste of hypocrisy.

Still, she was (mostly) quite well behaved. My wife had to go and pick up a new playmat for her, and this coincided with a torrential rainstorm. That meant she couldn’t walk over to where she was getting the playmat, and as we hadn’t expected rain, the carseat was back home, so baby couldn’t accompany her in a taxi. I sent my wife on her way, hoping that my daughter had enough milk inside her to not miss her mother for half an hour, but not so much milk that she decided to vent explosively on my desk, my shirt, or any of my coworkers.

To begin with, she was docile, happy to sit on her father’s lap as he meddled with photographs for a slideshow. When people picked her up, she gurgled and cooed in an appropriate way for a photogenic four month old. Then, after about twenty minutes, some terrible thought crossed her mind, and she began to howl.

Fortunately, with the office mostly empty today, there was a labyrinth of corridors and meeting rooms I could walk her through, and eventually the changes in environment distracted her from whatever apocalyptic worries she was trying to signal to me, and she settled back down again.

Or maybe I’d successfully burped her. I’m never really sure any more.

My wife returned, bearing a nearly new playmat like a Viking brandishing a trophy raided from some unlucky village. The Danegeld in this case was a bright green parabola of cloth, integrating the effigy of a giraffe along with various mirrors, soft toys and grabby handles for our child to play with. I tested it out (I greatly enjoy lying on playmats and staring gormlessly up at flashing lights, mirrors and scrunchy bits of cloth) and once I was satisfied it was up to snuff, we lay our baby down in it.

All was quiet, save the prerecorded sounds of the jungle and my frenzied typing. The office was at peace once more.

(Of course, our model baby remained beatific only until we’d got her home and bathed her, after which she did another two hours of high-volume complaining about the world in general and our particular failings, but by 8:40 she was fully settled, leaving her parents to fight it out for space on the sofa. (Baby has full possession of our bed because we’re scared to disturb her, the spare bed is entirely covered in infantile detritus, and the rest of the apartment is ankle deep in playmats and soft toys.) Another exciting night in.

One response to “Take Your Daughter To Work Day (the office is closed)”

  1. She’s not unique, she’s getting to look a lot like Jen. But a snowflake she is, so beautiful and delicate and also these days it seems prone to meltdown.

    Although I have to say looking very angelic in that picture to the point where you couldn’t believe she could ever express discontent at anything in the world.

    I like being at work when it’s empty. I used to like being at school when it was empty too. It must be a Day of the Triffids complex.

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