When I was a 11, I used to be pretty good at dancing - or at least I thought at the time. I won our Year 6 talent show on a school trip to Hayling Island - still got the certificate. Now, on my own in the kitchen dancing to the radio, I catch a reflection of myself in the window and memories of my own childhood and my parents come rushing back. I am my dad. I am him dancing at a Caravan Club get together in 1997 swinging my hips and arms side to side to the Bee Gees. It has happened. The dad dance has arrived. I am no longer in control of my limbs.
It's all inevitable.
Soon, I'll be scraping the enamel off my cereal bowl trying to scoop every last dreg of milk at 5am or making 25 cups of tea a day. Still, if I turn into anything resembling my own dad I will be a very lucky man indeed.
When I was growing up my parents were just at the right side of insanely liberal. I grew up in the small mining town of Bolsover in north east Derbyshire - New York City it wasn't - meaning illegal distractions were limited at best.
Most of the time, as teenagers, we were given the ability to self-govern. There were boundaries, obviously, but by and large, it was all fairly easy. There were no massive fallouts, no emergencies and no social worker interventions. We went to national trust properties, castles and had family holidays to Devon and Scarborough. We weren't without fault as kids but in the context of most modern families it was a massive success. Most importantly, we were polite, well mannered and supported in everything we did. In short, we were brought up properly.
Now Archie is here, it has brought me back again to thinking about these memories and how we should bring him up. Should we stand back and let him dictate his own free will or has society failed so much that our guidance, interference and direction are not just valued but integral?
He's 1 year old now but I sat with him at one point a couple of days ago and thought about all of this. Whilst looking at him I suddenly thought about all of the words of advice I would give him when he is old enough to understand. I made a list there and then on the back of a Curry's catalogue.
It went something like this:
- Never, ever, believe that it can't be done. You can and you will.
- Travel. Well and often.
- Have an opinion, but don't expect others to share it.
- Be nice to people, always.
- Embrace your grandparents. They are an endless supply of hugs and sweets.
- Never, ever, trust an estate agent.
- Learn to cook. The girls dig it and it'll mean you don't live off crisp sandwiches.
- A crisp sandwich is an acceptable meal
- Smile! Unless mental illness dictates otherwise. You are being brought up in a decent country by loving parents with an endless supply of heat and food. Be grateful.
- We are all equal. Unless you support Derby County.
- You support Nottingham Forest. For this, I'm sorry to say, you don't have a choice.
- Arrogance is the worst of all human traits.
- Being disingenuous is the second.
- Be gracious in defeat, yet humble in victory.
- Make friends with people from all over the world. It helps broaden your horizons and gives you a free place to stay if you're nice (see point 4).
- There are only 2 people to have existed that deserve divine status: Brian Clough and David Bowie. Learn about both - voraciously.
- In your mid teens you will suddenly become self-conscious. You are not ugly, fat, too thin, too spotty, dumb or too clever. You are who you are and you are wonderful. Tell yourself this in times of doubt and carry on. Most of the people at school who are good looking and deemed to be popular now will, in time, end up working in a Ladbrookes with a twenty a day habit and a limp.
- Money, possessions, things: they are props in your play; not the play itself.
- Daddy thinks too much and mummy can't make decisions. Singularly we are useless but together we made you; that makes us pretty cool.
- You will make the decisions about what is best for you - not us; we are there to guide you. If you want to be a builder, bartender, doctor or professional darts player then go for it - we will just push you to be the best you can be at whatever you choose to be.
- A hedge fund manager isn't a better person than a binman because he earns twenty times more, he just has shinier shoes and less interesting stories.
- We love you, more than you could ever know.