What do we know about the Proclaimers?
They made a record: they were prepared to walk a long way.
What else do we know?
They didn’t have teenage children.
Because if they did, they wouldn’t have time for some silly fantasy about 500 miles. They’d be too busy. Driving the car: the length and breadth of the country. And every night between Christmas and New Year.
If your children are four and six you should look away now. If the phrase ‘Dad’s taxi’ is still a novelty you may need a stiff drink.
Because, loving parent of sweet angelic child, you are going to be busy. Especially at Christmas. Take Ben to work, collect Ben, drop Tom off, deliver Jessica, now Ben’s going out… The taxi was on duty every night.
But there are even darker forces at work…
This time next year Ben will have offers from universities. ‘Oh wow,’ you cry. ‘Good for him. You must be so proud.’
Well, yes. But it’s like holding your new-born baby: there’s a bit of dirty work to do before you feel all warm and fuzzy.
In Tom’s case the dirty work consisted of trips to Southampton, Loughborough, London (twice) and Cambridge – twice again.
2,650 miles. Eat your heart out, Proclaimers.
And they weren’t day trips either: add five overnight stays. “And no, Dad. I won’t share a room with you.”
I’ll leave someone else to count the cost of the petrol, the accommodation and the wretched Costa coffee on the motorways.
Jessica, bless her, stayed closer to home. Apart from the trip to Portsmouth…
So sometime over the next six months we’ll be sitting our youngest son down and having an expensive discussion.
“Before you apply you need to have a look at a few places…”
“There’s a course at Aberdeen. And one I like the look of at Exeter…”
That’s not what you want to hear. So what can you do about it? Back to your angelic four year old: may I suggest a bedtime story?
The children wandered into the dark, cold forest. The Forest of Exeter. Suddenly a terrible giant leapt out. ‘I’m Aberdeen,’ he bellowed. ‘And these are my evil henchmen: Kent, Stirling and Aberystwyth.’
You see? No point being married to a psychologist for 20 years unless you learn something along the way.
Because otherwise, you’re in trouble. You take your children to visit universities when they’re exactly the wrong age: the age when you’re the last person on earth they want to speak to.
Take those 2,650 miles with Tom. Allowing for towns, tailbacks and contraflows let’s guess at 50mph on average. That’s 53 hours in the car. 53 hours trying to make conversation with a teenager who doesn’t want to.
“Had any more thoughts about your first choice?”
“Want to run through a few possible interview questions?”
“No, I’m good.”
“Any advice on what to wear?”
He doesn’t even bother to reply.
“Any advice I can give you about girls?” No, I don’t say it. But I’m tempted. If I’m going to talk to myself I may as well be entertained.
And this Wednesday we go again. The 400 mile round trip to Cambridge. But we’ve made progress in the last five years. Football’s good for sixty or seventy miles. Clinton vs. Trump might take care of the contraflow.
But then I’ll put my foot in it. I can’t help it. I have to play the ‘helpful Dad’ card.
“How’s your project going? Remind me what it is again.”
“Complex air flows in the vortex caused by a front wing.”
“Right. Good. Let me know if I can 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.