I’m sorry about this. Feel free to never read the blog again. But I’m going be serious this week. Yep, I know you come here for five minutes’ mild amusement. Sorry. It won’t happen again.
But just for this week I’m going to desert Ben’s sarcasm, the intricacies of married life and my pathetic failure to cope with carrier bags costing 5p. I’m going to offer some parenting advice.
Two weeks ago a fellow-blogger asked me a simple question. What have been your most rewarding experiences as a Dad?
Blimey. Where to start? Could I finish inside 4,000 words? And what would Jessica say if she didn’t have the most entries on the list?
I debated the question with the dog as we marched along the cliff-top. I went home and started my answers. Ben was straightforward: Jessica was a collage of memories. And Tom was much more complicated…
As regular readers know, Tom’s at Cambridge. I’ll never forget the moment he opened his offer letter. Or taking him for the first time. But the single most rewarding moment as Tom’s Dad? They don’t even come close.
When I was young I played cricket. I played a lot, and to a high standard. I naturally assumed my sons would follow in my path. My bat was in the wardrobe waiting for them.
And Tom tried. Bless him he tried so hard. Hours of practice in the garden, but he didn’t bat much, he didn’t bowl at all and he fielded in the long grass. Cricket was never going to be Tom’s game. He knew it and I knew it. But we carried on pretending.
Until Tom came to me one day. I think he was 13. I wish I’d made a note of the date. “Dad,” he said.
“What is it, Tom?”
“Can I say something to you?”
“Yes, of course.”
“I don’t want to play cricket any more.”
“OK. So if you don’t want to play cricket any more, what do you want to do?”
“I want to design Formula One cars.”
And with that my son disappeared to his bedroom. He taught himself CAD and CFD programmes. (If you don’t know what CFD is, it’s computational fluid dynamics.) Interestingly, that was around the time school told us he was falling behind in Physics. They couldn’t grasp that he was so far in front he was bored to death.
“What’s wrong with the computer?” I asked my wife one evening.
“Tom says he’s running a programme,” she replied.
Tom’s ‘programme’ ran for a week. No-one could use the computer while it completed his work. He’d loaded the car he’d designed into a virtual wind tunnel and asked the family computer to run the simulation. It was, as they say, a big ask.
And it was also when we began to believe something special was going on in the top bedroom.
I’m writing this on the weekend of the Mexican Grand Prix. If you watched it, you’ll have seen a part that Tom designed going round at 200mph. For a student, that’s a remarkable achievement.
But it’s nowhere near as remarkable as a 13 year old boy going to his cricket mad Dad and telling him that he doesn’t want to play anymore.
Nine years on, I’m still full of admiration: how long did it take him to pluck up the courage to speak to me? And he taught me a lesson as well – one that applies to all parents.
When you see the light of conviction burning in your child’s eyes you have one job – and one job only. You say ‘go for it’ – and do everything you can to help.
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.