Three years later there was a Grand Prix on TV – goodness knows why as I had no interest in the sport – and Tom wandered in. He started to watch and became fascinated: not by the race or the drivers but by the technicalities – specifically the aerodynamics.
The first time he started talking about it I scuttled off to ask Google for help. Tom was just beginning to suspect that his Dad didn’t know everything about everything. I preferred to delay the confirmation for a few more months…
Then he disappeared to his bedroom. And a few months later they called us into school. “Tom’s falling behind in Physics.”
This surprised us. Because up in his bedroom Tom had downloaded and taught himself CAD. Then he did the same with a virtual wind tunnel. School was worrying about Tom: we were worrying about our computer. Could it calculate the air-flow over the F1 car Tom had designed and loaded into his virtual wind tunnel?
We politely explained that Tom wasn’t falling behind, he was so far in front he was bored to tears. At some stage every parent has to do that: fight for your child and tell school they’re wrong…
…And in Tom’s case, let him get on with it. He taught me one of the most important lessons I learned as a Dad. There comes a time when you have to trust them. All the nagging, the encouragement, the exam timetable you’ve spent an hour on… They’re all irrelevant. If your son wants to do it he will: if he doesn’t, there ain’t nothing you can do about it.
So Tom’s off to design F1 cars. But families being families he couldn’t go without bowling us a last googly. “I’ve discovered something,” he said on Tuesday.
“The house I’m sharing: my room’s not furnished.”
“What? Your bedroom?”
Boys, you see. Jessica would have checked, sorted it and been packed three months ago. But not Tom. So if you wouldn’t mind, Mum and Dad, could you rustle up a wardrobe, a desk and chair, some bedding and…
“I’ll probably need a double bed if you’ve got one.”
Ben – who’s got our old double bed – immediately ran up to his bedroom and locked the door.
We comprised on a mattress. “OK,” my wife said. “Let’s go online and get it delivered. What’s the address?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you ‘don’t know?’”
You have to love Tom. He’s like Dr Watson’s description of Sherlock Holmes. His knowledge of a subject is either total or non-existent.
At that moment he didn’t need to know the address so there was no point remembering it. Sadly, Argos’s delivery driver would need to know.
Tom sighed and grudgingly trawled through his e-mails. “Here,” he said. ‘Thanks’ said Argos.
And that’s that. By the time you read this the little boy who held my hand as I took him to nursery will be a grown up. Degree, job, salary, pension scheme and only home for a few days at Christmas ‘cos I don’t have much holiday left this year.’
How do I feel? Well, yes, of course I’m proud of him. Of course I know our children can’t stay at home for ever. But I’ll miss him. I’ll miss our talks about football, I’ll miss repeating everything six times until he takes his earphones out. I’ll even miss him drinking my beer…
I’m now working on a 20,000 word e-book about the 5 day, father/son walk Ben and I did on the Pennine Way: if you’d like to read a few sample chapters before publication, just use the contact form to let me know. In the meantime if you’d like a copy of the ‘laugh out loud’ Best Dad featuring 27 of my favourite columns from all the years I’ve been writing, it’s available here for 99p on your Kindle.