Dad Control to Major Tom

This is Dad Control

To my son Tom

Would you kindly answer this short text from me?

Now it’s time to leave the bedroom

For your tea

’Cos here, am I cooking up a Spag Bol…

With sincere apologies to the memory of David Bowie: and even more sincere apologies to my wife for a week’s off-key wailing of All the Young Dudes

Back here on Planet Earth it’s coming up to ten years since Tom disappeared into orbit. Or up to his bedroom.

“I’m just going to do some stuff on my computer, Dad.”

“OK, Tom. How long will you be?”

In the words of poor old Captain Oates he was gone some time.

When he came back downstairs he was totally committed to becoming an engineer. And he was a fully paid up teenager.

With all the communication problems that implies…

When they were little I’d collect them from school. Communication? You couldn’t stop them talking. Once you’d handed over the chocolate, obviously. Jessica was especially forthcoming. “Miss Perkins gave me a message today, Daddy. She said I had to take it to Mr. Simpson. And I wasn’t to show it to anyone else in the whole world. And Chloe said her mummy goes to the shop to buy something called gin. And she goes every single day. What’s gin, Daddy?”

When she paused for breath Tom would chip in a few nuggets of information. No, he never reached the gossip girl heights of his sister, but he wasn’t bad for an embryo-engineer.

Then suddenly they became teenagers. The Wall of Silence descended. And in Tom’s case, texting was the only hope.

His room is right at the top of the house. These days that’s not a problem. Not since I became a Fitbit Bore. I’m anybody’s for 50 extra steps and two more flights of stairs. But sadly that’s only applied in the last fortnight.

To mis-quote Ming the Merciless, we’ve hurled our puny messages into the void.  If you may have teenagers one day, look away now:

Please come down for dinner

Pizza. 5 minutes

Do you want a bacon sandwich?

“Damn it,” I said to my wife. “Why does the wretched boy not respond?”

“You have to pique his interest,” she said.

The words ‘bacon sandwich’ are more than enough to pique my interest but Jane’s not a psychologist for nothing. “You’re too general,” she said. “He’s an engineer. Be more specific. Try and find your inner engineer, darling.”

I wasn’t sure that a man who put shelves up on Good Friday only to see them fall down on Easter Monday could have an ‘inner engineer.’ But I saw her point.

Dinner in 7 minutes and 43 seconds, I texted.

Hell’s bells, it worked. “Hi Dad. Anything I can do to help?” I clung on to the worktop for support and mentally gave my wife an A* for Applied Student Psychology.

I immediately tried the same approach on Ben. Hand-sown haricot beans in a rich Sugo al Pomodoro, served on a bed of artisan-prepared regional bread.

“Damn it, Dad. This is beans on toast.”

“I was appealing to your inner restaurant critic. Take it up with your mother.”

But Ben’s going the same way as his brother. I may seduce him with Sugo al Pomodoro – but I’m in trouble if I get the timings wrong.

“Is it ready yet?”

“Well, not quite. Maybe five minutes.”

“FIVE minutes? What am I supposed to do for five minutes?”

“We could talk…”

“Talk? What about?”

“You suggest something.”

“How about dementing parents using text messages to lie to their children…”

Thanks for reading this post. If you enjoyed it – and you’d like something light and “very, very funny” to read – you can buy the ‘Best Dad I Can Be’ sample book with 27 of my favourite posts covering all the years I’ve been writing: it’s all of 99p on your Kindle. Alternatively the first chronological book, ‘Half Dad Half Fish’ which covers the time when the children were 9, 7 and 4 is available here


  1. Thanks for giving me a laugh. I’ve got two teens (14 & 16) and all of your words ring true.

    • You’re more than welcome – and thanks for the comment. And if you’ve two teens you’ll sadly be familiar with this week’s theme as well – do Mum and Dad’s achievements matter any more once you have kids?
      Thanks again – enjoy your day

  2. Mummy is going grey says:

    I can hardly wait for teenage angst and parent conflict. I have done verbal apple danglers, dinner is ready….. dinner…..dinner is now on table….your father and I are thinking about going to Disney land…12 secs later whoosh, sat at table.

    • Thanks for the comment, Charlotte, and some seriously advanced tactics there. Just replace “going to Disneyland” with “opening the wine/having a beer” and you should be alright with teenagers as well…

  3. Izzie Anderton says:

    Oh the stuff you miss out on when there are no offspring at home. I have all this to look forward to if (and when) they return home from uni. Stay sane and drink more wine :o)

    • Yep, still have Ben for another 20 months or so. Maybe my wife will take over the mantle when he goes to uni… Best of luck to your girls, Izzie: by my reckoning they’re in final year now?

  4. Not there yet but we’re definitely suffering from our (pre-teen) eldest suffering from selective hearing. Anything other than “okay, you can have half an hour on the Playstation” seems to fall on deaf ears …

    • Half an hour!? Masterly parenting there, Tim. But don’t waste any time – play them at something on the Playstation while they’re young and you can still win. When was Tom was about 12 he used to give me three laps start in a four lap race and still beat me. “You do realise you’re driving the wrong way round the track, Dad?”

  5. Ha! So recognise this issue. I’ve resorted to “Respond now, or I de-authorize you laptop and PS4 from WiFi” answer came back “I shall just tether via my mobile phone so it will cost you more” my final response “In the garage getting large hammer…” that does the trick. Keep hiding the Port Mark. 🙂

    • Problem is, Barry, they have me over a barrel. Ashamed to say that I don’t understand the Sky box, so if I want to watch football or cricket usually have to beg one of offspring for help. That’s not the definition of a ‘strong negotiating position…’

  6. I’m going to bear your wife’s advice in mind, thank you 🙂

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