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?

A swimming lesson for him… and me

My son wasn’t the only one to receive a swimming lesson this morning.

As I’ve been doing all year, I escorted Boy Wonder to his weekly Splish, Splosh swimming lesson. Only this time, I didn’t get changed into my trunks as well and follow him into the water. He’s tall for his age – nothing to do with my pigmy heritage – and in the time we’ve been going together he’s arguably proved the most powerful of the little ducklings attempting ‘fast-kicking-legs’ and ‘long-scooping-arms’.

Still, I wasn’t expecting him to be granted the freedom of the swimming lane so soon. And at the very least, I thought I’d get to spend a few weeks sitting alongside the pool, providing a comfortable presence and the odd word of encouragement. But Coach even banished me to the far corner of the pool area, where adoring grannies sometimes congregate on plastic seats. Damn it, I even had to put bags over my shoes. I was now the grown-up version of the lad at my primary school who was banned from the learner pool because he kept shitting himself.

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Bye-bye to Batman: Our daughter’s first words

Little girl communicatingOUR DAUGHTER has cleared her throat and started to speak. I think Boy Wonder did the same at this point as well, although it’s hard to remember a time when he wasn’t talking fluently.

When Little Buddha was born, I fell for the ruse that she’d reach all of the big milestones much earlier than her brother because she’d learn from him and she’s a girl. Well, she walked at 15 months, just like him, and, like I said, I think her brother started talking at 18 months as well.

Modern parenting is very competitive, of course, with the Middle Class Mafia filling gastropubs and cafes with stories about how their golden progeny had a full set of teeth in the womb and were able to recite Paradise Lost by their first birthdays.

We fell for it first time round, measuring Boy Wonder against bullshit criteria and continually worrying he wasn’t developing quickly enough. It got so crazy that we read he should know 200 words by the age of two and, yes, we sat down one night and actually quantified his vocabulary. He was fine, okay, good, brilliant.

This time we’re relaxed about it. Little Buddha has been communicating for months, with gestures, expressions, nods and shakes of the head. Now she’s talking, singing, imitating. So, to celebrate – and remember – in chronological order here’s her wonderfully random first 10 words:

  1. Bye-bye
  2. Hiya!
  3. Babba
  4. Cheetah
  5. Noddy
  6. Dada
  7. Mama
  8. Ta
  9. More
  10. Batman

What is it about boys and swords?

Pirate sonOur three-year-old swashbuckling son seems to have turned our lovely little house into one of Yorkshire’s most versatile weapons store.

The funny thing is, he’s only got one actual sword – a pathetic foam effort that came with a pirate outfit – and that was confiscated months ago. It remains lost somewhere in my wardrobe.

Undeterred, Boy Wonder has adapted all manner of objects in his pursuit of imaginary baddies and villains.

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Sibling rivalry, delayed bonding and growing up quickly

Dada and Little Buddha

I’VE GOT A CONFESSION. I’ve fallen for another. She loves me too. I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.

If Boy Wonder could read this, he’d probably grudgingly accept my apology but remind me that ‘he came first’.

Sibling rivalry started earlier than I expected. He’s been waging psychological warfare on me since the day he arrived at the hospital a year ago to find me cradling his new sister. Interloper. Hijacker. Thief.

He loves her very much – and she adores him – but he hasn’t always liked to see me getting too close to her.

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El niño prodigio is giving me southern discomfort

BOY WONDER IS LEARNING SPANISH. On Saturday mornings, I now take him to the local Little Fidget class for under-5s. The teacher uses a magical kingdom theme, with cuddly creatures and fantastic scenarios to engage the kids. So far, we’ve met the wolf (lobo), rat (ratón) and dragon (dragón).

Boy Wonder seems to enjoy it, although his motives are a little suspect. The final act of the class each week involves the kids assembling at the front for a snack while they learn basic Spanish table manners. He seems to pay particular attention to those instructions above all others.

I learnt French at school but attended a weekly lunchtime Spanish class for about a year when I lived in London 10 years ago. So, I’m enjoying this gentle refresher. However, the teacher is Venezuelan, so I need to adjust my learned Spanish accent so I don’t confuse my son. She says gracias, I say grathias. She uses a ‘j’ for a double ‘ll’, I use a ‘y’. We haven’t learnt the word for tomatoes yet.

Competing accents

Then again, there are competing accents at home. The Duchess is from Hertfordshire so I knew what I was letting myself in for. But I thought settling in Leeds would mean our kids would enjoy the privilege of a down-to-earth northern accent.

The problem is that the Duchess spends the most time with the kids and, as a result, Boy Wonder is frequently classed by strangers as ‘a bit posh’ because of his rounded vowels and sing-song intonation.

As part of the fightback, I find myself practically ironing my vowels flat when I read him bedtime stories, presenting almost a caricature of my fairly soft Teesside accent.

People tell me it’ll all come right when he starts school full-time and apes his mates. Knowing me, I’ll then probably try to smarten up his diction, chiding him to speak ‘more nicely’ while ignoring my own ‘owt/nowt’ speech. Poor kid. (That’s poo-er, not pour, by the way.)