Posts Tagged dad
I have often wondered since Boy was born if there is such a thing as a typical Dad.
I once wrote that I sometimes consider myself a cross between Daddy Pig and Homer Simpson. These two cartoon characters certainly depict fathers in early middle age but, of course rather differently. Daddy Pig is very laid back but, he should be, Peppa Pig land not being particularly stressful. Homer Simpson though would not be everyone’s first choice as a fatherly role model. On the face of it he drinks far too much beer and chokes his son regularly. He’s boorish and impulsive and has only a tenuous grip on how to hold down a job and parent. And yet he has done things for his children that demonstrate pure love, such as selling his ride on the Duff Blimp so that he could enter Lisa in to a beauty competition to feel better about herself or spearheading the effort to dig Bart out of a well. Sometimes, such as when he becomes a temporary truck driver, Bart joins him on his crazy, impulsive adventures and it has to be said they seem to have more fun than a conventional family ever could on these sorts of road trips. Sometimes just a look from one of his kids can have him debating with his own brain. He worked two jobs, all day and all night to get Lisa a pony.
And yet the mere sight of a donut or beer can divert him from tasks that are vital to the family’s survival. Having discovered that his lack of intelligence was down to a crayon lodged in his brain he gets it removed and instantly dislikes his new higher IQ, getting Moe to reinsert the crayon and bring his IQ back down to 55. And he once shot Marge with a poison dart.
I like Homer because I can relate to the bits of him that are devoted to his wife and children and yet, I realised that he has been characterised in such a way that he is just one step away from a moron. Still, even the moronic traits ring bells with me at times. If I was passing a bar full of my friends on the way home from work could I really resist popping in for a quick beer just because I had promised to be home in time to bath the kids? If I lived next to an annoying, self righteous and holier than thou neighbour how long would I pretend to like them for the sake of keeping up appearances? I know that burning your bridges when you leave a job is a stupid thing to do but which of us blokes haven’t wanted to tell an overbearing or useless boss where to stick it?
If I had my choice then pork chops for dinner every night would be just fine and a beer hat would make an excellent piece of apparel during a football match (so long as it was in private). I might know that ‘gym’ is not pronounced to rhyme with ‘dime’ but I’ve never lasted more than three months of any gym routine ever.
Obviously the child strangling and the forgetting you have a baby and the failure to relate to a clever middle child are not ideal. The first and second of these traits are ruthlessly exaggerated for comic effect but the last is truly tragic. Here I wonder how many men, having suppressed their intelligence for one reason or another, regret doing so instantly they have children.
Suppressed their intelligence? Yes, that’s what I said. Intelligence is not always manly. A stupid bloke can still be one of the lads. Boorish they may be but they will simply attract boorish friends. Think of Trigger in Only Fools and Horses. There are odd jibes about him of course but the one thing he is not is ostracised. Instead people buy him drinks in the Nags Head and involve him in their plans. It may be a comedy plot device – much like Homer’s stupidity – but that doesn’t mean it’s not based on real life examples.
Intelligence at school is not celebrated among boys. If you were a clever boy at my school then you were a ‘Boff’ or a ‘swot’ or you were ‘gay’. I don’t know what perceived insults are used today but I bet the targets are the same. The boys that were admired were the ones who were good at football and fighting and smoking and going further with a girl than just a quick peck. Arrest, lung cancer and teenage pregnancy were not considered. It would be easy for a boy who wanted to fit in or even lead, never mind get laid, to suppress his intelligence, to not try, to eventually become thick because you no longer read or thought or challenged. And so, potentially bright boys are consigned to a life of scamming on estates.
We can even do it on a temporary basis. When I get a paper I will tend to get a broadsheet. The Guardian or, if I’m fed up with its political correctness for a bit The Times or The Independent. When I went away to football games we’d go on the train and I would get The Mirror because everyone got a tabloid and I didn’t want to get laughed at (but at the same time refused to buy The Sun). Sometimes it’s just easier with the crayon in.
But getting it re-inserted on a permanent basis when you have kids? Spending so long pretending to be thick that you actually become ignorant? What happens, then, when you get a child who is born with the natural intelligence that you eschewed (a bit like Lisa Simpson)? When they start to ask questions they expect you to be able to answer?
Don’t get me wrong, I am dreading either child doing A level physics because they will be officially cleverer than me if they do and I won’t be able to help them at all but I should be able to teach them to read, add up and tell the time. To explain why it is dark at night and cold in the winter. To answer why it is we land back on the ground when we jump. Later on to advise on creative writing or algebra or practice their French pronunciation. The second you ask Moe to permanently reinsert that crayon in to your brain is the second you let your children down. Homer Simpson can be a role model for basic love of family, (less for consumption of booze and fat and acting on impulsive whims) but it’s his relationship with Lisa that, for me, lets him down as a parent. He is, already, lost.
Daddy Pig’s relationship with his kids is not lost and he does not have a crayon in his brain. Daddy Pig’s boorish side comes out in his insistence that he is ‘a bit of an expert’ at things he is not (particularly map reading and French) – in other words he over estimates his cleverness – but he is often portrayed as intelligent in the series too (a job in architecture doing complicated sums is sometimes alluded to). He can explain how fog forms (though not find his way through it) and why it is about to snow or why you need to go to the opticians. SOMETIMES Daddy Pig will be portrayed lazily watching the TV and admiring his rather large belly but most times he is shown playing with his children, intelligently and collaboratively. Just when you think he’s over exaggerated a talent it turns out he really is Renaissance Pig as he plays the accordion or executes a perfect dive from the high board, or pulls off a ballet move or makes up a story on the spot.
He does, however, share some traits with Homer and it is here that I mean you only have to look at the media for a short while to get an impression of a typical blokey Dad. He shuns exercise (‘I’m naturally fit’) and calls the local fire station emergency number when he can’t find the tomato ketchup during a BBQ. One morning he sits in the garden with his paper under the false assumption that it’s a Saturday (it’s not, it’s Thursday). He sleeps in the car on a camping trip and falls asleep snoring a puppet show put on by the younger members of the family.
I shun exercise. My dad has been known to fall asleep after lunch. I have been known to take over the map reading and get us lost. When I say I see myself as a mixture of Daddy Pig and Homer Simpson I’m not kidding. Sometimes I play collaboratively with them and sometimes I teach them useful things. Sometimes, though, I sit in front of the TV drinking beer or do things completely on impulse.
Why is there a typical theme when Dads of a certain age are portrayed in the media? Because many men of my age share those characteristics. It is around the edges that we are different, that our ideas of what constitutes a good father differ. Where, however tempting it is, we must resist inserting the metaphorical crayon in to our brains.
My parents hated football. Somehow I grew up to love it. I think it was because we only got 3 channels on TV in those days so the only time you saw football it was a big occasion. Either the FA Cup final (which quite literally lasted all day) or a big England game. Both came with a sense of a very big deal which appealed to me enormously. Also we lived very close to Brighton’s old ground, The Goldstone. On Saturdays in winter the street would fill with cars and men in blue and white scarves would get out of them and walk to the ground. You could hear the crowd from my road. Particularly you could hear the orgasmic roar when Brighton scored. All this and the fact my parents specifically loathed it is what got me interested in football.
Eventually one of my dad’s pupils (he’s a music teacher) called Joan and her boyfriend Fraser agreed to take me to games. This was when Brighton had a very good team indeed and had pushed their way for the first time in to the top division. I remember games against Liverpool, Man United, Everton. Spicy derbies against Palace. Joan and Fraser always kept me safe but actually being there just magnified my interest in what was a completely different world. Cigar smoke, chanting, obvious swearing and the odd fight in the crowd. On the field incredibly skilful players like Peter Ward, Mark Lawrenson and later Michael Robinson and Steve Foster. Most players were British, quite a few were internationals, many didn’t bother with shinpads and tackling from behind was routine.
When Joan and Fraser couldn’t take me Samir did. Samir was a family friend, an avuncular Lebanese professor who, away from sport was constantly engaging. At football he barely said a word. It was like his studious nature made him observe every nuance of the game and, having escaped civil war in Beirut, he was hardly likely to be put off by the odd skinhead scrapping in the North Stand.
Soon though I felt old enough to go unaccompanied. Again when I asked my parents they initially demurred but eventually I was allowed to go ‘as long as I went in the Family Stand’. My first solo game was against Wimbledon and we won 2-1 with a long range screamer from the marvellously alcoholic and be-mulleted Frank Worthington. I went in the Family Stand and it was boring as anything. Next game I went straight in the North Stand, right behind the goal in the singing section. From here I started to meet people who to this day I count as some of my very best friends. A community. As soon as I was able I went to away games and as soon as I was old enough I went to the pub before matches. We froze our knackers off in Oldham and colonized the pool tables of back street locals in Brighton.
All this is a very long way of saying that football for me is much more than 90 minutes of men running around. My wife still doesn’t understand when I want to leave a bit earlier than she thinks it would take me to get to the ground for kick off and that’s because I want to see my friends and have at least one pint beforehand. Ideally two or three. Don’t get me wrong, for the 90 minutes the game’s on nothing else matters and I am completely absorbed in the match but it wouldn’t be anything like the experience it is without the chance to have some Real Ale and bit of banter first.
On our next home game I am dropping this routine.
A good family friend has wanted to take her son to the new ground for ages. I got her tickets for the game against Watford on 29 December and, since Boy and her son get on very well I said we’d come too. I’m swapping my normal seat in the comfortable rowdiness of the West Stand Upper for a family seat in the quieter East Stand. There will be no pub, the focus instead on ensuring the kids have an enjoyable day out at the football. Hot dogs and programmes will be bought, I suspect, and colours worn with pride.
I worried I was forcing it down his throat but he now attends football club after school and works with Will, a coach from Albion In The Community. He’s been to a couple of their mini-kickers sessions and has a training top, replica kit, a hand clapper and flag. He is very excited about going already. Meanwhile I’ve abandoned my normal football bravado and turned in to Worried Parent. I shall have to ensure he has a wee before we leave. I will have to pick a train time that won’t be too crowded yet won’t get us there stupidly early or, instead, have us queuing for ever. I have no idea how to do this. I will need to check his hot dog is properly cooked, protect him from swearing and confrontation. Most of all, since he is scared shitless by people dressed in giant animal costumes, I shall have to protect him from the mascots, mascots who are there specifically to come up and say hello to 6 year old boys. Bugger.
But there are so many elements of it that I AM looking forward to. Getting off the train and seeing the stadium rise like a giant spaceship from the ground. Explaining the game and who the players to look out for are. Maybe taking him to the club shop and letting him add to his collection of Brighton stuff. Hoping we score. Hoping we win.
Selfishly a part of me worries he will enjoy it too much. When I do go in the comfortably rowdy West Stand Upper it is with Best Friend Of All. He has 3 boys but both of us leave the kids behind. Recently I have been unable to make a couple of games and he has taken his sons, in rotation, in my stead. They have enjoyed themselves immensely and are bugging him to go again. If Boy enjoys himself (and as a parent I will have failed if he doesn’t) he will want to go again too. If he does we are already talking about getting tickets for the kids. This could be the end of one era and the start of another. Much less pub. Much less banter. Much more parenting.
Then again it could be a specific bond, father to son. I am very close to my Dad despite his dislike of football. Our special bond was swimming. My mum cannot swim so he taught me and my brother and it was always our special time together. Both my wife and I swim and so swimming for us is family activity on family days. Football may be our Father to Son male bonding. And I know my mates understand. We’ll see how it turns out.
*I say first. I took him to Withdean, our old ground, because we were playing a Cup game no one was interested in and we could get tickets together for me and Best Friend of All and all the kids. It was one of the dullest games on record and he was too young and we left at half time. I don’t count it. Saturday will be his first proper football experience.
So sunfun is at mammasaurus this week. I haven’t written / photographed anything new but I thought I’d link up something from this week. Earlier this week the below list spewed out of the dark recesses of my mind. Will that do?
- Have the same amount of sleep two nights running
- Leave the house for somewhere important without checking for milk stains
- Mainline Crystal Meth
- Watch an entire football or rugby match on the telly without using the live pause feature
- Watch an entire cricket match on the telly from first ball to last in a 24 hour period. Even a 20/20.
- Leave the house for somewhere important without checking for snot stains
- Have anything sharp within easy reach
- Go ballooning naked with a llama*
- Have your mobile phone and TV remote control within easy reach
- Drink an entire bottle of Jack just to see what happens
- Shower without tripping over a squeezy-water octopus or a bath duck
- Leave the house for somewhere important without checking for vomit stains
- Travel abroad as a family without planning it for at least 2 years
- Plan stuff
- Read an improving book
- Spend 3 whole days without encountering Peppa Pig, a Tombliboo or both
- Wash socks in pairs
- Leave the house for somewhere important without checking for poo stains
- Actually, just sleep
- Try out the new Korean place round the corner on a whim
- Have a party which features someone in the corner clutching Special Brew who no-one knows
- Have a party that doesn’t feature jelly and Haribo
- Leave your laptop unattended for 30 seconds
- Consider the local schools from a neutral point of view
- Buy fashionable clothes (possibly this is just a Dad thing)
- Jack in the job that pays the rent / mortgage to open a business selling Tibetan Yurts from your garden
- Watch a film that may contain ‘naughty bits’ just after the children have been put in bed
- Have a cup of tea / coffee within easy reach
- Mainline espresso
- Arrive on time for stuff
- Write list postings on your blog**
* Well you technically could. But the kids would talk about it at inappropriate times. Like when you’ve got a llama farmer round for tea
** Oh, wait….
A small explanation of my schizophrenic Twitter feed with apologies – and reverence – to Nick Hornby who was doing this sort of stuff years ago, much, much better.
A bit of a history lesson is needed. When I was a young man I was a Brighton fan and an Old School one at that. I stood on the terrace behind the goal with my mates and I went to every away game I could and it was fun. Or at least it was until the finances at the club started to unravel and a “Foul Politician and A Man From Lancashire” (copyright the mighty Booney) sold the ground and nearly killed the club. Luckily, at the last minute the club was rescued by a very nice man with not much money called Dick Knight. The ground was gone though so we groundshared in Kent for a bit before coming back home to play in an athletics stadium. An uncovered one with terrible views and very few seats. Still I got a season ticket and became Old School only in the seats on the side. If we lost I was inconsolable all weekend. Meanwhile Brighton were not getting planning permission for their new ground.
Then something happened that meant I wouldn’t be a season ticket holder at all. I was offered a project in my company’s Asia Pacific division and we grasped the nettle and moved to Sydney. Then Tokyo. Then Taipei. And I had the best four and a bit years of my childless life. Football played a small part still as I became 5th choice Centre Back for the reserves of a crazy Expat drinking club football team but I was no longer a regular on the terraces or in the seats.
Then we did something immensely stupid wonderful and decided to have a child and when we succeeded we moved home so he could be born somewhere where the midwives spoke English. I know. Overprotective first time parents eh? And Brighton did not have their new ground but I did have my new son and I enjoyed playing with him much more than sitting in the rain watching Andrew Whing kick lumps out of people. Bad fan. I went from time to time, usually the first and last games of the season and a few of the mid-weeks but I did not have a season ticket and to all intents and purposes I was a raving lunatic father and not a football fanatic.
Then we got planning permission for the ground. And a very nice man with shitloads of money called Tony Bloom paid for it. I joined the bandwagon, the Johnny Come Lately army (or more Johnny Came Back) and got a season ticket and this season I started to Go Again Properly. I look forward to my Amex Stadium Saturdays like I used to look forward to birthdays. I leave as soon as permitted and meet my childless friends and we talk Man Nonsense and drink real beer. My football mates have been friends through thick and thin bound by a love of the team, proper beer, silly japes and a disregard for bullshit. Then I go to the ground and meet my Very Best Friend Of All who has 3 boys and not a shred of bullshit and we spend a couple of hours shouting, singing, clapping and swearing (particularly me). Then I have a swift half with the others after and go home. And all the stress of work, commuting, sleepless nights, Lego retrieving and Baby locating have gone, washed away in to the Amex ether.
And because it does I come home these days having left the result behind if we lost, happy to be a parent again, looking forward to Middle Class Sunday. Which is a post for anther time entirely.
In my last post I mentioned Boy was good at art. I am not. I am to art what the 1980s Lada is to Formula 1. With that in mind one of our games is to name something to draw. We both draw it and then decide who has done the best one. I have decided to share this to see if you can guess. Today’s Boy Art or Dad Art puzzler is titled “a monster”.
Picture 1 – Boy or Dad?
Picture 2 Boy or Dad?