When we become fathers we are gifted the most wonderful opportunity imaginable. Here, in front of us is a beautiful creature whose life we will shape and that we can fill up with all of our love, our knowledge and our wisdom. The problem is that I am not a particularly wise or knowledgeable man, so I have decided to borrow my wisdom from some of the great philosophers, thinkers and leaders from history. But when I looked at the list, I realised that most of my favourite sayings and quotes are a great credo for an adult but an absolute nightmare if your children take them to heart. Let me give you a few examples…
John F Kennedy famously said, “We choose to… do… things, not because they are they are easy , but because they are hard”. Kennedy was talking about the plan to put a man on the moon. His point is a good one- most of the things that are worth doing involve some risk and a lot of effort. Taking the easy option is rarely the right choice. However, when Arun is refusing to have his nappy changed and I utter the infamous words,” We can either do this the easy way or the hard way,” I really wish he would take the easy option.
Winston Churchill came up with many famous quotes but one of my favourites is “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference”. I know what the cigar munching Nazi baiter meant and it was almost certainly not the attitude that my twenty month old daughter demonstrates when I try and put her into the buggy when she doesn’t want to go. As a general rule, the less attitude I see from my children the better.
George Bernard Shaw, playwright and leading light of the Fabian society memorably said, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” When Arun and Meri are trying to change the world around them by throwing a tantrum in the middle of a Clarks shoe fitting I would be very happy for the world not to make any progress for a little while.
Gandhi, whilst leading the Indian Independence movement said, “Action expresses priorities.” Frankly, come 5pm in my house there has usually been far too much action and I would be grateful if my two perpetual motion machines could de-prioritise dragging their poor dad up to the loft for the tenth time that day just so that they can drag him back down again five minutes later. Why can’t inaction be a priority for just five minutes so their rapidly aging father can have a quiet cup of tea?
Finally, Bob the Builder said, “Yes we can!” and some bloke in America stole the line. In my house it is very much more a case of, “No you can’t!” as Meri tries to brain herself chasing a ball under the dining room table and forgetting to duck.
In fact, I think I am going to have to change my children’s names to “Stop it!” and “No” because these seem to be what I say to them most often. In truth these are probably the best maxims I can offer them at the moment.