Support your local(ish) team

IMG_4288YOU SHOULD always support your local football club.

I made that noble pronouncement for most of my adult life. Right until I had my own family.

My friend Nick predicted that would be the case. Long before Boy Wonder was born, Nick had a son and promptly enlisted him in Everton Juniors.

I scoffed. ‘You live in Sussex, mate, why not bring him up as a Brighton fan. It’s a lovely little set-up, just down the road from you. You should always support your local club.’

He scoffed. ‘My Dad supports Everton, I support Everton, my kids will support Everton. Wait until you have some of your own. Don’t tell me you’ll bring them up as Leeds fans?!’

Well, as Nick now knows, the answer is a firm no.

Tomorrow, I’m taking Boy Wonder to Middlesbrough to see his first ever live game. In a delicious twist of fate, ‘DaddyBoro’ are at home to (Dirty) Leeds.

A good win for the home team should not only entrench Boy Wonder’s love of ‘our team’ but also hopefully extinguish any association with the club of his birthplace.

Just to be sure, I’m buying him a magazine for the train journey north, a Boro hat and pin badge. I’ve promised him a proper breakfast, half-time pie and fish n’ chips before we return later in the day.

My friend Chris, a fellow Boro fan, isn’t sure it’s such a bargain:

Consigned to a life of misery, ridicule and unfulfilled promise with a pie and a hat.

He might be right but I think luck is on my side. After five years of mid-table mediocrity in the second tier of English football, Boy Wonder has come of age at exactly the moment we’re top of the league and gunning for a return to the razzmatazz of the Premiership.

Yes, that makes us glory supporters but in today’s world of accelerated gratification it’s my best shot of signing him up to my tribe.

Our anthem is Steel River. Our hero remains a Brazilian who isn’t much taller than Boy Wonder. In 1986, when I was 14, we went out of business. The impoverished town put its collective hand down the back of the sofa to help the club stay afloat and a 26-year-old local businessman did the rest. He’s still our chairman.

Steve Gibson will undoubtedly agree that you should always support your local football club.

Given his global outlook, running an international haulage firm, I’m equally sure he’d agree that ‘one of your local football clubs’ is fine as well.

Especially when it means your Dad can go to the match.

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He’s football crazy, he’s football mad

BOY WONDER has got football fever.

It started with Lionel Messi and my account of how he ignored people’s anxieties about his diminutive build in his youth to become the best player in the world. Motivational speech over, I showed Boy Wonder this video collection of Messi dribbles and goals, complete with the South American ‘goooooooaaaaaaaalllllll’ commentary:

He was hooked.

So, I bought him the Pannini sticker album for the world cup. We’ve got Ronaldo and the England team but I expect to hazard bankruptcy in our attempts to secure the little fella who plays up front for Argentina.

I then allowed Boy Wonder and his sister to stay up for the recent champions league final. While she dozed off in the first half, he saw it through to the end of extra time. However, I now fear I’ve got a Real fan in the house. Hopefully, Ronaldo’s egomaniac antics will end that embarrassment before too long or Boy Wonder will realise that Messi also plays for the other team in Spain.

I bought them both world cup football shirts (£3 a piece in H&M, if you’re asking) – Spain for Little Buddha and Argentina, England and, subsequently, Brazil, for Boy Wonder. The Duchess is concerned this will lead to track suits.

We’re now counting down the days to the start of the competition next week. Boy Wonder hopes he’ll sneak in a few TV slots with me. I need to see what games are on when the Duchess is out or on shift.

When it’s all done and dusted, we’ve got our camping holiday and then the new English season begins. Will he still love football by then? Will he want to follow whichever team in the Premiership has the most recognisable world cup stars? Or can I finally execute my ‘DaddyBoro’ plan to lure him into my world (cup) of pain?

This is a high stakes game. I can’t afford to pay the penalty and see him fall for his local club, DirtyLeeds. Hmm, Boro striker Albert Adomah is representing Ghana at the world cup. I wonder if H&M stock that shirt as well?

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‘Dad, is Santa real?’

SantaBoy Wonder: ‘Dad, is Santa really real?’

Me: ‘Why do you ask?’

BW: ‘That man walking into the shop said he wasn’t real.’

Me: ‘Did he now. He probably meant a man on the tele pretending in a film. That’s allowed, it’s not the real Santa, it’s just pretend.’

BW: ‘You said the Santa I saw the other day was the real one, the one who gave me the yo-yo.’

Me: ‘That’s right, he talked to you about what you wanted, didn’t he? And then you got a letter from Santa a few days later saying he knew you were doing well at school and he’d seen some presents wrapped up by the elves with your name on them.’

BW: ‘But we had a Santa man at school yesterday, who asked me what I wanted. But he wasn’t real. He didn’t wear glasses and I could see his dark beard underneath his pretend white one.’

Me: ‘Right… well that was probably one of the teachers pretending as it was your Christmas party. That’s allowed as well. We had a pretend one at my work party the other day, someone dressed up to get us in the Christmas mood.’

BW: ‘So, the Santa who gave me a yo-yo was real but not the others?’

Me: ‘Lots of people dress up as Santa, on the tele and for parties. They’re allowed to do that. But the Santa we took you to see, he wore glasses didn’t he, his beard was white and he knew you wanted a light sabre and some dinosaurs, so he must have got your letter.’

BW: ‘At school, the teachers said that Christmas isn’t actually about Santa. It’s about Baby Jesus.’

Me: ‘Did they now. Well, that’s a whole other story, son. A whole other story.’

 

I’m no glittering star

Glittering star 1PARENTING IS no fun for the anally-retentive.

I should know. This afternoon, in act of extreme cruelty, the Duchess invited the Kids to build their own robot. Within minutes, our dining room was an explosion of cereal packets, glitter sticks and cotton balls.

Of course, it’s essential that parents motivate their children to be creative, stretch their imagination, get messy in pursuit of artistic freedom. I just insist it’s done in our house between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Friday.

Not only did the Duchess ignore my weekday rule: she got the Kids all fired up a mere half hour before she set off to work for one of her weekend shifts. I’m pretty certain I heard her cackle on her way out of the house. Cruel, like I said.

Glittering star 2I don’t think I’ve got a medical strain of OCD but I’m definitely not a lover of disorder. When I get home from working away, I have three priorities (which I feel are best expressed in tidy bullet list!):

  1. Spend time with the Kids, put them to bed and so on
  2. Hang out with the Duchess, watch three episodes of Masterchef
  3. Check the cupboards and urgently rearrange the precarious leaning towers of pots and pans before they topple over and ignite chaos across the cosmos

Our house is full of incredible Papier-Mâché sculptures that I’ll always treasure. But, to paraphrase Otto von Bismarck, it’s like sausages and laws: I don’t want to see them getting made.

But sometimes you’ve just got to take one for the team. So, this afternoon we built a robot. We kind of had fun.

I learned that I’m not just good for racing, chasing and wrestling.

The Kids learned never to reply in the affirmative to the frequent question ‘Have you finished with this now, honey?’.

Learning phonics: ‘I’ is for Impatient

Learning phonics BOY WONDER is learning phonics. Hopefully, one day he’ll be able to teach me how it works. In the meantime, I’m doing what I can but sadly I’m showing far too many flashes of impatience.

A few weeks ago, he brought home his first reading book and the Duchess and I went into ‘this is where it starts’ overdrive. Previously, we’d held off, purporting to follow the Scandinavian laissez faire, ‘just let them play until they’re seven’ philosophy. Secretly, we didn’t want to be pushy parents, accused of ‘hothousing’ our poor son and pushing him towards therapy and heroin before his ninth birthday.

However, the moment his teacher handed us the book bag – a bloody book bag! – containing letter tiles and a book – can you believe it! – we went into full-on surrogate teacher mode.

Of course, the Duchess proved far better at it all. She put appropriate words on the stairs, filled in notes in his little school-book to let his proper teachers know how he was getting on. Remembered to ask him to read to her each evening.

Volcanic eruptions

Meanwhile, when it was left to me while she was working her evening shifts, I did my best but perhaps got a little carried away. The first time I drilled him for 20 minutes until he knew the word ‘volcano’. The next evening, I opened his notes expecting to learn the teachers thought he’d probably be off to university aged 12. Instead, they asked me to help him learn the word ‘is’.

The accompanying book, about a woolly mammoth in a pit, playfully repeated and varied the words ‘is’, ‘it’, did’, ‘in’ and ‘into’. There were about 10 pages. By page three or four, I realised I was nurturing a goldfish. Come on, Son, we’ve just done that word on the previous page. You shouldn’t even need to spell it out, you should just remember that one.

Phonics 2But spell it out, he did. Most of the words, on all of the pages. Finally, we limped to the last page, which finished with a simple ‘it’.

‘I-t, i-t, i-t, i-t…’ he gainfully chanted. I nodded, pinched my fingers, like Lionel Blair on Give Us A Clue, to denote he was practically saying the word. Just shorten the pause there son, you’ll have it and we can pretend this is all going well.

‘I-t, i-t, i-t, i-t…’ Yes, go on Son, close the deal, land the big fish. ‘I-t, i-t, i-t, i-t, i-t, i-t… DID!’

DID! Did you say DID? That’s DID, over there on that page? Does this word look like that one?

Thankfully, a few weeks later, thanks to Boy Wonder’s eagerness to learn and the patient support of his Mum and teachers, he’s racing through the books, correcting his mistakes almost overnight and demanding new words on the stairs.

Meanwhile, I’ve scratched ‘teacher’ from my fantasy career change list. I’ve got a lot to learn.

Causing a stink

Causing a stink

‘Oh, brother!’

I’VE GOT no sense of smell and it’s playing havoc with everyday parenting.

I had one as a child because I can remember walking past the back of Spark’s Bakery on the way to school every day and lifting my nose in salutation like a Bisto kid.

At some point in my young adult life, my olfactory talents began to fade. I was tested for allergies, tried various nasal sprays, but to no avail. When I first met the Duchess more than a decade ago, I would still occasionally detect certain foods or her perfume but even such intermittent aromas are now gone.

The loss can be devastating for the sweet harmony of our household – and the rear skin of Little Buddha. The other night, the Duchess returned home in the early hours from a night shift to find our daughter snuggled up to me in our bed. It should have been a lovely scene but the Duchess could smell her from the hallway. I was oblivious and even when I woke up I couldn’t smell anything remotely noxious. The Duchess, meanwhile, was gagging.

A few weeks ago, I took the kids to a Saturday morning film show at the Everyman, the swanky new cinema in Leeds. It’s all sofa seats, cushions, gourmet food and coffees for the parents. It was a middle class bubble for two hours.

Shamefully, it was only when we were walking back to the car that I could see Little Buddha’s undercarriage looked bulky and I soon realised that she must have spent a good half hour stinking the place out. I can cope with the idea of tutting mums and dads but not the need to apply cream to her sore bottom for several days.

I do try to compensate by checking her regularly. Thankfully, she’s on the slow path to potty training.

Once she can sort herself out, it’s all profit for me. I certainly won’t be going to the Norfolk clinic that tries to cure ‘anosmia’. Not when Boy Wonder is increasingly boffing our house out now he’s on school dinners and I can float through the house unscathed, like an untouchable angel. Indeed, in years to come, when the pair of them might be digesting exotic foods and ales on a regular basis, my current deficiency will feel like a superpower.

In the meantime, I just pray we never have a gas leak.