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“Hello Mr.Chirazi.”
Not the most earth shattering of phrases I’ll agree, but for some reason, as the nice teenage chappie at my gym greeted me, towels in hand, smile on face and title established, I was taken aback.”
“Thanks but…Steffan’s cool.”
Or ‘holmes’ or ‘dude’ or ‘bro’ or just call me ‘whassup man’ because, er, that’s how I roll. I mean, even Don Draper calls Conrad Hilton ‘Connie’ on “Madmen” and those dudes are old! Well, Connie is anyway.
Anyway.
My point is that in calling me Mr.Chirazi, the chap had unknowingly made me momentarily aware that despite my Motorhead shirt, I am middle-aged. I am, indeed, a ‘Mister’ to those 21 and under. Which is all fine and dandy I suppose, not to mention true. In recent weeks I have learnt that my left IBS band ( hip flexor, and let’s hope I have the right abbreviation otherwise you’ll think it’s a bowel issue) tightens sufficiently with two indoor soccer games a week to render me a limping fool after the second one, so now it’s down to one game a week and training.
“What is that caused by, hardwood floors?” people will ask politely, and I will reply that no, ‘it’s’ caused by 43 years plus some extra pork on my frame. Of course I don’t dwell on it, because life is what it is and it ain’t half bad at all. But this morning’s gym salutation reminded me that there’s no definition as to when you actually are old enough to be a proper ‘Mister’ and that perhaps generally, your amount of ‘Misterdom’ is judged by your children and how old they are.

The teenager will tonight be ensconcing himself at an all-night party in a hotel suite. He asked me how I felt about him going and I was blunt.
“As long as your name isn’t on the reservation, as long as you box smart and as long as you wear protection if necessary, I’m all good and thanks for asking…”
It doesn’t mean I don’t wonder what’s going to happen later, what sort of clown-shoeing will take place. But that’s half the point. I hope some DOES. I think he needs it, in fact, I think he needs to drink so much that he throws up (into the toilet, don’t stain the bed or carpet because you’ll be charged for it) which doesn’t sound very ‘Mr.Chirazi’ at all, but is my true position. Because deep deep down I trust him not to do anything absurd, dangerous or disrespectful, in fact, in my experience of him after just two beers, he’s likely to be the one who falls asleep in the corner ( my wife said this a few days ago and I repudiated the thought, but now I rather like it so I’m nicking it).
“We’re putting stuff that could break, like lamps, in the closets,” he offered cryptically when I asked him about the finer points of the party) and what’s further is that I chose to see it as a sensible nod of caution rather than a clarion call announcing what was going to happen. Still, having once decimated my friend’s studio bedroom at 14 with spaghetti bolognese (cooked by us at least – it was tasty but we were drunk and the phrase ‘food fight’ become a cacophonous life’s calling after the 4th can of Tenants Super and the third bottle of Blackthorns) I understand that it’s best to retain a realistic perspective about it all. It could be worse. No, really, it could. So I hope he has a good time, no, a great time, and yessir, have a couple for me while you’re there. Let’s see how that goodwill holds up in the forseeable future though, eh?!

Meanwhile, my daughter is preoccupied with being a Powerpuff Girl. That and seeing how many inane questions she can absolutely batter me with in two hours or less. I didn’t think it was possible to ask so many inane questions in 120 minutes, but she can certainly do it. Most of them revolve around repeating the same one. In fact, allow me an example.
“Dad.”
“Yes.”
“Can I watch Powerpuff Girls when we get home?”
“OK that’s fine, but make sure you have a bath first.”
“So Daddy…can I watch Powerpuff Girls?”
“I just answered that question.”
“But can I?”
“Did you hear my answer?”
“Yes.”
“And what was it?”
“Yes but I’m having a bath first.”
“So there’s your answer.”
“So can I?”

I firmly believe that this particular type of ‘rotational exchange’  (as I shall politely call it) could be employed by law enforcement officials when questioning criminal suspects; after the third go around they would surely crumble into either a blubbering heap of guilt or a jiggering wreck of broken innocence. I often experience a blend of the two, which I’m sure many of you can empathize with. But you have to do the right thing, and the right thing is to explain why the answer already given is the only answer to be had; the fact that this process could well leave your spirit weeping quietly in the gutter is all part of the price.

Tangentially speaking, this is also a very very important thing to remember when it comes to offering kids the right balance of encouragement, praise and space to just do whatever it is they’re doing. Which brings me to the horrific sight which met my eyes at a recent swimming lesson my daughter went to. Because there, right beside her, was a very nice little girl who had the misfortune to have one of ‘those’ Mums. Yes, you know the ones. They burst into a round of heated applause if their little 4 year old cupcake manages to out a pretzel in their mouth without smashing it into their face, and this woman was the type. Her daughter managed to hold the float board and kick her legs without drowning, and this was apparently worth a shriek, a squeal and a flapping together of the hands which looked for all the world like a special Olympian singing a Susan Boyle song on ‘You’ve Got Talent’. I mean, come on! What sort of future are you setting your children up for with that sort of curiously maladjusted malarkey? I can see this poor girl now, screaming and throwing a fit by the photo-copier because her ability to make a clean photo-copy has not been celebrated by the arrival of flowers, gifts and a marching band. What will happen to her confidence? How cruel the world is!

Of course if we’re still using photo-copiers when she’s of age to use one, it will probably be a bigger miracle than if she gets through her first work day unscarred. Technology is enveloping us in it’s seemingly harmless ether, and I’m always willing to inhale. For example I’ m writing this on my new iPad, and frankly I love it. As for the e-reader component, being the honest yet filthy hypocrite I’m becoming, I bought two books to add to the free Winnie The Pooh that was already there. They sell children’s e-books, and the graphics are even more beautiful on the iPad screen. I considered buying one or two for my daughter, but then I decided against it. Only the other nigh she exclaimed how much she loved her book shelf and all the books on it. Proper paper books of course.
And y’know what? Mr.Chirazi’s not prepared to be the lazy bastard who takes them away from her right now…

Sent from my iPad

…yes. As I was saying. Since I was last here, I have learned a few things. And I thought I’d share them with you. Because you never know, perhaps you’ll find them helpful.

1) I am far far less of a morning asshole if I wake up after 7.47am. Yes, it’s true. When I do not have to rouse myself at 6.20am to taxi people around like some malcontent zombie-bastard, then I am actually a teeny-tiny bit approachable even BEFORE morning coffee. I can raise a smile, I can even offer a small conversational exchange. Don’t push that last one, I’m just saying…

2) I am delighted if the first thing I see in the AM is Bubbles. This is nothing against my family, who I love dearly, it’s just that when I see my furry little friend, when I pick him up and have a good old sniff of his long, night-prowled-garden-saturated fur, my day starts a little more calmly. I don’t know what cats have in their fur that acts as a valium to my senses, but Bubbles has it in spades and goddam it that’s the shit I need first thing in the morning. That and coffee. And relative quiet. Unless I get a chance to…

3) …play music first thing. Yes. A blast of The Buzzcocks maybe, a hint of Nick Warren’s trance, a smidge of Underworld, even a thundering chunk of High On Fire can all make my day kick off to a far, far better start.

4) A morning kiss. yes. A gentle kiss and a hug as opposed to a small one landing knee-on bollocks-in-kidneys-on-face whilst screaming ‘DADADDADADADADADADADADA’ (as ifd this will make the pain go away) is far better. In fact, a large super-charged tazer-style cattle prod shoved where the sun doesn’t shine might be less of a jump-start to the nervous system than what I’ve just described. So yes. A kiss. And the occasional snuggle. And then a quiet departure, allowing 5 minutes to leave the mattress. It’s not much to ask, is it?

5) Nearly 5 year olds and nearly 18 year olds laugh at the same words. “PENIS PENIS, you’revagina-bum-bum-poo-penis!” This chorus of verbage from the pre-schooler is met with a peel of laughter from the teenager. I have mastered the art of stifling any laughter I might have behind a mask of indignant disgust. Well we can’t have the inmates running the asylum all the time can we/

6) Sometimes silence works best. I have tried shouting loudly that the above words are not appropriate in such a context, but the truth is that frankly, it’s best occasionally to just ignore it all and casually look over, snorting ‘if you think that’s funny or impressive then you’re sadly mistaken.’ I will, however, immediately slap down any attempt to combine the words loudly in public. I will only allow mentions of  ‘penis’ or ‘vagina’ in a serious context. There is no serious context for ‘bum-bum-poo’ so that is forbidden.

7) However hard they try sometimes they cannot help it. And its important to recognize that moment. It’s hard to, but it is important. Because towards the end of the day, when tiredness has crept in and single-mindedness is paramount, sometimes the mind gets stuck in a bad gear and however hard they try to shake out of it, no amount of raised human volume will help. You can usually tell the moment, as it’s preceeded by a large yawn, then another, a couple of eye-rubs and then a blurted out ‘I’m not tired!’ That’s when you need the grease of empathy, of human comfort, of being able to say ‘OK OK I know you don’t know why you just screamed ‘bum-bum-poo-penis’ in the shops, so let’s just chalk it up to tiredness and know that it’s inappropriate and move on, right?’ After which comes a hug. Amazingly it works. It’s just a case of being able to do it. That can be the hard part. Because half the time, I end up speaking at the same volume as an Englishman trying to talk to a non-English speaking person in English (i.e. BLAH BLAH BLAH SHOUTING WHATEVER IT IS REALLY REALLY LOUDLY WHICH DOES NOTHING EXCEPT DEAFEN AND AGGRAVATE THE ALREADY CONFUSED LISTENER)…

8) My daughter loves playing football also. Call it ‘soccer’ if you want, but it’s football. And she loves it. And she’s a natural. Seriously. She is. So that’s my son who loves the game and now my daughter (who also knows Jermain Defoe songs and can say ‘Come on you Spurs my son’ in a silly London accent – as taught by her brother). My wife suggested I take her out to play and after resisting for a long time (on the basis that if she liked it, my wife would have to deal with houseful of football fanatics) I finally went for it. And now I am delighted. “When am I getting my new Spurs shirt?” she asked recently. This is a wonderful sentence which deserves to be asked a few more times before I relent and order it.

9) Sometimes you just need a couple of hours. That’s all. Sometimes you just need a few daytime hours to work/read/blow-off/whatever it is you do. Away from them. Away. Not near them. Not in the same building. Zip code is fine. This does not mean you don’t love them, it merely means you need a little time and space to re-energize so as you continue loving them more. Otherwise you might end up eating them , like tigers do their young sometimes. I was joking with that last bit. A  bit. But truth is, as I sit here, having had 93 minutes to myself during daylight hours unfettered by kids for the first time in 7 days, I’ve suddenly realized that I (sort of miss them…) a bit…or at least that I’m thinking of them. Their faces. Their laughter. Their humor. Their language. All of it. It’s all rather complicated in the end of it.

But let me be very clear. iI anyone wants to offer us a fully-paid vacation to a sunny spot with built-in childcare which will allow us at least half of every day to do nothing for one whole week, we’re ready and just e-mail me now.

IT’S BEEN A WHILE…

I sat for 20 minutes last night in my favorite leather chair. On one thigh was my daughter, on the other (and, indeed, across my daughter and the other thigh too) as my cat. It was past her bedtime, but this was too good a moment not to soak in.

Simple pleasures.

Let them last a while. Don’t let a clock break them up. Enjoy the moment. And the one after that. I swear we all dozed off for 5 minutes. A slice of heaven in my own bedroom.

Time is the one thing I’ve always had a firm grasp of. I understand it’s deceptive nature, how it slips through fingers like sand, how it runs away like bathwater down a drain, and somewhere in my rock and roll addled brain, I realized early on that time with children needed to be savored whenever humanly possible. Growing up with the teenager, some of it spent as just myself, himself and kevin (my roomate many years ago between marriages) it was important to take a moment. We took many. He helped me drag my bicycle in ever morning after divorce from his mother, helped me with his 4 year old hands, dragged the front tyre through the door as I lost nearly 80lbs in a year. We’ve shared many moments at Spurs, my perennial favorite being the opening day of the 2002/03 season, a 2-2 draw at Everton, blazing sunshine, new shirts and a 25 yard equalizer which brought us together in the first true ‘moment’ when I knew he had absorbed the passion for the game (and club) for himself, when it wasn’t just a monkey-see-monkey-do happiness. We shared a pint of lager together at the Lane when he turned 16, in the beer garden, amongst old friends, and we’ve shared many hours in the car, talking, discussing, advising, bitching at each other, joking, being happy, sad, angry, mad or just being us.

From that time spent, from the fact that I have (more often than not) been able to pick him up from school and be there, we have built a friendship and trust beyond the parent/child relationship. And because of that, we know who each other is and we accept who we are. He knows that in the morning I’m as fast and happy as a quadraplegic tortoise until I get coffee down my neck, and he also knows that when I exclaim more joy at seeing Bubbles than him in those early moments of the day, it’s not personal, it’s just me, and I’m not saying Bubbsy’s better, I’m just saying I like to hug the warmth of the kitty first thing.

I feel the same thing happening with my daughter. She’s approaching 5 and it hasn’t always been easy. She can be anxious, impetuous and stubborn. But she’s also a warm, vibrant, explosively exciting and infectious personality. I know everyone says it about theirs, but I’m really telling the truth. Honestly.

I am generally doing what I did first time around. Time and schedules are built around her day. I generally see her in the mid afternoon after school, and we work through a myriad of things. Whenever I taste or feel her anxiety rearing uneccessarily, I deflate it with a casual flick of the hand and ‘refocussing’ question to get her away from a moment which might never happen and is too far ahead. And I reinforce trust. I ask her to trust me and I’m ready to take that responsibility. The fruit has blossomed recently. She has been in a wonderful space, and I feel like I know her better than ever.

The importance of time…

…my Mum just completed a visit, her first here for nearly three years. It went quickly. Too quickly. I’d had an inkling it would, but I’d steered clear of investing in that knowledge, instead taking each day of her visit as it unfolded. It still went too quickly, but trust me, had I been aware of that speed as it happened I’d have lost the whole visit to regret about the time drain.

…my wife and I went away for a night. We behaved like a couple again. We had champagne with our dinner and we laughed and joked around in our quiet getaway. We lolled around and did nothing. In the morning I knew it had gone quickly, but at least I hadn’t thought about that the night before.

…as my Mum left to go and visit one of her oldest friends for a few days, I was quiet and grumpy. Tired for sure, but there was more. I couldn’t get the ball out from under my feet, but I knew I would eventually. And when I did, I realized it had been about time. I was resentful that someone else was going to get a few days of my Mum’s time whilst she visited. Why, I wondered, couldn’t they have been content with seeing her for a night? Why, I thought, couldn’t they have let her have a couple more days with us, her boy and her grandkids?

I put my daughter to bed later that night. The teenager was out as was my wife, so I sat on the couch and listened to music. Bubbles jumped up and glued himself to my side. And as I sunk into the fluffy pillow of time and relaxing space such a simple pleasure always brings me, I realized that I was very happy to have the time I had with her at all. Two cancers. Nothing’s for granted. And I’d already booked everyone to join her and her partner for a long weekend in Vegas before they flew back home to the UK.  3 nights. It will be fun. Good times.

At the end of it all, time is all you have. So be sure you use it well. No regrets when it comes to the clock…well, as few as possible anyway…

n.b. This has been a more reflective ‘I Am Father’ and for those who are missing the usual stream of fart-laden consciousness which this column throws up, stay tuned because I’m sure it isn’t too far away, especially in our household.

SOUND BITE CULTURE…

The teenager is close to graduating, is foraging to find himself, is spinning his mental wheels to get beyond the year he lost to that goddamned ACL injury and in the process is showing who he really is. And that is a good-natured, decent, slightly reserved and certainly shy young man. Not that you might think this if you’d happened to stumble upon his twitter account.

A veritable smorgasbord of seeming ghetto-English, often directed at some ladies who are (shall we say) perhaps not of the greatest repute? Now listen. He’s 17 and I know where his head’s drifting, and furthermore, I know that sometimes the cheap, loud allure of fast-food seems so much more appealing than the deft nuances of a quality meal. Problem is that if your system’s not ready for junk-food you’ll give yourself a stomach ache, and trust me, I know who this guy is and he is not really a fast-food guy.

I understand how twitter works. I have a twitter account and frankly, I think it’s a pretty crap thing, all abbreviations and useless information about what people are doing every 6 seconds of their lives. Indeed, my personal rule for twitter is not to post anything I wouldn’t bother saying to someone’s face. Trust me, it narrows things down, though given some of the things I have posted on twitter, you’d be excused for finding me a touch odd in person.

The thing which made his twitter account a cause for concern was the fact that because he had no privacy setting, anyone could view it simply by typing his name into a google search. And by doing so, they would not have first seen a guy who has worked as a camp counsellor for three years, who has worked for park & rec, who was chosen as part of a state High School sports leadership program and who is currently part of a work/study program. No, what they’d have seen was something like this.

Hey huny, waz up wit yu out dere?

I am, of course, paraphrasing, but you get the idea. It isn’t that what he’s saying is especially poor, especially wrong or even particularly different to what any 17 year old would say. It’s the fact that this is the first hit people get of him, a string of inane, occasionally mildly racy abbreviations and grunted primal questions, which is only a part of him. He had also posted a photo of his little sister which showed her unwittingly engaging in a form of sign-language that tends to happen between siblings, but which is most certainly out of order. Again I chose to see this as air-headed naivety, a blip on the mental radar and not a malicious act of any description. But it was time for a chat.

I told him that I had no problem with him doing this twitter thing, but that he needed to be better to himself, to realize he deserved better than some of the company he was aiming at.

“A lot of them are really nice people,” he countered.

“How can you know? You haven’t met them, it’s all online, it could all be a myth, a game, a role-play. They might be some horrible gnarly twisted old bastard pretending to be something or someone. You just don’t know.”

“That’s right, we don’t know.”

“And so what I’m saying is, because you don’t know, err on the side of caution, if only for your own quality control.”

He nodded in slow, measured agreement.

“Go online and put your account to private. Make sure you put up every privacy setting you can, because my friend, you do NOT want people to be able to run into this via Google, you don’t want people to see you as just ‘that’ guy.”

“But if people want to know me they can read my profile, and they wouldn’t take that stuff seriously would they? I don’t take it seriously, it’s entertainment for me, I laugh about it.”

Ah but they would mate. And they do. Because most people have the attention spans of amnesic gnats, with a brain capacity not much greater anyway. And taking that as a given, your public personna becomes about presenting your best foot, becomes about controlling the information people get hit with. That’s not deception, that’s modern life.

17 years old, worldly in so many ways yet inexperienced and naive in so many others. I told him quietly that we are in a soundbite culture, that people react to the spiciest thing they see as opposed to the deeper, quality information available. I reiterated a point I’d made before about making sure you play the ‘soundbite’ game properly, about making sure that you present who you really are first. And I talked about girls. Because Jesus, if I can’t talk about girls seriously with him now, if I can’t give him the advice I never got from my Dad, if I can’t continue to offer him this advice as I have tried (without pressure and infrequently) to do, then what good would I be? Because at 17, these become times when communication and trust must remain open. It isn’t about dominating his world. He is clearly (and hopefully) beyond my control, he is who he is, he is the guy I have helped him become and I need to take a deep breath and trust that quality to rise to the top in these situations.

“I’m not going to tell you that some the girls you’re tweeting with are, on the surface, appealing. But you deserve better. Because you’re not a hip-hop-honies type of guy. If you were, I wouldn’t say anything more mate, I’d be happy enough. But I know you and I know you’re not. I know it’s an awkward time, I know that asking girls out is a confidence thing, I know all these things. But just trust yourself more, know who you are and be that person when it comes to these affairs. You’re a great guy, you’re great in company, you’re polite, you’re decent, you have a warm friendly character. Don’t be afraid of that…”

Because when you’re 17, that’s a lot to be afraid of. Because you want to be ‘street’ (as in ‘tough-mack-daddy-sorta-kinda). The sexiest. the most hip. And who amongst us ever really felt that our friendliness, warmth and decency was going to win the day when it came to grabbing a member of the opposite sex. I was traveling the world with rock bands at his age, coming back to do studies after glamorous trips to Hollywood, yet I insisted on looking like some retard version of Weird Al Jankovic and still couldn’t quite muster the confidence to ask out the girls I really wanted to go out with.

And this is the thing. 17. So close to being an adult yet so far. So close to breaking out on your own, yet most likely clueless as to exactly what path your life will take. So many expectations, both implied and announced. Who will you be, what will you be, who are you, where are you going, what are you doing with-your-LIFE?!!

Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath. To sit back and take stock. And to focus on exactly who the person you’ve raised is. Just that. Just the person. Just WHO they are. Nothing more. Nothing less. Hopefully it’s a person you like and trust, it should be because by God, if it isn’t, then you fucked up on your primary job in life. And in my case, when I look at him, I know who he is. And he is a good guy, a decent guy. And it is my job to remind him of that. It’s my job to make sure he doesn’t become afraid of being who he is when the image-shit is hitting the social fan. And it’s my job to hug him and make sure he knows that even though he might drop the odd bollock here and there, in his person I trust. And so should he…

METAL GODDESS…

“IF you want me to perform ‘Electric Eye’ from the very beginning, COMPLETE WITH ‘THE HELLION’ INTRO AND AIR-PUNCHING WITH THE MIKE, THEN I SUGGEST YOU STOP MUCKING AROUND AND FINISH YOUR DINNER RIGHT NOW YOUNG LADY!’

This, I grant you, is not the sort of mealtime discipline you’ll read about in a Dr.Spock book, however here in our happy little home it can be the difference between meal fulfilment and malnourishment.

“It’s true isn’t it,” said my wife grimly as she finished her umpteenth crossword puzzle, and yes dear reader, yes yes it was true. Because earlier, at dinner, the pre-schooler sat up straight, dropped the monkey-business and finished her dinner quickly. The offer she’d received from me but 10 minutes earlier was not one she was going to pass up. Wisely. Because as much as I  fancy myself a secret powerhouse of frontmandom, pretending to be Judas Priest’s Rob Halford from the ‘Screaming For Vengeance’ era armed with nothing but a pink echo mike and plenty of timing is not the sort of thing I can really pull off.

The teenager readied his camera-phone as I let ‘The Hellion’ play first, a 44-odd second intro song which allowed me to ‘warm-up’ in her bedroom before striding onstage as Glenn Tipton hit the first notes of ‘…Eye.’ I secretly cursed not having my mirror-shades handy, but as-is, true artistes power on regardless, and I wasn’t about to let myself down. And as I punched the air, as I sang the opening bars, as I strode the stage back and forth (a mere coffee table separating me from the sold-out house) the pre-schooler was beside herself with delight. She LOVED IT. The music. The performance. It was all I could do not to start squealing with delight and skipping around the room like a big blouse, but again, professionals that we must be, I stuck to my task and diligently finished. After which she requested…an encore performance…”WITH MAMA! AND THEN ME AND DADA AND THEN ME AND MAMA!!!” This girl/knows how to rock (sorry – Saxon). And we did just as asked. First Mama and Dada, in glorious harmony I might point out, hitting every note with the right move, before Mama and daughter out-stripped the whole affair by taking matters to the next level, with high-kicks and all, until the pre-schooler cracked the top of her foot off the underlip of the coffee table, when it all came to a grinding halt.

“Don’t worry,” I said cheerfully, “the singer of Judas Priest used to ride onstage on a motorbike, and one time he rode it straight off the stage and into the orchestra pit!”

“Can I see him on the bike onstage?”

“Absolutely.” And so I You Tubed some action of Halford on bike and she was suddenly tear-free and enthralled.

“Is that a girl?” she asked of the mysteriously-lit Glenn Tipton, hair sashaying in the lights and dry-ice. “When I’m a little older I wanna go with you to see them…”

It isn’t just Judas Priest. It’s Rob Zombie, Misfits, Beethoven, Leftfield, Massive Attack, Bowie, Killing Joke, Notorious B.I.G., Sean Kingston, The Beatles, Joy Division, Goldie (drum ‘n’ bass Goldie), Metallica, Abba, a whole plethora of sounds and styles and songs and tunes and riffs. It’s the color, the action and the energy of them all which grabs her in a way she doesn’t even know yet. She marches around the house playing a harmonica, and I swear, she has not the slightest clue what she’s doing but it still sounds a damn-sight better than I do when I try playing the thing! She likes performance, she likes music, she likes pagentry, she likes costumes, she likes theatre, she likes energy.

It is hard (occasionally) not to let the mind drift 15 years on from now and have a guess as to what she might be doing. It is every parent’s pitfall. I never did too much with the teenager, and in all fairness now we’re halfway through his 17th year, I can’t remember an awful lot from when he was 4 and a half (aside from a rather incredible fascination with Nine Inch Nails and Trent Reznor which saw him wearing a pair of wellington boots with shorts and stomping around screaming ‘head like a hole/black as your soul/I’d rather die/than give you control’…a tough one to explain at the sandbox). But it seems to have turned out just fine. So even though I’ve had the experience of knowing that such thoughts are not going to give you the answers you either expected or perceived, you still cannot help yourself when your children show such a fierce lean towards specific paths and directions.

And so whilst such things are the mission of fools, based on our daily car-rides and ipod flogging, based on her love of singing and dancing and color, and based on tonight’s performances, I will stick my neck out and say that it would appear accountancy is not in her future. Of course, it isn’t too hard to work out why…

David Bowie and fatherhood…

As I drove back from a work trip to pick up the teenager from a college prep class, I found the beginning of David Bowie’s ‘Moonage Daydream’ flowing through my head. This flow was quickly transferred from there to the car stereo via my iphone, and soon I was lost in a collection of his greatest (as dictated by me) material.

I grew up with David Bowie. His poster stared out from under my Dad’s desk in the corner of our living room, with it’s Jetsons-cool white pedastal TV and funky yellow, brown and cream beanbags (no sofa, no chair, no convention). My Dad would get his special stylus out, take ‘Ziggy Stardust…’ from it’s plastic-protected sleeve and soon the flat would be filled with those songs. Or sometimes ‘Low.’ Or sometimes ‘Heroes.’ Yes, Bowie was a presence in my childhood, make no mistake.

I would get out the ‘Aladdin Sane’ album when I was 7 or 8 and stare at the image on the front. That face. That hair. That zig-zag. Those colors. And I would look around our living room, with it’s ‘future feel’ (well, it’s ‘not-3-piece-suite-and-big-boring-box-telly’ feel) and my Dad’s desk, his typewriter sitting still, waiting for him to come home, piles of pages massed beside it, and think how wonderful our life was. I would think of my Mum and her constant engagement, her smiles and the lilt of her voice, always with a pep of positivity, and I would think of going to the football with my Dad. I would look around and think of the family friends who dropped in, Pat Doust, a wild and warm and crazy and exciting and engaging dervish of a hippy woman, someone who lived outside the box, and Nuala and Gene from Ireland, open, friendly and unconventional. We had no normal living room furniture, no phone in the house and no big ugly boob tube. We went to the National Film Theatre and the South Bank. We made strong coffee in a little copper colored turkish coffee pot. And we listened to music by the likes of David Bowie, in all his beautiful androgyny, with all his fantastic musical layers, with all his futuristic clairvoyance.

The summer of ’77 saw a summer heat-wave in London, and I remember staring at the cover of ‘Low’ which had come out that January. An explosion of orange and a robotic profile shot of Bowie. It lured me over and over for the following 32 years. ‘A New Career In A New Town’ for some reason sticks out. And as for ‘Warszawa’, well, when I told Neville Wright in top top secret that my Dad had not done his Persian military service and that if they ever found out he told me they’d take him away (and when Neville Wright then said he’d tell everyone he could find -Neville’s father had left him at birth- in the hope that would happen) I sat and listened to it over and over, tears streaming down my face, convinced my Dad would be taken away.  Thinking about it, David Bowie’s Berlin-era music was the first time I ever really experienced the power of the minor key, and the emotions and tears that well crafted minor-key driven music can evoke.

I went to Berlin in 1989 about 6 months before the Wall came down, and the first thing I did was put a tape of  ‘Low’ and ‘Heroes’ on my walkman and stroll around Tiergarten and Bahnhoff Zoo, I successfully looked for the Neukolln neighborhood and Hansa Studios. I took a hundred black and white photos of anything and everything I saw. I wanted to feel how this music had happened, and in my mind I was doing precisely that.

Later that year I was presented with the chance to interview David Bowie. It was for his Tin Machine project, and I was told I could not ask about any of his solo career material or experiences. I listened to the Tin Machine album over and over again to find pathways which would bring me to legitimate questions about the Berlin-era. I saw parallels in the work. And as I sat in the absurdly long stretch limo, trundling to the interview, I felt I was representing my family, my childhood, my Mum but as much as anything, my Dad. I had not long turned 22 years old. I was proud. It felt like a proper barometer of success.

The interview went exceedingly well. Bowie warmed to my somewhat complicated questions, took them on and gave me what he knew I was after. We discussed Berlin in relation to the present. I felt like an invitee into some world which no other journalist would get access to. He waved the PR off twice telling her we needed more time. And as I packed my things to leave, he said, “You really did your homework, those were great questions.”

I froze for a moment, for the first time that day actually, and replied, “I grew up with your music, I grew up with you in our house, if I hadn’t done my homework it would’ve been wrong.” I forgot to say thank you. And he smiled back, reiterated that he’d enjoyed our conversation, and moved on to his next appointment. I, meanwhile, sat in the back of said-same absurdly long limo and started shaking ever so lightly. There was a phone back there, but my parents didn’t have a phone so I couldn’t call and talk to them about it.

Music defines families. What you heard growing up never leaves you, and if you shared that with your parents, then it resonates even more strongly. I spent a lot of time playing music for the teenager, and now he’ll play me music of his that I end up liking. And I spend a lot of time driving and listening to music with the pre-schooler. We run the table, from Rob Zombie to Underworld, from The Beatles to Madonna. And my favorite moment is always when she asks to hear something and I ask her, in return, to be patient and let me introduce her to something I know she’ll like. Like Leftfield perhaps. Or Massive Attack. Or David Bowie. And when she does like it, when she punches the air to ‘Suffragette City’ or when we bumps and grind in our seats to ‘Rebel Rebel’ a small but very very bright bright light inside me suddenly switches on. And when I catch her face, grinning, making the faces, shaking her head in time to the ‘hot tramp, I love you so’ line, the world is pretty fucking fine.

Sometimes we dance to ‘Blue Danube Waltz’ and sometimes we dance or draw to ‘Dragula’ or ‘Rebel Rebel’ (no stylus necessary, just plug and play today). And I think of the power in it all, the unity of these songs, and the fact that David Bowie has spanned generations of my family. And then I wonder if my Dad listens to him anymore. My Dad, in his apartment by himself, speaking with no-one and buried in stacks of philosophy books. My Dad and all the friends in his head that no-one else will ever meet. My Dad who isn’t remotely like the man who had the yellow, brown and creme beanbags or  white pedastal TV anymore…even the typewriter went years ago…but he does still have a special stylus for that stereo. And some vinyl in a corner somewhere.

Maybe I should call him and ask…

(WARNING: THIS COLUMN MAKES LITTLE SENSE AND HAS THE RHYME AND REASON OF A VANILLA ICE COMEBACK TUNE)

“HEY DAD, IT’S JUST A LOAD OF HAIRY OL’ BOLLOCKS!” said the pre-schooler with a grin as wide as our front door when she jumped into the car with her teenage brother behind her. Even I were a clueless type, his poorly-stiffled giggling would’ve pointed me right at the true protagonist.

“Why oh why do you insist on doing it?” I asked in proper parental fashion even though I knew EXACTLY why he’d done so (because it sounds very funny coming from such a sweet-voiced girl as his sister – not that I could ever admit that. So pretend I didn’t. And also pretend I didn’t stifle a snigger of my own the second she jauntily barked it out).

“I didn’t!”

“I am not a total wanker, so please!”

“Well it’s just fun – ”

“OK, I get it, no need to spell it out,” I said stiffly, all the while wearing a grump the size of Texas. “Don’t do it again though please…”

The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, and anything I hear like this is doubtless a product of my own behaviour somewhere down the line, so it does well not to get angry first time around and instead just talk the situation to an appropriate place.

Somewhere in the last few weeks, the pre-schooler has turned 13 and the teenager remains mired between the total independence of an impending college existence and the wipe-my-butt reliance of a child. It’s doubtless confusing for them, but I can assure you it’s bloody confusing for me. The pre-schooler knows everything, can do everything and rolls three or four syllable words off the tongue like the proverbial water off a duck’s back. The teenager still needs taxi and chauffeur service, guidance on simple matters such as nutrition and waking up in the morning and continues to have huge brain-farts when it comes to the concept of time. It is a cruel age the last year of high school, as so many things need to click into place yet the human condition of that moment is all about the complete suspension of common sense and logic. It’s actually more about fighting bad skin and the relentless pursuit of the opposite sex via image and behavior…come to think of it, he doesn’t have bad skin and he hasn’t delved head-first into any fashion trend as a consequence of his female peerage, so perhaps he’s ahead of the curve.

Which sometimes is hard to see. If you haven’t stopped off at ‘This Isn’t What I Was Like At His Age’ street, then you’ll surely have reached the junction of Generation Avenue and Curmudgeon Way. Which in itself is confusing. I mean, I am only forty-fucking-two, certainly not old enough to enjoy being a grump as much as I sometimes do. Seriously! I sometimes find myself ENJOYING making comments like ‘they have no drive’ or ‘we only had three channels of telly’ or ‘that music is so stupid…’I can assure you the last one doesn’t get much thrift, especially when I shamelessly beat the steering wheel to Slayer, or try for the high notes in Bowie’s ‘Suffragette City’ (I make them). My wife now speaks with increasing frequency about my need for a cane, not in terms of mobility but in terms of sheer old man-ness. Even the pre-schooler gets fooled sometimes, as evidenced just now at lunch when I waved my index finger at her, she assumed I was imploring her to eat more but the truth is that I was firmly doing that gloriously juvenile ‘pull my finger’ gag.

But there is no doubt I am ‘evolving’…these days, when blasting the new Slayer album and finding myself pulling up to a stoplight infront of a bus-stop downtown, I turn the sound down. There was a time when I would’ve lurched for the volume knob and attempted to break the car stereo whilst opening all other available windows. How polite I am becoming. How thoughtful. My Slayer a bit loud? I thought so, sorry, I do apologize.

Yet there again, I found myself sitting with the teenager at Rob Zombie’s ‘Halloween II’ remake, sneaking food in and making sure our peanut gallery comments were available to all who might’ve wanted to hear them (three other people about 12 rows behind us), before arguing over who the biggest wankers in the premiership are before getting stuck into a philosophical discussion as to why the theory of probability will always be felled by the unpredictability of human nature. Yes. Quite a span.

I am father.

Yes. And I am now also a bit more vain, a lot more healthy, a bit more judgemental yet a touch quieter, a tad grumpier but much much cheerier, a little older, a lot wiser, a little older but a lot younger than I have been for years. Juxtaposes. Connundrums…

The pre-schooler and I drew zombie princesses for the week leading up to Halloween whilst listening to Misfits, Rob Zombie and White Zombie. She then said she didn’t want me to be a zombie because she’d be scared (I muttered that I was often a zombie from the hours of 6.30 am to 9, but this was lost in a mumble and I didn’t want to repeat it)…speaking of which, what bright spark came up with the idea of shoving as much sugar as possible down the necks of small children whilst dressed as bloody monsters, ghouls and murderers before then telling them to go to sleep and not worry about nightmares? This genius (who doubtless ran a sweet factory) obviously did not have children. And who came up with the phrase ‘trick or treat?’ Because as I sat on my front step, Lucho Libre mask on, holding the candy bucket for kids to shovel their hands into, I asked most for a trick and they looked at me like I’d just had a tourette’s attack. What’s THAT all about? Kudos to the young man who said ‘no but I have a funny joke’ (which was actually not funny at all but was made funny by his own enthusiasm and effort to try and give something in exchange for some bloody candy!)…seriously, I remarked to a fellow parent as we strolled along slowly having taken the show on the road, that next year I might well hand out some mini-gherkins and pickled eggs instead of candy to anyone who doesn’t bloody well entertain me! Now wheres my cane!!!!!!!

‘PIMP ASS DAD…’

“Why can’t you put that bloody thing away?” I said to the teenager regarding the iphone in his hands as we sat outside our favorite Mediterranean place waiting for kabobs and schwerma wraps.

“I’m tweeting!” he replied indignantly.

“What on earth is of consequence enough to tweet now?” I retorted incredulously.

“That I’m having dinner with my Dad!” he responded defiantly.

I stared at him. How utterly silly. I mean, who gives a monkey’s chuff about such piffle!

He showed me the ‘tweet.’

EATIN WIT MY PIMP ASS DAD

It was hard to know whether to laugh or cry, but given the parameters of modern colloquialisms, I took the high road and nodded at this most holy of teenage compliments, wondering at the same time who on earth in his twitter circle would be reading about what a ‘pimp ass’ guy I was.

“Can I see your twitter followers?”

“Sure.”

I got four people down before being met by an icon which had a pair of breasts stuffed into a low cut bra and a nether region barely covered by a pair of knickers.

“Friend of yours?” I said, one eyebrow raised.

“Nope. I don’t know her,” he said, stonewalling the question. “She’s a friend of a friend, that’s why she’s following me I guess.”

We briefly discussed college and how he wants to go to digs if at all possible, to have the full college experience, to share a small cupboard with another ‘bro’ and do all the things that college students do aside from studying. I have little doubt that this will involve entertaining the likes of ‘nether regions’ and many others in his twitter-line, and I have even less doubt that this will be a circle which will view me cautiously as a square; no amount of reminding the teenager that I introduced him to Dizzee Rascal will save me from this inevitability. And frankly, there’d be something wrong if it wasn’t like that. Either he’d be hanging with the wrong people or I’d be trying to slash my age by two-thirds and looking like a mid-life crisis prat in the process. Oh, and before people get up in arms thinking that I’m tossing in the age towel, no, I’m not, but there’s little dignity in pretending you’re 18 when you’re not. Gravity (incidentally) has as much to do with this as anything. But it must be said, we get on well. Very well. We enjoy each other’s company. To you, this might be an obvious by-product of a father-son relationship, but I know that this isn’t necessarily the way it always pans out, especially at this moment in our lives, so I am grateful that we still have things in common and like to hang out together.

We watched Bobcat Goldthwaite’s supremely funny film ‘The World’s Greatest Dad’ together, and aside from having some refreshingly offensive humor (as well as a profound storyline) it is a wonderful reminder of how utterly hosed I could be with a teenage boy. Thankfully mine does not like to try and hang himself in the process of self-pleasure, does not respond to every single syllable I utter with negativity and the word ‘fag’ and he is also not an afficianado of ‘German scheisse porn.’ I must, on reflection, have done something right. That isn’t to say there isn’t the ‘teenage hormone drip’ which is to say the one that tells him he knows everything but wants me to DO it. However credit where credit’s due, he keeps these inevitable growing pain instincts at the curb for the most part and will always help when asked (sometimes even helping when not asked). But I am still not beyond the odd joke. Like when some tahini sauce drips from my chicken kabob wrap.

“We should get you one of those ‘HELLO – MY NAME IS’ stickers so as people know you’re special!” he guffawed as I mopped the dripping sauce off my coat. If he gets into the college he wants to go to next year, I’ll miss those moments, as absolutely impossible as it is for me to imagine right now.

Earlier in the day, I had taken the pre-schooler to her first official occupational therapy appointment since her ‘evaluation’ report. It specifically referred to her ‘vestibular’ system, which is not a sophisticated network of under-shirts but is the core component of our balance and spatial orientation, and how this (in turn) is affecting her ‘auditory processing system’ which sounds like a government agency but which is a vital, vital life regulator. Without your inner ear balance system working, all sorts of little things crop up, which lead to some behavioral issues. Of course, if you get the toolbox out now, at pre-school age, then you can usually fix the situation. And anyway, in her case the issues are light not heavy. But it’s still strange. It’s still strange to know it’s happening. And even though it’s all good (and it really IS all good) you can’t help but be emotionally charged by it all. Watching her in the gym room, enjoying the tactile exercises, the climbing, the swings, knowing that each exercise is more than just play, it’s designed to try and correct an issue…an issue…

An issue. Frankly, sometimes I get sick of hearing about every little issue. She’s got lots of friends, ha a great time, has a smile most of the time and is imbued with energizer energy. And so having heard about another little dispute with another child, one of the many many that all kids of this age have but which we sometimes just correct on the spot without reporting on, I found my back stiffen, my belt tighten and my ire rise (your ‘ire’ sits somewhere between your groin and neck, spreading out through your shoulders and along your arms). I’m more aware than anyone of the need to correct situations, to teach right from wrong behavior, indeed, I spend much time doing precisely that (no medals required, real parents know it’s part of the job description). But I wanted to be sure others were also being reported on. I wanted to be sure others were also being ‘caught.’ And on this occasion, I also simply wanted to defend her. Why? Because sometimes, just sometimes, the feral nature of parenthood decrees that you should.

It’s natural. And when it springs up like that, it’s right.

Driving too early in the morning and she was nearly uncontrollable. Shouting, yelling, seemingly unable to disconnect from her inner-Moroccan bazaar, a chaotic kerfuffle of audio-physical explosiveness.

7.15am and I could feel my blood-pressure steadily rising…steady…steady…breathe deep…fire up a BBC podcast for the teenager and I…Five Live football daily…boring update, boring interviews, all punctuated by the back-seat cacophony.

And then I did it. I selected a playlist. And like honey-suckle elixer for the ears, like a homeopathic salve for the soul, she suddenly, and I mean SUDDENLY, dropped down 6 gears, ceased cacophonizing and got sucked into the sounds. She started singing quietly along. And so did I. And so did the teenager. Even though two of the car’s speakers have blown to silence, NOTHING was gonna derail this! And I realized, in an epiphany, that I had discovered a new personal Jesus and that his name was Rob Birch.

Jesus and his diciples offer the word...

Jesus and his diciples offer the word...

Yes, behold the new Jesus, for He is a spikey-haired, craggy-faced Mancunian who wears baggy coats, loped around the Hacienda back in the day and says things like ‘kewl’ instead of ‘cool’ because he has a ‘kewl’ Mancunian accent which automatically makes him ‘kewler’ than you or I. He usually wears really ‘kewl’ shades, which just add to it all; the pre-schooler likes his picture.

His voice, smooth yet raw with that Manc-man bluster, lends itself to a singalong for sure, but the beats, the styles, the fusion, the whole blend is like an instant security blanket for the pre-schooler. This, by virtue, makes it heavenly for me. On returning home from the school drop-offs, I immediately went about finding their latest music, and read some unflattering reviews from the usual collection of  young witless critical bastards who’s sole job it seems is to cock a snook at anything outside the parameters of modern ‘cool’ (which lies somewhere between navel gazing with Thom Yorke or criticizing the world like Kanye West). Well listen up arseholes, the Stereo MCs can do no wrong in this house because Rob Birch is a personal Jesus* with willing and able disciples who spread a musical word of energetic joy and calm, an escape from whatever’s bothering and irritating the soul, a full-body massage. So whether you think they’re ‘dated’ or not, Mr.Oh-t00-uber-cool Emo Warrior Fundament, you are wrong! OK? And you’ll listen to me because I am probably old enough to be your Dad OK? ! Yes! That’s right! OLD ENOUGH…

Old enough…I wonder…it’s been swirling for a little while now, as it does when you’re approaching the midway point of the match, the metaphoric half-time (although I’m hoping for some Sir Alex Ferguson-approved added-time after the full 90) I wandered into the new Diesel flagship store this weekend, looked around, scratched my head and started frowning at the sight of a guy in ‘ironic’ dress shoes/chequered shorts, shirt, suspenders, waistcoat and trilby hat get-up. ‘What on earth happened to this trog?’ I mused from inside my recently purchased g-star dark (danger danger) denim jeans, black t-shirt and big black boots, before said-20 year old shouted that ‘I’m sorry Sir that size isn’t available!’ My God. It was an employee. And I was a grumpy middle-aged man disguised (just about) as a mid-30s brooding European in my tight jeans made by a company which is (frankly) just about out of my reach and my  big trendy boots. I looked at a pair of jeans. I liked them. But they were $200 dollar and I quickly realized they had some leather applique on the them. Good grief. And you know what? As much as I could try to pretend, I don’t think they’d really like me. Why? Because save the occasional 40-something guy, jeans with leather applique don’t work unless you’re a rock star or actor, and even then it’s debatable. Truth is, on me, they would not be in the territory of ‘rocker’ more than the territory of ‘wanker’, and that’s just how modern male ‘fashion’ seems to pan out.

Indeed, wandering the mall, I realized that increasingly, there isn’t much for me. American Eagle? No. Abercrombie? That’ll also be a ‘no’. Banana Republic? Yes. Gap? Yes. Macys? Only if it’s not in the basement. But I still look. I’ll look with the teenager and we’ll peruse items together. And sometimes I’ll catch a glimpse of someone, oh alright, a YOUNG person (!!!!) and I’ll briefly realize that although I’m fighting again, although I’m regaining some of what I lost over a few years of aquiesance to sugar, I am not 30, let alone 20 or 25. I am 42. And yes, age is a state of mind but it’s also a state of realism. Like the realism which gripped me once I got home and started reading the issue of COMPLEX magazine I’d bought; yeah, fun to look at but not to live by.

Because sometimes, when the teenager is grinding and the pre-schooler is whining, when my feet are screamingly sore from planter faciitis after indoor soccer, when I’m moving just a tad slower, I remember that I am, in fact, 42. Not old by any stretch but also no longer young. It is middle age. And it is OK. It doesn’t mean I will give in to being a grumpy old bastard all the time, it doesn’t mean I will cease to be physical and it doesn’t mean I will cease to ‘live’ an active life, no no no! But what it does mean is that I must slowly recognize that certain situations, and certain shops, should be approached with both caution and realism. again, I am still fairly cool for my age, but I’m not uber-cool (thank christ -sorry, thank Rob Birch).

“You are the silliest Dada in the whole wide world!” the pre-schooler will say, whilst the teenager routinely chuckles at my turn of sarcastic phrase, saying I am ‘genuinely funny.’

And as I sit in the car, g-star jeans wrapped around peddle-pushing legs, Spy-optics sunglasses on, moving and swaying to music from Jesus and his disciples, I realie it’s OK, I’m not ready for my bus-pass just yet and that in an hour I’ll go into the gym and show those 20-something students that this ‘sort-of-young-man’ is still ready to rumble with both the world AND his own kids…

(can I now take a nap please?)

*other personal Jesuses have included Ricky Villa, Glenn Hoddle, David Bowie, Tony Benn, my Mum, Leonard Rossiter, David Ginola, Jermain Defoe, Eddie Izzard and Peter Cook…

I have watched the teenager slowly make his way back from knee surgery over the last 10 months. As easy as it hasn’t been for him, it’s also not been easy for me. Watching the quiet diligence, watching the battle to maintain some semblance of fitness, watching the quiet, determined and stoic plod through physical therapy and months spent unable to play his favorite sport, the sport where he injured the knee in the first place. Just watching. Doing nothing but offering support and help and whatever else can be done to help him.

That has always been highlighted whenever the High School soccer team has featured, and particularly his ‘relationship’ with the head coach. As a caveat to all I’m about to say, I coached him for 6 years so I know how he can be, and equally, I’ve backed subsequent coaches and taught him to stay quiet on the occasions he disagrees, put his own head down and work harder to prove them wrong.

A bit of history. His High School coach (or ‘The Coach’ as I will from now) spent the first two years of the teenager’s High School seasons cajoling him with a combination of positive and negative reinforcements. He’d jaw at him. He’d shout at him. He’d give him instructions as to what he needed to be doing (for what it’s worth, the man does not know the game beyond some very basic fundamentals) and when they played practice matches, he’d go into the teenager like a steam train. incidentally, when asked why by the teenager’s mother, the answer was that it was to ‘teach him how to use his body.’ I remember wondering how crudely putting in potential ankle-breaking challenges was teaching anyone anything constructive –  remember, this is a game I play and coached for 7 years.

One coach I remember sent the teenager home from a club practice a few years ago, telling him that if he was only going to half-run the athletic drills, then not to bother coming. He told him that he needed to spend the next few practices just doing various running drills, and if he didn’t want to do it then not to bother showing up. I told him that if he wanted to grow, wanted to mature, wanted to prove himself, that he needed to do everything which was being asked of him. In silence and with respect. I told him to learn that this coach was doing him a favor. And I told him to take onboard from every coach a positive, because every coach has at least one.

One thing The Coach was trying to do, was encourage the teenager to be a leader. He made him a captain. He gave him responsibilities. He gave him a lot of playing time. He’d make some absurd tactical decisions, ones that had many scratching their heads, but his heart was in the right place.

As last season started, the teenager was in the best shape of his life having shed 35  lbs the hard way, and was looking forward to the school season. In the first few games he played 11 different positions, often switching positions four times in a match. He was captain. And then, suddenly, it stopped. Game-time became shorter and shorter, he was no longer captain. And most critically, there was absolutely no communication as to why beyond one muttered explanation that in a 10 minute spell as forward, he didn’t score and thus didn’t do enough to justify his place. The Coach would throw him on for 10 minute as a sub and then sub him off again. When the teenager asked him for some feedback, he was told that either he ‘hadn’t done enough to warrant his place’ or not to question his Coach.

I became concerned that between the teenagers clubs side and training and school training, he was over-training. I asked him to ask his coach if he could miss a school practice every week, as I knew that three or 4 matches a week plus daily training would wreck him. And then he tore his ACL and chipped bone off the very very tip of his femur whilst playing for his club side.

Two weeks ago, he played his first competitive match since the injury. He started upfront and asked if he could drop to centre-midfield. Agreement was quick, and subsequently the team won 4-0. Despite the bullshit of last season, the lack of communication, the lack of proper tactical nous and the lack of any basic empathy, it was looking OK. And then yesterday, the same bullshit. The same ‘switch all over the pitch.’ The same lack of communication. The same ‘here’s 20 minutes on the pitch and then you’re subbed.’ The same ‘tough-love’ garbage. And the glaring fact that The Coach has forgotten that the teenager is 17 years old. Not 10, not 11. The teenager had asked The Coach if he would be going back into the game. The Coach had said yes. 40 minutes later, the teenager had asked The Coach when he’d be going back into the game. The Coach said ‘you won’t now’ that he had been ‘working’ on a way to get him back into the match (not rocket science per se) but that because he’d asked, now he wouldn’t go back in. Full stop. He told the teenager never to ask that question again.And when the teenager asked if there was any feedback on his performance, The Coach said no, not really and that he thought he’d played well. I ask you, what sort of moronic pre-school autocracy is it when a player cannot ask a coach if he’s going back into the game or when he’s going back in? I never minded being asked by players I worked with, it showed me they were enthusiastic, and for the lads that were a bit more persistent, well, I talked with them a little bit more, gave them a little more feedback and guidance.

I am not a fool. I do not expect my son to be given special treatment, and I know what a prick he can be (show me a teenager who is never a prick and I’ll show you someone who’s lying about their age!) but what I DO expect from any coach, even The Coach, is communication and decent people manager. That this idiot has not got the first clue about the game I love, and have loved, for nearly 40 years is beside the point. That he engages in this weirdly perverse, almost passive-aggressive behavior with the teenager is wholly annoying. If he was anybody else I’d already have said my piece, but I can’t do that right now, because this

isn’t

my

fight.

But the frustration of recognizing that is so immensely stressful that last night I literally found myself shutting down in a combination of repressed anger, frustration and undeniable fatigue. I was furious with what I saw last night. I remain furious with the double-standards employed by The Coach (there’s more but we don’t have the time do we!). And it reminded me unequivocally that for all the objectivity I show, for all the times I’ve told the teenager to stop blaming others and take care of the portion of a situation HE can control first, here was a situation where the adult was behaving like a petulant child  and the teenager, my teenager, was being wronged once again.

And there I was, watching, fuming, helpless. Just like when he hurt his knee and the antagonist who had helped cause the injury looked at him on the floor, laughed, said ‘get up’ and told the referee he should book him. Helpless.

This is how it will be. This is how life is. You watch your kids get bumped and bruised throughout their lives, even when they’re you’re height and sporting more facial hair than you. And you have to learn to be quiet and take it. To discuss it with them but not to address it publicly.

It might be the hardest work we ever do as parents…