No answer. I shout again. Still no answer. Time for technology. Food, I text. So the same text I send every day…
“I thought I said don’t disappear?”
“I didn’t disappear. I was in my bedroom.”
“But I said it was going to be ready in two minutes.”
“Yeah well.” The rest of the sentence is unspoken. Two minutes? Stand around for two minutes trying to make conversation or – contact social services, somebody – be forced to set the table?
“Anyway, I thought you deserved one of your favourites seeing as it’s Friday night. Mussels in garlic butter.”
“Awesome. Can I – ”
“No you can’t take them to your bedroom. Mussels are eaten at the dining room table.”
He reluctantly agrees. I follow with my glass of wine. Unlike his brother and sister Ben’s prepared to discuss his day at school. Sorry, college. The school uniform is now history. Jeans, hoodies and trips to TK Maxx to make sure he’s fashionable enough are the future.
“So how did it go today?”
“Where did you buy these mussels?”
“Morrisons. When I went into town at lunchtime.”
“You didn’t go to Marks and Spencer’s?”
“No, I’m really sorry. I have these irritating things called clients. They don’t understand you being late for a meeting because you’re at M&S buying best mussels for your teenage son.”
“They don’t taste the same.”
“Well, I’m really sorry. I’ll stencil ‘bad parent’ on my forehead. Damn it, Ben, I didn’t even know what mussels in garlic butter were when I was your age. And bread was white or brown. Not the ciabatta you’re so casually dunking.”
I carried on in this vein for several minutes. My son zoned out and grudgingly finished his clearly sub-standard mussels.
“What’s going on?” I grumbled to my wife ten minutes later. “It was mince on toast when I was his age.”
“Caramel Chew Chew,” she replied.
“Caramel Chew Chew. I got a bollocking the other night because it wasn’t Phish Food.”
I made a sympathetic noise – and kept my preference for Phish Food a secret.
“First world problems,” Jane said. “That’s what it is.”
This time the sympathetic noise was genuine. When a small boy is washed up on a Turkish beach and people are walking to Germany because their own government has unleashed a hail of barrel bombs it’s hard to sympathise when your children complain that “the orange juice has bits in it.”
“And the internet,” I said. “They go ballistic if the internet is down for three seconds. Or the Sky box needs re-booting.”
“Or if there isn’t an episode of Friends on somewhere…”
“…Which has never happened.”
“What are you talking about, Dad?” Ah, my son. Clearly come to see if he still had to suffer the agony of Caramel Chew Chew.
“You. Your brother and sister. Teenage children’s first world problems.”
My son coughed. “What about you, Dad?”
“What do you mean what about me?”
“I was only six or seven but I remember the meltdown you had when teletext was phased out. And what about that tantrum the other week?”
“I never have tantrums.”
“Yes you did. That time we lost the Sky signal when Joe Root was 96 not out.”
“That’s different. That’s live sport.” Was there no stopping the wretched child?
Clearly not. “Or when the shop doesn’t have the right bread for your bacon sandwich. Or you can’t even get your favourite plum tomatoes. Yeah, plum tomatoes, Dad. People are fleeing war and poverty and you’re complaining about plum tomatoes.”
My lovely wife appeared to be smirking. Did she just murmur “hypocrite…”
I’m sure most people have seen this video by now: if not it really puts ‘First World Problems’ into perspective.
Thanks for reading this post. If you enjoyed it – and you’d like something light and moderately humorous 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.