Speaking with my Son

On the night...

On the night…

“Are you going to watch football with me, Dad?”

I was tempted. Sorely tempted. The red wine was open. A seductive selection of cheese was waiting. My eldest son was home from university. My wife was at a conference: my conscience 120 miles away at the other end of the M62…

The bookies stopped taking bets. Surrender was inevitable. The fat lady stepped confidently on to the stage.

But no.

There was work to be done.

“Sorry, Tom,” I said. “Duty calls. I’ll see you for the second half. You can finish the wine – I’m off to rehearse with Ben.”

“You ready?” I said thirty seconds later. “Public speaking rehearsal. Less than a week to go. Let’s do this.”


“Script?” I scoffed. “Are we not men? And don’t forget to time me.”

Ben lay on the bed, iPad (to follow the speech) in one hand, iPhone (to follow a dozen conversations) in the other.

“Try not to yawn this time. It puts me off.”

“I’ll do my best.”

“Thank you, Richard,” I said. “And good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Damn it. What’s that noise?”

“The dog. She wants to come in.”

I opened the bedroom door. “Right. If you’re coming in sit down and pay attention.”

“Dad, she’s a dog.”

“She’s the audience. Right. Thank you, Richard. And good evening – ”

Ben held his hand up. “What now?”

“I’ve forgotten to start the timer. You’ll have to start again.”

I waited for my son to reply to a clearly life-and-death text message and re-set the stopwatch.

“Any chance I can start?” He nodded. “Thank you, Richard. And good evening…”

“22 minutes,” Ben said 22 minutes later. “Not bad. I think I only yawned three times.”

“OK, your turn.” And my youngest son dragged himself off the bed – and in front of my eyes turned from a bored teenager obsessing with his phone into a confident young man, in full control of his speech and his audience. True, the audience was only his Dad and the dog – but the real thing would be no different.

Six days from now: our professional Dad/son public speaking debut. Me on what it’s like to write about your children for 13 years: Ben on what it’s like to be written about.

“How many people are coming?”

“Fifty. It’s a sell-out. Tickets only available on the black market.”

“So when am I getting paid?”

Yep, my son seemed to have embraced his new-found professional status. So much for school competitions and book tokens. Farewell, Waterstones.

“As soon as the invoice gets paid. And remember, your job isn’t just speaking. You need to talk to people as well.”

“Well, duh…”

“And we should probably get there early. Might need to re-arrange a few chairs.”

“Frank Sinatra doesn’t move pianos, Dad.”


“Frank Sinatra – ”

“I heard what you said. Let me know when I need to speak to your agent. In the meantime I need to go through my opening one more time.”

I hauled myself to my feet, thanked Richard for the twentieth time and said good evening. Ben did his best not to yawn.

“Are you nervous, Dad?” he asked when I’d finished.

There was a multi-layered question. “About my own performance? No. About your performance, no. But then I’m a Dad; it’s my job to be nervous.”

That was the answer I gave him. It wasn’t quite the whole truth. Between you and me there was something I’d been worrying about. It had kept me awake at night. Bluntly, supposing Ben was better than me?

As my old mate Master Yoda used to say: “Which one master is and which one apprentice…”

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.

Two words of thanks: first of all we both looked resplendent in new shirts supplied by Samuel Windsor. Secondly my thanks to David Chalmers for the photograph – you can see all David’s work here


  1. that’s great that you have something you can share

    • Thanks, Suzanne. Yes, it’s brilliant – realise how lucky I am. Although anything we get paid/books we sell disappears straight into his university fund…

  2. sarahmo3w says:

    What a lovely post! It’s great that Ben could just transform from teen into confident man just like that. You must be very proud of him. (I suspect my teen would be just the same – he always amazes me how well he talks to adults because at home all he does is grunt and shove his siblings around!)

    • Thanks, Sarah – and you’re absolutely right with your comment on the BritMums teen/tween round up. My three have always stepped up when they’ve had to – whatever the occasion, when they’ve absolutely had to be at their best they always have been. I often think that we don’t ask enough of our children: they’re capable of much more than we (or very often, schools) sometimes give them credit for.

  3. Mighty impressive work by Ben – it’s a real gift to be able to handle a speaking engagement such as this with confidence.

    It reminds me a little of my experiences doing the occasional recording with Isaac for the podcast. He is a natural speaker and interviewer/interviewee in almost exactly the way that I am not. I’m already having to resist the temptation when editing to remove all my frequent stumbles and hesitations while also duplicating his rare ones, just to level the playing field a bit. He’s a budding young Parkinson, he is.

    • As with many of your comments, Tim, this really requires a 4,000 word reply. Why is Ben such a good public speaker? He has a natural talent: but – much more importantly – he practices. The other night he spoke for 15 minutes: he probably did 15 hours of practice for those 15 minutes ‘on stage.’ Something I always bear in mind with my kids is a saying from Alex Ferguson, “Hard work is a talent too.” And as for Isaac, you need to run with it: I have got many things wrong as a Dad but between us we’ve got one crucial thing right: we’ve identified our children’s one key talent at an early age & done everything in our power to encourage them to maximise it. All the best: 4k version to follow…

  4. Good luck, not that you need it

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