Tape Measure, Tape Measure…

Tape Measure, Tape Measure on the wall

Who is the tallest of them all?

Dad, obviously.

That’s how it is in a family. The natural order. Dad, Mum, Tom, Jessica, Ben.

Until it starts to change…

Every family home has one. A patch of wallpaper with heights, dates, pencil marks. Ours is in Ben’s bedroom – which badly needs re-decorating. But how can we?

“Look at this one. Tom when he was eight…”

“And here’s Ben. Four foot, four inches. When you could reach down and pat his little head…”

“Here’s Jessica. On her birthday as well. Three foot, six and a half. What an angel…”

But gradually the children creep up the wallpaper. And the ‘natural order’ becomes no more…

Tom overtakes his Mum, Ben overtakes Jessica, then Ben overtakes Mum as well. And suddenly I’m under threat. Much to my wife’s delight…

But that point is never reached. There isn’t a pencil mark on the wallpaper. There isn’t the inscription, 4th July 2012, Tom now taller than Dad.

Because the children become teenagers. Because there comes a day when saying, ‘Stand against the wall, sweetheart, so that Mummy can measure you,’ is to risk learning a new word. Gradually, the tape measure on the wall is abandoned.

And most families stop caring about who’s the tallest.

Most families. Not ours. Because my wife has a bizarre fetish.

We’ve known each other a long time so I can tell you about it. Jane is obsessed with measuring us. Making us stand back-to-back.

Flashback to last week. Tom’s briefly at home. An emergency pit stop between summer job and university to stock up on clean clothes, pasta sauce and as much of my wine as he can get away with.

“What are you cooking, Dad?” Ben asks.

“Chilli. And none of your supermarket nonsense either. Proper food: Mum’s onions, Mum’s tomatoes. Aye, eat this lad, an’ ’appen tha’ll soon be as tall as tha’ Dad.”

Mistake. Major mistake. And not just slipping into idiot Yorkshireman mode either.

I said the ‘T’ word in front of my wife. Tall. It’s like ringing the bell for Pavlov’s dogs.

“He is as tall as you. He’s taller than you.”

“He’s not. I’m at least an inch taller. And he’s got shoes on.”

Yes, of course I’m deluding myself. But she takes the bait every time.

“Stand back-to-back. That’s it. Ben, takes your shoes off. Both of you stand up straight.”

And sheepishly we do as we’re told. We both know the result but, well, we’ll just have to humour her. Again.

But then an element of rivalry creeps in. Both of us straining to be the Alpha Male. I start cheating. And so does my son. Not very subtly we inch up onto our tiptoes.

“Stop it, stop, you’re not doing it properly.”

Jane paces round us. Examines us from every angle. Makes subtle adjustments to ensure our heads our level. And then she pronounces a verdict.

“He’s got a good inch on you now. He’s definitely taller.”

And then Christmas comes early for my wife. Tom wanders in. Suddenly it’s not just a comparison, it’s mano a mano a mano.

Tom and I are ordered to perform the ritual dance.

This time there is little due process. “An inch. Maybe two inches.”

“He’s got shoes on,” I point out acidly. And so he has. How did the adjudicator miss that one?

But even with his shoes off it’s no contest. Tom’s definitely taller than me and has been since he was 18 or 19. I’ve been shuffled down to third in the pecking order. Alpha Male no longer. Even when I’m standing on tiptoes…

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


  1. Great post very funny unfortually for me,my 16 year old son has already overtaken me . Great read

    • Thanks for that, Nige – glad you enjoyed it. I update the blog every Sunday or Monday so should be a new one there every week for you. Hope you’re enjoying the weekend – and stop feeding your son so much…

  2. ‘Love the post. I’m only 5.3’ so my son has been taller than me since he was 11 years old. He’s 13 now. He’s not as tall as his dad though but we’re thinking in about a year or 2…! My German husband is a really chilled-out guy and isn’t bothered about who’s going to be the tallest. He’s just happy that our son has been eating ALL his beans, cabbages and French organic duck, as our son is inclined to reject onions, tomatoes, zucchini (courgette), and leeks but we tend to hide them …! I’m the one doing the measuring as it gives me great pleasure and also a little sadness, that my boy is growing up.

    Oh, and because he looks like he’s 15 whenever we travel to Eastern Europe, he’s constantly openly offered beer at both Polish & Czech restaurants…!

    • Good morning. I’m with your husband – I’ve always been relaxed about height and always assumed the boys would be taller than me, especially Ben who still seems taller every time I see him. With you on the beer as well – I’ve been quite happy for them to have a drink with a meal from a relatively young age. I assume Tom and Jessica have their excesses at university, but I’m not going to stress about it… Enjoy your day 🙂

  3. I feel your pain, my little sister is now taller than me! 🙁

  4. Don’t feed them – that’s my answer.

    • You’re right, Barry. It’s my own fault. I can’t help it. Whenever Cheerios are half price I buy 12 boxes. Powerless to resist. And then the boys eat them. Amazing…

  5. It comes to us all, I suspect, but I am guessing you have had more time than the mere 5′ of me will have against my two sons! The 10 is almost there! 🙂 It must hurt more as a man but he will always look up to his dad iykwim 🙂

    • Hi Anya – hope all is well with you. To be honest it doesn’t hurt. I’m pretty secure (as long I keep on taking the medication, obviously…) and what parent doesn’t want their children to be more successful than they are? Tom is far brighter than me; Ben may well be funnier and Jessica is most certainly a better writer than I was at 20. I’m still best at Spag Bol though…

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