Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Now I am six



It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything about fatherhood, not because it hasn’t been interesting and full on, but because it’s been too interesting and too full on. 

Okay that’s a bit of an excuse, I can’t blame Marty for taking up all my time but it’s amazing how a small child can nibble away at the edges of your spare time until it pretty much disappears altogether.

The shame is that this blog is really a diary for me, to remind me of all those little moments that made me laugh at the time and then, 20 minutes later, are forgotten. Parenthood is heavily sprinkled with these moments, a classic example was last Christmas when Marty’s phrase of the day was “I definitely, weffinately, weffinately want that!”, which he shouted loudly at the telly every 10 minutes or so.

All parents will be familiar with this scenario, you sit your child down in front of the television hoping they’ll be entertained by some innocuous cartoon, forgetting that every five minutes the programme will be interrupted by advertisers trying to flog your child everything from sugar to Transformers and back to sugar again, it really is bloody annoying!

On the run-up to Christmas it gets particularly arduous, we tried to moderate it by using the idea of a wish list; rather than fight out the pros and cons of a particular toy or a particularly sugar infested confection at the time, we would write everything down in a list and then we’d pick what he wanted for Christmas from this list. The big advantage of this approach is that most five-year-olds can’t read or write well enough to contest the list and its accuracy, so not only do you avoid a meltdown at the time but, given long enough, your child forgets that he wanted a life-size gorilla made entirely from corn syrup and licorice and the fact that it has mysteriously vanished from his wish list is no longer a cause for concern.

Anyway, the point was that “definitely weffinately” was a brief moment. He occasionally says it now but very rarely. I guess this is the way it is from here on in, there are no major milestones any more, it’s just a series of gentle transitions that make you laugh, then fade away and are replaced by new ones.

At the moment Transformers are the big thing in Marty’s life. Tigger and Pooh lie in the corner of his play room gathering dust, Thomas the Tank Engine has had his railway lines privatised, his sheds sold off, his steam-driven drivel forgotten. Meanwhile, Octopus-Prime fights it out with Gridlock and Bumblebee. Who will win? Who will wrest control of the conservatory? It’s a fascinating question that keeps Marty occupied for much of the day.

I can’t say I’m too distressed, yes I still miss the Winnie the Pooh movie, yes I still sing along with Zoe Deschanel given half the chance but I was never overly fond of Thomas. Can I understand the Transformers cartoons? I have tried, really I have. It seems to be based on “wizz, bang, whoosh, rat a tat” then they talk a little in portentous American accents and then it’s back to “wizz, bang, whoosh, rat a tat.” To me at least, it makes as much sense as Theresa May, although not much more. 

The films are a bit better but they are a bit much for a six-year-old. I’m really not sure about them, people talk about them being violent but in reality it’s the sort of violence you’d see if a scrapyard got dropped into a very large blender; less blood and guts and more brake fluid and wiring. Then, when the violence gets too much, they bring on Megan Fox to run around a bit in short shorts and a little T-shirt, which improves the plot and dialogue no end.

The universal thread with children growing up is that they always grow up much faster than their parents would like. It’s not that I want Marty to remain stunted, naive and cute forever but children seem to move on from things much quicker than their parents, and children never seem to look back. On the plus side, every new phase (once you have got used to it) seems to be better than the last. I might miss Winnie the Pooh and I might get bored playing Transformers - which just involves banging plastic toys together until one falls apart completely - but Marty himself just gets better and better.

Like every age that has gone before it, five was wonderful and six will no doubt be better. I think I’d define five as ‘a sparkling intellect floating on a sea of complete naivete and wild imagination. A sea ruled by the all-embracing concept of ‘goodies and baddies’.

Everything but everything in Marty’s life is either good or bad and the people involved either goodies or baddies. We could be watching an advert for dog food and Marty’s first question will be “who’s the baddie?” I have been trying to teach him that life is slightly more nuanced than that but it’s a steep hill to climb and, judging by the number of UKippers and Tories out there, some people will always live in a world that that is either black or white, I just hope Marty is not going to be one of them.

School has been the other great change. I must admit that I was a bit worried by how much pressure they seem to want to put on small children these days. In my day you started school at five and you pretty much painted and sang until you were about seven. I dare say this was regarded as a traumatic period by those children who were tone deaf and allergic to paint but for the rest of us it was a halcyon time.

These days they’re thrown into the deep-end pretty much from day one. This is fine if they can keep up, but all children are different and assuming they can all embrace maths and writing at an early age strikes me as naive at best and possibly destructive at worst. Thankfully, Marty is really enjoying it and doing well, and he is not the least bit afraid to share the joy of his education.

Marty: “Daddy, what is 10+10+10+3?”
Me: “33”
Marty: “Noooo! You say it’s 24”
Me: “okay, it’s 24”
Marty: “ha ha! No it isn’t it’s 33!”

Believe me, he can keep this up for hours!

His language has also come on leaps and bounds in the last year, although now he is surrounded by schoolmates the words he comes out with aren’t necessarily the ones you’d hoped for.

An example of this is the word ‘pop’. For some strange reason my wife decided that a sudden release of air from the nether regions should be called ‘a pop’. Personally, I felt that the word ‘Fart’ was perfectly adequate but apparently this is deemed a bit rude - who knew!

So of course, after years of popping his way through life Marty learned from his friends that the better word was ‘Trump’ and then, after talking to the older boys, they all decided to opt for the word fart. Obviously, the fact that the word is slightly risque adds to its appeal; you don’t say fart, you whisper it, and in Marty’s case ‘perform’ it regularly, very regularly. Seriously, you wouldn’t believe the amount of grief our poor dog gets whilst Marty sits there, a picture of innocence ensconced within a faintly green fog.

The best part of all this learning in school, from both teachers and friends, is that you have absolutely no clue what is going to come out with next.

Marty: “Daddy, we don’t hit people in the winkie at school.”
Me: “I should think not!”
Marty: “No, we kick them in the nuts!”

You can change the world but little boys will still be little boys.

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