As a dad you want to be infallible in the eyes of your children. You want to be the font of all knowledge, the knower of things. But that’s not always possible………….
I was home alone with the kids. We were whittling away a wet saturday while my wife was enjoying a brief sojourn from social martyrdom. The morning was going sloooowwwwwly. First of all we went out into the Great British Summer. The kid’s water proof sunscreen has worked out really well this summer; although if I’m honest, I’d assumed it would be useful because of swimming – not just the relentless rain. But that’s okay, jumping in hot puddles is better than jumping in cold ones I suppose. We came in and dried off – a mere hour had passed. We’d done jigsaws for the next hour (more accurately my daughter’s contribution was licking each piece in turn before wandering off to headbutt cupboards and my son had stood behind me and watched me assemble the puzzle, handing me pieces and saying encouraging things like “Don’t worry Dad I know it’s tricky”), we’d played hide and seek, allowing me to have a much needed wee in peace. Another hour had passed. We’d played a great game of Pigface! (the rules for Pigface! are simple, we squash our faces up against the glass door in the kitchen and see who looks most like a pig). I am great at Pigface! but my one year old daughter, with her total lack of nose cartilage, is a child prodigy. After Pigface! we moved on to the shapesorting board which consists of naming the shape before slotting it into it’s relevant home.
A truly fulfilling morning I’m sure you’ll agree.
As ever the morning had been peppered with impossible questions from my son.
Dad these satsumas don’t have pips – how do they grow?
Dad do snakes do blow-offs?
How does the television work?
My answers had been wholly unsatisfactory (“magic”, “yes – smelly ones” and “different magic”) and I could sense that my toddler was beginning to see through my supposed awesome knowledge of the world, hell even my 1 year old daughter was looking sceptical (though unable to talk, 1 year old’s eyebrows are surprisingly efficient at conveying scepticism).
To spice things up in the shape-sorting game I suggested that we named the shape AND came up with a rhyme for that shape before slotting it in to place (I know – exciting eh?). My son said he would say the shape and I had to say the rhyme, to which I agreed. Sounds innocent enough doesn’t it? Until, that is, you actually start trying to find rhymes for shapes. It started with a “Square” which is easy enough, but then things started getting tricky.
“Now let me think, what rhymes with circle? I know purple”
“That doesn’t really rhyme Dad”
“Yes it does, next one”
“No dad that doesn’t rhyme”
“Okay rectangle – Bangle”
“What’s a bangle?”
“Erm…… Bangle again”
“No Dad a different rhyme”
“What does mangle mean?”
“You know when you get your hand caught in heavy machinery and it gets crushed to a bloody pulp”
“Okay Next One!”
To be honest I was a little fed up of being exposed as a person with finite knowledge. You see, I am like you, I don’t know how impotent satsumas procreate or even how the telly really works. Without an internet connection I know nothing, I am a puzzled chimp sniffing his finger and falling off a branch. If I was somehow transported back in time, humanity would be no better off. After talking to me, the Knights of the Round Table might know a few more jokes and have some rudimentary scratch cards – but that’s about it. Like you, I take for granted the awesome achievements of scientists and engineers and Mr Kipling and Ocado. I know nothing about internal combustion engines or large hadron colliders or botox or netflix or Beefy Monster Munch or luminous marker pens. I just enjoy the benefits of this amazing world without questioning the underlying technical wizardry, the graft, the genius of others. My specialist knowledge could be rather narrowly described as Reinsurance, Chuck Norris and omelettes. But as a parent, as a dad, the desire to appear infallible leads you to pretend you know all – which is crazy. Utter madness. I mean look, if I asked Stephen Hawking, the speak’n’spell genius, to explain why sometimes you feel more tired because you’d had a lay-in? – he wouldn’t have a fucking clue. If I asked him why reading the word YAWN sometimes makes you want to YAWN he wouldn’t even pretend to know. Why men shiver when they wee – sorry no clue? (in fairness he probably has a bag). His field of knowledge is very specific – disabled astrophysics. He is as uneducated as I am when it comes to reptile flatulence. So why do I feel the need to pretend to be a smug-faced know it all?
Well because it’s instinct.
For men it’s like looking at tits and spitting in urinals, it’s hotwired in. You are genetically predisposed to fake knowledge – IF YOU ARE A MAN YOU CANNOT HELP IT. We are gathered around the popped bonnet of expectation, watching the smoking engine, hoping that our almost complete lack of knowledge of the workings of the world will remain a secret………
Meanwhile back at home I could see my son reaching for the pentagon, a shape for which, let’s face it, there is no rhyme. Thinking on my feet I found myself pointing out of the window and yelling
“Look at that – A MASSIVE ROBIN!!!!”
The tactical distraction worked and he craned his neck to see the non-existent bigbird, I reached down and snatched the pentagon shape, flinging it across the room, out of sight and out of the ability to humiliate me as a man. Then things went bad. Time slowed to a crawl and I noticed several things simultaneously:
The pentagon went much further than intended, soaring across the room towards the innocent smiling face of my daughter, if that wasn’t bad enough I also saw my wife’s face peering through the window, watching in horror as the wooden shape began it’s 5 sided descent towards her baby’s smiling face. She watched my hand drop down to my side guiltily and my look of horror grow as it became more and more obvious that it was going to hit – which it did half a second later. She immediately fell over and started crying, more shocked than hurt. My wife gave me a long long look through the window, 15 seconds later she came into the room and picked her up.
“2 questions. A) Why did you just throw a piece of wood at your daughter’s face and B) why is there snot all over the kitchen door?”
Now the actual answers to these questions were
A) I couldn’t think of a rhyme for pentagon
B) We were playing Pigface
So I said nothing. See even if you know the answers it sometimes best to not to offer them. You can’t win really.
That evening I read up on reptiles and the inner workings of the television, sat down with him the next day and gave him the proper answers. I would hate for the disinterest of adulthood to infect his enquiring mind.