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My good good friend Francois recently told me a story of such toe-curling horror and anger that I have no alternative but to share it with you, in the hope that you will share it with others, in the eventual hope that those about whom we are about to speak both hear it AND get a big fucking clue.

Over the holidays, Francois and family decided to visit Disneyland. All four of them. Mother, father, 5 year old boy and nearly 3 year old girl.

It was, as you (and I for that matter) might imagine a long and busy trip with little rest, much excitement and late late nights. As these things should be, complete with shocking amounts of sugar and schmaltz (whatever the pediatricians and hairy-armpitted experts tell you, THOSE are the memories your kids will cherish, not carrot-sticks and incessant flower-spotting). A couple of winter colds wound their way into a couple of younger chests, and in the particularly young, that can be rather taxing when a plane is about to take off.

For a start, the geniuses at VIRGIN AMERICA AIRLINES (yes, the one with colorful zippy-zappy logos and seating) split them up. At first to four individual seats. On a one hour flight. Terrific. It took an argument for Francois to get 2 and 2. For the record, on a plane with one aisle and three seats either side, you seat a family of four in 3 and one right across, kids buffered by parents. This is not rocket science.

The little lady, tired, cranky, not feeling well, had a meltdown.
It happens.
Anyone who’s had kids and been on planes will have dealt with it, further, anyone who’s had kids, been on planes and dealt with it will know that EMPATHY (that is spelt e-m-p-a-t-h-y) is critical. A quiet friendly word, a quick sympathetic glance, a whispered ‘if I can help let me know’, any of it can make things much much better, because believe me, you ALREADY FEEL SELF-CONSCIOUS AND LIKE AN ASSHOLE! You already KNOW that there is a PERCENTAGE of the plane looking at you wondering when you are going to remove the staple gun from your child’s legs, or if you are going to stop pinching them, or whether you will ever become a good parent because this is all, OBVIOUSLY, happening due to the fact you are, in fact, a useless parental unit. The REALLY evolved members of society who find themselves in a position where they can help the family achieve 4 across (given that VIRGIN AMERICA PROVED AS SOCIALLY EVOLVED THE TEA PARTY) would’ve offered to swap seats to make that 60 minutes a lot more pleasant for the small ones to whom 60 minutes IS a long time.

What you do NOT need, are loud, tutting queens, disparaging stares from frumpy windbags and the total INACTIVITY OF THE VIRGIN AMERICA FLIGHT CREW to help the situation mellow.
“He kept on bitching and moaning about the noise and his seat-back,” said Francois, “I had apologized and offered, by way of explanation, the fact my daughter was not feeling well, and it was obvious I was trying to do something about it. But he kept going on.”
As he told me this, my mouth fell open. I was appalled, disgusted and getting angry just hearing about it.
“And then, this woman pipes up and starts telling the people behind her that she’s a mother, and we’re doing it all wrong and need to be both better and more considerate!”
Are you still with me, reader?
“And THEN the guy in front turns around and starts talking with this woman, agreeing and complaining!”
Francois then told me something which made me happy.
“I told him, without shouting, that if he didn’t shut the fuck up, I would beat the shit out of him when we landed.”
The quiet sniping as replaced with pissy-flicked looks, until the plane landed.
“I happened to be standing next to him at the baggage claim, and when he caught my eye I stared at him really hard; he quickly sort of shook and moved away.”

I relay this story because I think it’s very, very important for any parent of small children having a fit to know that SHOULD you be met with the sort of responses Francois received, you absolutely MUST stand your ground in the way he did.
You MUST know that EVERYONE who has had kids has been there.
You MUST know that the majority of people who react like those turds on the plane did are absolutely worthy of any, and all, retortful abusiveness you can muster. I don’t care if it’s ‘not politically correct’ to react, it’s human, and by God you MUST threaten these selfish moronic imbeciles in order to at the very least shut them up.

And if you have it in you, look at them and loudly spell out the word ‘EMPATHY’…if they say ‘whuuut’ then tell them to look it up before hurling a final bit of abuse back at them. Trust me, you will
a) feel empowered that you stood up for yourself and
b) perhaps save a parent in the future from suffering their moronic assholism.

As I always have, I will continue to defend parents in such situations from these cretinous globs of human excrement, and furthermore, I’d like to formally award my good good friend Francois both a gold star and a shared bottle of J at some point in the not-too-distant-future…

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I was thinking about the column I just wrote whilst eating porridge and beginning the working year with something resembling enthusiasm (no, really, I mean it). I had passed comment that one of the reasons I had neglected to write in this space for such a long time was the internet. I even referred to it as a vaccum. Indeed. Indeed indeed, in-deed.

I now believe that the internet is where middle-aged people ‘go out’ in lieu of babysitters, energy or vibrant youth. Think about it. Rather than get dressed up and go out to, say, a bar to meet some friends and then onto who-knows-where, the middle-aged worldwide have become Facebook’s silent majority. You don’t have to get dressed up, you don’t have to leave the house, you can behave like a genius or a dick and what’s more, you can interact with ‘friends’ worldwide. Worldwide! Whoo-hoo. You can even peak into the lives of teenagers, who you will note don’t even have the time to form sentences, and as such write stuff like
Iz goin dn in a G-style dawg
before sloping off and doing whatever it is they do.

You usually trawl around the same 10-12 places, and then, as the grip of electronic addiction throttles your subconscious, you return minutes later to see if there’s been a transfer between clubs or if anyone’s died or if some horrific central European pervert has been discovered or if the weather’s disasterous in Idaho. Somehow you skirt around imminent genocide in the Ivory Coast (probably because it’s not an original member of the dirty dozen you visit regularly) but there’s always time to pop over to Arsefacebook and let the world know exactly HOW fucking FANTASTIC your cheese and Branston pickle sandwich was as you sat scratching your balls listening to Daft Punk (this actually happened). And in turn, your ‘friends’ will tell you (well, maybe one or two of them but that’s ALL you need) that what you’ve said is amazing. They will ‘like’ it whether adopted on comedic or literal basis, and this is ALL the encouragement you need to continue posting USELESS bits of trivia about yourself whilst hoping others do the same about themselves.

Be very clear; I am not bemoaning or criticizing any of it. This is observation of simian-patterned behavior (although chimps don’t use laptops so hey, they’re ahead of the game) and no-one’s a bigger internet monkey than me. You’ll probably see this column via Arsefacebook, and somewhere around it will be some scintillating commentary on exactly what I thought of the referee last night around 4pm.

I suppose the real point to all this is that after a day’s work, after making sculpy Quorras with the wrong sculpy, putting them in the over to bake and retrieving big blobs of melted Quorra, after walking gently but firmly through the subsequent valley of tears and trauma at having killed the little lady’s cyber-Queen in your oven, I slip off to the sofa, put the cans on my head and slide away into the laptop. I immediately put the music on, I stretch out and then I’m gone, gone, gone, perhaps not to come back for hours. I’ll watch things on it, I’ll listen to things through it, I’ll make sure I don’t check e-mail after 7pm but I won’t disengage because, well, it’s comfy and warm and all-immersive. I read somewhere that each new search/page popping up gives the brain a little shot of dopamine; in which case I have spent an imbalanced amount of time doped up to the eyeballs, and as such unable to actually ‘do’ anything, like write this sort of stunning repartee.

Of course, I have to again chuckle at how much a part of everyone’s life Arsefacebook has become, for despite my ridicule I am a hopeless supporter and participant, plus I can keep up with the young man via it’s addictive pages. His life recently seems to revolve around Ice-T on Law & Order and the wds ‘txt me’.

Funny thing is, I’ll probably check in again later today to see what he’s been saying…don’t worry, I’ll call him too, but middle age won’t allow me to give up t’internet just yet…

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I am sharply aware of how little I’ve been writing in I Am Father recently. The reasons are pretty straight-forward, and by way of reasoning, I shall offer them as follows:
1) I was adjusting to the young man being gone.
2) I was adjusting to the young lady taking over for both of them.
3) I was traveling.
4) I was busy…
5)…wasting time on a myriad of things I shouldn’t have been via that wonderful vaccum of brain and body, the internet.
6) I was tired.
7) I was lazy.
8) Because I developed a new attitude which was basically…
9) …who gives a shit what I’m wittering on about, certainly not…
11) I needed to recharge this clapped-out documentation battery.

I think that covers it. Oh no, wait a second. I was also in Europe and Australia a couple of times each, a few other places as well, Spurs have been FANTASTIC this season and I’ve been spending too much time on Arsefacebook telling the world and their mother about it and I’ve been more obsessed than ever with my therapist, with whom I’ve spending an inordinate amount of time. He’s a about three feet long from nose to tail, 18.5 lbs and likes to chat. He also sits on my chest, falls asleep and allows me to sniff his side and belly as I rub his head. No you social ingrate, it isn’t midget love, it’s my cat, and he’s an even greater reason why I quite frankly couldn’t be arsed.

Aside from all that, I have actually been quietly (and sub-consciously) dealing with the young man’s college acclimation until right around now. Oh he’s done some things, not the least of which was announce to me within weeks of being at college that he was joining a fraternity. My thoughts on fraternities stretched not much further than branding people on the arse with red hot pokers, shoving heads down toilets whilst wibbling underwater and force-feeding beer to newbies via plastic trumpets, straws and bellows. That and a series of weird handshakes. It’s fair to say this was as scary a piece news as I could’ve received, and to be honest, something deep deep down inside told me that if I wrote about it ‘then’ I’d regret it forever.

Some months later and I have learned a lot. This fraternity is not about branding arse cheeks or force-drinking (of course there’s much drinking, but it’s voluntary). There’s no wibbling in toilet water and there are no sick initiations leaving scars and attitudes. No, there are openly gay members of this fraternity, and all colors and creeds are welcome. They require a passing grade to remain within the fraternity, and they help willing members find jobs and contribute to the community.

More than anything, it’s given him a structure and identity which he apparently needed more than I knew. It’s been the making of him in college. and as such, he’s passing his classes, got a decent job and having fun. We have the odd weekend here and there, but he is (quite rightly!) living his independent life, in his own place with his own rules.
“Passing classes was his Christmas present to you,” someone said to me, and I swiftly corrected them. He passes classes for himself, to preserve (and maintain) a lifestyle he’s enjoying. It’s not for me. It hasn’t been for me since he was in his early teens. It’s all been for him. Important to recognize that…

Meanwhile, Miss Quorra has blown my doors recently. Aside from all the usual touchy-feely great things I could say, this holiday season has seen her finally break out of deep kid movie mode and into the world of future/sci-fi and beyond. She has wigged out on TRON-THE LEGACY, and it just so happens that this glorious bit of neon-encrusted fluff captured me too, and so here we are, two neon-encrusted sci-fi folk loving this film but equally clicking into the soundtrack’s groove; she’s always been one for music, and Daft Punk’s score for the film literally spoke to her, painting pictures of a film she said she wanted to see. In all liklihood this probably all started when we zombified for Halloween, and I know she knows I’m delighted she’s a convert. But I know she likes it all too…she’s my daughter after all…and as such it’s in her DNA.

So this holiday season has been about electroboys, neon lights, mince pies and dedicating myself to doing next to bugger all. And it’s been deliciously great. But now it’s time to wake up and get on with things. Maybe get on with this a bit more regularly too, even if that will likely mean more waxing on about the comfort and beauty of acquiescing to middle-aged grumpiness whilst also observing the stupidity of both the modern world and the modern parent.

It’s going to be a busy few months for me and my spleen will certainly need venting, so apologies in advance but I know that you’ll find some nutritional value (if not empathy) in this space as 2011 marches forwards…and regardless of how wonderful it was to sit vacantly picking my nose, scratching my arse and watching apple TV with not the slightest inclination to write a single fucking word here, now that I’m lurking I must say it’s nice to be back.

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I have, as the three eagle-eyed regular readers who’s attention I enjoy will attest, been alarmingly inconsistent with this column in recent months. That’s largely because suddenly things weren’t as trite or whimsical as they used to be; the metaphoric ‘heat’ in this father’s literal kitchen seemed to be getting turned up at a rate of knots (and before you start, sigh, YES, when writing stream-of-conscience, heat CAN be and IS turned up a rate of knots because it SOUNDS BETTER THAN SAYING ‘UP’) and as the teenager’s countdown to college got faster, well, you’ve been reading about it’s affect on this-here father. Sporadically I’ll grant you, but you have been catching the drift.

The weirdest thing has been that the kindergartener enjoyed a summer stuffed to the gills with camp activities at the almighty Steve & Kate’s, where she ran herself gleefully ragged every single day. And now she’s back in school, yes, she’s been pushing some buttons but they just seem…I don’t know…not as critically long-term as perhaps they once were? I don’t know. Maybe I just can’t be arsed to take them any more seriously than a gruff and grumble when she stretches the boundaries, because these past few weeks I’ve been dealing with a whole other level of family weirdness.

It’s not just that the teenager has gone. Truth be told, for us all it’s a relief. It’s more the way it happened as well as the way it continues sort of happening…

Teenager in sullen rudeness shocker might not appear to be the most original or unique headline in the world, and I’m sure that right now some of you (OK, two of you three!) are tut-tutting at my naivety. But I have to confess that I was shocked at the consistency of general ‘fuck-you-dom’ which has maintained itself with regards to attitudes and answers. Everything is a struggle in discussion, and furthermore, he is so high on his independence hog that I fear he’ll break his neck if he falls the 50ft it would be from top to bottom. Example. I tried to politely tell him he needs to grocery shop for the two weekend days his meal plan doesn’t kick in, something I’ve been suggesting for a few weeks.
“I know can I go to Costco?”
“Costco? No. Why? Are you feeding the campus?”
“No. I just want to get a few things.”
“Like what? 500 pita pockets?A palate of water?”
“Then what?”
“It’s alright, you don’t get what I need.”

Or this gem.
“I’m going to need to get some more boxers…”
“Why? We just got a bunch.”
“Well I’ve only got ten pairs and I only get to the laundry once a week.”
“TEN PAIRS? How many balls do you have? Two right? Good for one pair a day I’d imagine.”
“(sighing loudly) I shower twice a day because sometimes I go to the gym…”
And I haven’t een mentioned the new student necessity that is Red Bull Light…

Still, we engineer the time we can without wanting to dump all the advice and ask all the questions parents want to. And so I took the opportunity to drive and pick him up one Friday for a weekend back in the city. This gave me the opportunity to see his living quarters (pretty goddamn swish it must be said) and to invite myself for lunch on his meal-ticket (literally) at the food hall. ‘Whuddya want?’ he grunted at me, and having chosen a small burrito, he mumbled something about getting drinks around the corner.

I waited and surveyed the scene. There was American food, pizza and pasta, a huge salad bar, sushi (sushi? SUSHI? IN FUCKING COLLEGE?) make no mistake, this was not roughing it whatsoever. My mind scoped the area; youths wandering around in varying degrees of comotoseness, dopey-eyed sullen faced youths with trays of sushi and mexican food, a rather well-fed middle class Village Of The Damned if you will. I had a lot of time to survey it, as the college boy had disappeared. A quick scan due North spotted him at one o’clock talking to a few girls. I was about to get angry about being left like an aging pickle, before I realized this is exactly what the script called for, and furthermore, I should probably accept that I was lucky he had agreed to take me to lunch here in the first place. Positives man, think of the POSITIVES. And so I did. I mean, the food was great and the girls he was blowing me off for weren’t ugly…and I didn’t look totally out of place…

But as I looked around the zombiefest, I started to wonder what this college generation were going to bring to the table? With their creature comforts and easy schedules? I mean, on the surface I can’t imagine this lot standing up to the tyranny of, say, a George Bush. As long as there’s another plate of sushi to be had and Tully’s stays open, well, it would doubtless be OK bro.

The truth is, however, that I am older and they are younger, I behaved differently at their age and, well, my life was different. This lot are doing whatever it is they do and they’ll be just fine. I also realized that despite the damn fine lunch I had, my visits to this particular dining facility would need to be few and far between, because my visits to his living quarters and his college generally would need to be just as few and just as far between in order for everyone to breathe easy and walk tall.

Independance day had come and gone and somewhere my GPS had lost it’s location. All good. reboot and reload. But let me assure you, all of you who have kids that will make this passage…it ain’t easy to come to grips with. It ain’t easy to realize that no, you did not become a personna non grata overnight, that this is simply the passage of youth-to-man, and that even though they (we?) think they’re already young men, they’re not quite there yet.

Between friends, babysitting gigs (one for us!) and whatnot, we didn’t really hang out much. Spurs weren’t playing this weekend either, so that crunched the time further. Which was fine. Until I was asked if I could drive him back down to college on Sunday night.
“Er. No. You’re babysitting for Rich.”
“I know but he said he might be done around 9.”
“The answer is still no.”
“But why?”
“Because you have a job to do and I have a life to live. Get the train.”
“It doesn’t run otherwise I would.”
“Sorry about that.”
“So will you give me a ride? Please?”
” (sigh-grunt) Whatever!”
” ‘Whatever’ indeed…that, my friend, is the other side of independence, that what you want doesn’t always happen and you have to deal with it.”

Rich didn’t get in until just after 10 and he paid the college boy handsomely because that’s the kind of good guy he is.
“That was very cool of him,” the college boy smiled, “really cool.”
I smiled and made arrangements to cook salmon and scrambled eggs in the morning before his mum dropped him off and saw the set-up for herself.

p.s. A funny footnote story. The kindergartener and I were driving along, listening to a mix Lady Gaga’s ‘Disco Stick’. Now, as the K-girl gets older, her penchant for lyrics appears to get acutely stronger. So I should not have been surprised when she asked what a disco stick was.
“It’s like a magic party wand that can be waved all round a room to start a party!’ i conjured triumphantly, thinking I had easily navigated the pitfall.
“So how do you ride a disco stick then?”
I managed to cobble together some semi-convincing guff about it being a metaphor for riding the wave and fun spirit of the party. It worked this time. But already I can see the breakdown of her innocence on the horizon; it’s still a ways away I’ll grant you, but it’s nearer than I thought it would be too…

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The young adult and I hauled ourselves up at 4.10 am for the 4.45 am kick-off.
Spurs would soon be playing Manchester City in their first game of the season at White Hart Lane, and every football fan will tell you that opening day is one of the best on the calendar.
We have, over the years, seen a few together and been to a few together on visits back to England.
One of those, the start of the 2002/03 season, saw us on the supporters coaches heading to Merseyside for an opening day at Everton. I’d brought him to away games before, but there’s something different about an away game on opening day; the grass smells wonderful, the weather’s usually deliciously warm, the kits are fresh and the voices loud.

I’d had an enormous row with my own father the night before the match when he came to visit us at my Mums. Years of bottled frustration at his bizarre behavior since their divorce had finally got to me, and I had screamed like I’d never screamed at him before, walking an emotional tightrope off which I’d suddenly, abruptly, fallen. Regular readers will have learnt in columns gone by that my dear Dad has some psychological health issues, which as they unfolded explained some of his bizarreness (solo trips to Norwegian icefields to camp alone and study the light, etc)…as we left in the morning to get to the Spurs coaches, I’d asked the young adult (then still ‘the boy’) if I’d woken him up, and if so how sorry I was.
“I counted 43 ‘fucks’!” he said in reply, grinning, and we burst out laughing.

We bought the new shirt before boarding the 9am coaches, and we got stuck on the motorway, nearly blistered in the heat and nearly died from the absurdly high-volume conversation from the two oddballs beside us that wouldn’t die. By the time we got to Everton, it was 2.50, 10 minutes before kick-off, and with the traffic blocked, the driver let us out about 1000 yards from the ground and so we sprinted to make sure we got into our seats to see that first kick-off of the season. Blue skies. 80 degrees. Adrenaline pumping. We started singing. And jumping. And singing more. We went one goal down, but then, in the 63rd minute, on our side of the ground, Matty Etherington looked up from 25 yards out and smashed in an equalizer off the underside of the bar; I turned, looked at the boy and it ‘happened.’ That beautiful, congruent electric moment of pure unity and joy sizzled between us, and as we hugged in celebration I knew it was much more…

Football, as you will have gathered, is very, very important to many men, to many fathers, to many sons. I could write a book about why it has been so for me. And as I look around his room in these last few days before he moves out for college, as I look at the little named shirt on the wall, the one I got him when he was 3, the one he wore when we went to our first game together in 1995 (an awful 0-0 draw at home with, coincidentally, Everton) I feel the tears. I don’t know what sort of tears they are, happy, sad, both, neither, resigned, resolved, proud, probably all of the above and virtually none, I really don’t know. But I do know that as we sat around the corner of Danny Coyle’s watching a beautiful display of football from Spurs this early morning, as the banter flowed, the hope rose and the stresses and aggravations of a sometimes shit shit world were locked in deep storage for a couple of hours, something triggered my memories, and thus I find myself staring at the first-ever shirt I got him.

I remember when he fell for a striker called Michael Owen who played for Liverpool. He told me, at 8 years old, he wanted to follow Liverpool. I didn’t stand in his way. He got a Liverpool shirt. But somewhere inside it mustn’t have felt right, because sure enough, less than two years later he was back loving Spurs, back sharing with me.

I look around the room…there’s another set of crutches which he had to use for his recently torn ankle ligaments. Some clothes. Shoes. An unmade bed. A razor sits in his bathroom. It’s cleaner than it’s been in a couple of years, and that’s because he’s leaving next week for college.

I steadfastly refused to believe I would get emotional right before he left college. Why? How would I know? Probably some macho bullshit? Nah. More like plain, simple, potent denial. But here I am, a week before the day he moves and I can feel it’s going to be a roller-coaster, one that I’ll stay on which will still throw me for a loop once in a while.

He’s staying with friends tonight, the same friends he’s spent increasing amounts of time with over the last couple of years, really great people who I love and admire for both their way as people and their love of him. It sometimes feels a little strange that he’s over there as much as he is, but he is 18. And when I was 18, I was spending weeks at a time 6000 miles away in foreign lands, feeling that I knew the whole thing lock stock, not actually acknowledging my parents beyond meals and laundry. I wasn’t being rude I was being a teenager. We got on and I was, of course, decent to them, that’s pretty much what teenagers do, and if your skin is too thin to know it then you will be tortured by this rite of passage all children, yours, mine, theirs, take.

He won’t need to see me getting all emotional, all he’ll need is to make a trip to Target for some new t-shirts and underwear and lunch together on Tuesday as go to Danny Coyle’s to see Spurs try and pull one off against the Young Boys of Switzerland at the Wankdorf in our Champions League qualifier.

But I’ll be playing my own highlight reel. The wheeling of the bike after the gym every morning, the trips to Legoland, the British castles, the primary school trip to Mexico where I chaperoned too, the family vacation in Mazatlan where he gashed his foot open but we soldiered on, the guilt of him growing up in 2 houses a mile or so away from each other since he was 3, the happiness of knowing he will be in the same bed night after night for a whole year for the first time since he was 3, that first pint as a 16 year old in the Billy Nick, the 25 yard winner from Atouba at Newcastle in 2004 and the drive with Crystal Waters and ‘100% Pure Love’, our love of Defoe…

When I saw Spurs reach the Champions League this May by beating Man City in Manchester, I would’ve loved to have shared that winning goal moment with him. The singing. The celebrations. But it wasn’t an option. I couldn’t do it to him despite how much I wanted to. he needed to be home taking advantage of every minute left in his high school life, because he was on the verge of blowing this future college place, this excitement, this great life journey he’s about to enjoy in the dorms with it’s parties and people and relationships and self-discovery and some studies too. So no. It couldn’t happen. Because truth be told, it was the beginning of the end of the teenager, and the beginning of the start of the young adult.

He’s going to have fun. He’s excited. He’s already half there mentally and I’m sure the family member he’ll miss the most by a country mile is his sister. I won’t be bugging him all the time. I won’t be checking in every 5 minutes. But he will be on my mind. And wherever we are, when Spurs are playing, we’ll find each other, even only for a few texts or a quick chat.


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Morning tears have not been heard in some months from the kindergartener (aka K-girl), so it was a shock when she burst into the bedroom bawling at 7.05am.

Little Colin.
We had heard about Colin a few days before, when K-girl announced that ‘Colin’ was her ‘snuggle boy’.
“When I rub his belly he laughs and laughs,” she said smiling.
Rubs his belly.
Snuggle boy.
K-girl was 5 in June, and whilst it’s true that she behaves with the verbal speed of a 7 year old (and the height to match) this still came as a bit of a surprise.

“Your ‘snuggle-boy’?” I’d asked. “What, so you snuggle with him?”
“Yeah, and when you tickle his belly he laughs and he’s really really nice.”

When you view it all in context, perhaps the morning sob wasn’t such a shock after all. On the way to summer camp that morning, K-girl looked at me and said,”I can’t go to camp today Daddy because Colin won’t be there and I only want to see Colin!”
“You’ll be fine,” I said


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He made it.
After all that, he made it. Got what he needed to get where he’s going. Which is all you need to do.
18. And graduated from High School as of last Thursday. No more High School. That’s it. Hello world. Hello San Jose State. Hello whatever…

The last few weeks have been emotional for me, child birthdays and developments aside (the kindergartner-to-be just turned 5).
Spurs made the Champions League and I saw it happen in Manchester, at Man City’s ground, and it was great, so great. I missed him there, knew he would’ve loved the moment, but reasoned it was near the end of High School and he needed to keep his head in the game. I got home to find out his head had not been in the game. So I had to drop my head and show some teeth. And growl. And snarl.

I feigned relative indifference, but deep down, deep in the pit, it hurt like buggery and I was nervous. What if he fucked it all up NOW, I thought. What if he doesn’t get to where he wants to go? of course I knew all the rationale, I knew all the wisdom fortune cookie bullshit, fuck, I’d been SPOUTING it all bastard year, but in the crunch, when I needed to remember it most, it wavered. I didn’t let on. I couldn’t. I needed to remain strong and a touch angry. Which wasn’t a lie. I was more than a touch angry. But also I wasn’t. And then I was.

We’d had one of our longest ever conversations when emotional things came out. The residue of being raised in two homes, however loving the environments might be, is still residue which sticks. And unless you’ve walked in those shoes, you cannot know what that journey’s like. And I haven’t walked in those shoes, so I don’t now what his journey’s been like. He told me he would occasionally be scared that I would die, that his sister would die. I unhelpfully said that we would at some point, a crude attempt at humor, but we both knew what he meant. I knew his foundations were shaking a bit, and I knew he was worried that yes, he might actually fuck it up at the last. Which in all reality boiled down as much to not being able to live on campus as anything else.
“I just want to be somewhere all the time,” he said, “not always packing bags and I want to be somewhere where I can do exactly what I want.”
Which is fair enough. At 18 I was globe-trotting and spending nights wandering New York City, wide-eyed, excited, oh-so ready…I understood what he was saying. And I also knew I couldn’t get too soft. He needed my disappointment to help continue the drive over the line.

As graduation day approached I feigned casual interest in how the grades were coming along, dropping in a sort of ‘by the way what’s going on in classes’ after discussing the projected England squad for the World Cup. But I wanted to know every single angle of the grade being written on his papers. I wanted proof..
…couldn’t force it though.
It is what it is.
It will be what it will be.
City Dharma – Arthur Jeon, yes, this got a bit of a caning on the can as I sat and pondered.
What would a Buddist do, I thought?
And then I looked at Bubbles, my cat, and realized that he had the right approach. Which was to just look around and meow.
Yes. I did just that from time to time.
And as for the graduation itself, I didn’t really buy into it, didn’t really buy into the whole ceremony. ‘School’s to BE finished!’ I’d grumble off in the corner to anyone who wanted an earful, but then, when the day arrived, my emotions shifted.

I watched him leave the hall. And I saw him outside. And I realized it has been a journey to this point. This 18th year. And we have had some great times. A fair few of them to be honest, and probably not text-book ones, and a lot of them revolving around shared football experiences with friends.Newcastle away, Everton away on that glorious summer’s day when I realized he had felt the electricity as we celebrated a goal truly together for the first time, watching him walk out with Spurs as a mascot and exchange passes with the skipper and shots on goal. But those are ours, and how nice it is we have them and many more to go along with them too. I remember a particularly funny week long drive to San Diego we took, and I still allow myself to peek back at his u-14 side that I helped coach winning their football league and him scoring the last-gasp winner, a 20 yard curler into the far corner. And I still enjoy playing in a game with him every so often because the boy can pass accurately and the boy can cross, so I enjoy great service. I remember him wheeling my bike in as I came back from the gym every morning in the mid to late 90s, and I remember Mexico with his primary school. There’s a lot I remember and a lot to remember.

And now, as I sit down and try and make sense of it all, listening to Deep Dish and Tracy Thorn collaborating on ‘The Future Of The Future (Stay Gold)’ I suppose I am emotional about it all. In a good way you understand. He made it after all, he’s out of school and about to embark on another journey. And he’s out tonight, again, with friends. As he should be. School’s done, he’s 18. Funny thing is that last night, hours after his graduation, hours after the celebratory lunch, I found myself sitting in this recliner and restless. So I decided to go and have a drink with one of my old Spurs buddies.

I called him, just mentioning I was heading over to my friend’s establishment, and he said that was cool, thanks, but he was in another part of town with friends. Which was great of course. And so I went and had a few beers with my friend, and we got the bar to re-run the last 20 mins of Spurs winning their Champions League place on May 5th. And I cheered again when the goal went in. And as I made my way home later that night, the sense of true change dawned on me a little more, just a little more…a bit melancholic? I wouldn’t admit it if it were even true!

I called him earlier just to check in and see what was going on.
“Oh it’s all good thanks, but hey, do you mind if I call you back later tonight because I’m out.”

For the first time in 18 years he hasn’t called me back when he said he would.
And you know what?
It’s fine, it really is…he’s earned the right.

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…spanning time…
…how will it work out?
…not much to do now other than sit back, relax and accept.
Accept that whatever happens, it is what it is, it will be what it will be, it’s OK, it really is OK, and that life has really only just begun for him.
I can hear it in his muscle fibres, in his bones, in his eyelids, the chemical need for separation, the sub-conscious driven desire to be solo sans parents sans questions sans demands sans governance.
…will he able to govern himself in such matters as daily life?
I think so.
I got over my five minutes of panic as to whether he was going to shaft himself and his San Jose State place with slipped grades. If he does, he does. He’ll still go to a college. He’ll still make his way. He’ll be fine.
So yes, I think he’ll be just-about able to govern himself.
If I didn’t, I really would be worrying far more than I am.
“STOP THINKING ABOUT IT ALL AND KNOW THAT IT IS WHAT IT IS!” barked my Mum via e-mail earlier. Sounds like the sort of thing I say to people.
I pondered the thought and realized that I can’t be that worried as any spare time I can claw out right now is spent trolling the internet for clips from Man City away on May 5th, the night when I saw Peter Crouch nod Spurs into the Champions League and thought I’d explode with joy (or alcohol – later).
It isn’t spent panicking about his future.
Indeed, the only discussions we’ve had on serious matters this past week was me reminding him that people don’t have to accept his choices in life and he doesn’t have to seek their acceptance.
“Who gives a shit?” I said with the sort of wisdom dispensed by psychology gurus the world over, “as long as you’re happy with them and they aren’t harming anyone, have at it. But just always take responsibility for your choices.”
And that’s been it. Goodnight Vienna. Goodbye Lincoln. Hello universe. At least this-here cabbie can go into semi-retirement.
He’s e-i-g-h-t-e-e-n now, as of yesterday.
It is the end of the beginning, and the beginning has a big, fat middle to wallow in…

Not to worry, there’s plenty of ‘beginning’ left in my world. The pre-schooler is about to become a kindergartener, and boy, what a specimen she’s going to be there. I can hardly wait to see their faces. I’ve seen a lot of kids, but I haven’t seen too many nearly-5 year olds in chiffon skirts, cowboy boots, flower hair clips and pink t-shirts who want to listen to The White Stripes and like to Grischnackh.
She is going to keep me very young or make me very old.
Sometimes she can drive me mad; mealtimes often leave me feeling I’d have better luck feeding hunger strikers, but we get there in the end, and as for the repetitive questions, I don’t know why she thinks the answer will change because IT WON’T, IT WILL BE THE SAME AS IT WAS TWO FUCKING MINUTES AGO!!!!! But when she’s good (and by that I mean fun, not necessarily goody two-shoes) she’s very very VERY good. An infectiously naughty gurgling cackle, a mischevious sparkle in her eye, an energy which is always ready for fun, games and action…a love of words, a real love. She’s started reading here and there, she gabbers on like an 8 year old, and she loves to rhyme.
A ham. Yes, a total ham.
And always game for a laugh.
Like when we burst into the teenager’s room at 6am, blasting the most heinously loud death metal in the form of some bunch of aural terrorists called Bezerker, brandishing cake, flashing lights on and off and with her leaping and jumping all over him screaming HAPPY BIRTHDAY…yes…never one to miss a moment for loud fun.

Yet she remains occasionally, irrationally, nervous of loud noises. These days it’s fire alarms and fire drills. Every room, area, restaurant and space is currently quantified by how many fire alarms it has, and whether there might be a surprise fire drill.
“If there is it’ll be because we’re potentially on the barbeque,” I replied helpfully. In hindsight, I could’ve been a little less visceral.
So as you can see, it will be a fast ride. Occasionally bumpy. But I feel strong, ready, in good fighting shape.
We will make a formidable team she and I, and we will have much fun together, we already have done that’s for sure.

And he and I will continue with a relationship which has embraced great changes in both our lives yet remained close, tight, unbreakable between us. Love, trust and leadership. I think those are the most important things a father can give their child. At least that’s been my experience so far…

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Sometimes I sit and wonder. I wonder about things I have trained myself never to think about, most notably things which have happenED and are thus rendered unchangeable.
I wonder about the past sometimes, and I wonder if I could’ve done better.

I look at the youth, mere weeks away from being an 18 year old man, and I wonder ‘could I have done more?’
‘Could I have pushed him harder in the scholastic area? Could I have shut him down a little more on creature comforts? Could I have been a slightly better role-model at times? Could I have encouraged his scholastic area more? Could I have made him do things he didn’t want to do more than I did? Could I have given him more support? Could I have gone broke and paid for a private education?’
And then come the ‘woulds’.
‘Would that private education have dealt a grade A student? Would pushing his scholastics have resulted in a permanent disconnect from me? Would a few less creature comforts have made him work harder for some things or just become a resentful human being? Would me cracking a few less fart jokes and swearing a little less about football have made him a better human being or just a more straight one?

Questions questions questions. These are the ones that I suppose come up when college is around the corner, when their hormones are in full-tilt autodrive, and when despite themselves, they sometimes leave you scratching the dirt floor like a chicken who’s lost it’s head to a blunt farmer’s axe.

I love him, of course I fucking love him, and he is a good youth, he’s going to be a good man, a kind man, a decent man, a man who will help as many people as he can and a man who will always get the job done. A man who has warmth and a man who is, essentially, a gentle soul but can carry a protective exterior. But at times, whether it’s the drip drip drippity-drip of his hormones or the neg-neg-neggedy-neg negativity of his monotone, short-sentence responses, he leaves my brain tilting towards the things he isn’t and the things he doesn’t do and the things he won’t do and the things he can’t do. It’s insidious. I have never engaged in thoughts like this before, yet suddenly, the sharpness of his casual and entirely natural, non-personal defiance has me seeing the half-empty glass.

So you sit and recalculate. You take stock of the ‘coulds’ and woulds’, you don’t run from them, you settle down, sip some iced-tea and you deal with them one-by-one. And you strip your soul of excuses and reasons, you simply make sure it’s fortified with truth.
And as you answer the ‘coulds’ and ‘woulds’ you find yourself admitting home truths.
Yes, you could’ve pushed the scholastics harder, and yes you should’ve, because perhaps if you had he’d have found the appetite to do more than simply get by in class. But the truth is that it wasn’t as important to you as the type of person he became, and so it was less of a focus. And had you pushed it, he most likely would not have found the appetite for scholastic matters because his digestive juices, his pysche, his make-up doesn’t work that way. There’s always the chance you’re wrong, perhaps he would’ve gorged on school-fed knowledge. But you played the margins and here’s what that costs in real terms.

Could you have altered your behaviour? Probably. But for what? A conventional wisdom? Hahaha, I don’t tend to ‘do’ those unless it really seems brilliant. Would your own behavior modification have altered much with him? Not really, it might only have served to show him the important of hiding who you really are…that is if you’re the sort of asshole who thinks it’s important to hide who you really are from everyone.

He has a gold chain and an earring, but in the cold light of day it’s not so bad for a nearly-18 year old. His pants sit pretty much on his arse, his clothes look decent enough, he grooms himself…when I was nearly 18, I had a wild clump of long curly hair pouring off my head, thick tinted glasses and the one of those ugly, spindly, worm-like teenage moustaches. If I told you I looked like Weird Al, he might have to sue me for defamation of character. And the clothes? Some white cotton quilted jacket WITH A BELT!!!!! And aqua blue converse sneakers which were EXTRA HIGH. Jesus, I should not have been let of the house, and the fact that I was and escaped arrest proves that the neighborhood had vision issues. I tried to remember whether my Mum gave me a telling off and insisted I got changed, but then I remembered that even if she had, I probably ignored her. I was, at the time, dating a 28 year old woman, doing the odd flight to New York and back for the word of rock’n’roll, and generally doing my best to communicate in sentences far far shorter than the ones I wrote. I remember clearly that my Mum had a cancer-scare when she was in her early 40s, and I remember clearly that my teenage head was too far up my teenage arse to give her the support she might have needed (I sadly have had two chances since to make-up for it). I didn’t realize the severity of cancer or the reality of it’s presence in our lives. I wonder if, at that time, my Mum asked herself a list of ‘coulds’ and ‘woulds’? I suspect she did, but I now one thing. She didn’t tell me about it. Instead she let me get on with it, offering what support I’d let her give me when I bluntly asked for it, trying to be a parent but also trying not to suffocate me.

And so I have satisfied the ‘could’ and ‘woulds’ for now. I got it as right as I could’ve got it given what I knew at the time (as well as what I felt), and I certainly did get a few things of wrong, but he’ll live (as is evidenced by him being here). He will (as he always is) be absolutely fine. He does his own laundry and he’s worked enough jobs to know that responsibility. He’ll get over whatever finishing line he has to before it’s too late, and he’ll have many friends because he is a nice, fun guy. A good guy. Not a perfect guy of course. But a guy I’m overall very very proud of.

Sometimes I just need to sit and talk it through with you all. Thanks for listening. And don’t think it won’t happen again…

n.b. the soundtrack to this was provided by Boards Of Canada, one of the more wonderful spatial, ambient, drifty, dreamy, melancholic and quietly provocative bands I have ever had the pleasure of listening to…these two fine Scotsmen deserve a moment of your time. Try them when you need to walk away into the clouds and think…

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I’m not sure how many other people feel like this, but when you’re having a less than shiney day, the last thing you need to see is some glad-handed smile Beamer looking with patronizing pity at you as they laugh and Twitter away the snot-nosed tugs and cries of their own children.
“Oh they’re so wonderfully independent…” might be one of the phrases you hear as these little buggers behave like zombie savages, all grunts, groans, grabs and saliva as they whine and whinge everyone else around them to a state of fist-pumping anger.
“You just have to understand that they haven’t formed their
communication skills properly, and it’s up to us to figure out what they’re trying to say.”

We should all be so blessed.
Of course, it is my opinion that these people are merely being Stepfordesque, and that the reality is that once in the comfort of their own homes, they unravel like a roll of Andrex toilet paper around a puppy, culminating in some cacophonous screaming rage that protects their public personna. Either that or they take another mandy.

Of course the other unwanted part of these ‘happy shiney Mom’ equations are the offspring they grin inanely at. Because guess what? Unchecked and unaccounted for, this behavior doesn’t go away. In fact it gets worse. These coat-hugging screaming whelps continue at pace to develop such fine social skill sets, safe in the knowledge that the world will sit down, smile and spend large amounts of time trying to work out what they’re saying.

If you don’t believe me, look around you. Society is filled with loud, noisy obnoxious wankers all jostling with the social graces of aspergers victims for conversational counter space. Now I’m not suggesting that these people would be better if they’d been given a good cuffing, no, what I am saying is that you have to offer your child structure, and that sadly, structure takes work.

And here’s the truth. Some people don’t have the stomach for that. They don’t have the stomach to discern when it’s OK to slide and when the big guns have to come out. And they certainly don’t have the stomach to show real emotions. Because, truth at ten, IF you’re trying to do it properly, it’s going to hurt occasionally. And that means that you won’t always have your happy shiney game face on.

So I suppose the other bit of this is that I have little time for fakers. They do no-one any good, not their kids, not themselves and certainly not me. Sometimes misery loves company, and there’s not much worse than being patronized by some gurning noised out hypocrite when what you’d really like is for someone to show some empathy. You will, if you’re me, be checking their eyes for signs of diazepam or some other bliss maker. Indeed, the wide-eyed grin would be classic Ecstacy territory, but alas what they’re saying is not nearly as fun or entertaining as an E user, so prescription drugs it must be.

On a very unrelated note, my wife and I went to see “Kick Ass” a couple of nights ago. It is not stretch of the imagination to see our daughter in the role of Action Girl or whatever the pint-sized
purple-headed heroine is called. Their energy is so similar it was funny.
The film is a lot of fun, based on a comic book as it is, though Roger Ebert apparently found it morally reprehensible. I suppose you could take that tack, but I’d wager it’s as much about what’s gone on in his life than anything else (I don’t remember him bursting out on ‘Pulp Fiction’ for example).

No, it’s not only worth seeing, for those of us who have small action kids of our own, there is an almost cathartic sense of relief and entertainment in seeing the lead character decimate all the gangsters in the world. I don’t want her to take up firearms, but I certainly wouldn’t mind her taking up this sort of acting…


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