Am I not a good parent? Is my children’s welfare not at the heart of everything I do?
“Is there anything you need to take back to uni?” I asked Tom.
“No, I’m good.”
“Coffee? Biscuits? Notebooks?”
I glanced over his shoulder. My son was simultaneously working on two computer screens. ‘Working’ may have been a relative term for one of the screens – it was showing the Bayern Munich game – but the other one was full of graphs and wavy lines and the sort of equations that make Stephen Hawking nervous.
So he’s probably moved a little bit beyond ‘notebooks.’ But as a parent, you want to help. He’s 22. He’s doing a Masters in Engineering. But I’m his Dad. I still feel like I should be helping with his homework. So from time to time I ask what he’s doing.
“Just course work.”
“Well tell me. I might be able to help.”
“I’m computing complex vortex flows using spectral methods.”
As I said, I occasionally ask what he’s doing. Sometimes I understand the answer…
“Airflow over the front wing of an F1 car. It creates a vortex.”
Sadly, I’m childish. I can never hear the word ‘vortex’ without thinking of Ming the Merciless. “Who dares to enter the Imperial Vortex?”
“Nothing. Just thinking back to when you were younger. You don’t want coffee then?”
“No, I’m good.”
A day later I’m in Sainsbury’s. And the coffee Tom likes is on special offer. See above. Am I not a good father? I buy two tins of it.
“Here you go,” I say. “I know you didn’t need it. But I bought you a couple of tins of your favourite coffee to take back with you.”
There. I may be baffled by a vortex, but I can still buy coffee.
“I don’t drink that any more, Dad.”
“I only use a cafetiere now.”
Well that was me told. So much for my upmarket instant. “OK, then. Why don’t you take that nice coffee we’ve got in the kitchen? Pact have sent another bag this week so do that.”
“No, I’m good.”
Five minutes later I discovered the reason why my son was ‘good.’ He’d finished my best coffee.
Damn it, I’d hired security guards to patrol the wine rack and forgotten my sexy little bag of Fazenda Chapada.
“OK,” I said. “I’m going downstairs to rehearse with Ben. Keep the noise down will you? And no swearing.”
It’s one of my major failings as a father. “I’ve started supporting a team in the Premiership,” Tom said as we drove him home from his first term at university.
“Anyone but Liverpool,” I muttered under my breath.
“Liverpool,” he said proudly.
And tonight they were playing Man United in the Europa League, the match live on BT Sport. We don’t have BT Sport but when has Tom ever let a little thing like that stand in his way? I think he was about 13 when the internet police informed me I’d shortly be going to jail if Tom didn’t stop watching the Jason Bourne films before the cinema audience.
“I’ll watch the second half with you,” I said. “Leave a space in your bedroom.”
“I thought I’d watch it on the TV.”
It took a while for this to sink in. “You’re going to illegally stream it onto your laptop and then stream that through our TV?”
Thank goodness his mother was away. “Just make sure you put the TV channels back the way they were.”
He smiled. “You can do that can’t you, Dad?”
Sadly, no. I understand the TV about as well as I understand complex vortex flows…
A quick note of explanation re the ‘rehearse with Ben’ comment. Ben and I are making our father/son public speaking debut this week. See next week for more details…
Nominations for the BritMums ‘Brilliance in Blogging’ Awards are now open. If you’ve enjoyed reading this post – or any of the ‘Best Dad’ posts – then I’d really appreciate your nomination, in any (or all…) of the Writer, Family or Reader’s Choice categories. Here’s the link – and thank you very much.