I have often wondered what effect having a stay at home dad is having on my children. Mums and Dads are different and bring different things to the parenting mix. Some of it is obvious, for example, my kids probably enjoy rough and tumble play more than most because that is one of the things that Dads (and this one in particular) do well. However, it was only when I caught myself proudly teaching my angelic nineteen month old daughter how to blow really damn fine raspberries that I realised that I was having an influence: a bad influence.
Whilst women may find Jane Austen’s subtle observations on the mores and conventions of regency society hilarious, I find myself doubled over by the toilet humour in “Carry on up the Khyber”. And I am ashamed to admit that I have been bringing my children up in a similar vein. So, when Arun started having a good root around in his nose when we were at rather posh friend’s house, my chest puffed up with pride as I announced, “I taught him how to do that!”
Yesterday we were out walking in the beautiful autumn sunshine when we met a neighbour out for a walk with his lovely nine year old daughter. As we were chatting the nine year looked aghast and said giggling, “Meri just stuck her tongue out at me!”
Everyone looked at me as Clare said, disapprovingly, “You taught her that, didn’t you?”
Last week I was in the car, on my way to drop Arun off at school and we passed a petrol station and, noting the inflated price of diesel I let out an expletive that the editors of Dadtalk will not allow me to use in this blog. Arun, sitting in the back immediately repeated it back to me. When we got to his nursery I had to apologise to the teaching assistant because I knew just as sure as night follows day that, he would be repeating it the whole morning long.
To be honest, it isn’t just what I teach them, it’s how I react to what they are doing. My wife is a little more protective of them than I am. In my view the little scrapes they get into is all a part of the University of Life. Of course, I make sure that they are never in any real danger but I do sometimes think that cocking it up for yourself is the best way to learn.
For example, Meri has just learnt to come down the stairs on her bottom. As I may have mentioned before, she is a spectacularly clumsy child and has a tendency to approach the last few steps as if she is a member of the Finnish skeleton bob team. I think the appropriate reaction to this is supposed to be to tell her to slow down and to stand over her in case she takes a tumble. I am pretty sure that the parenting manual does not advise grabbing the video camera to record the ensuing hilarity for posterity.
There are a few more examples I could mention but I feel that I should stop there before social services get involved or (even worse) this turns into an episode of “You’ve Been Framed”. I can assure you that in between teaching them the pick their noses and slalom down the stairs on their bums I do provide some responsible parenting. However, the evidence is plain to see and I have to plead guilty as charged: I am a bad dad. In my defence, though, I will say it is much funnier that way.