During my first days at school, I was at the tender age of five, introduced to the concept of politics. You see, there were two warring “gangs” which were headed by two very influential (tough) boys, who had both managed to acquire a small following. For two or three weeks, whenever a teacher or dinner lady wasn’t watching, there would be a violent confrontation between the two warring factions. Both groups were keen to attract foot soldiers and so all of the new little boys were wooed.
All except for me. Presumably, I had been spotted crying at the school gate when my parents left me, or crying in the classroom when I couldn’t sit on the teachers knee, or crying after an unsuccessful visit to the toilet (I was permanently dehydrated in those first few weeks at school). I’m only guessing here, but I imagine that I was probably decided to be too much of a sissy for those hardened hoodlums to fraternise with. Still this didn’t stop me trying. I would try to chat with whichever gang leader was currently ruling the play ground and generally make a nuisance of myself. Unfortunately on one occasion, I outstayed my welcome, and the threat of fisticuffs caused me to utter a phrase which has been heard in playgrounds since they were first invented; “My Dad’s bigger than your Dad!”
In the eyes of my five year old self my Dad was the most incredible man alive, and as I’ve grown older and began to recognize his faults I am happy to admit, that my opinion of him has changed very little. I honestly hope that if I can be half the man, husband and father my own Dad is, I will be doing a fantastic job.
My own children, especially Fraboo, look at me with similar awe as I did my Dad at that delicate age. Several years ago, when my brother was visiting us, the two us were playing with a ball with her. He threw it in the air and I headed it back to him. My daughter’s mouth dropped open as if she’d witnessed some sort of miracle, yet when my brother did the same thing, she gave him a look of utter disdain as if to say “I know that you’re trying to impress me, but my Dad has already done it and you’re only copying him!”
More recently, and quite unusually I was doing a bit of work in the garden. One particular branch from a tree was dropping all of its leaves into our gutters and I decided that I’d had enough. After finding a saw, I set to work, and after not too long I’d chopped off the offending branch. I was just carrying it away when Fraboo came out to see what I was doing, and she was very impressed. “Wow Daddy! I didn’t know you could carry a whole tree!” she shouted excitedly. I couldn’t help feeling very pleased with myself. Not only had I done a really manly job (using tools with no injuries sustained), but I had been my daughter’s hero! I was congratulating myself so heartily that I didn’t notice that I’d stepped into some especially slippery dog’s muck and ended up pinned to the ground by the “whole tree”. Luckily Fraboo had disappeared off to find Boy-Boy and didn’t see my mishap.
I am only too aware of my flaws, but at her young ages Fraboo can only see me as a knight in shining armour. She is only too keen to point out that the armour is fitting a little too snugly these days, but I am still her hero. To her, I can do anything; I can swim underwater and can throw her in the air (and catch her) and I will keep her safe. But then that is, I think, a major part of being a father. I’m trying (often not hard enough), to be the kind of man that my kids will want to be, or be with, and the wonderful Mrs L. is doing exactly the same, but as a mother. Of course it isn’t as calculated as this, we are just doing what we consider needs to be done to take care of our kids, and hopefully we are modelling good parenting and good marital values to our children as our parents did for us and theirs before them.
Fortunately Fraboo has yet to get into any serious scrapes in the playground, as some of the Dad’s at the school gates are pretty big blokes.
As for Boy-Boy, he either plays his cards very close to his chest or is not as easily impressed. He probably does have a better mastery most of the tools in the tool box than I do though, and I’m sure he really does chop down whole trees while he sleeps.