The moment that Daddy became ‘Sheemiss’

Séamas O’Reilly
·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Purple Turtle/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Purple Turtle/Getty Images

It started last week, amid gales of laughter. ‘Sheemiss!’ my son cried from the stairs. I drew nearer to find my son pointing at me as he said one more time; ‘Sheeeeeemisssss’. He was calling me by my first name, in an adorably sincere little act of rebellion that reduced him to dribbling, full-bellied hysterics.

I laughed along, struck by the effect that this, the smallest possible act of defiance, was having on the 3ft-tall comic in front of me. The idea that the man he calls ‘Daddy’ might also be Séamas had broken him so entirely that it broke me, too.

At least ‘Sheemiss’ is a pretty good attempt at the name by my son, who knows me well, but is also an English person

At the very least ‘Sheemiss’ is a pretty good attempt at the name by my son, who may know me very well, but is also an English person. I’ve had Same Ass, See-Ya-Mass and Seems. After six years, a guy I played football with admitted he’d been calling me ‘Shameless’ all that time. Worst – or best – of all, however, was the driving instructor who spent the entire six months of our acquaintance referring to me as Semen.

But I digress. The root of my son’s joke is that it’s somehow ridiculous for a child to call a parent their own name. I say ‘somehow ridiculous’ when it is, in fact, plainly ridiculous. No matter how you rationalise it, any other way of thinking is just bizarre. Think of someone who addresses their parents by their first name and tell me you wouldn’t go to great lengths to avoid them at a wedding.

It started me thinking what I’d actually like to be called, since my wife chose this moment to tell me that she expects ‘Daddy’ will be retired eventually. She’s from Dublin and has called her parents Mum and Dad since she was about seven. I, on the other hand, am from Derry, where we obey different rules, which she claims are confusing. It’s simple really. For as long as you live, your parents are Daddy and Mammy when spoken to directly, or referred to in conversation with your family. They’re ‘me ma’ and ‘me da’ when speaking to Irish people and then ‘mum and dad’ when speaking to those further afield. Moreover, I can comfortably refer to my dad as ‘my dad’ in these columns, because that’s his job title, but his name is Daddy, and addressing him in person as Dad would not just be unusual, but a near psychotic breach of family protocol and basic human decency. I mean, what’s so hard to understand?

I suppose the issue is that, in England, ‘Daddy’ is only used by a) small children b) the very posh, or c) those deploying its numerous kinky uses that I won’t be exploring here. I may call my father Daddy and exhibit an unflappable air of faultless cool, but my son is from London and the idea of a grown Londoner calling his father Daddy brings to mind an adult baby, complete with silk bonnet and giant lollipop. It’s one rule for me and quite another for him. Given the choice, maybe Sheemisss would be best, after all.

Follow Séamas on Twitter @shockproofbeats