It’s enormous, at least 1.5m in girth and it’s wonky. Misshapen. ‘Shouldn’t beach balls be perfectly smooth and round?’ I inquire as M empties lung capacity that oxygen deprived climbers seconds from the summit would kill for into its slowly swelling, distorted body.

The little M’s stared, their faces awe and frustration in equal measure. ‘C’mon Dada, hurry up, let’s go down to the pool?’ A red face, visible between the large splots of pink and blue adorning the ball’s transparent girth gasps ‘Soon guys, soon, go grab your towels ok?’ Finally we squeeze the ball into the lift, down to the deck, through the kiddie proof gate and unleash it into the pool giggling like school kids for it’s now teeming rain, which of course doesn’t deter for Wonky Ball demands a test drive.

And that’s when I realised the true value of family.

While Wonky Ball, too large to grip, a mind of its own and encouraged by the merest whiff of breeze spent subsequent days defiantly bobbing over lap pool die-hards, boffing unsuspecting noodle clinging kids in the head and confronting fellow poolside recliners, I spent the time observing the man who had given it life.

It hadn’t been easy convincing M to step away from a computer driven deadline and indulge himself in the company of the two most important people in his life, the little M’s, for I am not his wife and these are not my children. But one thing I knew for sure was, of the millions of dads out there wishing they’d spent more time with their kids when they were growing up, not one of them will ever lie on his death bed gasping ‘gee I wish I’d worked harder!’

Remember the heady days of three week family beach holidays where the biggest pressures extended to determining how soon before we could start peeling our sunburn blistered skin?

Or what time constituted ‘be back at sunset!’ Six pm? When the street lights came on? When the beach sweeper arrived? Decisions extended to fish and chips v baked bean toasty pies, Monopoly v Uno, Raspberry v Lime cordial for us kids, Shandy v Chardonnay for the adults. And if Mum or Dad had work to do, it emerged from a battered brief case before ocean breezes soon had them trading scattered papers for a good book.

Today we clap ourselves on the back if we’ve been fortunate enough to grab a clutch of sequential days off, get drunk on the pleasure (or sober with despair) at Wifi availability and check our devices regularly; rarely allowing ourselves the opportunity to fully relax, disconnect and immerse hearts and minds in the company of our family or companions. Oh for the halcyon days of holidays past.

M’s laptop remained open, he paced, his mind caught in a self inflicted pressure loop until reminded…how fleeting the opportunities to nurture his bond with the little people – before they return to their Mum, before they morph into teenagers, before the thought of hanging out with Dad in a pool becomes passé…a distant memory.

The little M’s demonstrated their best tumble turns and impressed with synchronized swim moves, they rode his shoulders, attached like limpets  to his torso (rather buff, tanned and gorgeous I must say…but I digress), and he in turn finally allowed himself to be ‘in the moment’. I know this for the deep love he had for these kids positively emanated from his eyes, his laughter so rich with gay abandon, caught up in the pure and unadulterated adoration of his babies. My work here was done.

Well not quite…

Leaving the little family contentment bubble I returned Wonky Ball to the apartment then prepared a few treats. It was time to load ’em up with sweeties and red cordial – a sugar high guaranteed to have them ricocheting off the walls the minute they return to their Mum’s arms – after all, I do have a reputation to maintain.

Wonky beach ball

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