Without making any judgement about our performance as parents, I think Heather and I make a pretty good team. We share a similar philosophy in our approach to parenting, but we also have complementary ways of interacting with our boys which reflect our own preferences. It means they are growing up experiencing more than one way of interacting with the world around them. Which can only be a good thing, right?
I’m exaggerating to make a point here, but by and large Heather adopts a structured approach to learning and creative fun. So when Isaac can get through the day without wetting himself and gets 15 A*s in his GCSEs, that will be largely down to Heather educating him in clear, rational thinking and problem-solving approaches. (Don’t get me wrong, she also does lots of spontaneous, fun things with the boys, such as the practical artsy, crafty stuff which drives me mental – the other day she and Zac turned a cardboard box into a castle complete with pull-up drawbridge – but she generally has a more left-brain approach to life which I definitely want both Zac and Toby to have.)
My job – other than the standard father/son rough-and-tumble – is a bit more about encouraging the random, free-form, right-brain stuff – which is much more my comfort zone than Heather’s – and ensuring they are well versed in popular culture. Both boys will grow up knowing the cultural significance of “Fire up the Quattro, Raymondo”, Live long and prosper” and the Stig – that’s very much Daddy’s job in our household.
Thinking about it, I guess we are reflecting what happened with my parents when they were bringing me up. Mum was sensible and pragmatic, drilling the importance of a good education and a strong work ethic into me. Dad instilled in me a love of sports, but also taught me about music and the joy of reading a book. Many of my oldest and fondest memories are of things I did with Dad – learning how to splice reel-to-reel tapes, Sunday afternoons playing cricket in the park, listening to FA Cup replays on the radio in the days before saturation TV coverage – and these have been a huge influence on my preferences in adult life. But it is Mum’s values that have shaped who I fundamentally am, either because I have adopted them, or because I have consciously stepped away from some and ploughed my own furrow as I have grown up. Either way, I am very much a product of two similar and yet distinctly different parents, and I am the better for it.
Which brings me to what Zac and I were doing yesterday evening. He usually watches two or three of his TV programmes to help him wind down before bedtime. At the moment he’s very much on a musical bent, so we get a lot of Carrie and David’s Pop Shop and Zingzillas. (If you don’t know, don’t ask.) While he was watching his programmes, I was busy distracting Toby by showing him stuff on my iPad, which he loves. Zac wandered over just as I was playing Toby an episode of the 80s children’s classic Danger Mouse (voiced by David Jason and Terry Scott of Terry and June fame, don’t you know) and started humming the tune. Three repeats of the opening theme later, we were singing it together, much to Heather’s amusement.
It’s probably not the finest moment I’ll have as a father, but in its own little way it is one I am particularly proud of. My little boy is indulging his love of singing while learning about his father’s childhood and picking up some cultural references along the way. It won’t help him pass any exams, but I like it anyway.