“Why don’t you just grow up?”
Harsh words that perhaps you would imagine were spoken by me when reprimanding one of my sons. The sad truth of the matter is that it is me who was being told off … by my thirteen year old son.
I deserved it, of course. I had been sitting next to him on the settee, driving him up the wall by poking him, prodding him, tickling him and inflicting upon him all sorts of other juvenile annoyances.
“What do you mean – GROW UP?” I asked indignantly.
“You’re an embarrassment,” he replied cruelly. “Stop acting like a child.”
I was mortified. All I was doing was having a little fun. And then Mrs PM, sitting across the room backed him up.
“He’s right. You are a child,” she said. And then she launched into a lecture about examples of how I act more like a four year old than a middle aged man. I couldn’t believe it. She told me that I do the same to her. She reminds me constantly that I behave like a child even when the kids aren’t around. Once, when we visited her parents, she said:
“I’m here with the three kids.”
I foolishly looked around and said “Who’s the third kid?”
“YOU ARE!” she said.
Now I don’t know whether to be proud of this or not. My philosophy with children has always been to join them on their level. I’ve tried to make my lads’ lives fun from the moment they could crawl.
As babies, I tried to make bath time a complete laugh. I was frequently told off by my (ex) wife for turning the bathroom into a swimming pool, simply because I encouraged the babies to splash me. It was fun – I loved it. And so did they.
As they grew older, I used to hide in their bedroom at bedtime and scare the pants off them when they came in – again they loved it. I have always hidden in the house looking for the best time to make them jump out of their skin by leaping out and screaming “BOOOOO!!!!”.
Even now, I wrestle with them, pin them down and tickle them – and my eldest is sixteen. At bedtime I charge up the stairs and leap on my thirteen year old throwing stuff at him and tickling him.
When we play “Super Mario Kart” on the Wii, I leap up and down like a demented jack-in-a-box when I win, leap onto the losing child and scream “I WON I WON I WON I WON I WON!”
When we have dinner, it is usually me who is being told off by Mrs PM for acting like a buffoon and cracking jokes.
Tell me something – is that so wrong?
I love making the kids laugh. I love having fun with them. I always have done.
It’s a crying shame that my eldest son is almost an adult. I still have fun with him and make him laugh but the looks he gives me when I act like a child are embarrassing.
“Easy Dad,” he says. “I’m sixteen you know.”
You can imagine, I guess, how I felt when my thirteen year old son told me to grow up; I was a little hurt because now he seems to be maturing to the point where my behaviour is an embarrassment to him. And to be honest, I’m saddened by it.
Of course, it is good to see them growing up and I can barely believe that in two years time my eldest son will be able to vote and drink beer. The days of having childish fun with them will soon vanish.
But I am making a promise to myself – I am going to encourage the child within despite people's best efforts to subdue him. After all, we need some fun in our lives and if I can be a child for a little while occasionally, I think it will make me a better person. Embrace that inner child, I say. You will feel better for it.
I must finish now because Mario is calling – I have an appointment with Mario, Wario, Luigi and Bowser and I don’t intend to miss it.